Panasonic GH5 Review Vs Sony a7S II and Nikon D750

While I was in Dubai a couple of weeks ago at Gulf Photo Plus, I was able to play with a pre-production Panasonic GH5. I compared the GH5 to the Nikon D750 (our current video camera of choice) and the Sony a7S II.

Video Quality

The GH5 can shoot in a range of different sizes, bitrates, and color profiles. I did test them all one by one but I purposefully left most of that out of this video simply because I'm not sure much can be gained form that footage, especially once it's compressed with Premiere and then again with YouTube. 

The 1080p footage out of the camera looks significantly better than the 1080 footage out of our D750. The GH4 was plagued with notoriously bad 1080 output which caused it users to shoot in 4K and downsample to get sharper 1080 footage. This is no longer necessary as 1080 footage and 4K footage downsampled to 1080 looks almost identical. 

The 4K footage out of the camera is sharp and looks very simpler to the 4K footage out of the a7S II. The color profiles do give you some options when it comes to the way your footage looks but for all of the tests in our video, the camera was set to "standard."

8 bit vs 10 bit

I was really excited to hear that the GH5 is now capable of shooting in 4K at 150 Mbps 10 bit. This is supposed to add a ton more color and detail to the video, especially noticeable in gradients. Sadly, in my tests I couldn't see any difference at all between 8 and 10 bit. Even when I purposefully underexposed a shot and brought it up in post, both shots look almost identical. Perhaps I wasn't shooting the best subject to highlight this feature.

Digital Zoom

The digital zoom on the GH5 is worthless for when shooting in 4K. Instead of "cropping in" on the sensor, it seems to just be cropping the footage. The footage looks the exact same if you digitally crop in camera or "zoom in" to the 4K footage in Premiere afterwards. The digital zoom does work if you are shooting in 1080 but it produces footage that looks identical to shooting in 4K and then zooming in once you get back into post as well. 

Audio Recording

We didn't test the built in mic on the GH5 because we don't ever use the built-in mic on our cameras. Instead we tested the "audio in" jack on the camera and used a wireless lav system. We wanted to test that we could monitor audio easily with headphones, and also test the final quality of sound recorded by the camera. The GH5, D750, and a7S II were all able to record audio that sounded pretty similar but the GH5 does have a limiter/compressor that can help tame extreme shifts in volume. We didn't test this feature extensively but it does seem like a very useful feature, especially if your camera is quick to clip audio like the D750 is. 

ISO Performance

The Panasonic GH5 has pretty impressive ISO performance, especially for its size. I would say that it performed very similarly to the Nikon D750 with footage really starting to fall apart after ISO 6400. When compared with the Sony a7S II, however, both of these cameras simply can't compete. They both seem to be about 3 stops behind. 

If you find yourself shooting in dark locations often, the Sony is certainly the way to go. 

Stabilization

The stabilization in the GH5 is the best I have ever used. When you turn on the stabilization in the lens, body, and the "e-stabilizer," the camera almost becomes it's own gimbal. Walking around certainly isn't as smooth as using a gimbal, but if you're standing still, it is now possible to get tripod-like stabilization without much effort.  

Time-Lapses

We've used a number of Panasonic cameras and they all have a similar time-lapse feature that allows the camera to take pictures (with a slow shutter speed) and then when finished, you can tell it to create a 4K time-lapse video from those still images. The camera then saves the images and the videos separately. This feature has completely changed the way we shoot time-lapses and makes the entire processes almost completely automated. Shooting in both full manual or allowing the camera to choose its own shutter speed will produce flawless time-lapses in camera that do not have flicker. All Panasonic cameras, not just the GH5, have this feature and if you're tired of manually building time-lapses in post, I highly suggest giving it a try. 

Other Key Features

This camera has a great touch screen that can flip out to the side and rotate in any direction. It has timecode that can be used to sync multiple cameras using an iPhone app. I'm also really excited to play with the 180fps 1080 slow motion. The biggest upgrade for us, and the feature that every DSLR should have by now, is unlimited shooting times. I'm so sick of having to start and stop our cameras every 20 minutes and this feature alone was enough for me to choose the GH5 over the Sony a7S II. 

Conclusion

The GH5 is a pretty impressive video camera but it isn't perfect. I do wish that the ISO performance was a little bit better. I'm not sure if the camera really needs to be 20MP as I imagine most people who buy it will be using it for video. Perhaps if it was only 8MP (the exact size of 4K video) it would be a little better in low light. And if they are going to make the sensor 20MP I would have really appreciated a legitimate "digital zoom" that was actually useful.

