As many of you already know, this week Panasonic made big news with the announcement of new camera – The Lumix GH5S. Rumors about this new camera have been swirling around online for weeks, and are now confirmed thanks to the official launch at CES.
I did not have early access to this camera, so I’ll hold off on doing a full review of the GH5S until I am able to spend some real time with it. That said, I do still want to share some first impressions of the it here today, as I’ve had a number of readers asking me for my thoughts based on the camera’s specs and pricing.
But first, a little background on my history with the GHx line for some context –
My first Lumix camera was the GH2, which I absolutely loved. It was my also first DSLR-style camera, and after putting it to the test on many projects I became a big advocate for it. Many of my earliest blog posts were centered around my experiences with the GH2, as well as the GH3 and GH4 in later years. Of the three GH-cameras that I owned, the GH2 was actually my favorite, largely based on it’s color science and motion cadence. The GH3 and GH4 both offered incredible upgrades in many respects, but there was a certain X factor that the GH2 offered that just look more filmic, at least to my eye.
By the time the GH5 rolled around, I decided not to invest in one. Not because it wasn’t (and isn’t) an amazing camera – in fact I think it’s probably the best option for the vast majority filmmakers looking for a mirrorless camera – but simply because my needs had changed. I was still doing a lot of smaller/DIY projects, but had mainly been using cameras like the Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro on those, and for my larger jobs I was often renting REDs or Alexas as needed.
Even still, I continued to have a need for a DSLR/mirrorless camera for some projects, but no longer needed a swiss-army style camera like the GH5 that could do it all. I didn’t need all the bells and whistles. What I did need though, and what I sought out, was the best color science possible which is ultimately why I switched to the Fuji X-T2.
I mention all this just to give anyone reading context for my opinions on the GH5S. As you might be able to tell, I have a pretty unique set of criteria that are important to me when I invest in a camera. So please take anything I say with a grain of salt. My opinions are completely biased and highly subjective to my personal experience with the GHx line and my unique preferences as a filmmaker… Not to mention in this case my impressions are also speculative since the camera was just announced.
Keeping that in mind, below are my thoughts on the GH5S as things stand now –
Let’s kick things off by discussing what this camera is not – a GH5 replacement. This is not the GH6. It’s a GH5S, an alternative to the GH5.
This might sound obvious, but I’ve already had a number of people ask me for a recommendation on whether or not they should “upgrade” to the GH5S. And I don’t blame them for wondering, as on first glance the GH5S would appear to be the higher end model. After all, it’s brand new, more expensive, and has loads of new professional features.
Here are just some of the specs –
- 10.28MP Multi Aspect Ratio MOS Sensor
- DCI 4K60p and Full HD 1080/240p Video
- Internal 4:2:2 10-Bit Long GOP
- V-Log L Gamma and HDR Hybrid Log Gamma
- 0.76x 3.68m-Dot OLED Viewfinder
- 3.2″ 1.62m-Dot Free-Angle Touchscreen
- Dual Native ISO 400 and ISO 2500
- Dual UHS-II SD Slots; Wi-Fi & Bluetooth
- Advanced DFD AF System
- 12 fps Cont. Shooting and 4K PHOTO Modes
- Dedicated Timecode Input
- Price: $2497
Notably, the GH5S has a lower megapixel (but multi-aspect) sensor that offers a dual native ISO setting of either 400 or 2500, which will function similarly to the Varicam LT or other Panasonic cameras that offer this capability. Being able to shoot with a base ISO of 2500 on a sensor with much larger pixels will obviously mean this camera will be far superior to the GH5 in terms of low light ability. This is going to be huge for a lot of shooters, especially those that are doing documentary or event work and need to work primarily with minimal/available light.
Other highlights include the ability to record up to 240fps in full HD, built in V-Log, and the ability to jam sync timecode using the TC input on the front of the body.
What all of this tells me is that Panasonic really seem care about the needs of their professional users, and are clearly making an effort to not only deliver great image quality, but also tremendous functionality. I’m a big believer in investing in cameras and camera brands that truly seem to “get it”, as it tells me that over the long term a company like Panasonic will have it’s customers best interests in mind.
But as I was alluding to above, as impressive as all of these features are, and as much as I commend Panasonic for making this camera, for some people the GH5 would still be the better choice… And I would be one of those people.
