Panasonic has announced not one but two follow-up cameras to the Lumix GH5, a camera that’s been popular with videographers since it launched in 2017. There’s the GH6, which Panasonic says features a brand-new sensor and will launch by the end of the year for $2,500, and the GH5 Mark II, which is going up for preorder today, with a body-only package coming in at $1,700.
The GH6 will feature a new image engine along with the sensor and will have the capability to record 10-bit 4K at 120fps and 10-bit 5.7K at 60fps. The camera also promises DCI 4K60 at 4:2:2 without a recording time limit. The GH6 is currently in development, so Panasonic didn’t provide many more details, but it did say that the camera would feature a Micro Four Thirds sensor. The impressive video capabilities might sound familiar, as they’re very similar to the full-frame Sony A7S III (which also has a much heftier price tag).
While the details on the GH6 were light, we got a very good look at the GH5 Mark II. It’s, as the name implies, an improved version of the GH5, and Panasonic’s idea for it seems to be that it’s built to serve people who aren’t looking to spend $2,500 on a GH6 but want something more capable than a G7 or older GH4. When the GH5 originally launched it was $2,000, so it seems like Panasonic is trying to split the difference with the Mark II and GH6, offering cameras on both sides.
The GH5 Mark II has the same body as the GH5 (making it compatible with any previous accessories or cages), but it packs internals that make it an even more powerful video camera. While the original did support 4K recording at 60 frames a second, it was only 8-bit — the Mark II supports it at 10-bit 4:2:0, which can simultaneously be recorded internally and externally (with some HDMI recorders supporting 4:2:2). The cinema 4K mode, which provides a wider-than-16:9 aspect ratio, also now supports 30p and 25p, where the GH5 only supported 24p.
The GH5’s famous in-body stabilization is also getting a bump in performance
The color profiles have also gotten a revamp in the Mark II, with the camera including Cinelike D2 and V2 profiles. It also now includes the V-Log L profile for free, which was previously a $100 upgrade to the GH5. In addition to the improved color, the sensor (which is the same as the one found in the GH5) has also gotten an anti-reflective coating to avoid unwanted lens flares, and Panasonic claims it has 25 percent wider dynamic range.
The GH5 Mark II’s in-body stabilization is getting a bump in performance, too: the original could provide five stops of compensation, according to Panasonic, while the Mark II will be able to compensate up to 6.5 stops (though for longer lenses, achieving this number will require the lens to also have optical stabilization).
Panasonic is also saying that the autofocus system will be improved — a good sign, given the GH5’s lackluster performance in the area. The GH5 Mark II will feature head and body detection, as well as support for tracking animals, in addition to the eye and face detection found on the previous camera. The tracking will also be twice as fast, with the system looking for objects 60 times a second, while the GH5 tracks at 30 times a second. Panasonic also says that the system should lock on to subjects better and will have better support for tracking people who are farther in the distance.
The Mark II also has some creature comfort improvements and really nerdy additions. The rear LCD is both higher-resolution and brighter, and the USB-C port is now compatible with the Power Delivery standard so it can run the camera and trickle-charge the batteries at the same time. It also takes higher-capacity batteries, though the older batteries the GH5 used will still work in the camera, and vice versa. There’s also now the option to add a red border around the screen when recording, and the ability to have two levels of zebra patterns to help determine exposure.
Panasonic knows its audience is mostly made up of video people
When shooting with supported lenses, creators will now be able to change the focus ring mode, setting it to be linear if that’s what they prefer, and even setting a specific focus throw if their use case calls for it. Panasonic has also updated its in-camera anamorphic de-squeezing feature (which allows people shooting with the special lenses to get a non-distorted preview of their picture) to include more lenses: the GH5 supported lenses with 1.33x and 2x aspect ratios, while the Mark II also supports lenses at 1.3x, 1.5x, and 1.8x. There’s also now support for image stabilization with anamorphic lenses.
The GH5 Mark II can, of course, also shoot pictures, but it seems like Panasonic knows its audience is mostly made up of video people: new photo features were largely absent, apart from a brief mention of improved color science and some new profiles. But while Panasonic doesn’t seem to be putting in a lot of work to entice photo shooters to its platform, it does seem to be trying to make the GH5 Mark II appealing to a different breed of video creators: the livestreamers.
The GH5 Mark II’s presentation for journalists focused heavily on its livestreaming capabilities: it can stream to platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch directly over Wi-Fi, with compression being done on-camera. The streaming compression can be done at various levels and resolutions, depending on the requirements of the platform. Streamers can either input their streaming URLs and keys manually, for platforms like Twitch that support RTMP (or RTMPS), or they can directly sign on to Facebook or YouTube if they’re using the Lumix Sync smartphone app to set up the stream. Panasonic says that the ability to hardwire to a phone or even directly to a LAN via USB will be coming in a future firmware update.
I was shown a live demo of the streaming, which was conducted over YouTube, and to my eye it looked about as good as a stream can be expected to. Panasonic also said that the XLR microphone adapter built for the camera would work while streaming, and that an HDMI recorder could be used to capture a full-quality recording of any stream (though internally recording stream footage isn’t possible).
It’s hard to find a direct competitor to the GH5 Mark II
It’s hard to find a direct competitor to the GH5 Mark II, especially in its price range: Fujifilm’s X-T4 is no slouch when it comes to video, but it doesn't have the heaps of options the Panasonic does (for example, you probably won’t get a custom menu for your most-used frame rates and resolutions, or filters to help pare down that information in the main menu like the GH5 Mark II has). The story is similar with Sony’s A7C, and the A7S III has similar specs but costs almost twice the price. And while BlackMagic’s Pocket Cinema Camera 4K has comparable video power as well as RAW video support, there are some places it falls way short when compared to the GH5 Mark II: the lack of a flip-out screen and autofocus spring to mind.
Panasonic has also announced that its G9 and GH5S cameras would also be getting firmware updates, bringing some of the new features from the GH5 Mark II. Both cameras will be getting the autofocus performance improvements, along with the frame indicators and markers, as well as support for vertical video detection. The GH5S will additionally be getting 12-bit raw over HDMI support when outputting to an Atomos Ninja V.
Panasonic also announced that it was working on a new lens, the Leica DG 25-50mm f/1.7. The aperture is constant throughout the 50-100mm full-frame equivalent focal range, and while there weren’t any additional details announced, Panasonic has emphasized it as a companion to the existing 10-25mm f/1.7. That lens features dust and moisture resistance and produces some lovely images, so it’s exciting to hear that the more tele-oriented version in the works will likely be similar in terms of build.
Panasonic is still, for better and worse, dedicated to Micro Four Thirds. In its presentation to journalists, it said that the format was necessary to get all the features and readout speeds it wanted at the price point it was looking to hit. It’s obviously invested a lot into these cameras, with the addition of livestreaming and the upcoming GH6’s monster specs, but the limitations of the format are something aspiring cinematographers will have to keep in mind when choosing their next video camera.