Native 4K sensor and dual native ISO for excellent low-light video quality. Same build quality as GH5. Dual card slots. Vari-angle touch LCD. Big, sharp EVF. 14-bit Raw imaging V-Log L and HLG included.
Omits in-body stabilization. 10.2MP sensor not ideal for imaging. No built-in flash. Pricey.
- Bottom Line
The Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 S is a new version of the GH5 with a 10.2MP sensor that's built for 4K video and native dual ISO to curb noise when shooting in dim light.
Panasonic mirrorless cameras have long been chosen over competing models for video use. Superior compression and connectivity options have made the GH5 the darling of many an independent filmmaker or small corporate video studio. It's being joined by the GH5 S ($2,499.99, body only), which is aimed at videographers working under challenging light. Its 10.2MP sensor offers a dual native ISO design for much cleaner high-ISO video than the GH5 can deliver. We've only seen some sample footage provided by Panasonic ahead of its release in February, so we'll hold off on a final verdict until we've had a chance to test it ourselves.
The GH5 S uses the same chassis as the GH5. There are a few cosmetic changes, notably a red "S" under the GH5 badge on the front plate and a metallic red record button on the top. But the exterior design and dimensions are the same—the camera measures 3.9 by 5.5 by 3.4 inches (HWD). It's a bit lighter than the GH5, at 1.4 pounds versus 1.6 pounds. This is because the GH5 S omits the in-body stabilization system used by the GH5. I'm a bit skeptical of this decision, as I can see it turning off videographers looking for a small kit for low-light, handheld capture.
The GH5 S feels great in the hand. Its body is covered in textured rubber, so you can keep a firm grip on it, and a magnesium alloy chassis sits beneath. There's no shortage of control buttons, including a programmable Fn6 button on the front. On top you'll find a Drive dial to the left, a hot shoe at the center (there's no built-in flash), and the Mode dial to the right of the shoe. Top control buttons include EV, Fn1, ISO, Power, Record. A control dial and the shutter release are also up there.
In addition to an external flash unit, the GH5 S hot shoe supports the DMW-XLR1 audio adapter. It's a $400 accessory that adds two balanced XLR audio inputs to the camera. If you use pro-grade XLR mics, it's a must-have.
Rear controls include the standard display, playback, and delete options, along with a button to switch between the EVF and LCD, or enable an eye sensor for automatic switching. There's also an AF mode toggle switch, with an AF/AE Lock button at its center, a focus joystick, a rear control wheel, and several programmable buttons—Fn2 (Q.Menu), Fn3, and Fn4. You also get a flat command dial with a center Menu/Set button.
The Q.Menu interface is unchanged from the GH5. It's an on-screen overlay display from which you can adjust additional settings. It's customizable, so if you aren't happy with the default set you can choose which options are displayed. You can navigate the menu using physical controls or via touch.
The LCD is a 3-inch vari-angle design, with touch input support. It's sharp, at 1.62 million dots, and is as responsive to touch as a flagship smartphone. It flips out from the body and can face forward, up, toward the rear, or all the way down. If you want to use the EVF exclusively, or protect the screen during transport, it can flip around so that the LCD faces in toward the camera body. The electronic viewfinder is quite good as well; it sports a big 0.76x magnification ratio and packs 3.6 million dots of resolution, placing it up there with the best in this class.
The GH5 S sports the same Wi-Fi system as the GH5, so it can connect to an Android or iOS device for image transfer and remote control via the Panasonic Image app. The battery is rated for 440 images by CIPA, but Panasonic doesn't specify how much video it can record on a full charge.
In addition to the hot shoe, the GH5 S has dual SDXC card slots, both UHS-II, a full-size HDMI connector, 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks, and a USB-C data port. There's also a PC sync socket for studio strobes, but its functionality is expanded. An included PC to BNC cable makes it possible to sync two GH5 S bodies together, or to sync the GH5 S to an external timecode server, to aid in multi-camera editing.
Imaging and Video
The GH5 S uses a new sensor, a 10.2MP multi-aspect ratio CMOS chip, without in-body stabilization. The low pixel density makes it a bit less appealing for photographers when compared with the 20MP GH5 and other mirrorless cameras that pack tons of resolution, like the 42MP Sony a7R III.
The sensor does support 14-bit Raw capture, a first for a Panasonic Micro Four Thirds camera. Other models, including the photo-centric G9, are limited to 12-bit quality. The reason for this is simple: there's less data to process in a 10.2MP image file, so the camera can handle the extra when capturing in Raw format.
The sensor, which incorporates a low-pass filter in its design, has a load of video capabilities. It records in Cinema 4K at up to 60fps, and at 1080p at up to 240fps for extreme slow-motion. It offers support for anamorphic lenses, although the low-resolution design precludes 6K capture support—you'll want the regular GH5 for that.
The GH5 S sensor has two native ISO settings, as we've seen before in Panasonic's pro-grade VariCam line. The technical wizardy behind this—which involves having two different strengths of electrical current to power the sensor—is best left for the engineers, but the practical results are quite useful. In function, noise is seriously cut, without sacrificing sharpness, when recording video at high ISO sensitivities.
Unlike the GH5, which supports V-Log L and HLG but requires an upgrade fee to unlock their functionality, the GH5 S includes both profiles in its base price. Both capture video with a flat color space, giving you more leeway to color correct, and HLG supports HDR capture.
I haven't yet shot with the GH5 S, but Panasonic did show some sample video that compared its high ISO output with the GH5 and Sony's 12MP full-frame option, the a7S II. To my eye the GH5 S sample footage, shot at ISO 6400 and 12800, is much cleaner than what you get from the GH5, by more than one stop. (Panasonic claims a 1.5EV advantage.)
What's more head-turning is that the GH5 S footage looks about as good as video from the a7S II, a camera with a sensor that's close to four times the size in surface area. And the GH5 S shows less skew when shooting fast-moving subjects than the a7S II, a product of its smaller image sensor and extremely fast sensor readout.
Panasonic now offers three premium mirrorless cameras. The GH5 puts emphasis on video over stills, but still manages to capture strong images, while the G9 is designed with photography in mind, but doesn't exactly skimp when it comes to 4K video. The GH5 S, the priciest and most specialized of the trio, will alienate still photographers looking for more resolution to make big prints, but its high ISO capabilities will attract video shooters who love to work with dim, available light. We'll report back with a full evaluation of the GH5 S's performance when it comes in for review.
Other Panasonic Digital Cameras
About the Author
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 digital cameras. And he's reviewed almost all of them. When he's not testing cameras and gear for PCMag, he's likely out and about shooting with one of his favorite vintage film cameras, which include the Hasselblad, a Rolleiflex Automat, and a Leica M3.
In his spare time, Jim posts his own photos to his blog, daguerreotyping, where he also writes a bit about antique cameras and film.
His father never did get that Hasselblad back.
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