*** Note : £1 = $1.36 (correct at time of post)
- Review Price: £2199
- 10.2MP High sensitivity MOS sensor
- ISO 160-51,200 (extendable to ISO 80-204,800)
- Dual Native ISO technology
- Timecode IN/OUT
- Multi-Aspect Ratio function (4:3, 17:9, 16:9 and 3:2)
- 14-bit RAW recording
- 4K 60p/50p video capture in Cinema 4K (4096×2160)
- 4:2:2 10-bit internal recording
- V-Log pre-installed
- Unlimited Full HD and 4K video recording
- 4K Photo equipped (8MP stills from 60fps high-speed capture)
- 3,680k-dot electronic viewfinder with 0.76x magnification
- 3.2in, 1.62m-dot fully articulated screen
- Splashproof, dustproof and freezeproof (-10 degrees)
- Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity
Panasonic Lumix GH5S hands-on: A small, lightweight, video-focused mirrorless
Panasonic’s top-end GH-series models have been a hit with videographers in recent years, and the manufacturer has finally put and end to rumours of a new model arriving by announcing the new Lumix GH5S at CES 2018.
Rather than attempting to satisfy two audiences with one camera, Panasonic has focused on creating the ultimate video camera for videographers with the Lumix GH5S. Its specification has been carefully tailored towards the cinema and broadcast market where there’s demand for the best movie quality from a small, portable body. Those after a capable Micro Four Thirds stills camera are of course well catered for by the recently released Panasonic Lumix G9.
The new GH5S will sit alongside the GH5 and G9 at the top end of Panasonic’s G-series, with the GH5 remaining in production for the foreseeable future. The Lumix GH5will continue to be sold at £1,699 (body only), with the price for the Lumix GH5S fetching £2,199 (body only) when it goes on sale in mid January. Unlike the Lumix GH5, which can be purchased with a lens as part of a bundle, the Lumix GH5S will only be available to buy body only.
Instead of adopting the GH5’s 20.3-million-pixel Four Thirds sensor, Panasonic has fitted the GH5S with a lower resolution 10.2-million-pixel Four Thirds chip. Although this pixel count may seem low by today’s standards, it’s not a dissimilar approach to what we’ve seen from the likes of Sony with their video-focused Alpha 7S and Alpha 7S II models.
The advantage the GH5S has over the GH5, as well as other cameras with a higher pixel density, is that each photosite (or pixel) on the chip is larger. This should equate to superior light-gathering capabilities and an impressive low-light performance – something that’s reflected in the Lumix GH5S’s ISO range, which spans from ISO 160-51,200 (extendable to ISO 80-204,800). By way of comparison, the GH5’s sensitivity range runs from ISO 200-25,600 (extendable to ISO 100).
Much like the Panasonic’s professional VariCam 35 camera, the GH5S also boasts Dual Native ISO technology. The idea behind this is it allows videographers to create high frame rate capture in low ambient light environments while focusing on capturing the perfect shot without worrying about background noise.
In an interesting move, Panasonic has opted to omit in-body image stabilisation from the GH5S following feedback from its professional GH5 customers. By having a sensor that’s permanently fixed and not prone to moving, Panasonic expects the camera to perform better in situations where the camera might be subject to vibration such as when it is mounted to rigs and other supports.
Another feature the GH5S omits is 6K-photo mode. This previously featured on the GH5 and allowed users to create 18MP images direct from 30p video capture. Panasonic hasn’t completely done away with the idea of creating stills from video and 4K-photo mode remains, providing users the opportunity to extract 8MP still images from 4K footage recorded at 60fps.
As to be expected from a class-leading video camera, all imaginable frame rates are available, with the option to record 4K video at up to 60fps for an unlimited length of time. There is 4:2:2 10-bit colour available in C4K and 4K at 30p/25p/24p for rich tonal gradations and monitor output options include 4:2:2 10-bit output and internal recording (C4K/4K 60p/50p is output only), with 4:2:0 8-bit output and internal recording (C4K/4K 60p/50p) also available.
The GH5S gives professional users the opportunity to record footage to an SD card inserted in the camera and to an external device at the same time via its HDMI Live Output. There’s also the option to shoot super slow motion at up to 240fps when recording movie footage at Full HD quality. The fastest variable frame rate in Full HD quality on the GH5 is 180fps.
