March 31, 2017

The Panasonic Lumix GH5 is Ready for the Real World. Here's What to Expect

A group of filmmakers and photographers tested out the GH5. Here's what they found.

For a camera that still is not available to the public, the Panasonic GH5 has engendered both high expectations and a fair amount of criticism online. The message coming from a live panel at B&H (watch it here) is that the GH5 is a massive upgrade from the GH4. It is a flexible camera that is ready to work as a stable, reliable platform—and not just for filmmakers.

To emphasize that point, the panel consisted of a diverse group of image-makers and storytellers: David Flores (still photographer), Griffin Hammond (documentary filmmaker), Lok Cheung (Vlogger), Jacki Huntington (producer and director), and Sean Robinson (Panasonic).

If the GH4's touchstone was that it brought 4K to the masses, then the GH5 continues expanding on the 4K culture.

The message coming from Panasonic was clear: "We have been listening to our community." The GH5 is a labor of love for the engineers at Panasonic. If the GH4's touchstone was that it brought 4K to the masses, then Panasonic wants the GH5 to build on that achievement and continue, as Sean Robinson put it, "expanding on the 4K culture."

Credit: Panasonic

There are plenty of new features on this camera, but they are features intended to make it your reliable go-to camera. This is a "platform designed to be used and abused as a camera," according to Robinson.

Tech Specs

The panel's emphasis was on practical, nitty-gritty details that will make shooting quality footage easier and more efficient.

  • Internally recorded 4K30p at 4:2:2,10-bit (150Mbps) and 4K60p at 4:2:0, 8-bit (150Mbps)
  • No recording time limit
  • No overheating issues
  • 5 axis in-body stabilizer that pairs with Panasonic lenses to create a "dual IS" system
  • Weather-sealed body
  • Full-sized HDMI and USB-C ports
  • 20MP sensor with the low-pass filter removed, allowing for better detail and micro-contrast
  • Improved auto-focus processing and an increase of focus points from 49 to 225
  • Higher resolution viewfinder with increased refresh rate
  • Dual SD card slots
  • Increased light sensitivity

 

Efficiency and Flexibility

The panel consensus was that the camera is a major upgrade. Griffin Hammond shot a documentary short on the GH5 that was both shot and distributed in 4K60p, using Panasonic MFT lenses. For him, features like the new body and IS are important. He shoots mostly handheld; to be able to shoot 4K handheld, with no stabilizing gear, and still have jitter free footage is essential. Except for time-lapse sequences, the entire GH5 documentary was handheld.

For Jacki Huntington, who comes from an indie background where a camera is your lifeblood, the new GH5 features "mean everything to someone like me, or someone starting out who is spending their entire savings on a camera…. to make the investment worth it, something they can grow with over time."

For her, quality at the right price point and good form factor are essential. The features that stood out for her were the ability to shoot at high frame rates in HD and the ability to shoot 4K60p. Huntington shot a music video on the GH5 at 120 fps, also entirely handheld. The freedom to shoot slow-motion footage handheld meant increased efficiency and being able to shoot the project in a half-day, rather than the anticipated full day. 

The ideas of efficiency and flexibility came up repeatedly on the panel. Griffin and Lok liked the idea that the MFT format—both camera and lenses—is compact and light. Huntington prefers to use adapters and shoot with cine glass. The MFT format, given its flange depth, means that most glass can be adapted to it.

Robinson said it was important for Panasonic to be able to record 10-bit, 4:2:2 internally, in order to fully utilize the V-Log profile in an efficient, light package. It will also be possible to now utilize up to 4 LUTs in-camera; V-Log to Rec 709 comes with the camera. Panasonic also heard the importance of XLR audio from the community, making production more efficient by eliminating the need for dual sound (via an optional accessory). 

