Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH5
 
Click for magazine pagesOUR FULL REVIEW IS BELOW, BUT FOR ALL OUR TEST PICS & FULL SPECS, CLICK THE PAGE TO THE RIGHT FOR THE ORIGINAL MAGAZINE PAGES AS A PDF ►►►
 
What makes a cult camera? It’s highly likely designers and product planners don’t really know – otherwise they would make one every time, wouldn’t they? But sometimes the stars align and everything just comes together so sweetly. Canon did it with the original EOS 5D which really came into its own with the Mark II, the added video recording capabilities establishing it as the go-to D-SLR for movie makers. 
 
It’s a reputation that’s been sustained despite the appearance of many competitors. Canon admits that the 5D II’s success in the video market took it largely by surprise.
 
Panasonic hit the jackpot with the Lumix GH3, consolidated it mightily with the GH4 and is now raising the bar again with the GH5. If you’re using a hybrid-type camera for video-making, it’s likely going to be either a Canon EOS 5D III or IV or a Lumix GH4. Panasonic’s achievements here maybe aren’t quite so surprising as Canon’s, given its expertise in professional video cameras, but then the mirrorless GH3 was also something totally different at the time and its surprise factor – how could something this small be this good? – quickly established the legend that was ably carried on by the GH4.
 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH5
 
With the GH5, Panasonic has pushed everything further so it’s essentially a mirrorless still camera with the video capabilities of a professional-level camcorder. It’s marginally bigger than its predecessor, but it does so much more with significant performance boosts to just about every key specification.
 
It’s built around a new version of Panasonic’s ‘Live MOS’ sensor (a variety of CMOS) with a total pixel count of 21.77 million and without an optical low-pass filter so this resolution can be optimised. However, it’s really the next-generation ‘Venus Engine 10’ image processor that is the star of the show as it’s not only immensely powerful and faster, but employs a swag of new algorithms to enhance image quality in a number of areas. 
 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH5
 
Working away behind the scenes are ‘Multipixel Luminance Generation’ and ‘Intelligent Detail Processing’ which deal with brightness and contrast, plus ‘Three-Dimensional Colour Control’ – the third dimension being brightness, in addition to saturation and hue – and ‘High-Precision Multi Process NR’ which is a more intelligent method of noise reduction designed to better preserve definition and detailing at the higher ISO settings. The new processor delivers a number of world firsts for a mirrorless camera – firstly, 4K internal video recording (i.e. to the memory card) in 10-bit 4:2:2 colour which means a leap to around one billion colours (versus 16.7 million at 8-bits per RGB channel), enhancing not only the overall reproduction, but also the smoothness of gradation. Secondly, the GH5 captures 4K video footage at 50 fps (PAL standard) which improves the rendering of subject movement and allows for better-looking slow-motion effects. Drop the resolution to Full HD and the frame rate can be as fast as 180 fps for super slow-mo.
 
For more on the GH5’s impressive suite of video functionality, see under ‘Making Movies’ below.
 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH5
Six Appeal
There are spin-offs for photographers from the GH5’s ability to process more image data more quickly, in that the ‘4K Photo’ modes can now also capture at 60 fps – called ‘4K H’ – and there’s the option of ‘6K Photo’ – capturing at 30 fps – which delivers 18.7 megapixels still frames. 
 
If you’re new to these Panasonic features, the original ‘4K Photo’ modes were launched a while back and essentially captured 4K video clips – originally only at 30 fps – from which could be extracted an 8.3 megapixels still frame. The idea here is to improve your ‘strike rate’ when shooting high-speed action and it’s proven to be quite successful given there’s still a lot you can do with an 8.3 megapixels frame. At 60 fps, you’re essentially doubling your chances of capturing the ‘decisive moment’. At 18.7 megapixels, you’re expanding the possibilities of what can be done with these images… including the ability to make pretty big prints.
 
