The Panasonic GH5 is a great successor to an already wonderful flagship still and video hybrid camera. It now sports a faster processor, a 20MP sensor, a very deep buffer, 4K video up to 60p, dual UHS-II slots, 6K photo mode, 10-bit internal video recording, and much more. With these features, the GH5 is a well-deserved flagship model, which picks up where the GH4 left off as a favorite among video creators and photographers.
Video stills takes center stage with the GH5, and the company says that the GH4 will remain in its hybrid lineup to serve as a lower-cost option for the users who don’t need the extra capabilities of the GH5. For most users, the addition of 4K video without cropping and in-built stabilization might be enough to compel them to upgrade. However, Panasonic have improved and revised nearly every aspect of the performance and behavior of the camera.
Rated by: Julia
“This camera is a powerhouse for the price. Full disclosure, my first camera was a Panasonic SD camcorder back in 2005, then switched to a Canon Pro camcorder in 2009, then jumped on the Panasonic train again with the GH3 and was using them until I picked up the GH5.”
“This power house of a camera is everything I expected to be and more. Even though I'm in the learning curve area for all the built capability, I've managed to capture some nice images and am very happy with the results achieved so far. ”
Design and Build
Looking at the specifications alone, it’s quite easy to confuse this for a video camera. However, the GH5 looks every bit like a mirrorless still camera.
At first glance, the exterior of the Panasonic GH5 looks a lot like its predecessor. However, the GH5 is 13% larger than the GH4, which might seem like a retrograde step, but it certainly works for the GH5. The manufacturer has done away with the in-built flash (as the one in the GH4), which when combined with the large purposeful handgrip and the magnesium alloy chassis makes the GH5 feel as the high-end professional piece of kit as it’s meant to be. It’s such a great camera to hold and shoot with.
The GH5 is also freeze-proof down to -10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees F) and fully weatherproof. It’s heat dispersing design ensures that you’re unlimited with your video recording time – you’ll only be limited by the capacity of your storage media. Speaking of, the GH5 comes with dual SD card slots that support UHS-II, and also gets a full-size HDMI Type A terminal.
The shutter has also been overhauled, though it’s rated at 200,000 cycles as with the GH4. Nonetheless, there’s a new spring drive, which culminates into a floating construction for the shutter frame. This translates into minimized shock to the camera body when the shutter is fired.
Buttons and Control:
While the Panasonic GH5 comes with an intuitive touchscreen, it hasn’t stopped the manufacturer from littering the body with controls and buttons to let users easily toggle the key features. The top plate has no LCD displays, but either side contains chunky mode and drive dials, and just behind the front command dial are buttons to adjust the ISO, White Balance, and exposure compensation.
All three buttons have a slightly different finishes, with the White Balance button being convex-shaped, the exposure compensation button concave, and the ISO one is flat with two little dimples on it. As such, when you have the camera raised to your eye level, you will be able to tell which of these buttons you’re pressing by just feel. Behind these is a handy programmable button and a dedicated movie record button, moved from the rear of the GH4 to the top on the GH5.
Where the movie record button was on the GH4 is a small multi-directional joypad, which is primarily used to choose your AF area (besides the touchscreen), though it can be used to navigate the menus.
AF Point Joystick:
Although it inherited one of the best AF touchpad/touchscreen implementations on the market, the GH5 benefits from the added focus point joystick. This joystick can be used to navigate 225 directly selectable points.
Touchscreens often provide the fastest way to position an AF point, and the touchpad AF system on the GH5 can maintain this speed when shooting with the camera close to your eye. Still, some photographers struggle operating the screen while shooting in portrait mode. The joystick helps to overcome this problem, and more importantly, give the user a choice.
With the GH5, the auto ISO feature has been revamped in a few ways. You can now preset the minimum threshold for shutter speed before the camera raises the ISO with an auto setting. The GH5 is also the first Panasonic camera to allow the use of Auto ISO in the manual exposure mode – while maintaining exposure compensation. This works for both video and stills.
