What's new and how it compares

As we've come to expect from Panasonic, the Lumix DC-S5 includes versatile tools for both stills and video and includes upgrades to Panasonic's DFD contrast-detect-based autofocus system.

Key Takeaways

  • Includes many of the video features found on the more expensive S1H, though not the highest bit rate codecs
  • Updates to Panasonic's DFD autofocus system promise improved subject recognition and speedier AF calculations
  • Multi-shot 96MP high res mode can output JPEG and Raw
  • Live view composite mode opens the door to some creative photo opportunities.

Video capture

Panasonic cameras have become somewhat synonymous with video, and the S5 is no exception. It can capture video at up to 4K/30p in full-frame mode (with support for 10-bit 4:2:2 color), as well as up to 4K/60p when using APS-C/Super35 mode or a 1:1 native pixel region of the sensor (a 1.56x crop). The S5 carries over most of the capture tools from the S1H, as well as anamorphic capture: we'll go into further depth later in the review.

In recognition of changing trends in the video world, the camera supports vertical video recording, automatically detecting orientation so that videos playback in vertical format.

Autofocus

Like other Lumix models, the S5 relies on Panasonic’s Depth from Defocus AF system, which uses standard contrast-detect AF in combination with known optical characteristics of each lens, to calculate distance to subject and drive the lens accordingly. We’ve generally seen more refined AF from phase detect systems, but Panasonic continues to iterate on the technology.

AF improvements on the S5 fall into two general categories: better and faster recognition of subjects (using deep learning technology) and improvements to the way DFD calculations are made.

The S5 includes a head-detection algorithm in addition to face, eye and body recognition.

To start, the S5 includes a head-detection algorithm in addition to face, eye and body recognition, so that the camera is less likely to struggle when a subject turns away from the camera. Additionally, it can now detect a face that takes up as little as 2.5% of the frame, versus 5% on other S-series cameras. Other tweaks allow the S5 to make autofocus calculations 60 times a second for bodies and faces, whereas the company's other models do so at 12 and 30 calculations a second, respectively.

DPReview TV's Jordan Drake compared the updated autofocus on the S5 to the Panasonic S1H. Find out what he discovered in this early test.

Secondly, the S5 relies more on DFD in continuous autofocus than contrast detection relative to previous models. We'll go into more detail on this later in the review, but in use, this means the S5 shows less hunting and refocusing 'flutter' when composing shots, which was distracting and made it hard to follow moving subjects.

Where DFD has historically been most challenged is video, since any imperfections in continuous autofocus, like hunting or pulsing, will show up in your final work product. However, the benefits of DFD are still reduced in video mode because of its frame rate limitations. While shooting video, the camera simply cannot sample the sensor at the same rate as it can when shooting stills.

That's not to say there aren’t AF improvements in video; thanks to head detection and improved deep learning algorithms, the camera should still do a better job of identifying and sticking to a subject.

Live view composite mode

The S5 isn’t the first Panasonic camera to include a Live View Composite mode, but it’s the first full-frame model to do so. In this mode, the camera takes a series of images, either continuously or at set intervals up to 8 seconds, adding any new light detected during each exposure to the composite image while ignoring pixels with no change in brightness.

The S5 isn’t the first Panasonic camera to include a Live View Composite mode, but it’s the first full-frame model to do so.

Following each successive exposure, the camera updates the composite image on the live display, creating a sort of real-time bulb mode. This can be useful for applications like star photography or light painting as it allows users to see the image evolve in real-time without overexposing areas where light levels remain constant, like the night sky.

This feature has already appeared on some Olympus models, but it's nice to see other makers adding it as well.

High-resolution mode

We’ve been impressed with previous iterations of Panasonic’s high-resolution mode, in which the camera shifts the sensor eight times to effectively cancel out the Bayer color filter and increase resolution by a factor of four, to 96MP. New on the S5 is the ability to generate a 96MP in-camera JPEG image, in contrast to earlier models that would only output a high-resolution Raw file.

