Basic Specifications
Full model name: Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5S
Resolution: 10.20 Megapixels
Sensor size: 4/3
(17.3mm x 13.0mm)
Kit Lens: n/a
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
Native ISO: 160 - 51,200
Extended ISO: 80 - 204,800
Shutter: 1/16000 - 60 sec
Dimensions: 5.5 x 3.9 x 3.4 in.
(139 x 98 x 87 mm)
Weight: 23.3 oz (660 g)
includes batteries
Availability: 02/2018
Manufacturer: Panasonic
Full specs: Panasonic GH5S specifications
10.20
Megapixels
Micro Four Thirds 4/3
size sensor
image of Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5S
Front side of Panasonic GH5S digital camera Front side of Panasonic GH5S digital camera Front side of Panasonic GH5S digital camera Front side of Panasonic GH5S digital camera Front side of Panasonic GH5S digital camera

Panasonic GH5S Review -- Now Shooting!

by Mike Tomkins and Jaron Schneider
Hands-on Preview posted: 01/08/2018
Last updated: 06/14/2018

Updates:
01/08/2018: Field Test Part I posted
03/20/2018: Field Test Part II posted
04/02/2018: Gallery Images posted
06/14/2018: Performance posted

The Panasonic GH5S looks a whole heck of a lot like the GH5 which precedes it, but look closer and you'll see major changes in its imaging pipeline. The result is a camera which is less of an all-rounder, and more tightly focused on two specific niches: videography, and low-light photography including astrophotography. With half the resolution of the GH5 at around 10.2 megapixels, the GH5S nevertheless packs in plenty enough pixels for high-quality 4K video. And with pixels that are almost twice as large as those of the GH5, the Panasonic GH5S is a low-light specialist, hungrily devouring photons and yielding much cleaner results.

But if you're considering the GH5S as a still-shooting alternative to the GH5, there are certainly some potential drawbacks you'll want to be aware of, most notably the subtraction of the in-body image stabilization system. For the full story on what's new and what's not, click here to jump down the page to our full overview.

 

Panasonic GH5S Field Test Part I

Is the GH5S the new low-light king?

by Jaron Schneider | Posted 01/08/2018

 

With the GH5S, Panasonic makes vast improvements to an already excellent camera

The Panasonic GH5 is already one of the best video cameras you can purchase, especially once you consider its size and low cost. Its ability to produce extremely high quality video in multiple formats, the inclusion of ultra-high definition 4Kp60 capture, the improved ISO performance and the continued excellence of its battery life (which has been a hallmark of the GH series of late) made for a truly excellent video camera.

But what if I told you it could be improved. And not just a little, but a lot?

But first, the minor changes

Before we get into the major things that make the GH5S different from the GH5, I wanted to first mention a few small things. On the new GH5S, Panasonic added some red embellishments to the camera that 1) look awesome (red is my favorite color, so I may be biased) and 2) quickly and effectively differentiate it from the GH5. The record button was also lightly modified, and now actually has the "€œREC" letters printed on the giant red button.

Panasonic also slightly modified a couple of the quick menus to show the vast number of recording modes a bit more effectively. I like the new layout, which shows different options in a paginated format and organized by likeness.

Finally, and this is actually more than a minor change, the GH5S actually has a different crop factor than the GH5. The GH5S is actually noticeably wider than the GH5 with the same lens, same camera settings, and same positioning. I'm not sure what the actual crop factor is at this time, but just know that it is indeed wider.

Making excellent into extraordinary

The idea of improving on excellent is the angle that Panasonic took when they showed us the newly announced GH5S. They seem to have done the impossible, and created a camera with a Micro Four Thirds sensor that can out-perform full-frame sensors in ISO performance. Panasonic has turned much of the logic of opting for a full-frame video camera like a Sony A7S II or a Canon 1DX Mark II on its head, and created a product that can give both a serious run for their money.

In order to achieve vastly improved sensitivity, Panasonic dropped the resolution down to just 10.2 megapixels with what they call their Digital MOS Sensor with Dual Native ISO Technology, paired to a Venus Engine 10 image processor. The result is a digital imager that can "faithfully reproduce even the dark parts of the image," with a new ISO range of 80 through 204,800. This is dramatically larger than the original GH5, which saw its ISO range stop at 12,800.

And the thing is, the GH5 wasn't even bad at 12,800. The footage produced at its max ISO was and continues to be completely acceptable and usable. The GH5S just takes what was good, and makes it even better.

Side by side at ISO 12,800, the GH5 and GH5S both produce excellent video. You can see above that at 4Kp60, both clips are very clean and look quite good. But the GH5S just looks...better. Lines are cleaner and more defined, and the blurriness that tends to start to show at high ISOs on any sensor doesn't really exist at all on the GH5S like it does on the GH5. It's one thing to improve on an under-realized feature (like the ISO performance on the GH4 compared to the GH5). It's entirely another thing, and one worthy of significant praise, to choose to improve on something already excellent. That is what Panasonic did here with the GH5S.

What's even more impressive is how the GH5S compares to a full-frame camera like the 1DX Mark II. Now, the 1DX II isn't known as a low light camera by any means, but one of the major selling points of a full-frame sensor is better low-light performance than smaller sensors. I don't think anyone would have thought we would be comparing a Micro Four Thirds sensor to a full frame and really debating which did better, but here we are.

