The Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 Mark II is an updated version of the company’s most video-focused Micro Four Thirds camera; the GH5. It offers increased capabilities over the original model and will eventually sell alongside a higher-end GH6 model, whose development was announced at the same time.
The GH5 II gains an updated ‘Venus’ processing engine from the full-frame S1H, allowing it to capture 10-bit 4K footage at 50 or 60 frames per second and promises improved autofocus. It retains the same sensor as before but now with an anti-reflective coating to better control flare.
- UHD or DCI 4K 10-bit 4:2:0 capture at up to 60p with no crop
- UHD or DCI 4K 10-bit 4:2:2 capture at up to 30p with no crop
- Image stabilization rated at up to 6.5 stops
- V-Log L included as standard
- 3.0″ 1.84M-dot rear touchscreen
- 3.68M-dot EVF, with 0.76x magnification and up to 120Hz refresh
- Live streaming options via Wi-Fi or smartphone (Full HD)
- Anamorphic capture and support tools
- Improved AF with face/eye/body detection
- USB-C socket with PD-compatible power and charging
As in previous instances, Panasonic is using the ‘Mark II’ nomenclature to indicate that this is a refreshed version of the GH5, not a completely new camera in the same range. The company believes that not everyone will need the added capabilities of the more expensive GH6, and that an updated GH5 will continue to make sense for some users.
The GH5 II will be launched with an MSRP of $1699: $300 lower than the original GH5.
The use of a more powerful processor allows the GH5 II to offer the same face/eye/body and animal recognition AF capabilities as Panasonic’s latest cameras. But, in addition to more sophisticated recognition algorithms, the camera can also read-out its sensor faster, meaning it can run its AF system at 48 frames per second when shooting 24p footage. This means the AF system gets more frequent updates from the scene, something that its Depth-from-Defocus system benefits from significantly.
Enhanced video capabilities
The new processor also extends the video modes the GH5 II can offer, opening up the option to shoot 10-bit 4:2:0 4K 50/60p footage (the original GH5 could only capture 60p footage in 8-bit precision), making it much more usable for Log shooting. The higher frame-rate 10-bit footage is recorded using the H.265 codec.
In addition to 10-bit capture of faster frame-rates, the GH5 II also gains All-I capture for 29.97p and 23.98p, previously only possible for 24.00p. ‘4K’ Anamorphic footage, shot using the full sensor region is now available at up to 50p.
In addition to the expanded video spec, the GH5 II also gains the video tools Panasonic has developed for its more recent models, including a red frame around the screen while recording, a wider choice of aspect ratio guides and the ability to shoot portrait orientation video.
|The Luminance Spot Meter is the smaller square on the display and lets you assess the exposure of the element underneath it.|
The GH5 II also gets the S1H’s Luminance Spot Meter, which gives you an exposure rating in % IRE for a small, selectable region in the scene, or a rating relative to middle grey (42 IRE) in stops, if you’re in V-Log L mode.
The GH5 II includes more advanced live streaming options, allowing live broadcast over the web, either across Wi-Fi or – following a future firmware update – using a USB connection to a smartphone or wired LAN connection.
The camera can stream via Wi-Fi through a smartphone using the Lumix Sync app. Alternatively, you can use the Lumix Network Settings software for Mac or Windows to write the streaming settings to an SD card, which then allows the camera to connect and stream directly over a Wi-Fi network without going through a PC or smartphone, up to 1080/60p.
Doing so uses the RTMP/RTMPS standard, so the camera can stream directly to YouTube, Facebook or any other service that supports this protocol. It also means that continued support isn’t reliant on Panasonic’s own software. Unlike many camera-as-webcam applications, this approach also includes camera audio.
A pre-announced firmware update will add support for wired connections to facilitate more stable, higher quality connections, including the ability to tether directly to a smartphone over USB (Android only, at first). The camera will also be able to connect directly to a PC over a wired LAN using RTP/RTSP protocols. Panasonic says this update should arrive by the end of 2021.
The GH5 II’s in-body stabilization system is rated as delivering up to 6.5EV of compensation, when measured using the CIPA standard test. This is 1.5EV more than the original GH5. Panasonic says this figure is maintained for longer focal length lenses with Dual IS 2 that synchronizes with the in-body system.
New color modes
Panasonic has added two new color modes to the GH5 II: L.ClassicNeo, a ‘nostalgic’ profile with subtle saturation and contrast, and L.Monochrome S, a subtle monochrome mode that Panasonic says should suit portraiture.