The main reason is the lack of image stabilization on the GH5S, which will undoubtably be the biggest drawback for filmmakers who are on the fence between the two models. While features like dual native ISO and 1080/240fps are incredible to have, they aren’t as essential to most filmmakers as built in image stabilization.
This may sound funny coming from me, as I own an X-T2 (which doesn’t have built in IS), but I also tend to shoot with my heavier cameras when I need a more stabilized handheld look, so it’s not necessarily a deal breaker for me.
However, I suspect it will in fact be a deal breaker for many others, since the internal stabilization on the GH5 is just so good, and many filmmakers (especially those shooting a lot of run and gun/guerilla projects) rely on it day to day.
In many ways, I think 5 axis stabilization is one of the primary reasons mirrorless cameras are still thriving, despite competition from the Blackmagic’s of the world… Lots of cameras can produce beautiful images, but few will allow filmmakers to remain truly inconspicuous.
So if I were looking to invest in a new camera, and didn’t already own other cameras that covered my needs in that regard, I would probably go for the GH5 over the GH5S based purely on sensor stabilization. It’s such an important feature to have if you shoot guerrilla style or run and gun – which I do – and a worthwhile tradeoff for the other features the GH5S offers.
For instance, the dual native ISO on the GH5S is clearly a technical achievement – but it’s not a feature I would particularly use all that often. In the past, even when I’ve owned cameras like the Canon C100 or Sony A7S that could shoot at incredibly high ISOs, I would rarely shoot above 800 or 1600. It’s a personal/aesthetic preference, but I tend not to love to look of high ISO footage, no matter how clean it may be. This is partly due me being a big believer in lighting purposefully (even with natural light) as a means to craft a more traditional look. But it’s also that I don’t like what happens to colors and overall IQ when working at really high ISOs on virtually any camera.
So even though ISO 2500 on the GH5S will likely deliver some really clean ultra low light footage, it’s just not a feature that I would personally make use of all that often. Certainly not as much as I would with internal stabilization.
Even the ability to shoot at 240fps in full HD isn’t really a draw for me personally. It’s a cool option to have, but I can only think of one project where I’ve ever had to shoot at that high of a frame rate, and 99% of what I shoot is at 24p. I also don’t know how clean/artifact-free the 240fps shots would look, and will be really curious to see some test footage shot internally at those frame rates.
Again though, this is all subjective based on my particular needs. Many of your needs will be different!
In summary, I want to re-iterate that I truly applaud Panasonic for what they’ve done here with the GH5S. It’s a major technical achievement, a sign that they really care about their professional customer base, and an excellent alternative to the GH5 for filmmakers that need increased low light sensitivity and higher frame rates.
It also ups the ante for the competition, and I can’t wait to see how Sony, Canon, Fuji, and others attempt to step up their game as a means to compete with Panasonic. There’s no question in my mind that the competitors are taking note right now, and with NAB just a few months away, I bet we’ll be in for a good year!
In the future I’ll aim to do a more thorough review of the GH5S once I have a chance to get hands on with it, so be sure to stay tuned for that…
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Hi Noam, sadly my gripe with the Panasonic GH4/5/5S, all of which I’ve owned, is that the image looks too ‘home video’. By that, I guess I mean too sharp, too much detaiI perhaps. I watch someone else release a video they’ve shot with a Canon say 5D and quite frankly I’m jealous. Is there a reason that the end result and filmic look doesn’t ever seem to get noted in these Panasonic review videos? Should I hold on, before I sell my Panasonic collection and board the Canon ship?
Great questions, Edward. Ultimately it comes down to personal preference, but I’m with you that the Canon cameras still have better color science than Panasonic. Most filmmakers are drawn to Panny and Sony for their other features, higher bit rates, resolution, etc. But as for straight up color science, Canon is up there with Fuji as the best in the DSLR/mirrorless space.
Having bought the GH5S and worked with it for a while in a variety of situations I would agree that lack of IBIS is a downside. However – the skin tones are fantastic. It produces a beautiful image with far less work than previous GH models, and I am getting used to using far smaller (and portable) lights and enjoying the freedom! The GH5S also gives a substantially wider angle on my Sigma Art lens (than my GH4) with the metabones and the range now for me is perfect for most jobs.
