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."
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.
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.