The GH-series has always been synonymous with video. With the GH5, Panasonic has made some significant additions aimed at video shooters, some of which are typically found only on pro video equipment.

Waveforms

One big addition that shows how much effort Panasonic is making to court videographers is the addition of waveform and vectorscope displays - the first stills/video hybrid camera we've encountered to feature them.

A waveform display is a tool to help visualize luminance/exposure. It's common on pro video equipment as well as in video editing software. Rather than a histogram, which just tells you how many pixels hold each brightness value, a waveform tell you where those pixels occur in the image. The waveform diagram shows the brightness values for every column of pixels in the image: dark at the bottom, bright at the top.

An example of a video with a waveform display below it. Note the way the graph dips where the rider, in his dark clothes, appears. This screen grab, taken from Final Cut Pro, also shows the color of each region, which isn't the case on the GH5.

As soon as you see it in action (watching a dip in the graph traverse the display as a dark object crosses the frame, for instance), it becomes easy to interpret. Anyone with a video background will appreciate the addition and photographers should, too.

It's worth noting that the GH5's implementation only represents luminance (as opposed to viewing the red, green and blue components separately) and can only be used in a small part of the screen, but regardless it's a useful and significant addition.

The GH5 also gains a vectorscope display, which displays the distribution of color within the image. Again, this is a visualization tool that will be immediately familiar to anyone with video editing experience.

This increased effort to accommodate videographers can also be seen in the ability to report exposure duration as shutter angle (for those users with a film shooting background) and to display sensitivity as gain instead of ISO (for users familiar with video cameras).

Improved noise reduction in video

The camera's improved processing doesn't apply only to stills. Video noise reduction is hugely improved, both in terms of detail retention but also in terms of temporal noise: the flickering appearance that comes from the random distribution of noise changing, frame-to-frame.

In a demonstration of the GH5 using a fairly typical scene, lined-up against the same scene shot with the GH4, we were really impressed by the degree to which this distracting movement in areas of low detail has been removed. We look forward to providing a comparison once we get a proper test unit.

Focus Transition function

In addition to the GH5's updated Depth from Defocus autofocus, it also gains a 'Focus Transition' function. This allows the operator to define three focus depths before recording begins, then selectively switch between them, as they shoot.

This means, if you're able to block a scene (prescribe the subjects' movement in advance), you can tell the camera to focus to specific distances in a smooth, controlled manner without any risk of overshoot that can come from autofocus or manual focus using peaking. The Focus Transition function allows you to choose the refocus speed (in five steps).

This feature will likely appeal to narrative filmmakers or those shooting pre-blocked scenes, such as product videos. It provides a similar solution to using touch-to-focus to rack focus between subjects, but removes any and all variability that might be introduced by an autofocus system.

Anamorphic shooting

Another feature scheduled to arrive with the summer firmware update is an extended anamorphic mode for shooting with lenses that have a wider angle of view horizontally than vertically, meaning that they 'squeeze' super-wide footage horizontally in order to capture the entire image onto the sensor. Out of the box the camera will allow 4:3 video capture at up to 3328 x 2496 resolution at 59.94 and 50p in 8-bit or 29.97, 23.98 and 25p. The April firmware update will add 150Mbps 10-bit 4:2:2 for 29.97p (and slower frame rates), with 400Mbps All-I compression being added in the summer.

The summer update will also allow the camera will capture an even larger 4:3 region sensor area at up to 24p. At this point, Panasonic says it will use a '6K' region which is likely to either mean the same 4992 x 3744 pixel area used for 6K Photo mode (which can be shot at up to 30p) or possibly the entire 5184 x 3888 sensor area.

Improved audio capture

Although the built-in microphones look fairly standard, the GH5 includes sophisticated circuitry and algorithms to help remove mechanical and operational noise while recording.

In addition to the optional DMW-XLR1 accessory mic unit, the GH5 gains more sophisticated noise cancelling for internal audio capture. In addition to revised algorithms, the camera gains a small microphone that detects operational noise (hands moving on the camera, zoom and focus motor noise) and subtracts it from the audio feed.

Fast and slow speed video

With its ability to shoot 1080 footage at up to 180 frames per second and UHD 4K at up to 60 fps, the GH5 is able to offer an extended range of slow-motion capture: up to 7.5x slow-mo in 1080 and 2.5x in UHD 4K. The camera can also shoot down as low as 2 frames per second for sped-up footage.