Panasonic LUMIX GH5

Panasonic launches their new LUMIX GH5 in New Zealand – by James Cunningham.

Stunning is a word often overused when it comes to describing locations and visuals, however the picturesque resort-town of Queenstown on New Zealand’s South Island is, well, just that… stunning. Sitting on the shores of Lake Wakatipu and set against the dramatic Southern Alps, Queenstown is blessed with staggering natural beauty. So it is unsurprising that Panasonic decided to host its Asia-Pacific Launch of their newest camera, the LUMIX GH5, in this environment. What better way to test out the camera than with heart-pumping jet-boat adventures and helicopter tours through Middle-Earth (not a Hobbit in sight).

The LUMIX GH5 is the fifth in Panasonic’s video and stills hybrid range. Featuring a 20 mega-pixel ‘four thirds’ sensor (all 4K footage is taken using the full width of the sensor, oversampled from 5.1K footage) and a very video-focused set of features, it is set to pick up where the GH4 left off as a favoured choice of independent filmmakers, videographers, cinematographers and stills photographers.

The last few cameras in the GH-series have felt somewhat like video cameras dressed up as stills cameras. The LUMIX GH5 is a much more even piece of equipment. It is no doubt one of the best 4K camera solutions on the market, if not the best. The camera’s video capability is supported by an outstanding set of features for the stills photographer also.

The GH5 weighs in at 725 grams, without a lens attached, so it is not particularly lightweight. However the upside is solidity. The camera is built to last, sporting weatherproof seals to prevent dust or rain damaging internal components and a magnesium-alloy frame. It is also freeze-proof down to -10 degrees Celsius.

The GH5’s new features moves on greatly from its immediate predecessor and Panasonic has announced the GH4 will continue to remain in its lineup as a lower-cost option for users who do not need the additional capability which the GH5 brings.

Many of the new features and alterations have been brought to the GH5 by Panasonic designers in Japan, in direct response to suggestions and comment from consumers. This is a camera ostensibly built by you, not for you. There is now, for example, 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.

The eye-catching feature on the GH5 is the camera’s ability to shoot 4K footage at up to 60fps. The footage is oversampled from 5.1K thanks to full-sensor readout, meaning pin-sharp footage that takes advantage of the entirety of the sensor.

One of the talking points at the New Zealand Launch event was the GH5’s 6K continuous shooting mode. Not a video mode, but one from which stills can be individually extracted. Simply hold down the shutter for as long as you want. The GH5 takes stills at 30 frames per second until you let go of the shutter, allowing you to go through the sequence and select the frames that you wish to save as an individual image. Very handy for sports or action shots.

For the videographers and cinematographers, ‘rack focus’ is another interesting and new function. It aims to take the guess work out of pulling focus; just set the start and end focus points and let the GH5 do the rest. A real game-changer for amateur or student cinematographers. The speed of the change can also be fine tuned to an individual’s requirements.

The LUMIX GH5 is decidedly not cheap but cutting-edge camera technology seldom is, and this is most definitely a cutting-edge camera. It is, in a few words… quite stunning.

James Cunningham is the Editor of Australian Cinematographer Magazine.

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