Honestly, video from the GH5 actually looks better than the 1DX II, but the GH5S is on a whole other level. You can see some noise appear on the GH5 and quite a bit is evident on the 1DX II, but there is none (really, none visible at all) on the GH5S. It looks as clean as a shot I would expect at something like 400 or 800 ISO; it's that good. 12,800 is the max video ISO for the 1DX II, and same for the GH5. But the GH5S doesn't stop there. Clean performance at 12,800 is already extremely impressive, but what about at even higher ISOs?

The GH5S introduces four new higher-end ISO settings (and adds ISO 80 on the low end), but how many of those new ISO settings are usable? With the addition of ISO 25,600, 51,200, and two expanded ISOs of High 102,400 and High 204,800, you're going to find that three of the four are actually usable, and two of the four are in the "€œexcellent" category.

As high as ISO 25,600, there is very little noise and the end result is extremely clean. I'm very impressed with the performance at 25,600 considering it's two stops more than I can achieve with either the 1DX II or the GH5. ISO 51,200 is starting to look like the noise level we saw from the Canon 1DX II at ISO 12,800, so it's acceptable but not "€œclean." The two "€œHigh" ISO settings of 102,400 and 204,800 are pretty noisy, muddy and overall not great. I would not recommend using the ISO that high unless all you care about is capturing a scene, not capturing a scene well. And you know what? Sometimes it's better to have some footage than no footage, and in those cases you can rely on the GH5S to pretty much see in the dark.

Shockingly good ISO performance for such a small sensor

Editor's note: This section has been updated to reflect new footage captured with the A7S II. Originally we claimed the GH5S performed better at high ISOs than did the A7S II, but that was based on incorrectly comparing resampled still images from the A7S II with 4K video frame grabs from the GH5S. Comparing apples to apples with video grabs from both cameras, the GH5S still does surprisingly well up to about ISO 6400, but beyond that the Sony's larger sensor and dynamic noise reduction catapults their camera's capabilities far beyond what we expected, and changed our opinion in the comparison. Likewise, the A7S II's full-frame sensor leads it to do much better shooting high-ISO still images as well, although the GH5S does deliver surprisingly good images for a Micro Four Thirds camera.

But neither the GH5 nor the 1DX II are considered "low light cameras." The GH5S appears to want to be considered as such, so it is only fair to compare to the only camera that has been hailed as king of that segment since its inception: the Sony A7S II.

For the best idea of how they performed against one another, I recommend watching the video above. Otherwise, below are some comparisons between the two cameras (Click images to see them at full resolution).













Though the GH5S performs extremely well and even hangs with the A7S II up until ISO 6400, the Sony begins to pull away after that. At ISO 12800, the GH5S starts to show muddy colors and the noise grain is larger than that on the A7S II. This trend continues up until neither camera is useful. I found that the GH5S is no longer performing at a "usable" level at ISO 51200, and the A7S II is no longer good enough at 102400. So, not only is the A7S II able to be used at one more stop of ISO, it also looks better than the GH5 at every level past 6400.

When examining the two cameras, the A7S II appears to be a bit less saturated than the GH5S, and that is much more noticeable the higher the ISO we go. Low saturation is a good way to hide ISO noise, but I'm not prepared to say that's the reason the A7S II looks so much better. Sure, it's less saturated, but the size of the noise grain is much smaller than that of the GH5S, and overall the sharpness is better on the A7S II. So while it is less saturated, that's not the whole reason why the A7S II look better here.

That's not to say the GH5S is bad. It's actually outstanding, and looks much better than just about any other video camera it could be compared to in its class other than the A7S II. It can absolutely compete with other video cameras and is usable at a much higher ISO than many shooters are going to be used to, provided they don't already own the A7S II.

But that's not all

The big story surrounding the GH5S is going to be the ISO performance, but there have been other changes to the camera as well. The camera can record at an internal 400 MBPS All-Intra format out of the box, which the GH5 was able to do only after a firmware update last fall. Additionally, V-Log, which is normally an additional fee, has been included in the GH5S as part of the package.

The GH5S can now also record up to 10x slow motion video in 1080p. It can also shoot anamorphic and desqueeze that footage on a monitor all through the camera's firmware.

The GH5S is the first camera in its class capable of recording Cinema 4K (4096x2160) in 60p. While the GH5 can already do so in UHD, the GH5S adds the additional pixels in Cinema 4K. Additionally, Panasonic also added C4Kp30 in both 8 and 10 bit, which are new when compared to the GH5.

Making sacrifices for ISO superiority

In order to achieve the new recording options like Cinema 4K at 60 frames per second and the new low-light performance, Panasonic had to make some sacrifices. For example, they reduced the total photo megapixel output of the sensor to 10.2MP. This reduction also means that the GH5S cannot perform Panasonic's normally highly-touted 6K Photo. Additionally, Panasonic removed in-body image stabilization in the GH5S, meaning if you want stabilization you'll have to rely on the lens.

That last bit about the removal of IBIS puts this camera in a funny place for me. Though from a pure image-making perspective it's superior to the GH5, losing IBIS removes part of what makes the GH5 such an excellent camera.

You won't find many GH5 owners who will be upset to find that the camera only takes 10-megapixel images, since those who love the GH5 don't love it for its photos. This is a video-centric camera, and the fact it takes photos really is secondary. In that same vein, losing 6K photos is also something many GH5 owners will be ok with if it means getting two more clean stops of ISO performance and greater flexibility with recording options.