Unlike the GH5, the GH5S provides pre-installed V-Log L (digital negative) recording as well as the V-Log L view assist function without the need to purchase the DMW-SFU1 upgrade software key that costs £80. Those who want exceptional flexibility as well as wider dynamic range for colour grading during the post-production process will welcome this with open arms.
Another feature that will entice serious videographers is the GH5S’s Timecode IN/OUT compatibility, which is easy to set using the flash sync terminal and bundled coaxial cable for a BNC terminal. The camera can be used as a Timecode generator for other GH5S models and professional camcorders and the functionality makes multi-camera productions pain-free by instantly synchronizing recordings to other cameras or audio devices.
At the side of the camera there are two SD card slots, both of which are UHS-II compatible to handle the high data rates required. The GH5S also inherits all the original Lumix focusing features, including Face/Eye detection AF, 1-Area AF, Pinpoint AF and Full Area AF in addition to MF assist (up to 20x magnification) and Focus Peaking.
Elsewhere, the GH5S inherits the new night mode from the Lumix G9 to suppress the stimulation of eyes that are accustomed to shooting in darkness. There’s a new graphical user interface that’s been developed on feedback from videographers and the battery life sees a marginal improvement, accepting the DMW-BLF19E as previously used in the GH5.
Body and design
The GH5S’s body is built around the same magnesium alloy chassis as the GH5 and feels identical in the hand. The chunky grip accommodates large hands extremely well and all the key controls are readily accessible like they are on the GH5. The GH5S also offers users reassurance when the going gets tough with freeze proofing (to -10°C) and splash/dust resistance.
The only obvious differences you’ll notice between the GH5 and GH5S are the newly added flashes of red around the body. At the front the letter S stands out in red beneath the model name, with the new red ring around the drive dial highlighting its premium status in Panasonic’s G-series much like the Lumix G9.
Up on the top plate, just to the right of the Fn1 button, the movie-rec button has been made more obvious by finishing it in red with its REC lettering clearly standing out against it in white.
In all other respects of body and design the GH5S is identical to the GH5. The EVF employs a stunningly detailed 3.68M-dot OLED panel and provides a 0.76x magnification. Meanwhile the fully articulated 1.62M-dot 3.2in screen is touch sensitive and uses WhiteMagic technology for increased brightness.
Rather than replacing the Lumix GH5 outright, the GH5S positions itself alongside its sister model and the Lumix G9 in the company’s premium product lineup. Whereas the Panasonic Lumix GH5 is more of a hybrid model in the way it offers 4K broadcast-standard video specification with an attractive array of photo features, combined with a 20MP output for stills photographers, the Lumix GH5S is more of a niche product in the way its been made as good as possible for certain types of video user.
During our brief hands on session, Panasonic showed several side-by-side comparison clips to illustrate how well the camera performs in low-light compared to the Lumix GH5. High ISO video clips taken on the Lumix GH5S at ISO 6400, ISO 12,800 and ISO 25,600 displayed noticeably less noise with higher contrast and more vibrant colour. Shortly afterwards, Panasonic compared the rolling shutter effect of the Lumix GH5S with the Sony A7S II. Comparisons of the same scene revealed noticeably less rolling effect on the Lumix GH5S than the Sony A7S II.
The Panasonic Lumix GH5S is clearly a specialist videographers tool, therefore it’s unlikely to find its way into the hands of many stills photographers when there are so many more viable alternatives available for less money. The GH5s’s 10MP resolution is rather low by today’s standards and by choosing the excellent Lumix G9 instead, stills photographers will get a far more versatile camera in return that’s capable of resolving finer detail. The other bonus of choosing the Lumix G9 is that you’ll save £700 that could be better spent on an accompanying lens.
With the Lumix GH5S being as niche as it is, the demand for it is unlikely to be as high as previous G-series models. Anyone who shoots stills more than they do movies are likely to give the GH5S a wide berth. For serious and professional videographers who’ve already invested in Micro Four Thirds lenses however, not forgetting those who demand a relatively small, lightweight and very capable video camera, there’s very good reason to be excited by Panasonic’s latest G-series release.