Panasonic GH5 Field Test Part II

A close look at the video capabilities of this mirrorless monster

by Jaron Schneider | Posted

This is probably the more difficult and generally most challenging part of any hybrid camera review: the video performance section. Though the GH5 is going to be primarily used as a video camera, it is no doubt a hybrid, and that brings with it different expectations from just about anyone who purchases it. Documentary filmmakers are going to be looking for different performance than a scripted filmmaker, and so on and so forth. There is a huge list of things to like about the GH5, and I'll do my best to highlight and enumerate those in a succinct fashion. That said, there are still those who will prefer other cameras on the market because of where the GH5 still struggles. Essentially, I plan to write this from a perspective of what I as a filmmaker look for, and I'll then do my best to answer/update the article with any other questions posed by the community if anything comes up that I didn't test myself.

The GH5 is exceptional in a few areas, namely: battery life, camera operation, size and weight, video quality, and video recording options. The GH5 has troubles when it comes to mainly two places: low light performance and the 10-bit codec.

The Panasonic GH5's video battery life is "astonishing"

Let's start with what the GH5 gets right. Firstly, the most impressive thing I've seen so far is the GH5's battery life, which still astonishes me. On a fully charged Panasonic battery, I set the camera to the following settings: UHD 4Kp30 10-bit. Then, I left it recording and logged the time that it remained powered on. The verdict: two hours, four minutes and fifty-four seconds. That, to me, is absolutely ludicrous. To record that kind of high-resolution data for that long is pretty unprecedented.

But I wasn't ready to stop there, as the GH5 has a dual memory card slot that allows you to record what you're shooting redundantly. So I was curious to see if having the camera double its recording workload would have an effect on recording time. With the same camera settings, I put two memory cards in and had the camera dual record. The verdict: one hour, fifty-nine minutes and twenty seconds. As far as I am concerned, this shows there is no difference in recording time between single and dual recording.

That is, pardon my language, bonkers. It flies in the face of what I've experienced as the "norm" in the past, and puts any other compact video camera to shame. In this reviewer's experience, the GH5 easily outpaces the recording time of any other competitor camera, with a lot of room to spare. That, and the fact that it can dual record with essentially no downsides, is amazing.

During this battery test, I was curious if the camera would generate much heat, since it was doing a lot of data recording. Though the camera did get warmer, at no point would I say it was "hot." From what I could tell, the GH5 did an excellent job sinking heat to maintain its own operation uninterrupted.

Camera Operation: Like the GH4, lots of options & customization

The GH5 takes what Panasonic did right in the GH4 and does not muss with it, giving the camera a familiar and customizable interface with which you can work. Just like on the GH4, you can access many of the camera's more detailed settings via the "Quick Menu" or "Fn2" button on the back of the camera. You can change the camera's video recording settings and picture profile here, which saves you a considerable amount of time from having to go into the menu (think if you need to swap quickly between 60p and 24p for productions, letting you get your slow motion shots in and immediately go back to real-time). This menu also gives you screen access to metering, shutter speed, ISO sensitivity and white balance which, though redundant, is helpful to have in some cases where you might not be able to reach the top of the camera or want to show that data to someone on an external monitor.

The newly-located record button is now in a place that makes more sense in comparison to the GH4, sitting right next to the ISO and white balance buttons, but if you became accustomed to using the shutter button to start recording (which was common for GH4 users), you can still do that.

Panasonic moved the video recording button the top-deck on the GH5 (top) compared to the back, as on the GH4 (bottom).

Much, if not everything, that can be done with manual dials can also be done via the touch screen, giving redundant options in case of camera damage or varying shooting situations where one way to adjust settings is suddenly less comfortable than another. Making adjustments via the touchscreen is also quiet, meaning there's less risk of button and dial noises getting picked up in your audio.

The GH5's multiple ways to do the same operation reminds me a lot of Photoshop. There are so many ways to achieve the same result in Photoshop, and that's one of the reasons it's so great. Everyone can develop their own workflows that suit them best, instead of having to do what the manufacturer deems is the "right" way to do it. Options are good.

