Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 Review
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 on pro video equipment.
One feature that shows how much effort Panasonic is making to court videographers is the addition of waveform and vectorscope displays. In fact, it's 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.
Videographers like to use waveforms because it's easy to visualize both exposure and contrast across the frame. This is particularly helpful for judging exposure at a particular location, such as a subject's face.
|Videographers will appreciate the GH5's video scopes. L: a waveform monitor makes it easy to judge exposure and contrast. R: a vectorscope can assist in determining color accuracy and saturation.|
The GH5 also gains a vectorscope display, which can be used to evaluate color information in the image, such as hue and saturation. Getting accurate color straight out of camera (as well as matching it between shots) is particularly important when shooting video since there's no Raw video capture in this class of camera. It's a bit like shooting Jpegs - you only have so much latitude to adjust things in post.
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).
Focus peaking and zebras
The GH5 adds a couple options for focus peaking. As with the GH4, peaking detect level can be set to high or low, but the GH5 adds a couple new peaking color options: you can now select pink and white in addition to cyan, yellow, and green.
The camera has two user configurable zebra settings, which can be set from 50% to 105% in 5% increments. This is helpful if you want to check exposure against different targets, such as skin tones or highlights. The range recalibrates to 50-80% if you're shooting in VLog.
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 up to three focus depths prior to recording, and 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. It's a simple matter of focusing on each subject and assigning it to one of the focus points.
Once you've set your three focus points, you can freely rack back and forth between them in any sequence for as long as you need. The Focus Transition function allows you to choose the refocus speed (in five steps). In use, it produces very natural, smooth transitions.
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 for racking focus, but removes any and all variability that might be introduced by an autofocus system, which may overshoot the subject or misinterpret where you tapped on the screen. If you're shooting moving subjects however, you're better of sticking with touch-to-focus.
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.
We haven't noticed a marked improvement in in-camera audio, but chances are good that if you're serious about your production you'll either record sound off-camera, use a dedicated mic plugged into the GH5's minijack, or utilize the optional XLR accessory unit. In-camera audio should be good enough for sound sync, however.
Fast and slow speed video
With its ability to shoot 1080p 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 1080p and 2.5x in UHD 4K. The camera can also shoot down as low as 2 frames per second for sped-up footage.
A 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 to 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.
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