On the GH5 you can switch between the 4K or 6K resolutions – and the 30 fps or 60 fps speeds for the former – as desired and, as before, there’s a choice of modes: Pre-Burst, Burst and Burst Start/Stop (S/S). In the Pre-Burst mode, a sequence of 60 6K frames or either 60 or 120 4K frames is captured in two seconds, but specifically half are recorded before the shutter is fully released and half after, which essentially eliminates your reaction time so you won’t miss the shot. The Burst mode is more conventional and shoots at either 30 fps (6K or 4K) or 60 fps (4K) for as long as the shutter button is held down… now with no duration limit. Alternatively, the Burst Start/Stop mode does the same thing, but one press of the shutter button starts the sequence and a second press ends it. There’s also the option of setting a loop function which divides the Burst S/S recording into two minute segments and then starts deleting anything older than between 10–12 minutes which is handy if you’re waiting for the action to happen and don’t want to trawl through a load of useless frames. 
 
Continuous autofocus is automatically activated and the ‘4K/6K Photo’ modes are available with each of the standard ‘PASM’ exposure control modes, as are the camera’s choice of four aspect ratios which all maintain the 8.3 MP or 18.7 MP image sizes regardless. 
 
The GH5 also incorporates the latest ‘4K Photo’ developments (obviously also now applicable to the 6K bursts) which include bulk saving in five-second batches, ‘Post Focus’ and ‘Focus Stacking’. Post Focus records a high-speed burst of 4K or 6K video frames, but this time changing the focus point in each – which represents a burst of 49 frames – so you can subsequently select the one with the desired plane of focus. You simply touch – on the monitor screen – the desired focusing point from the 7x7 grid overlay, and the camera selects that particular frame. Alternatively, you can have multiple versions of an image with different focus points, or these can be combined via the ‘Focus Stacking’ option – simply tap on all the desired focusing points – to create an image that could be absolutely sharp from foreground to background (regardless of the lens aperture used). Automatic correction is applied for any misalignment of the frames. There’s also multi-frame noise reduction even with moving subjects and, new on the GH5, automatic correction for the distortion caused by the ‘rolling shutter effect’ when panning. What’s more, this is achieved without changing the angle-of-view.
 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH5The ‘Light Composition’ function introduced with the GX85 is available too. This again records in either 4K or 6K, but only registers the brighter new pixels in each frame… such as would be created by fireworks or star trails. These frames are subsequently combined into a single image.
 
The step up to the 6K video resolution turns these frame grab functions into very powerful tools, especially for any sort of action photography and, of course, Panasonic is promising 8K video down the track… delivering 33 megapixels stills!
 
Thanks For The Memory
For full resolution continuous shooting – which at 20.3 megapixels (effective) isn’t actually a whole lot more than the 6K video res – the GH5 shoots at up to 12 fps with the AF/AE locked to the first frame, and at up to 9.0 fps with frame-by-frame adjustment and updated live view. The burst lengths are extended to 60 frames with RAW capture and “over 600” with maximum quality JPEGs. 
 
Importantly, the GH5 now has dual memory cards – something that’s now really essential when shooting 4K video – and both are compatible with the higher-speed UHS-II UHS Speed Class 3 devices. The file management options comprise Relay (i.e. automatic switchover when one card is full), Back-Up (simultaneous recording to both cards) and Allocation (specific file types to one or the other card, such as splitting JPEGs and RAWs). Additionally, the Relay facility extends to replacing the full card – while the camera is still recording to the second one – so the new card is available when the latter also becomes full. Consequently, the GH5 imposes no time limits on a video recording’s duration (as the tax-related 29 minutes and 59 seconds restriction isn’t applied here either).
 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH5JPEGs can be recorded in one of three sizes – the largest being 5184x3888 pixels – with two compression levels and the option of 4:3, 3:2, 16:9 and 1:1 aspect ratios (although the latter three are all crops of varying amounts). Incidentally, the ‘6K Photo’ frames are recorded at 4992x3744 pixels (at the 4:3 aspect ratio) while the ‘4K Photo’ frames are 3328x2496 pixels in size (at 4:3). All four aspect ratio settings are available in ‘4K Photo’, but only 4:3 and 3:2 for ‘6K Photo’.
 
