Panasonic GH5 Real-world Comprehensive Review and Comparisons with the Sony a7S II

Review rating: ***
List of sponsored/free gear: None
Did I get paid for this review? No

This is the complete and comprehensive real-world review of the Panasonic GH5 (B&H, Amazon) camera for video production. We will also compare it to the Sony a7S II (B&H, Amazon) to see which one’s the best option for video work.

Let’s get started.

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

Goals

In a nutshell:

The Panasonic GH5 is a Micro Four Thirds (MFT) camera that shoots 20 MP stills and compressed 4K video, and surprisingly does both well. This camera is a landmark camera because it offers features never before seen in this price range:

  1. 10-bit 4:2:2 internal recording
  2. 4K @ 60 fps
  3. 4:3 anamorphic mode, and probably a 6K version as well in the future
  4. 400 Mbps internal intraframe codec (coming in a firmware update)

Before reading and watching the review, it is important to first understand the major goals for this review:

  • Is the GH5 a good upgrade for those coming from another platform?
  • If you currently own a GH4, should you upgrade to the GH5?
  • If you’re shooting video, is the a7S II better than the GH5 for the higher price?

For video shooters, I’ll try to assess and give my thoughts on what projects the a7S II is suited for:

  • Features films
  • Short films
  • Corporate videos
  • Documentaries – feature length
  • Documentaries – short length
  • Wedding videos
  • Music videos
  • Commercials
  • Sports
  • Wildlife
  • ENG/EFP
  • Live events

We will also look into whether or not it’s wise to invest in a Panasonic system at all, what lenses to pick, ergonomics, ISO performance, rolling shutter, and finally, which setting works best – V-Log or another Photo Style.

Why did I buy the Panasonic GH5?

I bought the Panasonic GH5 (B&H, Amazon) for the following specific scenarios and conditions:

  • Pure video shooting camera with continuous recording
  • Adaptability to anamorphic lenses
  • Personal documentary and video projects in 4K
  • A ‘review’ camera for future wolfcrow reviews and videos!

Enough of that. Here’s my comprehensive real-world review of the Panasonic GH5:

Summary and Notes

The following is a summary of whatever I’ve covered above:

About log shooting

I hate to break it to you, but log is not easy. In fact, there are three ways to shoot video: RAW, log and baked-in (Rec. 709 or some other preset, but finished), and log is the hardest to understand and expose.

Currently if you record log internally you’ll find a lot of macro blocking and artifacts when you apply LUTs. Stay tuned for my V-Log guide, coming in a few days.

About using LUTs

LUTs have their place, but it’s not a magic bullet. In fact, it’s like the drug that cures one thing, but with devastating side effects. I’m not a big fan of LUTs, but if you’re interested in it here’s a comparison I’d made earlier of Film Emulation LUTs – Filmconvert vs Magic Bullet Film vs Juan Malera’s free LUTs:

Audio quality

Really good and clean. Reference audio from the internal microphone is useful.

Rolling shutter

It is noticeably better than the a7S II. No issues here.

Resolution – UHD vs 4K, which to pick?

Both are equally good. I’ve tested both and here’s a blind test for you. One is C4K and the other is UHD uprezzed to match. Can you tell which is which (right-click for full-rez version)?

Bottom line? It doesn’t matter. Nobody can tell.

VFR (Variable Frame Rate)

VFR mode allows you to shoot up to 180 fps in 1080p. As you can see from the video, it works beautifully.

HDMI quality and options

Clean HDMI, full resolution, and you can dual record 4K to both external recorder and internally at the same time. However, if you’re recording 4K 60p externally in 4:2:2, then you can only record 8-bit internally.

Weather protection and toughness

It is weather-proof and tough. I’ve put it under the shower, literally.

Manual Focusing

Excellent in both video and stills mode. Focus peaking works great. When you punch in too much the image loses sharpness, and it’s impossible to tell if something is in focus. The same applies for low light situations as well. The EVF isn’t very useful here.

Aliasing and moire

None. This is a true 1:1 sensor readout, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Lenses

In my preliminary guide I’ve gone through the options. Check it out [XX

Skin tones

Excellent. Filmic and organic, but you must know how to shoot and expose correctly. Otherwise you’re going to see ugly noise.

