Panasonic Lumix GH5 Review

April 3, 2017 | Mark Goldstein | |

Introduction

The Panasonic Lumix GH5 is a new flagship compact system camera featuring 4K 60p/50p and internal 4K 30p 4:2:2 10-bit video recording, a new 20.3 megapixel sensor with no low-pass filter, and upgraded 6K Photo function which extracts 18 megapixel images from a 30fps burst. Successor to the popular GH4 camera, the splash- and dustproof Panasonic GH5 features the very latest Venus Engine processor, built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, 0.05 second contrast-detect autofocus system with 225 focus points, 1/8000th top shutter speed, 1/250th second flash sync speed, 1,728-zone metering system, 3,680K-dot OLED electronic viewfinder, 3.2-inch 1,620K-dot swivelling and tilting LCD screen, touchscreen control system with touch-based functions like Touch AF/AE and Touch Shutter, 5-axis Dual Image Stabilisation system to help combat camera-shake, ISO range of 100-25600, completely silent electronic shutter, 12 (AFS) / 9 (AFC) fps burst shooting, Post Focus and Focus Stacking functions, and dual UHS-II SD Memory Card slots. The Panasonic Lumix GH5 is available in black and retails for £1699 / $1999 body only, £1899 with the standard 12-60mm f3.5-5.6 lens (M Kit), and £2199 with the Leica f/2.8-4.0 12-60mm lens (L Kit).

Ease of Use

Measuring 138.5 x 98.1 x 87.4 mm and weighing 645g body only, the Panasonic Lumix GH5 is larger and heavier than the GH4 model that it succeeds, about 13% bigger in fact. The GH5's body is made out of a magnesium alloy, full die-cast front and rear frame. Every joint, dial, and button is sealed to ensure that the GH5 is splash/dust-proof and also freeze-proof down to -10 degrees Celsius. The tripod socket is in-line with the centre of the metal lens mount and the camera has a shutter release life of 200,000 shots. This is the most well-constructed Panasonic camera that we've ever reviewed, and should stand up to some serious abuse.

The GH5 ships either body only, with the Panasonic 12-60mm f3.5-5.6 lens, or with the excellent Leica 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 lens that we reviewed it with. While the body of the GH5 is comparable in size and weight to a mid-range APS-C DSLR camera, the lenses are where Panasonic have really shrunk the overall system. Given the fast maximum apertures on offer, the Leica 12-60mm optic is relatively small and light, and delivers great image quality whilst being fast to focus and completely silent, perfect for video use. The Lumix GH5 is compatible with the new DMW-BGGH5 battery grip, which houses an extra battery to extend the overall battery life. The DMW-BGGH5 grip shares the same splash / dustproof design as the GH5 body.

Panasonic have significantly upgraded the image stabilisation system on the GH5. The new 5-axis Dual I.S. MK II system incorporates new gyro-sensor technology to combine the 2-axis stabilisation from the lens (if it has OIS built-in) and 5-axis stabilisation from the camera body, resulting in compensation for up to 5-stops slower shutter speed.

Unlike a conventional DSLR camera which uses a phase detection auto-focus system, the Panasonic Lumix GH5 employs a 225-point Contrast AF system, similar to that commonly used by compact cameras. The GH5 still has one of the fastest AF systems of any interchangeable lens camera, though, be that a compact system camera or a DSLR, with a claimed speed of just 0.05 seconds when used with certain lenses thanks to the inclusion of DFD (Depth from Defocus) technology, which further shortens the time to set focus. This is incredibly quick, and there were also almost no occasions when the GH5 failed to lock onto the subject, especially when using the centre AF point, resulting in a very quick and importantly reliable AF system. There are a wide range of AF modes on offer, including multiple-area AF with up to 225 focus areas, 1-area AF with a selectable focus area, Face/Eye Detection, AF Tracking, Custom Multi and Pinpoint AF. As it's name suggests, the Custom Multi AF mode allows you to configure the AF points from a wide range of options and patterns, and you can even save up to three customised choices.