The GH5’s magnesium alloy bodyshell is fully sealed against dust and moisture with the addition of insulation to allow for shooting in subzero temperatures down to -10 degrees Celsius. The LCD monitor screen is bigger (at 8.1 cm) than before with a higher resolution of 1.62 megadots and an RGBW display for a brighter image which assists with visibility when shooting in sunny conditions. The panel is adjustable for both swing and tilt, and has touchscreen controls. The GH5’s OLED-type EVF also gets an upgrade with increases in resolution to 3.68 megadots – which actually makes a noticeable difference – and in magnification to 0.76x (35mm equivalent) which makes for much more comfortable viewing.
As has been the case with the last few new Lumix G bodies, the GH5 is equipped with sensor-shift image stabilisation which provides corrections across five axes to give up to five stops of compensation for camera shake. As on the G85, it uses a gyro sensor located in the camera body (rather than on the sensor) to detect angular velocities, and the hybrid ‘Dual IS II’ system operates when using the latest Lumix G lenses equipped with optical image stabilisation (although some models require firmware upgrades).
 
Also a new feature since the GH4 was introduced is the provision of a sensor-based shutter on the Lumix G bodies which supplements the conventional focal plane type. It’s confusingly referred to as the ‘electronic shutter’ although, of course, the FP shutter is still electronically controlled, but is now referred to as being ‘mechanical’ which essentially means it has physical blades. The main advantage of the sensor shutter is that it operates completely silently and doesn’t create any vibrations, but it also allows for a faster top speed of 1/16,000 second (compared to 1/8000 second for the conventional focal plane shutter). The downside is an effect called ‘rolling shutter’ which distorts moving subjects. On the GH5 you have the options of using either shutter type or a hybrid ‘electronic first curtain’ shutter which commences the exposure with the sensor shutter and finishes it with the physical one’s second curtain (which, of course, is actually a set of metal blades). This hybrid operation is primarily to allow for the use of flash while still reducing shutter noise and vibrations.
 
Panasonic rates the GH5’s FP shutter at 200,000 cycles and while it’s a conventional spring-loaded mechanism (unlike the G85’s electromagnetically-actuated type), Panasonic has employed a “floating shutter” design to help minimise vibrations or shock. There’s also a shutter release delay timer – which can be set to one, two, four or eight seconds – so any vibrations have time to die away before the exposure commences.
 
While camera-induced vibrations are less problematic with the mirrorless designs 
than reflexes, remember that the M43 format has a focal length magnification factor of close to two so, particularly as more longer lenses arrive, even the tiniest of internal movements 
could be magnified into image-softening blur.
 
Working The Light
Exposure control with the Lumix GH5 continues to be based on 1728-points multi-zone metering with the options of either centre-weighted average or spot measurements. The sensitivity range is equivalent to ISO 200 to 25,600 with a one-stop ‘pull’ to ISO 100. 
There’s the standard set of ‘PASM’ modes, but no subject programs except for when ‘iA’ fully-auto control is selected and then the camera performs scene recognition. The overrides for the auto exposure modes are an AE lock, up to +/-5.0 EV compensation and auto bracketing which can be performed over sequences of three, five or seven frames with up to +/-3.0 EV adjustment per frame. There are also auto bracketing modes for white balance, focus and apertures (i.e. depth-of-field). Focus bracketing can be programmed for sequences of up to 999 frames with the focus shifted in each using one of five preselected step sizes. Additionally, you can vary the sequencing order. The aperture bracketing function can be set to a sequence length of three or five frames, but there’s also an ‘All’ setting which captures a shot at every one of the attached lens’s apertures.
 
