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Panasonic Lumix GH5 II Review

Panasonic Lumix GH5 II review
Review

Price when reviewed

£1499

$2100
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Our Verdict

While it doesn’t make a dramatic upgrade on the GH5, the Panasonic Lumix GH5 II puts ticks in lots of boxes. It’s a very capable video camera and a competent stills camera, making it ideal for modern content creators who don’t need a higher resolution sensor.

At the moment, the main stumbling block for the GH5 II is the GH6. We know it’s coming and we know that it will sit above the GH5 II in Panasonic’s line-up. It will offer C4K (4096×2160) 60p 4:2:2 10-bit with ‘truly unlimited’ recording time and 5.7K 60p video, but we don’t know much more, so it’s hard for potential GH5 II buyers to make an informed choice at the moment.

For

  • Extensive array of features
  • Excellent stabilisation system
  • Simple live streaming via smartphone

Against

  • Large for a Micro Four Thirds camera
  • Insipid viewfinder image in the default settings
  • As yet we don't know how it compares with the GH6

What is the Panasonic Lumix GH5 II?

The Lumix GH5 II is the latest in the GH series of mirrorless Micro Four Thirds cameras from Panasonic, however, the company has announced that the GH6 is in development and that the GH line is splitting in two. Panasonic will pitch the GH6 towards serious filmmakers looking for a small camera while the GH5 II is designed for keen content creators, those who are serious about their photography and producing videos for YouTube, but that don’t need all the more advanced features of the GH6.

As its name suggests, the Panasonic GH5 II is an upgrade to the Panasonic GH5, which dates from January 2017 and has been incredible popular amongst videographers. The GH5 II doesn’t make a big enough step up to warrant a whole new name but it offers some interesting improvements.

Specification

  • Camera type: Micro Four Thirds mirrorless
  • Announced: 25th May 2021
  • Sensor: 20.3 Mp Live MOS Sensor
  • Maximum video resolution: C4K (4096×2160)
  • Video Quality: 59.94p, 200Mbps (4:2:0 10-bit LongGOP) (H.265/HEVC, LPCM, High-Res Audio), 59.94p, 150Mbps (4:2:0 8-bit LongGOP) (H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, LPCM, High-Res Audio), 29.97p, 400Mbps (4:2:2 10-bit ALL-Intra) / 150Mbps (4:2:2 10-bit LongGOP) / 100Mbps (4:2:0 8-bit LongGOP) (H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, LPCM, High-Res Audio), 23.98p, 400Mbps (4:2:2 10-bit ALL-Intra) / 150Mbps (4:2:2 10-bit LongGOP) / 100Mbps (4:2:0 8-bit LongGOP) (H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, LPCM, High-Res Audio)
  • Video format: MOV: H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, H.265/HEVC , MP4: H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, H.265/HEVC
  • Log Mode: V-Log L pre-installed
  • Sensitivity range: Stills: ISO 200-25600 (expandable to ISO 100-25600), Video: ISO 200-12800 (expandable to ISO 100-12800)
  • Stabilisation: 5-axis Dual IS II giving 6.5EV shutter speed compensation
  • Viewfinder: 3.68m-dot OLED with 60/120fps refresh rate
  • Touchscreen: 3-inch 1.84m-dot Free-angle touchscreen
  • Storage: Dual UHS-II SD slots
  • Maximum stills continuous shooting rate: AFS/MF: 12 frames/sec, AFC: H: 9 frames/sec (with Live View), 6K Photo: 30 frames/sec, 4K Photo: 60 frames/sec, 30 frames/sec
  • Dimensions: 138.5 x 98.1 x 87.4 mm / 5.45 x 3.86 x 3.44 inch (excluding protrusions)
  • Weight: 727g / 1.60 lb with SD card and battery
Panasonic Lumix GH5 II review

Features

Inside the Panasonic GH5 II is the same 20.3Mp sensor as is inside the GH5 but it has new AR (Anti-Reflective) coating that reduces flare and ghosting. It’s also coupled with the Venus Engine 10 processing engine that’s in the Panasonic Lumix S1H – the company’s full-frame video-centric mirrorless camera.

This combination enables the GH5 II to capture 10-bit 4:2:0 C4K (4096 x 2160) video at up to 60fps and 200Mbps or 10-bit 4:2:2 C4K at up to 30fps and 400Mbps. If an external recorder is connected via HDMI, it’s also possible to record C4K 4:2:2 10-bit 60p video externally while simultaneously recording in 4:2:0 to the card in the camera.

There’s also a selection of 4K and 6K anamorphic modes.

Although the GH5 II cannot shoot raw video, V-Log L is pre-installed which means that it’s possible capture very flat footage that’s well-suited to grading. Helpfully, there’s a Log Assist mode so you can assess the footage more easily when you’re shooting in V-Log L. It’s also possible to display a waveform or vector scope to guide exposure.

Panasonic has enhanced the GH5 II’s live streaming capability and it can stream via a wired or wireless connection to a router or a smartphone running Panasonic’s Lumix Sync app. Panasonic has also promised a firmware update by the end of the year to enable wired RTP/RTSP streaming.

