Panasonic GH5 Review
|Full model name:||Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5|
(17.3mm x 13.0mm)
|Viewfinder:||EVF / LCD|
|Native ISO:||200 - 25,600|
|Extended ISO:||100 - 25,600|
|Shutter:||1/16000 - 60 seconds|
5.5 x 3.9 x 3.4 in.
(139 x 98 x 87 mm)
|Full specs:||Panasonic GH5 specifications|
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Panasonic GH5 Review -- Hands-on Preview
by Mike Tomkins
Preview posted: 01/04/2017
01/09/2017: Added list of lenses that will support Dual IS 2.
2017 is a big deal for Panasonic. This year marks a major milestone for its long-running Lumix camera brand, which first launched in the US market in the spring of 2002, some 15 years ago. And as it celebrates a decade-and-a-half of Lumix cameras, the company now offers up what has to be its most exciting Lumix model yet!
The flagship Panasonic GH5 follows in the footsteps of 2014's well-received GH4, and while the overall design will look quite familiar to owners of the earlier model, make no mistake about it: This is a brand-new camera with some really major upgrades inside and out. Like its predecessor, the Panasonic GH5 is aimed at enthusiast and professional photographers and videographers who want plenty of bang for their buck, but in a relatively compact package.
Take a quick glance at the exterior of the Panasonic GH5, and you'll find a camera which looks a whole lot like its predecessor. Crafted from magnesium alloy, the GH5's body is sealed against both dust and moisture, just as was the GH4. However, it's now even more capable of dealing with the elements thanks to the addition of freezeproofing to the roster, allowing use in temperatures as low as 14°F (-10°C).
The Panasonic GH5 forgoes a consumer-friendly built-in flash
Almost all of the Panasonic GH5's main controls and features are to be found in roughly the same places as on the GH4, although there are a couple of tweaks here and there, as well as a couple of new additions. Most notably, there's no longer a built-in flash strobe, a feature often looked down on by enthusiasts and pros who favor the more natural look possible with external strobes, preferably mounted off-camera.
That change also means that there's now no need for the dedicated flash button which sat on the side of the viewfinder in the earlier GH4. At the same time, Panasonic has also moved the dedicated movie shutter button from the rear of the camera to the top deck, a much more intuitive location in our opinion, and has relocated the stereo microphone ports to the top of the viewfinder hump.
The space freed up by the relocated movie button has been used to add a new joystick control, a change which hints at improvements in the autofocus system which we'll come to in a moment. Other changes of note in the body design include a chunkier, easier-to-feel four-way control dial, and a relocation of the speaker grille.
There's no secret that Micro Four Thirds cameras have lagged behind their APS-C and full-frame brethren when it comes to sensor resolution. Courtesy of the overhauled imaging pipeline in the GH5, Panasonic looks to address the perception that the smaller sensor size of Micro Four Thirds comes accompanied by lesser image quality than larger-sensored rivals. Thanks to a brand-new image sensor and processor, the company is promising image quality which it says is "unprecedented ... in the history of Lumix cameras."
In place of the GH4's 16-megapixel image sensor, the Panasonic GH5 now sports a brand-new 20.3-megapixel Live MOS chip, and to help make the most of its detail-gathering capabilities, it no longer sits behind a resolution-sapping optical low-pass filter. Without that filter in the way, per-pixel sharpness should be improved noticeably at the expense of a greater risk of moiré and false color artifacts.
The Panasonic GH5's new processor is more powerful and brings with it refined algorithms
The new sensor comes accompanied by a new Venus Engine image processor which has two-thirds greater power than that in the GH4, and which also brings with it a huge raft of tweaks to processing algorithms for better image quality. Among the algorithm's used by the Panasonic GH5 are Multipixel Luminance Generation, Intelligent Detail Processing, Three-Dimensional Color Control and High-Precision Multi Process NR.
So what do all of these algorithms do, exactly? Well, Multipixel Luminance Generation is a refined demosaicing algorithm which now looks at a larger six-by-six pixel array when demosaicing information from the Bayer-filtered image sensor, where the GH4's equivalent algorithm only used information from a two-by-two pixel array. The result, says Panasonic, is better high-frequency characteristics and an improved high-frequency detail gathering capability.
