The Best Native Lenses for the Panasonic GH5

The Panasonic GH5 Guide is now available! Click here to learn how to make cinematic videos with the Panasonic GH5.

Disclaimer:

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.

In Part One we covered ergonomics, controls and cages. In this part we’ll dive into native lenses.

What is a native lens?

A native lens is one specifically designed for the Panasonic GH5 and the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) system. The four major brands are:

  1. Panasonic
  2. Olympus
  3. Sigma
  4. Tamron

There are others, but only these four make lenses that autofocus for video.

Do you need Autofocus for video?

Both Olympus and Panasonic make lenses for their cameras, though if you need autofocus and the right balance of image stabilization I highly recommend you stick to Panasonic lenses. AF for video is hit and miss at best. Sometimes you’re on a gimbal or shooting a news event and you don’t have a choice. But for most other occasions I would not recommend AF.

If you don’t need autofocus you have the choice of:

  1. Native lenses from other manufacturers, and
  2. Non-native lenses used with an adapter. E.g., the Metabones Speed Booster. We’ll cover this in the next part.

Panasonic recommends their native lenses over other brands for continuous video autofocus.

So, for simplicity’s sake, I’ll split this part into the best native lenses for autofocus and for manual focus. Let’s start with primes:

Best prime lenses for autofocus

When should you pick prime lenses with autofocus?

In theory, prime lenses have the best optical performance, and are faster to focus. For general video work though, these advantages are not so obvious, if at all. However, the single greatest advantage prime lenses have in general is they can open wider than zooms. You can go down to f/0.95 if you wanted to! Though with AF you’ll probably get f/1.2 or f/1.4 at best.

This makes it a great option for low light cinematography. And there’s really no excuse for not having at least one prime because they also tend to be cheap without sacrificing quality.

You’ll need to get a 50mm (35mm equivalent) as your first general purpose lens, so you’re looking at something in the 20-25mm range. The GH5 has a crop factor of 2.

If you only had $300 or so for one lens, which would should you get?

Get the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 II ASPH (Amazon, B&H). It is small and lightweight, and isn’t too shabby with autofocus.

If you only had $600 or so for one lens, which would should you get?

Get the Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 ASPH (Amazon, B&H):

What are the best wide angle lenses for the GH5?

One of the great disadvantages of the MFT format is its sensor size, and because of it you really can’t have ultra-wide lenses that aren’t cost-prohibitive. One way to circumvent this problem is to use a Speed Booster or focal reducer, though you are limited by how wide you can go.

Here are my suggestions, in order of preference:

  • Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 12mm f/1.4 ASPH. (Amazon, B&H)
  • Panasonic LUMIX G Leica DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7 ASPH. (Amazon, B&H)
  • Panasonic LUMIX G 14mm f/2.5 ASPH. II (Amazon, B&H)

So you’re at a 24mm equivalent at best. That’s just wide, not ultra-wide. For ultra-wide options look at zooms.

What are the best normal lenses for the GH5?

We’ve already seen the 50mm equivalent options. A special mention: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO (Amazon, B&H) – You simply can’t ignore an f/1.2!

For a little longer, you have:

  • Panasonic LUMIX G Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH. Power OIS (Amazon, B&H)
  • Panasonic LUMIX G 42.5mm f/1.7 ASPH. Power O.I.S. (Amazon, B&H)

This would give you an 85mm equivalent. By now you’ll have guessed, anything with a Leica on it is definitely preferable, and more expensive.

What are the best telephoto lenses for the GH5?

This is where you say bye-bye to Panasonic and embrace Olympus. Olympus makes a few great lenses for the MFT system, though for autofocus for video it won’t make a big difference. I don’t recommend Olympus because Panasonic has made it quite clear that Olympus lenses (and other third-party lenses like Sigma, etc.) will be slower for video AF tracking.

For telephoto lenses though, you really don’t have any options in Panasonic. These are your picks:

  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 75mm f/1.8 (delivers a 150mm equivalent) (Amazon, B&H)
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO (600mm equivalent) (Amazon, B&H)

What about macro lenses?

