Hands on: Panasonic Lumix GH5 review

The new video king?

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

Packed with a wealth of video features, the GH5 also looks to be one very capable stills camera, offering blistering burst-shooting options, advanced AF and a rugged, weather-sealed body.

For

  • 6K Photo - 30fps at 18MP
  • Large and bright viewfinder
  • Wealth of video features
  • Weather-sealed body

Against

  • Larger size might put off some
  • Menu order different from GH4

It was back at Photokina in September last year that Panasonic took the wraps of the long-awaited GH5, but it's only now that we're getting our hands on it, and getting the full details of this camera's impressive specification.  

The GH5 is the follow-up to Panasonic's premium GH4 camera, which carved out a niche for itself among videographers and enthusiasts alike, but which, having been launched at the start of 2014, was starting to look dated when lined up against some strong competition.

Panasonic hopes its new high-end camera will appeal to both professional videographers and enthusiast photographers. Let's take a closer look...

Features

  • Micro Four Thirds Live MOS sensor, 20.3MP
  • 6K Photo capture, 4K Video capture
  • $1,999 / £1,699 body-only
  • $2,599 / £2,199 with Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4
  • Available March/April

As we've seen on some other recent Micro Four Third cameras, the GH5 features a 20.3MP sensor and omits a low pass filter, which should squeeze out even more detail from the chip.

There's also a new Venus Engine, with 1.66x faster processing power thanks to an additional processing core, with Panasonic promising more natural, true-to-life images with better noise control. This should see the GH5 correcting for artefacts like unnatural white edges, as well as reducing fringing and over-sharpening.  

Much has been made of the ability to extract 8MP still images from 4K footage in the past, but the GH5 appears to take this idea even further, with the GH5 featuring what Panasonic is calling '6K Photo'.

This means it will be possible to extract 18MP still images (at either 4:3 or 3:2 ratios) from ultra-high-quality video footage at 30fps at an unlimited burst rate. 

The GH5 will also allow '4K Photo' extraction, but this will now be possible from footage captured at 60fps – staggering when you consider that a $6,000 Canon EOS-1D X Mark II has a maximum burst rate of 14fps (admittedly this is from a 20.2MP full-frame sensor).

Those who want to shoot more traditionally, and take advantage of the full arsenal of pixels the GH5 has to offer, can shoot at up to 12fps with focus locked at the first shot, or 9fps with continuous AF – that's with a 100-shot raw buffer too. 

The GH5 features 5 Axis Dual IS II, which offers both in-body and lens-based (with compatible lenses) image stabilisation with up to five stops compensation.

The electronic viewfinder sees a big jump in quality, up to a staggering 3,680,000-dot resolution and 0.76x magnification; the field of view and clarity are very impressive, and it's one of the best electronic viewfinders we've used.

Meanwhile, the vari-angle display has also been improved, with the 3.2-inch touchscreen display featuring a resolution of 1,620,000 dots. 

As you'd expect, there's built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth connectivity, with raw transfer now supported. Finally, the GH5 uses the same battery as the GH4. 

Build and handling

  • Magnesium alloy body
  • 13% bigger than the GH4
  • Freeze-proof to -10 degrees celsius

While part of the initial ethos for mirrorless cameras was that they be smaller than their DSLR counterparts – and that's been particularly true for Micro Four Thirds models – the GH5 is actually some 13% larger than the GH4. 

This may seem a somewhat backward step, but the GH5 is all the better for it. Panasonic has done away with the built-in flash we saw on the GH4 (something Nikon's recently done with the D500 as well), and this, combined with the magnesium alloy chassis and large, purposeful handgrip, means the camera feels every inch the high-end professional piece of kit it's meant to be.

The GH5 is also fully weather-sealed, and freeze-proof down to -10 degrees celsius, while the heat-dispersing design means you're unlimited in your video recording time – you'll only be restricted by the capacity of your storage media.

Speaking of which, the GH5 features dual SD cards with UHS-II support, while it also gains a full-sized HDMI Type A terminal.

Panasonic has also overhauled the shutter. Rated to 200,000 cycles, there's a new spring drive with a floating construction for the shutter frame. What does this mean? It should see a reduction in the shock to the camera body by one-sixth when the shutter is fired.

The menu system has been tweaked as well – the number of items on each page has increased from five lines to eight, so you can see more information with less scrolling, while Panasonic has re-designed the order and position of each menu item; this could cause GH4 users who are upgrading some initial frustrations when they start shooting, but the menu is a lot clearer, while frequently used items can be stored in the GH5's 'my menu'.

Autofocus

  • 225-area AF system
  • Customized AF settings
  • Motion tracking built into the system

As you'd expect, the AF has seen quite a jump from the one in the three-year-old camera the GH5 replaces, to a 225-area AF system that covers the vast majority on the frame.

As well as Multi AF, there's also a Custom Multi mode that enables you to freely select the AF-area group, or Zone AF, where the focus area group size and position can be customized, while there's now a dedicated joystick to quickly shift the focusing area.

Users can also set up four different profiles with adjustable sensitivity, AF area switching sensitivity and moving object prediction depending on the type of subject they're intending to shoot – interestingly the GH5 now has motion-tracking built into the system. 

Focusing speed has also been improved compared to the GH4's 0.07 sec – the GH5 focuses at 0.05 secs, with the GH5's Venus Engine now processing information at 480fps.

Video

  • Cinema 4K (4096 x 2160) at 24p
  • 4K (3840 x 2160) at 60p
  • 4.2.2 10-bit output and internal recording
  • Vlog offers 10 stops of dynamic range

With such a focus on video, it's no surprise to see the GH5 sporting an impressive movie spec.

The GH5 can shoot Cinema 4K (4096 x 2160) at 24p with a bit rate of 150Mbps, or standard 4K at up to 60p. Full HD video is obviously also possible, at 180fps.

That's not all, as the GH5 offers color subsampling at 4:2:2 and a color depth of 10-bit, delivering greater color information and richer graduations.

The GH5 also offers live output to external recorders via HDMI such as Apple ProRes as well as simultaneous internal recording.

Finally, there's an XLR Microphone adapter for professional video production, which attaches via the hotshoe and offers two XLR jacks with physical switches and dials.

Early verdict

The electronic viewfinder is stunning, while the ability to capture 18MP images at 30fps has huge potential for those shooting sports and action photography – and that's before you even get to the 8MP stills at 60fps.

The AF looks to be much more advanced than we've seen in previous Panasonic cameras, while the host of tweaks and refinements made over the GH4 make it a much more rounded camera, especially now that it has a more rugged and purposeful body. 

Thanks to its breadth of video features, the GH5 is bound to prick the ears of professional videographers looking for a compact and highly capable rig, but it will no doubt attract the attention of serious enthusiast photographers too.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Photography Editor

With over ten years experience writing about cameras and photography, Phil is TechRadar's Photography Editor, writing and overseeing reviews of the latest camera gear, as well as looking after the photography tutorials and techniques you see here.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.