I'm not the type of person that likes switching brands. I've been with Nikon from day one, but my needs are changing, and Panasonic seems to have made my dream camera. I know this may sound crazy, but I may soon be selling the majority of my Nikon gear and buying six Panasonic GH5 cameras.
Let me first start by saying that if I was still shooting weddings regularly, I wouldn't even consider switching. I love the image quality and ergonomics of the Nikon line for shooting stills. The problem is that I am shooting mostly video these days. Yes, Nikon DSLRs can shoot video, and we've made it work for us for seven years now, but there are a few issues most DSLRs have that make them pretty inconvenient to shoot video with.
Many times I've considered upgrading our video gear to something like a Canon C300 or a Sony F7, but the idea of lugging around a giant camera was never exciting to me; especially when we usually travel with six cameras. Plus, I like having a video camera and a still camera in one body. I love the idea of having one camera that can do everything, and although I haven't tested one yet, I'm hoping the GH5 is that camera.
In this post, I'm going to quickly touch on a few of the features that are getting me excited enough to make the switch. Keep in mind that many of these features have been available in "professional" video cameras for years, but never have they been available in such a small package; and we have shot 100% of our videos on Nikon DSLRs, so to us these will be massive upgrades.
Better Video Quality
This is probably what most people are excited about, but the video quality is actually the least important feature to me. I know that what we do most of the time doesn't require insane bit rates or flat color profiles – and most of our stuff is wildly compressed and will be viewed on Youtube – but these stats are still important. This camera can shoot 4k 30fps 10-bit 4:2:2 at 100 Mbps. In the past, 10-bit video recording has been a feature of high-end, extremely expensive cameras. Not any more.
Better Slow Motion
Frame rate is far more important to me than bit depth, and the GH5 can shoot at 4k at 60fps or 1080p at 180 fps. This camera will be fantastic for slow-mo shooting.
Most of the lenses we use on our Nikon bodies have internal stabilization. This feature does a great job of smoothing out footage, especially when the cameras are handheld. The GH5 has in-body five-axis stabilization that can be combined with a stabilized lens to produce five stops of stabilization. This means that if you can safely take a picture at 1/60th of a second without stabilization, with this feature engaged you can take the same image at 1/2 of a second without blur. That's insane. Still photographers will certainly love this feature, but I have no interest in using it to take pictures. I want this kind of stabilization so that I can leave my tripod at home when I'm shooting videos.
Nikon DSLRs are notorious for recording poor sound via the audio input jack. We use Sennheiser lav mics plugged directly into the side of our D750s. Although the sound is acceptable, it's missing the highs and lows found when using the same mic with and external recorder. From what I've read, the audio input on Panasonic cameras is superior to Nikon's; plus you will be able to buy the DMW-XLR1 to add two powered XLR inputs to the GH5.
We shoot time-lapses at lot, and they can be extremely hard on both your camera and your hard drive while being time consuming to build and render. Panasonic cameras (even their cheaper models) have made the process of shooting time-lapses a breeze. Simply choose your camera settings, choose the amount of images you want to take, and click "Go." Because these cameras are mirrorless, they will silently shoot images without wearing down the mechanical shutter found in DSLRs. When you're done, the camera will give you the option to build a 4k time-lapse video on the spot from the images taken. We no longer import thousands of pictures onto our computer; we only transfer over finished 4k time-lapses.
A Smaller Camera System
The main reason why I haven't upgraded our cameras to "professional" models was simply because they were too big. If I was shooting a job with one camera, I probably wouldn't care about the size, but when we are traveling and shooting with up to six cameras at once, the last thing I want to deal with is more size and weight.
The GH5 is significantly smaller than a Nikon DSLR, and because it's a micro four thirds camera, the lenses will be significantly smaller as well.
Unlimited Shooting Times
This is this most important feature to me and, if you shoot video, probably will be for you as well.
If you don't shoot video, you may not know that most DSLRs limit the length of video clips to 20 minutes. It's pretty amazing that we have been able to film many of our tutorials (some being over 20 hours in length) by stopping and starting the cameras every 20 minutes. It's annoying, but it's all we have ever known. In fact, our first Nikon cameras could only shoot a maximum of five minutes.
I've been waiting patiently for seven years to use a video camera that can continue to record until the battery dies or the card fills up. The GH5 will be the first video camera I will have ever used that has this feature.
We Still Need To Test This Camera
Keep in mind I haven't tested this camera yet. Once we get our hands on a unit, we could find that the GH5 may not actually be the perfect video camera. I'm nervous that it will not perform well in low light. Maybe the battery life will be worse than what I am accustomed to. Perhaps I will miss the super shallow depth of field my full-frame cameras can produce. I'm also going to assume that as a still camera, it's not going to be able to compete with my Nikon cameras, meaning that I will have to keep at least some of my Nikon gear to shoot stills. This isn't ideal, but if the GH5 is as good as I hope it will be, I'll be happy to deal with both systems.
To learn more about the GH5 you can read more specs here.