Battery life

Great battery life. I consistently get about 4 hours of normal usage (which includes on-off, doing other stuff, etc.). However, depending on what you’re doing your results might be lower.

I think if you have four batteries you are set. Since Panasonic India couldn’t ship me batteries I ordered Wasabi batteries, and they work great. [XX They are interchangeable so no complaints!

AF with video

I don’t use it and I don’t recommend using it. It is useful for YouTubers like myself but other than that I really can’t rely on it.

Dynamic Range

I get a good usable 12 stops and that’s all I want. Here’s a comparison of the dynamic range between the GH5 and the a7S II, first under normal exposure (exposed for 41-42 IRE middle grey, right-click for full resolution):

The one on the bottom is the GH5. Don’t worry about the warp or the vignette in the top left corner, that’s the lens I’m using. To my eye the GH5 has better colors overall. However, the a7S II has slightly more dynamic range in the highlights.

Now here’s the second test underexposed by four stops (not changed the ISO, only shutter speed):

In this case the GH5 is on top and you can clearly see it has better colors, even though the a7S II holds better in the shadows. This is a special feature of S-Log3, though deceiving.

 

If I had to make a call, I’d say the a7S II has a hair more DR, maybe half a stop more. However, the poor compression on the a7S II will probably make that worthless when the 400 Mbps firmware update arrives. And the colors on the GH5 are better, so we’re about even all said and done.

Low-light and ISO performance

Not bad at 1600 ISO. 3200 ISO is pushing it, and I wouldn’t dare going beyond that.

Overheating

None whatsoever, even at 40 degrees Celsius under continuous operation. However, you might see overheating when continuously recording for long.

 

Image stabilization

The camera has internal 5-axis image stabilization that works best with Panasonic lenses. When you mount third-party lenses, you have to manually input the focal length so the camera can shift accordingly.

Both work equally well, and if you’re standing still and just panning, tilting or trying to keep the shot steady, it’s great.

However, if you’re walking, or are moving, it will not replace a gimbal or steadicam. It’s better than nothing, but don’t expect miracles.

Panasonic GH5 or Sony a7S II?

This is probably the most important comparison of this review.

Here’s what the a7S II adds:

  • Low light performance. The king.
  • The full-frame look.
  • Slightly more dynamic range.
  • Frame markers for 1.85:1 and 2.35:1

Here’s where the a7S II screws up:

  • Native ISO of 1600 in S-Log3
  • Poor exposure tools, the Gamut Assist Feature is crap and inaccurate
  • Heavy compression reduces potential of the camera to a great degree
  • Poor battery life

Here’s what the GH5 adds:

  • Better grip and handling
  • Tougher weather-sealed body
  • Better EVF experience
  • Varicam LUTs (accurate!) for V-Log
  • Better HFR mode, with 180 fps in 1080p and 60 fps in 4K
  • Both C4K (4096) and UHD
  • Future 400 Mbps Intraframe codec!
  • Full HDMI Type-A connector
  • Dual SD Cards
  • Better Internal image stabilization
  • A minimum ISO of 400 for log
  • Better rolling shutter
  • Much better battery life
  • Continuous recording without overheating
  • LCD can swivel and tilt
  • Easier menu!
  • Waveform and vectorscope internally

Verdict: Do I need to spell it out? The Panasonic GH5 (B&H, Amazon) wins by a mile.

What kind of productions can the Panasonic GH5 be used for?

Here are my suggestions for video, based on my personal knowledge, history and usage of this camera:

Type of production Recommended? Alternative* Better option?^
Feature films Yes a7S II Arri Alexa, Red Dragon
Short films Yes a7S II Arri Alexa, Red Dragon
Corporate Videos Yes a7S II FS7 Mark II, C300 Mark II, Amira
Documentaries Yes None! FS7 Mark II, C300 Mark II, Amira
Wedding videos Yes Canon 5D Mark IV, a7S II FS7, C300 Mark II
Music Videos Yes a7S II Arri Alexa, Red Dragon
Commercials No FS7, C300 Mark II Arri Alexa, Red Dragon
Sports No N/A Broadcast Cameras
Wildlife Yes (Day) a7S II (Night!) FS7, C300 Mark II, Amira
ENG/EFP/Run n’ gun Yes None! FS7, C300 Mark II, Amira
Live Events Yes None! Broadcast Cameras
  • *At a similar price point
  • ^Price no bar

The bottom line

Why the Panasonic GH5 (B&H, Amazon) stands out from everyone else:

There is no other camera in this price range that gives you the video tools you need in such a great package. It’s really a joy to shoot, with excellent color and image quality.

