Hands-on with the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 At first glance, the GH5 looks a lot like the GH4, but this hides probably the biggest step forward the GH series has made since its introduction. Like the previous iterations, Panasonic has been speaking with a range of video users to make sure the features they need are incorporated and work the way they want.
There are a host of technology improvements that make the GH5 significantly more capable than its predecessor.
The camera starts off as very capable, right from launch, but some of its functions won't be available immediately. Panasonic has announced a series of features (including 10-bit 4:2:2 capture of 1080p video) that will arrive as part of a firmware update in April 2017. A second update in the summer will bring further capabilities, including 400Mbps All-Intra compression and higher-res capture of anamorphic video.
As we take a closer look at the camera here, we'll discuss the camera's eventual full capability, but will try to make clear when a feature not available at launch is being discussed.
GH5 video features
On the video side of things, the GH5 gains UHD 4K shooting at up to 60p and DCI shooting as up to 48p. Significantly, all of the camera's 4K video modes are taken from the full width of the sensor and have no time limits imposed on them, so you can shoot without any horizontal crop for as long as your cards or battery will allow.
This will make it easier to shoot wide-angle scenes than with its predecessor and, though use of a larger sensor area, should improve video quality. And that's before we get to the camera's more advanced processing.
Video beyond the headline figures
Dig a little deeper and the full extent of the improvements becomes apparent. The GH5 is the first in the series to gain image stabilization, with 5-axis image stabilization for both stills and video shooting (combined digital/sensor shift stabilization for video).
In addition, there's the all-important small-print when it comes to the video spec. The GH5 will capture 10-bit 4:2:2 video at up to 4K/30p internally. If you're willing to use an external recorder, you can get 10-bit 4:2:2 footage at up to 60p over the HDMI socket.
For full details of this, read our in-depth First Impressions Review, where we discuss the importance of adding waveforms and vectorscopes, and the camera's clever focus assist feature.
GH5 for stills shooting
But, as Panasonic is always at pains to stress, the GH5 isn't just about video capture and the company has done a lot of work on the stills side of things.
More processing power allows more sophisticated image processing. These improvements include more subtle sharpening that we're told will enhance fine detail without creating exaggerated haloing at the fringes. Improved processing also promises better-targeted noise reduction. Panasonic was one of the first companies to introduce context-sensitive noise reduction and the system on the GH5 promises to be better at distinguishing between noise and detail, so it can suppress one and preserve the other.
Panasonic also says it's done work on the camera's color rendition, so we look forward to seeing the results.
The GH5 gains a full-size HDMI socket and comes with a screw-in HDMI cable retainer, to give a more reliable, more durable means of connecting the camera to an external recorder.
The camera's headphone socket has also been moved up very slightly compared with the GH4, so we're hoping this means it doesn't clash so awkwardly when the fully articulated screen is flipped out.
New, faster sensor
The camera is built around a 20MP Four Thirds sensor with no AA filter. Additional processing power means that the camera's JPEG engine can calculate pixel values based on data from a larger area of imaging sites, reducing moire and increasing detail, the company says.
In addition, the camera's sensor readout is faster, bringing benefits for AF speed as well as reducing rolling shutter effect in video.
Panasonic has opted not to make too many changes to the camera's ergonomics, so most GH4 users will be able to pick the camera up and start shooting almost immediately.
One of the biggest changes though is the movement of the [REC] button to the camera's top plate. We're not sure whether there are significant benefits to one position, rather than the other, in terms of shaking the initial part of each video clip, or whether one is easier to access when the camera's embedded in a rig, but the button is large and prominent in its new home.
On the back of the camera is the other big ergonomic change: the addition of a joystick to control the camera's AF, in addition to touchscreen control.
The camera's AF has been given a significant update. The system samples the scene at a higher speed but in addition to this, its underlying algorithms have been updated and the level of control increased. The GH5 can continuous autofocus when shooting at up to 9 fps.
The camera's depth-from-defocus system now assesses the scene in more detail and, we're told, is less easily confused by movement while it's building its depth map. The GH5's AF system also allows the user to specify the behavior of the subject they're shooting, to improve the camera's success rate at following and focusing-on the correct subject.
Larger, better viewfinder
Another area in which the bare specs don't tell the whole story is the GH5's viewfinder. It's bigger (0. 76x magnification, in 35mm terms, rather than 0. 67) and higher in resolution (3,680k dots, rather than 2,360k dots), but that doesn't really convey just how much better it is.
The screen looks remarkably realistic: to the point that the DPR writers in the product briefing each did a double-take when first holding the camera up to their eyes.
DMW-GGH5 Battery Grip
In the place of the pro-video-centric 'YAGH' interface box, the GH5 will instead by compatible with a more conventional photographers' battery grip. The DMW-BGGH5 adds a second battery and duplicates all the camera's key controls for shooting in the portrait orientation. It features the same level of weather sealing as the camera body.
With the 'YAGH' interface unit no more, Panasonic has created an optional adapter for attaching two XLR connector external mics. The DMW-XLR1 has two full-sized XLR sockets and full physical controls for adjusting mic levels on the fly. It draws its power from the camera's battery, so it doesn't add to the number of separate batteries you need to keep charged, and supports phantom power if your mics require it.
The camera's menus have also been subject to a major refresh. Smaller type and less of a gap between each menu option means all the options can be fitted onto fewer pages. The camera's Custom Setup menu has also been split into named sub-sections, making it easier to find the option you want, and bringing the camera into line with what we consider best practice.
Finally, the camera gains a user-populated 'My Menu' tab into which you can add your most-used functions, to avoid having to delve around in the rest of the menu to find them.
The GH5 will immediately endear itself to existing users by continuing to use the same battery as the GH4 and GH3.
Panasonic hasn't yet said what impact the camera's greater processing power will have on battery life, so the decision to use the same battery might be a slightly mixed blessing. Still, it's one of the highest-capacity batteries used in a mirrorless camera, so we're not too concerned about this.
Twin card slots
The GH5 has twin card slots, both of which are UHS II style. These can make use not only of the U3 speed class, which guarantee 30MB/s sustained read and write, but will also be able to make full use of the V60 standard cards that double this capability. This will become more pressing when the 400Mbps (50MB/s) All-I video modes become available with the GH5's summer update.
The card slots can be used such that video writing auto-switches when the first card is full. That first card can then be hot-swapped and the camera will switch back to writing to a fresh card when slot 2 is full.
No built-in flash
A close look at the GH5 reveals that there's no built-in flash anymore. This will require the use of an external flashgun, such as the DMW-FL200L, pictured. Alternatively the hotshoe can be used to power an LED panel, mount an external recorder or for use with the XLR1 adapter (which itself has a 'cold' shoe for mounting other devices on).
The GH5 isn't as overtly the processing powerhouse that Olympus's OM-D E-M1 Mark II represents, but the closer you look, the more it becomes apparent that there's a lot of grunt lurking in the GH5's familiar-looking form.
Even those video users who never shoot 60p will benefit from the GH5's better-quality internal video recording and full sensor-width capture.
Meanwhile, stills users are likely to love the camera's new viewfinder, improved JPEG processing and more advanced autofocus. To fully appreciate the full extent of the GH5's new features, read our in-depth First Impressions Review.
The Panasonic GH5 will be available in late March for $1999 (body only).. dpreview.com