On the front of the Panasonic Lumix GH5 is a small focus-assist and self-timer indicator lamp, lens release button, customisable Function6 button, metal lens mount, flash sync socket and a sculpted, rubberised hand-grip that's really nice to use. By default the Fn6 button cleverly toggles between showing a live preview of the effects of the current aperture (effectively a digital version of Depth of Field Preview) and the current shutter speed. The latter will prove especially useful for beginners, providing a visible way of checking how different shutter speeds will affect the capture of different subjects - running water is a good example. The majority of the GH5's exterior is matt black plastic, with the handgrip, right-hand and left-hand corners finished in a more tactile rubberised coating.

Panasonic Lumix GH5
Front of the Panasonic Lumix GH5

Found on top of the Panasonic GH5 are the burst mode/6K photo/bracketing/self-timer/time-lapse dial, external flash hotshoe, stereo microphones, lockable shooting mode dial surrounded by the on/off switch, shutter release button, front control dial, white balance, ISO and exposure compensation buttons, a customisable Fn1 button and a large one-touch movie record button. There's also a tiny LED to indicate if wi-fi is on or off.

The row of white balance, ISO and exposure compensation buttons make it extremely easy to access the camera's key exposure controls, while the dual control dials make it easy to use the fully Manual shooting mode. The GH5 has both a traditional mechanical shutter and a silent electronic shutter, which as well as not spooking your subject ensures that your subject is completely sharp by avoiding pixel shifting. The Delay Shutter option helps to remove the effect of hand-shake by releasing the shutter after a specified time (8, 4, 2 or 1 seconds).

The start-up time from turning the Lumix GH5 on to being ready to take a photo is impressively quick at less than a second. It takes about 1/2 second to store a JPEG image, allowing you to keep shooting as they are being recorded onto the memory card - there is no perceptible LCD blackout between each image. Storing a single RAW image takes around 1 second and doesn't lock up the camera in any way - you can use the menu system or shoot another image while the first file is being written to memory. The Panasonic Lumix GH5 has an excellent Burst mode which enables you to take 12 frames per second with the focus and exposure locked at the first frame or 7.5fps with AF tracking for up to 600 JPEG images at the highest image quality or 60 RAW files.

The traditional shooting mode dial lets you choose from the different exposure modes. The usual selection of Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual are available for the more experienced photographers. Additionally there are 3 custom modes, marked C1, C2 and C3, which allow you to configure your favourite settings and quickly access them, Intelligent Auto for less experienced users, and the Creative Movie mode which provides access to all of the camera's extensive range of video options. The Panasonic Lumix GH5's Creative Controls, denoted by an artist's palette on the shooting mode dial, offers 22 different options. There are also 8 different customisable Photo Styles in the Main Menu which still allow full control of the camera's settings.

The red movie record button on the top, as you'd expect, allows you to start recording a movie with a single push of a button and then stop recording by pressing the same button, regardless of which shooting mode is currently selected. This is a lot more intuitive than having to select the movie mode then press the shutter button, although you can still start/stop movie recording via the GH5's shutter button if you wish.

The Creative Movie shooting mode, accessed via the mode dial on top of the GH5, allows you to set the shutter speed, aperture or both settings manually during recording (a Program option is also available). Changing the shutter speed is especially suitable for shooting fast-moving subjects, whilst the ability to control the aperture is convenient when there are several subjects at different distances.

Panasonic Lumix GH5
Front of the Panasonic Lumix GH5

The Panasonic Lumix GH5 has a plethora of movie options, making it the most full-featured interchangeable lens camera on the market in terms of video. It principally offers 10-bit 4:2:2 DCI 4K (4096x2160 pixels) at 24fps and consumer 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) at 24, 25 or 30fps with a bitrate of 150Mbps. There's also 8-bit 4:2:0 consumer 4K recording at a higher 50 or 60fps rate, and Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) too. Unlike the GH5, which used a cropped area of the sensor to record, 4K footage, the new GH5 uses the full sensor then downsamples it in-camera, which means that your framing won't be cropped when composing.