The GH5 II also gains Cinelike D2 and Cinelike V2, the updated low-contrast and ready-for-use cine-style color modes (the GH5 has the original versions of both). What’s noticeable, though, is that these don’t result in an increase in base ISO, as they do on the full-frame ‘S’ series Panasonics, which suggests they aren’t the versions designed to accommodate extra dynamic range.
Interestingly, the GH5 II does not get the expanded, 13-stop version of V-Log L we saw in BGH1 box camera module.
The whole design (and some of the potential drawbacks) of the V-Log system is based on the use of different portions of the same Log curve, depending on how much usable dynamic range the camera can record. This means you can use the same LUTs across multiple cameras, the main thing that changes is the point at which the highlights clip.
However, despite this by-design cross-compatibility, and the increased DR (ie: lower noise) that the new processing enables in the GH5 II, it has been given the 12-stop version of V-Log L, to ensure the GH5 and GH5 II behave consistently if shot side-by-side.
No Raw video output
Another interesting omission is the decision not to include Raw output from the GH5 II. Panasonic says that stripping out all the processing that usually goes into the cameras footage means that you’d have to do a fair amount of work to the Raw footage, just to bring it up to the same standard, and that there’d be little to gain even if you did.
There’s plenty of reason to believe this is true: even the 12-stop version of V-Log L will encode most of the sensor’s DR (10-bit Log encoding is much more efficient than 12-bit linear, so is unlikely to result in any significant loss of tonal precision), so is it really worth the additional work, if you mainly just gain the ability to make greater corrections to white balance?
How it compares
The updates in the GH5 II push it back into the position of being probably the best-specced crop sensor stills/video hybrid on the market. While its headline specs don’t look radically different to the Fujifilm X-T4 (which also has stabilization and a fully articulated screen), the distinctions start to reveal themselves when you look at the details of what support tools are provided and how long each camera can be expected to shoot for.
|Panasonic DC-GH5 II||Panasonic DC-GH5||Panasonic DC-GH5S||Fujifilm X-T4|
|MSRP at launch||$1699||$1999||$2499||$1699|
|Sensor size||Four Thirds||Four Thirds||Four Thirds |
Up to 120Hz
Up to 100Hz
|Rear screen||3.0″ 1.84M-dot|
|Image stabilization||Up to 6.5EV|
|Up to 5.0EV||None||Up to 6.5EV|
|Highest res 10-bit video||DCI/UHD 4K 60p, 4:2:0|
(60p 4:2:2 over HDMI)
(60p 4:2:2 over HDMI)
(60p 4:2:2 over HDMI)
|DCI/UHD 4K 60p 4:2:0|
|Approx rec limits||—||—||—||20 min (4K/60)|
30 min (4K/30)
|Log support||V-Log L (12-stop)||V-Log L (12-stop)|
V-Log L (12-stop)
‘4K’ up to 50p
|‘6K’ up to 30p||‘4K’ up to 30p||No|
B/cast safe rec
Corrected Log display (w/ LUT upload)
B/cast safe rec
Corrected Log display (w/ LUT upload)
Corrected Log display
|HDMI port||Full size||Full size||Full size||Micro|
|410/410||400/410||410/440||– / 500|
|Dimensions||139 x 98 x 87mm||139 x 98 x 87mm||139 x 98 x 87mm||135 x 93 x 64mm|
The camera we can’t yet compare the GH5 II to is the forthcoming GH6. Panasonic has made clear that the range-topping model will shoot 4K at up to 120p and 10-bit 4:2:2 footage at up to 60p, with a 5.7K/60p capture option, but we don’t have any further detail, beyond the fact it will cost around $2500 at launch. This means the GH5 II is being repositioned as a more affordable option in the lineup.
Body and controls
The GH5 II’s body is essentially unchanged from that of the GH5S, which itself is very similar to previous GH models. There’s a large red [REC] button on the top of the camera, along with dedicated (but customizable) buttons for WB, ISO, Exposure Comp and now Photo Style. There’s an AF joystick on the back of the camera and an AF drive mode switch surrounds a well-placed AF-On button.
As usual, the body feels solid and is designed to be dust and moisture resistant. Like the GH5S, the twin card slots on the camera’s side can now make full use of V90 UHS-II SD cards.
The GH5 II has a slightly smaller rear screen than its predecessor: it’s a 3.0″ panel rather than 3.2″. It’s still a 3:2 aspect ratio and has slightly increased resolution. The most significant difference, though, is that it can be made brighter than the older screen, which makes it easier to operate the camera outdoors.
