The Panasonic S5's specification, size and price are all very enticing. It offers what many were hoping for from the S1 and S1H, a full-frame version of the GH5. Panasonic's back-to-the-drawing-board work on the autofocus system also delivers, but don't expect it to match the speed and accuracy of Sony and Canon's latest AF systems. It's an excellent all-rounder suited in equal measure to shooting stills and video.
Smaller than the MFT Lumix GH5
Viewfinder and vari-angle touchscreen
What is the Panasonic Lumix S5?
The Panasonic Lumix S5 is a full-frame mirrorless camera and the most affordable model in the Panasonic Lumix S range.
However, Panasonic hasn’t just used the same bodyshell and reduced the number of features of the Lumix S5. It’s taken a look at what people love about the Micro Four Thirds Lumix GH5 and considered the pros and cons of the S-series to deliver something more affordable and very attractive to enthusiast photographers looking to shoot video more seriously and frequently.
Impressively, the Lumix engineers have managed to make the Panasonic S5 smaller than the Lumix GH5. That’s quite a feat given the difference in the sensor and mount sizes of the two cameras.
As it’s a full-frame S-series mirrorless camera, the Panasonic S5 has the L mount, which is also used by Leica and Sigma.
Camera type: Mirrorless
Announced: 2nd September 2020
Sensor: 24.2Mp full-frame (35.6 x 23.8mm) CMOS sensor
Lens mount: L
Construction: Magnesium alloy with dust and splash resistant seals
Stabilisation: 5 axis in-body IS to 5EV, 6.5 with Dual IS
Viewfinder: 2,360,000-dot OLED electronic viewfinder with 0.74x magnification
Key video specifications: 4K (3840×2160) 4:2:2 10-bit LongGOP H.264 29.97/23.98p/25p and 150Mbps for up to 30mins, 4K (3840×2160) 4:2:0 8-bit LongGOP H.264 29.97/23.98p/25p and 100Mbps unlimited, Full HD (1920×1080) 4:2:2 10-bit LongGOP H.264 59.94/29.97/23.98p/50/25p and 100Mbps unlimited
Slow & Quick motion: Slow: 4K up to 60p in MP4, FHD up to 120p at full width or 180p with narrower angle of view, Quick: 4K to 1p
Sensitivity: Dual native ISO 100, 6400, Range: ISO100-51,200, expandable to ISO 50-204,800. Dual-native ISO for video
Shutter speed: 60-1/16,000sec, Bulb to 30mins
Maximum continuous shooting rate: AF-S or manual focus: 7fps, AF-C: 5fps, 6K Photo 30fps, 4K Photo: 60fps
Memory: Dual SD card slots, 1 UHS-II, 1 UHS-I
Weight: 714g with memory card and battery
Dimensions (WxHxD): 132.6×97.1×81.9mm
One of the most exciting features of the Panasonic S5 is that it has the same 24.2Mp full-frame sensor as the S1H. That’s a camera that has garnered many plaudits for its video quality.
Consequently, Panasonic is pitching the S5 at people who have started out as photographers and content creators who want to create more video. Its headline video specification is that it can shoot 4K (3840×2160) footage in 4:2:2 and 10-bit LongGOP H.264 at 29.97/23.98p/25p. That’s when recording internally to an SD-type card.
It can shoot and that quality and resolution for up to 30minutes. Alternatively, if you’re happy to 4:2:0 8-bit 4K footage, you can shoot indefinitely until your memory cards are full.
If the Panasonic S5’s HMDI port is used to connect external storage, it’s possible to record 4K 4:2:2 10-bit footage at 60p. That means you can have high resolution 2x slow-motion video in 4K resolution.
There are also ports to connect an external microphone and headphones.
Panasonic is at pains to point out that its standard testing procedures ensure that it is possible to shoot 4K video at 40-degrees centigrade and that the S5 won’t overheat in regular, professional use. It doesn’t have a fan built-in like the S1H, but the S5 has a heat-dispersing design.
Further good news is that V-Log is pre-installed and there’s no extra charge to record more grade-ready video. There’s also a selection of other picture profiles including the natural-looking ‘Like 709’.
In addition, the Panasonic S5 can shoot anamorphic video (with APS-C crop) to create the popular cinematic look.
It’s also good to see the Rec frame indicator that we saw with the Panasonic G100. This puts a red frame around the image when the camera is recording and it’s much easier to see from a range of angles than the usual red dot – which is also present.
Panasonic anticipates that the Lumix S5 will be used by people creating videos for a range of platforms and consequently there’s a useful frame marker that indicates the crop that’s applied in different formats. So if you plan to post a square format video, you are able to preview it as you shoot, ensuring perfect composition.