Intelligent Detail Processing, meanwhile, separates the overall image into areas which are mostly flat, areas which are packed with fine detail, and areas which mark the boundaries between the two. Each is processed separately, and the result is that images should show less prominent haloes along edges.
And then there is High-Precision Multi Process NR which is a noise reduction algorithm that is better able to detect fine details, and thus can better avoid disturbing them during noise reduction processing. The result, says Panasonic, is a 4x improvement in resolution after noise processing, when compared to conventional multi-process noise reduction.
Finally, there's Three-Dimensional Color Control, which now considers not only hue and saturation, but also brightness. Essentially, the camera uses different color mappings for the brightest and darkest colors, and then interpolates between them to provide more authentic color and finer gradation as brightness varies across the image.
The Panasonic GH5 boasts smarter, faster, much more fine-grained autofocus
The added performance of the Panasonic GH5's new Venus Engine image processor doubtless lends a hand in the autofocus performance department, as well. Here, Panasonic has made a huge upgrade in the granularity of autofocus points, with the Panasonic GH5 now sporting a whopping 225 autofocus points where the GH4 had just 49 of them.
Yet despite the fact that it now has around 4.6 times as many focus points to deal with as did its predecessor, the Panasonic GH5 is said to be able to focus even faster than before. Where the GH4 could determine a focus lock in 0.07 seconds, the company says that the Panasonic GH5 will now be able to do so in just 0.05 seconds, thanks in part to a faster 480fps AF drive system.
Autofocus tracking performance is also said to have been vastly improved by combining motion detection, motion vector analysis as well as a new and much improved DFD (Depth From Defocus) algorithm to more accurately predict the distance of a moving subject at time of capture.
And that added performance shows itself in another way, as well. While the Panasonic GH5 offers up the same 12 frames per second burst capture performance as did the GH4 when focus is locked from the first frame, the newer camera is significantly quicker than its predecessor once continuous autofocus is enabled. Panasonic rated the GH4 as capable of around seven frames per second when continuous AF was active, whereas it says the new GH5 should be able to manage a full nine frames per second.
That's an improvement of almost one-third despite the 4.6x increase in point density. Impressive indeed, if Panasonic's claims pan out in the real world. Suffice to say we're very much looking forward to testing autofocus performance of a production-level GH5 for ourselves...
And while the burst performance hasn't been increased if you're using single autofocus, there's still another related improvement that will be handy to both single and continuous AF bursts: A much greater buffer depth. Panasonic hasn't yet provided final figures, but as of right now it's looking like raw burst depth should be around 100 shots or more, which would represent a 2-3x improvement over the 40-frame buffer of the GH4.
If that's not enough performance for you, the Panasonic GH5 has a couple of clever tricks up its sleeve. We've covered the company's 4K Photo mode in past reviews, and it makes another appearance here -- but with an important upgrade. If you're not familiar with 4K Photo mode, in a nutshell what it does is to record a movie rather than individual stills, and then let you extract individual frames from the movie to get fairly high-res 8.3-megapixel stills. And as you'd expect, the GH5 can also use a series of frames captured at high speed to perform functions such as in-camera post focus, and in-camera focus stacking.
In past models, 4K Photo mode was limited to 30 frames-per-second capture, because that was the maximum 4K framerate available. Now, the Panasonic GH5 is able to offer 4K capture at up to 60 frames per second, and that means 4K Photo mode can now also offer up to 60 frames-per-second capture at 8.3 megapixel resolution. And as if that wasn't enough, the GH5 has another feather in its cap: A new 6K Photo mode. This offers a much higher 18-megapixel resolution for each individual frame, and yet still allows for 30 frames per second capture.
In past models, one drawback of 4K Photo mode was that it relied on an electronic shutter, and hence was prone to rolling shutter effect. That manifested itself as distortion in the very same fast-moving subjects that 4K Photo was otherwise ideally suited to capture. According to Panasonic, though, it has reduced the severity of rolling shutter in the GH5 both for stills captured with electronic shutter, and for movies as well.
