Panasonic announced the Lumix S5 in September 2020 as its smallest full-frame camera, and it’s a very competent performer, capable of producing excellent-quality stills and video. It’s also Panasonic’s most affordable full-frame camera, which makes it tempting for anyone looking to step-up to 35mm format for the first time. However, it’s still significantly more expensive than the Panasonic Lumix G9, the company’s most advanced Micro Four Thirds camera aimed at photographers.
So how do the two compare? In this post we’ll take a look at the key differences between the two cameras to help you decide which to go for.
- Panasonic Lumix S5: 24.2Mp full-frame (35.6 x 23.8mm) CMOS
- Panasonic Lumix G9: 20.3Mp Four Thirds type (17.3 x 13mm) Live MOS
Okay, so let’s start with the most significant difference, the sensor size. As I’ve already mentioned, the Panasonic Lumix S5 is a full-frame camera while the G9 is a Micro Four Thirds model. A little maths reveals that the sensor in the S5 is more than 3.7x the size of the sensor in the G9:
35.6 x 23.8mm = 847.28mm2
17.3 x 13mm = 224.9mm2
Consequently, although the S5 has a higher pixel count than the G9, its pixels are significantly larger. That means that each pixel can gather more light, which in turn means they create a stronger image signal that requires less gain to be applied and the image is therefore cleaner with wider dynamic range.
- Panasonic Lumix S5: L-mount
- Panasonic Lumix G9: Micro Four Thirds
Naturally, as they have different sized sensors, the S5 and G9 have different lens mounts. The G9 has the Micro Four Thirds lens mount which is the most established mirrorless camera mount with a wide range of optics available from both Panasonic and Olympus, while the S5 has the newer L-mount.
A key advantage of the Micro Four Thirds system is that the lenses are smaller than those for cameras with larger sensors. Also, they incur a 2x focal length magnification factor which means that a 300mm lens, for example, produces the same framing as a 600mm lens on a full-frame camera. That makes them a very attractive option for wildlife photographers, but you need an ultra-wide lens to get a wide perspective.
As the L-mount is newer there are fewer lenses available for the S5, but with Panasonic, Sigma and Leica producing compatible optics, the list is growing and their quality is generally excellent.
Continuous shooting rate
- Panasonic Lumix S5: Mechanical or electronic shutter: 5fps in AF-C, 7fps in AF-S
- Panasonic Lumix G9: Mechanical shutter: 9fps in AS-C, 12fps in AF-S, Electronic shutter: 20fps in AF-C, 60fps in AF-S
Compared to the G9, the S5 has a pretty pedestrian maximum shooting rate, which adds to the G9’s appeal for wildlife, sport and action photography.
Both cameras also feature Panasonic’s 4K and 6K Photo technology that enables 8Mp or 18Mp images to be captured at up to 60fps (4k) or 30fps (6K), using the video capability and then extracting stills.
- Panasonic Lumix S5: 4K (4096×2160) at 29.97p, 150Mbps (4:2:2 10-bit LongGOP)
- Panasonic Lumix G9: 4K (3840×2160) 29.97p, 150Mbps (4:2:2 10-bit LongGOP)
The Panasonic S5 has the same sensor as the S1H, a professional-level video camera and consequently it’s aimed at photographers who want to get more serious about video. Meanwhile, the G9 is a capable video camera but its forte is stills photography.
When recording to an SD card, the S5 can shoot 4K (4096×2160) video in 4:2:2 and 10-bit LongGOP H.264 at 29.97/23.98p/25p, and if you’re prepared to drop to an APS-C crop you can shoot 4096×2160 at 59.94p, 150Mbps (4:2:0 8-bit LongGOP). The G9 isn’t too far behind with 3840×2160 resolution at 29.97p 4:2:2 10-bit video, but if you want to shoot at 60p you have to switch to 4:2:0 8-bit colour.