I love the idea of the BMPCC 4K, but I cannot give up the amazing battery life, weather sealing and reliability of the GH cameras – this thing is dependable in the extreme. and in my eyes a real bargain for the image it delivers. V-LOG is now my go-to profile and still excites me when I sit down and see the detail contained within the image.
Thanks as ever for your non-fanboy pragmatic reviews – your site is always an inspiration to me – keep up the great work!
Thanks so much, Steve. Really appreciate the feedback and your point of view on this!
I saw couple night shots from GH5s and they were stunning. While no IBIS for most of the good shots you anyway need gimbal/ glidecam/ tripop/ rig….
No question, for low-light it’s the right choice.
Hi Noam: I hope that either you (or one of your readers) can help me.
I shoot real estate videos and stills, and I am wondering how the GH5S would compare against the a7 III in terms of low light and dynamic range, when shooting 10-bit V Log on the Gh5s compared to 8-Bit slog 2 on the a7 III.
Because I want MORE depth of field, in theory I could shoot two stops LARGER aperture on an M43 camera compared to a full frame. Hence, I could shoot at two stops lower ISO on an M43 and have the same amount of DOF when compared to a full frame camera.
Unfortunately, in real estate there is no time or money for lighting, but I would use the GH5S on a gimbal (Zhiyun Crane).
So my main concern would be dynamic range and whether the GH5S would keep up with the a7 III knowing that I could open up the aperture two stops / reduce ISO two stops on M43 compared to full frame.
Great question, Mark. I haven’t shot the two side by side, so it’s hard to say definitely which would have more DR. That said, they should be relatively in the same ballpark, at least based on the footage I’ve seen. If you can, try renting both for a weekend and doing some test shoots. That’s always the best way to know for sure!
I shoot a short with the GH5 and must say the skin tones lacked. The C100 mark 1 kicked it’s ass.
Agreed. Canon’s color science is better across the board.
maybe the most important factor: color science! The director wants it to be the best possible for her (microbudget) documentary, and our vlog-l GH5 produced a plastic skin tone look that became worse with a rec 709 lut on it. Maybe this is because I did Expose To The Right in vlog-l or because of a Hoya ND8 filter+leica 12-60mm kit lens combo, but it may not happen. We need the right gear in capable hands, and I am tempted to switch to more capable camera’s of panasonic for color critical work. The question is, where is the frontier where colour becomes magical realistic /useable in panasonic line-up of camera’s. Is GH5’s enough with for instance a leica nocticron, or do we have to go varricam LT? I can’t go to canon.
It all comes down to personal preference… It’s so subjective. The Varricam will definitely give you stronger colors (in my opinion), but that doesn’t mean you can achieve great results on the GH5 as well. I would suggest renting both and doing some test shoots to see which works best. If the GH5 goes the trick and you can save some $$, by all means go for it!
It’s not really an either or between the GH5 and s version. They both work in tandem.
Agreed – they both compliment each other beautifully. If I had to choose those, I would go GH5… But it’d be a tough choice.
Gh5s can be used with little Gimbal stabilizer BUT👉 There is no work around for GH5 bad low light… GH5s for me 👍
Fair enough! GH5s sounds like it would be your best bet.
How does the color science really matter when shooting stills in RAW, and video in V-LOG? Less time in post?
Also, I am curious about your Avant-Garde LUTs. Do they come in .icc format for use in Lightroom on stills?
Hi Talia! The color science still matters even when you shoot in RAW or log. Even though those formats are really flexible in post, the relationship between colors and how they affect each other as you grade the image will still be very different. Nothing is truly “raw” or neutral, no matter what format.
My LUTs aren’t currently available for Lightroom, but I may change that in the near future. Thanks for the request!
Great review. Its because of you that i started to pay attention to colors. thank you.
I needed a second gh5 for music videos and interviews.. so when the rumors about the gh5s started appearing i waited. I purchased it last week. Made 3 jobs with it being my main camera. The firmware needs to be updated because it has some bugs when changing WB and ISO but other than that.. Shooting at 800iso vlog.. there are differences between the two. The thing i like the most its the noise almost grain like and the hilights rollof.. its more pleasing. Usually i use false colour to adjust exposure and when its dead on.. just wow.. what a little nice camera to have.
Not having ibis is relatively “bad”.. but in the other hand using a good monopod or gimbal is not that bad.. and i actually prefer the image from the gh5s for everyday use, its more “organic” less detailed but spot on..