The GH5’s auto white balance correction is supplemented by a set of five presets and there’s provision for creating up to four custom measurements plus there’s fine-tuning (over amber-to-blue and/or green-to-magenta) and the aforementioned bracketing. Manual colour temperature setting is provided over a range spanning 2500 to 10,000 degrees Kelvin and, again, up to four settings can be stored for immediate recall. The standard auto correction can be switched to a ‘keep warmer tones’ option to preserve the ambience when shooting under certain lighting types indoors. 
 
This is actually the ‘AWB’ setting in the camera whereas the full correction is tagged as ‘AWBc’ which could lead to a bit of confusion for new users.
 
Staying On Track
Panasonic’s ‘Depth From Defocus’ (DFD) has already proven itself in Lumix G models such as the G85 and GX8, overcoming the speed limitations of conventional contrast-detection autofocusing. It’s significantly upgraded in the GH5, which is important as autofocusing is now the key battleground in the war between mirrorless and reflex …plus rivals Olympus and Fujifilm have both delivered much-improved AF performances with their current flagship models. 
 
DFD works by analysing multiple frames captured at very high speed – uprated to 480 fps here – in order to determine the lens’s out-of-focus characteristics and then calculate the subject distance. From here the lens is driven directly and continuously to that distance – similar to the way phase-difference detection AF operates – with only minor fine-tuning subsequently required to achieve sharp focus.
 
The GH5’s system increases the number of focusing points from 49 to 225 arranged in a 15x15 pattern which covers a very large part of the frame. Given these points can be selected individually, Panasonic has followed the likes of Fujifilm and installed a joystick-type controller for speedier movement around the grid. Single point selection can be made even more selective in the ‘Pinpoint’ area mode, but there’s a host of options for creating clusters of points in various sizes and shapes using the ‘Custom Multi’ function. Here the points can be arranged centrally, horizontally or vertically and positioned wherever you want in the frame, but you can also create any shape you want which can be stored as one of three custom patterns. The quickest way to do this is via the touchscreen, but the joystick works efficiently here too. What’s more, you can create separate patterns for when the camera is either horizontally or vertically orientated.
 
More generally, the AF area can be set to a variety of sizes and moved around the frame by various means, including the touchscreen and joystick.
 
Precise positioning can be assisted by a magnified image, either full-screen or as a picture-in-picture (PIP) inset panel. Full screen magnification is up to 10x, PIP up to 6x. ‘Touch AF’ sets the focus by simply tapping on the screen and there’s the option of also setting the exposure for this point too.
 
Face recognition can be fine-tuned to the left or right eye and the tracking can be adjusted to better match the subject’s movement characteristics via four scenario-based sub-menus. These each have three adjustable parameters for AF Sensitivity, AF Area Switching Sensitivity and Moving Object Prediction. The four default set-ups are for objects moving quickly in one direction, slow random movement, rapid and random movement, and ‘basic’, which is obviously non-specific.
 
Single-shot or continuous AF operation is selected manually via an external switch with the option of automatic switching between the two if the ‘Auto Focus Flexible’ (AFF) setting is preselected in the main shooting menu. Additionally, the priority in either mode can be set to either Focus or Release.
 
Manual focusing is selected via the same control and assisted by a magnified image: a simple distance scale or a focus peaking display which is available in a choice of five colours, each with two intensity levels. Again the magnified image is shown either full-screen or as a picture-in-picture inset panel. AF+MF operation is also available, providing a full-time manual override with whatever assistance method has been preselected.
 
Due Process
The GH5’s in-camera processing options for JPEGs start with a selection of seven ‘Photo Style’ picture presets, including the new L Monochrome enhanced B&W setting introduced on the GX85. 
 
The colour presets have adjustable parameters for contrast, sharpness, colour saturation, hue and noise reduction. The monochrome preset replaces the colour-related parameters with a toning adjustment (adjustable from sepia to blue) and a set of B&W contrast-control filters (i.e. yellow, orange, red and green). Up to four modified presets can be stored as custom ‘Photo Styles’.
 