The placement of the mic jack is unchanged from the GH4, and for the most part this is not a problem. However, it can become a bit tight if you use a cage of any sort to mount the GH5. Likewise, the proximity to the strap mount is close enough that if you do use a strap, you may find that it can knock around your microphone input. This is no different than the GH4, and though it's a bit of a nuisance sometimes, it's by no means a deal-breaker.

The Panasonic GH5's built-in image stabilization is a godsend

The GH5 added on-sensor stabilization (OSS), and it is probably the feature I was most excited about and the one that I have already seen immediate returns on.

Panasonic GH5 On-Sensor-Stabilization Test
We test the GH5's new on-sensor-stabilizer both hand-held and on a gimbal.

Basically, my biggest problem with using the GH4 on a gimbal is that the lenses I currently use do not have any stabilization in them. Even though the gimbal does even out my shots, it doesn't do a great job of fixing my visible "stepping" or walking movements in my footage. Though this is relatively easy to fix in post, it also means I always had to shoot in 4K, and always had to expect to trim the edges of my shot in post using Warp Stabilizer. I ended up retiring my GH4 from gimbal use because of this, instead relying on a camera with lens stabilization for any gimbal shots.

With the GH5, gimbal use has been restored.

One of the major concerns I had coming into this testing was how the OSS would respond to being placed on a gimbal. A complaint from, for example, Sony users is that the Sony OSS will try and counteract the movement from the gimbal, in turn making footage worse rather than making it better. Corners would "jello," and the resulting footage would look like bad warp stabilizing effect rather than smooth footage.

In contrast, the GH5 appears to have the opposite happen. When handheld, you'll notice in the video above that the corners appear to "jello" and "mush" around a bit, which is a result of the OSS trying to make up for my human movement. But on the gimbal with the OSS on, the footage is completely and beautifully smooth.

What this means for video shooters is that the GH5 OSS is smart enough to not fight a gimbal, and any vibration you experience while shooting will be nullified by the OSS. Instead of having to turn off OSS most of the time while shooting, it can pretty much always remain on.

For those curious, the gimbal I used for this test was the Feiyu MG V2.

The GH5 is bigger than its predecessor but still conveniently compact

Jumping from that conversation about stabilization, the size and weight of the GH5, unsurprisingly, makes it ideal for small rigs and gimbal use. Though it carries more weight than its predecessor (likely thanks to the bulk added to accommodate the OSS), the GH5 is anything but "heavy." It is a small, compact camera that is perfect for cramped shooting scenarios or small rigs. Personally, I have two different gimbals (a DJI Ronin-M and an even smaller Feiyu-Tech), and the GH5 works well on both, even allowing me to use the one-handed monopod-style (think cell phone gimbal) orientation on the Feiyu-Tech.

The GH5 is larger than both the a7R II and the a7S II, but not by much. It's still smaller than any full frame DSLR, and is about the same as what you might see in a Canon Rebel. Where you really save on space is in the Micro Four Thirds lens department, as these optics tend to be much smaller than APS-C or full frame options. I found that I could easily tote the GH5, GH4 and two lenses in a typically sized backpack, leaving me enough room to also stow a sweatshirt and coat while out and about.

This news on size and weight is not a new story for anyone who has ever shot with a Micro Four Thirds or other mirrorless camera, but is always worth mentioning to those who lament the size and weight of their gear. I, for example, have been shooting mainly with a Canon 1DX II over the past six months, and the difference between that and the GH5 is monumental, especially considering that they are capable of the same type of footage now (arguably, the GH5 is capable of much more, thanks to a greater number of built-in video-centric features).

GH5 autofocus performance is solid but can slow down in low light

I am happy to report that in both photo and video mode, the autofocus was incredibly reliable. In most lighting conditions, the GH5 will snap to focus very fast and accurately, and you can be specific on what you exactly want in focus by tapping on the touch screen if you are not satisfied with what the camera decided to focus on initially. For darker environments, you will have to use the AF assist beam (on by default), which is a bit of a downside, but it does allow the camera to work in dark and/or low contrast situations.

The takeaway here: The darker the lighting situation you find yourself in, the slower the autofocus will work (no-brainer, right?). In most lighting conditions, it's rather instantaneous. In the dark, it takes about a half second longer since it has to use the AF assist beam to figure out what to focus on.