In order of preference:

  • Panasonic LUMIX G MACRO 30mm f/2.8 ASPH. MEGA O.I.S. (Amazon, B&H) – This is a general purpose macro, for larger objects.
  • Panasonic Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm f/2.8 ASPH. MEGA O.I.S. (Amazon, B&H)

Best zoom lenses for autofocus

When should you pick zoom lenses with autofocus?

Zoom lenses are all about convenience. You pick a zoom when you want that flexibility in creating wide shots and close ups. You simply don’t have the time to swap lenses often, or can’t afford more than one or two general lenses.

If you are sticking to zoom lenses, get the most expensive you can afford. You typically get what you pay for.

If you could only get one lens, which would should you get?

Get the Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 Asph. (Amazon, B&H). Please note, this is the Mark I version. A newer Mark II version has been released, but it’s $999, so pick the latter if you can afford it.

This lens will give you a 24-70mm 35mm equivalent, more than enough for most general purpose video work.

What are the best wide angle zoom lenses for the GH5?

Luckily the MFT system has two great wide-angle zooms, in order of preference:

  • Olympus M.ZUIKO Digital ED 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO (Amazon, B&H)
  • Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f/4.0 ASPH. (Amazon, B&H)

This would give you a 14-28mm 35mm equivalent, more than enough for most wide-angle work. Note I’m mentioning the Olympus because it’s more rugged and more suited to outdoor use (it’s also weatherproof), and for ultra-wides AF isn’t that big of a deal. The only major drawback of these zoom lenses are that you can’t put standard screw-in filters on them. You’ll need something like the Formatt Hitech 165mm Lucroit Filter Holder Kit (Amazon, B&H).

What are the best normal zoom lenses for the GH5?

The best standard range zoom is Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 II ASPH (Amazon, B&H). This is the Mark II version.

You might be asking, why not a variable aperture zoom (something like an f/4-5.6 or whatever). The problem is once you set exposure and then zoom in, you’ll have to compensate by raising the ISO. In low light situations, you’ll have a cleaner wider shot and a noisier close up. In the editing room side by side, the differences will be more pronounced. Try to avoid variable zooms whenever possible for video.

What are the best telephoto zoom lenses for the GH5?

If wide angles are the bane of MFT, then telephoto lenses are its rockstars. This is a great system for any kind of telephoto work, and now that the GH5 has internal 5-axis IBIS, it works great with Panasonic OIS telephoto lenses.

Get the Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm f/2.8 II POWER O.I.S. (Amazon, B&H). This is the Mark II version due out in end of March 2017. It will give you a 70-200mm equivalent, great for any kind of telephoto work. Olympus also has a stellar ED 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens, but I’m not sure how well it’ll perform for image stabilization.

Best prime lenses for manual focus

When should you pick prime lenses with manual focus?

When you can and want to control the focus, that’s when. This applies to corporate videos, fictional work of any kind, documentaries, etc.

The key factor is the kind of manual focus you want. The professionals use follow focus systems, but even if that’s overkill for you, you need to ensure the focus ring on the lens is solid, smooth and reliable enough to consistently nail focus. Luckily, the GH5 has focus peaking, and the back LCD is pretty decent, so manual focusing will be a joy.

The one big gotcha is the focus-by-wire mechanism of many of the native lenses. This means you don’t get the same amount of focus for an equivalent amount of turn. You can’t get any kind of muscle memory going, and you’re totally dependent on the lens for the job. What’s worse, each lens will behave a bit differently! For this reason, I only recommend lenses for manual focus where the focus ring is good enough for professional use.

What are the best wide angle lenses for manual focus?

Here are my suggestions, in order of preference:

  • Voigtlander Nokton 10.5mm f/0.95 (Amazon, B&H)- It doesn’t get much better than this!
  • Samyang 12mm f/2.0 NCS CS (Amazon, B&H)
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12mm f/2.0 (Amazon, B&H) – I don’t completely recommend this due to the focus-by-wire problem mentioned above. But it has great image quality.

What are the best normal lenses for manual focus?

Here are my suggestions:

  • Voigtlander Nokton 17.5mm f/0.95 (Amazon, B&H)
  • Voigtlander Nokton 25mm f/0.95 Type II (Amazon, B&H)
  • Voigtlander Nokton 42.5mm f/0.95 (Amazon, B&H)

Seriously, you can’t beat this combo. Some complain that the Voigtlander is a bit soft. But a bit soft with 4K doesn’t really matter. In fact, it’ll make skin tones look much creamier. I can’t think of a better system, especially because you need an excellent focusing mechanism at f/0.95.

