GH5 Owners Choose Teams Over Autofocus Issues

A few days ago I wrote a post about the issues many GH5 users were having with continuous autofocus while recording video. Instead of trying to determine if there is in fact a problem or not, many photographers have simply chosen a "team" as they pick one of two sides; The GH5 is either the most incredible camera created by God himself, or it's total crap. 

In the comment section of my last article about this issue, Edward Nixon, who apparently made an account just to comment on my post, wrote:

Isn't it conventional to actually learn and have experience with a camera prior to making pronouncements about its strengths or faults? You received the camera yesterday and you've never used continuous autofocus? I don't have the camera yet but I've spent a week or so with the manual -- novel thought -- and after 25 years in the computer business I know that this is a complicated computer. I'd suggest you get with it for a few weeks and then come back ant tell us about its issues. Respectfully.

Edward was right that I had only had only owned the camera for one day but I wasn't the one making these claims, hundreds of GH5 users around the world were. I wasn't the one who made the test videos either, I was simply reporting on what was going on. Edward's comment was tame compared to other GH5 users around the web. Many Panasonic fans, some who haven't even held the camera yet, seemed to find it offensive that anyone would even point out that there may be an AF issue with the GH5. 

Max Yuryev, who did one of the most intensive AF tests I have ever seen, was accused of purposefully making the GH5 look bad. Instead of arguing, Max simply made another video, this time comparing the AF between the GH5 and Sony A6500.

Every single one of Max's tests seemed more than fair to me and I was able to reproduce these tests with my own GH5 and confirm that my cameras AF was acting similarly. 

Even still, many YouTuber's could not admit that the AF may have a legitimate issue. "PhotoJoseph" on YouTube started a video with text that read, "So to all of those enjoying high YouTube view counts by slamming the GH5, I say this." His video then proceeds to "prove" that the GH5 has excellent autofocus. 

After watching this video very closely on full screen, I'm not convinced that the camera is performing well. Perhaps it's better than Max's camera, but it's hunting for focus even when Joseph remains still, making this feature too unreliable to use, especially for professional video productions. I'm not the only one who feels this way. The top comment on this video reads:

I'm sorry. Love your stuff man but this is plain not good. Anyone who has shot with an A6300/A6500 or dual pixel Canon will know that this is bad. I don't care what setting you have it at...it's not as good as the competition. Plus, in order to have a shot at getting AF on the GH5, you have to test for 30 minutes at all settings while those other cameras just pull it off. It's funny, I watch the people who say "successful AF if you get the settings right" and watch the videos and I still think it sucks compared to the competition. You have to spend 20min testing to get it to the "maybe acceptable" range and that's horrible. The best setting on the GH5 has been worse than any Sony or Canon camera right now. Point to point is awesome but continuous is horrible. I love my GH5 but even the best continuous AF test doesn't come anywhere close to my Sony & Canon cameras. Don't buy this camera for continuous AF. Thankfully, there are about 1,000 other reasons to buy it. Again, really appreciate your videos

After Max watched Joseph's video he created another video offering to fly Joseph to his home town, put him up in a hotel, and film a new video where Joseph can show him how his tests were unfair. 

UPDATE: PhotoJoseph has accepted Max's offer and is flying into town to show him how to focus the camera properly... I can't wait. 

Today I've been in a video chat with Pierre Lambert, a vlogger out of NYC who is also convinced that the AF in the GH5 is excellent. He showed me his latest vlog and I must say, it was pretty impressive. 

Pierre's vlog above was entirely filmed in 4k 60fps in face detection mode. After watching Max's test videos he was convinced that something was wrong with Max's camera. 

I then matched my AF settings to Pierre's and while shooting in 4k at 24fps, continuous AF was working about 10% of the time. 90% of the time it wouldn't AF at all, even with major shifts in the scene. When I changed my frame rate up to 60fps, AF did perform much better but at times it would still take over 10 seconds to AF on it's own with with speed and sensitivity set to the max. It was still too unreliable for me use. When Pierre dropped his frame rate to 24 he admitted that AF got considerably worse. 

I left my conversation with Pierre asking him to film his next vlog in 24fps to see if the AF would work reliably. 

