Review: Panasonic’s Lumix GH5 is ultimate model for vloggers
Panasonic Lumix GH5 (€1,929) Pros: Unrivalled video capabilities, superb autofocus, good image quality Cons: A little chunkier and heavier than it needs to be IN the shrinking camera world, companies are starting to specialise in niches with their flagship models. For Canon, it’s the all-round professional stills camera. For Fuji, it’s the trendy, metal retro look. And for Panasonic, it’s video.
The company’s most recent high-end camera, the GH5, now stands alone as the absolute best model you can get if taking video is a significant part of what you use your camera for. From amateur vloggers to professional production companies, it is to this small camera that many now turn.
I had it for six weeks and used it mainly as a stills camera, with only a bit of video thrown in. In doing so, I am probably a little off the GH5’s principal intended market. Nevertheless, the output of the camera was good to excellent most of the time. (This was helped by the superb Leica 12-60mm f2.8 lens, which comes with the camera at a heavy discount.)
The GH5 is a 20-megapixel mirrorless camera using the Micro Four Thirds sensor system. This is a little smaller than an APS- C sensor (such as that on a Fuji ‘X’ camera or a mid-range Canon) and only about half the size of a ‘full frame’ sensor (such as on the Sony A7, Canon 6Dii or Nikon D610). But it is still big enough to deliver fairly outstanding image quality, especially with some of the lenses that Panasonic now has in its arsenal.
I relished some of its top-end features, such as a dual card slot (essential to professionals) and a focusing joystick.
I also enjoyed playing with some of the effects of its souped-up engine specifications, such as its ‘6K photo mode’. This effectively lets you shoot video at 30 frames per second and, later, extract any one of those frames as an 18-megapixel still image. There are obviously some limitations to this, but if you have the basic lighting right to start off, it’s a pretty amazing feature to have when you’re trying to capture a perfect moment.
I’ ll also say that the GH5 was absolutely superb in ‘quick photo’ situations where I didn’t have time to manually adjust settings and had to rely on its automatic mode. Here, its light metering and dynamic range were matched any other camera I’ve ever used.
In low light, the camera held up relatively well too, although it doesn’t match the Canon 6D in this regard.
Panasonic has absolutely nailed autofocus speed on this device. This camera’s 225-point system is a big step up to what most machines at this level offer.
As a mirrorless camera, the GH5 can shoot completely silently. This is one of my favourite features of mirrorless snappers. In particular, it makes it a far more appealing device to bring to functions.
That said, the GH5 is much chunkier and heavier than any other Panasonic camera. This is partially to make room for some of the professional features it has, such as dual card slots and audio ports and a good-sized battery.
But it’s partially also to give the camera a more solid ‘feel’ for those who are planning to use this as a tool in video-making.
The upside to this bigger form is more space between buttons and dials (hitting the wrong one is an occasional problem on the likes of the GX80 or GX8).
The downside is extra weight: the GH5’s extra heft made it less likely to go in my bag ‘in case I needed a camera’. (I currently use an older Panasonic GX7, which is wonderful in this regard – it’s about two thirds of the weight and size. As a result, I often bring it around on spec.) A quick word about buying into Panasonic’s lens system. In my experience, the Micro Four Thirds system is very underrated. Also supported by a well of good Olympus glass, Panasonic is now way ahead of rivals such as Fuji in the number of lenses available. It is arguably a solid third behind Canon and Nikon (although Sony would say that it has more top-end professional lenses for stills shooting). I had the Leica 12-60 f2.8 with this camera. I would highly recommend getting it if you buy the GH5, especially as it’s half its normal price (€500 compared to €1,000) when purchased at the same time. There is a cheaper Panasonic kit lens that costs €200 if you buy it with the GH5, a discount of €250.
As I said before, the GH5 is mainly about video. In terms of what it records and how it records it, there’s little to compare at this price point. It shoots 4K at 60 frames per second, way above any other camera it’s competing with. It also shoots 1080p ‘full HD’ at 180 frames per second, which effectively allows for slow motion video. For videographers, there are 3.5mm mics in and out, with external recording via USB- C and HDMI. There is also a host of other professional-level features from time stamps to focus peaking.
Honestly, I just didn’t use these features: I’m not a videographer. And therein lies the rub for me. The GH5 is an excellent piece of kit and one of the best-performing cameras you can buy for under €2,000.
However, its clear advantage lies in its video prowess. If you were mainly interested in taking still photos, there are many other cameras that are at least as impressive. In particular, Fuji’s (cheaper) X-T2 is hard to beat in this field. Canon’s new 6D Mark ii may edge the GH5 as a stills camera (although bear in mind that it costs almost €300 more and is a bit chunkier and heavier).
If video is a growing part of your repertoire, this beats all comers for the money. But if it isn’t, this may not be the right standalone camera to get, as capable as it is.
There are few professional still photographers I know using a GH5. For landscape purists, a bigger ‘full frame’ sensor on a Canon, Nikon or Sony is almost always the preferred option.
The same goes for portrait photographers (even though Panasonic’s 85mm-equivalent Nocticron Leica lens is one of the best portrait lenses I have ever used on any camera, matching Canon’s prized 85mm f1.2 model).
So for a still photographer, I can’t help thinking that one of Panasonic’s slimmer, cheaper (but equally impressive for image output) models such as the GX8 wouldn’t be better.
‘Panasonic has absolutely nailed autofocus speed on this device with a 225-point system’