The focus peaking on the GH5 is just as good as it was on the GH4, and remains my favorite among competitor cameras. There are multiple color options (I'm partial to the default blue), and it's very sensitive, expertly outlining that which is in focus. It is my personal opinion that Panasonic has the best-looking focus peaking available.

Panasonic GH5 video quality deep-dive: new features, improvements & issues

Alright, now we are to what most of you probably care about: video quality. How does it look? How are the colors? How does it handle low light? Is there a difference between 10-bit and 8-bit? I've done my best to answer those questions for you. Below is a video that goes through all those topics with examples:

Panasonic GH5 Test: Video Quality and ISO
A look at the various quality comparisons with the Panasonic GH5.
Includes ISO tests compared to the GH4 as well as VLOG 10-bit vs 8-bit.

So let's dissect this. The 60p in 4K is a wonderful addition, and puts the GH5 as the most affordable compact video camera capable of this. In the shots where I slowed the footage (the first shot and later in another example), they look exactly like I would expect them to. Filmmakers looking for a spot of slow motion to add to their videos will find the GH5 ready and willing to help in this regard.

Colors on the GH5 lean towards the greener side, much like Sony sensors and opposite of what Canon shooters are used to (which does a better job with oranges and reds). Saturation levels in the "Standard" picture profile (which all the clips outside of the ones specifically labeled VLOG were captured in) are deep and clean, and personally I think the color quality and overall picture quality is a step above the GH4. If you are taking any kind of landscape or nature-focused videography, the GH5 is going to shine.

In a video I have done featuring people (an on-the-job video, which I unfortunately cannot share because the client has not released the footage), that tendency towards green is still apparent. It's not as though the GH5 will not pick up skin tone colors, it's just that it has a tendency to put emphasis elsewhere. You can also see for yourself the quality of skin tones in two of the videos in this review.

Personal opinion incoming: The "green over orange" situation is probably only something Canon shooters will complain about, since most sensors on the market perform as the GH5 does. It doesn't bother me particularly, and I find that it makes the environments that I place my subjects in "pop" more. That said, if you're shooting in a studio situation with nothing but the subject and a white or black wall, you might want to specifically tune your white balance to be a bit warmer so that nabbing the perfect skin tone is easier after the fact. You can also shoot in VLOG, which gives you even more control of all this in post.

For those wondering how easy it is to mix footage from the GH5/GH4 and a Canon camera, I can say that I have done this will what I consider "success." It involves dropping the green saturation from the GH5 while pumping the green saturation on the Canon footage. After some tweaking, you can them to look pretty similar. For example:

Filmed and edited by Jaron Schneider for Redwood Credit Union
Still not a "low-light" camera, but high ISO performance shows noticeable improvement

ISO performance on the GH5 has been markedly improved, essentially doubling what I characterize as the "usable" range, from 800 on the GH4 to 1600 on the GH5. On the GH5, though I would probably hesitate shooting above ISO 1600, the footage from ISO 3200 doesn't look "bad," and could be leaned on in a pinch. Even at the max of ISO 12800, I would qualify the resulting footage as "passable." When you compare the GH5 to the GH4 at ISO 1600, you will notice some pretty heavy visible noise on the GH4 footage, with pretty much none appearing on the GH5 footage. Even on the ISO 3200 comparison, though the darkest part of the image (the subject's face) is noisy on both, the background are where more light is available looks much better. I would even classify that area of the frame as "clean" on the GH5, when the same cannot be said for the GH4.

What I pulled away from this is that even at the highest ISOs available on the GH5 (12800), the footage still looks better than it did at ISO 1600 on the GH4. Unfortunately, though this kind of improvement is impressive, it does not even come close to market-leading. The GH5 is still not what I would call a "low light" camera, and will do best in more "ideal" lighting situations. What I can say is that wedding shooters will find the GH5 capable in just about any of the lighting situations you'll run into during a typical wedding shoot. I managed to get by with the GH4 at a few weddings, but seeing how much better the GH5 is, I am positive it can handle it.