But where you will see current GH5 owners draw the line is losing the in-body stabilization. For documentary shooters or run-and-gun videographers, IBIS is a huge deal. It makes shooting hand held so much easier and the IBIS in the GH5 is excellent.

So who is this for?

Looking at the GH5S, it's hard to say exactly who this camera is for. Side by side with the GH5, it's better in nearly every way. But then when you realize that with the GH5S you lose IBIS, suddenly the conversation shifts. Is it more important to have good ISO and IBIS, or excellent ISO and no IBIS?

When it comes down to it, the folks who will be more inclined to purchase the GH5S are those who already own the GH5. It's the camera to get out when you really need to push the limits of current sensor tech. It's not a replacement for the GH5, but an enhancement. And part of me thinks that's a good thing, and the other part of me thinks that's a missed opportunity.

Because it's one thing to upset the people who just bought the GH5 less than a year ago by introducing one that's better, but it's another to force those same people to buy two cameras instead of one. I'm not sure which is worse.

Final takeaways

I'm still trying to wrap my head around the technology that Panasonic packed into the GH5S, especially with its incredible low light, high ISO performance. I've been pretty much resigned to the fact that my smaller sensor cameras would always be far behind in performance when compared to full-frame cameras, but the GH5S has completely turned my reality on its head. This is one of the best video cameras you can buy today, and basically the best video camera at or under $2,500 (the closest competitor camera is the original GH5, and again it depends on what you value more: ISO or IBIS). The $500 price bump for the "S" is absolutely worth it, and the camera is a total steal at US$2,500. I can't think of any other video camera that can do as much as the GH5S that has that kind of value. It's straight up cheap.

This is an excellent camera, and if you already were a fan of Panasonic, you'll find a lot to love in the GH5S.

 

Panasonic GH5S Field Test Part II

Outside of a dedicated cinema camera, you will find no better filmmaking tool

by Jaron Schneider | Posted 03/20/2018

It's not that it's rare to find us talking about a camera. Clearly that's not the case. What is rare, however, is talking about one with reverence. With respect. Heck, even with love. There are so few cameras that I cling to as treasured objects these days. I can recall just a few from my past that represent more than just a tool, but an extension of me as an artist. The GH5S is a camera that I have truly come to love, and that's just been in my short time with it. I've shot with it professionally twice now and used it in testing environments more than a dozen times, and the soul of this camera has gripped me since the first time I looked at the footage it produced.

It's more than just a capture device. It's a device willing to work with me the creator, and together we are making some truly breathtaking visuals. I've never been more proud of the work I've created, and I've never been so giddy to push a camera beyond what I once thought as limits only to find that those limits were only barriers put up by what I thought were great cameras before it.

GH5S Video Frame Grab: ISO 1600, Standard Picture Profile.
Click for full-res.

GH5S Video Frame Grab: ISO 1600, VLog Picture Profile
Click for full-res.

Look, there is no perfect camera. There is no perfect capture device. But there are cameras that feel as though they were created with purpose, care and as though the developers not only understood what we as artists wanted, but also saw beyond our desires to craft a finished product that exceeds even the loftiest of expectations. The GH5S is one such camera. It has quickly unseated every other tool I've used to create video in the past five years and jubilantly jumps ahead of any curve I've yet to throw at it. It's a wonderfully designed camera that may not get the widespread recognition it deserves because of its 10 megapixel label that some will refuse to see beyond and the fact that it isn't designed to be a photo camera as much as it truly excels as being a video camera. For some reason the wider audience won't respect it as much as a Canon, a Nikon or a Sony and that's OK. It's not supposed to be any of those cameras. It's supposed to be a Panasonic GH camera, and as one, it is truly the best they've ever made.

In this, the second field test of this camera, I want to show you what can be done in near darkness as well as how beautiful footage looks in ideal lighting. The mix and breadth of what the GH5S can accomplish is even more outstanding given the $2500 price point. $2500 for such a masterpiece of a camera is so mind boggling that I think that it even gets ignored, so flabbergasting is that concept. Today, outside of a dedicated cinema camera like an Alexa or a RED, you will find no better filmmaking tool than the GH5S.

• • •

I want you to take a look at this portrait I shot with the GH5S during a recent shoot in San Francisco. Look at how good the quality is. It's really quite excellent. The detail, the depth of field, the overall image quality is just superb. I suppose the only complaint at this point would be that it's limited to 10 megapixels...

ISO 200, Standard Picture Profile, Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2
Click for full-res.

But... what if I told you it wasn't a photograph?

That's right. The 4K video on the GH5S looks so good that stills captured from the 4K footage can pass off as stills.

I personally have been waiting for the day that this would start happening at a point where anyone who wanted to, could take advantage of it. Sure, RED and ARRI have been making this kind of quality for some time, but those are not what I call "approachable" cameras. Many filmmakers will go their entire careers without even touching one of those cameras. It's wonderful to finally see a camera that can produce this kind of imagery at a price point that is actually affordable.

The GH5S separates itself from the original GH5 in two other ways, one being the removal of on-sensor stabilization, and the second being the inclusion of VLog out of the box. I shot a lot in VLog in low light (the entire opening sequence of this video review was shot in VLog and graded in post), but before looking at purposefully-shot high ISO footage, I wanted to show how VLog changes even well-lit environments and offers quite a bit to those looking for more dynamic range.

