The fact that the Panasonic GH5 arrived just a day or so before my new puppy was a happy coincidence, but it was also the perfect opportunity to test its 6K Photo mode.
6K Photo Mode uses high resolution video technology to enable you to shoot at 30fps (frames per second) and then extract 18Mp still images. But can it get you sharp images of an untrained 9-week old puppy in action?
If you’ve ever tried to photograph a puppy you’ll know that it’s much easier to do it when they’re asleep than when they’re playing, but you don’t capture their fun side. Even if they’re sitting still it’s helpful to have a high frame rate because they constantly fidget, looking one way then another, sniffing the air, sniffing the ground and blinking etc.
And when they’re on their paws running around you also have the problem of framing and focusing – they’re a challenging subject for any AF system. My plan was to use the GH5’s 6K Photo Mode in 6K Burst (S/S) mode so I could set the camera rolling with one press the shutter release and then stop it with a second, keeping my hands free to try to corral and coax the pup into the right location.
Panasonic GH5 vs a Puppy: 6K Photo Set-up
After setting the GH5 to operate in 6K Burst (S/S) mode via the menu, I mounted it on a Manfrotto Pixi mini tripod resting on the ground in the garden. Next I turned the GH5’s mode dial to 6K Photo mode, rotated the exposure mode dial to shutter priority and set a fast shutter speed to freeze movement.
I also flipped the screen out to the side of the camera and tilted it up to give me a good view of puppy-level.
Panasonic GH5 Tracking AF Mode
For the first test I used the GH5 in Tracking AF mode. There are two methods of using this mode. In the first the focus point is set to the centre of the image frame and you have to use the focus-and-recompose technique – move the camera so that the point is over the most important part of the subject before half-pressing the shutter release to activating focusing.
Alternatively, you can activate Touch AF by tapping the on-screen icon and the set the AF point with a tap on the screen before half-pressing the shutter release. This is more practical when the camera is on a low-level tripod.
Once focus is achieved the camera adjusts the focus point automatically and tries to follow the subject.
In the past I’ve found Panasonic’s Tracking AF Mode capable of following slow moving subjects, but it couldn’t keep up with fast moving targets. It’s quite a bit faster with the GH5 but it still struggles to keep up with a puppy moving towards the camera. The focus point seems the follow the movement well but in most cases it can’t get him sharp quickly enough.
I did manage to get a few focused shots, but these were usually when the puppy was still or paused for a moment.
I also found the Tracking AF is capable of tracking a puppy in front of a very distracting background, even when he was quiet small in the frame and there were larger or higher contrast objects in the background.
Panasonic GH5 Custom Multi AF
This mode allows you to select a group of AF points from the GH5’s 255 points and use them for focusing. I used a fairly large collection of points that I usually positioned around the centre of the frame.
Again, I did get a few sharp images and this time some were when the puppy was running towards the camera, but with the camera in a fixed location I couldn’t ensure that the active AF zone was always in the right place. However, I was able to keep an eye on the screen to monitor progress and occasionally reposition the focus ares with a tap. I could also see that there were quite a few times when the puppy was in the right area, but the camera couldn’t focus quickly enough. Scrolling through the 6K footage frame by frame, it is possible to see the focus shifting as the puppy moved, but in most cases it’s not quite fast enough.
Panasonic GH5: AF Custom Setting (Video)
It’s worth mentioning at this point that as the GH5 operates in video mode in 6K Photo Mode, I used the AF Custom Setting (Video) options in the menu to set AF Speed and AF sensitivity to their highest values. Thus the GH5 was set to detect subject distance changing quickly and adjust focus rapidly.
Panasonic GH5 vs a Puppy: Verdict
I’m going to continue to experiment with different AF point patterns in Custom Multi AF mode when shooting in 6K Photo mode as its seems to be a more reliable method of focusing than using Tracking AF mode when photographing a puppy. When the puppy was in the frame and in the right area, most sequences had at least one sharp image.
However, Tracking AF is useful option to use when the puppy stays roughly in one place and you need to move the camera to recompose the shot. And as I mentioned earlier, shooting at 30fps allows you to capture those fleeting moments when he’s looking the right way with the angelic expression you know and love.
This gallery of images shows the results direct from the camera after extracting the best, sharpest stills from the 6K footage. Several would benefit from cropping. If you head over our Panasonic GH5 vs a Puppy Flickr Album you can download the images to see the issues for yourself. There were many more out of focus frames along with quiet a few without the puppy, but the nature of 6K Photo Mode is that you only extract the images that work.
The images were all taken when I was alone with the puppy, shooting with an assistant would make life a bit easier, as would photographing a slightly older puppy that understands commands like sit, stay and come.