One major benefit to the smaller sensor size though, seems to be the inclusion of e-stabilization, which simply does not work on full camera sensors at this time due to rolling shutter. We have to take the good with the bad but in the case of the GH5 it's mostly good. It's only real competitor seems to be the a7S II and if its successor, the a7S III, finally removes the record limit, can overcome all overheating issues, plus improve stabilization, the GH5 may no longer my first choice but as things stand today, I'm excited to make the GH5 our standard video camera here at Fstoppers. I've preordered three of these camera systems and I will probably order three more once I can do a full review. The GH5 should officially ship out by March 30, 2017.

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36 Comments

Kyle Medina's picture

I believe you made the right move to the GH5. The best way to know if high iso is of concern. Is too look at the % of high iso footage you shot and also how much you actually used. Also as watching this video. Whatever the camera is in the middle, throw that out and use whatever was camera left, significantly better (GH5?). About time-lapse footage. Thats one thing I like about the GoPro is having a time-lapse video already done. Just do some color grading and done. You made the right move, IMO.

Leigh Miller's picture

Good buy...so many options on that camera plus the stabilisation.

Just a quick note regarding your expectations for the 10-bit 4:2:2 modes: These modes require MUCH more raw data (1024 levels vs 256, and 2x the color resolution) so the relatively small increase in compressed bitrate (150Mbps vs 100Mbps) doesn't allow much headroom to record all that extra color information. As a result, it's actually MORE compressed than 8bit 4:2:0 modes.

In order to *really* see the benefit, you'll need to use an external recorder with a much higher bitrate codec (like Prores.)

Also, 10-bit has nothing to do detail or with how much motion there is in the scene. It has everything to do with reproducing subtle gradations of color.

PS. Nice article!

This makes sense. Thank you

Christian Santiago's picture

just to piggy back on this. You'll really see the difference when the summer update for 400 Mbps which will allow you to really take advantage of the 10bit format. Until then, I'd stick to 8bit.

Christian Plaehn's picture

hey, nice alrticle. about the 10 bit profit, this is not so much about the compression (the summer update won t give you less compressed footage, as it will be an all-i codec that naturally needs much more space compared to an ipb. so apart from filling up your 64gb card in 15 min and beeing easier to edit on older machines due to not having to decode the ipb you re not going to see any difference there in quality).
The 10 bit internal recording is ment to give you the possibility to use vlog recording internally and it makes a lot of sence for your run&gun purpose without an external recorder hooked up to the camera. it s the only useful way to make use of vlog at the moment (which gives you extra dynamic range which is an important point as the cameras dynamic range isn t quite up to the competition) as recording it internally in 8 bit breaks the material when applying a lut to it. Here is a nice video to see the effects. and two really good and profound articles about this in depth in the video description, just use google translate as its in german.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBjQojrvCg8

michael andrew's picture

Yup Great point, not to mention unless you have some sort of specialized (ultra high priced monitor) you wouldnt be "seeing" 10 bit anyway, all current are 8 bit. But the really difference would be in the sky, or other areas that the color may move across a large gradation of its color range when you manipulate the color in post. You can see difference in banding, but you would never ever notice this if you shot in 8 bit with a color profile in camera that you liked. The GH4 actually has some amazing color profiles in camera, and even as a stills photographer that can appreciate the latitude of RAW and image editing, I cannot for the life of me understand why someone would want to color grade video when the in camera profiles in certain situations are so so so good for Panasonic. In good light, daytime, sunlit conditions the built in color profiles renders an image better than anything I have seen a colorist produce with "vlog".

Great insight on the GH5. I run two GH4's for multicamera shoots where I am the crew and the talent (so I think...) so I am particularly interested in the new AF system in the GH5. It seems like it may be performing at a much higher level than the GH4. If you have any insight here that would be great. Having solid face recognition AF would allow my videos to be much more dynamic.

I like to see better low light and the increase in frame rate for slow motion as well.

Finally, the 1/8" mic input gives me a problematic hum with anything other than my sennheiser wireless receiver so I am hoping that this is fixed. It would be great to have the option to run a shotgun mic without noise.