A total of 22 ‘Creative Control’ special effects are available as either stand-alone shooting modes or, more usefully, applied to the ‘PASM’ exposure control modes. Quite a number of these effects are adjustable and they can also be combined, so there are almost endless possibilities. Additionally, you can simultaneously capture one image with the effect applied and another without.
 
Being the Lumix G flagship, the GH5 boasts a long list of additional features, including a multiple exposure facility, an intervalometer and multi-shot HDR capture.
 
The multiple exposure facility allows for up to four images to be recorded in a frame with the option of auto exposure adjustment. An overlay function allows additional exposures to be added to an existing image. The intervalometer can be programmed for time-lapse sequences of up to 9999 frames which, in the ‘Stop Motion Animation’ mode, are processed as a movie clip. 
 
The HDR capture function allows for the manual setting of the exposure adjustment between frames – from +/-1.0 to +/-3.0 EV – as well as automatic correction based on the scene’s contrast range. Again, there’s an auto-align function to correct for any misalignment from frame to frame caused by movement of the camera.
 
Dynamic range expansion is available with either three manual settings (called Low, Standard and High) or auto correction based on the scene’s contrast range. There’s also long exposure noise reduction, in-camera lens corrections (switchable for vignetting and diffraction, automatic for chromatic aberrations), resolution enhancement and the ‘Highlight/Shadow’ adjustment control which is now a feature on quite a few Lumix G models. It works in a similar way to Photoshop’s Curves, with adjustments applied to a tone curve that’s displayed in the monitor screen. The front input wheel adjusts the highlights while the rear one adjusts the shadows. There’s a selection of four preset curves (Standard, Higher Contrast, Lower Contrast and Brighten Shadows), and up to three custom settings can be created and stored.
 
In the ‘Intelligent Auto’ (iA) mode – which is based on scene analysis – everything is done automatically, including backlight compensation, sensitivity adjustment, focus tracking, face detection and recognition, long exposure noise reduction, red-eye removal and automatic scene mode selection. Additionally, if deemed necessary, ‘iHDR’ and ‘iHandheld Night Shot’ multi-shot capture will automatically activate. There’s also the option of selecting an ‘iAuto+’ mode which is a bit like a set of training wheels. All operations are still fully automatic, but basic manual adjustments are provided for image brightness, depth-of-field and colour balance. These are applied via touch control using on-screen sliders which are accessed via a tabbed menu located along the right edge of the screen. Just how many GH5 users will be at this level is questionable, but Panasonic’s ‘iA’ mode actually works very reliably and there’s certainly a good case for relying on it in some situations.
 
Making Movies
As capable as it is as a stills camera, video is the GH5’s star turn and its extensive capabilities in this area could fill a whole article by themselves so this is merely an overview of the key capabilities.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH5As noted above, the GH5 can record 4K video in 10-bit 4:2:2 colour to the internal memory card, which delivers a big improvement in image quality due to the extra information, and there are also various benefits in post-production. Importantly, a 10-bit 4:2:2 output is simultaneously available from the camera’s HDMI terminal (which, incidentally, is now a full-size Type A fitting). At the Ultra HD (UHD) resolution of 3840x2160 pixels, 4K footage can be recorded at 30, 25 or 24 fps with a bit-rate of 150 Mbps for 10-bit 4:2:2 colour and 100 Mbps for 8-bit 4:2:0 (when the 60 or 50 fps recording speeds are also available). It can also record at the Cinema 4K resolution of 4096x2160 pixels at 24 fps, again with a bit rate of 150 Mbps with 10-bit 4:2:2 colour or 100 Mbps with 8-bit 4:2:0 colour. These bit rates are with Long GOP compression (Long Group Of Pictures) which is IPB interframe coding; but via firmware upgrades, All-Intra (ALL-A) intraframe coding will deliver 400 Mbps for 4K video at 30, 25 or 24 fps and 200 Mbps with Full HD footage at 60, 50, 30, 25 or 24 fps. 