Standard Picture Profile
Click for full-res.

Here is a scene I shot in the "Standard" profile to give you a sense of what the camera captures without using Log. It looks really good, but you'll notice that there are some very deep shadows around the edges that, though for this scene look excellent, offer no real recovery options in post should we want to change that look during editing.

GH5S Video Frame Grab: VLog Picture Profile
Click for full-res.

But in VLog, we get everything. It allows us to put different LUTs and looks over the footage to do just about anything we want.

VLog is especially useful thanks to 10-bit recording and improved ISO performance, which allows for the camera's use in some particularly dark environments.

GH5 Video Frame Grab: ISO 6400, VLog Picture Profile
Click for full-res.

Take a look at the GH5, shot in VLog, at ISO 6400. In this extremely dark environment, the shadows look especially noisy. The GH5 is doing its best to widen its dynamic range with VLog, but the sensor is having a hard time doing so without some serious noise. I wouldn't consider this "good" footage.

GH5S Video Frame Grab: ISO 6400, VLog Picture Profile
Click for full-res.

In contrast, the GH5S in the exact same situation at the exact same settings does considerably better. Not only is the subject well captured, but the shadows are also extremely usable. The noise has been dramatically reduced, and overall the footage is significantly more usable.

If you're curious how 10-bit, 8-bit and ALL-I compare for post production work, it's generally agreed upon that 10-bit is going to be your best bet. But looking below, even the shadows are hard to tell the difference among the three. What I'm saying is, unless you're doing really high level color grading and post production, you probably won't notice a difference in most circumstances.

Click for full-res.

I took a moment to do a "darkness reveal" using only ISO to see how well the GH5S can see in pretty much near-darkness. This scene was lit by three sources: a table light (which was the brightest), a small wall sconce just off camera left, and a very dim chandelier in the rear of the scene. I increased the ISO at each of its intervals, and I have to say, it's pretty impressive what this "little" sensor can see in the dark.

Click for full-res.

I'm willing to say that I'd use footage from this scene up to ISO 25,600, but after that it's just a bit too noisy for my taste.

That said, that's incredibly impressive. I don't care what size the sensor it is. Being able to feel comfortable up to ISO 25,600 in some cases basically makes it so I can shoot in any situation I have ever found myself.

I said that the GH5S is one of the best video cameras ever made, and I of course will catch flack for such a statement. I'll be told it's hyperbolic, since there are some truly outstanding video cameras on the market from Sony, ARRI and RED. Though the GH5S offers a great many capture settings, it won't shoot in RAW video, it won't capture above 60p in 4K, and it's not set up physically to compete with a RED or an Alexa.

GH5S Video Frame Grab: GH5S VLog Ungraded vs. Graded
Click for full-res.

But that doesn't mean it can't be one of the best filmmaking cameras ever made. Though an ARRI Alexa and a RED Epic are both among the best choices for high-end filmmaking, they aren't the best choice for anything other than that. Bulky, expensive, complicated and cumbersome (did I mention expensive), they are designed for the highest end level of filmmaking. But the GH5S can also work in that world, as proven by large studios even using a Canon 5D on sets of films as big as Marvel's Avengers. Not everything is for the Alexa, and if a Canon 5D can be used on a set then the GH5S sure as hell can. Additionally, the GH5S offers so much to just about everyone looking to capture video that it outclasses anything priced under $10,000 in sheer imaging potential for a lowly $2500. Argue with me all you want about Canon Cinema cameras or Blackmagic equipment, there is no doubt that the GH5S can do anything those cameras could be used for either just as well or better, and for a fraction of the price. Should I buy a C300, or four GH5S's? Or better yet, should I just buy one GH5S and outfit my entire filmmaking rig with my remaining $7500? Imagine the audio equipment I could get for that.

GH5S Video Frame Grab: GH5S VLog Ungraded vs. Graded
Click for full-res.

What I'm saying is, Panasonic has done truly marvelous things with such a small, inexpensive body that it's hard to recommend anything short of a high-end cinema camera over the GH5S. Even when you do, the GH5S will still do many tasks better than those high-end cameras.

GH5S Video Frame Grab: GH5S VLog Ungraded vs. Graded
Click for full-res.

The Panasonic GH5S is a spectacular filmmaking device that, I think, checks nearly every box. It works as a great camera alone, and even better when paired alongside the GH5. What the GH5S lacks in on-sensor stabilization (a move made by Panasonic at the request of high-end filmmakers who found it to work poorly with car, drone rigs and other mechanical stabilizers), it makes up for in pure image quality across a range of ISOs. With both cameras in your arsenal, there will be few situations you can't beautifully capture.

In the modern era, you will find fewer filmmaking cameras that will impress you as much as the GH5S, and none that can even come close to its price point.

 

Panasonic GH5S Performance


Timing and Performance

Good to excellent performance for a mirrorless ILC.

Startup/Play to Record

Power on
to first shot

~1.1 seconds

Time it takes to turn on and capture a shot.

Play to Record,
first shot

0.7 second

Time until first shot is captured.

Startup time was a little faster-than-average for a mirrorless camera, and switching from Play to Record and taking a shot was fairly quick. Both are about the same speed as the GH5.


Shutter Response (Lag Time)
Mechanical Shutter / Electronic Shutter

Full Autofocus,
Center-area AF-S mode

0.173 / 0.185
second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, with Panasonic Leica DG 12-60mm f/2.8-4 zoom lens at medium focal length (~50mm eq.).