I'm sorry to say that I don't feel any closer to a conclusion at this point. I believe Max's tests were fair and I also feel like my camera performs very similarly. Joesph's camera did perform better but it still wasn't accurate enough to actually use it for anything other than a casual vlog. Pierre, however, was able to get very impressive AF results with his camera, at least while shooting at 60fps.

Like Max, I want anyone who is reading this to know that I would love for the GH5 to be flawless. I'm selling the majority of my Nikon gear to move to the GH5 and it doesn't bring me joy to highlight its flaws. But that doesn't mean that I want to pretend like everything works perfectly. I want to know every aspect of my camera. If there is a problem, I want to know about it and I want to know how to work around it. If you own a GH5, you should want to know that too. 

If you feel like this post or any of the videos above are unfair, don't jump to the conclusion that we don't know what we are talking about, or that we are purposefully trying to get clicks. Instead, simply tell us what exactly we are doing wrong and I will be happy to try it on my camera. I honestly hope I am wrong and that the GH5s AF is amazing, I'm just waiting to prove it with my own camera. 

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47 Comments

Ariel Martini's picture

even if there's an issue it could be fixed by a firmware update, so it's not a big deal. or is it?

Lee Morris's picture

Hopefully, but some people are saying that the camera is working at 100% (and it's just not good). Others are afraid that some cameras work better than others which would point to a hardware issue.

Eduardo Francés's picture

I think both camps are wrong and right, how? You may ask, there's a simple explanation: There may be a batch of cameras which aren't up to spec, in less words a problem of Quality Control.

As an example remember what happened to Nikon with their EN-EL15 in 2012? a batch of these batteries were recalled (not all, just a batch) Same in 2014 for a batch of D810 which were having issues with long exposures (again not all cameras were affected, just a batch).

The same could be happening to the GH5, a batch of cameras may not be well made and these slipped the QC phase of production.

In less words some may have apples and some lemons.

Peter Brody's picture

Firmware can not overcome defective hardware, if defective hardware is the problem.

Christian Santiago's picture

Not sure how much of an improvement firmware updates would give. Even if they get it to work up to it's capabilities, the lack of phase detection will always gimp it compared to its competitors.

Chris Cheek's picture

You can not change a contrast detect camera to a phase detect via a firmware update. That would be what it would take to fix this gh5..

Peter von Reichenberg's picture

Ariel > It IS a big deal - first of all we don't know IF it can be fixed by an update and when, at second if I buy gear to work with it, I just expect it to work flawlessly from the first day. I guess you are Windows user, aren't you? It would explain why you are used to get things fixed with updates.

Adrian Pocea's picture

Eventually , Max said he's gonna order 3 instead of 4, keeping one Sony gor the gimbal work. I think that in Pierre's case it mattered a lot that he was having a wide lens, closed maybe at F11 in bright sunshine, and the depth of field was almost infinite. After all, that's how you use the gimbal most times, wide lens and in daylight, i don't see much sense in letting the camera play with focus and bokeh when you are on a gimbal. At the end of the day, no camera is perfect, not even Gh5 for video ( for stills nobody pretends that it would be) , but, if we want perfect autofocus, perfect stabilization for handheld, we want small size and small lenses, what is gonna differentiate this from an advanced smartphone? Pretty soon smartphones will have like shallow dof and fast autofocus, more dynamic range, LOG profiles ( iphone already introduced that) so, i may ask, where is the CRAFT of the video guy, where is his knowledge , what has he special from the others. Pretty soon we gonna end up either with people filming even their own events with a smart phone, either ending up buying their own equipment and doing their own trainings, corporate videos, wedding videos. After all, a whole 4k setup, camera and lenses, from Panasonic or Sony ( G7, A6300) plus microphone, a lens, a light, costs way less than what they pay for the wedding video.

Christian Santiago's picture

At AF issue is an issue precisely because people want to get away from having to always shoot gimbal shots at 18mm at F11. I mean that's fine if you're shooting scenery or real estate videos.

But I know that when i am shooting people, I personally prefer using my gimbal at 28-35mm at F4ish to get some background separation. Something that's impossible to do without AF or a wireless follow focus.

Alex Cooke's picture

Team Edward!

Jon Bilson's picture

Is the AF issue only with video or does it happen with stills also? What about high FPS?

