Panasonic Lumix GH5s review

The GH5 was, and is, a fantastic camera for video, but the Panasonic GH5S goes above and beyond. Its 10MP resolution is a bit low for photos, but it’s great for video. The GH5S offers better video quality, more recording options, and just tons of advanced video features. And while the AF rate is slightly slower than the GH5, and the lack of in-body image stabilization removes some of what made the GH5 so versatile, the GH5S provides such a wealth of features and high-quality video, that it’s easy to overlook these small points. In the end, if you’re a serious video creator looking for a compact yet feature-packed video camera, the Panasonic GH5S is the one to pick.

The Panasonic GH5S looks mighty familiar if you’ve shot with the company’s superb GH5, a mirrorless camera with a lot 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 reddish colored ‘S’ beneath the GH5 logo, a small red trim ring in place of the bottom row of knurling on the get mode dial, and bold red color for the video record key.

Check Out: Best Lenses for Panasonic Lumix GH5s

Panasonic Lumix GH5s: Price

Crafted from magnesium alloy, the GH5S’ body is still sealed against dust, moisture and cold, allowing it to withstand minimal splashes, dusty environments and use in temperature ranges 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 nearly 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 generate great big, frame-worthy prints. The GH5S, though, is aimed at low-light experts and videographers.

With a resolution of just over 10 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 continues to be plenty even to allow for the catch of Cinema 4K video, 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 normal detail-oriented content material: The Panasonic GH5S is definitely 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 element ratio, and then simply discard the top and bottom of the picture for wider-aspect photos, 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 basically crops to your chosen factor ratio within the picture 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 watch, with the Panasonic GH5S it by no means changes, and that makes choosing element ratios is a totally guilt-free experience.

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

And as for that issue of sensor resolution, the total pixel count is stated as 11.93 megapixels. But Panasonic quite correctly states it to be 10.28 megapixels effective, as that’s the active pixel count in 4:3-aspect mode (10.2 megapixels of which are in the final image after some peripheral pixels are discarded during processing), which bests the 9.8-megapixel count for 3:2-aspect pictures, and the 7.6-megapixel count for 1:1-aspect ones. (Note that for videos, the factor ratio options are instead 4:3, 16:9 or 17:9.)

By way of evaluation, the Panasonic GH5 includes 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 amounts. Each photodiode has grown in size by around 1.96 instances, and regarding Panasonic that modification translates to a 1.5-stop (9.7dB) improvement in the signal-to-noise ratio.

The brand-brand-new sensor allows a much broader sensitivity range

And when we say “far better” low-light capture, in particular, we suggest 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 a higher limit of ISO 25,600. And for the earlier camera, that was it, however, the GH5S will now continue on up to ISO 204,800 if you enable its extended sensitivity range. At the additional end of the scale, base sensitivity is ISO 160 and can be expandable to ISO 80. (The GH5 was ISO 200 at the bottom and ISO 100-expandable.)

Dual Native ISO means 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, an attribute the company refers to as Dual Native ISO. This makes it unlike most digital cameras, where one specific sensitivity offers the best signal to noise ratio since the signal needn’t become amplified before A/D conversion, and noise amounts climb or dynamic range is certainly curtailed as you raise or lower the sensitivity from its native point.

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

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

Ordinarily, at this stage in one of our overviews, we’d offer you a rundown of the camera’s performance, autofocus and exposure capabilities, and maybe some special features, then circle back for video catch 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 offers allowed a 25% decrease in rolling shutter since that used in the GH5, meaning that your videos will be much less prone to subjects that seem to lean to one aspect, and unsightly, jello-like wobbling in panning shots. And that’s not just important for video capture, either. Like its sibling, the GH5S enables you to extract high-res 8.3-megapixel stills from 4K video clips in what it terms “4K Photo” mode, and you will expect far less rolling shutter in these, too.

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

As if that wasn’t more than enough, there’s plenty else for video shooters besides. You can record 4K and Full HD video without clip duration limits, including true Cinema 4K or anamorphic articles. And for the latter, you can choose whether or not you desire the GH5S to de-squeeze the display (or if you prefer, squeeze it vertically as well) to enable you to 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, even more, LUTs of your own in Panasonic’s.VLT structure. Also supported are normally Hybrid Log-Gamma catch, and the GH5S allows you to record high powerful 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 using its ability to shoot consumer 4K and Cinema 4K content entirely in-camera at a level of 60 frames per second, both of which the company says is the world’s firsts for a mirrorless camera. Note, though, that 60 fps footage has 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 even record slow-motion and fast-motion footage 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 Total HD content. (Capture frame rates vary from two to 60 or 240 fps for 4K and Full HD respectively, and output prices from 24 to 60 fps.)

Other movie capture-related features include video-appropriate guidebook lines, a Rec.709-like gamma curve, luminance and knee handles, and both waveform and vectorscope monitors. And for the audio component of your movies, there are both 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks along with an onboard stereo mic with a third, hidden sound 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 slight (but noticeable) reduction in C-AF performance

In most various other respects, the Panasonic GH5S looks a whole lot like the GH5 which preceded it. The output from its sensor is usually handled by a powerful Venus Engine 10 picture processor, and the GH5S is definitely capable of a swift 12 fps with one AF or 8 fps with continuous AF when shooting 12-bit raw data 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 simply because deep as 600 frames when using a UHS-II U3 compliant flashcard. (The GH5S actually managed even deeper natural buffers in our lab testing.) Remember that continuous AF efficiency is one body per second slower than was possible with the GH5, or two fps slower in the event that you enable 14-bit raw capture.

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

A faster, smoother look at through the electronic finder

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

With regards to their basic hardware, both the 3.2-inches, 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 permit framing from all angles, a favorite design feature among IR staffers. And the EVF still provides 1.52x magnification (0.76x in 35mm-equivalent) with a 21mm eyepoint from the eyepiece, and a -4 to +3 diopter adjustment.

Panasonic Lumix GH5s: Key specifications

  • Oversized ‘Multi-Aspect’ sensor with dual gain design
  • 10.2MP maximum usable area from at around 12.5MP total
  • DCI or UHD 4K at up to 60p
  • 10-bit 4:2:2 internal capture at up to 30p
  • 8-bit 4:2:0 internal 60p or 10-bit 4:2:2 output over HDMI
  • 1080 footage at up to 240p (with additional crop above 200p)
  • Hybrid Log-Gamma mode
  • ISO 160 – 51,200 (80 – 204,800 extended)
  • AF rated down to –5EV (with F2 lens)
  • 3.68M-dot (1280 x 960 pixel) OLED viewfinder with 0.76x magnification
  • 1.62M-dot (900 x 600 pixel) fully articulated LCD
  • 14-bit Raw stills
  • 11 fps (7 with AFC) or 1 fps faster in 12-bit mode
  • USB 3.1 with Type C connector

Panasonic Lumix GH5s: Conclusion

The Panasonic Lumix GH5S is certainly not for everyone, but if you need to shoot professional-quality footage without remortgaging your house to buy a professional video camera you won’t find a better video-focused camera out there.


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