These features let you set the aperture value and shutter speed, and the camera will keep a metered brightness level by automatically adjusting the ISO. This means that you can adjust the brightness level the camera is trying to maintain.
The viewfinder of the GH5 is an entirely new unit – a 3680k-dot OLED panel with a resolution of 1280 by 960 pixels. This might not sound like a huge leap from the GH4’s 1024 by 768 panel, but it surely makes a significant difference. In fact, this 25% improvement in linear resolution makes the GH5 viewfinder one of the best we’ve come across. We found the new viewfinder to provide a remarkable, life-like image with no visible individual pixels.
Along with a Multi-AF system, there’s a custom Multi mode that lets you select the AF-area group freely (Zone AF) where the focus area position and group size can be adjusted. You can also set 4 different user profiles with customizable sensitivity, moving object prediction, and AF area switching sensitivity, based on what you intend to shoot. Motion tracking is now built into the system.
Focusing speed has been boosted to 0.05 secs, compared to the 0.07 secs of the GH4, with the Venus Engine handling the processing at 480 fps. While in use, the AF system’s performance is quite brisk, as it’s now paired to the new f/2.8-4 12-60mm Leica lens. The GH5 silently and quickly locked into subjects under a wide range of lighting conditions.
Panasonic Lumix GH5 Performance
Just like its predecessor, the GH5 is capable of shooting 12 fps still images with focus fixed on the first frame and at 9 fps with continuous autofocus. The model also uses Panasonic’s tried and tested 1,728-zone metering system to determine the exposure, and does a really good job. The auto white balance is similarly good, with the results looking natural – you can give your results a little warmth when the conditions are a bit overcast using one of the dedicated presets.
The clever hybrid image stabilization system of the GH5 works well, even with slow shutter speeds of 1/10 sec, where it was possible to take sharp shots (handheld) with 120mm focal length. The IS system has a role to play in determining how satisfying the view from the viewfinder is. We found it to be amazingly bright and large, and the IS helps in stabilizing the view without any uncomfortable yaws.
The Battery life is rated 410 shots. So, if you want to shoot for long periods, bring some extra batteries. A BGGH5 battery grip is available for the GH5, though it doesn’t deliver any of the performance advantages some grips offer (such as an improvement in burst rate) other than giving you extra stamina.
When it comes to the Micro Four Thirds sensors, as the one used in the GH5, they have generally been seen as a drawback in comparison to full-frame and APS-C sensors, from a stills perspective. However, Panasonic have made some huge strides in sensor design, with the GH5’s 20.3.MP sensor being the best yet from the company. The lack of an optical low pass filter enables the GH5 to deliver excellent detail even at low sensitivities, ideally matching APS-C sensors that boast a similar number of pixels.
In isolation, photos from the GH5 look good through the ISO range, though we can spot a hint of luminance noise (grainy) at low sensitivities. This is largely in blocks of color and only noticeable under close inspection. Ramping up the ISO of the GH5 increases the luminance noise, with color (chroma) noise becoming more apparent. The results from ISO 3200 and 6400 are good, and while there could be noticeable noise in both, it’s something you can suppress with a bit of tinkering in Lightroom.
The dynamic range is incredible, and you can recover a good amount of detail even on JPEG files. However, for best results, RAW files will deliver the best range, allowing you to recover useful amounts of details in the highlights and the shadows.
The Panasonic GH4 made a name for itself being the first mirrorless camera to include 4K video recording. Although 4K is becoming a standard among modern cameras, the GH5 comes with two major benefits that most dedicated cameras that came before it can’t ever match at 4K resolution: endless recording time (until storage runs out or the battery dies) and a 60-fps frame rate.
The video specs on the GH5 are actually very much advanced that we think Panasonic is a little ahead of time. When choosing the file type, whether it’s MP4 or MOV, (the former is the only option for 4K/60p), the camera warns you that you need a high end computer to view and edit the footage. This is actually very true, especially with 4:2:2 10-bit footage. You will also need proper editing software, such as Apple Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere. With supported applications, transcoding to other types of files, like ProRes, can improve playback and editing performance.