Lee Morris's picture

Af works great when you're not recording. It gets bad when you start recording and it doesn't work at all in high frame rates

Simon Patterson's picture

The fact that af works great (when not recording) would indicate to me that the hardware is fine. Hopefully they can soon update the firmware to fix the problem which starts during recording.

Jason Satterwhite's picture

I just got my GH5 this week and have been swamped at work, so I have not had much time with it. That said, here are a couple of thoughts: I just completed a highly scientific test walking around my kitchen. I seemed to notice a difference in performance from 8 bit and 10 bit in 24p. Maybe the Pierre's 60p performs better due to the bitrate more so that the frame rate. Also, I am wondering how much lens choice impacts these tests. I know in stills some lenses will perform better than others. I am wondering if the same is true for video. Maybe we are not testing apples to apples.

Ken Yee's picture

I wouldn't say people are only at either end of the spectrum. I doubt the GH5 would do as well as sensor hardware autofocus like what the Sony/Canon have... Should do ok with enough DOF. It's not how most people use it though... They use it with manual focus.

Lee Morris's picture

You're right. But the most vocal people seem to be on either end.

Dale Robinson's picture

Lee, I have successfully used AF on the GH4 using Direct Focus area. Also use Teleconvert instead of Digital Zoom.

michael andrew's picture

Wow, the Canon 5dIV got so much flack for all its "issues". Auto focus on video is far from 1 of them. Funny.

Guy Teague's picture

evidently very few people have read the advanced manual as i had to tell max and joseph what was in it:

p166:
To ensure highly accurate focus, 4K motion pictures are recorded at reduced Auto Focus
speeds. It may be difficult to focus on the subject with Auto Focus, but this is not a
malfunction.

p332:
Sometimes it is difficult to focus with Auto Focus when recording 4K motion
pictures. This phenomenon occurs when the camera is trying to record with highly accurate focus at a
reduced Auto Focus speed, and is not a malfunction.

/guy

michael andrew's picture

My interpretation of the manual you have just scripted is that "the auto focus sucks". Should i read it another way?

Christian Santiago's picture

Well, guess that settles the debate lol

Chris Roiu's picture

I don't own a Panasonic camera though I worked with the GH4 in the past.
I will not be buying the GH5 so I am not a fanboi or a Panasonic lover but the GH5 video you guys made was really embarrassing to watch.

Simon Patterson's picture

It's like a videography soap opera!

David Mawson's picture

>> I wasn't the one making these claims, hundreds of GH5 users around the world were <<

"Hundreds"??? How do you know this? I just did a search and found nothing but repeated references to your article and the youtube video you referenced.

...Do you have any idea what minimum standards for ethical journalism are? If you're going to make a claim that discontent is so widespread, it should be backed up with a credible source. This should be the case even for a forum post, but it should be an utterly ironclad rule for editorial content for sites like this.

Christian Santiago's picture

you clearly didn't search hard enough lol. Youtube is full of these claims, as is the GH5 facebook group.

David Mawson's picture

>> Youtube is full of these claims

No, it's really not. And intelligent responsible people don't talk in vague generalities - still less impossibilities.

More than that, ***the point is responsible journalists give definite sources.*** Eg "I searched on term X and I found 22 independent claims of this on the first 5 pages of youtube results."

Lee Morris's picture

Ya I'm a member of a GH5 facebook group with over 7000 members. There are many other groups as well.

David Mawson's picture

But are there "hundreds" of claims of the kind you claim there? I doubt it. I doubt that there are even hundreds of posts...

The only posts on the focus system there I've found so far are these "explaining" the focus system:

http://ht.ly/4WEG50aujK6

http://ow.ly/9s8V309WkxR

...and I've gone all the way back to January 15th so far.

...If the GH5 does have a serious focus problem, why isn't that facebook page full of complaints??? I don't see ANY - let alone "hundreds"...

Lee Morris's picture

You're right, I didn't go out and literally count over 200 individual comments but if you would just click on the youtube videos in this post alone, I bet you will count over 200 comments about the focusing issues.

You are making my point about taking sides. Can't you admit after watching Max's video that at the very least something is wrong with Max's camera or that the continuous AF isn't reliable enough to use professionally?

