Since I haven’t received my Panasonic GH5 (Amazon, B&H) yet at the time of this writing most of this guide is conjecture – the result of relying on information provided by Panasonic, educated guesses and my personal experience and analysis based on the work I’ve done with the GH4. It is only a starting point, from which you will hopefully continue to research and find what best suits your workflow. The information provided here might not be accurate or relevant. You are solely responsible for your decisions and actions.
This guide covers everything from how to select the right lenses and accessories for the Panasonic GH5 to workflows in production and post production to get the best out of your footage. The main menu which links to all sections can be found here.
I have one bit of important advice: Buy only what you need. If you can’t judge rationally, get somebody with experience to assist you. A complete camera system is a constantly evolving thing, and you’re better off starting with the bare minimum and adding stuff later, than spending all your money on a setup that will evolve anyway.
For specifications and important information/features of the GH5, please read these articles first:
- Important Differences between the Panasonic GH5, Sony a7S II and Sony a7R II
- Important Quirks and Features of the Panasonic GH5 for Video Shooters
In this part we’ll cover:
- The difference between UHD and 4K, and should you care?
- The ergonomics and controls of the Panasonic GH5
- Rigging options and cages
The difference between Ultra HD and 4K
If you have to ask, then I know you’re a noob. Start by reading What is 4K Television? In short, there’s no practical difference. And yes, the GH5 is capable of generating movies good enough (actually way better, because Super 35mm scanned film never had a resolution of 4K!) for theatrical 4K projection.
Some might complain about using the nomenclature ‘4K’ when, in fact, the camera shoots both UHD and 4K. It is irrelevant. I use the term 4K for both.
Ergonomics and controls
The dials on the GH5 are pretty standard, the joystick being the only innovation you won’t find on many cameras.
Here are the important top dials and buttons:
The record button is on the top, though the shutter button can also be used.
You also have three custom profiles (C1, C2 and C3) that you can store for immediate access. You use the top mode dial for this. The on/off switch is under it. Once you’ve set it you can press down the lock so it won’t change.
The Drive mode dial is not useful for video shooters, though the 6K option might come into play later for anamorphic 6K mode, we’ll see.
Here’s the layout of the back:
The major difference here is the joystick, which can be used for menu as well as setting AF points. I’m not sure how useful it is for video shooters who don’t look through the viewfinder.
You have additional Function buttons to program the way you want it.
The left-hand side:
It’s pretty self-explanatory I think. The GH5 ships with a cable holder that’s definitely useful to protect that fragile HDMI connector.
Finally, the right-hand side:
The remote isn’t very useful for video shooters, but the dual SD card slots are. As explained in my earlier article, you can record in three configurations.
Rigging Options and Cages
The sad part is the GH5 still has only one tripod thread at the bottom, and no registration pin. The length of the screw should not exceed 5.5mm or 0.22 inches.
Due to the size and weight of the camera it is possible to swivel the camera around the tripod screw while locked down on a tripod. For this reason, for a more secure setup a cage would definitely be useful.
Right now the cage options are pretty limited, but the few I’ve found so far are:
This is still in prototyping stage:
I’ve always enjoyed Wooden Camera finishing. A lot of thought goes into the design:
Unfortunately, the price is steep. The cage alone is $399 and the top handle is $250. However, I have no hesitation in recommending their power distribution kit. As for the cage, the thing that ruins it for me is there’s no twist protection (I could be wrong here, please correct me if I am). Secondly, the top plate really is limited in its utility due to the position of the handle, and you need that hot shoe for the XLR adapter!
At this stage I will not recommend this cage.
This is one of the earliest releases (available end of March) and is probably the prettiest to look at:
I am not a fan of the NATO release clamp for the top handle, and in this regard SSinn is excellent. That handle isn’t going anywhere. However, if you just need a handle for run and gun that you can take out of the way quickly, a NATO handle isn’t such a bad idea. But, it’s only as good as the person using it.
Also notice the two protrusions at the bottom that prevent the camera from twisting around. The price with the top handle is $270.
This one is available now for $298. I’ve never been a fan of CAME-TV products. The three things I’ve purchased have left me wanting. So at this price it’s impossible to recommend this. I’m also not a fan of the rod mounting system here. This isn’t to say it’s a bad cage or anything. If they can shave off $100, then it might be a good deal. Remember, the price includes free shipping to many countries.
Based on these options I’d definitely pick SSinn or SmallRig, my favorite being the former. However, I would prefer to see the design realized in person before I can make a recommendation. It’s one thing to show a good render and totally another to actually produce it to look and feel that way. A good cage is a pleasure to use.
What should you look for in a good cage?
I’m sure as the days go by we’ll see a lot more cages with varying price points for the Panasonic GH5 (Amazon, B&H). Most people think a cage will protect your camera. That’s bullshit. Its job is not to protect the camera, but simply to provide mounting points in a stable and secure way. In addition to that you have the option of rigging the camera to different baseplates, and have a top handle/side handle as well.
Here are the important things you need to watch out for:
- It absolutely cannot twist around or have any play. This is a deal breaker. The camera should fit snugly.
- It shouldn’t encumber access to the battery compartment (at the bottom), the SD card slots or any of the ports.
- You should be able to operate the camera freely in your desired mode. Some people prefer to use the camera on a tripod, while others will shoot handheld. Whatever your style, you should be able to access the dials and controls you need easily.
- The top handle should allow for some horizontal adjustment. The center axis of the entire rig might shift depending on the accessories, EVF, monitor, battery, etc., that you might attach. You want to be able to adjust the handle slightly to accommodate that change.
- If you’re using the XLR adapter you need unrestricted access to the hot shoe on top. This is where the CAME-TV and Wooden Camera cages fail. Same goes for adding a shotgun mic, etc. Some of these cages do offer a cold shoe on the top side but that’s an additional adapter and cable from the hot shoe to the cold shoe. Not fun.
- If you’re not using the top handle you need a good side grip. Either the cage comes with a separate attachment or you need access to the camera’s grip. The SmallRig cage protrudes to the side too much and it might make holding the grip uncomfortable. This is why I’m leaning towards the Ssinn. Overall, I prefer cages that can have the right-hand side removed – it reduces weight and gives you unfettered access to the grip and dials.
- You need 1/4″ and 3/8″ mounting holes for your monitor, EVF or whatever else you want to attach.
- It must have enough base area to sit securely on a baseplate.
- It should be well-machined (smooth and even finish, like holding a pebble), and either be of unibody design (like the SSinn), or have hex screws to secure individual pieces.
- Overall, I’d pick the lightest cage if you have multiple choices, because the camera is already heavy enough.
That’s about it!
In the next part we’ll talk lenses and adapters.