While Panasonic has stuck with contrast detection autofocusing and its DFD technology for the S5, it has gone back to the very beginning to rework the algorithm. Consequently, Panasonic claims that the Lumix S5 has improved tracking performance with moving subjects and that the Eye Recognition can latch onto eyes when the head is tilted or turned away.
In addition, Panasonic claims there’s a 2x increase in the speed of recognition of faces and eyes and 5x improvement in human and animal detection. The S5 is also able to detect the subject when it is smaller in the frame than can be detected by the other S series cameras. The further good news here is that the S1, S1R and S1H will get the improved AF performance with a firmware update.
In Body Stabilisation
No modern camera is complete without in-body image stabilisation (apart from the Panasonic GH5S of course), so naturally, the Panasonic S5 has IBIS. By itself, this is claimed to offer up to 5 stops of shutter speed compensation across 5 axes, but it can also work with lens-based IS to extend the compensation to up to 6.5EV.
Panasonic has decided to be pretty generous with the Lumix S5 and it has a lengthy list of features. In addition to its impressive video credentials, there are also some great stills features including a 96Mp High Resolution mode for raw and Jpeg images and Live View Composite mode to help with long exposure images.
Build and Handling
The Micro Four Thirds Panasonic GH5 is quite a big camera for its sensor size, and the full-frame S1, S1R and S1H are bigger – on a par with full-frame DSLRs like the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV. They are very well built and feel nice and solid, but they’re big and heavy. Panasonic appears to have had a rethink with the Lumix S5. Instead of using the S1 body, it’s opted for something smaller. Not just smaller than the other S series cameras, something smaller than the GH5. That’s great news for portability and anyone who plans to shoot handheld for long periods of time.
The Panasonic Lumix S5 in the centre between the GH5 (left) and S1H (right)
Here’s the size and weight comparison:
Lumix S5 (WxHxD): 132.6 x 97.1 x 81.9mm, Weight: 714g
Lumix S1H (WxHxD): 151 x 114.2 x 110.4mm, Weight: 1,164g
Lumix GH5 (WxHxD): 138.5 x 98.1 x 87.4mm, Weight 725g
That’s impressive downsizing!
Although Panasonic Lumix S5 is smaller than the GH5, it has a well-proportioned and ergonomically shaped grip. A rubber-like coating also ensures that the camera feels secure in your hand.
Screen and Viewfinder
Despite the shrinkage in size and weight, the Panasonic Lumix s5 has both a 3-inch 1,840,000-dot vari-angle touchscreen and a 2,360,000-dot OLED electronic viewfinder built-in.
The Panasonic GH5 has a vari-angle screen and it was high on the request list for the S-series camera when their development announcement was made. However, the S1 and S1R have 3-way tilting screens. These are useful if you’re shooting in landscape and portrait format images, but they’re not as intuitive or flexible to use as a vari-angle screen and they can’t be seen from in front of the camera.
Happily, the Lumix S5’s screen delivers what many were hoping for and it can be flipped around to face forwards. It means that the S5 could also be a good full-frame vlogging camera.
Further good news is that, like the viewfinder, the S5’s screen provides an excellent preview of the image. If you’re shooting outdoors in bright conditions it’s worth activating the Live View Boost to brighten screen to make the scene easier to see.
The screen is also very responsive to touch, but the icons are quite small and I occasionally tap one adjacent to the one I want.
Panasonic has merged the control layout of the GH5 with that of its S series cameras for the Lumix S5. It’s very logical and there’s direct control over the key features.
On the right of the top-plate there’s a mode dial to select the exposure mode – complete with three custom settings. There are also two dials, one around the shutter release and the other towards the back of the camera above the thumbrest. A dual-dial arrangement makes it quicker to adjust settings.
Between the two top dials, there’s a neat row of buttons to access the white balance, sensitivity and exposure compensation controls. My first port of call when I received a Panasonic S5 review sample was to the Custom menu to assign direct control over exposure compensation to the front dial. I prefer to have direct control via a dial instead of a two-step process.
It’s good to have a comparatively large red record button just to the right of the mode dial. I’m fed-up with fiddly record buttons!
Over on the left of the top-plate, there’s a dial to set the drive mode. That’s a nice touch, it means you don’t have to dip into the menu or use a button and dial to switch drive mode when speed is of the essence.
Similarly, it’s good that, like the other S-series cameras, the Lumix S5 has a switch just to the right of the viewfinder to change between focusing modes. This means you can change quickly between single and continuous AF. this switch surrounds the button that gives a quick route to the AF point selection options – including the ability to activate Animal detection and Human Eye detection.
