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Panasonic GH5, a mirrorless camera built for filmmaking

Panasonic GH5 camera body
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Panasonic’s new $2000/£1700 (body only) GH5 offers more pro filmmaking features than any other mirrorless camera. With powerful in-body image stabilisation, it looks a great choice for news shooters, documentary filmmakers and events.

The GH5 is weather-sealed, frostproof (to -10C), and can shoot 4K and HD in a range of broadcast quality formats without needing an external recorder. It has a very high resolution electronic viewfinder and a multi-angle touchscreen.

Key features

Broadcast quality

The GH5 can shoot 4K, in 10 bit, 4:2:2 at up to 30p internally. That means it records more information than the usual consumer 8 bit, 4:2:0 format,  so your footage will stand up better to colour correction, grading and effects.

Slow motion

The GH5 can record 60p (2x) 4K slow motion, at 4:2:0 8 bit internally, or 4:2:2 10 bit with an external recorder. In 1080p HD it can shoot at up to 180p (that’s 6x slow motion, or 7.2x for PAL users).

Stabilisation

It has five-axis in-body image stabilisation for easy handholding.

Focus

There’s advanced autofocus, with touchscreen focusing and programmable rack focus.

Screen and viewfinder

The viewfinder is very sharp, with over 50% higher resolution than the previous GH4 or Canon’s EOS M5. That makes eye-level shooting a good option, even for stills.  The touchscreen resolution is as high as Canon’s pro 5D Mk IV.

Dynamic range

With a paid upgrade ($100), you can shoot V-log with a 12 stop dynamic range. (Dynamic range means how well the camera deals with contrast). V-log is a flat picture style which compresses highlights and shadows, and is designed to be corrected or graded afterwards: the GH5 lets you preview how the footage will look once LUT correction is applied.

Audio

It has microphone and headphone sockets, and two built-in microphones (one of which is for noise cancelling).

An optional $400 audio module adds two pro XLR microphone inputs and physical dials and switches for changing audio settings and levels.

Other features

  • It can display pro waveform and vectorscope monitors
  • There are two SD card slots and no recording limit
  • It’s a world camera: it can shoot NTSC or PAL formats.

Features that are coming later

Two free firmware upgrades – one scheduled for April, one for the Summer – will add extra options for internal recording: broadcast quality HD (up to 60p slow motion) at 200Mb/s, 4K at up to 400Mb/s, and anamorphic recording.

Limitations

The MFT (micro four thirds) sensor is smaller than Canon’s APS-C and the full frame format used on some Canon and Sony cameras. That means you can’t get quite as creative with shallow depth of field, unless you add an expensive Metabones Speedbooster adapter to fit lenses designed for larger sensors. But for documentary and events shooters, more depth of field may be a bonus as it means fewer focus errors.

Panasonic’s colours, out of the camera, aren’t as good as Canon’s – though the GH5 has better colours than previous Panasonics. But being able to shoot in 10-bit 4:2:2 should make the footage easy to correct and grade.

Low-light performance won’t be nearly as good as the exceptional (and much more expensive) Sony A7S Mk II, though  it’s an improvement on the GH4.

Continuous autofocus isn’t as good as competitors when shooting at 24fps.

It’s bigger and heavier than its predecessor, the GH4.  But that’s relative: at 725g it’s still slightly lighter than the lower-spec Canon 80D, and only 100g heavier than Sony’s A7S II.

Should you buy it? 

For documentaries, news and events, the combination of broadcast quality 4K, easy handholding, interchangeable lenses and pro audio looks unbeatable at this price. But filmmakers who want a ‘cinematic’ look might find the small sensor limiting. If you don’t need to shoot 4K, the Canon C100 might be a better choice. And if you don’t need the GH5’s pro features, the G85/G80 has the same great image stabilisation in a smaller body for less than half the price.

Check price Adorama | Amazon.com | Amazon.uk

Samples

Levi Allen shot this adventure video entirely handheld with the GH5.


This video from RomsProd on Youtube shows how a pre-production GH5 performs in low light: it looks good to me.

Kaimon Wong and Dan Chung from Photo Gear News tried out the autofocus and in body image stabilisation.

Best lenses for filmmaking with Panasonic cameras

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