PhotoJoseph .'s picture

Only thing I'd like to correct here is that I'm going to see Max to work together on gettting the best settings for the GH5, not to "show him how to focus the camera properly". If you watch our conversation together that was broadcast live Friday morning, you'll see it's extremely cordial and we are working toward a common goal — to get the best out of the GH5. Thanks!

David Mawson's picture

Focussing the camera is a trivial matter. Journalistic ethics and professional standards are not. If sites like this are going to replace print media, then they should adhere to minimum standards of fact checking, sourcing, and accuracy. And this applies whether there are problems with the camera are not. You don't gamble with the truth - you make only those claims that can be reasonably made based on the sources you have.

And you're careful to be clear about those sources. If you imply that a facebook group backs you up, then you refer to specific posts rather than leaving it to readers to check the group and find what seems to be an absence of any support at all for your claims.

Peter Brody's picture

Old media was never the bastion of journalistic ethics and professional standards. Through the amalgamation of so much more information available today through the Internet, new media is far more capable of getting to the truth than old media ever was. PhotoJoseph's video and it's circulation is something that really not too long ago would not have been possible. That's a really good thing. The more information and experiences we have access to the greater the chance we have at arriving at the truth.

David Mawson's picture

>> Old media was never the bastion of journalistic ethics and professional standards<<

It certainly wasn't perfect. That's no excuse for abandoning all standards as completely as this.

Peter Brody's picture

To be fair, I also don't see anyone here trying to take the place of journalists. Everyone, including the people running this site, are for the most part simply sharing their opinions. No one should rely on limited sources of information, no matter where it comes from. That so many different people with different experiences are interacting with each other shows how good we have it today, compared to the old media of the past.

David Mawson's picture

>>To be fair, I also don't see anyone here trying to take the place of journalists. Everyone, including the people running this site, are for the most part simply sharing their opinions.<<

Which, given that this a for-profit site, makes the writers here journalists. Especially when they publishing what they claim to be news.

Really, is this hard? If you try to get paid for publishing what you claim to be news, whether by ad revenue, direct payments, promoting content that you sell, you are a journalist. This is what the word means.

Pieter Batenburg's picture

Max is usually very precise in testing. He doesn't jump to conclusions.

Dennis Murphy's picture

Have you learned nothing from your marriage Lee? The more defensive you act, the less likely you're going to get some :)

Lee Morris's picture

Luckily my wife isn't suggesting the GH5 has flawless AF ;)

Andrew Swanson's picture

Does this potential issue not really matter to anyone else? I can understand using the autofocus function on a gimbal or doing vlogs, but 99% of the time when perfect focus matters I'm going to manually focus instead of relying on an autofocus.

Lee Morris's picture

Yep, I totally agree. We lock focus 99% of the time anyway.

Andrew Swanson's picture

It is a fair criticism of the camera to bring to light though. Hopefully it can be solved with a firmware update for the people who do rely on the function. Thanks for the post.

Pat Black's picture

Can we just talk about the balls on Max for flying out Photojoseph

Lee Morris's picture

I think Joseph is actually the one taking the risk here. There is almost no way he is going to get any different results when he is with Max and he's going to look bad if he can't pull it off.

Peter von Reichenberg's picture

Lee - there is an interesting point in your article. Were you really ready to switch from FX Nikon to MFT Panasonic?

ron fya's picture

I don't own a GH5 (yet :P) but I just stumbled over this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyTggg5NcIk

In the first half he shows the continuous AF working and around 13:00 mark he starts explaining what he did to make it happen.

In a nutshell
- 60 fps
- 256 AF points mode
- VERY IMPORTANT: acquire focus on something first (this serves as a focus reference) AND ONLY THEN, start recording
- AF responsiveness +5
- AF speed +3

Cannot test it of course, but I am very interested to know if it improves the continuous AF for video for those who experienced issues with it.

Cheers

John Smith's picture

Hi if i could have someones help with this please so i got my gh5 today and iam not sure if i should open it because of the issues should i test it out first or just get a refund because iam afraid if i open it up the warranty for return will be gone if any one could help me i would be very gratefull thanks.

Lee Morris's picture

I'm not sure what you are asking. If you need the best in class continuous af this probably isn't the right camera for you. If you don't need that feature (like us) it's a great camera.