Although the GH5 II has a more powerful processor that the GH5, its maximum continuous stills shooting rate is the same as 12fps in single AF mode and 9fps in continuous AF mode. What has increased though, is the burst depth as the GH5 II can shoot at those rates for up to around 108+ raw or raw and Jpeg files or 999+ Jpegs.

If you need faster frame rates, there’s 6K and 4K Photo mode in which the GH5 II can shoot 18Mp images at up to 30fps and 8Mp at up to 60fps.

Like its predecessor, the GH5 II a 225-point contrast-detection autofocus (AF) system with  DFD (depth-from-defocus) technology. However, it benefits from Panasonic’s recent autofocus developments and also gets Head/Body/Animal AF as well as the pre-existing Face/Eye detection.

Surprisingly, the GH5 II has a 3-inch 1,840,800-dot screen on its back whereas the GH5 has a 3.2-inch 1,620,000-dot unit. However, like the original GH5, the GH5 II’s monitor is on a vari-angle joint that means it can be angled to give a clear view whether the camera is upright or horizontal.

Meanwhile, the viewfinder is the same as the GH5’s having 3.68-million-dots, an eye point of 21mm and magnification of 1.52x/0.76x (35mm equivalence).

The GH5 II also has Panasonic’s 5-axis Dual I.S. 2 (Image Stabiliser 2) which can utilise both the in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) as well as lens-based IS to deliver up to 6.5EV of shutter speed compensation with the Lumix G Vario 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6II ASPH. Power OIS mounted and at 140mm. It works in both stills and video mode, but there’s also electronic stabilisation and Boost IS for video. As usual, both of these modes crop the framing.

Boost IS is designed for hand-held shooting but it’s not recommended for when the camera is moving.

As is becoming increasingly common, the GH5 II’s battery can be charged in-camera via a USB 3.1 Type-C connection. Provided the battery isn’t completely flat, the camera can also be powered via USB, which is great news for long shoots.

Panasonic also supplies a dedicated battery charger with the camera.

Panasonic Lumix GH5 Mark II review

Build and handling

The GH5 II has a magnesium alloy construction and there are seals around every joint and control to keep out dust and moisture. These points help to give it a solid, durable feel.

It also has a large comfortable group that can accommodate all of my fingers when my index finger is poised over the shutter release. However, overall the camera feels large for a Micro Four Thirds model. It’s bigger, for example than the Nikon Z7 II and Z6 II or any of Sony’s A7-series cameras, all of which have full-frame sensors.

This disproportionate body size first emerged back in 2012 when Panasonic introduced the GH3 with an upgraded build and larger body than the GH2 to help it appeal to serious photographers. At the time, there was a perception than mirrorless cameras were too small and fiddly in comparison with DSLRs. Some photographers may still feel that way and appreciate the beefier body of the GH5 II, but I’d prefer it to be more compact.

Panasonic Lumix GH5 II review

Control layout

Whatever my feelings about the size of the GH5 II, it means that there’s plenty of room for the controls. In addition to the lockable mode dial, there’s dial to select the drive mode, a switch to select the focusing mode, a mini joystick, a larger control wheel/navigation pad, dual exposure control dials and dedicated buttons to access the white balance, ISO and Photo Style.

The drive mode and focus mode controls are especially nice to see as they give quick access to these features without having to dip into a menu.

Panasonic Lumix GH5 II review

Further good news is that most of the buttons are customisable, which means you can set them to access the features you use the most frequently.

By default, exposure compensation is adjusted by pressing a dedicated button and then using a control dial, but the ‘Dial Set’ options in the menu enable this to be changed so that it can be adjusted directly via a dial. This leaves the exposure compensation button available to access something else and there’s a huge selection of options.

Panasonic Lumix GH5 II review

The mini joystick on the back of the GH5 II is one of the best I’ve used. It’s rubberised, which means that it’s comfortable on your thumb and there’s decent grip, which makes it easy to use. One issue, however, is that photographers with smaller my find it a little awkward to reach.

While the ISO button on the top plate of the GH5 II has a couple of pimples that make it easy to distinguish, some of the other buttons are less easy to discern without looking at them.

I also have a problem with the Display button which I occasionally pressed by accident with the base of my thumb and I reached for the joystick.

Panasonic Lumix GH5 Mark II review

Screen and menu

A vari-angle screen is a bonus for creative photography and as well as giving a good view in low light conditions, the 3-inch unit on the GH5 II copes well with bright conditions.

It’s also responsive to touch and it’s nice that settings in the main and Quick menus can be selected with a tap.

Although extensive, the main menu is sensibly arranged with the same structure as on Panasonic’s full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Lumix S1, S1R and S5. This means that there are two columns of tabs on the left of the screen with the first column listing the main sections such as stills photography, video, key settings, operation/customisation, My menu and playback. Selecting any of these options reveals the second column of features pertaining to the selected item and when any of those is selected, the available features or parameters are displayed.

There’s also a customisable Quick menu that can give a quick route to up to 12 features.  This is accessed by pressing the Q button and it can be customised to display different options in stills and video mode.

