Which Panasonic camera to buy?
Panasonic launched the first mirrorless camera when it debuted the Lumix G1 back in 2008, and over the years the company has developed an extensive range of Lumix cameras, as well as travel compacts and big zoom bridge cameras. In this guide we’ll round up the best Panasonic cameras for what you want to film or photograph. But first, let’s explain the Lumix range.
Panasonic has split its Lumix mirrorless cameras into four families over the years, but with the launch of its full-frame S range, there are now five.
S series cameras
The Lumix S series is Panasonic’s high-end full-frame range. Aimed at professionals, Panasonic S series cameras are bigger and feature professional specifications.
GH series cameras
At the top of the Micro Four Thirds pecking order is the Panasonic GH series, which is aimed mainly at videographers and professional photographers who shoot video. The GH cameras boast a DSLR-style body and have typically driven the market forward in terms of video specifications. GH cameras also have weather-sealed bodies.
G series cameras
The Panasonic G series cameras are the company’s mid-level range. These typically have a bigger body but are designed for speed and accurate autofocus. Thing of the G series as an economy version of the GH cameras.
GX series cameras
Panasonic introduced the GX line a few years ago, which sits somewhere between its entry-level and mid-ranges. These are more like advanced beginner cameras. They have smaller, compact bodies but usually offer some of the advanced features from Panasonic’s G and GH cameras.
GF series cameras
Panasonic’s GF series is its entry-level mirrorless range. These are small and light and aimed at people making their first leap into interchangeable lens cameras.
It’s also worth noting that in 2013 Panasonic launched the Lumix GM1, and the GM5 a year later. These were the only cameras in the GM series, however, and we’ve omitted them from this list.
Other Panasonic camera ranges
LX series cameras
Panasonic’s LX range of premium compact cameras are hallmarked by larger sensors than you’d normally find in a compact camera, along with fast lenses and features from some of its higher end cameras.
The LX Series cameras offer full manual exposure and focus controls, as well as raw capture.
FZ series cameras
Panasonic’s FX series is its range of high-end bridge cameras that boast massive zoom lenses. They are about the size of a small DSLR and offer a wide range of manual controls and focus options.
As the series has evolved, Panasonic has also added extensive video options to its FZ range, such as 4K recording options and a built-in ND filter.
Best Panasonic camera for video
- Maximum 5.9K/29.97p RAW video output
- Dual native ISO
- 14-stop dynamic range
The Panasonic S1H features a 35.6 x 23.8mm, 24.2-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor and is the first camera capable of 6K video capture. It can record 6K at 24p at a 3:2 aspect ration, 5.9K at 30p in 16:9, as well as 10-bit 4K/Cinema 4K footage at 60p using the Super 35mm image area. As if that isn’t enough, it can record 4:2:2 10-bit 4K footage at 30p over the full image area.
The Panasonic S1H also promises 14 stops of dynamic range – the same as Panasonic’s cinema cameras – along with a slew of other video specifications aimed at professionals such as Panasonic’s V-Log/V-Gamut log modes, HDR in HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma), 4:2:2 10-bit HDMI output and Anamorphic 4:3 modes.
The Panasonic S1H’s Dual Native ISO thresholds are 640 and 4000, which means the sensitivity effectively resets at 4000 and can produce ‘clean’ images up to ISO 51,200.
Other features include a 225-area DFD contrast AF system, Panasonic’s Venus image processor, a 5.76-million-dot OLED EVF and a 3.2-inch, 2.33-million-dot tilting LCD.
Honourable Mentions – Best Micro Four Thirds Cameras for video
- Impressive video specification
- Timecode IN/OUT
- V-Log L pre-installed
If video is your bag, the GH5S is not only the best Panasonic camera for video but arguably the best camera for video you can buy. While many videographers have hailed the Panasonic GH5 as the ultimate video camera, Panasonic is now calling it the ‘ultimate hybrid camera’ with the GH5S getting ‘ultimate video camera’ status.