The upgrades also give a 6K Anamorphic mode at 4:3 and 24 fps with 10-bit colour, and some additional profiles including 4K Hybrid Gamma for compatibility with 4K HDR displays. The standard video profiles are Panasonic’s ‘Cinelike D’ and ‘Cinelike V’, but ‘V-Log-L’ – which matches the GH5 with the company’s pro-level cinematography and broadcast cameras – is available via a purchasable software upgrade and extends the dynamic range to more than 12 stops.

There’s the choice of MOV, MP4, AVCHD Progressive and AVCHD formats, depending on the resolution and frame rate. Additionally, the system frequency can be set to 59.94 Hz, 50.00 Hz or 24.00 Hz, depending where the camera is being used around the world. Panasonic has stuck with the H.264 codec for the GH5’s video recording, but it is using the more efficient H.265 for the ‘6K Photo’ modes in order to deal with 30 fps shooting at 18.7 MP per frame. There’s a big selection of variable frame rates from 2.0 fps to 48 fps (C4K), 60 fps (4K UHD) or 180 fps (Full HD).

The GH5 uses the entire area of the M43 sensor when recording 4K video (and then downsamples the footage in-camera) so there’s no focal length magnification factor.
 There’s also no time limit on either 4K or 2K footage beyond that imposed by battery life as the relay mode for the dual memory card slots allows for a full card to be swapped while the camera is recording to the second card.

Not surprisingly, the GH5 bristles with pro-level video recording features including a waveform monitor and vectorscope, colour bars and 1.0 KHz test tone, synchro scan, SMPTE-compliant time code (either in Rec Run or Free Run), zebra patterns (adjustable, choice of two), ‘4K Live Cropping’ and a handy ‘Focus Transition’ tool which allows for the presetting of focusing points which the camera then smoothly shifts between automatically (with a choice of five speeds).

On the audio side, the GH5 has built-in stereo microphones – which have been relocated to improve sensitivity – with manual level control over -12 dB to +6.0 dB in 19 steps. 
There’s also a wind-cut filter, an automatic level limiter and an additional noise reference microphone which is designed to subtract handling noise.

 Both a stereo audio input and output are provided via 3.5 mm minijacks, but pro-level users may want to use the optional DMW-XLR1 module which provides a pair of balanced XLR terminals for higher-resolution audio recording.

Video functionality includes continuous autofocusing with subject tracking, the ‘PASM’ exposure modes, adjustable sensitivity and exposure compensation, many of the ‘Creative Control’ effects, and the ‘Photo Style’ picture presets.

As it’s designed for professional video-making applications, the Lumix GH5 is certainly more than up to the job as far as enthusiast-level users are concerned.