I'm looking forward to seeing more and probably will be placing an order soon.

im sorry but articles like this really need to relax gassing up micro 4 thirds to attempt to compare them to a full frame camera shooting 4k on the entire full frame sensor. Lets just use LOGIC in this one. if you have a larger room, vs a smaller room, no matter how well you organize each room. there will be more space for the stuff in the larger room PERIOD. it makes no sense to say the gh5 is in the same classification of camera as an a7s which technically outputs 4k at a higher resolution than the fs7 shooting 4k on a super 35mm sensor. Lets just be real here for the readers reading these reviews. Your lowlight is bad because of the sensor size. I mean... im personally tired of having to explain this to people in person when they come into the store because they come online and read and watch reviews like this... For anyone out there actually trying to shoot quality, the gh5 is a good camera, but in no means in the same class as the a7sII stop kidding yourself watch both cameras video footage on a 65" 4k tv and see for yourself PERIOD

I'm not sure I understand your point. Are you mad that I compared the GH5 to the a7Sii because they have different sensor sizes? I feel like the GH5 is superior in every way to the a7sii aside from ISO.

Here's a great video you should watch. There's so much more to an image than sensor size and even resolution. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kh3SOpziEDQ&feature=youtu.be

very interesting video

Also please point me in the direction to this superior sharp imagery from the A7s because I have not seen it anywhere.

Alex Armitage's picture

I've always resisted the line because of the MFT sensor. That stabilization however looks incredible. Especially considering I'm personally trying to figure out the best way to run/gun with as little as possible.

I'm actually curious why you don't just purchase 1 A7SII (or 3 when it's released) for low light shooting.

Patrick Hall's picture

That actually is the plan, prob going to get a Sony A7sIII just for low light and high ISO.

One thing Lee didn't mention that is a big PITA concerning Sony is their filing system. I absolutely hate the way that their cameras create a pyramid of folders containing different files on your memory card. I hate this so much infact that it would actually cause me to not buy their cameras. Is there a way to change the way the camera builds folders so there is simply a root folder that contains all photos and videos regardless of what codex or format they are shot in? I feel like I'm always going to miss transferring a critical file when I use a Sony camera. I think Gopro does this too or at least they create all these unnecessary files that you don't need to transfer.

Alex Armitage's picture

Sorry for the late reply (hadn't actually logged in for some time). I think every professional that's used a sony mirrorless camera biggest complaint is their menu and file system. Which to me seems crazy because they put out such a strong product. How they can't get the basic form/function part right is beyond me.

My hero5 has 3x the files I actually need when I transfer, not quite sure why.

Glad to read you guys will be shooting on multiple brands though. As people in your position, I think there is some validity to staying up to date with current technology that's available. The bonus is you get a camera for specific tasks that's way better than everything else at that task.

Patrick Hall's picture

Yes, GoPRO is a PITA too! Why must every file have two extra files with it?

I've certainly thought about it but I've heard the a7SII still has overheating issues, especially if you are shooting outside in the heat and they have limited record times (although I just found a hack to get around that)

Alex Armitage's picture

I believe they fixed the overheating issues awhile ago, but I don't know first hand.

to compare image quality between 8 and 10 bit you could have done frame grab (from vlc for example) and then count the number of colors in the frame with photoshop free plugin from telegraphics

Patrick Hall's picture

I think our argument is that even if there are more colors, we could not tell a difference straight out of the camera OR after applying a strong grade to the footage. I've been told that unless you have a 10 bit monitor, you physically cannot see the difference. It even gets worse when you think that 99% of computer uses do not have a monitor higher than 8 bits and then 90% of our content is compressed like crazy on youtube. I'm starting to think 10 bit is only super useful for movie productions and super high end productions that will be sent off to specialized colorists.

Adam T's picture

Test the bit rate on green screen next time. You'll see it on the key

Patrick Hall's picture

This is the most useful application I could see needing 10 bit over 8 bit. We SUCK at green screen. Everytime we try to perfectly light a scene in the studio to match outdoor footage it never looks real at all. I'd love to learn how to do green screen better and being able to produce a cleaner key would be an important part of that.

Adam T's picture

Here is a small video I made for my co-workers to get better keying.
I explain 8, 10 and 12 bit

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPlV_7_Uyko

Bobby White's picture

So does that mean you guys will be getting rid of the D750s once these arrive?

Patrick Hall's picture

We might sell at least a few of our 5 D750s. I can't imagine wanting to shoot something like a wedding on a GH5 or mirrorless camera but we are shooting less and less weddings so that's becoming less of a concern. For stills and studio work, I think the D750 and D810 are the best cameras I've ever used. For video and travel needs though, they are not cutting it.

Vladimír Baxa's picture

Can you say something about autofocus?

Patrick Hall's picture

Continuous AF or tap to focus once AF?

Vladimír Baxa's picture

I think, if is useful to capture moving objects...continuous changing focus distance.....weak point of many DSLR cameras . thanks.

I didn't do enough tests with it to feel comfortable commenting on it at this time but it did feel very fast to me.