The GH5 is one of the few cameras that isn't geographically limited, as you can choose from both NTSC and PAL settings, so you get the full range of frame rates regardless of where you bought the camera. It's also now capable of recording continuously for an unlimited time in any mode until your memory card is full. Another improvement is the ability to output a 10-bit 4:2:2 signal via HDMI and record it internally at the same time. You can set the luminance level for 10-bit capture (0-1023, 64-940 or 64-1023), and enable V-LogL recording by purchasing the DMW-SFU1 software key.

The Variable Frame Rate option now allows you to set the video frame rate from 2fps to 180fps while recording Full HD video. Available for both JPEG photos and movies, the EX Tele Conversion option extends the focal length attached lens by 2x for still images, by 1.4x for 4K/UHD video recording, and 2.7x for 1080p without any loss of image quality.

The new Focus Transition tool allows you to create three focus points, between which the GH5 automatically shifts the focus at a constant speed. There's a choice of five different speeds, and you can choose whether to start the transition immediately when recording begins or add a 5 or 10 second delay.

Dolby-quality stereo sound is recorded during video capture via the internal mics on top of the camera, which is a big improvement on the rather muffled noises recorded by most digital cameras, helped by the wind cut function which blocks out most of the noise from background wind. You can also add the optional DMW-XLR1 XLR microphone adapter which attaches via the hotshoe and offers two XLR audio inputs with physical switches and dials for changing the levels, gain, and low cut filter of each input individually.

Panasonic Lumix GH5
Rear of the Panasonic Lumix GH5

The rear of the Lumix GH5 is dominated by the large 3 inch OLED screen with 100% scene coverage. The rotating, free-angle monitor, which is hinged on the left side of the camera (looking from the rear), can be flipped out and twisted through 270 degrees. You can use the screen as a waist-level viewfinder, holding the camera overhead, and even for turning the GH5 on yourself for arm-length self-portraits. There's also the added benefit of folding the screen away against the camera body to protect it when stored in a camera bag, preventing it from becoming marked or scratched.

The 1,620K pixel, high-resolution screen coped admirably with the majority of lighting conditions, even proving nice to use in low-light. The Auto Power LCD function automatically detects the current lighting conditions and boosts the LCD backlighting by up to 40% when shooting outdoors in bright sunshine, helping to keep the screen visible. The handy level gauge indicates the two directions of horizontal lean and front/rear tilt.

The Panasonic Lumix GH5 inherits the GH4's clever touchscreen interface. Panasonic have wisely restricted the amount of things that you can do by interacting with the screen, and indeed you can still operate everything on the camera without having to push and prod the LCD at all. You would be missing out on a lot of genuinely useful functionality, though, which really improves the overall shooting experience. A clever feature called Touchpad AF allows you to move the focus point area with your finger on the LCD while you're looking through the EVF.

The most immediately noticeable function is the ability to use the 1-area AF mode to focus on your main subject simply by touching it on the LCD. If the subject then moves, the Panasonic Lumix GH5 cleverly follows it around the screen using the the AF tracking function. If the subject exits the frame entirely, simply recompose and tap it again to start focusing. Impressive stuff that makes focusing on off-center subjects fast and intuitive. It is a little too easy to accidentally press the screen and set the focus point to the wrong area for the current subject, but a simple tap in the middle of the LCD will center the AF point (or you can turn this feature off altogether). The size of the AF point itself can also be changed via an interactive onscreen slider.

If you prefer to manually focus rather than use the fast AF system, you can magnify any part of the subject by 1x, 5x or 10x by simply dragging the image around the screen. The final touchscreen ability from an image composition point of view is the ability to release the shutter, with a small icon on the right hand screen enabling this functionality, and then a single on-screen tap all that's required to take the picture. All of the menu options can be changed via the touchscreen interface, including the Main menu system. You can also control image playback by touching the screen, with the ability to tap a thumbnail to see the full-size version, scroll through your images by dragging them from side to side, and magnifying them up to 16x.

Panasonic Lumix GH5
Top of the Panasonic Lumix GH5

The Panasonic GH5 has an improved electronic viewfinder. The OLED unit has a large 1.52x (0.76x on 35mm equiv.) magnification, 100% field of view, 1000:1 contrast ratio and 3,680K-dot resolution, resulting in one of the best EVFs that we've ever used. The EVF (and also the main LCD screen) operates at a native rate of 60fps, twice the usual speed, which helps make it flicker-free.

