The Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 II is an evolution of the company’s video-centric Micro Four Thirds camera, the GH5. The GH5 II isn’t radically different than its predecessor, but it does feature a few significant performance improvements and feature updates that will appeal to video shooters.
Notably, the GH5 II gets Panasonic’s updated Venus processing engine – the same one found on its S1H full-frame video model – which allows it to capture 10-bit 4K video at up to 60p, provides the autofocus improvements found on other recent Panasonic models and, according to Panasonic, improves color reproduction.
Those who were hoping for a more revolutionary Micro Four Thirds camera for video may need to wait a little longer; alongside the GH5 II, Panasonic announced the development of the GH6. That camera is expected to arrive by the end of 2021 at a significantly higher price point, suggesting that Panasonic now sees the continuation of the GH5 line as more of a value option for video shooters or as a tool for hybrid shooters who need a good solution for both stills and video.
Body and design
There aren’t many physical changes between the GH5 II and its predecessor. The camera has a similar weather-sealed magnesium alloy body and a shutter rated for 200,000 actuations. The body also receives a few red accents and a red record button, in line with what we’ve seen on other recent Panasonic models.
The camera uses the same 20.3MP CMOS sensor found on the GH5, but it gets a new anti-reflective coating that Panasonic says should reduce ghosting and flare. Early tests by our team at DPReview TV suggest it’s effective at doing so.
Although the sensor remains unchanged, Panasonic claims that the GH5 II gains 1/3 stop of additional dynamic range through improved processing that does a better job of rendering bright areas while suppressing clipping.
The GH5 II carries over all the important video specs from the GH5, including full sensor, oversampled 4K capture, and unlimited recording time while adding a few new ones.
Thanks to the updated Venus engine, the GH5 II can capture 10-bit video up to 50/60p with 4:2:0 color subsampling. This addresses one of the notable limitations of the original GH5, which could only record 8-bit 4K/60p video. The camera can also capture 4:2:2 10-bit DCI 4K at up to 25/30p, whereas the GH5 was limited to 24p in this setting.
Likewise, variable frame rate (VFR) options now include DCI 4K/60p as well as anamorphic capture up to 4K/50p.
To make the workflow easier, the camera also allows you to register frequently-used recording settings in a ‘My List’ menu, similar to the S1H. This is helpful when you have a handful of settings you use routinely to which you need quick access.
The GH5 II includes Panasonic’s V-Log L gamma curve for Log video capture. Unfortunately, it’s not the upgraded V-Log L implementation that we’ve seen on cameras like the BGH1, which extends the dynamic range from 12 to 13 stops. However, it still has the advantage of matching any other Panasonic camera you shoot alongside it.
The camera also gains Panasonic’s updated Cinelike D2 and Cinelike V2 color profiles, which provide nice out-of-camera results that require little or no grading. Based on our experience with other Panasonic models, these updated profiles provide good dynamic range while delivering nicer colors and skin tones than the original versions.
For social media shooters, there’s also support for vertical video. The camera detects when the camera is in vertical orientation and writes this data to the video file so you won’t have to rotate it manually in your editor.
Panasonic has a history of providing robust video assist tools aimed at videographers: waveforms, vectorscopes, dual-zebra displays, focus peaking and a red frame indicator when recording. The GH5 II is no exception, though it gets a few useful updates in the process.
The video waveform can now be resized, which should please many video shooters, and the vectorscope is now available when setting white balance, which is where you really need it.
The camera also gets the ARRI/Varicam style information display found on the GH5S and S1H, making it much easier to monitor all your video settings on a single screen. It should make for a smoother experience if you’re using the GH5 II alongside other cameras with this feature.
The GH5 II includes advanced live streaming options using the RTMP/RTMPS standard. It will allow it to stream directly to YouTube, Facebook, or any other service that supports this protocol.
Using the Lumix Network Settings software for Mac or Windows, it’s possible to write streaming settings to an SD card, allowing the camera to connect and stream directly over a Wi-Fi network without going through a PC or smartphone. Alternatively, it’s possible to stream via Wi-Fi using the Lumix Sync app on your phone.
Support for RTMP/RTMPS means that continued use isn’t reliant on Panasonic’s proprietary software, and unlike many camera webcam applications, it also supports camera audio.
There’s also an option to display a blue frame around the camera’s screen when streaming is in progress, analogous to the red frame displayed when recording video.
Panasonic pre-announced a firmware update to add support for wired connections to enable more stable, higher-quality streaming. This includes the ability to tether directly to a smartphone over USB (Android only), as well as the ability to connect to a PC over a wired LAN using RTP/RTSP protocols. Panasonic expects to ship this update by the end of the year.
The OLED viewfinder has the same 3.68M-dot resolution as the GH5 and the same 0.76x magnification. However, it gains a 120Hz refresh option for a more lifelike image.
The camera’s rear LCD is slightly smaller than the one on the GH5, measuring 3.0” instead of 3.2”. However, Panasonic says the new LCD is 1.5x as bright and supports a wider color space, providing better visibility under bright lights or outdoors.
The GH5 II gets the same autofocus enhancements seen on other recent Panasonic models, including head and body detection, which help keep the camera from losing a subject when its face turns away, as well as animal detection.
The updated Venus engine also allows the camera to read out its sensor more quickly, providing more frequent updates to Panasonic’s Depth-from-Defocus AF system. This should improve autofocus performance, particularly when shooting 24p, as the AF system will be able to sample at 48 frames per second.
For manual focus work, it’s possible to choose between a linear and non-linear response from the lens. When selecting a linear response, the camera can specify focus throw as well, ranging from 90-360º. Some Panasonic lenses may require firmware updates to be fully compatible with these features.
Cards and connections
Like other video-focused Panasonic cameras, the GH5 has a full-sized HDMI port and 3.5mm microphone and headphone jacks. It also supports Panasonic’s DMW-XLR1 adapter for XLR microphones.
The USB interface has been upgraded to a USB-C type connection, and the camera can be powered or charged (or both) using a USB PD-compatible power source.
The camera includes dual SD card slots, both of which are UHS-II/V90 compatible.
The GH5 II uses the new DMW-BLK22 battery. According to Panasonic, it can deliver up to 120 minutes of continuous recording time in 4K/60p, up to 140 minutes in 1080p, and is CIPA rated for 410 shots.
The camera can also use existing BLF19 batteries, albeit with shorter recording times, but it will make for a smooth transition if you already have batteries for an older GH model.
A drop-in charger is included: notable in an era when many cameras no longer include a separate charger.
Price and availability
The Panasonic GH5 II retails for $1699 and will be available starting in June.
The GH5 II is compatible with Panasonic’s DMW-BGGH5 vertical grip, DMW-SHGR1 tripod grip, and DMW-XLR1 microphone adapter.