Image Quality

Our latest test scene simulates both daylight and low-light shooting. Pressing the 'lighting' buttons at the top of the widget switches between the two. The daylight scene is manually white balanced to give neutral grays, but the camera is left in its Auto setting for the low-light tests. Raw files are manually corrected. We offer three different viewing sizes: 'Full', 'Print', and 'Comp', with the latter two offering 'normalized' comparisons by using matched viewing sizes. The 'Comp' option chooses the largest-available resolution common to the cameras being compared.

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In Raw, we can see detail capture is improved over the GH4, as we would expect, and is more or less on par with the Olympus E-M1 II. Low ISO noise is comparable to Micro 4/3 peers, and as the ISO values climb, the GH5 and Olympus E-M1 II both show about 1/3 to 1/2 stop advantage over the GH4.

Panasonic has been hard at work tweaking their JPEG engine, and the GH5 shows off some great improvements. Color rendition is much improved over the GH4, showing overall more pleasing saturation with less muddied colors and true-to-life yellows that don't skew towards green anymore, while greens show a little warmth and blues appear less 'indigo' compared to the GH4 as well.

Overall sharpening has been improved, showing fewer jagged edges. There's also better detail retention in general across the scene, with less of the 'smear and sharpen what's left' approach of many previous Panasonic models. We're told this is due to more intelligent analysis of wider groups of pixels, both for sharpening and noise reduction. This also results in fewer halos or overshoot. That said, there's still some stair-stepping and 'grittiness' of fine details that the E-M1 II does a better job of handling. Overall, it looks like Panasonic has dialed back the sharpening to a good degree to remove some of the artifacts, but there are still artifacts left behind.

At higher ISO values, the GH5 leaves behind slightly less luminance grain than the Olympus at default settings, with the pattern left behind looking a little more 'digital.' At ISO 3200, the GH5 does show some definite improvement over the GH4, though the GH5 smooths over fine details more than its competitors at very high ISO values, and there's a little more color-bleed as well, dulling the color on the Beatles patch. So it's an improvement overall, but still has a little ways to go.

Real-world image quality notes

Panasonic told us that one of the most common requests from users was a more precise, natural color palette, and the GH5's improved color rendition is noticeable even in casual, everyday shooting, with images showing better 'pop' from the increased saturation and less muddiness, as was visible in the studio scene. The visible difference as far as skin tones goes is more subtle, and isn't always easily apparent.

Out-of-camera JPEGs from the GH5 just seem to have a bit more 'richness' to them than previous Panasonic cameras.
Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm F2.8-4 | 24mm | ISO 200 | 1/125 sec | F3.5
Photo by Carey Rose

In terms of auto white balance, be aware that the GH5 can take between five and ten seconds to fully adjust to changing lighting conditions. This is particularly noticeable if, say, you aim the camera out the window for a daylight shot, then swing it around for an artificially lit indoor shot.

As far as noise reduction and sharpening, the slightly more 'digital' look of the GH5, which comes about through its sharpening methods and stair-stepping seen in our studio scene, is readily visible in real-world shooting. Click-through to view the the below out-of-camera JPEG to view at 100%, and you'll see a stair-stepping pattern on the furthest power lines, while the water (and particularly the water immediately surrounding the boats) takes on a rougher, more pixellated and less natural look than some competitors manage.

Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm F2.8-4 | 60mm | ISO 200, |1/400 sec |F5.6
Photo by Carey Rose

For reference, click here for a version of the same image processed through a beta version of Adobe Camera Raw with no adjustments and noise reduction and sharpening left to default; there's more visible noise, for sure, but the stair-stepping in the power lines is absent and the water looks more natural.

Dynamic Range

In terms of dynamic range, the GH5 performs very well indeed given its sensor size. In terms of ISO invariance, the GH5 shows almost no noise penalty from shooting at a lower ISO and pushing exposure in post, versus raising your ISO value at the time of image capture. That means you can give yourself stops of highlight room by keeping ISO low (while holding focal plane exposure) even in situations demanding higher ones. In terms of exposure latitude, the GH5 shows some improvement over Panasonic's GX8 and Olympus' PEN-F, but is predictably behind Sony's a6500, which we would expect given its larger sensor.