Further good news is that there’s mini-joystick on the back of the camera for making menu setting selections and shifting the AF point while you look in the viewfinder.
The Panasonic Lumix S5 has the same full-frame 24Mp sensor as the S1H and the S1H’s sensor is the same as the S1’s with the addition of a low-pass filter. This is to make the S1H (and S5) more suited to video production, but it should still mean that the S5 is a useful all-rounder.
After shooting in a wide range of conditions, the S5 doesn’t disappoint. Far from it. In the Natural Photo Style the colours look just as I would hope. The auto white balance system also proves very reliable in a wide range of conditions. However, when the sun starts to drop, I like to switch to the shade setting to make images a bit warmer. The degree of warming is pleasantly sun-kissed rather than tango or brown like some shade settings deliver.
Panasonic Lumix S5 Image Quality
As the Panasonic S5 has a 24Mp sensor, it’s not going to compete with the 47.3Mp S1R for detail resolution in normal shooting mode. But it can still capture a very good level of detail. What’s especially impressive is how well the detail is maintained trough the native sensitivity range. I had to double-check the sensitivity of some images that I shot at ISO 6400 because they are so clean.
Naturally, noise creeps in at higher values but it’s controlled well. Even the uppermost expansion setting of ISO 204,800 doesn’t produce terrible results.
There’s also a High Resolution mode in which the Panasonic S5 takes a sequence of shots in quick succession with the sensor moving by a tiny amount between each. These are then merged in-camera to produce a single image – raw or Jpeg. It’s said to be equivalent to a 96Mp (12,000 x 8,000-pixel) image. That gives the S5 a bit more versatility.
However, using High Resolution mode limits you to shooting with the electronic shutter and the minimum aperture is f/16 while the shutter speed can only be set from between 1 and 1/8000 of a second. In addition to the maximum sensitivity value available in High Res mode is ISO 3200 and it’s best to use the camera on a tripod.
Of these limitations, the shutter speed is the most restricting as it would be nice to be able to shoot longer exposures. However, the results produced by the S1 and S1R are great, so it’s a very attractive addition to the S5’s feature set.
Panasonic has clearly put the effort in with the S5’s autofocus system. It seems snappier than the S1 and S1R’s. It’s good for generally photography and can keep up with moving subjects.
The human eye detection is also very good, it spots eyes quickly and keeps them sharp even when the subject is wearing glasses to turns to the side a bit.
However, the Animal Detection fails to shine alongside the Canon EOS R6 and Canon R5‘s. Unlike the Canon system, the Panasonic S5’s has no option to detect animal’s eyes, it just looks for their bodies. It also needs them to be fairly big in the frame. If you want to shoot a close-up of your dog at a wide aperture, you’ll need to select a single AF point and make sure it’s on an eye to get it sharp.
Panasonic S5 IBIS Performance
Our Panasonic S5 review sample was supplied with the new 20-60mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. It’s a very nice kit lens, and the extra width is appreciated, but it’s not stabilised. That means that I was shooting using the S5’s in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) only. this proved very good in video mode, taking the wobble out of hand-held footage. It also makes some clips that I shot when I was walking reasonably watchable. It looks a bit like I was drunk, but it’s not too bad.
If you’re into run-and-gun videography (or plan to get into it) a gimbal such as the DJI Ronin S would be worthwhile.
When shooting stills at the 60mm end of the lens, I got around 60% of my images sharp with a shutter speed of 1/4second. That’s a compensation of around 4EV. I was able to get the odd image sharp with a shutter speed of 1/2sec (5EV compensation), but my miss rate was high.
The video below was shot on the Panasonic Lumix S5 in 4K (3840×2160) at 25p 4:2:2 10-bit LongGOP and 150Mbps. The audio was recorded using the built-in mic on an almost windless day. The white balance was set to Daylight.
I think that Panasonic has pitched the Lumix S5 correctly. At £1,799/$1,998 it’s attractively priced for a full-frame mirrorless camera with such an extensive feature set. It’s good to see that V-Log is included rather than an optional extra.
While the S1H is aimed at professional videographers and filmmakers, the S5 is designed at a wider market, those people looking to take video more seriously and create high-quality content. The small size and weight of the Panasonic S5, combined with its vari-angle screen should make it suitable for use when travelling as well as day-to-day shooting and vlogging.
There’s an excellent array of customisation options to enable you to set the camera to suit your style of shooting and results are very impressive.
In some respects, the Panasonic S5 appears to be the camera that many people were expecting when the development of the full-frame Lumix S1 and S1R was announced at Photokina in September 2018.