Usually i use sigma art lenses.. and except the flares its a killer combo.
I hope that this can help someone to decide..
Awesome. Thanks a lot for sharing this, Abel!
It was you that first got me into really considering color and how well different cameras go at it in this department. I did ultimately get a GH5 and love it so far. As the videos of those doing side by side comparisons between the GH5 and the GH5S started showing up, I started continually seeing a difference in colors between the two cameras. Now, most of the video creators have admitted their cameras were mostly on auto…but it has caught many people’s attention, and so I am waiting to see what turns out. It would be nice to see if colors have evolved for the better in the GH5S, and it would be nice if they can make it over to the GH5 somehow.
But I’ll be happy to see if greater color comes to this camera on top of the other strengths the GH5S has. And it would be great to hopefully see your comments on it when you get your hands on it, as you bring a good depth of insight when it comes to the color the cameras can capably deliver.
Really appreciate that, Chris. And great idea for a future topic. Once I get my hands on the GH5S, this is definitely something I’ll be looking into!
Hi Noam, it is also worth mention that this Gh5s has multi aspect sensor 1.8x with a metabones XL it becomes a 1.2x crop pretty close to a full frame look whitch some peple love the aesthetic and the color science has been improve I will love to get one I’m currently a Gh5 user i will be nice to shoot with 2 cams interviews in corporate videos an city turism videos with low light or not that powerful lights working at 6400 iso with metabones xl and lights like Neo 2 or quasar science battery powered 2Ft tubes.
Another great point. I love to see some people (yourself included) making a great case for the GH5S. Appreciate you sharing your thoughts here.
Panasonic Lumix GH5S, Unstabilized Genius of Low Light Cinematic Video – Giant List of Links and Videos – UNTITLED: STORIES OF CREATIVITY, INNOVATION, SUCCESSat
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Tests seem to demonstrate that the gh5s holds onto its colors far better at high ISO’s than other systems, even the very “clean ones”. The footage I’ve viewed is somewhat reminiscent of Varicam in this respect, no doubt an added benefit to the inheritance of dual iso’s. This might alter your initial impressions, although you didn’t list varicam alongside Red and Alexa, so perhaps the panny’s are not for you personally. I happen to rather like their aesthetic.
Also, so far I haven’t seen anything conclusive, but I would suspect the sensor in th gh5s should produce more DR and a smoother highlight roll off compared to the original gh5, which to me is a far more attractive quality in many cases than stabilization, but of course it’s yet to been seen if this is the case.
That’s great to hear. I suspect at ISO 2500 the colors must look fantastic (since of course it’s the base), and if it does if fact produce better DR then that would be a huge factor for me. I guess we will need to wait and see!
Better sensitivity isn’t just for shooting at higher ISO levels it also generally means cleaner V-log at ISO400 and above. The shadows will overall have cleaner details which means the grade can recover those shadows a lot better. The dual ISO also means ISO2500 can have the maximum dynamic range so it helps to keep the dynamic range around 12 stops when a little more ISO is needed. A lot of TV productions using the Varicam make great use of the dual ISO so the outdoor and indoor shots can have the same level of noise and dynamic range. Even the Sony A7S drops to 11 stops when shooting at ISO 2500 so indoors the GH5s may actually be the dynamic range camera to beat.
The initial reaction to better sensitivity much like the Sony A7S is to go out and shoot sans lights but really it is about better overall quality even at the more typical ISO ranges. The dual ISO provides choices for different environments where the key isn’t to eliminate lights but have more flexibility in the amount of lights added to the scene. Lower output LED lights become more of a realistic option because of the dual native ISO.
Excellent point, Thomas. And thank you for making the distinction here… Can’t wait to see what the GH5S does – Panny might even win me back as a customer.
Thanks for sharing your opinion on the GH5S. I’m currently researching a new camera to buy. I look forward to reading your full review in the future!
Thanks Tim! Looking forward to it as well.
Hi Noam – thanks for your thoughts. Always enjoy reading your stuff. I tend to agree with you on your analysis of the GH5 versus the GH5s – with one caveat. There may be a few low-light “verite” situations where a GH5s shooting native ISO 2500 on a pistol grip style gimbal is less obtrusive than a handheld GH5 with a light.
Good point, Bill. Thank you for this!