Panasonic GH5 II Review

Camera Reviews / Panasonic Cameras / Lumix Mirrorless i Hands-On Preview
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 II
Resolution: 20.30 Megapixels
Sensor size: 4/3
(17.3mm x 13.0mm)
Kit Lens: n/a
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
Native ISO: 200 - 25,600
Extended ISO: 100 - 25,600
Shutter: 1/16000 - 60 sec
Dimensions: 5.5 x 3.9 x 3.4 in.
(139 x 98 x 87 mm)
Weight: 25.6 oz (727 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $1,700
Availability: TBD
Manufacturer: Panasonic
Full specs: Panasonic GH5 II specifications

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20.30
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Panasonic GH5 II Hands-on Preview

by William Brawley
Preview posted: 05/25/2021

Updates:
05/24/2021: Pre-production Gallery Images added

It's been quite a long time coming, but a successor to the wildly popular Lumix GH5 Micro Four Thirds camera is here. The aptly-named Panasonic Lumix GH5 Mark II has arrived.

Although, if you're keeping score, this is one of the few, if only, Panasonic Micro Four Thirds ILC to get a "Mark II" naming treatment rather than a wholly new model number increase. But there is a reason for this. In many ways, the new Lumix GH5 II is an evolution of the original GH5 camera. There are quite a few similarities to the original model, but Panasonic has added several new features and improvements to the Mark II model -- especially for video creators -- that cannot be easily added to the existing GH5 with a firmware update. However, there are not enough changes to warrant a new model designation in the eyes of Panasonic.

That being said, an all-new Panasonic GH6 is on the way later this year. Alongside this new Lumix GH5 II, Panasonic announced the development of a Lumix GH6 that is slated to arrive towards the end of the year. Though details are scarce at this time, the GH6 will sit above the GH5 II in Panasonic's MFT Lumix camera lineup and sports a new sensor, new processor and features more impressive video specs. The GH6 is said to be an entirely new beast, redesigned from the ground up, and is aimed more squarely at the professional market. For more information on the upcoming GH6, click here.

In the meantime, for advanced hybrid photo/video shooters, individual video creators, live streaming creators, or small production teams looking for a high-powered, highly-versatile hybrid camera with a big focus on video capabilities, the refreshed and updated Panasonic GH5 Mark II aims to be a powerful and feature-rich camera.

Note: We were sent a GH5 II review sample shortly before the announcement. However, the camera currently has pre-production firmware installed. As such, all images shot from the camera so far are labeled as "pre-production."

LEICA DG 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0: 60mm, f/4.5, 1/2000, ISO 200
Note: Image shot with on camera with pre-production firmware.

Key Features & Specs

  • Updated 20.3-megapixel Four Thirds Live MOS sensor now with Anti-Reflective Coating
  • Latest-generation Venus Engine image processor (from Lumix S1H)
  • ISO range: 200-25600 (native); Expanded low ISO 100
  • 5-axis Dual I.S. 2 support now up to 6.5-stops
  • 225-point DFD-powered Contrast-detect AF now with Head/Body/Animal Recognition AF
  • New 4:2:0 10-bit Cinema 4K/4K UHD up to 60p/50p option
  • 4:2:2 10-bit Cinema 4K now up to 30p (25p)
  • 4:2:2 10-bit Cinema 4K/4K UHD HDMI-out with Simultaneous 4:2:0 10-bit Internal Rec.
  • V-Log L Photo Style pre-installed
  • Higher-res touchscreen LCD (1840K-dot LCD)
  • OLED EVF with faster 120Hz refresh rate
  • USB 3.1 Type-C now with Power Delivery with charging and powering support
  • Wi-Fi Live Streaming Support: Wireless/RTMP/RTMPS
  • Same weather-sealed magnesium alloy construction
  • $1699 USD body-only

Design & Handling

From the outside, the new Panasonic GH5 II looks essentially identical to its predecessor, with the same rugged and weather-sealed magnesium-alloy constructions, sizable and ergonomic handgrip and a plethora of customizable controls and buttons. The physical specifications of the GH5 II are essentially identical to the previous model, save for a couple grams in weight according to Panasonic's official product information. The GH5 II does take a few design tweaks introduced in the later GH5S model, with a red ring trim under the drive mode dial and a red-colored video recording button on the top. For those who have used a GH5 or GH5S before, the Mark II model will feel immediately familiar.