In addition, the Lumix GH5 can perform effective multi-frame noise reduction even when there is subject motion, and by analyzing surrounding frames, it can even perform rolling shutter distortion correction when panning without changing the angle of view.
Obviously, we'll have to wait for some real-world testing, but we're tightly crossing our fingers that these improvements make 4K and 6K Photo modes on the Panasonic GH5 more useful than ever.
The Panasonic GH5 boasts even better stabilization, too
Image stabilization is yet another area in which the Panasonic GH5 has been significantly improved, when compared to its predecessor. The earlier GH4 relied solely on lens-based image stabilization, even though the earlier and more compact GX7 model included in-body stabilization.
The reason for this, according to Panasonic, was the large heat sink necessary to cool the GH4 during high-speed burst shooting and 4K video capture. It would seem that the company has now managed to reduce thermal output and/or come up with a more lightweight cooling system that's conducive to in-body stabilization, though, because the Panasonic GH5 now sports the company's latest-generation Dual I.S. 2 image stabilization system.
Dual I.S. 2 was seen previously in the Panasonic G85, and compared to the earlier Dual I.S. system adds support for rotational correction. The system pairs both five-axis in-body stabilization with dual-axis in-lens stabilization, and is said to have a five-stop corrective strength courtesy of a new high-precision gyro sensor and updated algorithms.
The advantage of the hybrid body / lens stabilization system over a solely lens-based system is that it can stabilize on more axes and works with any lens which can be attached to the camera. At the same time, it bests solely body-based systems thanks to the greater corrective strength of lens-based stabilization at longer focal lengths. Seven lenses already support the system, with a couple of them needing firmware updates to achieve it. (The just-announced LEICA DG VARIO-ELMARIT 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 POWER OIS and the 4 refreshed mark II lenses mentioned here will support Dual I.S. 2 out of the gate. The older LUMIX G VARIO 12-60mm F3.5-5.6 POWER OIS and the LUMIX G VARIO 14-140mm F3.5-5.6 POWER OIS need firmware updates.) Five more lens models will get updates to provide Dual I.S. 2 support during 2017. (Those are the: LUMIX G VARIO 12-32mm F3.5-5.6 MEGA OIS, LUMIX G VARIO 35-100mm F4.0-5.6 MEGA OIS, LEICA DG VARIO-ELMAR 100-400mm F4.0-6.3 POWER OIS, LUMIX G MACRO 30mm F2.8 MEGA OIS, and LEICA DG NOCTICRON 42.5mm F1.2 POWER OIS.)
Returning to its exterior, the Panasonic GH5 brings with it a couple more very worthwhile upgrades in the viewfinder and display departments. Firstly, it offers up a much larger and higher-resolution electronic viewfinder image. While retaining the same 21mm eyepoint as in the GH4, Panasonic has upped the viewfinder magnification from 0.67x to 0.76x. It has also increased the dot count of the organic LED panel around which the viewfinder is based from 2,359k dots to 3,680k dots.
At the same time, Panasonic has also switched to a larger display on the rear of the GH5. In place of the GH4's 3.0-inch, 1,036k dot display, the Panasonic GH5 now offers up a 3.2-inch, 1,620k dot display. The increase in dot count isn't entirely down to a resolution boost, however. Panasonic has also taken the opportunity to switch to a four dots per pixel display with red, green, blue and white pixels, in place of the earlier three dot per pixel (red, green and blue) display type. The new RGBW display should allow for a brighter image and better visibility outdoors under direct sunlight, and reduced power consumption when shooting indoors or in lower-light conditions.
With a little more space now available on its larger 3.2-inch monitor and in its roomier electronic viewfinder, Panasonic has simultaneously revisited its user interface. The basic design is still pretty similar to before, with tabs down the left side of the screen to take you to different sections of the menu, and then a paged display of the items in the current menu taking up the remainder of the screen.
So what's changed? Well, for one thing the menu system now has a cleaner, more modern feel that does away with the colored bars between menu items and the gradients on the tab icons, and which tightens up the spacing of elements to reduce wasted screen real-estate. Coupled with the larger screen size which allows for slightly smaller fonts while remaining readable, this has allowed Panasonic to increase the number of menu items visible on-screen from five to eight, significantly reducing the number of pages required for each menu.