Like the GH5, the GH5S can shoot Cinema 4K (4096 x 2160) footage. However, whereas the GH5 is limited to 24p at this resolution, the GH5S can shoot at 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p or 24p. Furthermore, if you opt for 30p, 25p or 24p, you can shoot that C4K footage in 4:2:2 10-bit for a greater range of colours and smoother tonal gradations.
If high bitrates are important, the GH5S can record 4:2:2 10-bit 400-Mbps All-Intra in 4K 30p, 25p or 24p and C4K 24p. While C4K and 4K footage can be recorded at up to 60fps, Full-HD (1920 x 1080) footage can be recorded at up to 240fps, giving 10x slow motion playback.
Inside the GH5S is a new 10.2Mp High Sensitivity MOS sensor coupled with a Venus Engine. Although it has the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) lens mount, its sensor is a little larger than is found in most MFT cameras because it’s a Multi Aspect Ratio unit that enables the same diagonal angle of view to be recorded whatever the aspect ratio of the image or video.
What’s more, in a new move for a Panasonic G-series camera, each pixel on the GH5S sensor has two analogue circuits and this enables two base sensitivities (ISO 400 and ISO 2500). This Dual Native ISO Technology and the lower pixel count of the GH5S are designed to improve dynamic range and help keep noise in check even in very low light when sensitivity (ISO) is high.
- Extensive video specification
- High-quality stills and video
- High-quality EVF and vari-angle touch-screen
The GH5 is Panasonic’s flagship compact system or mirrorless camera and it has a mini-DSLR design, featuring a high-quality electronic viewfinder and – crucially for vloggers – a vari-angle touch-screen.
Inside the GH5 is a 20Mp Four Thirds type CMOS sensor with no optical low-pass filter to allow it to record more detail. This is paired with a new Lumix processing engine which enables a native sensitivity range of ISO 200-25,600. This can be expanded to a low setting of ISO 100.
Videographers will be pleased to learn that there’s unlimited 4K video recording – most cameras can only record in bursts of up to 29minutes and 59 seconds. There’s also a choice between MOV, MP4, AVCHD Progressive and AVCHD formats at a variety of frame rates, the system frequency can be set to 59.94Hz, 50.00Hz or 24.00Hz.
In addition, there’s a Waveform Monitor and Vector Scope to meet the needs of professional videographers. This embeds SMPTE-compliant Time Code with Rec Run or Free Run counting to aid with multiple device synchronisation.
It’s possible to shoot 4096 x 2160 4K at 24p (or 3840 x 2160 4K at 60p, 50p, 30p, 25p, 24p with no cropping), 4:2:2 10-bit Full HD (1080p) recording and 4K 4:2:2 10-bit ALL-Intra MP4/MOV (apart from at 60/50p) and Full HD 4:2:2 10-bit ALL-Intra recording. The step-up from 8-bit to 10-bit recording vastly increases the range of colours that can be recorded.
A firmware update has also added high-resolution Anamorphic Video Mode and Hybrid Log Gamma for 4K HDR Video (for playback on HDR compatible televisions).
It’s also possible to add V-LogL recording via an optional software key (DMW-SFU1), with LUT (Look Up Table) and V-LogL View Assist to help experienced videographers get the colour and contrast they want.
In short, the GH5 offers videographers the kind of specification and video quality that is normally only made possible by a much larger, more expensive cinematic camera. It’s even possible to connect XLR mic via an optional adaptor.
In addition to the extensive range of video quality, format and frame rate options, the GH5 has a high-quality viewfinder, excellent vari-angle touch-screen and both 4K Photo and 6K Photo mode to simplify capturing fleeting moments. It’s also dust and weatherproof so you can use it without concern outdoors.