Upon closer inspection of the camera, there are some small differences to the GH5 II compared to the earlier model. For starters, on the top of the camera, the earlier GH5/GH5S had a labeled "Fn1" button on the top deck, not the large REC button. On the GH5 II, however, this has been changed to a dedicated Photo Styles button, giving you one-press access to the camera's array of Photo Style presets. However, as with nearly every button on the camera (I count 25 individual Fn buttons that can be customized), this top-deck Photo Styles button can be reassigned to all sorts of other functions. (Interestingly, the GH5 II's menu labels the "Fn1" button as the "return/delete" button on the back of the camera below the large multi-directional control wheel.)

The camera's mode dial also gets a subtle tweak, as it does away with the Creative Control Mode (Pallete icon) and adds a fourth Custom Mode (C4). In fact, the GH5 II does away with a dedicated Creative Control Mode altogether and instead requires you to set and enable the creative filters in the menus. This is similar to behavior to using and applying the built-in Creative Filters in Panasonic's S-series cameras.

Both the electronic viewfinder and the rear display have undergone some minor upgrades, as well. The EVF on the GH5 II keeps the same overall size and resolution, with a 0.76x magnification factor and 3680K-dot OLED panel, but the refresh rate can now be set to a faster 120fps. The EVF defaults to a 60fps refresh rate, which helps save battery life, but the faster 120fps framerate is a nice upgrade for smoother motion and when shooting faster action.

The 3.0-inch articulated touchscreen display is also quite similar to the one in the previous model, though there are a few pleasant upgrades. The screen resolution itself has been increased slightly from 1620K-dots to 1840K-dots, but most notably, Panasonic has improved the color range capabilities of the display and the brightness of the screen. Panasonic states that the screen has a wider color space than the previous model, offer better color accuracy. Further, the display is 1.5x brighter than the GH5's screen, making it easier to see in daylight and other bright conditions.

LEICA DG 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0: 12mm, f/5.6, 1/500, ISO 200
Note: Image shot with on camera with pre-production firmware.

Hands-on

Though I've only had a few days so far to shoot with the GH5 II, the GH5 II feels instantly familiar, even though it's personally been a while since I've shot with a Lumix GH5 camera. The contoured grip fits my hand very nicely, and even when using a longer, heavier lens, such as the Olympus 300mm f/4 Pro lens, the camera felt surprisingly balanced and comfortable.

The overall functionality of the camera is wonderful. The placement of the controls, especially the top/front control dial and rear thumb dial at the back corner, are both right within immediate reach. The camera also feels very responsive when changing settings with these two command dials, which I like.

The GH5 II also brings updated menus, sharing a similar UI design to Lumix's full-frame S-series cameras. While the menus are still fairly complex and expansive, I found the two-column tiered menu design fairly easy to navigate. It's also fully touch-responsive so that you can navigate the menu in multiple ways -- via touch, with the joystick control or with the 4-way directional pad. The on-screen Quick Menus are also similar, both navigable by touch or with physical controls.

The EVF is bright, sharp and offers a very large view of the scene, while the rear LCD is very crisp and was bright enough to easily use in sunny, daylight conditions.

Image Quality

Under the hood, both the sensor and the image processor have been upgraded compared to the earlier GH5 model. The sensor inside the GH5 II has the same resolution -- it's still a 20.3-megapixel Four Thirds Live MOS sensor without an optical low-pass filter -- but Panasonic has "enhanced" it compared to the earlier version. For starters, the sensor itself now has an anti-reflective coating, which aims to suppress ghosting and flare when shooting under strong lighting conditions, such as at night and under bright lights. The AR coating is said to prevent light from bouncing back into the sensor from the glass covering atop the sensor surface. Though some cinematographers may want to intentionally add lens flares for a creative effect, Panasonic did not want to "add" unnecessary or unintentional flare from the sensor itself.