One detail that all the panelists liked is the dual SD card slots. For the still shooter, it meant being able to shoot RAW to one card and JPEGs to the other. For Lok, it meant redundancy—shooting two copies of your footage at once. Huntington liked the ability to be able to shoot full output to one card and proxies to another, saving time in post. The slots do relay recording, are hot swappable, and include status lights. 

As you might expect, a panel sponsored by a camera vendor and camera manufacturer focused on the positive aspects of the GH5, but the tone was largely measured and the footage shown was created in low-budget, real world run-and-gun conditions. Clearly, Panasonic is trying to communicate to the audience for the camera that it has heard what it needs.

Let us know in the comments whether you're excited about adding the GH5 to your kit—and if so, which features appeal the most to you.      

Your Comment

25 Comments

I applaud Panasonic for listening to customers and advancing their GH series cameras. I have been using them (GH2, GH3 and GH4) for a while, and they have served me well. However, my GH3 and GH4 have both required servicing, and the performance of the MFT sensor has been a struggle for me. VLOG is disappointing, but I'm hoping that may work better with the GH5's 10 bit recording.

My main camera is a SONY FS5, and I will be getting another B-camera this year. I'm waiting to see much more real world footage off the GH5 to determine if I was keep one foot in the MFT world, or go replace my MFT gear with the forth coming SONY A7S.

FWIW, I'm not a brand evangelist. I just want to use gear that works for me.

March 31, 2017 at 12:42PM, Edited March 31, 12:42PM

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David Patterson
videographer/editor
450

Dave-

Like you, I am platform neutral. You get beautiful images out of the camera with the FS series. And, I have been a huge fan of the colorimetry of the Varicams.

Panasonic specifically spoke to the 8-bit issue for V-Log as being a real driver to get 10-bit internal recording. One thing that I did not include, it was a really long talk, was that with regard to camera matching, the entire panel agreed that other factors: lens choice, lighting...would have more of an impact than bit depth. That said, it'll be interesting to push the pixels around from the GH5 and see how flexible they are. Working as a colorist, I can definitely say that specs do not always predict outcomes.

March 31, 2017 at 1:33PM

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Craig Mieritz
Color, Light and Camera Geek

I switched from shooting with a Canon 60D to a Panasonic GH2 in December 2011, then bought another GH2 about six months later. Then bought a GH3 in the Spring of 2013 to use with my GH2 cameras. Then at the end of August 2014 I bought a GH4 and sold off my GH2 bodies.

Over the course of 5+ years, I never had a single failure with any of these GHx cameras. ( including lots of hacking of the GH2s to shoot at high bit-rates ) Part of this may be due to using expensive SDXC cards ( $200 US each in 2012 ) that I tested the sh*t out of to make sure they were solid.

Today I still shoot with the GH4 and plan on adding a GH5 by the end of April.

I know that the GHx cameras are not made for low-light shooting, so I always plan on bringing lights to every indoor shoot I have, and so far I've had no problems getting everything I wanted from the MFT format when shooting video.

...But, I've never been super happy with the GHx still-photo ability, but I think this may change with the GH5, as I've seen some nice GH5 photos like this one : https://goo.gl/xTUqIb

March 31, 2017 at 8:29PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
31466

I have a GH4 and I am very happy with it. However, I would like to see more footage and tests from the GH5 besides the ones the fanboys did.

March 31, 2017 at 3:44PM, Edited March 31, 3:44PM

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March 31, 2017 at 3:59PM

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For some reason, your link isn't opening the correct page. Just search for GH5 on vimeo. From a quick look, it doesn't look like I, personally, would shoot above 1600 ISO. Too much noise for my own preferences. If I recall correctly from the panel, I think 1600 was tossed around as the high end for ISO when shooting video.

March 31, 2017 at 4:15PM, Edited March 31, 4:18PM

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Craig Mieritz
Color, Light and Camera Geek

The limit for the GH4 is 800 ISO. I guess it will be 1600 ISO for GH5. Probably it is not going to be enough for night shooting. But transcoding from 4K to HD and using a denoiser can help. In my GH4 I use a f0.95 lens for those takes and, sometimes, it is not enough.

