Superlative video. Strong image quality. In-body stabilization. 10.3fps Raw capture. 4K and 6K photo modes. Sturdy all-weather build. Dual UHS-II card slots. Vari-angle touch LCD. EVF. Wi-Fi.
Focus tracking slows shooting rate. Pricey for stills-first shooters. Omits built-in flash.
- Bottom Line
The Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 is the mirrorless camera to get for 4K video, but if you're more concerned about stills, it's not a clear-cut winner.
Panasonic's GH series has long been a favorite for videographers invested in the Micro Four Thirds system. The latest iteration, the Lumix DC-GH5 ($1,999.99, body only), ups the video game, adding a wealth of recording options, including a 400Mbps 4K setting. You also get in-body stabilization, the option to add XLR audio with an adapter, and a very solid build. It's a camera that's ready for use in a professional environment. It also has attractive still capture capability, but if that's your main purpose, you have better, less expensive options, like our Editors' Choice Fujifilm X-T2.
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The GH5 looks a lot like the models that came before it. It's a compact (3.9 by 5.5 by 3.4 inches, HWD) but hefty (1.6 pounds), mirrorless camera with a matte black finish. The body is fairly slim, but the handgrip is deep and comfortable. As a mirrorless camera it's smaller than a similar SLR like the Nikon D500 (4.5 by 5.8 by 3.2 inches, 1.9 pounds), but not dramatically so.
In the hand, the GH5 feels like a top-end product. The body is finished in a comfortable, textured rubber, but underneath the exterior is a magnesium alloy chassis. There are a ton of physical controls, including the unmarked Fn6 button on the front, easily pressed by your right ring finger. Like all of the Fn buttons it can be programmed. By default it toggles a preview function. It shows you the depth of field for the set f-stop, which is a function photographers are used to, but an additional press also adds shutter speed preview. This shows you the effects of motion blur when shooting with a longer shutter speed. It's not something I've seen in other cameras.
You'll find a dedicated Drive dial at the far left of the top plate. In addition to the standard single, continuous, and self-timer options, it has positions for 4K and 6K photo mode. These leverage the video functions to capture 4K (8MP) photos at up to 60fps and 8K (18MP) images at up to 30fps. Focus is locked in the standard capture mode, but you can also set the dial to shoot with Post Focus enabled—it shoots a burst of images, changing the camera's autofocus point for each shot, and is a useful tool for macro focus stacking techniques.
The hot shoe is centered behind the lens mount. In addition to an external flash—unlike the GH4, the GH5 does not have a built-in flash—the shoe can also accommodate the DMW-XLR1 audio adapter ($400), which adds dual XLR audio inputs.
The Mode dial is to the right of the shoe. It features a lock button at the center—a push of the button holds the dial in place, or makes it so you can turn it to change the mode. Tension is tight to begin with, but engaging the lock ensures the mode won't be changed inadvertently. The On/Off switch is nestled into the side of the dial.
Other top controls include the shutter release, positioned atop the handgrip, with a control dial directly behind it. White Balance, ISO, EV, Fn1, and Record buttons round things out—they're grouped together behind the top dial, to the right of the Mode dial.
Play and Fn5, which toggles the view between the rear LCD and EVF or enables an eye sensor to switch automatically, sit on the rear, just to the left of the eyecup. To the right you find a toggle switch to change focus mode (AFS/AFF, AFC, and MF are options), with an AE Lock button at its center. There's also a small joystick, a dedicated control to set the active focus point. It's very useful and perfectly placed; it makes setting the focus point manually a joy.
Other rear options include a control dial (at the top right), Display, Fn2 (Q.Menu), Fn3 (Focus Area), Fn4 (Delete), and Menu/Set buttons, as well well as a flat command dial that spins to navigate through menus and also sports four-way directional control. The flat dial has a great feel to it—it's large enough that it's comfortable to turn, and offers both resistance and detents so you know you're turning it. By default it adjusts audio recording levels, but you can change its function—I set it to directly adjust EV compensation.
In addition to physical controls, the on-screen Q.Menu is used to change settings. It's a useful tool—you'll only need to dive into the more extensive menu system in order to adjust fairly esoteric options. For things you want to change without losing view of your frame, including video resolution and frame rate, metering settings, white balance, and image format, you can use Q.Menu.
The menu can be navigated using the rear command dial or focus joystick, or by touch. The 3-inch LCD is as responsive as a flagship smartphone, so you can easily navigate menus, tap to adjust the focus point, or pinch to zoom in on an image during playback. The display itself is very sharp (1.62 million dots) and sports a vari-angle design, so it can swing out to the side and face all the way forward or all the way down—a must-have for serious video work.
There's also an eye-level EVF for those times when you want to bring the camera up to your eye. It's an OLED design with a big 0.76x magnification ratio and a 3.6-million-dot resolution. It's right up there with the best in its class.
Connectivity and Power
The GH5 includes Wi-Fi for image transfer and remote control. It works with the Panasonic Image App for Android and iOS. The app shows a live feed from the lens, and supports tap to focus and full manual exposure control. You also get access to all Q.Menu settings—it's one of the best, fully featured remote control experiences you'll find.
Physical connections include dual UHS-II SD slots, PC sync for studio flash, 3.5mm mic and headphone, HDMI, and USB-C. The battery charges outside the camera, using an included charger, and is rated by CIPA for about 400 images. That's on the same level as the competition—the Fuji X-T2 is rated for 390 and the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II for 440.