LEICA DG 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0: 44mm, f/5, 1/500, ISO 200
Note: Image shot with on camera with pre-production firmware.

Additionally, in conjunction with an updated Venus Engine image processor, Panasonic states that the GH5 II now has 25 percent (or 1/3rd stop) better dynamic range performance, especially when it comes to highlight detail. The GH5 II is now powered by the same Venus Engine processor as in the full-frame Lumix S1H camera, and based on what the engineers learned in the process of getting the S1H as a "Netflix-certified" camera, they applied that to the GH5 II's sensor and processing engine to enabled better dynamic range performance. The GH5 II is said to offer better highlight detail rendering while also suppressing overexposure.

For still photo features, the GH5 Mark II is essentially identical to the predecessor, with a vastly similar array of shooting modes and options, such as 4K and 6K PHOTO modes, Photo Styles and creative filters. However, the GH5 II does include four new Photo Style options: L. Classic Neo, with a film-like styling with soft coloring; L. Monochrome S, which has a lower contrast black-and-white style compared to the existing L. Monochrome and high-contrast L. Monochrome D; and Cinelike D2/Cinelike V2. The Cinelike Photo Styles are described as a "film-like finishing touch using a gamma curve;" the D2 option prioritizes dynamic range, while V2 provides a little more boost to contrast.

Lastly, the GH5 II does gain one significant new shooting mode compared to the original GH5: Live View Composite mode. However, Live View Composite mode will come after launch with a firmware update towards the end of 2021.

First seen in the Panasonic G95 and then later in the full-frame Panasonic S5 camera, the Live View Composite shooting mode is a clever and easy-to-use shooting mode for capturing long exposure images, such as astrophotography, star-trails, light-painting and more. The mode is similar to Olympus' Live Composite mode, in that the camera will continue to capture and record new light as it enters and hits the sensor, but won't record light across the entire frame like a standard Bulb mode exposure, which could easily result in an overexposed image. With Live View Composite mode, you simply watch the long exposure scene "build" on-screen in real-time, and then you press the shutter button a second time to end the recording. The camera then creates a final composite image all in-camera. Also, prior to actually capturing the scene, Live View Composite mode will record a black frame to be used for noise reduction purposes during the in-camera compositing process. Unlike some other types of in-camera composite image modes, Live View Composite mode on the GH5 II will create both a JPEG image and a RAW file, which allows for additional post-processing flexibility.

Olympus 300mm f/4 PRO: 300mm, f/4, 1/640, ISO 5000
Note: Image shot with on camera with pre-production firmware.

Video Features

When it comes to the new features on the Lumix GH5 II, the lion's share comes in the form of upgrades to its video recording functionality, and in particular, the camera's live streaming capabilities. Much like its predecessor, the Panasonic GH5 II includes an impressive array of video recording features and capabilities, making it suitable for all levels of video productions, from independent video creators, web and social media creators and all the way up to professional-level cinema productions. The original GH5 was already insanely versatile -- one that, frankly, holds up very well even today -- but the GH5 II goes even further with more video frame rate options, higher-quality video settings and versatile live streaming video capabilities.

When it comes to the straight "speeds and feeds" of the GH5 II's video settings, the GH5 II is even more capable than the original model, building upon its already excellent feature set. The GH5 II can now record Cinema 4K (4096 x 2160) at up to 60fps in 4:2:0 10-bit quality, whereas the original GH5 did not offer internal C4K recording at 60p at all for that bit rate level. Further, the GH5 II also offers 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) at up to 60p in 4:2:0 10-bit, whereas the GH5 topped out at just 30p. For even higher quality 4K video, the GH5 II now offers Cinema 4K at up to 30p in 4:2:2 10-bit; the original GH5 offered this option with just a 24p frame rate, although you could capture Cinema 4K at 60p in 4:2:2 10-bit using an external HDMI recorder.