It probably has more features than many non-pro users are likely to need, but the good news is that if you’re planning to do more in video as you gain more experience, this camera can take you a very long way indeed.
 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH5In The Hand
Similar to Olympus’s rival E-M1 Mark II, the GH5 has put on some bulk and weight compared to its predecessor although, like its M43 compatriot, it’s still pretty compact compared to a similarly-specced D-SLR. Nevertheless, it’s no longer a small camera and feels more like a mid-sized D-SLR especially with Leica’s fairly weighty 12-60mm zoom fitted. Of course, you’re still way ahead when you start adding lenses to your GH5 kit – the brilliant 100-400mm telezoom, for example – and no doubt some users will prefer the extra ‘heft’, but this camera is nowhere near as dainty as, say, the G7 or the OM-D E-M5 II. 
It’s an all-new bodyshell with magnesium alloy covers and full weather protection – including now for shooting in sub-zero temperatures down to -10 degrees Celsius – and it feels a lot more rugged than previously. There’s a bigger grip to help handle the load, and a reshaped EVF housing, as one of the rare deletions among all the new additions is a built-in flash. Neither the Canon nor Nikon D-SLR flagships have built-in flashes and none of Sony’s A7 or A9 mirrorless models have one either so Panasonic certainly isn’t alone here, but there are those who argue that a built-in flash can be useful… certainly for fill-in purposes or as the optical commander in a wireless TTL flash set-up. Whatever, it’s hardly going to be deal breaker.
 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH5Despite the new bodyshell, the control layout is much the same as that of the GH4 with the obvious intention of making the transition from this model (or even from the earlier GH3) as smooth as possible. The main and drive mode dials remain as before – the former lockable – but the front and rear inputs wheels are a bit chunkier - as is the navigator dial - so have an improved feel. The video start/stop button is now on the top deck where it should have been all the time and its place has been taken by the new joystick-type controller. As noted earlier, its primary role is to facilitate the faster selection of focusing points, but its four-way movements plus its press-in action also serve as the ‘Fn12’ to ‘Fn16’ customisable options. The GH5 now has a total of 20 customisable controls shared between various buttons, the navigator, the joystick and, as before, a set of touchscreen tabs which operate as ‘Fn7’ to ‘Fn10’. All the customisable controls can be assigned different functions, depending on the camera’s operating mode and, for normal shooting alone, the list runs to 41 items.
 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH5Nevertheless, customising the GH5’s operability is still very much easier and less time-consuming than it is on the E-M1 Mark II. Similarly, there hasn’t been a whole lot wrong with Panasonic’s user interfaces so far, but the GH5 gets a makeover for its menu system which gives a cleaner, crisper look and, more practically, increases – up to eight – the number of items displayed in a page. The basic layout still comprises vertically-arranged tabs for the ‘chapters’ with numbered pages, but there’s now also a scroll bar so you can more easily gauge at-a-glance where you are (it’s also provided with the functions lists for customisable controls). Navigation can be via the new joystick control as well as the input wheels and rear control dials plus, of course, the touchscreen.
 
The Custom Menu has been re-arranged into five sections – grouping related functions – for easier navigation and there’s a new customisable My Menu which can be loaded with up to 23 of your most-used functions. It’s a surprisingly handy feature which, of course, Canon and Nikon have been offering for quite a while.
 
The ‘Quick Menu’ has been completely redesigned so it’s much more contemporary looking with a splash of colour (for example, the index mark on the exposure compensation scale) bigger read-outs and better use of background tones. Touchscreen controls make the ‘Quick Menu’ truly quick and, as before, it’s also customisable. There’s also the option of switching to a ‘Video-Priority Display’ which is very sexy with big read-outs which include all the video mode info (resolution, format, frame rate, bit rate, etc), time coding, audio levels and the available space on the memory cards (expressed in recording times). Touch controls are available here too, for things such as changing the exposure mode, colour balance or ‘Photo Style’ preset. The live view screen can be configured with a real-time histogram (which you can position wherever you like), dual-axis level indicator, highlight warning (or zebra patterns, take your pick), grid guides and a centre marker. Incidentally, the viewfinder and monitor displays can be individually adjusted for brightness, contrast, saturation, red tint and blue tint.
 
As with just about everything else, the GH5 offers more choice when it comes the review/replay screens with no fewer than five options for the details accompanying a thumbnail – capture data (lots of it!), RGB and brightness histograms, the ‘Photo Style’ parameters plus the Highlight/Shadow control settings, white balance mode with any fine-tuning, and lens info, including the in-camera corrections. You scroll those pages using the up/down nav keys in the same fashion as on a Nikon D-SLR.
 
The playback functions include thumbnail pages of either 12 or 30 images, zooming at up to 16x, a calendar thumbnail display and a slide show with a choice of transition effects and background music. The in-camera editing functions include resizing, cropping, image titling, RAW-to-JPEG conversion, and the ‘Clear Retouch’ facility which has featured on all the recent Lumix G bodies. Theoretically, it’s designed to enable images to be retouched in camera, but in practice is limited due mainly to the size of the monitor screen (versus your computer’s display) which makes anything that’s even a bit fiddly hard to execute.
 
