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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38 Comments

Previous comments
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.

Martin Del Vecchio's picture

Minor nitpick: "Perhaps if it was only 8MP (the exact size of 4K video)"

The 16:9 aspect ration of 4K video means that its resolution is 8MP. But the 3:2 aspect ratio of the sensor means that its minimum resolution would be 12MP, as is the case with the A7S and A7S II.

I love my A7S II, and I'm sticking with it for my 4K video needs.

Thanks.

Patrick Hall's picture

In reality, if we still want improved digital stabilization in camera, the sensor might need even more cushion around it. I think the sweet spot for resolution with 4k output is somewhere around 10-14mp.

Furthermore, we really need companies to push for Global shutters and in my narrow understanding of the limitations, one seems to be the data write speed for large sensors. For 90% of my photography work, I would actually prefer a 12mp sensor camera with global shutter that would allow me to sync strobes at any shutter over my 24 and 36mp cameras with the traditional shutter.

Good point

Thanks for your review, but a couple of comments I don't understand: First, I'm really not getting what you are describing in you dig. zoom comments. I'm familiar with the GH4's behaviour with 4K and 2X dig zoom, which crops in on the UHD frames the same way you would zoom in 2X in post. But with the full sensor scaling 4K of the GH5 rather than the 4K crop of the GH4, strange things may be happening. Here's a little demo of GH4's straight 4K UHD and 2X dig. zoom, rendered in 4K. Is the GH5 different?

https://vimeo.com/201348716

"Notoriously bad" GH4 1080?? You must be thinking of its soft 1080p slo-mo performance at 96fps!

The reason for shooting 4K on a 1080p timeline is that you get a full 1080 L/PH resolution in the scaling, whereas the best of DSLR/mirrorless bodies get only up to about 700, with the GH3/GH4 right at the top. In addition to the extra resolution, there's 4:2:2 chroma s.s., and moire is essentially absent - which to me is the most compelling reason to shoot everything in 4K. A GH5 is on order!

Pete

Adrian wrote:

"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."

The way I see it, it depends completely on the intended output viewing device. If you are really viewing footage on a 65" 4K screen, then what you claim *may* be accurate—but most people consume most video on a phone (in Asia, this includes films and TV programs—and in Australia, 70%) or on a tablet/laptop. Well exposed 720p/30 will do just fine for this.

@Lee: I really liked your practical article comparing these three cameras, all of which I know well. For your use, I think the GH5 bodies will serve you very well. I was amazed at the stabilisation—have you compared the GH5 with the Olympus EM1 Mk II, on the stabilisation front? And ergonomically (for video, at least) the GH5 is better than either of the other two.

µ4/3rds is an excellent sensor for video, IMHO. And the fact that it works up to ISO 6400 is icing on the cake; in our use scenarios, where we light a controlled studio, the much older G6 bodies make 1080p footage we can sell every day and they have unlimited recording length too. They are good for up to ISO 3200. You can even get good skin tones under fluorescent light.

Re. global shutters: Patrick's remarks above I agree with completely (one reason I love the Fuji X-100s: fill flash at every shutter speed); I would prefer a 12MP camera with global shutter over a 24 or 36MP camera too. Will they ever come, I wonder?

And thanks to Nakean for that Kinetek video; apart from the few errors noted, an excellent explanation. I find the video from Panasonic cameras to be excellent (especially with their best primes), inexpensive, small form factor, and reasonably easy to use.

William Ferguson's picture

On micro 4 thirds compared to full frame. I set in a class with a Panasonic Rep last night and that is exactly what he did. They put the GH5 is being better than a DSLR and the Sony a7 line. So I think you are right to compare them. Thank you for a great and what looks like a fair review.