There are three 6K Photo functions - 6K Burst Shooting, 6K Burst (Start/Stop) and 6K Pre-burst - which all record continuous 18 megapixel stills at a 30fps shooting rate. 6K Burst allows you to continuously record 18 megapixel images at 30fps, 6K Pre-Burst does the same but for one second prior to and one second after pressing the shutter button in order, giving you 60 frames to choose from, and 6K Burst (S/S) allows you to playback your video, pause at the chosen moment, and use the shutter button to mark a chosen frame from the video and save it as a single 18 megapixel frame. The GH5 also offers the same option for 4K Photo, which doubles the capture speed to 60fps but lowers the effective resolution to 8 megapixels.

The Post Focus mode allows you to take a series of photos all with a different focus point, and then choose your preferred one after you've captured the shot. This can be more useful for some subjects than others, for example with macro it’s a great idea. Focus Stacking is also new to the GH5. This feature enables you to take multiple shots with different aperture values, then combine them into a single image and choose how much of the subject is in focus, again good news for macro photographers. The Panasonic Lumix GH5 has a time lapse function in which you can set the time interval and the number of images to take, plus a multi-exposure option that lets you combine up to four exposures in a single frame, while the Stop Motion Animation mode allows you to create unique stop motion videos.

The Wi-Fi function (802.11ac) lets you use your smartphone to change the camera settings (focus setting, exposure compensation, ISO, WB and Photo Styles) and even fire the shutter button remotely (including interval video recordings), while the auto transfer function automatically backs up your photos onto a tablet. You can also use GPS data from your smartphone to record the shooting location onto your images. The new Bluetooth option establishes a low-energy, permanent connection between the camera and a smart device for easier transfer of images.

Panasonic Lumix GH5
The Panasonic Lumix GH5 In-hand

On the rear of the Panasonic Lumix GH5, from left to right, is a Playback button, an LVF button for manually switching between the two viewing methods (useful if you turn the eye sensor off) which can also be configured as the Fn5 button, conveniently located AF/AE Lock button which is surrounded by the AF Type switch, the rear control dial, which is used for, amongst other things, changing the aperture and shutter speed by turning from left to right and back again, and a brand new thumb-controlled joystick. This allows you to quickly and easily select the AF point without taking your eyes off the subject and is a very useful addition.

Underneath are the Quick Menu/Fn2, Fn3/AF Mode and Display buttons. In shooting mode, the Display button alternates between turning the display off, the main camera settings as icons, no settings at all, and an Info Display which shows the current key settings in a clear graphical format. You can additionally press the Q.Menu button and then use the navigation pad to move between the onscreen options. The Q.Menu button provides quick access to most of the principal controls, including ISO speed, image size, image quality and white balance (there are 16 settings in total, depending upon the shooting mode selected). You can still access all of these options from the main menu system too.

The Panasonic Lumix GH5 has a traditional 4-way navigation pad system with a circular scroll wheel and Menu/Set button in the centre. Unlike other G-series cameras, the four directions on the d-pad don't have a specific function, other than to move through and select options, playback images etc. The circular scroll wheel can also accomplish many of the same things. The Delete button underneath the navigation pad doubles up as the Fn4 button.

The new main menu system on the GH5 is very clear and straight-forward to use and is accessed by pressing the Menu/Set button in the middle of the navigation pad. There are up to 7 main menus represented by a column of icons on the left of the screen, depending on which shooting mode you're currently using, which then show 8 options onscreen at once.

On the bottom of the Panasonic Lumix GH5 is a metal tripod socket, importantly in-line with the middle of the lens barrel, and the battery compartment, and on the right side are the Remote port and the dual and SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card slots. On the left is the Remote/Mic socket for use with the optional remote shutter release or 3.5mm external microphone, and three connection ports, including a port for external headphones (again 3.5mm in size), and a very welcome full-sized HDMI port for connecting the GH5 to a HD television or monitor.

Entry Tags

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