The real problem is not high ISO, is the shadows and low light.

Basically you can't have it all. The panis are good for documentaries, for travel, for getting into focus, less jello effect, weight, etc. They are not good for low light or DR.

Each tool is good for specific tasks.

April 1, 2017 at 7:22AM

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Well in my opinion, the noise on 3200 iso is still usable. And it's the fact that the 800 iso on gh5 looks so MUCH better than 800 iso on gh4, same thing for 1600 and 3200, makes the gh5 a lot better thab the gh4. By a good difference.

Sure, it's not a low light monster (because it's not designed to be) but it's an all around effective filmmaking camera. If you have 2 small LED lights and bas8c knowledge on cinematography and how to use the camera, then you should get highly presentable low light shots for sure.

April 1, 2017 at 9:36AM

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John and Will-

I agree with you both. The GH5 does an insane number of things well, especially for a MFT. I think that it's a major achievement that the discussion for this camera centers on how well it does things excludes the qualifier "for a MFT camera". It just does a lot of things well, period. It is unrealistic to expect a camera at this price point to do everything. I agree that noise could be mitigated, just speaking my own preferences and reminding people to keep their expectations realistic. We are seeing some very nice footage coming from this camera.

And, yes, I have seen much noisier footage used on network broadcast series and feature films, but usually they were quick cuts or the noise was not a distraction from the narrative. A strong story trumps everything.

April 1, 2017 at 11:47AM, Edited April 1, 11:50AM

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Craig Mieritz
Color, Light and Camera Geek

Here is an unscientific test I did comparing the sharpness in 1080p between GH4, GH5 and C100. My current setup can't handle editing 4K natively and I'm not a fan of transcoding. I was quite pleased with the results:

https://vimeo.com/211215952

April 3, 2017 at 4:53AM

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David Ells
DP
131

Interesting. Lenses? Thanks for sharing that, David.

April 3, 2017 at 9:47AM

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Craig Mieritz
Color, Light and Camera Geek

I'm curious how the 10-bit video will be in reality. At 150 mbps that is a smaller data rate than a Pro Res proxy file at 4k...

April 1, 2017 at 12:09PM

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Jeremiah Kuehne
Filmmaker
769

Me too!

April 1, 2017 at 12:21PM

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Craig Mieritz
Color, Light and Camera Geek

The compression and codec they are using is rubbish.

It's so compressed that it defeats the purpose of a 10bit color palette to begin with.

Doubt the 400Mbps ALL-I will save it either (which is comparable to about 200Mbps IPB). It is simply too much compression for 4K 10bit.

April 1, 2017 at 3:09PM

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One final thought to consider around dynamic range. Even though the camera has the same sized processor as the GH4, it is completely new and only used in the GH5. There are a couple of things going on here. First, the size remains the same, but there are more pixels. More pixels on an equivalent sized sensor would make the GH5 typically less sensitive than the GH4. Panasonic has done a couple of things here to improve sensitivity. The first is that the entire width of the sensor is sampled on the GH5 (this was not true for the GH4), and then the 5.1K image is downsized in processing to 4K, allowing for them to increase the sensitivity a little bit there. The new sensor is also more efficient than the GH4, giving another little boost in sensitivity. The improved Venus processing engine also adds a little boost in sensitivity. My point is that the GH5 is more sensitive than the the GH4, but not by a huge amount, even Panasonic will agree with that. Not a complaint on my part, just teasing out the nuances of what is happening here. As a addendum, the consensus regarding stills quality is that it is much improved over the GH4 and I'm seeing reviews comparing it favorably to the Fuji X-T2. Apples to oranges as a package, to be sure, but it is nice to know you will be getting a really fine still camera in addition to shooting 4K video, which is a huge point for me.