At the same time, the company has also added a more intuitive scroll bar display at screen right which gives a quick indication of where you're located in any given menu, without the need to parse the page number display of earlier models. (That page number still remains at top right of the screen if you need it, though.) And there's also now both a new entry point to the custom settings menu which offers a categorized listing of top-level options, plus a new 23-item My Menu.
As if that wasn't already enough, there's also a new popup display which appears when you attempt to access items in the menu which are grayed out. This popup will explain why you can't access the given item, and thus should hopefully reduce the frustration of learning an unfamiliar user interface if you're switching from another camera brand or a less complex camera model.
The 2016 holiday season might be behind us now, but that hasn't stopped Panasonic from showering videographers in a deluge of goodies. The GH4 was already very popular with videographers, and we're guessing that the Panasonic GH5 will be even more so. In fact, there are so many changes in this area that it's kind of hard to decide where to start discussing it all!
Beginning from the basics, the Panasonic GH5 is capable of recording 10-bit 4:2:2 DCI 4K (4,096 x 2,160 pixels) and consumer 4K (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) footage with a 150Mbps bitrate, right out of the box. Frame rates are 24, 25 or 30 frames per second for consumer 4K, and are fixed at 24 fps for Cinema 4K. It can also record at a higher 50 or 60 fps rate if you opt instead for 8-bit 4:2:0 consumer 4K footage. And of course, Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixel) high-def capture is also possible.
Best of all, there is no focal length crop or time limit associated with video capture in any mode. Regardless of your resolution, frame rate and compression choices, you'll be able to shoot video for as long as you have remaining card space, and your video will only be cropped to match the aspect ratio of the final output video, using the full image sensor width.
But that's only the beginning. With the GH5, Panasonic is taking the rather unusual step of announcing even before the camera reaches the market that it is preparing some feature upgrades via firmware that's slated to arrive by the summer.
Among the changes on offer in this new firmware will be support for 4K capture with All-I intraframe compression instead of the default IPB interframe compression. 4K All-I capture will be possible at 24, 25 or 30 fps with a 400Mbps bitrate, and should offer higher image quality at the expense of significantly larger file sizes.
Videographers shooting at Full HD resolution will also gain access to All-I compression, but with a 200Mbps bitrate and frame rate options of 60, 50, 30, 25 or 24 fps. They'll also get access to 10-bit 4:2:2 IPB-compressed video with a 100Mbps bitrate at these same frame rates.
The new firmware will also add support for hybrid log gamma for 4K HDR video capture, as well as anamorphic 6K 24p 4:3-aspect video capture. Multiple updates will be involved, with the first adding 10-bit 4:2:2 Full HD footage expected to arrive around April 2017, and the second including the All-I, hybrid log and anamorphic features to follow in July 2017.
And that's not even the half of it. There are plenty of other new features on the video front, as well. For one thing, where the GH4 didn't allow in-camera recording at all if you were outputting a 10-bit feed to an external recorder, the Panasonic GH5 is capable of outputting a 10-bit 4:2:2 signal via HDMI and recording it internally at the same time.
The Panasonic GH5 also offers a broader range of Variable Frame Rate options than its predecessor for slow-motion and quick-motion capture. Where the GH4 was limited to a maximum of 96 frames per second capture and a maximum resolution of Full HD in VFR mode, the GH5 will now capture Full HD video at up to 180 frames per second maximum in VFR mode. And even in 4K mode, it can record at up to 60 fps maximum, as noted previously. As in the earlier camera, the other end of the range has a limit of 2 fps capture.
Nor is that all, either. For one thing, there's a clever new Focus Transition tool which allows you to set up to three predefined focus points to rack towards, then have the camera automatically and smoothly shift the focus between those points at a constant speed. You can select the speed at which focus is racked in five steps, and can decide whether the camera should start the focus transition immediately that recording begins, or with a five or ten second delay.
