Conclusion

Pros Cons
  • New 20MP sensor gives increase in resolution without increase in noise
  • Highly impressive video specifications (4:2:2 10-bit color, 4K/60p)
  • Full sensor 4K capture with oversampling gives great detail
  • Big, high resolution viewfinder
  • Waveform and vectorscope displays
  • Optional Log gamma profile for video
  • Built-in LUT display when shooting Log
  • Auto ISO added for manual movie shooting
  • Improved AF performance and customizability
  • Improved temporal noise in video
  • JPEG color improved
  • Dual UHS-II card slots, support for faster V60 cards in the future
  • Solid, weather-sealed build
  • AF joystick
  • Improved menus
  • New 6K Photo mode, alongside existing 4K Photo and Post Focus modes
  • Wi-Fi with Bluetooth LE
  • Settings can be saved to card
  • Same battery as GH4
  • On the larger end of the Micro Four Thirds spectrum
  • JPEG sharpening improved over GH4, but still has room for improvement
  • Viewfinder resolution drops noticeably during high speed bursts
  • Necessity for AF tracking to be 'cancelled' gets in the way of shooting
  • Autofocus in video can exhibit focus hunting
  • Slight decrease in video quality when shooting high frame rates (180fps)
  • Battery life decrease compared to GH4

Overall Conclusion

The GH5 records beautiful video, including high quality Log video, that is very easy to color grade.
Frame from video by Dale Baskin

Review and conclusions based on use with Firmware v1.0. A list of the changes added in firmware v2.0 is included and we hope to test these features soon.

Let's stipulate up front that video is what's driving most of the interest in the GH5.It's packed with video features, several of which we've never seen on a stills camera before. But don't assume the GH5 is only about video. Panasonic has done a lot of work to improve it as a photography tool as well.

The GH5 hits some numbers which are important to serious videographers: 4:2:2 color and 10-bit video, recorded internally. This means the GH5 can capture twice as much color data, in 64 times as much color depth, as cameras shooting 4:2:0 8-bit video.

Equally important are tools for shooting video, such as VLog gamma, built-in LUT display, and waveform and vectorscope monitors. With the GH5, Panasonic has blurred the line between its pro video and still cameras to create a product that appropriately meets the needs of its users. As video becomes more important, we'd love to see more companies follow this path.

One issue that will be controversial is the $99 upgrade to enable VLog gamma. While Panasonic says this will limit its use to those who actually understand how to use it, we feel it's the wrong approach. The GH5 is not only the flagship in Panasonic's Lumix line, but a camera that will likely become a reference against which others are measured. Omitting a key video feature just isn't consistent with its keystone position in the market. We're not opposed to Panasonic having a deliberate process to enable the feature, but if there's any camera that should have Log video built into the price, the GH5 is it.

In terms of stills, the updated 20MP sensor in the GH5 offers higher resolution than the GH4 without significantly impacting noise levels, default JPEG output has been improved in some respects, and the new autofocus system makes it more capable for sports and action than you might expect.

But wait, there's more! Panasonic has already announced two firmware updates that will land in 2017, which will significantly improve the camera's video capabilities, adding 4:2:2 10-bit support for 1080p, and a 400Mbps All-Intra codec for 4K shooting. But make no mistake – this is a very capable camera today. The firmware updates will simply make it better.

Handling

The GH5 is the largest Micro Four Thirds camera we've seen to date. This may seem counterintuitive on a system for which compact size is a major selling point, but on the GH5 the size feels reasonable. When shooting video, ergonomics and easy access to buttons are important. The magnesium alloy body is splash proof, dust proof, and freeze proof (down to -10C, 14F), and it feels like a pro tool in your hand.

The GH5 is large for a Micro Four Thirds camera, but on the GH5 the size feels reasonable, providing very good ergonomics for both still and video shooting.

The camera has a sophisticated image stabilization system, which includes in-body stabilization, Panasonic's 'Dual IS 2' (which combines in-body with in-lens stabilization when used with its own lenses), and electronic stabilization in video mode. Electronic stabilization results in a 1.1x crop factor, but it doesn't seem to significantly affect image quality. Between all these systems, it's possible to take very stable, hand-held video and stills.

The big, bright, high-resolution electronic viewfinder is one of the best we've seen and is a joy to use under most circumstances. It's not field sequential, so there's no color tearing, and it's so high-resolution that individual pixels aren't noticeable. Unfortunately, if you enable the highest burst shooting rates, you'll notice the resolution drop so far as to make it impossible to see what's even in focus. But, if you're primarily shooting video, or use the lower burst rates or shoot single frames, you'll find the viewfinder is beyond reproach.

Stills Image Quality and Autofocus

The GH5 gains a new 20MP Four Thirds-type sensor with no optical low-pass filter. This new sensor offers improved resolution without any noise penalty relative to the older 16MP chip (even showing some advantage at ISO 3200 and above), and offers good dynamic range performance for its size.

Panasonic has been hard at work tweaking its JPEG engine in the GH5. Overall, JPEG output shows more pleasingly saturated colors, and yellows in particular skew much less toward green than previous Panasonic cameras. JPEG sharpening has also been improved, but it's still lacking in sophistication compared to other systems, leaving behind occasional stair-stepping and sharpening artifacts.

