I have owned and have been using the Panasonic Lumix S5 for the best part of a year now. It has a feature list longer than your arm, however it uses the much-derided DFD contrast-only autofocus system. Find out how this camera performs in the real world in my long-term use review.
This is a review of the Panasonic Lumix S5 as a camera for photography. There are so many video options in this camera that I feel that those features need a separate review. So, keep in mind that this long-term review will be looking at the camera from a photography standpoint.
- Image quality
- Great autofocus
- Build quality
- Articulating screen
- Fantastic IBIS
- The price
- The EVF leaves a lot to be desired
- Small buffer
- Dual card slots but only one is UHS-II
- Only five frames per second in continuous focus
Panasonic Lumix S5 — Technical specifications
All technical specifications are from the product listing at B&H Photo:
- Mount: Leica L
- Sensor: 24.2 megapixels
- IBIS: 5-Axis
- ISO: 100 to 51200
- Shutter speed: 1/8000 to 60 second (mech), 1/8000 to 60 second (electronic)
- Continuous shooting mechanical shutter: Up to 7 fps at 24.2 MP for up to 24 frames (RAW)
- Electronic shutter, 7 fps at 24.2 MP for up to 24 frames (Raw) , Up to 30 fps at 18 MP, 60 fps at 8 MP, 30 fps at 8 MP
- Autofocus points: 225
- Viewfinder: 2.36m dot, coverage 100%
- Monitor: Articulating three-inch touchscreen LCD, resolution 1.84m dot
- Flash sync speed: 1/250 second
- Card slots: Slot 1: UHS-II, Slot 2, 1 UHS-I
- Connectivity USB Type-C (USB 3.1), HDMI D (micro), 3.5mm microphone, 3.5mm headphone, 2.5mm sub-mini
- Wireless: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
- Operating temperature 32 to 104°F / 0 to 40°C, operating humidity 10 to 80%
- Battery: Approx. 440 shots
- Dimensions (W x H x D inches) 5.22 x 3.82 x 3.22
- Weight 1.57 lb / 714 g (body with battery and memory card)
Panasonic Lumix S5 — Ergonomics and build quality
The Panasonic Lumix S5, when compared to other full-frame mirrorless cameras, is small and light. The S5 is slightly smaller than the Panasonic GH5, which is a micro four-thirds camera. You’d think that the small size would make this an uncomfortable camera to hold and use, however, you’d be wrong.
The Lumix S5 is ergonomically pleasing. The grip is large and deep. Even with my meaty hands, I can hold this camera for hours comfortably without my fingers being squashed against the lens. The camera also feels secure, the small thumb rest on the back helps with this.
The controls are laid out nicely. Most are located on the right side of the camera so you can pretty much use this camera one-handed, which is always nice. All of the connectivity ports are housed on the left of the camera, while the SD cards are on the right. The rear of the camera is dominated by the 3-inch articulating screen, still, despite the camera’s small size none of the controls feel cramped. Nicely done, Panasonic.
While it’s not as beefy as the Panasonic S1 and S1R, the Lumix S5 is still a tough little cookie. I have used the camera in the sweltering heat, the frigid cold, in blowing dust, dense fog, rain, snow and more and the camera hasn’t missed a beat! My Lumix S5 still looks new after nearly a year of use. On top of that, the buttons and dials offer positive feedback, the articulating screen feels rigid, and the leatherette texturing feels great. Panasonic has done a great job with the S5. This is a camera that’s built to last.
Panasonic Lumix S5 — In the field
You could easily forget that you’re carrying around a full-frame camera thanks to the size and weight of the Panasonic Lumix S5. Overall, the S5 is a fairly easy camera to use thanks to the layout of the controls.
There’s a fair amount of customization that can be done. You can set the camera up to work for you and your shooting style. The menu system that Panasonic uses looks nice, it’s touch-friendly and it’s laid out in a logical order. Still, the menus can get pretty deep at times. Take your time and familiarize yourself with the camera and you’ll have no issues.
It’s crammed full of features
The Lumix S5 has a ton of features. The fantastic IBIS system will allow you to handhold this camera down to one second with good technique. The articulating LCD has a high resolution of 1.84 million dots. It’s bright, crisp, and clear, even on sunny days. However, the EVF is not so great. It has a resolution of 2.36 million dots but it’s small. I don’t get much enjoyment out of using it. You’ll find yourself using the LCD more often than not to compose images. The EVF is perhaps the weakest link in the S5s armor.
