Panasonic Lumix GH5: the complete review 2020

    Panasonic Lumix GH5: the complete test

    The paradox of GH is that these cameras born in 2009 with the first GH1 are almost unknown to photographers. Suffering from an image of consumer camera manufacturer, Panasonic only affected videographers with its Micro 4/3 hybrid. An imbalance that the engineers of Panasonic have worked to correct with the Lumix GH5, flagship of the hybrids of the Japanese brand, a box that intends to both ensure its dominance in the video segment while touching – finally! – photographers. Anatomy of the case which arises in “perfect fusion”.

    Call it “tank”

    Contrary to the first hybrids launched in recent years, the GH5 is a big box. Many comparisons highlight the greater compactness of Sony’s Alpha A7 cameras compared to the GH5. The problem with this charge demonstration against Panasonic is that the Panasonic engineers were, in our opinion, right. The GH5 is certainly bigger than an Alpha 7 … but it’s a good thing: it fits better in the hand, has many controls large enough to be easily manipulated and accessible. And it is above all built like a tank: ballasted with a 24-70 mm G Master, an Alpha A7 does not seem able to take the slighreview serious fall. The GH5 offers a reassuring touch and certifications of resistance (cold, dust, humidity) which promise its survival in the face of aggressions on the ground. Constraints that it will accept all the better as its optics – small sensor requires – are less heavy.

    The GH5 is also heavier than an A7x, but as soon as you add the optics, the balance is in favor of the GH5 as the optics are light. And when we talk about balance, it is as much in terms of weight as balance, much better with the GH5 (the A7x are sometimes too light for larger zooms).

    Panasonic has managed to get away from this absurd race for miniaturization, a miniaturization which does not have to be in all segments – especially on a professional device – and which must never harm ergonomics.

    High-end equipment

    The second half of 2016 marked the “pro” turning point for hybrids with equipment quality rising sharply in the high-end segment and 2017 sees the trend grow. Like the Fujifilm X-T2, Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and other Sony Alpha A9, the Panasonic GH5 benefits from components and equipment worthy of professional devices. It thus receives the first dual memory card slot in the history of Panasonic enclosures. And the best double slot since the GH5 is the only box to take advantage of two UHS-II slots that support high-speed memory cards (Fujifilm, Sony and Olympus are content with only one UHS-II slot, the second being a UHS-1).

    To this is added a magnificent electronic viewfinder of 3.68 Mpix (only the Leica SL does better) and an LCD touch screen of the same ilk since it displays 1.62 Mpix. With its very video positioning, it receives a full-format HDMI socket which will prevent operators from playing with adapters and, the icing on the cake, it comes with a cable pass tool that can be screwed to the side of the device. .

    Professional audio connectivity has not been forgotten but instead of the very bulky video grip of the GH4, the GH5 benefits from a new optional accessory that plugs into the hot shoe – smaller, lighter and cheaper (399 €).

    Professional ergonomics

    The race for performance tends to overshadow, especially in our ratings, the impact of ergonomics. However, with technical performance (AF, ISO, definition) now of good level among all manufacturers, ergonomics is now an important axis of differentiation for brands. And the GH5 has been the object of extreme care by the development teams. As both a photo and video camera, the new high-end hybrid from Panasonic imposed complex ergonomic specifications.

    And the result is impressive: addition of a well-placed joystick, larger and robust encoder wheel, spreading of large legible controls on the top of the device, repositioning of intelligent controls, adapted sockets (classic HDMI) and modern (USB- C), etc. the GH5 is from the point of view of the reviewer almost faultless. Only tastes and habits, strong among users accustomed to a brand, will find fault. But from a neutral point of view, the contract is fully fulfilled, especially since as an “image machine”, the GH5 brings the feeling of robustness that many of its competitors lack. It may be just a matter of feeling, but photography and video are disciplines for which “feeling” can have a big impact.