Both cameras can also record to an external device via an HDMI connection but only the S5 offers V-log recording as standard. This means you can capture very flat footage that has more scope for grading post-capture. There’s also a marker that indicates the framing of different formats and platforms, which is handy if you want to post square or upright video.
- Panasonic Lumix S5: Dual SD/SDHC/SDXC slots, 1 UHS-II, 1 UHS-II
- Panasonic Lumix G9: Dual SD/SDHC/SDXC UHS-II slots
There’s no difference to report here, the two cameras both use the same 0.39-inch type OLED electronic viewfinder. While both cameras have two SD-type memory card slots, only one of them is UHS-II compliant in the S5 whereas they both are in the G9. This means that you may notice a dip in performance when switching between the two card slots in the S5.
- Panasonic Lumix S5: Auto Detection (Face, Eye, Body, Animal) / Tracking / 225-Area / Zone (Vertical/Horizontal) / Zone (Square) / Zone (Oval) / 1-Area+ / 1-Area / Pinpoint / Custom 1, 2, 3
- Panasonic Lumix G9: Face/Eye Detection / Tracking / 225-Area / Custom Multi / 1-Area / Pinpoint/(Full area touch is available) (Scalable AF frame size and flexible AF position)
With 1.62-million dots, the screen on the Fuji X-T30 II is a little crisper than the X-T20’s which has 1.04-million dots.
There’s not much to choose between the two cameras in terms of autofocus specification, they both use contrast detection augmented by Panasonic’s DFD (Depth of Defocus) technology, have 225 AF areas and can detect eyes, faces and animals.
They’re also pretty snappy when it comes to focusing, but the G9 is the quicker of the two, perhaps because the elements inside the smaller lenses are lighter.
Viewfinder and screen
- Panasonic Lumix S5: EVF: 2.36million-dot OLED, Screen: 3-inch 1.84-million-dot vari-angle touchscreen
- Panasonic Lumix G9: EVF: 3.68million-dot OLED, Screen: 3-inch 1.04-million-dot vari-angle touchscreen
While the S5’s viewfinder gives a clear view that accurately previews the image (or video) as it will be captured, the G9’s viewfinder is more resolute so the image is a bit crisper. The reverse is true with the screens, with the S5’s being the better of the two options.
Both screens can be flipped around for viewing from in front of the camera, can be angled up or down to give a good view when shooting in portrait or landscape orientation and are very responsive to touch.
Size and weight
- Panasonic Lumix S5: 132.6 × 97.1 × 81.9mm, 714g with memory card and battery
- Panasonic Lumix G9: 136.9 x 97.3 x 91.6m, 658g with memory card and battery
Normally, we’d expect a full-frame camera to be larger than a camera with a smaller sensor, but the Panasonic G9 is one of the larger Micro Four Thirds cameras around. That means that there’s a decent amount of room for the controls and they don’t feel too small or fiddly.
Panasonic set-out to make the S5 smaller than the Lumix S1 and S1R, and it’s actually a little smaller than the G9, but it’s still well-proportioned and ergonomically shaped.
While the S5 is heavier than the G9, it’s unlikely that you’ll notice the 56g difference in the weight of the bodies in use. What will be more noticeable, however, is the larger size and weight of the L-mount lenses. Depending of which focal length lenses you opt for, that means that an S5 kit will weigh more than a G9 kit.
Both cameras have a magnesium alloy body and splash-resistant seals.
Should I sell My Panasonic Lumix G9?
As usual there are pros and cons to each of the cameras in this comparison with the step-up in image quality being a major selling point for the S5 in comparison to the G9. However, if you decide to switch from the Micro Four Thirds G9 to the full-frame S5, you have to be prepared to carry bigger, heavier lenses. That said, Panasonic makes some fairly compact full-frame prime lenses such as the Lumix S 35mm f/1.8.
Thanks to the smaller lenses, faster shooting rate and slightly snappier focusing, the G9 is the better option for sport and wildlife photographers, but the S5 makes a good choice if you want to get more serious about shooting video. It’s a good all-rounder and a great introduction to full-frame photography.
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