Review: Panasonic LUMIX GH5S – UPDATED!

 

When I do reviews, I have a habit of also checking my peer’s views of the same product, primarily to see if there is anything I have missed, and also to see what their take on a specific area might be.

And I am sure other reviewers do the same.

Mostly we agree on things, with the occasional point of difference usually down to a personal preference.

However, I was honestly gobsmacked when I saw a headline referring to the new Panasonic LUMIX GH5S as being brilliant for videographers but no good for stills photographers.

You see I have just spent 48 hours following around the Western Australian Targa South West rally that coincidentally (and happily) was run within 30 minutes of our little house in the Karri forests near the towns of Manjimup and Pemberton.

I decided to use my Panasonic HC-PV100 for the video (on tripod) but to use a GH5S Panasonic just sent me for the still shots (handheld).

Now, in this particular review mentioned, the two apparent drawbacks for still shots were lack of in-camera stabilisation plus a megapixel count of only 10.28.

I have been through every one of the images I took, and apart from some motion blur (these cars are running at a fair old clip as I am sure you can imagine and totally freezing a shot with a super high shutter defeats the purpose), I see no stabilisation issues at all.

And as for the megapixel count, I’m sorry but I thought the “mine is bigger than yours” argument went away years ago.

Putting that aside, I do agree however that the LUMIX GH5S is an excellent video shooter, accepting as always, the ergonomics are not always in keeping with the job in hand – I’d hate to shoot motor sport video with one for example, and certainly not say, the Red Bull Airshow!

Z-panasonic-gh5s-beauty

Technical Specifications

As I am sure you are aware, the GH5S sells as a body only and you add your choice of lens(es). Ours came with a 12-60mm LUMIX Leica lens, which whilst not perfect for our test bed of Nissan GTRs, Ford Mustangs and Chevrolet Camaros, was adequate once you were close to the action. And that is one thing Targa races do allow as against circuit racing.

The mount is of course, the standard four thirds type, making available a large range of lenses, and not just from Panasonic.

The image sensor is 17.3mm x 13mm giving a 4:3 aspect ratio and as mentioned 10.28 megapixels effective. Also, as we said, there is no image stabilisation system incorporated.

Being a part of the GH5 family, the “S” variant supports 4K video and also 4K photo. We ere shooting in RAW for the sake of the exercise. MOV as well as MP4 files are supported as well as AVCHD for HD footage.

Bluetooth and Wi-fi (IEEE802) are included in the package along with QR Code Connection.

The built-in viewfinder which is fixed – ie no tilt – is OLED based and very clear with a 100% field of view. Magnification with a 50mm lens set to infinity is approximately 1.52x / 0.76x. It has a built-in eye sensor.

Conversely, the rear monitor, which flips out and twists and includes a touch screen is TFT LCD based. It also gives a 100% field of view and can be adjusted for brightness, contrast, saturation and Red-Green plus Blue-Yellow.

I personally don’t like using LCDs for framing, especially in very bright sunlight as I experienced at the Targa, but for those who do, I am sure it is more than adequate for your needs.

Live view supports a 2x and 4x zoom with, for still images, an extra tele conversion of 2.1x available. Functions available on-screen include level gauge, histogram (real time), guides, centre marker, zebras and highlight display for both stills and video.

There is one multi-function button. The list of attributes that can be applied to this in both record and playback mode is huge and can be viewed here. The same goes for the creative controls on-board and variable frame rate options.

Interface Controls

Normally I’d put this under the Technical Specifications section, but Panasonic has really made sure the GH5S is geared up for video specifically (even though I have no issues with it as a still camera personally).

Available ports are the usual, USB, headphone, external mic in as expected, however the HDMI port deserves special mention as it allows multiple monitor through capabilities including down conversion, VIERA link and HLG View Assist. For playback support is for 60Hz, 50Hz and 24Hz in frame sizes from24p up to 1080i

There are twin SD cards slots by the way but the “Silver” SD card that came with our review model was not too happy about 4K video. A “gold” card made it smile again though.

Battery life Panasonic rates at approximately 440 images under standard mode (there is a power saving LVF mode supposedly good for 1300 images). Using burst shooting 30% of the time for the stills, we managed 360 shots.

Party Trick

But there is more as they say in the classics, and the LUMIX GH5S has a major party trick up its sleeve.

To explain this, we need to digress for a moment and have a look at Panasonic’s Broadcasting division’s very successful VariCam range of broadcast cameras and a technology called Dual Native ISO.

Dual Native ISO was developed for professional cinematographers who need to work creatively in challenging lighting conditions and allows the delivery of ISO settings to a maximum of 51200.

As a result, it allows a maximum ISO 51200 high sensitivity recording. Dual Native ISO can be switched manually between LOW (ISO160-800/Native 400) and HIGH (ISO800-51200/Native 2500).

This advanced technology has been incorporated into the LUMIX GH5S letting videographers shoot in very low light conditions.
In the LUMIX GH5S, Dual Native ISO minimises noise generation by choosing the optimal circuit to use according to the sensitivity before gain processing.

As a result, it allows a maximum ISO 51200 high sensitivity recording. Dual Native ISO can be switched manually between LOW (ISO160-800/Native 400) and HIGH (ISO800-51200/Native 2500).

And to quote from Panasonic, “The GH5S is further optimised to provide excellent autofocus in low-light environments, with -5EV luminance detection in Low Light AF. Live View Boost allows scenes to be electronically illuminated in almost total darkness to check accuracy in Live View before shooting; and to support this, the magnification ratio in MF Assist has been increased to 20x. Night Mode – which aids the photographer’s night vision – can be selected to put a red cast over the viewfinder and/or the LCD display.”.

Now team this up with the larger multi-aspect sensor which provides sufficient margin to allow all aspect ratios to have the same angle of view – including Cinema 4K; 4K; Anamorphic 4:3 in video recording; and 4:3, 16:9 and 3:2 in photo shooting and you have something very special indeed.

Additionally, the variable frame rate has been increased up to 240 frames per second in full HD GH5S also records overcranked / undercranked video in C4K/4K (60 fps, maximum 2.5x slower)i.

Conclusion

So, the burning questions is, what is the major difference between the GH5 and the GH5S? Well, it is the sensor, with the GH5S having a multi aspect sensor as the “old” GH1 and GH2 did. This combined with an optical low pass filter and the 10.28 megapixel gives the perfect size for 4K capture, allowing for sharp, clean video.

In short, you can shoot 4096 x 2160 up to 60 fps with 10bit colour and 4:2:2 subsampling. You can’t do much better than that and there is nothing else on the market I am aware of that can!

Of course, the lack of stabilisation also sets the GH5S apart from the GH5, but this does have the benefit of a wider field of view. For the argument that stabilisation is a necessary item for photographers, I say “Psshaw!”. It wasn’t there in the old days and some very nice photos were taken thank you very much.

14bit RAW photos are also supported as against the GH5 12bit and there is phantom power for the mic and line levels available. Images can be output with LUT’s.

There is of course therefore a price difference. The RRP of the GH5S is $3499 (body only) as against the GH5 at $2999. Is it worth the extra $500? If you are primarily going to use the camera for video work, then I’d say yes. If the primary function is still work with some video thrown in, then I suspect most would opt for the GH5.

 

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply