Before the Panasonic GH5, you needed at least $8,000 to find a camera with a feature list as ridiculous as this. While the GH4 was the first major compact mirrorless camera showcasing unbeatable video features, low light results kept me from upgrading completely and there were not enough compelling features to get me on board. That has all changed now. I’m a huge believer in 4k and the ability to crop, recompose, stabilize and punch-in to my shots in post made a huge difference. When it comes to quality, the GH5 also made a massive jump forward. While the GH4 shot at a 2.3X crop, the GH5 shoots at the default micro 4/3 2x crop which basically means we have a 15% increase in the sensor size. On top of that, the GH5 over samples from the larger 20MP sensor without a low pass filter which increases the level of detail. Low light performance has increased by over a stop now as a result and I am comfortable using it up to around 3200 ISO for my work. At 6400 ISO, a noticeable amount of grain is visible and without some cleaning up, I find it a bit distracting. While good results at 3200ISO don’t sound impressive, especially when compared to the Sony A7SII, that’s typically as high as I need to shoot for most of my shots and wide aperture lenses or speedboosters allow some extra light in the camera.
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The GH5 allows 4k shooting at up to 60fps which is absolutely insane for me and was one of the main compelling reasons for me to use it. I no longer have to sacrifice quality for the option of slow motion and in this mode, all audio is recorded and it gives me the option of slowing down my shots in post. Anyone who has ever shot a wedding knows that some moments, whether it’s a look, a hand motion, flick of the hair, they often only last a few seconds and recording those at 60fps means we can extend them and turn an unusable 2 second shot into a 5 second cinematic moment. The GH5 can shoot at variable frame rates with overcrankinging and undercranking meaning which means shooting 1080p slow motion at up to 180fps. I do find that detail took a hit when using this mode and you do lose all autofocus and no sound is recorded but it can make for some stunning shots. If you need autofocus or audio recorded, the fastest you can record in 1080p is 60fps which is a little disappointing and not a step ahead of the competition. Rolling shutter also saw improvements and while still present, it is much less pronounced and rarely noticeable in normal shooting.
The last feature that made the GH5 a must buy for me was unlimited recording. I can now record hour long ceremonies without ever stopping the camera, I’m not afraid to start recording 15 minutes before the ceremony begins, and I don’t have to worry about re-syncing my cameras every time I stopped recording. Additionally, the dual card slots are hot swappable allowing you to either keep recording for a virtually unlimited length of time, or duplicate your recordings on both cards for for backup and both are UHS-II enabling future upgrades for higher bitrate shooting. That alone was a huge weight off my shoulders and I hope every other manufacturer takes note.
Without a doubt, those features alone made the GH5 worth the purchase and easily put it ahead of any other camera on the market. But somehow Panasonic stuffed this camera with tons more.
The GH5 is one of the most ergonomically perfect cameras around of all small format cameras. It feels like a tank, is fully weather resistant including freezeproof to 14 degrees, has an endless supply of buttons which are all customizable including a new joystick, and features one of the best articulating touch screens on the market bright enough to see outdoors, super high resolution, and with an equally amazing viewfinder which is great for direct sunlight. There are some functional upgrades as well moving the mic input and making room for a full size HDMI output. The battery is borrowed from the GH4 and while it’s still extremely powerful, the new features of the GH5 definitely impact overall life and I will typically use 3 full batteries on a full length wedding day. One of those features is the 5 axis sensor stabilization which is very effective and performed somewhere in between the acceptable system on the Sony A7SII and the amazing system of the Olympus EM1. You can also store all of your settings on the SD card which is amazing when I am renting additional cameras for large shoots. Another standout feature utilizes the additional pixels on the GH5 sensor for cropping in to your image and allows an additional 1.4x crop in 4k or a staggering 2.7x crop in 1080p. This meant gaining additional reach without having to change lenses and the extra teleconverter option is a feature I use all the time.
All the connectivity options are here including Wi-Fi, & bluetooth 4.2 LE and Panasonic’s mobile app has to be my absolute favorite with full manual control over video recording. There are some little gems as well like the ability to rack focus by just choosing up to 3 focus points as well as the speed, and allowing the camera to perfectly rack focus between them. One new feature and something impossible to find in other cameras in this range is 10bit 4k internal recording. It does limit you to 30p so I don’t use it but it would be great for those of you shooting log or doing green screen work.
But things are not perfect and there are a few things you should keep in mind. By far the worst part about the GH5 is the autofocus system and in a way, that’s a great thing. Many filmmakers simply do not use AF at all and even those who do will find it acceptable after some tweaking. Additionally, it is an aspect of that camera that can (and should) be improved over a firmware update. For point to point focusing, the system is fast and accurate and even the servo mode was good enough to use for tracking in photo mode. But the video autofocus tracking unfortunately is well behind Sony’s newest cameras and the dual pixel system in Canon cameras. While I find those systems to be reliable enough when used on a gimbal or when tracking a bride down the aisle, I did not find the GH5 to be reliable enough to use in any professional environment or whenever accuracy is important. And while I personally am not a user of log profiles, it is disappointing to see them locked behind a very convoluted $99 paywall that requires waiting days for a shipped package only to enter an unlock code. Thankfully the initial shipping delays and stock issues seem to be gone.
On the photo side things have improved a bit as well. You can now shoot at 12fps and you can even pull a 6k JPEG image from video shot at 30fps. The same 4k photo mode is still around but now you can pull those 8mp jpegs at up to 60fps. The shutter goes to a full 1/8000 second like most professional cameras. Performance suffers at high ISO due to the smaller sensor and photo shooters would be better off looking at other options, but for general use, the GH5 is extremely capable. The autofocus system has been upgraded to 225 points, and although the all of these points are contrast based, it was exceptionally quick and locking and rarely had hunting issues. Tracking worked decently well for most subjects but was still less accurate and slower than some other systems. Focus stacking post focus
Overall the Panasonic GH5 was more than a typical upgrade. It really in a revolution for compact video cameras in a way that cannot be overstated. This powerful camera takes filmmaking seriously and any filmmaker should take the GH5 seriously. While every other camera in this market, including the Sony A7SII and 5D Mark IV, comes with required workarounds to integrate them into your workflow, the Panasonic GH5 feels like it was created to fill all possible needs. Sure, it’s no A7SII in low light mostly due to the smaller sensor, but with an articulating touch screen, better ergonomics, amazing customization, 4k @ 60p, crazy slow motion, unlimited recording, dual card slots, better battery life, 10 bit video, and so much more, you should really consider how important it is to shoot at 25,000 ISO. For me, the Panasonic GH5 is the camera I was waiting for, well worth the $1,999 price tag, and flexible enough to navigate through a professional video shoot while still being compact enough for me to carry it unnoticed in a small bag on a trip to Disney World.
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