There's also a new waveform monitor display function which can either show a wave or vector display of video luminance over time, something which should prove handy when setting up multiple cameras to achieve a consistent look. And Panasonic has added a new Rec. 709-like gamma curve complete with automatic or manual knee control. (Under manual control, the knee point can be set to 80 - 107%, and the slope curve between 0 and 99.)
You can also select the luminance level for 10-bit capture (0-1023, 64-940 or 64-1023 options), and with the optional DMW-SFU1 software key, you can enable V-LogL recording to mimic a Cineon gamma curve, complete with a V-LogL View Assist function to display up to four sets of LUT data from the installed SD card. Plus of course features like rec control, time code, zebra patterns, black level adjustment and the like are also supported.
And as mentioned previously, a high-res anamorphic mode and hybrid log gamma for HDR video are also on the way. Like we said, there's a whole lot on offer here for videographers!
Another feature which some videographers are certainly going to appreciate is the Panasonic GH5's new built-in microphone. Rehomed from the top of the viewfinder bezel to the top of the viewfinder hump, the updated microphone is said to offer a 10dB improvement in its wind noise reduction capability. It also has a new noise reference microphone which is used to simply subtract noise from lens zoom operation rather than simply trying to detect and filter it in software.
Of course, just as in its predecessor the Panasonic GH5 also supports 3.5mm external stereo microphones and headphones right out of the box. And should you prefer higher-quality gear, you can also attach mics using an XLR interface with Panasonic's optional hot-shoe powered DMW-XLR1 microphone adapter.
This has two XLR terminals plus a shoe mount on its top surface on which a mic holder, LED light or similar accessory can be mounted. XLR audio is recorded at 48 or 96KHz with a 16 or 24-bit depth, and a clear cover over the controls guards against accidental changes while allowing for quick visual confirmation of setup.
Unfortunately for those who bought the DMW-YAGH interface kit for their Panasonic GH4, this can't be mounted on the GH5's newly-designed body, so if you need XLR inputs you'll need to buy the newer accessory.
Also new to the Panasonic GH5 are its storage and connectivity options, both wired and wireless. We'll get to the latter in a moment; let's check out what's new in storage first of all.
The great news here is that Panasonic now includes two SD card slots in the GH5, up from one in the earlier GH4. The even better news is that both slots are UHS-II U3 compliant. In plain English, what this means is that both slots support the extra pins required for high-speed UHS-II cards, and that they're also capable of a minimum sustained write speed of 30MB/second. Of course, like most any camera these days, the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC card types are also supported.
The two slots can be used in several ways, all but one of which we've seen before. You can either use the secondary slot as an overflow for when the card in the primary slot runs out of room, or you can have all files written to both cards simultaneously as a backup in case of card failure, or finally you can choose which file types are saved on which flash slot.
Where things get really interesting, though, is that Panasonic says the GH5 allows hot-swapping of flash cards. What does that mean? Well, firstly we need to remember that the GH5 is unusual in allowing recording of videos without a predefined time limit. Most cameras limit video capture to 30 minutes or less to avoid a European tax, even if the individual camera itself is not being sold in Europe. And when the first flash card fills up, the GH5 can also seamlessly switch to recording the video anew on the overflow slot.
But what happens when the second card fills? Ordinarily, the answer would be that your video capture session has reached its end -- but not with the Panasonic GH5! Instead, once you've run out of room on the first card and the camera switches to the secondary one, you can then eject the first card and replace it with a different one (or if you prefer, copy the data off and format it ready for reuse). Then pop the card back in, and it now becomes the overflow card once the other one runs out of room.
With this setup, you can effectively record video internally without any time or storage limits, for as long as the camera itself has power remaining. Plug it into mains power and you can keep going for as long as someone's awake to keep swapping cards in and out of the camera!
Speaking of power, default battery life is one area where the GH4 bests it successor despite having a built-in flash, though this is not a surprise given the GH5's higher performance and IBIS. Using the same 7.2V 1860mAh lithium-ion battery pack as the GH4, the GH5's battery life is CIPA-rated at between 380 and 400 shots with the EVF depending on which lens is used, while battery life with the LCD monitor is rated at 400 to 410 shots per charge. The GH4's battery life was CIPA-rated at 500 shots using the EVF and 530 shots using the LCD monitor, and that's with 50% of shots taken with its built-in flash enabled.
