Panasonic GH5S: Better low light, slower slow-mo, no in-body stabilization
There was no secret about Panasonic's intentions when it released the GH5 last year – this was a video-first mirrorless micro 4/3rds camera packed with features aimed directly at filmmakers. It's a terrific camera, capable of stunning video footage and very solid stills. We loved it, I bought one, and we ranked it as one of our favorite cameras of 2017. But its small 20.3-megapixel sensor struggles in low light.
At this year's CES, Panasonic has announced a new camera body designed to eliminate that issue and focus even more tightly on video.
The GH5S is designed around a new 10.2-megapixel high sensitivity sensor with dual native ISOs at ISO 400 and 2500, meaning that it can perform with vastly less noise in a much wider range of ISO conditions. Essentially, one circuit handles ISO levels from 100-640, and another handles ISO 800 upwards, unless you decide to restrict which circuit is being used for some reason. Max ISO is up to 51,200, where the regular GH5 can only manage a very noisy 25,600 since its native ISO is set at 400.
In a practical sense, the GH5S looks like it'll be vastly better for shooting outdoors at night, but it still won't rival a dedicated full-frame machine like Sony's A7SII. Mind you, that's bigger, heavier, less fun to use and more expensive, and you need to stump up for full frame glass.
The sensor also allows multi-aspect shooting at 4:3, 17:9, regular 16:9 and 3:2 aspect ratios. Multi-camera synchronization is now easy using Time Code in and out through the flash sync terminal.
Processing is upgraded as well – 4K, 60p video recording can now deliver a 4096 x 2160 pixel image in 4:2:0 8-bit color – essentially making it better for color reproduction and post grading.
Variable frame rate shooting is now boosted up to 240 fps in regular 1080p HD mode, where the GH5 could only manage 180. So, max rate slow motion shooting gets 33 percent slower, and that will certainly be aided by improved high ISO performance.
V-Log mode is included with the GH5S, where it's a paid upgrade to the GH5. It allows ultra-flat shooting for superior results in post grading. And otherwise, most of the GH5's terrific functionality is retained.
It's not all good news
On the negative side, it's more expensive than the GH5 at US$2499 for the body. It loses the in-body image stabilizer the GH5 has, which allows for excellent dual in-body/in-lens image stabilization and makes hand-held shooting much easier. And it doesn't seem as though video autofocus is likely to be any better than on the GH5, which isn't very good at all. But realistically, most users at this level are using gimbal stabilization anyway, and autofocus is typically only for the hobbyist.
So it looks like a bit of an odd-bod – far more specialized toward video than its predecessor, but not quite enough to make it a superstar. You gain improved low light performance and slower slow-mo, but you lose half your still photo resolution and your in-body stabilization, so it's less of an all-rounder. It looks more or less the same as the GH5, but with a couple of spunky red highlights.
It'll be interesting to see where it lands, and what kinds of shooters get the best out of it.