    Small sensor: making weakness a strength

    The Micro 4/3 sensor is logically inferior to the full-format sensor with regard to the details of the images when they are observed at 100%, both in terms of increased sensitivity (ISO) and in terms of the sharpness of the sharpness (bokeh). Fortunately, this small size gives it many advantages: autofocus speed, burst rate, precision and speed of AF in video, clutter of optics, sharpness of images (landscapes, street-photography, etc.).

    Besides the fact that the GH5 has largely reached the threshold of sufficient image quality and that many f / 1.2 optics are now available in the Micro 4/3 mount – enough to compensate for the slightly wider depth of field – this format allows Panasonic to offer a handy box that weighs barely a kilogram with its Leica 12-60 optics (read below) when the slighreview full-frame SLR equipped with a 24-70 mm f / 2.8 weighs almost the double. Usage is thus on the side of the GH5, large enough to be resistant and hand-held, light enough with its optics to be transported everywhere comfortably.

    Ultimately, what matters is how a manufacturer masters its components. And Panasonic is starting to seriously manage the Micro 4/3 in photo as in video, THE field in which this GH is most awaited.

    Video: the teacher’s lesson

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    Talking and reviewing the video of this device would deserve a review (rather a book) as the features – and performance – of the GH5 are out of the ordinary. For the enthusiastic public, shooting video sequences with this war machine can be summed up as follows: wow! The options are legion, the features (zebras, v-log, uncompressed HDMI, etc.) itou, and everything from the handling through the quality of the electronics is at the service of the cameraman. But above all, the images saved on the memory card are simply superb.

    And for good reason: the GH5 offers frame rates of up to 200 mbit internally. And when we talk about 200 mbit, it is pending an update planned for the summer of 2017 which will take advantage of the arrival of ultra-fast V30 SD memory cards to shoot 4K sequences internally at 400 Mbit / s with 4: 2: 2 encoding and all encoded images (this is called “All-I” mode). Yes, you read that right: during the next firmware update that will take place in the summer of 2017, the GH5 will allow you to record a signal whose quality approaches that of a cinema camera directly into the device without going through an external HDMI recorder. Never seen.

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    Pending these updates which will make it untouchable, the GH5 is already the video champion of the hybrid / reflex segment. Its only credible competitor being Sony, whose Alpha 7 are certainly very efficient (large sensors, sensitivities of A7S, etc.) but whose functions are behind compared to those of GH5 (not 4: 2: 2 on the map memory, lower bit rates, etc.).

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    In everyday life, its flagship arguments are 4K video at 60 frames per second (in 4: 2: 0 at 150 mbit / on the memory card and in 4: 2: 2 10 bit via an external recorder connected to HDMI), 4K modes dedicated to anamorphic optics, a host of Full HD modes including a 180 fps mode. And the icing on the cake, no more registration limits. In Europe indeed, any device that records video for more than 29 minutes and 59 seconds is considered a camcorder and sees its price increased by a tax of 10% – this is why the phones and other cameras are all artificially restrained at 29 min 59s. The GH5 is to our knowledge the only camera to collect the tax and therefore allows unlimited recording time … as long as the memory card and the battery (ies) follow (wind).

    Are you impressed? The truth is that we only flew over the video features of this GH5! The reality of the attraction that this hybrid represents is appreciated in the field: the GH5 is almost everywhere out of stock as it quickly managed to seduce. It must be said that it is considered all the more like a real camera as it receives the much awaited stabilization of the sensor, a feature that really makes the difference.

    Impeccable stabilization

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    When launching its hybrids in 2008, Panasonic favored the stabilization of optics. But the Osaka brand began integrating the mechanical stabilization of the sensor in 2013 in the Lumix GX7, followed by the GX8, GX80 and G80 (to date). The GH5 takes advantage of the lareview version of this mechanical stabilization, a stabilization that tastes good to couple with those of compatible optics to offer a double operational stabilization both in photo and video. Panasonic talks about a gain of 5 speeds and that’s what we seem to achieve.