April 1, 2017 at 12:41PM

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Craig Mieritz
Color, Light and Camera Geek

Oops, I meant to say same sized sensor, not processor, in my previous comment.

April 1, 2017 at 4:11PM

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Craig Mieritz
Color, Light and Camera Geek

I agree with you. The sensor in GH5 have more pixels, therefore each pixel is smaller than in the GH4. However the sensibility is better in the GH5. Panasonic has done a good job in this camera, even though it is a micro 4/3.

April 1, 2017 at 8:27PM, Edited April 1, 8:29PM

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I've made a test with the XT2 and even though the GH5 is definitely performing good for a micro four thirds camera I don't think it can be compared to the XT2. XT2 maintain detail even at ISO12800. Which is not the case with the GH5.
Have a look at my initial impressions video here
https://youtu.be/UUzIBX6ltgo
The comparison with the XT2 is near the end of the video.
What is also interesting is the comparison with other micro four thirds cameras. GF, G7 and GH5. Even though the GF1 image is insanely noisy it's also insanely sharp.
I have the feeling that nowadays they're a little bit more aggressive with the noise reduction than before. This is also towards the end of the video

April 10, 2017 at 10:44AM

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Everything I have seen from this camera thus far is unimpressive.

April 1, 2017 at 3:07PM

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The question is what we need to be impressed.
These days we are using "cheap" cameras that were sci-fi six years ago. However, we find any kind of defects in those cameras. It is like if we were looking for something, that "film look", that perfect image we see in Hollywood movies, and we want a camera that directly delivers that thing to us. Well, that's not possible. Even if you have an Alexa and Zeiss lenses, you will need the lightnings, the clothes, the set, the make up... and the 500 people crew that work in a regular commercial movie if you want to reach the same results.

However, I agree it is difficult to find good footage from the GH5 in Internet right now. We will see in some weeks (until now there are only preproduction cameras). Besides, the Vimeo and Youtube compressions destroy any quality.

Anyway, we, the prosumers, are always frustrated with our cameras, including me. We are so demanding, even with us. We know what is good and we don't find it in our footage. I guess we don't have enough imagination, expertise, experience...

At the end the most important thing is to shot with the camera we have, trying to tell something and learning from it.

April 1, 2017 at 8:21PM, Edited April 1, 8:32PM

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What is the need of shooting 60p? The Hand Cut minidoc, although compelling looks really like Hidef reality television but television nevertheless, I hope this is not going to become some kind of trend, to shoot in 30p or 60p. What's wrong with 24? Beautiful , magic and misterious treatment of motion that has been working so nicely till now. I hate when something good got fixed and gets worst. Excuse the rant, somebody can illuminate me with this?

April 3, 2017 at 10:37AM

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You are right. Unless you use that 60 fps footage to get slowmo.

April 3, 2017 at 3:17PM, Edited April 3, 3:18PM

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A lot of work being shot today is aimed at digital playback devices like phones, tablets, computers, TV sets, etc... Where the 30p frame rate is the norm.

I think of it as a different look to the "film" look, where sometimes 30p might be the better choice for the subject you are shooting.

"Film" is a great look too, but does it have to be the ONLY look we can use ?

April 3, 2017 at 9:29PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
31466

Yep

April 3, 2017 at 10:26PM

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Craig Mieritz
Color, Light and Camera Geek

the GH4 is also pretty ready for real life applications ;)
http://www.levitezer.com/blog/files/6d53181f25bb107b3eca3a3a5aa00f08-25....

Would be happy to test the GH5 if Panasonic would provide one :)

April 7, 2017 at 1:58AM

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Kim Janson
Gimbal developer
86

I've seen people talking about recording full res to one card, and proxies to the other, but can't find anything in the manual about it, and can't find anyone online explaining how to. I have the camera, and it doesn't seem like it's obvious how to do this. Any idea? Anyone?

April 25, 2017 at 3:10PM

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