This is an evolving review, as I get a chance to try the camera out in more detail, I’ll update this blog post with video samples and images.
The last few months have been a bit of a whirlwind. Unfortunately, much of the work I’ve been doing has been under embargo until now. Embargoed projects are some of the most frustrating, it’s normally a project that’s super exciting but you can’t share it until weeks or months later. At the end of 2016, I had the chance to play with both the GH5 and the new FZ80. I was commissioned by Panasonic to shoot the sample images for the new bridge camera on location in Tel Aviv (blog post to come in the next few days). I was also invited out to Japan where, along with a number of other European ambassadors, where we had the chance to briefly try out the GH5 and the new GX800. In this post, I’ll cover my thoughts from my brief time with the GH5.
GH5 – Dream camera?
Without waxing too lyrical about the camera, when I first saw the specs I was overjoyed. Pretty much all the upgrades I wanted to see in the new camera were there. Primarily I’ve been using the GH4 as a video camera and the GX8 as a stills camera. For this reason, I think it’s the upgraded video features which make me truly excited.
When the GH4 came onto the market, there was nothing really in the same ballpark and it stayed that way for quite a while. Even two years on, the GH4 is still one of the most complete 4K mirrorless cameras on the market. I’ve taken the camera across the world with me, shooting video in many different environments and it’s continually impressed me.
If you’d have asked me to make a wishlist for the GH5, 12 months ago, it would have been pretty simple; 5-axis stabiliser, 60p, 10bit 4:2:2 and improved low light performance. Anything on top would have been a bonus. So as you can imagine, when I sat listening to the specs read out, my excitement was at a new level. If you haven’t seen the specs for the camera, here’s a quick breakdown:
Key Specs of GH5
- 5-axis Dual IS
- No Crop factor in 4K!!
- 3680k 0.76x OLED EVF
- 1620k 3.2” RGBW rear monitor
- Improved low light (more on that later)
- Improved AF speed using new DFD tech
- No Low Pass filter
- Reduced rolling shutter (Nearly non-existant in most cases)
- Unlimited recording time
- 4K 60/50P (150mbps, 4:2:0 8-bit)
- 4:2:2 10-bit (DCI and UHD up to 30p + HD 60p*)
- 400mbps All-intra (DCI and UHD up to 30p**)
- Variable frame rate (up to 180fps in HD)
- Full size HDMI Type-A
- Dual Card Slots (UHS-II U3)
- LUT display
- High-res Anamorphic Mode**
- Simultaneous recording internal and external
- Waveform + Vector monitors
- 709-like Gamma + Knee control
- Hybrid Log Gamma (for HDR video)
- Freezeproof down to -10C
- Cable lock included
- Optional XLR adapter to record 96kHz/24bit internally
*Firmware in April, **Firmware in summer
So what does this all mean?
I think it would be futile to go through every single spec. As a travel doc camera, these are the features I’m super excited about:
5-Axis stabiliser – In my review of the G80, I spoke highly of how good the 5-axis stabiliser was. It means that for many shots where a rig or gimbal might have been needed to get a steady shot, I can now do it hand held. For run and gun, travel documentary work this is a great improvement, it means one less item in the kit bag.
4K 50/60P – After shooting in 4K for nearly two years now, I’ve been crying out for the ability to shoot some slow motion footage. For the work I do, I’m not looking to slow down incredibly fast moving objects, it’s more often that there is a creative reason to shoot slightly slower. Having the 50p/60p option is really great for this purpose and if you ever need to shoot more serious slow motion, there’s now a 180fps option in Full HD too.
Below is a short sample video shot by my fellow ambassadors Steven Clarey, Ross Grieve and I showing the quality of the GH5 in 60/50p conformed to 25p. The subject matter isn’t particularly spectacular but hopefully you can see the quality of the video and the low light performance. The night shots were all at 3200-6400 ISO.
3680k 0.76x OLED EVF – The one feature that genuinely made me go WOW when I saw it was the new EVF. It’s hard to describe just how amazing it is. After using the GX8 EVF since it’s release, I thought that was amazing, but holding the GH5 to your eye is like watching the world through a 60″ TV attached to your eye. You have to try it to believe it.
Improved low light – It’s hard to say exactly how much of an improvement you can see over the GH4, as I didn’t have a chance to shoot them side by side. However, looking at the footage shot at 6400ISO it’s definitely useable, especially compared to the GH4 which turned to mush at anything over 3200. My empirical evidence would suggest it’s somewhere between 1.5 – 2 stops better. It’s a step up from the latest cameras like the G80, which were about a 1 stop improvement, but without further testing, I can’t really put an exact figure to it.
4:2:2 10-bit – After using the Atomos Shogun and recording in 10bit 4:2:2 on the GH4, I’d been hoping that this would become standard in-body on the GH5. Fortunately, Panasonic did just that. Much like the 5-axis stabiliser, it’s super handy to have because it means I’m now getting much more colour data internally with less kit. Also when the 400mbps All-intra firmware drops later in the year, the footage is likely to be a dream to grade (albeit requiring much more storage!).
No Low Pass Filter + New Processor – The removal of the low pass on the G80 and GX80 made a nice difference to the overall quality. I’m delighted to see this appear on the GH5. Combined with some wizardry from the new processor, the image is significantly sharper, without appearing overly sharp. It’s hard to describe but the side by side examples I’ve seen are super impressive.
Optional XLR adapter – Ever since I started using DSLR/mirrorless cameras for video work, I’ve been crying out for an elegant solution for using XLR mics. The YAGH adapter was good but it was too bulky for just audio. The new XLR adapter Panasonic have released looks pretty awesome, it’s not too bulky, as plenty of external controls and allows internal 96kHz/24bit recording through the hot shoe. Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to use a working sample but it’s the first piece of kit I’ll get with my GH5. Bonus: It’s now also compatible with the GH4!
Freezeproof down to -10C – I’m currently sat in Bulgaria where the temp is below freezing and expected to fall even further. I have a few more projects in the pipeline over the next 18 months so it’s good to see improved weather sealing. It’s not something that’s useful every day but when you need it…well you need it!
Ergonomics – Again it’s a tough one to quantify but the chunkier grip, added weight and improved shape have made the camera much nice to hold. The dials and buttons are chunkier, making them easier to use and there’s now also an AF point joystick on the back. Go and try one in your hand, you’ll be impressed.
Although my time with the camera was extremely limited, I’m super excited about what is to come. I genuinely think that the GH5 is as revolutionary as it’s predecessor. It’s bringing pro-level features like 10-bit 4:2:2/vectors/HDR gamma into a camera that is smaller than your average DSLR. For filmmakers who travel, this is a natural continuation of the small camera revolution.
If I want to shoot a run and gun documentary whilst travelling, I can shoot it with nothing but the GH5 and the XLR audio adapter. Handheld shots are extremely fluid and the internal recording quality is a nice leap up again, negating somewhat the need for external recording. There are some downsides such as increased body weight and increased price but due to the fact I’ll no longer need to travel with an Atomos Shogun or a gimbal for most of my work, the overall weight and cost of my kit bag have actually gone down.
If you have any questions about the camera, please do leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer them. There’s lots of little changes that are impossible to mention in a single blog post so let me know any queries and I’ll do my best to answer.