Best Panasonic camera for stills
- Compact weather-sealed body
- Stabilisation system rated at 6.5EV
- High-quality EVF and screen
The Panasonic Lumix G9 is Panasonic’s flagship stills-camera and it sits alongside the GH5 at the top of the company’s interchangeable lens camera line-up.
The G9 has the same 20.3-megapixel sensor and Venus 10 processing engine as the GH5. However, Panasonic says the sensor and processor have been tuned differently to suit the G9’s stills-shooting focus.
The G9 also has a High Resolution mode that enables 80-megapixel images to be created in jpeg and raw formats in-camera. In this mode the camera takes a sequence of 8 images in quick succession, shifting the sensor a little between each shot. These images are then merged to create a single larger image with more detail.
The G9 also has Dual IS, a system that can combine 5-axis sensor shifting-stabilisation and lens-based stabilisation. The G9’s Dual IS can deliver a correction of 6.5EV at all focal lengths.
Best Panasonic camera for landscapes
- 47-megapixel full-frame sensor
- High Resolution mode that produces 187Mp images
- Class-leading electronic viewfinder
Panasonic is aiming the Lumix S1R at professional photographers who want a high-resolution camera. For many, the 47Mp resolution is likely to be enough, but like the S1 and Panasonic G9, the Lumix S1R has a High Resolution mode.
When this is mode is activated, the camera shoots a series of 8 images in quick succession. Using the in-body stabilisation mechanism, it moves the sensor a fraction between each shot. The camera then merges the images to create one much larger raw file.
When the aspect ratio is 3:2, using High Resolution Mode results in 16,736 x 11,186-pixel images. That means the images have 187million pixels! At 300ppi this enables you to create 141.7 x 94.56cm (55.787 x 37.227-inch) prints.
Naturally, the main reason for investing in a 47Mp camera is to produce images with lots of detail. The Panasonic Lumix S1R certainly delivers on this score. If you want to take things up a notch, there’s the High Resolution mode.
Best Panasonic camera for vlogging
Panasonic G90 / G95
- 4K video (3840×2140) enables with V-Log L pre-installed
- Vari-angle touch screen
The Panasonic G90, known as the Panasonic Lumix G95 and G91 in some territories, is a 20.3Mp DSLR-style mirrorless camera aimed at enthusiast photographers and videographers. It has some attractive features including a weather-sealed body, a 2.36million-dot OLED electronic viewfinder, a 3-inch 1.040-million-dot OLED vari-angle touch-screen and Panasonic’s 5-axis Dual IS II system to help produce blur-free images and smooth video.
It can also record unlimited 4K video (3840×2140) at up to 30p/25p and V-Log L is pre-installed to enable wider dynamic range to be captured. The inclusion of 3.5mm microphone and headphone jacks add to the appeal to videographers and vloggers.
If you want to shoot at 120fps you have to use the High Speed Video mode. This that allows the G90 to record Full HD at 120fps, 90fps or 60fps for slow motion playback. This is option is found in the menu and not as part of the frame rate options. It’s also limited to Program exposure mode, which is a shame.
Furthermore, it’s possible to record 4:2:2 8-bit footage to an external recorder connected via an optional micro HDMI cable. Footage that is saved to a memory card in the card slot has 4:2:0 8-bit colour.
Best Panasonic camera for beginners
- 4K Video and 4K Photo
- Flip-up 1,040k-dot LCD
- 16MP sensor with no optical low-pass filter
If you don’t have the budget for a GH5 and if what you film or shoot isn’t all that complex, the Panasonic GX800 could be what you need.
With a 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor, the GX800 can record 4K video and also offers Panasonic’s 4K Photo feature.
Images are composed and reviewed on the 3-inch 1,040,000-dot screen that can be flipped up through 180 degrees for convenient selfie shooting and vlogging.
It’s a pocket-sized camera with a retractable lens, perfect for carrying anywhere you go. But importantly, its image quality is superb and has all the tools and features you need to learn – and grow – with the camera.