Speaking of HDMI output, the GH5 II offers some upgrades there as well. Thanks to the more powerful processor, the camera can now capture and send out up to Cinema 4K video at 4:2:2 10-bit quality through the HDMI, while simultaneously recording 4:2:0 10-bit internally. If you're okay with up to 30fps, you also have the option of capturing up to Cinema 4K in 4:2:2 10-bit quality out through the HDMI and simultaneously record 4:2:2 10-bit internally.

Additional video recording improvements include the ability to now record in Cinema 4K at up to 30p in Variable Frame Rate video mode, with capture frame rates ranging from 2 to 60fps, allowing for easy in-camera creation of timelapse-style high-speed videos or slow-motion videos. Further, 4K UHD at 30p VFR is also possible, as is 4K Anamorphic (up to 30p) with capture frame rates ranging from 2-50fps. Full HD VFR recording is also included, with capture frame rates of 2-180fps.

Another new video feature is the inclusion of the V-Log L Picture Style right from the factory without any need for a paid upgrade. With the original GH5, you needed to purchase a $100 software upgrade in order to add the V-Log L Picture Style. This now comes by default with the GH5 II. This log profile allows for up to 12 stops of dynamic range in video recording, allowing for greater control over color grading and tonal adjustments in post-processing.

While most video recording modes use a 16:9 (4K UHD, Full HD) or 17:9 (C4K) aspect ratio, the GH5 II can record video using the entire area of the sensor, in a 4:3 Anamorphic aspect ratio. 6K Anamorphic (6K-A, 4992 x 3744) can be recorded at up to 30p and in 4:2:0 10-bit. Further, a 4K Anamorphic (4K-A, 3328 x 2496) recording is also offered, with 60p recorded in 4:2:0 8-bit, 50p/30p/25p in 4:2:0 10-bit or 24p in 4:2:2 10 bit.

The camera has a built-in "Anamorphic Desqueeze" setting, which applies an optical correction to the visually "squished" anamorphic scene. There is also a new Image Stabilizer Anamorphic option, which enables a special image stabilization setting appropriate for an anamorphic lens, and comes with varying magnification settings: 1.3x, 1.33x, 1.5x, 1.8x and 2x.

LEICA DG 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0: 52mm, f/4, 1/640, ISO 200
Note: Image shot with on camera with pre-production firmware.

Regardless of recording format, resolution, frame rate or bit rate, all video recording modes in the GH5 II are recorded without any additional cropping and offer unlimited, continuous recording. Recording time is essentially limited to battery life or memory card capacity. However, environmental temperature conditions are a factor in continuous recording, with Panasonic stated that Cinema 4K, 4K 60p/50p 10-bit and Anamorphic video modes could potentially stop recording if the camera gets outside of its operating temperature range.

The GH5 II also includes several video shooting assistance features, such as a prominent video recording indicator border on the rear screen, frame markers for outline specific video aspect ratios, vertical video recording support, menu filters for easily finding specific video recording quality settings as well as the ability to register and save custom menus for specific recording quality settings. The camera also supports other amenities, such as focus peaking, zebras, waveform monitors, vectorscopes and dedicated video-specific on-screen control panels.

Regardless of recording format, resolution, frame rate or bit rate, all video recording modes in the GH5 II are recorded without any additional cropping and offer unlimited, continuous recording. Recording time is essentially limited to battery life or memory card capacity. However, environmental temperature conditions are a factor in continuous recording, with Panasonic stated that Cinema 4K, 4K 60p/50p 10-bit and Anamorphic video modes could potentially stop recording if the camera gets outside of its operating temperature range.

LEICA DG 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0: 12mm, f/3.5, 1/400, ISO 200
Note: Image shot with on camera with pre-production firmware.