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    Compared to the GH4, the GH5 is thus much more comfortable when you frame at arm’s length, blessed bread for reporters and other amateurs of “camera in hand”, the most annoying parasitic movements being very well contained in large angle. And with the performance of the software stabilization modules, dolly-type movements are accessible to any cameraman who masters his gestures well.

    In the footsteps of Olympus and Sony, Panasonic finally has mechanical stabilization on a major video box. Compared to Olympus, Panasonic brings its video know-how (encoding, functionalities, etc.) which places it far above. Compared to Sony, its video equal, compactness and lightness of the Micro 4/3 format makes the kit much more manageable than an A7x equipped with a (very heavy) 24-70mm f / 2.8.

    A photo rendering finally at the level!

    GHs have always been praised for their video skills. The paradox is that this reputation has somewhat damaged their photographic image, the GH being so connoted “video” that they went completely under the radar of photographers. A situation that the smallness of the sensor and its past difficulties in managing high ISO has not improved. In addition, the Jpeg color rendering of the Panasonic has always been a notch below the competition … until today. Aware of their weaknesses, Panasonic engineers continue to work on color rendering and the GH5 is reaping the fruits of this work: the greens are more warm, less clinical, the tones are better preserved in low light, the default rendering has much more punch.

    Superbly served by the Panasonic Leica 12-60 mm (read further), the GH5 delivers detailed shots with pleasant colors and marked and soft backgrounds – bokeh. Yes, a full-frame sensor like that of the A7R Mark II delivers even more detailed images and amplifies the intensity of bokeh even more, but for ordinary people and photojournalists the GH5 covers most of the needs.

    These formidable performances in photo and video coupled with a resolutely professional ergonomics case immediately made us think of a case of which it seems obvious that the GH5 is the heir: the 5D Mark II.

    The real heir to the Canon EOS 5D Mark II

    The Canon full-frame SLR EOS 5D Mark II launched in 2009 surprised the industry by offering, in addition to an excellent photo partition, a video mode hitherto unprecedented in the world of photography. Its large sensor coupled with good Canon optics has enabled many freelancers – videographers, journalists, etc. – make clips with a “pro” look at a lower cost. The 5D Mark II was (still is!) Popular with photojournalists and the film industry alike, marking a first in photo / video fusion.

    If many devices have been launched since, it seems to us that no other box has since taken up the torch of the box “good everywhere”. DSLRs have lost video leadership in favor of hybrids, but few hybrids have ergonomics and “shielding” capable of meeting the needs of field photography like the GH5 – there are indeed the X-T2, OM-D E-M1 Mark II, but they are not as good on video. As for the Sony A7 of the Mark II generation, if they are excellent in photo and video, their ergonomics, their resistances are lower …

    Compared to its ancestor the EOS 5D Mark II, the GH5 offers close ergonomics (in addition to compact), an equivalent photo service – which is remarkable since the sensor is x4 smaller – and a huge advance in video. Other notable improvements are the burst, the quality and speed of AF, the quality and performance of stabilization, connectivity, all for a more limited weight and size. The small benefits of modernity!

    AF DFD: fast and precise

    Panasonic is the only manufacturer not to rely on a hybrid autofocus (phase + contrast) but only on an AF with contrast detection through its DFD technology. Regardless of the technical considerations that drive expert debate, the result on the ground is clear: Panasonic is doing very well without phase detection. The GH5 is indeed one of the most aggressive devices and above all one of the most precise that we have reviewed. In the low light, it even pays for the luxury of being more efficient than the OM-D E-M1 Mark II and X-T2.

    The RAW burst of the OM-D E-M1 Mark II is much higher – 18 fps in continuous AF and 60 fps over 2 seconds in single AF – but most photographers will no doubt be satisfied with 9 i / s in continuous AF of GH5. Especially for certain uses, the 30 frames per second in Photo 6K mode (which goes to 60 fps in 4K!) Will be able to capture the decisive moment in Jpeg.

    In addition, there are rumors of a future update that would improve the performance of the camera in the RAW burst area.

