Panasonic S5 is a full-frame photo/video monster in a compact body
Panasonic's S1R and S1H are absolute full-frame mirrorless monsters, but they're also as big and hefty as an old-school DSLR body. The new S5, on the other hand, packs the same 35-mm sensor – and the vast majority of those vaunted S-series capabilities – into a body that's somehow slightly smaller and lighter than the GH5 micro four thirds camera.
How they've jammed it all in there is somewhat of a mystery; the S5's dimensions are 132.6 x 97.1 x 81.9 mm (5.22 x 3.82 x 3.22 in) and it weighs some 714 grams (1.58 lb) with an SD card and a battery in it. Each of those dimensions comes in under the GH5. It's like a Tardis; it must somehow be bigger on the inside than the outside.
I went and bought myself a GH5 and love it dearly. I can tell you from first-hand experience how much nicer it is to travel and work with something that light and compact than with a heavier full-frame like the Canon 5D series; it's a real spine-saver, especially on the road. Taking a body that size and giving it a full-frame, 24.2-megapixel sensor and making it capable of 4K/60p video recording in 10-bit is some sort of magic trick, especially since it's also weather-sealed and roadworthy.
Mind you, the laws of physics dictate that you'll still be carrying a heavier camera bag, simply because full-frame lenses have to be physically bigger to focus light on a bigger sensor. But it's nearly a 40 percent weight saving compared to the S1H body.
The S5 is pitched as a compact camera offering an even split between photo and video capabilities; it's for you content creator types. Thus the fully articulating screen, making it an easy rig for selfie videos and streaming. A live streaming/webcam app is currently in beta and launching soon.
But it's a super-powerful rig, rocking the S1H's awesome dual native ISO technology to make it a superb low-light beast with an impressive 14 stops of dynamic range separating the brightest and darkest points it can handle. Unlike the S1H, the dual ISO system is now automatic, so you don't need to fiddle with it, it'll pick whether to use its 640 or 4,000 ISO native circuit based on which it feels will do the job best.
For landscape and still life studio photography, the S5 gets the 96-megapixel sensor-moving ultra high resolution RAW photo capabilities of the S1R, which can deliver files fit to print on building-sized banners. It also introduces a new feature in "live view composite," which helps with long exposure shooting by letting you see the image developing on the screen before your eyes, making light painting and star trails, for example, much less about guesswork.
Not only that, Panasonic says the S5's deep-learning autofocus system is actually a step forward from the existing cameras – "the fastest and highest precision AF ever in a Lumix camera" according to the Australian team. New software algorithms, we're told, improve head detection such that a subject can turn away from the camera and turn back without losing focus. The new AF system will eventually roll out to the S1R and S1H as software updates.
Like the big rigs, it has dual image stabilization, with systems in both the body and equipped lenses contributing up to 6.5 stops' worth of shake correction. It offers two SD card slots, mic, headphone and HDMI ports, and a new battery that's the size of the GH5 battery but more power-dense. Incidentally that battery is backward-compatible to the GH5, but you won't be able to use GH5 batteries in the S5.
You want video capabilities? This thing might not shoot 8K/29.97 fps like the Canon R5, but if you've got an Atomos Ninja 5 it can output clean 5.9K video for external recording. It offers slow motion shooting up to 180 fps in 1080p, and a new "Slow and Quick" mode on the selector dial makes slow-mo and timelapse shooting far more accessible than the fiddly VFR process you need to go through on the other cameras, letting you forget about frame rates and just choose if you want 2x, 4x, 8x slow motion or whatever you like. It's also anamorphic-capable, with a built-in ability to de-squeeze an anamorphic image for live view as you shoot.
It's the Jack Russell of cameras: a whole lot of dog in a very portable package, and Panasonic has also managed to keep the pricing impressively accessible. The S5, body only, will be available from mid-September for US$1,999.99. With its kit lens, the new Lumix 20-60mm F/3.5-5.6, you can have it for $2,299.99.
You will certainly not be short of lens options for the L-mount full frame body; the Panasonic team tells us that between genuine Lumix lenses and third party options there are now 40-something to choose from. Panasonic, for its part, is working on new S-series primes at 24mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm, all at F/1.8, as well as a 70-300mm F4.5-F.5.6 zoom, to grow the range even further.
All up, the full-frame mirrorless market is on fire right now with stellar offerings from Canon, Nikon, Sony and Panasonic, among others, fighting for supremacy in the many different niches of photography and videography. But none of them pack so much into as small a space as the new S5, and we're certain this will be a very popular rig across a variety of use cases.
The video below has more.