Review PANASONIC GH5: SUPER HYBRID
Panasonic Lumix GH-5 is the new top model from Panasonic. It is a robust camera with good image quality for photographers and especially extensive capabilities for videographers. That makes GH5 one of the best hybrid cameras on the market. There is so much to say about this camera that we will regularly update this review in the coming months with test results and practical experiences.
Click here for our previous article about the Panasonic GH5 specs
It has often been claimed recently that the development of cameras has reached a bit of a plateau. What is meant by that is that new cameras do not have that many additions, and upgrading is not really needed. That certainly does not apply for the GH5. Relative to its predecessor—the Panasonic GH4, which still has respectable performance relative to the competition despite its age—it offers a sensor with higher resolution, better performance, a clearly better viewfinder, improved auto focus and significant expansion of the video capabilities.
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Panasonic has been offering unique functions for several years that derive from the video capabilities. On other models, those are 4K Photo, Post Focus and Focus Stacking. In 4K Photo, you can take pictures in 4K, with a resolution of 8 megapixels, at a speed of 30 frames per second. The GH5 does one better with 6K Photo. That 6K does have to be taken with a grain of salt, since the GH5 has 5184 pixels on the long side. Those are all used, but mathematically you still can’t round that off to 6k. Apart from that, the difference from 4K is big. With the GH5, you can namely shoot 18-megapixel images with a speed of 60 frames per second. That is not in RAW, like on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II, but the GH5 does sustain that longer than the 1.5 seconds that you can do with the Olympus. And that offers more options that other systems do not have.
Panasonic GH5 vs GH4
- GH5 has a more modern sensor with higher image quality
- Recording time on the GH5 is unlimited, so not limited to 30 minutes.
- GH5 is much better and more versatile with continuous AF.
- GH5 has much more advanced video capabilities (up to 4K 60 4:2; @ 10 bit if you use an external recorder).
- GH5 offers a 6K photo mode (vs 4K mode of the GH4).
- GH5 has in-body image stabilization; the GH4 does not.
- GH5 has a better-looking and bigger viewfinder and a nicer screen.
- Both cameras use the same battery pack.
Panasonic cameras only use contrast detection for the auto focus, not phase detection. One disadvantage or regular contrast detection systems is that the auto focus cannot get to the right focal point in one pass. Usually, it takes some searching at the end. Panasonic, however, does not have a regular contrast detection system. The GH5 uses Panasonic’s DFD. That stands for Depth From Defocus. DFD recognizes, when Panasonic lenses are used, the degree of blur and can focus quickly and accurately as a result. The result is quite comparable with phase detection auto focus. The DFD in the GH5 has been refined even further. The speed of the read-out has increased, so that the auto focus has gotten even faster and more accurate. With fast series on AF-C, you do notice sometimes that it is still a contrast detection system. Sometimes the camera searches around a bit to find the right focal point. That means some shots are not optimally sharp. This can probably be further improved by choosing a different AF set. Just like professional cameras like the Canon 1Dx, the Panasonic GH5 offers different presets for continuous AF (for tracking a fast, unpredictable subject, for a subject that moves in one direction, etc.). We tested it with the setting for tracking fast, unpredictable subjects: that is the most skittish of the AF methods.
Thanks to the extra speed with which the GH5 samples and a number of extra options for setting the AF-C tracking, you can considerably increase the percentage of sharp pictures in comparison with older Panasonic cameras. The GH5 is not the ideal camera for fast sports photography. But you can certainly photograph fast-moving subjects with it.
We did not encounter any heat problems during the test while making video recordings. A number of testers have noticed that the auto focus slows down when filming in 4K in the highest quality. That could have to do with having to share the available processor capacity. The calculating power that is needed for high-quality 4K 60p shots is enormous and is not currently delivered by any other brand in such a small and affordable camera. It’s possible that AF with 4K 60p video is asking too much. But it can also just be a software problem that might be resolved with a firmware upgrade.
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