PANASONIC GH5 - Hybrid Superstar

All 4K footage above - shot hand held with the GH5.

I've recently bought a Panasonic GH5 + 12-60mm f/2.8-4 kit and have been using it extensively for 4K video ad stills. Below is the back story and some of my first impressions.

Click above montage to see my current video portfolio on Fotolia / Adobe Stock

WHY DID I BUY IT?

It's become increasingly obvious to me that 4K video is the latest 'stock trend'. More and more websites are using video as a matter of course. Consequently over the past few months I have been shooting more footage than stills and that situation looks likely to continue for some time. I actually have 5 cameras that shoot 4K video, but for various reasons none are exactly what I want.

Leica SL (Typ 601) - Brilliant cinematic footage, however the camera has a cropped 'super 35' sensor for 4K video, it's heavy and bulky and I have no IBIS or lens stabilisation.

Leica (Panasonic) V-LUX 4 (Typ 114) - Nice 4K video but again a cropped sensor and the stabilisation isn't that great.

Panasonic Lumix TZ100 - I've had one of these for a while and while again it produces very nice 4K footage it's again a cropped sensor. 

iPhone 7 Plus - Incredibly good 4K video and very effective built in stabilisation. However hampered by restricted lens options.

Microsoft Lumia 950x - Once again nice quality footage but only one lens option and so-so stabilisation.

So, having read the GH5 review on the Mirrorlessons site I got interested in m4/3 again. After some consideration I decided to buy a GH5 + 12-60 f/2.8-4 kit from Amazon with the fallback that I could return it if I didn't like it. However I needn't have worried. This is one seriously impressive hybrid video and stills camera. I will obviously be writing more about it, but here's my take now on what this camera offers.

VIDEO

This has been the headline feature in articles about the camera. And yes it's very good indeed. Beautiful 4K footage with a wide range of options. If I'm honest, I still prefer the rich 'film look' from the Leica SL, but there really isn't much in it. The GH5 output is absolutely perfect for the stock clips I'm currently shooting.

STABILISATION

Again very good indeed. I'm no great fan of IBIS but it seems very smooth and problem free on the GH5 and with the dual mode (IBIS + LENS IS) engaged, when I use the stellar super sharp Leica branded 12-60mm f/2.8-4 lens it's very steady. Which considering 90% of my video work is hand held is essential. Again, it's maybe still slightly behind the incredible IS that I get from my iPhone 7 plus, but the GH5 offers a whole lot more.

GH5 STILLS

Now here was the surprise. Lots of reviews and user experiences with the camera concentrate on the video and just mention the stills capabilities in passing. What normally gets written is some version of 'it's a  standard m4/3 output'. However, from my perspective this is a great improvement on the m4/3 cameras I've used before. With the GH5 I can now run the raw files (using one of the 'flat' presets, I use Cine D for both video and stills) through Iridient Developer, upsize 135% and produce a 100+MB 36MP file which has lost virtually no sharpness and produces no luminance noise in colour blocks. And no, m4/3 sensors aren't supposed to do that. Well think again the GH5 does it no problem at all. And yes there is seriously good dynamic range and ISO 6400 is actually very useable. 

Now this should really be no surprise. Small smartphone sensors are starting to get very good indeed and those improvements are obviously going to make their way through to the larger sensors. The GH5 sensor (and Panasonic's processing) is now so good that any advantage that APS-C and indeed 'full frame' have is becoming less and less significant. If I was still shooting weddings would I use a GH5? You bet I would. Even the previously somewhat underwhelming 4K photo has now been upgraded and improved to 6K. And if you avoid selecting your image on the view screen and having the camera slap some noise reduction on the image (by using something like VLC and doing a video grab) the camera produces a sharp 18MP 53MB file which, assuming I haven't got fast action blur in it, will reproduce very well indeed. 

ADAPTERS

One of the most compelling reasons to use m4/3 and indeed any mirrorless cameras is using old and new non m4/3 lenses via adapters, particularly speed boosters, 

HYBRID SUPERSTAR?

Well for me it is. This is not just a great m4/3 camera, it's a great camera compared to anything else. It's doubtful whether any other hybrid camera is as good for video and as I've indicated it's no slouch in the stills department either. I've got images from 'Pro' DSLR's taken only a few years ago that don't produce stills this good (and yes that includes high(er) settings as well. 

It is important to realise what we, as photographers, need / want a camera for. And a further equally important consideration is how we 'get on with it'. A camera can have brilliant specs. but if we don't want to use it and don't feel comfortable using it then it's not really any good for us. For example Sony's A7 series are impressive cameras but I actually hate using them. Too small, too cheap feeling, too many knobs on buttons, looks like an old bridge camera, expensive big so so lenses, overheating issues, battery life etc. etc. But the GH5 has no such drawbacks for me. It feels good in the hand and is a pleasure to use. Now not everyone will agree, but then this is all subjective. And the following is why, at this current time, it's the right camera for me.

  • Beautiful 4K video with a range of options. Easy to use
  • Very impressive combination stabilisation - lens + IBIS. Not the best I've used but impressive nonetheless. 
  • Excellent quality from video 'frame grabs'. Again not the best I've used, but again impressive.
  • Surprisingly good stills performance, great dynamic range and usable high(er) ISO performance. VERY impressive for a m4/3 camera. 
  • Decent battery life.
  • Excellent viewfinder and view screen. 
  • Menus I understand and can navigate easily.
  • Nice 'big camera feel' without being too heavy and bulky.
  • Actually pretty well made. Lot's of polycarbonate obviously but an improvement on the previous m4/3 cameras I've used.
  • Reasonable price, though it can hardly be classed as a bargain.
  • Capability via adapters / speed boosters to use non native lenses. Many of my lenses are now 'faster' and 'wider'. See lots of upcoming posts on this.
  • Relatively uncluttered layout, though still some way from a 'Leica experience'.
  • The Leica branded 12-60mm f/2.8 > 4 lens is simply stunning.

THE BOTTOM LINE (FOR NOW)

After 10 days of using the GH5 everyday, my most appropriate comment would be 'It gets the job done'. I've already uploaded a large number of stills and video to my stock sites and this has been (mostly) painless and problem free. Is it a 'pro' camera? well yes it is for me. And it is certainly one of the best (if not THE best) hybrid stills / video cameras out there. It's so good I'm considering selling some of my Leicas. (Though don't hold your breath on that!) However, I don't seem to be able to leave home currently without it.

Things change and currently I'm building up my video portfolio on my stock sites. For me, at this time, the GH5 is pretty much the perfect camera. And while stills photography seems to have reached a certain level that it's difficult to improve on, digital video on consumer stills cameras has a way to go. 8K in a year or two will improve this yet again, so my current video clips have to stand the test of time. And the GH5 certainly gives me that possibility. It's a great camera and one I didn't expect to like quite so much. And I'm certainly excited to see what I can get with my Canon, Nikon, Leica M and R mount lenses via the adapters I have and particularly the speed boosters. Panasonic have impressed me yet again and my relationship with m4/3 which started all those years ago with the G1 has now been reignited. Say tuned for lots of posts on adapted lenses and my experiences so far have indicated that is going to be a revelation in terms of possibilities.

Nice one Panasonic.