In Europe this past year Panasonic launched a slight update to the GX800 in the form of the GX880. But the GX800 is still widely available everywhere and now more a bargain than ever.
Best Panasonic camera for wildlife and sport
We realise this is the G9’s second appearance on this list, but it’s such a versatile camera that we think it deserves another mention.
The G9’s 2x focal length conversion factor is attractive for sport and wildlife photography as it enables you to frame the subject more tightly than you might expect.
Meanwhile, optics such as the Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14mm f/4 ASPH. and Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 8-18mm f/2.8-4 ASPH., which are equivalent to 14-28mm and 16-36mm lenses respectively on a 35mm camera, mean that you don’t have to miss the wide-angle shooting opportunities.
Best Panasonic camera for street photography
Panasonic introduced the GX9 to sit in the middle of its range as a “premium street photography camera”. With its small body size and flat rangefinder type design, it’s also ideally suited as a travel camera – especially if you already own another Micro Four Thirds camera.
It houses a 20.3 megapixel Four Thirds sensor, without an anti-aliasing filter for increased detail resolution.
It has a host of other appealing specifications, including a high-resolution tilting viewfinder, a tilting touch-sensitive LCD screen, 4K Photo and Video modes, and compatibility with the huge range of Micro Four Thirds lenses.
The look of the camera is also very stylish, without attracting too much attention when using it out and about, which is ideal. There’s a good mixture of buttons and dials on the camera, while the tilting screen is very handy for composing from awkward angles – I’m personally not too bothered about articulation for a camera like this (others may feel differently).
Overall image quality is very good, particularly in good or bright light. In lower light, watch out for a little loss of detail in places, and try to stick to as wide an aperture as possible. Colours are nicely reproduced, being natural while also vibrant, while focusing is generally quick and accurate.
Best Panasonic camera for travel
Panasonic TZ200 / ZS200
- Great low-light performance
- 10fps burst shooting
- High-speed video
- In-camera raw image editing
Panasonic’s TZ, or Travel Zoom, series of premium compact cameras have long been favourites of travel photographers, and the launch of the TZ200 / ZS200 earlier this year builds on that reputation.
With the TZ200 / ZS200 Panasonic completely revamped the camera, from its hand grip to its LVF resolution, and adding a longer focal length (24-360mm equivalent).
There’s the old saying, ‘jack of all trades, master of none.’ But the Panasonic TZ200 / ZS200 seems to defy that, offering the right balance of automation, creative features, serious specs, video options and portability to suit just about anyone’s needs. It’s not cheap. It costs more than a number of Panasonic’s senior interchangeable lens cameras, but it’s very good and worth every penny.
If image quality matters to you and your holiday and everyday snaps are more than just snaps, the Panasonic TZ200 / ZS200 is worth the investment.
Best Panasonic camera under £500 / $500
The Panasonic G80 is a weather-proof DSLR-style mirrorless or compact system camera (CSC) with a 16 million pixel Four Thirds type sensor and the Micro Four Thirds lens mount. It’s aimed at enthusiast photographers and it has a fast contrast detection autofocus system.
The OLED electronic viewfinder provides a good view of the scene and the vari-angle touch-sensitive screen responds quickly to a touch. The most important settings including exposure mode, shutter speed and aperture are set via dials to make operation quick.
Noise appears is controlled well and there’s a very good level of detail and micro contrast in its images. The clever 4K Photo modes are very useful for capturing fleeting moments and the Focusing Stacking feature is useful for creating images that have wider depth of field than normal.
The G80 feels very solid and tough, and it’s weather-sealed so you can use it in the rain – as I did. The dual-dial controls are also responsive and allow you to change settings quickly with the camera held to your eye. It may not have quite the same charm as some of Olympus and Fuji’s cameras, but it has a good collection of features and generally performs well.
With a street price of around £500-600, the G80 offers a lot of spec and a robust build that should make it a serious consideration.