Full Autofocus
Center-area AF-S mode
Flash enabled

N/A

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture. Auto Flash enabled. (No built-in or bundled flash.)

Manual Focus

0.083 / 0.111
second

For most cameras, shutter lag is less in manual focus than autofocus, but usually not as fast as when the camera is "prefocused".

Prefocused

0.045 / 0.062
second

Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button.

The Panasonic GH5S' autofocus speed was pretty good in our tests, especially for a camera that uses contrast detection only, though not quite as fast as the GH5's. In the lab, the GH5S produced a full-autofocus shutter lag (with the subject at a fixed distance) of 0.173 second using 1-area (center) AF-S mode in mechanical shutter mode with the Panasonic Leica DG 12-60mm f/2.8-4 lens at about 25mm (50mm equivalent). The GH5 managed 0.129 second with the same lens.

When manually focused, the GH5S' lag time dropped to 0.083 second with the mechanical shutter, which is very good, though not quite as fast as the GH5's 0.066 second. The GH5S' prefocused shutter lag time was 0.045 second with the mechanical shutter, which is very fast and actually a bit faster than the GH5's 0.056s.

As is usually the case, switching to electronic shutter mode actually increased lag, but not by much. See the table above.

To minimize the effect of different lens' focusing speed, we test AF-active shutter lag with the lens already set to the correct focal distance.


Cycle Time (shot to shot)

Single Shot mode
Large/Fine JPEG

0.39 second

Time per shot, averaged over a few frames (we no longer test for buffer depths in single-shot mode).

Single Shot mode
RAW + L/F JPEG

0.45 second

Time per shot, averaged over a few frames (we no longer test for buffer depths in single-shot mode).

Early shutter
penalty?

YES

Some cameras refuse to snap another shot if you release and press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode, making "No" the preferred answer.

Continuous H
Large Fine JPEG

0.09 second
(11.66 fps);
600 frames;
2.1 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over 600 frames, then slows to an average of 0.2s or 5.0 fps when buffer is full.

Continuous H
12-bit RAW

0.08 second
(12.50 fps);
120 frames total;
14.7 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 120 frames, then slows to an average of 0.16s or 6.2 fps with a lot of variation.

Continuous H
12-bit RAW + L/F JPEG

0.08 second
(13.13 fps);
99 frames total;
21.5 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 99 frames, then slows to an average of about 0.25s or 4.1 fps with a lot of variation.

Continuous H
14-bit RAW

0.09 second
(11.61 fps);
138 frames total;
14.9 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 138 frames, then slows to an average of 0.17s or 5.8 fps with a lot of variation.

Continuous H
14-bit RAW + L/F JPEG

0.09 second
(11.61 fps);
101 frames total;
21.3 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 101 frames, then slows to an average of about 0.14s or 7.0 fps with a lot of variation.

4K Burst mode
8MP JPEGs

0.02 second
(60.00 fps);
Unlimited frames?;
1.8 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, with no apparent buffer limit.

Flash Recycling

N/A

No built-in or bundled flash.

*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a 64GB Lexar Pro 2000x UHS-II SDXC card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Single-shot cycle times were quite fast at 0.39 second for best quality JPEGs and 0.45 second for RAW+JPEG. (Note that we no longer test single-shot mode with just RAW files, as the results are usually somewhere in between JPEG and RAW+JPEG.)

The Continuous High Speed "H" mode burst rate was excellent at 11.7 frames per second for best quality JPEGs, just shy of Panasonic's 12 fps spec. When shooting 12-bit RAW or 12-bit RAW + Large/Fine JPEG files, the average frame rate actually exceeded Panasonic's spec, at 12.5 and 13.1 frames per second respectively. Switching to 14-bit RW2 files (the GH5S is the first Micro Four Thirds camera to offer 14-bit RAW files) reduced RAW and RAW+JPEG frame rates to around 11.6 frames per second, slightly faster than Panasonic's 11 fps spec.

Full-resolution buffer depth was essentially limited only by card capacity when shooting Large/Fine JPEGs (Panasonic claims 600 or more frames and we've confirmed 600). Buffer depths when shooting RAW files were quite generous, at 120 or 138 frames depending on bit-depth, and RAW+JPEG buffer depths were also very good, ranging between 99 and 101 frames. The GH5S also has a 4K burst mode which captures 8-megapixel frames at 60 frames per second with no apparent limit other than card capacity.

Buffer clearing can be sluggish, though, even with a very fast 2000x UHS-II card, ranging from only 2.1 seconds after a long burst of JPEGs to over 21 seconds after a long burst of RAW+JPEG files. You can however take additional photos and adjust settings while the buffer is clearing.

Bottom line, the Panasonic GH5S' performance is generally quite good to excellent for its class. Startup and mode switching are reasonably fast, while autofocus speeds and shutter lag are pretty quick. Burst performance is excellent, as are buffer depths, however buffer clearing can be sluggish when shooting RAW files despite UHS-II card support and the smaller 10.2-megapixel files.

Battery Life

Good battery life for a mirrorless ILC.

