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.
GH series cameras
At the top of the 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.
Best Panasonic camera 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.
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 vlogging
- 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.
- 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 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.
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 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 value Panasonic camera
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.