10-bit vs. 8-bit comparison

An area that many shooters often question is the difference between 10-bit and 8-bit. There are some hardcore gearheads who will always advocate for more color bit depth, which has always confused me. Yes, more color depth is theoretically better, but it's not always the best decision for every shoot. The increased bit depth means even heftier files, and if you're not shooting in a log profile, I can't see why you would do it. Basically, the visible difference with non-log profile, ungraded footage (especially through online services like YouTube and Vimeo) is so marginal, there may as well be no difference. If you look carefully at some of the footage above, the 10-bit footage may appear slightly more saturated, but this is an effect that you could easily achieve in post with 8-bit clips.

That is not to say that 10-bit isn't useful. As I mentioned, the only place I suggest using 10-bit is if you're grading footage, and most especially if you're shooting in VLOG. The amount of color data difference between 10-bit and 8-bit is extremely noticeable when you're grading footage. In the video above, I put the camera in the most extreme situation, a dark area requiring high ISO, because I wanted to see how much noise would come out in grading. What I also received was a demonstration on how much of a difference 10-bit made. The color grading on the 8-bit footage seems to just sit on top of the video clip, while the grading in the 10-bit looks like it's actually part of the video footage (this is the best way I can put to words what I'm seeing).

Panasonic Gh5 10-bit video compatibility issues

But shooting in 10-bit has been… problematic for me and other reviewers I've spoken to. For some reason, whatever codec Panasonic is using for the 10-bit footage is repeatedly crashing both the latest version of Adobe Premiere and the latest Final Cut Pro X. This problem persists on the latest hardware from Apple (both a top-of-the-line iMac and a fully loaded brand new MacBook Pro) and even on PC. If you're on a Mac, you also cannot preview the file (Quicktime doesn't appear to understand the file, but the latest versions of VLC and IINA media player apps will work). Once in Premiere, the Adobe program appears to recognize the file and attempts to play it, but if you do try and play it in either preview or in a sequence, Premiere will crash.

After further testing, we found the crash in Premiere to be linked directly to the preview/playback resolution we were set to, which makes sense as to why it also crashes Final Cut. For example, I rarely edit anything at full resolution in preview windows because I want to save memory for the more complicated sequences. In the case of my testing, I was at 1/2 resolution, which is where the files caused freezing and crashing. However, if I returned to full resolution, the files played fine. This is a really strange occurrence, and something that we are still investigating with both Adobe and Panasonic. Adobe has told us that they are now aware of the issue and a fix will be forthcoming.

If you don't want to worry about this at all, you can pre-render the footage using Adobe Media Encoder. The problem isn't with rendering/exporting, but in generating a compressed preview, which is why this method works.

The takeaway here is that if you plan to purchase a GH5, just know that this is currently a problem, and that it will hopefully be resolved soon.

Other video improvements

Moving on, another improvement to note on the GH5 is that there is now no longer a crop difference between 1080p and 4K. The GH4 would crop in slightly on 4K footage, and not even use the full Micro Four Thirds sensor. This change is welcome, and means there is basically no downside to shooting in 4K on the GH5.

Panasonic also improved how 1080p footage looks on the GH5. The GH4 1080p footage was, weirdly, a bit lesser in quality than the 4K footage. Slow motion footage (from 60p on up) appeared especially poor in comparison. Looking at footage taken in 1080p and 4K footage that has been scaled down to 1080p on the GH5, there is no visible difference. This is good news for videographers who prefer to shoot in 1080p rather than working with the beefier 4K files.

Panasonic GH5 High Frame Rate & 1080p/4K Scaled Comparisons
Take a look at the Panasonic GH5's high frame rate (HFR) capture and improved 1080p video capture.

There is a High Frame Rate (HFR) setting on the GH5, as there was on the GH4, and the quality of the video clips is staggeringly improved over what we saw on the GH4. The highest the HFR would go on the GH4 was 96FPS, and the quality of that footage was less than great. The already sub-par 1080p quality decreases even further and I found that shooting at 96FPS was reserved for when looking crisp and super clean was not as important to the client as "dramatic" footage. On the GH5, I don't appear to have to make that sacrifice. Looking side by side through the new range of HFR (which goes up to 180FPS in 60p), there is only a slight dip in quality starting at 150FPS, and it's hardly noticeable. Overall, the improvements to the video recording quality on the GH5 -- from 4K, to 1080 and through HFR -- are a giant leap forward over the GH4.