What are the best telephoto lenses for manual focus?

With telephoto lenses accurate focus is critical. Here are my suggestions:

  • Samyang/Rokinon 50mm f/1.2 (Amazon, B&H)
  • Samyang/Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 Aspherical IF (Amazon, B&H)
  • Samyang/Rokinon 100mm f/2.8 ED UMC Macro (Amazon, B&H)
  • Samyang/Rokinon 135mm f/2.0 ED UMC (Amazon, B&H)

Overall though, I’m not too sure about getting telephoto lenses with manual focus unless you’re on a tripod and have a solid focusing strategy. If you’re going to run and gun it choose Panasonic lenses that also offer OIS+IBIS. Remember, every time you change the focal length you’ll have to manually change the IBIS focal length setting in the camera.

What about the Veydra Primes?

The Veydra primes (Amazon, B&H) seem like a great option if you want a set of color-matched cine lenses that have standard front diameters and focus rings. But they have three disadvantages I can’t reconcile:

  1. They’re slow, at T2.2 for primes (a T2.2 would roughly be an f/2) that cost $1,000 a pop.
  2. They only go as wide as 12mm and there are no real super telephoto options.
  3. Lastly, who shoots cinema-level video with the GH5? With those kinds of budgets you can easily afford an a7S II or better. I would really be renting an FS7 Mark II or C300 Mark II and cine primes if I was really serious.

This is just me, I’m not saying these lenses are bad or anything. They could offer great image quality and construction, but still, I don’t see the benefits. I won’t recommend them because I can’t see ever needing them.

Best zoom lenses for manual focus

When should you pick zoom lenses with manual focus?

For pretty much the same reasons as when you pick prime lenses with manual focus, but want to stick to one or two lenses to cover you for most situations. Zoom lenses are all about convenience. The one major gotcha with manual focus on zoom lenses is that most low end zoom lenses are not parfocal.

So to really get the benefit of manual focus and zooms, you’ll find you’re always pining for the most expensive options. There aren’t any native lenses that meet this criterion. In the next part I’ll cover a few great third-party options.

If I could only have three lenses…

What if I could only have three lenses for everything? This is what I would get:

  • Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f/4.0 ASPH. (Amazon, B&H)
  • Voigtlander Nokton 25mm f/0.95 Type II (Amazon, B&H) – Manual focus only (If you need AF replace with the Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 ASPH)
  • Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 35-100mm f/2.8 II POWER O.I.S. (Amazon, B&H)

In the next part we’ll talk third-party lenses and adapters. Please support wolfcrow and buy from either of these links, it won’t cost you extra:

The Panasonic GH5 Guide is now available! Click here to learn how to make cinematic videos with the Panasonic GH5.

16 replies on “The Best Native Lenses for the Panasonic GH5”

  1. Great article. But why did you ignore speedboster option completly? With speedbooster the 18-35 Sigma is one of the most loved lens for filmmakers. And Tokina 11-16 with speedbooster is nearly as wide as the 7-14 but with a 2.0 aperture. And yeah, even small cinema films are produced by a GH5. And many useres prefer this a lot against A7SII. And last point, have you ever shot with a veydra series? For me it’s color-rendering reminds to Zeiss cine prime. And even the lens flar of those glases does never look like video as with most of those oversharpend foto lenses.

  2. I have the Olly 75 and it’s a great lens, but I do use the Sigma 60mm more often. It’s an excellent lens with great color and sharpness, and with the crop factor it is a nice length. I got it for a ridiculous price on eBay. I put a rubber band on the barrel and it focuses perfect, without the band it is slippery and hard to use.
    The Panny 20mm version I have has slightly better IQ than version II, but the difference is minuscule and V2 has a smoother focus motor. But if you see V1 used, it is one of the first and best lenses made for the m4/3.

  3. I am getting ready to purchase the GH5, I’ll mostly be shooting still photos and videos in low-light, small indoor concerts for local bands….which lenses do you recommend for this? Preferably lenses that are not too expensive due to financial constraints.

