17 Feb 2017

Panasonic GH5 Review: the first full hands-on report

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The Panasonic GH5: The wait has been worth it. The Panasonic GH5: The wait has been worth it. Panasonic/RedShark News


Since it was announced last year, the Panasonic GH5 has been making waves throughout the industry. RedShark has got its hands on one of the first production models released and, in our comprehensive hands-on review below, you can find out exactly what all the fuss is about. This is a game-changer.

The Panasonic GH5 has some pretty big boots to fill. The GH4 really shifted things towards the notion that a stills camera didn’t necessarily have to be something that you used while holding your nose for shooting video. It was genuinely capable, giving as it did full 4K video at a price that mortals could afford, and even had an optional dedicated XLR audio input stage to avoid the need for cumbersome, off-camera recording solutions.

Now we have the GH5, and on paper at least it looks like causing a bit of an earthquake, particularly at its $2000 price point. Among the many aspects to look forward to include, 10-bit colour precision, 4K internal recording to SD cards, V log gamma, 1080p VFR recording up to 180fps, 6K continuous stills at up to 30fps, full weather sealing, and 5-axis stabilisation.

The body

On first picking up the GH5, it feels high quality. The body is solid, and classy looking. It has a nice weight to it without being too heavy. It doesn’t have the “built like a tank” feel of, say, the very top end DSLRs, but it has a classy look and feel to it.

As a clue to the type of person the GH5 is aimed at, it has no inbuilt flash: a nod to the fact that this is not a camera that is primarily aimed at casual shooters or photographers. A flash trigger port is mounted on the top front of the body, and the camera also provides for flash compatibility via the hot shoe mount.

Control-wise, there are the usual dials close to hand for adjusting aperture and shutter speed, as well as to navigate menus. Many of the buttons are assignable to your desired functionality. A nice addition is a second rotary dial for selecting timelapse, rack focus, and photo burst modes. Most controls can also be accessed via the flip-out touchscreen monitor on the back of the camera as well.

Rubber covers on the left side conceal a full size HDMI port, headphone socket, and USB connectivity. Panasonic has also supplied a cable lock/support to minimise the chance of port damage from such cables being accidentally knocked during use. On the right-hand side is a door that conceals the two (yes, two) SD card slots.

Powering up the GH5

Once the ‘on’ switch has been flicked, the GH5 powers up instantly, with no waiting. The camera that was sent for review came with a Leica 12-60mm f2.8/f4.0 lens. This was surprisingly well made for a kit lens, with extremely smooth manual focus action and zoom ring. It felt high quality, with none of the control play that often plagues such glass. It certainly felt from first impressions that this would be a nice lens to work with for video.

Testing autofocus proved to be very fast and accurate. There was virtually no delay as the picture snapped into focus pretty much instantly. There are a few focus modes to choose from. Eye and face tracking for instance would appear to work very well indeed, with the GH5 picking up pretty quickly on the presence of a human face. Focus tracking mode allows an object to be locked onto and followed, although I found it slightly slow to respond. 225 grid mode allows the camera to determine the best place of focus, while ‘One Area’ allows you to choose a single point for the camera to lock onto. There is also a custom multi-area that enables the user to select a region for the camera to take account of during auto focus operation.

As per any auto focus mode on any camera ever made so far, these autofocus modes are not foolproof. But some of them come close! The GH5 seems to be a very able performer in this area.

In the firmware that was on the test camera, autofocus for video only functioned with 4K video modes, while 1080 modes were manual focus only. Of course, most of us will be using manual focus anyway, and this is ably assisted by both focus peaking indication, as well as the option of magnifying the picture. In manual modes an unmarked distance gauge appears, too.

Comprehensive menus

The GH5 menu system is comprehensive, but it is also easy to navigate. There are a multitude of options here, which vary depending on whether you are in stills or video mode. One notable feature is the ability to choose your luminance range. For instance the camera defaults, in 10-bit 4K mode, to 64-1023. However if you are shooting for the web for instance, you can choose to shoot with a range of 0-1023. The ability to set this does depend on which picture profile you are using, however. If you use the optional V-Log gamma, you will be locked to a range of 0-1023.

Other useful settings include being able to tune the detail level and noise reduction aggressiveness, as well as variable framerate in 1080p modes, allowing speeds up to 180 fps to be chosen.

There are far too many options to cover in detail here, suffice to say that when it comes to the camera setup, you wont find yourself wanting.

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Simon Wyndham

Simon Wyndham is Deputy Editor of RedShark News, a professional cameraman and video producer of 20 odd years. With a background in indy feature making, he has been writing camera reviews and tech articles for as long as he can remember. When he isn't producing bread and butter corporate videos he can be found hucking the gnar on rivers whitewater kayaking and adventure sports filming.

Website: www.5ep.co.uk

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