Professionals and other advanced users shouldn’t have a problem editing video, as they are more likely to already have the software and equipment to handle such files. However, for everyone else, while it’s still possible, it could be a struggle. For instance, we were able to preview 4K/60p files in QuickTime on a Mac, but iMovie wouldn’t open the files.
The GH5 has an uncanny ability to keep shooting 4K until the battery runs out or the card fills. For example, a 128 GB SD card will hold about 2 hours of footage. To avoid being classified as camcorders in Europe, where video cameras attract higher import tariffs, most other hybrid video/still cameras usually limit the maximum clip to about 29 minutes and 59 seconds. Plus, with the increased processing demands of 4K resolutions, many cameras have an even stricter limit for clips to prevent overheating. All these are issues that Panasonic was able to resolve with the GH5.
Besides 4K, the Lumix GH5 has a number of different file types. For professional video creators, you can take advantage of the 4:2:2 10-bit video processing, which allows for smoother gradations and more color resolution compared to the typical consumer-grade cameras, which are normally limited to 8-bit 4:2:0. However, as mentioned above, these data rich files will need more processing power to play with, so casual users will probably be better off sticking with the standard 8-bit files.
The Dual stabilization system of the GH5 also benefits video recording. It combines the sensor shift stabilization with stabilized lenses (not all lenses are compatible), allowing for 5-axis stabilization that lets you shoot at a 5-stops lower shutter speed than you otherwise could in still mode. This stabilization also allows for smooth handheld shots. While you still get some motion while walking with the camera, it’s not so much that it leaves the viewer feeling seasick.
Just as with stills, colors are accurate and represent the original scene incredibly well. The 4K capability ideally lends more detail to the shot and allows for much more flexibility in stabilization and zoom in post. Audio is generally what you’d expect from a built-in mic – decent output for nearby sounds, but quite prone to wind noise. As such, advanced users might want to consider using an external audio recording system.
The GH5 also comes with a Rack Focus Transition mode, which lets you create automated focus pulls without extra gear. With this feature, you can create up to 3 focus points and then set a focusing speed. As you shoot, simply tap on any of the points in the touchscreen and the camera will automatically refocus to the point at any speed you set. This is great for creating extra smooth focus effects without the need of a follow focus system, which can be pricey and complex to use.
The 4K/60 capabilities also open new stills possibilities from the video mode. Since 4K video ideally shoots in 30fps bursts, you can snap lower-res photos at the same frame rate in the 4K Photo and 6K Photo burst modes. And as with other Panasonic cameras, you can focus after the fact.
All in all, GH5 produces some of the most impressive videos we’ve seen from a mirrorless camera, with excellent detail, high resolution, and decent stabilization. While the camera might look like a still camera from the outside, add accessories like a shoulder rig, external mic, and/or a larger monitor and you have a pretty capable video camera on your hands.
Pros and Cons
The Lumix GH lineup from Panasonic has always been about converging still and video worlds, and the GH5 has made one of the biggest single leaps in the history of the lineup. It comes with new features that are usually associated with pricier professional video equipment, though Panasonic will quickly remind you that it’s still a camera. Plus, the GH5 feels a lot more rounded piece of kit than any of its predecessors.
The build and handling are great, with easy-to-reach body controls, large and bright EVF and an improved touchscreen interface. There’s also the rapid shooting speed, the super-quick AF system along with the 5-axis IS. In a nutshell, the GH5 has you covered if you’re looking for a sophisticated all-in-one solution for stills and video.
For those primarily looking for a stills shooter, the GH5 is a solid choice, especially if you want in on the Four Thirds ecosystem. However, there are probably a few better options for the money. For those serious about video, it’s hard to go wrong with this one. The GH5 will deliver adequately, unless you have some really specialized needs.
In our hands, the GH5 lived up to our big expectations, which were set by its long list of specifications both as a video camera and a stills camera. While it might have a smaller sensor compared to the competing mirrorless cameras, it comes packed with features that much of the competition can only dream of. And just like the GH4, it has set the stage for the future, leaving other manufacturers to play catch-up.