    The other 12-60 mm …

    In 2016, Panasonic launched two 12-60mm optics. The first is the 12-60 f / 3.5-5.6 Vario Asph Power OIS that can be found on the excellent Lumix G80, an optic that immediately stood out as the best “kit” optic for consumer hybrids. The second model is the Panasonic Leica 12-60mm F / 2.8-4.0 DG Vario Asph Power OIS. Available at 999 € naked, it is another dimension than the previous one: brighter, it benefits from larger and better quality lenses, a much superior construction and suitable electronics.

    Note however that this 12-60mm f / 2.8-4 is actually an f / 2.8-3.5-4. Why did you add a 3.5? Quite simply because the value f / 2.8 is only available at 12 mm, as soon as we start to zoom in, we arrive directly at 3.5, a value which reduces to f / 4 at the end of the journey. Nothing serious, but it is better to know.

    Compared to 24-70mm f / 2.8 constant zooms, the loss of brightness is compensated by its extended range (120mm instead of 70mm) but above all by its featherweight: only 320g! At equivalent focal length, the Nikon 24-120 MM F / 4 AF-S VR G ED zoom is less bright at wide angle and weighs almost 400 g more (710 g). We can repeat the advantages of the full format, but the weight on the scale is clearly to the advantage of the Micro 4/3!

    12-60 mm, the right compromise

    If the 12-35 mm (24-70 mm equivalent) is smaller and lighter than the Leica 12-60 mm f / 2.8-4, the latter zoom is much more suited to the GH5 and its dual photo / video role. The gain in magnification is not negligible and the lareview generation stabilization further facilitates the work of the device, especially in video.

    In addition to its look, very sober and “pro” (yes, that counts), the 12-60 / Leica is very well built and achieves the feat of appearing solid while being light.

    Regarding the optical qualities, they are there with a very good level of sharpness, almost absent distortions and vignetting and few chromatic aberrations to deplore – a defect that is corrected anyway very well in software.

    DSLR autonomy

    Superior in a growing number of fields (AF, video, stabilization, burst, etc.), hybrids still carry certain handicaps compared to SLRs. Handicaps that hybrid manufacturers are striving to overcome one after the other. In addition to its technical quality (video, AF, stabilization, etc.) and its robustness which make it the current benchmark for hybrids, the GH5 brings with it a first in the world of hybrids: record autonomy. Taking over the energy management of its little brother and predecessor, the Lumix G80, the GH5 takes advantage of an energy saving mode that quickly turns off the viewfinder and the screen to plunge it into a sleep state from which it instantly wakes up. The benefit of this mode is an improvement in the astounding photo autonomy: we go from 460 to more than 1,000 images per battery charge! Plenty of food for everyday needs.

    On video Panasonic seems to have found its martingale: following the protocol of the site, we started recording a 4K UHD movie in 30p with 10bit coding. The GH5 lasted no less than two hours, an absolute record which is enough to make users of Sony’s Alpha A7 salivate! In field use – moving subjects, on / off, viewing sequences – the battery should last around 80-90 minutes of 4K video. Who says better ?

    Legitimacy, the only opponent of Panasonic

    The main concern of Panasonic to seduce is its lack of photographic notoriety. The brand is completely under the radar of many photographers, especially the pros. If Sony has quickly made a name for itself, it is thanks, in addition to its excellent full-format sensors, to its incomparable aura in multimedia. Canon and Nikon remain the benchmarks in the photo segment, Olympus and Fujifilm benefit from their long history, as does Pentax. Faced with these companies, which have sometimes been established for almost a century, Panasonic and its young brand Lumix – barely 16 years old – are struggling to be identified as a “reference” photo brand, despite its weight in the camera industry. broadcast video and cinema.

    Panasonic has so far managed to reach only two audiences: the general public on one side and the video production boxes with its GH on the other. Determined to stay in the battle of the photo, the brand should engage the marketing turbo and it works on its image via ambassadors, workshops and others. A step a little opposite of this conglomerate of Osaka which is the perfect incarnation of the “box of engineers”.


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