The S5's high-resolution mode can capture a 96MP Raw+JPEG file, using as little as a single frame of data in areas of movement. The full resolution image can be seen here.
ISO 500 | 1/500 sec | F8 | Panasonic 24-70mm F2.8 at 58mm

High-resolution capture provides two modes of operation: standard and motion reduction. In the latter mode, the S5 can analyze the scene and only use the areas in which moving subjects are not present. In theory, this makes it possible to produce a high-resolution JPEG image from a scene with subject movement that would be difficult to replicate outside the camera. Both modes still require that photos be shot from a tripod.

Shutter optimizations

High-resolution cameras can experience image shake from the vibrations induced by the shutter mechanism. A common fix is to use electronic first curtain shutter (EFCS) in place of the mechanical shutter. However, EFCS has its own drawbacks, such as impacting the appearance of bokeh at very high shutter speeds. In a perfect world, the camera would use EFCS when needed and revert to mechanical shutter when not.

The S5 aims to do just that and can automatically switch between EFCS and mechanical shutter based on the specific camera and lens combination used, where shutter shock occurs at known shutter speeds.

Compared to...

The S5 lands squarely in the middle of the mid-range full-frame camera segment, arguably the most competitive category within the full-frame market. Its main competitors are the Sony a7 III and Nikon Z6 II, which launched at similar price points but typically sell for less a couple of years after being introduced, and the Canon EOS R6, which is slightly more expensive than the rest of the group.

Panasonic S5 Canon EOS R6 Nikon Z6 II Sony a7 III
MSRP (body) $1999 $2499 $1999 $1999
Pixel count 24MP 20MP 24MP 24MP
Sensor tech CMOS CMOS BSI-CMOS BSI-CMOS
AF system Depth from Defocus
(Contrast Detection-based)

Dual Pixel
(On-sensor PDAF)

On-sensor PDAF On-sensor PDAF
Image stabilization 5-axis + sync with lens IS 5-axis + sync with lens IS 5-axis 5-axis
CIPA rating Up to 6.5EV Up to 8EV Up to 5EV Up to 5EV
Maximum frame rate

7 fps (AF-S)
5 fps (AF-C)

12 fps mech shutter
20 fps electronic
12 fps
(12-bit Raw)
10 fps
Flash Sync speed 1/250 sec 1/250 sec* 1/200 sec 1/250 sec
High Res mode Yes No No No
Viewfinder
res / mag
2.36M dots / 0.74x 3.68M dots
/ 0.76x
3.68M dots
/ 0.80x
2.36M dots / 0.78x
Rear screen 1.84M-dot fully articulated touchscreen 1.62M-dot fully articulated touchscreen 2.1M-dot tilting touchscreen 921k-dot tilting touchscreen
AF joystick Yes Yes Yes Yes
Top-plate settings display No No Yes No
Video capture DCI/UHD 4K 30p (full sensor)
DCI/UHD 4K 60p (1.5x Crop)
UHD 4K 60p
(1.05x crop)

UHD 4K 30p
(full sensor)
UHD 4K 24p
(full sensor)
UHD 4K 30p
(1.2x Crop)
Log/HDR modes

V-Log/V-Gamut
HLG
10-bit

C-Log
HDR PQ
10-bit

N-Log
10-bit (HDMI)
S-Log2 / 3 / HLG
8-bit
Memory cards 1x UHS-II SD
1x UHS-I SD
Dual UHS-II SD 1x UHS-II SD
1X CFe/XQD
1x UHS-II SD
1x UHS-I SD
Battery life (CIPA) LCD/EVF 440 / 470 510 / 380 410 / 340 710 / 610
USB charging Yes Yes Yes Yes
Dimensions 133 x 97 x 82 mm 138 x 98 x 88 mm 134 x 101 x 70 mm 127 x 96 x 74 mm
Weight (CIPA) 714 g 680 g 705 g 650 g

* In electronic first-curtain mode: 1/200th with mechanical shutter

Based on specs, the S5 is certainly competitive within its peer group. It's not the model to get if fast burst shooting is a priority. Still, it's similar in most respects and has some of the better video capabilities in the group, along with the EOS R6 (though the R6 has its own limitations due to thermal challenges). One thing the spec sheet doesn't reveal, however, is that the S5's video specs are backed up by some handy video tools that make it easier to leverage those capabilities.