Operating Mode Battery Life
Still Capture, CIPA standard
(LCD monitor with H-FS12060 lens)
440 shots
Still Capture, CIPA standard
(
EVF with H-FS12060 lens)
410 shots

The Panasonic GH5S uses a custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack for power, and comes with both a single battery and dedicated battery charger. The CIPA-rated 440 shots per charge when using the LCD monitor and 410 shots with the EVF are above average for a mirrorless ILC (but keep in mind there no built-in flash with is normally fired for 50% of shots for CIPA testing), however battery life is much lower than a typical DSLR when using an optical viewfinder. The GH5S does however have a Power Save LVF mode which can increase battery life to a whopping 1,300 shots when using the EVF. Still, we recommend getting a second battery for your GH5S if you plan any extended outings, and consider purchasing the optional DMW-BGGH5 battery grip which can double battery life with a second battery.

The table above shows the number of shots the camera is capable of (on a fully-charged rechargeable battery), based on CIPA battery-life and/or manufacturer standard test conditions.

(Interested readers can find an English translation of the CIPA DC-002 standards document here. (180K PDF document))

 

Panasonic GH5S Review -- Overview

by Mike Tomkins

The Panasonic GH5S is going to look mighty familiar, if you've shot with the company's superb GH5, a mirrorless camera with lots to recommend it both on the still imaging and video fronts. The more video-centric (but still very stills-capable) Lumix GH5S shares almost exactly the same body with its earlier sibling, differing only in the addition of a red 'S' beneath the GH5 logo, a small red trim ring in place of the bottom row of knurling on the drive mode dial, and a bold red color for the video record button.

Crafted from magnesium alloy, the GH5S' body is still sealed against dust, moisture and cold, allowing it to withstand minor splashes, dusty environments and use in temperatures as low as 14°F (-10°C). But where its predecessor tipped the scales at 25.6 ounces (725g) loaded and ready to shoot (but without a lens), the GH5S weighs in at just 23.3 ounces (660g).

That's a noticeable difference of 2.3 ounces (65g) or almost ten percent, and it hints at a feature subtraction which we'll come back to in just a moment.

A resolution rein-in for a very different target market

Perhaps the most important difference of all between the Panasonic GH5S and GH5 can be found at their very core. The image sensors used differ radically, with each camera focused on very different needs. The GH5 is more of an all-around shooter for stills and video, and hence packs in plenty of resolution, the better to create great big, frameworthy prints. The GH5S, though, is aimed at low-light specialists and videographers.

With a sensor resolution of just over ten megapixels, the GH5S will definitely lag someway behind the GH5 when it comes to fine detail capture for still imaging under good light. But at the same time, it'll perform much better than its higher-res twin when shooting video or in low ambient light levels. (And for video, ten megapixels is still plenty even to allow for capture of downsampled Cinema 4K footage, which has a resolution of just 8.3 megapixels.)

An aspect ratio that's not 'baked in' at the factory

You may have noticed that I didn't list a specific sensor resolution just now, incidentally, and simply averred that it was above the ten megapixel mark. There's a reason for that divergence from our usual detail-oriented content: The Panasonic GH5S is rare in that it offers a true multi-aspect ratio capability, and so the very notion of a single, overall "sensor resolution" gets turned on its head somewhat.

Most cameras capture data from the full sensor area in its native aspect ratio, and then simply discard the top and bottom of the image for wider-aspect shots, or the sides for narrower-aspect ones. By contrast, the GH5S never uses its entire sensor area, regardless of the aspect ratio you choose. (And nor could it, as the very corners of the sensor likely extend beyond the image circle.)

Instead, the camera simply crops to your chosen aspect ratio within the image circle, and discards the rest of the sensor data. Where images shot with varying aspect ratios on most digicams will also vary in their diagonal field of view, with the Panasonic GH5S it never changes, and that makes choosing aspect ratios is a totally guilt-free experience.

10-megapixel resolution means much better low-light and video capture

And as for that issue of the sensor resolution, well... The best we can say is that, based on the maximum sensor width and height recorded in any of the available aspect ratio modes, the sensor resolution must be at least 11.3 megapixels. Panasonic quite correctly states it to be 10.2 megapixels as that's the pixel count in 4:3-aspect capture, which bests the 9.8-megapixel count for 3:2-aspect shots, and the 7.6-megapixel count for 1:1-aspect ones. (Note that for videos, the aspect ratio options are instead 4:3, 16:9 or 17:9.)

By way of comparison, the Panasonic GH5 has a resolution of 20.3 megapixels in its native 4:3-aspect ratio, or almost double that of the GH5S. That difference in pixel counts has a very big effect on the size of the photodiodes on the sensor surface, which in turn translates into a huge impact on noise levels. Each photodiode has grown in size by around 1.96 times, and according to Panasonic that change translates to a 1.5-stop (9.7dB) improvement in the signal-to-noise ratio.

The brand-new sensor allows a much broader sensitivity range

And when we say "much better" low-light capture, in particular, we mean it. A measure of Panasonic's confidence in the GH5S' low-light chops can be seen in its ISO range.

Sensitivity tops out by default at ISO 51,200, where the GH5 had an upper limit of ISO 25,600. And for the earlier camera, that was it, but the GH5S will now continue on up to ISO 204,800 if you enable its extended sensitivity range. At the other end of the scale, base sensitivity is ISO 160 and is expandable to ISO 80. (The GH5 was ISO 200 at base and ISO 100-expandable.)