Viewfinder

In the default settings, the image in the viewfinder is quite insipid. It’s too bright and the saturation and contrast are low so that everything looks a bit washed out. It fooled me into underexposing a few scenes by around 1/3EV. However, as usual, it’s possible to adjust the viewfinder image. I reduce the brightness by one step, and increased the contrast and saturation by one step each. This made the viewfinder image match the scene and the captured images more closely.

Performance

Aside from a few images that look slightly darker than they should because of the bright viewfinder, the Panasonic Lumix GH5 produces attractive images. And for the most part, the GH5 II’s 1,728-zone multi-pattern sensing system works very well in its default Multiple mode. Should you need them, Center Weighted, spot and Highlight Weighted metering modes are available, but with a correctly adjusted viewfinder and a histogram view, there are few occasions when you’re likely to need to change from Multiple mode.

I tended to use the GH5 II’s Standard and Natural Picture Styles for stills, but there are four custom ‘My Photo Styles’ that allows you to tailor Jpegs to your preferences. It’s great that Panasonic keeps the colour modes such as Cinelike D2, Cinelike V2, Like 709 and V-Log L within the Picture Style options. It saves hunting around in the menu and there’s no fear that you’re actually recoding with a different profile selected – although the turning on V-Log Assist hides the impact of shooting in V-log L.

Panasonic GH5 II image quality

With a smaller than APS-C format sensor, the GH5 II might seem challenged for detail capture and noise control, but it actually delivers very good results. There’s plenty of detail and noise is controlled well up to around ISO 12,800. Stepping up to ISO 25,600 results in raw files that have clear speckling and the Jpegs lack a bit of detail, in some cases looking slightly smudged.

The GH5 II handles colours very well and even in very bright conditions, it recorded the tonal range of a red flower with plenty of detail. That can be a struggle for some cameras.

Micro Four Thirds cameras are often credited with low dynamic range but the GH5 II fairs reasonably well in that regard. Highlights don’t burn out too readily and should you need to underexposure, you can expect to be able to brighten the darker areas of a low ISO raw file by around 3EV before noise becomes problematic.

Panasonic Lumix GH5 II review

Panasonic GH5 II video quality

There’s an extensive array of video options and plenty of tools to help you get the results you want either in-camera or post capture with grading. The C4K footage looks natural and has plenty of detail while focus transitions are handled smoothly – you can change the speed of transition via the menu if necessary.

I’ll post some sample footage shortly.

Autofocus performance

If you select a focus point and keep it over the subject, the GH5 II can keep moving subjects sharp. It’s also quick and effective with stationary subjects. The Animal Detection AF, however, can be slow to respond and is prone to seeing animals where they don’t exist.

Also, the Animal detection looks for whole animals rather than their eyes, so with pet portraits and the like, you need to select a small AF point to target the right part of the subject.

The Human Face/Eye detection is helpful, especially for vlogging or live-streaming, but it’s not quite as dependable as the comparable systems from Sony and Canon.

Stabilisation

Panasonic quotes that the GH5 II delivers its maximum stabilisation with the Lumix G Vario 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6II Asph. Power OIS mounted at 140mm (280mm equivalent). Testing with the Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4 Asph, I found that around 50% of my images were acceptably sharp at a shutter speed of 1/4sec with the lens at the 60mm end. That’s a compensation factor of around 5EV.

In video mode, using the lens and camera-based E-Stabilization has a dramatic impact on the watchability of the footage. I’d advise getting a gimbal if you plan on shooting a lot of video as you walk or run with the camera, but you’ll get very good results with regular hand-held video.

Turning on the Boost IS improves stationary hand-held footage a little on top of using the other two methods.

Live streaming

The ability to live stream via a smartphone running Panasonic’s Lumix Sync app is one of the key upgrades that the GH5 II makes on the GH5, and once everything is set up it, works very well. It always seems to take a couple of attempts or more to connect Panasonic cameras to a phone, and the process can be a bit slow,  but once done, the GH5 II created a reliable connection to my iPhone.

It’s also easy to stream to Facebook or YouTube or via RTMP/RTMPS to a URL using a stream key and the 1920×1080 50Hz 50P 16Mbps image quality is good.

The paired phone is used to control the camera and to stream the footage but it doesn’t show what is being broadcast. However, that’s visible on the camera’s screen which can be flipped forwards if you’re the presenter in front of the camera.

Panasonic Lumix GH5 II sample images

Follow the link to browse and download full-resolution images from the Panasonic GH5 II

Panasonic Lumix GH5 II image gallery

Panasonic GH5 II sample video

This video was shot on the Panasonic GH5 II with the Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8- 4.0 ASPH lens mounted. The camera and lens were on the Zhiyun Weebill 2 stabilising gimbal.

Verdict

While the Panasonic Lumix GH5 II is a relatively modest refresh of the GH5 and its autofocus system, while more than adequate, fails to shine next to some of the competition with phase detection, it still has an impressive collection of features and is relevant in the current market.  The simple live streaming via a smartphone is a nice touch.

It’s also capable of delivering very good stills and video and there’s a wealth of options for customising it so it performs the way you want it to.

I find it a bulky in comparison with some full-frame cameras, but others will like it for that.

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