Rolling Shutter

Before I go into this, I think it's important to state how little rolling shutter means to me. In nearly all real-world shooting situations, rolling shutter is absolutely the least important thing to a shot. Honestly, how often are you whipping a camera back and forth? On top of that, how often during those rare times you do so does your audience care that the lines "jello" slightly? The answer to the first is rarely, and the second is none. Rolling shutter is a technical problem that is challenging and expensive to overcome and is regularly overstated in importance.

Ok, rant over. Let's talk about the rolling shutter on the GH5 for those rare circumstances I outlined above.

Panasonic GH5 Rolling Shutter Test.

On the camera's screen, I didn't notice any rolling shutter while shooting. However, it's pretty clear that there is rolling shutter on all three frame rate clips: 24p, 30p and 60p. It's pretty identical on across all three, too. This is not nearly the worst case of rolling shutter I've seen on a camera, and for most cases it would not be noticed by the average viewer. It is, however, there.

Panasonic GH5 Wireless Connectivity & Control

The wireless control of the GH5 remains just as strong as it was on the GH4. Through a Wi-Fi connection, the GH5 can connect to your smartphone via the Image App. I use an iPhone 7 Plus, and the control and interface is just as I remember on the GH4. This is an excellent app for vlogging (since you'll be able to set focus and exposure while seated in the frame) and is a great "poor man's" external monitor. I say "poor man's" not because the quality isn't great (though the latency control is outstanding; it has basically no latency), but because years after the launch of this app, Panasonic still has not enabled a "full screen" mode. This means that no matter how large your smartphone or tablet is, about half of it will not be able to be utilized for the video monitor, instead being taken up by controls you don't necessarily always need. Please Panasonic, add the ability for us to see the video feed in full screen.

Final Notes

Though not unexpected, if you grab a new GH5 on release day, don't expect your Metabones Speedboosters or adapters to work properly. At present, the Micro Four Thirds Metabones Speedboosters for Canon EF (the one specifically designed for the GH4) does not work on the GH5. Though you can do a physical connection (the connection points have not changed), the GH5 does not function properly with the adapter on. The camera will either show totally black for the video feed, or it will simply freeze on whatever is in frame and not unfreeze until you remove the adapter. I expect this is a Metabones firmware issue but cannot be sure. So that said, if you always adapt lenses, the GH5 probably isn't going to be the best bet at first.

The menu system is a bit challenging to figure out, even for a seasoned Panasonic user like myself (I can only imagine how hard it will be for first-timers). Though it's built just like any other camera, the organization seems a bit strange. I'll often find things in subcategories I don't expect, and that don't seem to make sense to me. Also, Panasonic added a new submenu to a submenu, hiding even more options that you might not notice. You can get used to it, but it's not the best. Someone, someday, is going to come up with a better way to organize camera menus, but that did not happen here.

Though you can dual record onto two SD cards, you can't set one to only record proxies, which would be the most ideal situation for video editors. Your choices are for the second slot to just redundantly record, for one slot to hold video and the other to hold photo, and finally for one card to just pick up where the first one left off once it is filled. Though these are great options, for professionals who will buy this camera, it could have been better.

I feel like the USB-C port was a missed opportunity. Though you can connect it to a printer or a computer, those are your only options with that port. The GH5 does not support charging via that port, which would have made for a great auxiliary power option for videographers. Though the battery life is outstanding, at least having the option would have been appreciated.

There is not a lot to dislike when it comes to the GH5. I'm pretty blown away by what the camera is capable of, especially at its sub-$2000 price point. The battery life, the recording options and the quality of the footage captured are all well beyond expected, and outpace most competitor products two or three times the price of the GH5. Overall, it's just an outstanding video camera.

What's Next:

In the final field test, we'll take a look at the dynamic range, 6K photo mode and time lapse mode. The GH5 packs so many features into one body, but we're getting close to having seen just about everything this camera can do.

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