Watch: Side-by-Side Comparison of Sony a7S II and Panasonic GH5s Low-Light Capabilities

Is the debate finally over?

For the past few years, an enormous debate has been warring within the film community: Sony or Panasonic? Which micro four-thirds camera is the one to own? The Sony Alpha series had been touted as the superior camera due to its low-light capabilities, and so Panasonic has struck back by releasing its upgrade to the already impressive GH5a more "video-cenric" GH5s. The primary focus in developing the new camera was to bridge the low-light gap with Sony.

Of course, low-light sensitivity shouldn't be the only factor in choosing a camera, but if it were, then the Sony a7S II would clearly have the GH5 beat. But how does the GH5s stack up against Sony's best now that the camera has undergone a series of improvements for low-light shooting specifically?

As a reminder, the GH5S features a newly designed chip (with half the megapixel count of the GH5) to perform better in low-light. Panasonic also added Dual Native ISO to the GH5s, removed the 5-axis mage stabilization found in the GH5, and (although they can both record 4K DCI and UHD) enabled the GH5s to tackle 60p (the GH5 is currently limited to 24p in 4K DCI).

Camera maven Philip Bloom took the cameras to the street to settle the "low-light king" debate once and for all, bringing along a Sony a7R IIISony a7S II, and Panasonic GH5s for his low-light test. He chose to focus on the same scene with each camera set as close to the same settings as possible. Bloom also notes that this is "not a field of view comparison or detail test as the depth of field is very different between the two cameras."

While the video shows how the a7S II has the GH5s beat in just how bright the image can get, the GH5s still produces a high-quality image. The clear winner is totally a judgment call based on the viewer's preferences, even if it still looks like the a7S II is better at picking up detail and the color looks a bit closer to how the actual scene was lit. It's not an exact science, however, as different lenses were used on the different cameras.

Much of that can be toyed around with in post, and if you care enough to go that far, Bloom has made the different sequences available for download.

Both cameras are priced at around $2,500, so with such similar price points, much of your decision will come down to taste. Which image in the videos do you prefer? Let us know in the comments below.     

Your Comment


"still looks like the a7S II is better at picking up detail and the color looks a bit closer to how the actual scene was lit"... Better at picking up detail it's true, as i asume bigger sensor, more pixels, more detail. BUT (and i mean big) "the color looks a bit closer to how the actual scene was lit" i think only in the VLOG vs SLOG2 test. Am i the only one that sees A7SII a lot greenish looking in the thumbnail? (CINELIKE D vs CINE 2 CINEMA)... and to be fair the GH5s is on the magentish side. So yeah, thanks! now i'm more confused about which camera buy. A lot of friends have A7sII so any project can be a multicam project perfectly fine, but a feel more confortable with the magentish color than the greenish... 0_o

February 12, 2018 at 4:13PM

Rafa Ga
Digital Film-Video Editor / Colorist / Motion Graphics

Not sure the colours of either can be used as much of a reference as I'm sure you could push them both round endlessly both in and out of camera - but if anything, if this was shot in the UK the GH5s looks a bit closer to what I'd expect to see, as our streetlights are orange.

February 13, 2018 at 1:13AM

Alex Richardson

Would it have helped to have had an image that had white balance corrected in post so that we could see what the "true" colour was?

February 18, 2018 at 2:39PM

Julian Richards
Film Warlord


February 13, 2018 at 4:44AM, Edited February 13, 4:44AM

Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer

Notice the difference in compression / detail in the water between the two cameras.

While there are noticeable differences in color and overall detail, one factor that is impossible to adjust in post is macro-blocking and "slurred" detail due to compression artifacts.

Thank you, Mr. Bloom, for choosing this particular setting to expose such an observable difference.

February 19, 2018 at 9:02AM, Edited February 19, 9:04AM

Dan Parsons
Director of Photography