The Pansonic Lumix S5 has more tricks up its sleeve though and they round out the camera nicely. There are tons of 4K video modes, including ProRes support (when used with an Atomos) and anamorphic support. I have filmed all of my YouTube channel videos with the S5 and have no complaints. Then there’s live composition, which allows you to easily capture long exposures, a high res image mode that churns out 96-megapixel images and so much more.
Buffer and battery life
A weak point for the Lumix S5 is the max frame rate and buffer size. It’s workable, but it pales in comparison compared to other cameras in this class. You can fire off seven frames per second in single focus modes. Switch into continuous focus and tracking modes and it drops to a paltry five frames per second.
As you can see from my image samples, it’s more than usable. Still, this, coupled with the small buffer might put some photographers off. You can get roughly 25 images before the buffer is full. This is because the Panasonic Lumix S5 only has one UHS-II card slot. The other slot only takes UHS-I cards. The camera can only write at the speed of the slowest card.
Battery life, however, is great! The battery is rated for 440 shots, however, can easily squeeze 700 shots out of the battery. The Panasonic Lumix S5 isn’t a perfect camera and it does have its issues, but, overall, it’s a solid performer.
Panasonic Lumix S5 — Autofocus performance
I can tell you that I have never gone into a shoot feeling hesitant about this camera’s autofocus abilities. Is the autofocus as fast and as accurate as offerings from Sony and Canon? No, but not many cameras are.
I have used the S5 to shoot sports, wildlife, portraits, street photography, documentary photography, birds, events, concerts and more. I’ve never been let down. Overall autofocus performance is snappy and accurate. Yes, you see the autofocus pulsing and it makes you think the camera is struggling, but it’s not. The camera will nail nine out of 10 shots all day long.
In good light, AF performance is rapid. In low light, there is some slow down, but it’s still accurate and usable. Tracking is top-notch. I tracked the brown Egret seen above at dusk using continuous autofocus and the animal detection setting and it worked like a charm. Human, human face, and human eye autofocus are also stellar. Learn the system, get familiar with the different autofocus modes the S5 will reward you.
Panasonic Lumix S5 — Image quality
Let’s not beat around the bush here. The Panasonic Lumix S5 produces images of the highest quality. The 24-megapixel sensor is capable of capturing tons of detail. Colors are incredibly pleasing right out of the box, and that includes skin tones. High ISO performance is stellar, and the RAW files are more pliable than Play-Doh. Let’s break things down further.
Dynamic range and RAW files
The Lumix S5 is impressive when it comes to dynamic range. Many times I have come across a shot and thought to myself that it would be a lost cause, but nope, there’s so much leeway in the files. This is, in part, thanks to dual-native ISOs which give this camera an impressive 14+ stops of dynamic range. When it comes to highlights, you’ll have no issues bringing back details in overexposed areas.
It’s the same story when it comes to shadows as well. You can bring a lot of details out of the shadows without introducing too much noise into your image. The image processor and sensor in this camera work together so well.
I have used the Panasonic Lumix S5 to create JPEGs a lot (you can read about it here), and there’s a good reason for this. The JPEGs are fantastic. The color profiles offer a nice variety of styles and they all look great, especially the recently added Leica black and white profiles.
The S5 produces nice colors out of the box, highlights and shadows are handled well, and there’s not an over-application of noise reduction. You can shoot and share these JPEGs instantly and you’ll be chuffed with the results.
High ISO performance
I use the Panasonic Lumix S5 up to ISO 12800 frequently and I don’t worry about the noise. Images with ISOs this high are more than usable. Past ISO 8000, color noise is more apparent but images still look great and they retain a ton of detail. Overall the noise has a nice look to it. The Lumix 5s’s performance when it comes to high ISO is impressive.
The Panasonic Lumix S5 is a fantastic stills camera
The Panasonic Lumix S5 is a fantastic full-frame camera that offers all the bells and whistles you need at a very attractive price point The camera is ergonomically pleasing. It has a great IBIS system, the autofocus, despite what many will tell you, is more than good enough for just about every genre of photography, image quality is simply outstanding, and the battery life is stellar.
It’s a shame that the EVF, buffer performance and burst rates are less than stellar. Still, I’ve had no issues capturing the shots I need and want for myself and my clients. If you spend time with the camera, put your skills to work, and work within the S5’s strengths, you can overcome the weak points easily. The camera is just under $2000 regularly. On sale, it can be had for under $1700. Grab it at the latter price, you’ll be very pleased with the S5.
Panasonic Lumix S5
The Panasonic Lumix S5 is a fantastic camera that is suited to many different genres of photography. The sensor churns out beautiful images effortlessly, it’s happy in the rain just as much as it is in the sun, and it’s fun to use thanks to the IBIS system and other features. For the price, the S5 has a compelling feature set that makes it hard to beat.