Dual Native ISO translates to lower noise levels at higher sensitivities

But there's something very, very unusual about the Panasonic GH5S here, and it bears a little extra discussion. Unlike most cameras, there are actually two native sensitivity ratings in the GH5S, a feature the company refers to as Dual Native ISO. This makes it unlike most cameras, where one specific sensitivity offers the best signal to noise ratio since the signal needn't be amplified before A/D conversion, and noise levels climb or dynamic range is curtailed as you raise or lower the sensitivity from its native point.

For the Lumix GH5S, there are actually two different sensitivity levels at which the camera is able to operate natively, and thus noise levels will be at their lowest around both of these points, with a rise in noise levels between. The lower of the pair equates to ISO 400 ordinarily (ISO 800 for V-LogL or HLG capture), and the higher equates to ISO 2500 ordinarily (ISO 5000 for V-LogL or HLG).

A dramatic reduction in rolling shutter means better videos and 4K Photos

Ordinarily, at this point in one of our previews, we'd give you a rundown of the camera's performance, autofocus and exposure capabilities, and maybe some special features, then circle back for video capture towards the end of the article. That's because in most cameras, video capture feels like something of an afterthought, even today. Not so the GH5S. Here, video capture is clearly of huge importance, and an area in which this camera offers some really significant improvements over the GH5.

For one thing, the new image sensor has allowed a 25% reduction in rolling shutter since that used in the GH5, meaning that your videos should be much less prone to subjects that seem to lean to one side, and unsightly, jello-like wobbling in panning shots. And that's not just important for video capture, either. Like its sibling, the GH5S allow you to extract high-res 8.3-megapixel stills from 4K videos in what it terms "4K Photo" mode, and you can expect far less rolling shutter in these, too.

Input or output timecode to keep multi-camera shoots in sync

Another very important video feature which the GH5 lacks is the Panasonic GH5S' ability to produce timecode with which to sync another camera on a multi-camera shoot, or to input timecode from another device instead. (The latter approach will allow for more than two cameras to be kept in sync, too.)

And this is clearly a feature Panasonic expects most owners to take advantage of, as well, since it's including the requisite flash sync terminal to BNC conversion cable in the box.

Support for anamorphic and Cinema 4K capture, V-LogL, Rec. 709, HLG and more

As if that wasn't enough, there's plenty else for video shooters besides. You can record 4K and Full HD video without clip length limits, including true Cinema 4K or anamorphic content. And for the latter you can choose whether or not you want the GH5S to desqueeze the display (or if you prefer, squeeze it vertically as well) so that you can see the final result either for live view or playback.

There are also V-LogL and Rec.709 lookup tables in-camera without any payware software keys required to unlock their use, plus the ability to upload four more LUTs of your own in Panasonic's .VLT format. Also supported is Hybrid Log Gamma capture, and the GH5S allows you to record high dynamic range content with a low-bitrate 4K HEVC codec.

High frame-rate and slow-motion 4K capture achieved entirely in-camera!

The Panasonic GH5S impresses with its ability to shoot consumer 4K and Cinema 4K content entirely in-camera at a rate of 60 frames per second, both of which the company says are world's firsts for a mirrorless camera. Note, though, that 60 fps footage comes with a requirement that you record 8-bit, 4:2:0-subsampled content. If you want 10-bit 4:2:2 footage, you'll need to stay at rates of 30 fps or below.

You can also record slow-motion and fast-motion footage with the Panasonic GH5S entirely in-camera. Up to a 2.5x slow-motion effect is possible for 4K or Cinema 4K footage, and up to a 10x slow-motion effect for Full HD content. (Capture frame rates vary from two to 60 or 240 fps for 4K and Full HD respectively, and output rates from 24 to 60 fps.)

Other movie capture-related features include video-appropriate guide lines, a Rec.709-like gamma curve, luminance and knee controls, and both wave form and vectorscope monitors. And for the audio component of your videos, there are both 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks as well as an onboard stereo mic with a third, hidden noise cancellation mic. That's all much as in the GH5, but one tweak for the GH5S is that the 3.5mm mic jack can also be switched to function instead as a 3.5mm line input.

A capable stills camera, but with lower resolution and no in-body / Dual I.S. support

As we said earlier, there's certainly a lot to talk about on the video front. But that's not to say that this is just a camera for the video crowd. Available-light stills shooters, astrophotographers and the like will likely also be interested despite the lower resolution versus the GH5. And there are certainly some noteworthy features targeted specifically at still capture, such as a 14-bit raw file format, and an all-red, night vision-friendly user interface mode.

However, as we noted near the outset, there's one fairly major feature subtraction compared to the GH5, which may persuade many photographers to opt for the higher-res body instead. The earlier GH5 includes an in-body, sensor-shift type image stabilization system, and then extends its utility still further by allowing it to function in concert with lens-based stabilization, a technique Panasonic refers to as Dual I.S. 2. But the GH5S lacks in-body stabilization of any kind, instead relying solely on your lenses to provide image stabilization. And that, of course, also means there's no Dual I.S. capability, either.

So if you want the best-stabilized images and the least possible fuss, you'll want to stick with the GH5. But if you opt instead for the GH5S, you will find that its much broader sensitivity range and lower noise levels allow you to use a higher sensitivity to achieve a faster shutter speed in the first place, so perhaps stabilization won't be needed as often.

