Panasonic finally put to rest months of speculations about a possible launch of an updated GH5. The rumor mills have been abuzz for the past couple of months about a possible launch of the Panasonic GH5S. The Panasonic GH5S has been launched as a sort of younger sibling to the extremely powerful GH5. The camera is directly aimed as a competitor to the current king of low light shooting the Sony a7S II.
- 10.2MP High-sensitivity MOS sensor with multi-aspect and Dual native Iso (400 & 2, 500) with a range from 160 - 51, 200;...
- Unlimited in-camera recording of C4K: 60p50p 8-bit, 30p25p/24p 4:2:2 10-bit, 4K: 60p50p 4:2:0 8-bit, 30p/25p/24p 4:2:2...
- 4K anamorphic professional video production interchangeable Lens camera system with high performance, durability, and...
- Tc in/out/ synchro Terminal (via included BNC cable), 3.5mm mic jack with Line input, 3.5mm headphone jack 2.5mm remote...
- Dual SD Card slots (UHS-II U3 Compatible), V-LogL pre-installed, and 4K HDR hybrid log gamma support
The sensor on the DC-GH5S has been newly developed. Panasonic has reduced the resolution for increased low light sensitivity and video features. Speaking of which, the GH5S is mainly about shooting videos. More on that as we go along.
The 10.28 megapixel multi aspect ratio MOS micro four-thirds sensor (high sensitive) is a step down from the higher resolution 20.3 megapixel Live MOS sensor that powered the GH5. Not because that the sensor is multi-aspect but because of the lower resolution. The aim, though, is to produce cleaner footages and stills.
However, you need to keep in mind that this is essentially a micro four-thirds system and that means the sensor has a physical limitation in terms of how much light it can collect when compared to full-frame and APS-C cameras.
In terms of the multi-aspect sensor, you will now be able to shoot at different aspect ratios without losing out on the field of view.
The acclaimed Venus image processing engine has been updated as well. So much so that even at incredibly high ISOs the GH5S’ footages looks stunning, when compared to the GH5.
The GH5S is capable of shooting DCI 4K at 60p and full HD (1080p) at 240p.
Both the GH5S and the previous GH5 has very similar video features, including the same bit depth of 10-bit, no cropping of the sampling size, same supported codecs, and the same bitrates. The only difference is the slightly higher frame rate for full HD videos.
Having said that, the lower resolution means large pixel dimensions and that only means a superlative low light performance. The ability to gather a lot more light in low lighting situation compared to the higher resolution GH5. But has there been a significant development in the dynamic range? Not much. The dynamic range improvement of the GH5S over what the GH5 achieved is marginal.
The GH5S is pretty much the GH5 with a bit of additional red paint job. There has been the addition of a few brightly red painted buttons. The video record button is now red and the ‘S’ (of the (GH5S) symbol is in red too. The mode dial also gets a red ring. Plenty of red in fact!
The GH5S shares the same viewfinder, expect for the higher refresh rate that gives a smoother image looking through it.
Low Light Nirvana
The GH5 was (and still is) a great camera to shoot both stills and videos. But the sole reason that the GH5S was introduced was so that videographers could shoot high quality clean footages in low light.
The GH5S has a dual native ISO of 400 and 25600. That’s a low and a high limit respectively. This is the same as in Panasonic’s cine cameras. The camera actually uses to two dedicated analog circuits connecting each pixel to deal with the noise that happens at the Low and High ISO levels respectively. This reduces the noise levels which usually happens when shooting at high ISOs. You can choose to use either the High or the Low ISO level depending on the work that you are doing. Alternatively, you could prefer to leave the ISO at Auto in order to let the camera make the decision on the fly.
Auto-focusing is still an issue with the GH5S. Auto-focusing is still slow and cumbersome when you switch between two points while shooting. It takes ages for the camera switch focus from one point to the other. Might work for some video work but is painstaking for someone who wants a quicker focusing for shooting stills.
Having said that, Panasonic designed this camera for video shooting more than anything else. Just to keep things in perspective we are still talking about the GH5S in terms of its video prowess and not in terms of still imaging capability. Having said that, continuous auto-focusing performance looks great. Focus stays locked even when the subject walks around in the shot.
Panasonic GH5S Test Video by Atomos Video
The GH5S comes with V-Log L Gamma. On the GH5 this feature did not come pre-configured. You had to put in a request and then Panasonic would send you a code by registered courier containing the activation code.
Additionally, the GH5S is capable of recording 4:2:2 10-bit RAW footages internally, giving all you color enthusiasts a larger array of colors when recording and definitely more reasons to smile. On top of that, you now have theoretically no limits when recording 4K. Theoretically, because you are still limited by battery power and memory card capacity.
The camera has other goodies like Time Code In/Out for synchronization among multiple cameras used in the shoot.
Panasonic uses the sensor-shift type image stabilization mechanism. This mechanism makes all compatible lens designs to be image stabilized. The GH5 had that, but the GH5S does not have that. You will need to use image stabilized lenses if planning to shoot hand-held or use one of the third party stabilization rigs to achieve in-camera stabilization.
The thinking behind this is that most filmmakers (amateurs and pros alike) don’t like to use built-in image stabilization. They rather use hand-held stabilizers (the cheapest option) or use heavier dollies and rigs etc. to stabilize their footage, while switching off body based image stabilization at the same time.
Drones have gimbals too which stabilize a footage. So, videographers won’t be complaining about this at all. That is the professional and indie shooters.
If you are just a casual video shooter and happen to buy the GH5S for the love of it, and hope to shoot hand-held with it, you are in for a shock. Even more so if you have invested in great quality fast lenses with no in-built stabilization on them.
Nothing to complain really about the build quality, the GH5 has been a fantastic design. The magnesium alloy chassis structure with the plastic and rubber components is weather sealed allowing the camera to be used in all weather conditions. The GH5S has the same great build quality.
The GH5S is not a replacement for the GH5. It is like replacing an apple with an orange. They are each geared for specific purposes. The GH5S is geared for videographers and even then should be seen as an option for enthusiasts.
Would you need it? Depends on whether your first love is still or video, in which case the answer is already given above.
Should you upgrade if you have the GH5? Absolutely not. The GH5S is not a huge jump over the GH5 at least not in terms of still shooting.
Should this be your first video camera? Sure! It has a number of features that videographers need and is a better low light shooter than the GH5. The existing DCI 4K capability at 60 fps and the increased frame rate for full HD video shooting would give you more options to shoot with.
When it comes down to comparison between the Sony a7S II, the Sony still rules the roost. If you are using the a7S II there is absolutely no reason to be worried about losing out on dynamic range or low light capabilities or any such thing. And moreover if you are heavily invested in Sony (or for that matter any other system) it does not make sense to switch over anyway. Another thing to note is that the Sony a7S III is due probably sooner than later and that would firmly switch the advantage back to Sony (if it is not already in Sony’s favor still).