But there is some very good news in this regard: the Lumix GH5 has a new "Power Save LVF" mode which can increase battery life up to 1,000 shots per charge by automatically putting the camera into sleep mode after detecting the eye has moved away from EVF's eye sensor.
And of course the new, optional DMW-BGGH5 battery grip which is also splash/dust/freeze-proof can double battery life with a second battery, theoretically providing up to a whopping 2,000 shots per charge when combined with the new power save mode.
The camera ships with a single battery pack and dedicated battery charger, and in-camera charging is not supported. The GH5 is also compatible with the same DC coupler the GH4 used.
So what of wired connectivity? Here, too, the Panasonic GH5 has been the recipient of a significant redesign. In place of the USB 2.0 High Speed data connection of its predecessor, the GH5 now sports a much faster USB 3.1 SuperSpeed data connection using a reversible USB-C cable.
There's also an HDMI port, and interestingly it forgoes the tiny HDMI Type-D micro connector which is found on most devices these days in favor of the original HDMI Type-A connector which is still commonplace in professional video editing. And as mentioned previously, it can now be used to record 10-bit 4:2:2 video to an external device (with the exception of high framerate 4K video) while also simultaneously recording to the flash card in the camera. Another nice touch is that an HDMI cable lock is included in the product bundle.
Other wired connectivity includes the aforementioned 3.5mm microphone and headphone jacks, a 2.5mm wired remote input, a flash sync terminal and a hot shoe on the camera's top deck.
Wireless connectivity, meanwhile, has also received a complete overhaul for the Panasonic GH5. In place of its predecessor's 2.4GHz 802.11n Wi-Fi connectivity, the GH5 now sports 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi radios compatible with the newer, higher-speed 802.11ac standard. (Panasonic does note, however, that support for the 5GHz band may not be available in all countries.)
At the same time, the company has also dropped the built-in NFC radio featured in the earlier GH4, which was used for quick-and-easy pairing with Android devices. iOS devices couldn't use this feature anyway since Apple doesn't allow third-party use of the NFC radio in its newer devices, so iPhone users won't miss this feature in the least. It's a bit of a shame for Android users, however -- but the addition of low-power Bluetooth LE connectivity in its place will likely more than make up for it.
The new Bluetooth 4.2 LE radio allows for a full-time connection, functioning something like Nikon's rival SnapBridge technology. Both camera and smart device can communicate with each other at all times via this connection, albeit with relatively limited speed and range. But when more speed or range are needed, the Bluetooth connection can then be used to silently and seamlessly establish a faster, further-ranging Wi-Fi connection, all without the user needing to lift a finger.
And the Bluetooth connection can also be used to piggyback off your phone's GPS receiver to geotag images, remotely wake the camera if it goes to sleep, or to copy settings between multiple camera bodies via your smartphone.
For the most part, the Panasonic GH5 is otherwise quite similar to the camera in whose footsteps it follows. Its sensitivity range of ISO 200 to 25,600-equivalents with the ability to extend the lower end to ISO 100-equivalent, for example, is identical to the earlier camera. So, too, are its shutter speed range of 1/8,000 to 60 seconds plus bulb, and its rated shutter life of 200,000 cycles.
The bulb mode, though, is now limited to 30 minutes in the Panasonic GH5, where the GH4 could shoot an exposure as long as 60 minutes. It's not unusual to see feature subtractions in a new model, but there are relatively few of these in the GH5, the remainder of which we've already mentioned. As noted previously, there's no longer a built-in flash strobe, and nor is there a near-field communications radio for use with Android devices. Finally, you won't be able to use your portrait grip or XLR accessories from the Panasonic GH4, with new variants of both optionally needed due to the GH5's redesigned body.
The Panasonic Lumix GH5 is slated to go on sale in the US market from March 2017. Body-only pricing is set at US$2,000 or thereabouts, and initially at least, there will be no kit lens offering in the US market. Overseas markets may also have a bundle with the Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm / F2.8-4.0 ASPH. / Power O.I.S. lens at launch.
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