  4. Hi Sareesh,
    Under your article, “Best zoom lenses for autofocus” there is a hyperlink attached to Mark II, which take to Amazon website showing Canon 5D Mark II camera”

    Kindly check and do the needful.

    Thanks.

    Your article is very nice.
    Congratulation.

  5. Are the 12-35mm (Mark 1 & 2) and 35-100mm (Mark 1 & 2) fitter with constant aperture ? What’s the big differences with Mark 1 & 2 of those lenses anyway ?

    Also, have you tried the new 8-18mm from Panasonic/Leica ? What’s you opinion on this one ?

    Which zoom lenses (native and adapted) would you recommend for video in low light for the GH5 ? I wander because I think f2.8 is still a bit too dark when filming events (weddings stage shows, etc).

    Thanks to answer

    1. The newer 12-35 does better with AF and stabilization, I believe. I think f/2.8 is fine for most work, if you open up the aperture your depth of field diminishes considerably.

  6. As far as “who shoots cinema level video with the GH5…” I guess I do and have done so with the GH4. Not Hollywood, but lots of documentaries and short narratives that have been shown in festivals. With the 10 bit 4:2:2 of the GH5, it can play nicely with other cinema cameras as well. Almost any 4K camera out there today can look great if the cinematographer knows what he’s doing and how to work within the parameters of the given camera he’s using. People who say a camera doesn’t have a cinema look clearly don’t know how to get a cinema look out of their camera.

    1. Thank you for the info. Last week I tested a set of old Zeiss S16mm primes and a zoom with the GH5 and it just blew me away.

  7. I have the GH4 and a few weeks ago got the GH5. I had been shooting corporate video and documentary and festival short narratives with the Sony FS100. I liked the look of the GH4 so much (in 4K) that the FS100 was retired and I started shooting everything with the GH4 and now GH5, with the 4 as a second camera when needed.

    For a time I used my old Nikkor lenses and a Speedbooster, however I really don’t like adapters all that much. After checking out a friend’s Voigtlander MFT lenses, I ended up buying the 10.5, 17.5, and 42.5, with the 25mm coming next month. Before the FS100 I had a Canon 5DII and a set of Zeiss primes, the 18, 25, 35, 50, and 85. When I first tested out the Voigtlanders, I was immediately reminded of the Zeiss lenses. They have the same feel, same perfect build quality, same perfectly smooth and firm focus. They also have that clarity of image quality that’s reminiscent of the Zeiss.

    The old Nikkors with Speedbooster have a certain look that I find nice, and because of the added warmth they probably cut better with the two Lumix zooms I have (12-35 and 14-14). However, I like the Voigtlanders better and the only time I’m using the Nikkors these days is with the Kowa 16H anamorphic adapter. The Kowa seems to like the Nikkor 35, 50 and 105. The in camera stabilization of the GH5 makes it great for hand held shooting with the Voigtlanders.

  8. “Lastly, who shoots cinema-level video with the GH5? With those kinds of budgets you can easily afford an a7S II or better.”
    I used to shot in a Canon 5D and I was thinking to get the GH5 for corporate, short films, music videos, etc. and in the post-production I am always looking for a cinematic look.
    Are you telling me I am not going to be able to achieve cinematic look with this camera in post-production as good as with the Sony a7sII?

  9. clearly the later lens (the mk II 12-35) hasn’t come out yet..and nor has the gh5 arrived..so its all a bit of conjecture at this point but the leica zoom has been getting some nice reviews – albeit not on the gh5 body. just wondering what you would go for..or what the difference is apart from that extra zoom and branding.. (meant to add this is previous comment, apologies for 2!)

  10. What are your thoughts on the new Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8 vs Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8 mk II – getting quite a bit more zoom and the leica name on the former for hardly any more weight and just a small increase in size…

    1. I played with the 12-25mm f/2.8 the other day at the GH5 launch in Mumbai. Too bad they didn’t have the Leica yet but I would definitely go for the 12-35mm for the constant aperture. The 12-60 is an f/2.8-4. At 25mm the aperture changes to f/3.5. At 40mm it’s already f/3.9 or f/4.

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