Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5S Review
The Panasonic Lumix DC GH5S is one of the most video-centric cameras we've ever reviewed, which raises some interesting challenges. Specifically: how much weight should we give to features (such as stabilization and autofocus) that we've come to expect cameras to offer, even though they're things not necessarily demanded by a primarily video-shooting audience? Our approach will be to detail these limitations and allow you to decide to what degree they undermine the considerable positives we've found.
In terms of peers, the only obvious comparisons are the Sony a7S II, which makes similar resolution sacrifices to prioritise near-native 4K video shooting, and the GH5S's own sister model: the GH5. The Sony has a larger sensor, which can give a low light advantage and shallower depth-of-field (though never one without the other), but is rather limited in terms of the sophistication of its data capture and output. Meanwhile, like the Sony, the regular GH5 features internal image stabilization, making it a much more flexible camera for many video shooters.
Body and handling
In terms of handling, the GH5S is essentially the same as the GH5 which, in turn, was a subtle ergonomic development of its immediate GH forebears. Whether it's the provision of external button customization or the touchscreen screen 'quiet' video, it's a camera that has been progressively refined to make it easy to shoot video as well as stills.
The autofocus joystick is one of our only disappointments: only accepting input in the four cardinal directions and not accepting further input until released (making diagonal movement rather more Etch-a-Sketch-esque than we'd expect in a modern device). However, the touchscreen and touchpad use of the rear screen provide an effective alternative.
|The waveforms display makes judging video exposure so much easier.|
Beyond the physical controls, the GH5S offers an unparalleled set of video support features, whether it's uploadable LUTs to offer a corrected preview, waveforms to help assess exposure or the ability to offer a de-squeezed view when shooting with anamorphic lenses. The GH5S goes far beyond the zebra warnings and focus peaking that are still only starting to become widespread in other cameras.
Given the degree to which the GH5S is focused on video shooting, we didn't conduct our usual, stills-orientated autofocus tests. For video users, its utility depends on your needs and expectations. If you need 100% rock-solid dependability and professional focus-puller levels of consistency, then you're not going to get them: there's always a degree of focus flutter that risks that the camera will miss or lose its intended target. It depends on your tolerance for such glitches in your footage: we find it hard to imagine many people going to the lengths of shooting with a camera as dedicated as the GH5S's, only to allow any degree of AF flutter into their footage.
However, the camera's Focus Transition function, that lets you define preset focus distances and uses lenses' autofocus motors to drive between them in a controlled fashion is an excellent substitute in situations where the distances involved are predictable.
Like Sony's a7S cameras, the GH5S is a low resolution camera by modern standards. And while this means it offers less noisy images when viewed at 1:1 scale, that advantage isn't particularly noticeable when high pixel count cameras are downscaled to match. Certainly we don't think many people will feel the images are different enough to justify the significant loss of resolution.
|Panasonic 12-60mm F2.8-4 @ 17mm | ISO 160 | 1/1250 sec | F3.1
Photo by Carey Rose
If you're particularly interested in stills as well as video, we'd be inclined to point you towards the standard GH5, since it offers a significantly higher pixel count and in-body image stabilization, both of which will directly benefit your still images.
Unsurprisingly, video quality is excellent, as you'd hope from a camera that dedicates itself (and the tremendous number of bits in its output) to high quality video capture. It's not just a question of shooting at high bitrates but the provision of 4:2:2 color and 10-bit file depth that allows the GH5S to make the most of its sensor's output.
From a technical perspective, we're not sure the decision to leave so much of its V-Log L files empty is worth it for the gain of compatibility with a V-Log workflow, but even an incompletely used 10-bit file has much greater capture precision than the 8-bit files we're used to encountering. As amateur videographers, we'd be tempted to shoot HLG, rather than V-Log L.
The GH5S produces the best quality video of any camera we've ever tested, with its high bitrate, high bit-depth footage proving impressively flexible. The a7S II can outperform it in low light if you can tolerate the shallower depth-of-field that comes with it, but beyond those specific circumstances, the GH5S would probably be our choice. The fact it works just like a GH5 and fits perfectly into the accessory and support ecosystem that's grown up around it means the GH5S is an easy camera to just start shooting with.
In the end, then, it comes down to whether your style of shooting necessitates a camera you can shoot hand-held. If it doesn't, then a proper gimbal will open up the kinds of camera movement that internal stabilization simply can't mimic. So if this or a tripod are practical of the way you shoot, the GH5S is superlative.
And, while it doesn't get an especially high score in our stills-focused scoring system, we have no hesitation in awarding it a Gold for what it brings to the users it's designed for.
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-GH5S
Category: Semi-professional Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
The GH5S is a highly specialized filmmakers' camera that makes few concessions to anything but this core purpose. An excellent sensor combined with high bitrate, 10-bit 4:2:2 capture means the results are hugely impressive. Add an external recorder and these benefits remain, even for both UHD and DCI 60p capture. The loss of stabilization means it's limited to gimbal or tripod work but in those circumstances, it shines.
|Dubai by Nilesh Trivedi|
|Hummingbird Tight by Dennis Bayer|
from -Vivid Purple- (in Full Colours Only)
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