Performance and Imaging
The GH5 is very responsive. It powers on, focuses, and fires in just about 0.8-second. Autofocus on its own is extremely quick—I recorded close to zero lag in bright light, and about 0.3-second in very dim conditions. Continuous shooting is available at 10.3fps with locked focus. The GH5 keeps that pace for 64 Raw+JPG, 75 Raw, or 194 JPG shots, with 42.7, 37.4, and 18.2 seconds required to clear the buffer after a full bust, respectively.
The autofocus system is purely contrast based, so the camera slows down when you switch the focus mode to continuous. If you're shooting moving action, speed is limited to 6.5fps. Our standard focus test shows that most shots are crisply focused at that rate when photographing a target moving toward and away from the lens, but it's not a perfect hit rate. Other cameras that utilize both phase and contrast detection for focus, like the X-T2 and E-M1 Mark II, manage a quicker burst rate with an as good or better hit rate for focus when tracking a moving subject.
The focus system is quite flexible, even if there isn't a phase detect component. Panasonic uses what it calls DFD, depth from defocus, which leverages knowledge on how a lens draws a scene in order to speed focus and eliminate the back-and-forth action that we've come to expect from a contrast system.
A good portion of the sensor is covered by the autofocus system. There are 225 selectable boxes; you can select any of them individually, or set up a group focus area that covers anywhere from four boxes, arranged in a crosshair pattern, all the way up to a big group of 97 points. If you desire more control over focus, you can switch to Pinpoint mode, which magnifies a portion of the frame and lets you select a focus point.
The GH5 uses a 20MP Micro Four Thirds image sensor. It has a native ISO range that starts at 200 and ranges up to 25600, but ISO 100 is also available as an extended low setting. I tested the camera's JPG output using Imatest and found that noise is curbed to less than 1.5 percent at every setting.
There's some noise reduction going on to achieve this. You can expect to get crisp, clear images through ISO 1600. At ISO 3200 we see some slight smudging of very fine detail, and image quality is about the same at ISO 6400. Quality takes a noticeable hit at ISO 12800, and ISO 25600 output is noticeably blurry.
You can shoot in Raw format to sidestep the in-camera noise control. I converted Raw test images using Adobe Lightroom CC with default develop settings enabled. As with JPG, results through ISO 1600 are very strong. There is some roughness in fine details at ISO 3200 and 6400. At ISO 12800 details in Raw images are quite rough, but they're still there, unlike with the JPG output. The top ISO 25600 setting is very grainy, and detail isn't great, but it's not blurry like the JPG.
Praising the GH5's video capabilities is an exercise in redundancy. Like the GH4, it's the only camera in this price range that delivers so much for videographers. Video recording is available at 4K quality in the standard 16:9 or 2:1 aspect ratios at up to 60fps, and you can record in the 4:3 ratio at 6K resolution at up to 30fps. Cinematographers who want a wide look at 6K can add an anamorphic lens.
The full-size HDMI port outputs clean, uncompressed video at 10-bit 4:2:2 quality, so you can monitor in real time with a pro-grade display or utilize a dedicated external recorder with ProRes support. You can also record at that quality to a memory card, albeit with mild compression. The camera has a laundry list of options for quality, but the top setting is 400Mbps with ALL-Intra compression and LPCM audio.
Even at more modest 100Mbps settings, the 4K video looks fantastic. You can apply a finished color profile in-camera, or opt to shoot in one of two flat, log color spaces, which give you more flexibility grading footage.
In-body stabilization is a boon for video use. Any lens you use will be stabilized, so you have the freedom to use legacy glass to get a specific look, or modern cinema lenses with precise manual focus control. Fans of the handheld look will appreciate the stabilization, as it does a fine job eliminating small jitters, while maintaining the cinéma vérité style that many strive for.
We used the built-in microphone for our video tests, and experienced the typical built-in mic issues. The omnidirectional design picks up sound all around the camera, so you can clearly hear the shutter of another camera I was using to take photographs of a feeding gull. Pros will add an external mic, and have the ability to use XLR with an add-on adapter.
If video is your primary focus, the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 delivers the highest quality and feature set you can find in a camera in this price range. Still shooters invested in the Micro Four Thirds system shouldn't discount it either. It delivers strong image quality, quick focus, and 4K and 6K photo modes. It doesn't shoot quite as fast as its closest competitor, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, which is priced the same and uses the same lens system, but not everyone needs the type of shooting speed the E-M1 delivers.
As good as the GH5 is, we're not naming it Editors' Choice. The high-end mirrorless market is extremely competitive. Our favorite fast-shooting, crop-sensor mirrorless body is the Fujifilm X-T2, which has an impeccable autofocus system and 4K video (although not on the same level as the GH5), but costs just $1,600. If you don't need speed or 4K, and want a full-frame sensor instead, the $1,700 Sony a7 II is our top pick.
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By Jim Fisher Senior Analyst, Digital Cameras
Senior digital camera analyst for the PCMag consumer electronics reviews team, Jim Fisher is a graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he concentrated on documentary video production. Jim's interest in photography really took off when he borrowed his father's Hasselblad 500C and light meter in 2007. He honed his writing skills at retailer B&H Photo, where he wrote thousands upon thousands of product descriptions, blog posts, and reviews. Since then he's shot with hundreds of camera models, ranging from pocket point-and-shoots to medium format… More »
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