Let’s answer our questions:

  • Is the GH5 a good upgrade for those coming from another platform? Yes, as long as you can utilize these new features, are willing to learn to get better image quality, and get paid for it.
  • If you currently own the GH4, should you upgrade to the GH5? Yes, as long as the price difference will put food and an extra bottle of your favorite beverage on your table. I hate to break it to you, if you couldn’t do much with the GH4, you’ll most likely get the same results with the GH5.
  • GH5 or a7S II? GH5! Except for extremely low light work, like wildlife, the GH5 wins in just about every other category. Mind you, if you want the full frame look, and know what that means, then your choice is cut and dried.

All said and done, the GH5 (B&H, Amazon) is a winner. My only wish is Panasonic gives us the 400 Mbps firmware update and makes sure it is great quality, no compromises. Give us the best this camera has got. And please improve your service!

That’s all for my review of the GH5 (B&H, Amazon). I hope you found it useful.

What do you think? Please let me know in the comments below.

14 replies on “Panasonic GH5 Real-world Comprehensive Review and Comparisons with the Sony a7S II”

  1. Hi Sareesh, i’m shooting weddings and short films for now (planning to shoot more online contents like web series and docs), and im currently shooting with a sony a6000. My question is should i upgrade to the a63/6500/a7 series or should i jump to the gh5?

  2. Thanks for the detailed review Sareesh.

    I am pursuing cinematography course, I am looking for a camera by which I could shoot documentaries and still images for my projects. I had shortlisted gh5 and a7r ii, after seeing your review I got a quite confident that gh5 will be great for my documentary shoots, but my doubt is whether the gh5 performs well for photography(street photography) as well?

  3. Thanks so much for the review but I didn’t see any mention of bit rate. Wouldn’t the GH5 higher bit rate for use in feature films leave the sony a7sii out of the running altogether? I own the a7sii and am considering the GH5 for feature films for gimbal use as I had discounted the Sony a7sii because of it’s lower bit rate?
    Kind regards
    Allan

    1. You’re welcome. A lot of people would consider neither as suitable cameras for feature film work. They’d use Red or Alexa Mini’s on gimbals. If you’re not color grading you can “get away” with either camera.

  4. Thank you for the review, Sareesh!

    I worry I have made a mistake in buying an a6500 (which is on the way to me). Maybe you can help me out, since I trust you more than most other reviewers.

    I use my cameras for 85% stills photography and 15% video, and I primarily shoot real estate. So I primarily need a high dynamic range and good performance in shadows. If I am shooting video, I might have to film regularly at ISO 1600 to ISO 5000, and often under mixed lighting (daylight, fluorescent and tungsten). Because I often have to shoot quickly, I won’t have the time to set up lighting.

    If the GH5 performs very well compared to the a7S II, then won’t it almost certainly be as good or better than the a6500 in terms of dynamic range and shadows?

    And do you have any thoughts on the stills performance when shooting RAW on the GH5? Because the overwhelming majority of my work is shooting STILLS and not video, but I hope to grow my video business over the next year.

    Thanks in advance for any advice you might have.

    1. You’re welcome. I would get an a7S (if 1080p is good enough) or a7S II (for 4K) and some tilt-shift lenses for real estate work. If you can afford it, probably the a7R II is the most apt for your work, though.

  5. Thanks,
    Sareesh I learned an Encyclopedia in a day than all that i learned in 5 years, cheers lookin forward for some great stuff from you, gladly adding my email ID, cheers.

  6. Very helpful. You are an EXCELLENT speaker. Very clear and exact. you must do a class on how to do reviews. Great job

    what is your take on the XLR-1 ? I returned my copy. GAIN was too low.

    1. Sure, one stop isn’t slightly, but it’s really far from a lot…
      In sumary, won’t make a difference.

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