Price (RRP): $3999 as tested, $2999 body only
For the past couple of years my own personal and work camera has been a Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 mirrorless camera. Easy to use, but with a great deal of power; my experience with it is necessarily going to partly inform this review of its successor at the top of the Panasonic digital camera heap: the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5.
(And, yes, while previously the model prefixes were “DMC”, they’re now “DC”.)
What hasn’t changed is that this is a mirrorless camera, not a DSLR (for Digital Single Lens Reflex). SLRs, digital or otherwise, have a mirror in front of film or sensor which reflects light upwards into the view finder so that you, the photographer, can see more or less what the camera sees, and thus the picture it will take. When you press the shutter button, the mirror swings up out of the way, the shutter opens (briefly) and the picture is taken.
But the GH5 is mirrorless. You see what the sensor is seeing not optically, but with the picture being relayed electronically from the sensor itself to a tiny display inside the viewfinder. Take a picture and a shutter swings into action but there’s no mirror to move.
That can allow a smaller body, and means less camera shake when the shot is taken.
So let’s look at Panasonic’s latest premium model with that background.
The DC-GH5 has a 20.3 megapixel sensor and uses the Micro Four Thirds mount (shared with Olympus). There are already quite a number of lenses out for this mount since Panasonic and Olympus have been using it for a few years, and while compatible with the older lenses, there are advantages in new lenses.
Previously Panasonic had implemented its optical image stabilisation (OIS) mechanisms in its lenses. With the GH5 it has added this to the camera body. That means it can take better advantage of compatible Olympus lenses (which don’t incorporate OIS), and for that matter a number of fourth party lenses, such as low cost mirror telephoto lenses and so on. New Panasonic lenses have been upgraded so that the OIS in the lenses works in conjunction with that in the body to provide even higher levels of stabilisation.
The DC-GH5 feels like a heftier camera than the GH4, but that aside, anyone familiar with the DMC-GH4 will have little trouble adapting. The major change is the drive mode dial has lost exposure bracketing. Instead it has gained ready access to a new 6K photo mode and to a post focusing feature.
I guess this makes sense. There are so many bracketing options now – exposure, aperture, focus and white balance – that having just one of them on the drive mode dial seems an undue privilege. That said, I’d be inclined to assign exposure bracketing to one of the quick access buttons because it’s something I use frequently.
The GH4 had a 4K photo mode. Essentially this used the 4K video capabilities to take a series of frames, allowing you to do things like choose the point of focus, or capture frames both sides of the moment when you actually press the shutter button. The problem with this was, well, 4K. The 8.3 megapixels was just over half of the 16 megapixels of which the camera was capable. The 6K mode on this camera allows the same things, but at 18.7 megapixels it’s pretty close to the full sensor resolution.
Panasonic has dropped the built in flash with this camera, expecting those needing a flash to add one to the shoe, or to use one of Panasonic’s own wireless models.
A similar extremely flexible swing-out, touch sensitive display screen is used as that in the GH4. Basically just about any way you can hold the camera you can have the screen visible, making photography from odd angles. It offers 1.6 megapixels of resolution. The electronic viewfinder uses an OLED display panel with 3.6 megapixels. The camera can be set to either or have it switch automatically between the two.