There’s a slight overlap between the screen’s articulation and the headphone socket, so it’s worth positioning the screen before plugging-in, especially if the connector in your chosen cans is of the larger type.
There’s a similarly subtle change to the viewfinder. It’s still a 3.68M dot OLED display and is mounted behind the same optics, so still offers 0.76X magnification. However, the increased speed of the camera allows it to be refreshed at up to 120Hz, for a smoother, more responsive view.
Menus and displays
|The GH5 II gains the ARRI/Varicam style info display, as well as updated menus|
The GH5 II gets the updated menu system introduced on the GH5S. It’s a well-arranged series of tabs with icons to hint and remind you where to find the option you’re looking for. It also includes the ability to create a filtered list of video modes, to make it quick to access the ones you plan to use and to reduce the risk of selecting one you hadn’t.
The GH5 II also gains the ARRI-style information panel display, first introduced in the GH5S. These changes to the interface and menus make it much easier to use a GH5 II in conjunction with a GH5S or S1H.
The GH5 II uses a new, more powerful battery: the DMW-BLK22. This is now rated at 2200mAh, giving 16Wh of capacity. Despite the increased capacity, Panasonic quotes essentially the same 410 shot-per-charge battery life figures (per CIPA) as the original GH5.
The camera comes with an external drop-in charger that accepts both the new BLK22 and the older BLF19 packs from the GH5 and those batteries will still work in the Mark II, just not for as long. Alternatively, the GH5 II can be charged or powered over its USB-C socket, if the power source is USB PD compatible.
|The GH5 II (left) is a refresh, rather than a radical reworking, of the GH5 (right)|
How you react to the GH5 II probably depends on what you think ‘Mark II’ should denote. If you’re expecting a Canon-esque complete reworking of the camera, it might seem a little undercooked. But if you see it as a genuine mid-life refresh, with a few spec enhancements and enough processing power to leave room for further firmware updates, then it looks pretty competent.
Pricing it $300 below the original list price of the GH5 lends weight to the second interpretation. Yes, the street price of the first-gen GH5 has dropped since launch, but the decision to introduce a new version down at that price means it’ll sell for less than the original GH5 for most of its time on the market. Panasonic’s suggestion that the GH6 will launch at around $2500 suggests the GH5 II is destined to be the ‘affordable’ GH in a multiple camera range.
|The GH5 II doesn’t represent some ambitious moon shot for Panasonic, but it’s more than a small step forward. |
ISO 200 | 1/800sec | F4.0 | Panasonic Leica 50-200mm F2.8-4.0 @ 200mm
Photo by Richard Butler
And this makes sense: the GH5 was the only mainstream stills/video camera hybrid to offer 4K/60p when it was launched, whereas now it’s a feature available on Fujifilm’s X-T4, Canon’s EOS R6 and various high-end Sonys. As such, the GH5 II isn’t nearly as far ahead of the market as the original version was. In fact even the addition of 10-bit 4K/60p isn’t enough to make it unique.
However, what is still unusual is the level of support tools and features that are included. Few of the other cameras that can match the GH5 II’s video modes are as video-focused in their execution as the Panasonic. Dual Zebras and Luminance Spot Meter make it easier to set exposure correctly. The option to set exposure time in shutter angle is still a valuable rarity in mass-market cameras.
|The ability to create a custom list of the modes you intend to use on a project, and control exposure in shutter angle (which you don’t need to adjust when switching from 24 to 60p capture), makes the GH5 II much quicker and easier to shoot.|
The GH5 II is one of the least expensive cameras to offer the option of an XLR audio input module or control over whether the camera restricts its recording to ‘broadcast safe’ values or offer two levels of input gain for external microphones: its video prowess runs deeper than a simple consideration of frame rate and bit-depth.
In some respects its closest rival is its full-frame cousin, the Lumix DC-S5. It doesn’t offer the GH5 II’s full range of video tools, nor its full-width oversampled 60p capture, but it still includes a lot of similar know-how for a fairly similar amount of money, with the low-light and shallow depth-of-field capabilities it’s hard for the GH5 II to match.
|There aren’t many other sub-$2000 cameras that will shoot high-quality 10-bit 4K with the option of XLR audio inputs.|
Then, of course, there’s the autofocus. Chris and Jordan’s tests so far suggest it does well in 60p mode, but that 24p still lags behind the best of the competition. We’ll try to get a sense of how usable it is for casual shooting as part of our review.
But, while the GH5 II doesn’t push the market forward in the way its predecessor did, it still looks to offer a compact, high-quality, stabilized video platform at a competitive price.
Panasonic DC-GH5 II sample gallery
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