Speed And Performance
Loaded with our reference 128GB Lexar Professional SDXC UHS-II/U3 (Speed Class 3) ‘2000x’ memory card, the GH5 captured 161 JPEG/large/fine frames in 13.515 seconds, giving a shooting speed of 11.9 fps which is as close to the quoted 12 fps as makes no difference. The test files averaged 8.0 MB in size and writing all this data to the card was completed virtually instantaneously.
 
The autofocusing performance is impressively fast with a noticeable improvement in the tracking’s reliability, although you do need to experiment a bit with the new scenario settings. In the majority of cases, the setting for subjects with “rapid and random movement” seemed to deliver the highest success rates. There’s a lot to learn here and the test camera had to be returned before we’d really delved into it all deeply enough, but the potential to optimise the AF tracking performance is undoubtedly there.
 
The GH4 proved to be a particular hit with wedding photographers, perhaps because it worked so well as both a stills camera and a video camera, but there was room for improvement in its JPEG performance. With high-volume JPEG shooters – which includes sports and action photographers – no doubt in mind, the GH5 delivers distinctly better-looking results. The colour reproduction – particularly the saturation and accuracy across the spectrum – the definition, dynamic range and the noise reduction processing all step up a good few notches. As a result, JPEG images simply look cleaner and brighter overall. The additional resolution – further enhanced because it isn’t throttled by a low-pass filter – is evident in the reproduction of detailing, textures and a fine patterns which is much crisper.
 
Noise is well supressed up to ISO 3200 with the saturation, definition and dynamic range holding up well, but all begin to suffer to varying degrees at the highest sensitivity settings. However, thanks to the dynamic range, the RAW files have plenty of scope for adjusting the exposure post-camera so you can shoot at lower ISOs and then brighten the shadows without any increase in noise in these areas (and plenty of detailing is retained in the brighter highlights). Panasonic continues to demonstrate that sensor size really isn’t so much of an issue now that the image-processing algorithms are so sophisticated. Full-35mm sensors with bigger pixels ultimately deliver on dynamic range and high-ISO performance, but the gap has been significantly closed, and the GH5 easily performs on a par with any comparable ‘APS-C’ camera.
 
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH5
 
The Verdict
If you are in the market for a high-end mirrorless camera, making a choice is getting much harder… the Lumix GH5 joins the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II, Fujifilm X-T2 or X-Pro2 and Sony A7 II or A7R II in this club and all have their particular attractions, including the lens offerings. 
 
However, the GH5 is the top pick if you’re planning to make videos as it’s essentially on a par in capabilities with one of Panasonic’s pro-level camcorders. 
 
Does this mean that stills photographers are buying a lot of stuff they don’t need? Not really, as the hardware fundamentals are still the same regardless of how you use the camera – sensor, processor, autofocusing, image stabilisation, bigger buffer memory and dual memory card slots. And the video-derived ‘6K/4K Photo’ modes have great potential… more so than you might think until you actually use the features, especially now that Panasonic is adding more file management efficiencies and functions such as ‘Post Focus’. Anything that increases your success rate – especially when shooting fast action – is to be applauded.
 
With the GH5, Panasonic once again demonstrates that it understands the needs and 
the wants of photographers via the carefully considered application of new technologies… rather than including them just for the sake of it. The Lumix DHC-GH5 may be a brilliant video camera, but it’s an equally fine stills camera. 
 

Click for magazine pagesFULL SPECIFICATIONS ON THE PDF TO THE RIGHT:
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH5
Price: $2999 body only. $3999 with Lumix Vario G X 12-35mm f2.8 ASPH Power OIS image stabiliser zoom lens. $3999 with Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f2.8-4.0 ASPH Power OIS image stabiliser zoom lens.
Dimensions (WHD): body only = 138x98x87mm.
Weight: body only = 645 grams (without battery or memory card). 

Distributor: Panasonic Australia, telephone
132 600 or visit www.panasonic.com.au