Panasonic GH5 Shooting Experience

By Dale Baskin

For many videographers, the Panasonic GH5 has been like the Shangri-La of the stills/video hybrid camera world: an imagined paradise, nay, a Utopia. You knew the GH5 was coming (OK, you really, really hoped it was coming...), and you crossed your fingers that it would meet your expectations.

Well, it's here, and for videographers it was worth the wait.

I've had the opportunity to use every GH series camera going back to the original GH1, and every model added features that got you closer to where you really wanted to be. (Oh, the days of firmware hacking!) The GH4 got close. But the GH5 is the camera that crossed the chasm to become a great video tool.

It's a GH family reunion. The GH isn't the scrawny kid it once was. (Click to enlarge.)

My first opportunity to shoot with a production GH5 was during a visit by the Panasonic team to our offices in Seattle, when we visited a local distillery for a tour. They handed us two cameras in the back of a car, and we had, at most, 10-15 minutes to get everything dialed in.

Based on my experience with the GH series, I was able to reset the camera and configure all my preferred settings (of which there are many) before we arrived. I also had enough time to assign custom buttons and to explore the new video scopes. Easy.

Speaking of scopes, the waveform display is one of my favorite new features on the GH5. It makes it much easier to judge exposure when shooting video, so I immediately assigned it to a custom button for easy access.

The waveform monitor on the GH5 makes it very easy to judge exposure while shooting video. I just wish I could move it a little further into the corner of the screen.

My other favorite new feature is the built-in LUT display. When shooting in Log it can be difficult to visualize what your graded footage will look like, and shooting with a LUT, which allows me to see a close approximation of the look I'll get when I apply a LUT in post, is tremendously helpful. To be fair, the GH5 isn't the first stills camera to have this feature (for example, the Sony a6300/a6500 include a Gamma Display Assist function), however it makes a camera designed for shooting video much easier to actually use for shooting video.

I used both features extensively for an afternoon of shooting at Seattle's Pike Place Market. Despite it being an overcast day (because Seattle), I needed to gauge my exposure carefully due to a combination of bright light and poorly illuminated subjects. It was much easier to do this with a waveform than a histogram because I could actually visualize the exposure across the frame.

While shooting, I toggled on the internal LUT display using the built-in Rec.709 profile, and it gave me a fairly accurate representation of what my footage would look like when I was ready to start color grading.

Video shot with the GH5 in 4K/24p using VLog and 4:2:2 10-bit color settings. I set the camera to auto white balance in order to test WB accuracy, and left WB untouched in editing. I also applied fairly minimal color grading (beyond applying a Rec.709 LUT) to show what out-of-camera footage looks like. Sound was recorded using the in-camera microphones.
Video by Dale Baskin

As a video tool, the GH5 is hampered a bit due to its still camera form factor. However, if we accept the basic premise that it's a still/video hybrid camera, Panasonic has done a remarkably good job of designing it in such a way that it works well for both purposes. This is especially true if you take advantage of the custom function buttons.

My preferred setup is to assign focus peaking to Fn1, LUT toggling to Fn3, video scopes to Fn4, and zebras to Fn6 on the front of the camera. I leave Fn2 and Fn5 at their factory settings to control the Q Menu and EVF, respectively. With this setup, I have all the basic tools I need while shooting just one or two button taps away.

On the topic of customization, I want to give a shout out to Panasonic for providing the option to save settings to a card. (Yay!) Now you can clone settings from one camera to another, keep a backup, or even maintain a library of settings for different situations. It's also useful when Carey Rose grabs the camera off your desk to 'quickly check something' and proceeds to reset it to factory settings.

By the way, did I mention that the video is beautiful? I won't go into detail here as we've covered this elsewhere in the review, but it's very easy to work with and grades nicely. The screen captures below illustrate this point.

To avoid the hard tone curve of the camera's built-in picture profiles, I shot this footage in VLog, then lightly graded it to achieve a more dreamy, cinematic look.
Frames from video by Dale Baskin

I wanted to capture a slightly dreamy look, but that's often difficult to do with the built-in picture profiles on most cameras. They tend to have higher contrast tone curves and punchy colors, and typically deliver a distinctly 'video' look. Instead, I shot in VLog, then lightly graded the footage. To me it looks more cinematic than the baked-in picture profiles.

The GH5 isn't perfect – I sure do wish I could move that waveform a bit further from the center of the screen – but most of its flaws, at least for the way I shoot, are manageable. As a total package it's exceptional in its design, performance, and value. A lot of videographers are going to love this camera.