To go along with 9fps burst shooting, Panasonic has revamped the autofocus system on the GH5, allowing for fine-tuning of AF-C behavior. Our testing under controlled circumstances showed these parameters have a fairly minor effect on our 'hit rate,' until you reach the extremes. However, the more discussion we had Panasonic, the less confident we became in our ability to configure the camera to any given shooting situation. We hope the camera descriptions, user manual or presets are updated at some point to make this easier.

A revamped AF system and 9fps burst shooting make it the best GH camera yet for shooting action.
Photo by Carey Rose

The AF joystick is a great addition if you use zone focusing or single points to follow the action yourself. If you enable Tracking AF (which puts up overall good performance in both our controlled tests and 'real world' use), you can only initiate tracking from the center of your frame and the AF joystick only serves as a 'cancellation' for tracking; we wish this cancellation was automatically done upon release of the shutter button.

Video Quality and Autofocus

The GH5 uses the full width of its sensor to capture 4K video, resulting in oversampled footage that is extremely sharp and in the same league as other cameras using this technique, including the Sony a6300 and Fujifilm X-T2. 1080p footage is impressive as well and, in terms of resolution, gives the class leading Sony a7S II a run for its money.

Rolling shutter is very well behaved, and improved from the GH4. This is impressive given that the GH5 needs to scan the full width of the sensor to read each frame. Unless you're shooting extremely fast moving subjects or doing rapid pans, you're unlikely to notice it much in everyday shooting.

Panasonic has made significant advances in temporal noise reduction as well. Even at low ISO the camera exhibits noticeably less temporal noise than the GH4, at both 4K and 1080p resolutions.

Between full sensor capture and improved noise reduction, low light performance in 4K has been significantly improved. Even at ISO 6400, low light video still looks remarkably good, though the GH5's Micro Four Thirds sensor still won't be a match in low light compared to cameras with larger sensors, such as the a7S II.

About the only place where quality takes a hit is when using Variable Frame Rate mode to shoot high frame rates in 1080p (up to 180fps). The tradeoff is that you have the option to shoot 180fps.

One thing that fell outside the scope of this review is a detailed analysis of the camera's 8-bit vs. 10-bit video. Our anecdotal experience working on this review has shown us that 10-bit video looks beautiful and grades very well. We're planning a separate article to explore this subject in-depth.

Manual focus while shooting video is fairly easy thanks to the GH5's effective focus peaking. Unfortunately, although it's possible to magnify live view to assist with focusing, it's still not possible to do so once you start recording.

Despite improvements, autofocus in video is still hampered by reliance on a contrast detect autofocus system. There's less focus hunting than on the GH4, but it still exists, and is often visible as a fine wobble when the AF system tries to make minor adjustments. On the plus side, Tracking AF is very sticky and effective, and face detection works well, though it loses subjects more easily, and keeps less consistent focus, than a more sophisticated system such as the Canon 5D IV's dual pixel autofocus.

The new Focus Transition Function, which lets you specify focus distances in the manner of a focus puller, can be a very useful tool if you shoot blocked scenes, such as in narrative filmmaking or product videos.

The Final Word

Panasonic's GH cameras have consistently been at the vanguard of convergence between the still and video worlds, and the GH5 arguably represents the biggest single leap in the history of the series. It adds features typically associated with more expensive, pro video equipment, though Panasonic is quick to remind you that it's a still camera too.

The importance of internal 4:2:2 color and 10-bit video cannot be overstated, and has an impact on what you can do with footage in post processing. The addition of 4K/60p video also makes it possible to insert slow motion 4K into a project without sacrificing resolution.

Panasonic has also provided the tools needed to leverage the camera's advanced features, including waveform, vectorscope, Log gamma, and built-in LUT display. Log gamma is becoming more common on cameras, but less so the ability to apply a LUT in-camera. Uploading custom LUTs is unique to the GH5 in this class.

If you're primarily a stills shooter, the GH5 would make a fine choice if you're looking at the Four Thirds ecosystem, but there are arguably better options out there for the money. That said, the tweaks to the JPEG engine and the 9fps burst shooting with reliable autofocus make the GH5 an excellent all-around proposition for hybrid video and stills photographers.

If you're serious about video, it's hard to go wrong. This camera can probably deliver the goods unless you have very specialized needs, and if you're just learning, it's a camera you can grow with. But what if you're already a GH4 user? Think of it like this: the GH5 isn't just a camera that does everything your current camera can do, plus a bunch of other things. This is a camera that does everything your current camera can do, but better (often by a wide margin)… plus a bunch of other things. So yes, it's probably worth it.

Because of all that, the Panasonic GH5 wins our Gold Award. Let's make that a Gold Award with its subtle, sparkling tones described in 4:2:2 10-bit color.

Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.

Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5
Category: Semi-professional Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Connectivity
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The Panasonic GH5 is a camera oriented at videographers, and includes features often found on more expensive pro video gear. It captures video at up to 4K/60p resolution, including 4:2:2 10-bit color up to 4K/30p, and has useful tools like waveforms and built in LUT display to assist with shooting. The body is very solid, includes several custom function buttons, and a very good EVF, though autofocus can hunt a bit in video. It shoots stills as well, producing very good images for a Micro Four Thirds camera.
Good for
Videographers who need high-spec video features, photographers who need to capture both stills and video
Not so good for
Photographers who require the highest resolution images
85%
Overall score

Panasonic DC-GH5 Samples Gallery

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