Live Streaming

One of the Panasonic GH5 II's major new areas of focus is live streaming video. With the growing popularity of streaming video services such as YouTube Live and Twitch, the GH5 II offers built-in support for a variety of live-streaming video uses. Wired-based Live Streaming, using the HDMI to a dedicated capture device and a PC, is supported, with video resolution offered up to 4K 60p. Direct USB video streaming, using the Lumix Tether desktop software and the OBS streaming software, is also supported up to 720p30, as is webcam functionality with Lumix Webcam software.

However, the new Panasonic GH5 II is capable of fully wireless live streaming video thanks to its built-in Wi-Fi connection and the Lumix Sync mobile app. The Lumix Sync App, with also offers the usual array of remote control and wireless image and video transfers, also offers built-in support for connecting and streaming video direct to YouTube, Facebook or providing manual RTMP/RTMPS streaming video (for sites like Twitch, for instance). Once paired, the GH5 II offers up to Full HD 60p wireless live streaming, with adjustable frame rates and resolutions as well as bitrate settings, depending on bandwidth limitations. This untethered live streaming video capability allows for much more mobile live-video possibilities and does away with the need for dedicated capture hardware or a desktop/laptop computer.

Further, when wirelessly live-streaming with the Lumix Share App, it is still possible to capture higher quality video using HDMI output to a separate recorder. However, simultaneous live streaming and recording to the internal SD card is not supported. Further, simultaneous live streaming and remote controlling of the camera using the Lumix Sync App is also not possible. In other words, once you activate live streaming within the app, it doesn't seem possible to simultaneously use the app for other functionality during streaming.

LEICA DG 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0: 27mm, f/5, 1/200, ISO 200
Note: Image shot with on camera with pre-production firmware.

The GH5 II also supports wireless live streaming directly over a network environment using the Limix Live desktop software. The desktop software will output and save the streaming settings to an SD card, which you then insert into the camera. Then, you can directly configure and connect the GH5 II to your wireless router for a direct Wi-Fi setup for live streaming.

Panasonic also states that in a forthcoming firmware update, the GH5 II will support live streaming via a USB tether setup as well as wired IP streaming (RTP/RTSP). With this update, you'll be able to connect to a 4G/5G smartphone via USB for a more stable mobile live streaming setup. The camera will also support RTP/RTSP live streaming via a wired LAN connection to a PC, allowing for higher quality video and a stable, direct connection.

Autofocus & Performance

Autofocus

The Panasonic GH5 II features a notably upgraded autofocus system compared to the current GH5 model, offering faster overall performance, better accuracy and more sophisticated subject recognition capabilities.

While still based around a similar 225-area contrast-detection AF system with Depth From Defocus (DFD) as in the GH5, the camera's newer processing engine adds new capabilities and performance improvements. The GH5 II's AF system is now capable of real-time face, eye, head and body recognition, whereas the GH5 only offers face and eye detection. Additionally, thanks to processing improvement and better Deep Learning, the camera's AF system is said to offer faster recognition speeds and more sophisticated and capable subject tracking functionality. The GH5 II now supports both human head- and body-detection AF as well as and animal-detection with recognition support for dogs, cats and birds.

Olympus 300mm f/4 PRO: 300mm, f/4, 1/640, ISO 3200
Note: Image shot with on camera with pre-production firmware.

Panasonic states that face and eye tracking is approximately two times faster than the original model, and the accuracy is said to be improved by approximately 50 percent. There have been improvements in face-detection accuracy when faces are tilted in the scene and better face-detection with smaller subjects (e.g., when the subject is further away). Additionally, the camera now recognizes moving human bodies more quickly, even when relatively small in the frame. There have also been improvements to face/head/eye tracking, with the camera now able to continually track a face or body even if the subject turns away from the camera.

Image Stabilization

Much like its predecessor, the Panasonic GH5 II offers powerful built-in body-based image stabilization. As with the previous model, the GH5 II offers image stabilization both with the body alone, allowing stabilization correction with nearly any lens, but also combined 5-axis Dual I.S. 2 support with a range of optically-stabilized Panasonic lenses.