In-body I.S. wasn't a good fit for the requirements of pro videographers

If you're wondering why Panasonic would remove the in-body stabilization, so were we. We're told that there are two main concerns in a camera aimed at professional videographers. Firstly and more obviously, the IS system itself can make noise that could potentially be picked up on your mics, disrupting your audio track. And secondly, the IS system moving could potentially disturb your framing, something that we understand could occasionally be triggered by environmental noise.

(Bear in mind that since it must keep the floating sensor centered and upright, an in-body IS system operates all of the time, even if to the end user stabilization appears to be "disabled". It's simply actively trying to hold the sensor still, rather than actively moving it to cancel out camera motion.)

Another feature subtraction versus the original GH5 is that the Panasonic GH5S lacks a 6K Photo mode, for the simple reason that it doesn't have sufficient pixels on its sensor to yield a 6K feed.

A slight (but noticeable) reduction in C-AF performance

In most other respects, the Panasonic GH5S looks a whole lot like the GH5 which preceded it. Output from its sensor is handled by a powerful Venus Engine 10 image processor, and the GH5S is capable of a swift 12 frames per second with single AF or 8 fps with continuous AF when shooting 12-bit raw files. With 14-bit raws, both figures drop by one frame per second.

In all cases, raw buffer depth is 80 frames and JPEG buffer depths as deep as 600 frames when using a UHS-II U3 compliant flash card. Note that continuous AF performance is one frame per second slower than was possible with the GH5, or two fps slower if you enable 14-bit raw capture.

If you need more performance, you can shoot in 4K Photo mode which will record an ultra-high def video at 60 fps, then allow you to extract frames at 8.3-megapixel resolution.

Slightly slower single AF too, but it'll darned near focus in the dark

Although the GH5S' autofocus setup is largely identical to that of the GH5, its single AF performance too is a bit lower than that of the earlier camera. The reason is that the Depth-from-Defocus based 225-point autofocus system's algorithms have less data to work with from the lower-resolution 10.2-megapixel sensor. The result: A claimed time to AF lock of as little as 0.07 seconds, compared to 0.05 seconds for the GH5. But that's for stills; you can expect the GH5S to prove much more satisfying when it comes to video autofocus.

One other key difference of the GH5S' autofocus system, as compared to that of the GH5, is its low-light sensitivity. Since the image sensor itself is being used to create the information on which the AF algorithms function, they too benefit from its larger photodiodes and improved sensitivity. And we're not joking when we say that this camera will pretty much focus in the dark. With a bottom-end rating of -5EV, the GH5S' AF system should be capable of focusing under partial moonlight, with a sufficiently high-contrast subject!

Helpfully, you can also frame in near-total darkness with the live boost function, which reduces live view frame rate and boosts sensitivity levels for a better view of dimly-lit scenes. Oh, and if you like to keep close tabs on your autofocus or even fine-tune focus manually, you'll also be happy to see both a 20x manual focus assist mode and an AF point-scope function present and accounted for.

A faster, smoother view through the electronic finder

We've mentioned the live view feed a few times, incidentally, but not yet detailed the electronic viewfinder and LCD monitor on which you'll be watching it. Now seems as good a time as any!

In terms of their basic hardware, both the 3.2-inch, 3:2-aspect, 1,620k-dot LCD monitor and 3,680k-dot, 100% coverage OLED viewfinder are essentially unchanged, although the latter can now operate with a 120 fps refresh rate as in the G9, rather than being limited to 60 fps refresh as in the GH5.

The LCD monitor is still on a side-mounted tilt/swivel mechanism to allow framing from all angles, a favorite design feature among IR staffers. And the EVF still has 1.52x magnification (0.76x in 35mm-equivalent) with a 21mm eyepoint from the eyepiece, and a -4 to +3 diopter adjustment.

Connectivity, storage and power are largely the same as in the GH5

Much like the GH5 before it, the Lumix GH5S sports twin SD card slots, compatible with higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC types, as well as higher-speed UHS-I, UHS-II and Video Speed Class 90 cards. The two slots can be written to sequentially, set to segregate by file type or to serve as a backup in the event of a card failure.

Wireless connectivity options, as in the GH5, include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios, but not NFC for easy Android pairing. Wired connectivity includes a USB-C port compatible with SuperSpeed USB 3.1 Gen1, a Type-A HDMI port, 3.5mm microphone / line level input and headphone jacks, and a 2.5mm remote jack.

Power comes from a 7.2-volt, 1,860mAh, 14Wh DMW-BLF19 lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack, just as in the GH5. The GH5S is also compatible with the same DMW-BGGH5 battery grip as that camera, which doubles battery life courtesy of an extra battery, and also adds portrait-orientation shooting controls. Battery life has increased by 30 frames to some 440 frames with the LCD, but only by 10 frames to 410 shots the EVF, to CIPA testing standards when using the same H-FS12060 lens.

The bundled charger now connects via USB, but you can't charge in-camera

One slight change, though, is that the bundled battery charger has been changed to a new model DMW-BTC13 which attaches to a bundled USB AC adapter, but could also be connected to other USB chargers or even your computer to recharge while on the go. Sadly, you can't just charge the battery in-camera, though, so you do have to remember to bring the charger along.

(We do favor an external charger like this over solely in-camera charging, though, as if you have to charge in-camera, you can't be charging and shooting at the same time.)

Panasonic GH5S price and availability

Available from February 2018, the Panasonic GH5S is priced at around US$2,500 body-only in the US market. As befits a camera aimed at pros, no kit lenses or color options are offered.

 

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