Panasonic made the unusual move of teasing a forthcoming camera at Photokina 2016. Cameras don't often get this type of pre-announcement, but then most cameras aren't the Lumix GH5.
Panasonic instead used CES 2017 to launch the new Lumix GH5, a refreshed flagship interchangeable lens camera that sits at the top of Panasonic's range of models. This isn't a replacement for the popular GH4, there are so many changes and the GH4 is such a solid performer, that in the short-term (at least) the GH5 will sit alongside the GH4.
We had the chance to get our hands on a GH5 pre-production model prior to launch, so here's a full run-down of what you can expect from this potent update.
Panasonic Lumix GH5 preview: Design
- Water, dust and cold proof
- 3.2-inch rear monitor
- Dual SD card slots
The design of the GH5 is familiar to anyone who has used the GH4 and indeed a number of other G series models. It adopts that familiar compact DSLR-looking design, with plenty of controls, a pronounced right-hand grip and a serious body. Like its forebear, the GH5 has a magnesium alloy body that is splash and dust resistant, with Panasonic now specifying that it's freezeproof, so better protected for use in all conditions than the GH4.
The layout of controls is fairly familiar too, so most things fall into place exactly where you'd expect them to be if coming from another G series. There's been a change in body design from the 2014 Lumix GH4 that's most noticeable around the right shoulder and top right rear panel.
There's been a slight reconfiguration of the buttons, moving the video capture button to the top, giving space for a thumb stick on the rear next to the focus controls.
Elsewhere the changes are mostly cosmetic, evolving the design for better looks. It's slightly less fussy than the previous model, which for a camera that's expanding its feature set is a positive thing. With that in mind, there's still a scattering of Fn buttons that you can program to your own preference, and those two dials, one on each shoulder, one for the shooting mode, the other for drive mode.
You'll notice here that the left-hand dial offers 6K Photo, a dedicated mode that Panasonic has introduced as a successor to 4K Photo that's appeared on a number of recent Lumix cameras, more on this later.
Those with eagle eyes might spot the slight change in the flaps to the left-hand edge where the physical connections lie, as there's now a full-sized HDMI connector, as well as USB Type-C. The shift away from using one of the compact HDMI standards has been in direct feedback from videographers, to ensure that the GH5 works with existing equipment with minimal fuss. You even get the HDMI lock in the box, so you can screw the cable down and make sure it doesn't fall out, vital if recording video on an external device.
You also might notice that the rear display has expanded to 3.2-inches, giving you a little more space to use that monitor, but without eating away at the rest of the body. There are also dual SD card slots.
Additionally, the electronic viewfinder has been boosted too. It's still an OLED panel but is a higher resolution than the GH4, moving up to 3.6 million dots. It's lovely to use, packed full of detail and information and we can't wait to test it further.
Panasonic Lumix GH5 preview: Huge internal changes
- 5-axis in-body image stabilisation
- New 20-megapixel sensor, no low pass filter
- New Venus image processing engine
One of things you can't see is the new 5-axis dual image stabilisation system that's built into the body. Panasonic say that this is good for five stops, although we've not had the chance to test its performance. Certainly, in-body stabilisation is welcomed, meaning stabilisation on those lenses that don't offer it.
Aside from stabilisation, the heart of this camera is new, with a new 20-megapixel sensor. There's no low pass filter on this sensor, with Panasonic claiming that this is the highest quality Lumix ever. It is combined with a new Venus image-processing engine, giving you more power.
There's a whole stack of features that come with the new model. Aside from just the promise of higher quality images, there's a lot of options for videographers, with Panasonic aiming TV and cinema, as well as those professionals looking for the ultimate hybrid camera for events.
Another change that you can't see is the step-up to 5GHz ac Wi-Fi as well as the inclusion of Bluetooth for direct control. The GH5 has also been engineered to be a quieter camera, with a floating construction for the shutter aiming to reduce the vibration and the noise. Panasonic is claiming that 10dB noise reduction has been shaved from the shutter.
Panasonic Lumix GH5 preview: High quality photos and supercharged video
- 6K Photo, 18-megapixel still from 30fps video
- 12fps still shooting, up to 100 RAW photos
- 4:2:2 10-bit 4K video
- Hybrid log gamma video capture
Returning to that 6K mode, this is one of the features that Panasonic teased at the Photokina announcement. This is 6K Photo an enhancement of the 4K Photo option that's widely offered on recent Lumix models (including the GH4).
The new 6K Photo mode will capture 18-megapixel frames at 30fps, the idea being that 6K Photo will let you capture the perfect photo from moving action. It's really a fancy burst mode, the big sell here being that it's capturing high-quality video and giving you the perfect still photo.
It's worth noting that regular high-speed capture at full resolution is only 12fps, so for a drop of only 2-megapixels, 6K Photo looks to have more merit than 4K Photo offered previously, but 4K Photos also gets a boost: you can shoot 8-megapixel photos at 60fps in the GH5, with the same aim of getting the perfect still from a fast moving subject.
It's on the video front that Panasonic has made a huge number of changes and we can see why this camera sits alongside the GH4. For those wanting is highly capable stills and video machine, the GH4 is just that. For those wanting to supercharge video, the GH5 is fully loaded.
There's no pixel binning from the sensor when shooting 4K video and there's also no limit on the recording time in 4K. You can capture 10-bit 4:2:2 at 30/25/24p, or 8-bit 4:2:0 at 60/50p. The HDMI will output this video for recording, while you can also record on the internal card in most settings too.
If that wasn't enough, the GH5 is already in line for a number of firmware upgrades to add more features to its skills.
One of these is the addition of hybrid log gamma (HLG) capture, meaning that the GH5 will be able to capture this new standard of HDR that's being developed by, amongst others, the BBC. The whole aim of HLG is to work with legacy equipment so it's appealing to broadcasters, because it doesn't involve a huge change in workflow or equipment.
We've not had the chance to test the performance of the GH5, as the sample that we saw was pre-production and we weren't allowed to put a card in the camera, so all we can report on is the detail that we've gleaned from Panasonic. That means we can't comment on the quality until we get the Lumix GH5 back for a full review.
The Panasonic Lumix GH5 packs in a full range of changes, making it not only the highest quality Lumix model so far, but a model that should appeal to a wide range of video producers looking for range of high-end 4K capture options.
As we've said a couple of times, the GH5 isn't pitched as a replacement for the GH4 and as such it shouldn't come as a surprise that it's a little more expensive. Priced at £1699 (body only), it's about £300 more than the GH4 at launch.
Hitting stores from 20 March, the Panasonic Lumix GH5 looks like it pushes the videographers weapon of choice even higher.