Reviews: Photos

Great for still images and shooting 4K videos

The combination of a great grip, intuitive button layout, a sharp EVF and great touchscreen display makes the Lumix DC-GH5 a joy to handle.
The combination of a great grip, intuitive button layout, a sharp EVF and great touchscreen display makes the Lumix DC-GH5 a joy to handle.ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

The Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 has features and upgrades that videographers will love

The Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 is the latest iteration of the Japanese company's flagship GH hybrid video and still camera series.

This series is coined a hybrid because it caters tovideographers and indie filmmakers, both in design and performance.

For example, the GH4 - launched in 2014 - can shoot 4K (4,096 x 2,160 pixels) and UHD (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) videos at a high bitrate of up to 200Mbps. This was at a time when 4K TVtechnology was still picking up.

The GH5 can capture both 4K and UHD videos with a bitrate of up to 400Mbps and 4:2:2 chroma 10-bit sub-sampling, direct to an SD card. Usually, an external recorder is required for 4:2:2 sub-sampling as it doubles the colour resolution, which comes in useful during post-production. Thus, having built-in 4:2:2 sub-sampling means huge savings in both money and time for videographers.

In addition, the GH5 can capture full high-definition (FHD) videos at a frame rate of 180 frames per second, allowing for slow-motion playback.

Internally, the GH5 has been upgraded with a 20-megapixel image sensor (up from GH4's 16-megapixel), a built-in image stabilisation system and improved menu interface.

In terms of appearance, the GH5 does not look much different from its predecessor. Its magnesium-alloy body has a rubberised contoured grip that makes the camera great to grasp, whether you are shooting still or moving images.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $2,899 (body only) or $4,099 (with Panasonic G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 II ASPH lens)

    IMAGE SENSOR: 20-megapixel Micro Four Thirds

    DISPLAY: Tiltable 3.2-inch touchscreen with 1,620,000 dots; electronic viewfinder with 3,680,000 dots

    SENSITIVITY: ISO 100 to 25,600

    SHOOTING SPEED: Up to 12 frames per second

    CONNECTIVITY: USB 3.1, HDMI, Bluetooth, Near Field Communications and 802.11ac Wi-Fi

    WEIGHT: 725g (body only, with battery and memory cards)

    RATING

    FEATURES: 5/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

Button layout remains impeccable with a new dedicated joystick to move the autofocusing (AF) point's position, an AF mode lever, a command dial and an AF/AE Lock near the thumb rest at the rear.

A command dial, a dedicated video-recording button and three buttons for white balance, ISO and exposure compensation are situated near the shutter release for quick changing of settings. There is also a lockable mode dial on the top right and shooting drive mode dial on the top left.

Its tiltable touchscreen display is slightly bigger at 3.2 inches (up from GH4's 3-inch display), with a higher resolution of 1.6 million dots (from 1.04 million dots).

Able to swivel around 270 degrees, the display lets you take selfies, compose photos and shoot videos at creative angles.

The GH5's electronic viewfinder (EVF) is also bigger at 0.76x magnification, and sharper with a much higher resolution of 3.7 million dots, compared with GH4's 0.67x magnification and 2.36 million dots. It is one of the sharpest EVFs that I have used.

Overall, the combination of a great grip, intuitive button layout, a sharp EVF and great touchscreen display makes this camera a joy to handle.

Other improvements include dual SD card slots, a full-sized HDMI port and a USB-C port. Unfortunately, the USB-C port cannot be used for charging.

Operation of this camera is pretty swift. It starts up in about 0.8sec and shuts down in around 1.7sec - quicker than most mirrorless cameras' 2sec duration for each operation.

Using an SD card with a writing speed rated at 90MB per second, the GH5 was able to capture 71 RAW images in 7.1sec. Its speediness and buffer capacity put some DSLR cameras to shame.

For this review, I used the GH5 with two Panasonic lenses - Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 II ASPH and Vario- Elmarit 8-18mm f/2.8-4 ASPH.

The 4K, UHD and FHD videos that the GH5 took were breathtakingly sharp and with little ambient or wind audio. The AF refocuses smoothly in less than 2sec when you pan or zoom to a new scene.

The still-image quality is equally stellar with nice contrast and great details, even in dark areas. The auto white balance is spot-on under most lighting conditions.

Noise artefacts are absent all the way through to ISO 800. They start to appear at ISO 1,600. Even at ISO 3,200, there is only a slight loss of details. But, at ISO 3,200 or above, the chromatic noise artefacts become quite visible.

It takes around 400 still images on a full charge, fewer than the GH4 which can last for 500 images. But it is still better than most mirrorless cameras that has a 300-still image battery life.

Perhaps the only downer is its price. At $2,899 (body only), the GH5 costs the same as the new full-frame DSLR Canon EOS 6D Mark II. That said, the 6D Mark II does not have the videography capabilities of the GH5. So, it really depends on what you want.

•Verdict: If you are looking for a mirrorless camera capable of shooting great stills and fantastic 4K videos, the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 is the camera to consider.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 23, 2017, with the headline 'Great for still images and shooting 4K videos'. Print Edition | Subscribe