On its own, the body I.S. of the GH5 II is said to offer up to 6.5 stops of stabilization (at a tested 60mm focal length), which is up from the 5 stops of stabilization in the original GH5. Similarly, when combined with an optically stabilized lens, the 5-axis Dual I.S. 2 system will offer up to 6.5 stops of correction at a tested 140mm focal length, up from 5 stops on the original GH5.

Olympus 300mm f/4 PRO: 300mm, f/4, 1/640, ISO 6400
Note: Image shot with on camera with pre-production firmware.

According to Panasonic, improved stabilization algorithms developed originally for the S1H incorporate motion vector data from the image sensor, angular velocity from the gyro sensor and data from on-board accelerometers. These algorithms allow for better camera shake analysis, thus improving stabilization performance. Handheld video shooting is said to be noticeably smoother and more stable. The camera is able to suppress shake when raising the camera upwards as well as suppressing shake as you stop panning motions during video recording. Panasonic also states that slower, smaller handheld movements (movements with a "low frequency") are better stabilized and allow for more effective use of slower shutter speeds.

Burst Shooting

In terms of continuous shooting performance for stills, the Panasonic GH5 II is essentially unchanged compared to the original model. The camera offers full-resolution burst shooting at up to 12fps in single-shot (AF-S) mode, while up to 9fps with AF-C (Continuous AF).

As before, the GH5 II also offers 4K PHOTO and 6K PHOTO shooting modes. 4K PHOTO is offered at a whopping 60fps and 30fps, while 6K PHOTO tops-out at 30fps.

Buffer depths with full-resolution burst shooting are quite good, with specs claiming RAW and RAW+JPEG buffer capacity at over 108 frame -- which is a nice improvement over the 63-65 frame buffer depth from our GH5 testing. With JPEG shooting, buffer capacity appears essentially unlimited, with specs stating "more than 999" frames; Buffer depth performance with JPEGs is essentially limited by card capacity or write speed.

Battery, Ports & Connectivity

The Panasonic GH5 II comes with an updated, higher-capacity DMW-BLK22 lithium-ion battery, although the camera is backward-compatible with the GH5's battery back. Despite the higher-capacity battery, CIPA battery life specs are not noticeably improved, with LCD-shooting and EVF-shooting both rated to 410 shots per charge (EVF-shooting on the GH5 was rated to 400). Meanwhile, Power Save EVF Shooting mode battery life is said to be increased from 1000 shots per charge to 1200.

In terms of ports and connectivity, the GH5 II is, once again, vastly similar to its predecessor, offering both 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks, a full-size HDMI port, a 2.5mm remote socket and a USB 3.1 Type C port. However, the USB port gets a nice update in this model, now supporting USB-C Power Delivery with the ability to charge and power the camera via USB. For wireless connectivity, the GH5 II features built-in 2.4GHz/5GHz 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy v4.2.

The GH5 II offers dual UHS-II SD card slots, now with support for faster V90 memory cards.

In addition to support for external flash units, the GH5 II's hotshoe supports the existing DMW-XLR1 XLR microphone adapter for professional 2-channel XLR microphone connections.

Olympus 300mm f/4 PRO: 300mm, f/4, 1/640, ISO 200
Note: Image shot with on camera with pre-production firmware.

Pricing & Availability

The Panasonic GH5 Mark II will be available for pre-order starting on May 25th, though availability in stores has not been announced. The Lumix GH5 II will be sold in a body-only configuration with an MSRP of $1699.99 USD, or in a kit with the Panasonic Leica 12-60mm zoom lens for an MSRP of $2299.99 USD.

If you pre-order a GH5 Mark II from May 25th, 2021 to July 5th, 2021, Panasonic will include a free year-long Lumix Pro Services Platinum membership ($199 value). Click here for more information on the pre-order promotion.


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