The GH5S is the latest camera from Panasonic, and it’s carving out an interesting niche. It’s not a replacement for the GH5 (which was made available only one year ago), and it’s got a very interesting feature set. I haven’t had one of these in my hands, yet, so this isn’t a review–it’s simply my impressions. Let me show you what stands out to me and I’ll let you know whether I’ll be buying one.
The GH5S is the same as the original GH5 on the outside. It looks like it could be the same chassis, and I don’t notice any different buttons or holes in the body. It’s probably the same exterior, which is a well-made, water-and-dust sealed, all-metal body that feels great in the hand. It’s got the fully articulating screen and good ergonomics of the GH5. One difference is that the GH5S has a new viewfinder screen that refreshes at 120 fps for a more responsive view–I’ve never noticed anything lacking with the GH5, though, so this must be a video feature. My only gripe is that the playback button is on the left side of the body which makes it impossible to review images without taking your left hand off the lens. I’ve enjoyed the feel of this camera for many months.
The GH5 is often compared to the Sony a7, and this new GH5S is similarly comparable to the a7s. I recently spent several days shooting with the Sony a7, and I can say definitively that the GH5 bodies are much nicer to work with and hold. If nothing else, the fully articulating screen sets the GH5’s apart–it’s so much easier to use than the single axis Sony screen.
I think all the differences are centered around the sensor. It’s a completely new 10.28-megapixel sensor, which is almost exactly half the resolution of the GH5, but each of the photosites on the sensor is nearly twice as large as those of the GH5. Combined with new processor power and an extra capacitor on the sensor and a bunch of other wizardries, this means that the low light performance is much better. Since the picture is half as large, you may not be able to print a 30×40 without using Photo RAW to enlarge your picture, but you will be able to capture better concert photographs and better night sky pictures. Most of what you photograph isn’t going to viewed larger than my iPhone’s screen, anyway, so this smaller resolution really isn’t an issue. But if you’re a filmmaker you’ll certainly appreciate the reduced noise.
The thing that’s really rocking the boat is that it lacks in-body image stabilization (IBIS). That means that the sensor doesn’t move to compensate for camera shake. It does still work with the lens stabilization, which is pretty darn good, and you’ll be using a higher ISO on that low-noise sensor with a faster shutter speed, anyway, so you won’t need the IBIS. Filmmakers are likely using a gimble, too, so they won’t really miss it much, either, but it does feel like a reduced feature compared to the GH5.
However, there are some good reasons for removing the IBIS. For one thing, there’s a lot of processor power that runs that thing that is now free to help make the image quality much better. It’s also a bit lighter (reducing the need for it). But one major reason is that this camera has the ability to shoot in various crop factors and it actually has a larger sensor than the GH5 to preserve the angle of view at all these different crops. I’m not a filmmaker, so I haven’t followed the crop problems closely, but the larger sensor means that IBIS would take up more room, which would mean a new camera body to house it, which would mean new tooling and testing, which would mean a lot more expense and delay. Personally, I don’t think it’s that big a deal to not have IBIS–the lenses are so bright (f/2.8 is pretty slow in the micro four-thirds world) and the high ISO performance is so good that I don’t imagine having any issues.
Here’s a helpful hands-on review:
The Flash Sync Port & Timecode
This is a cool development. The GH3, GH4, and GH5 all have a flash sync port on the front of the camera which allows you to use a cable to connect your camera directly to studio strobes. This is a nice feature, and 20 years ago it was imperative to have, but nowadays we all strive to use wireless flashes and this port is little used. On the GH5S, they added functionality so that it can now communicate with other filmmaking devices as timecode input which makes it much easier to synchronize sound and picture from multiple sources. It used to sync lights with the shutter, now it syncs everything. I think that’s good innovation and that’s good for the industry.
Preorder at B&H for $2,497.99 and save $2 on the MSRP. A very nice price compared to other tools in this space, and when considering the low cost of micro four-thirds lenses, it’s really cheap–but then, you’re probably using cine lenses, so there go any savings on the body.
Is this Camera for You?
Are you a filmmaker? Do you burn the majority of your creative fuel making videos with pro-level tools? Do you shoot in low-light situations? Do you already have a GH5 or Black Magic camera? Then the GH5S may be just right for you.
Have I Preordered Mine?
Nope, and I don’t expect I’ll be buying one. I’m a Lumix Ambassador, but my business and skillset are focussed primarily on stills. I make videos, but as a complement to my photographs, not as my primary offering. My GH5 is more than enough video camera for me–I don’t even use 10% of its potential when I make videos, and the new G9 is even better for me because it makes great photographs and fine video without all the extra video stuff I’m not likely to use. Nah, the GH5S isn’t for me. But I’d love to hear your impressions if you get one.
The GH5S looks like a terrific tool and the perfect companion for any GH5 users who make films and videos, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing lots of footage from it in major motion pictures, too. The $2500 price tag isn’t too bad, and its overall usability is certainly worth the price when compared to similar cameras from Sony and Canon. It’s got cool innovations and I like that it’s maximizing the GH5 body and keeping the price tag under control. While this camera isn’t for me, I’m truly anxious to see what innovations this spurs in the industry amongst other brands and which features will make it into my next Lumix camera body.
Panasonic say it’ll ship by February.