Reviews |Panasonic Lumix S5II hands-on

Panasonic Lumix S5II hands-on Review

Panasonic Lumix S5II review
Review

Price when reviewed

£1999

$1999 / €2199

Our Verdict

By giving it a hybrid autofocus system that uses phase detection as well as contrast detection, Panasonic has made one of the most frequently requested upgrades with the Lumix S5II. There’s plenty more testing to be done but in the basis of my experience of shooting with a pre-production sample for a few hours, it seems like it delivers what everyone has been wishing for. There doesn’t appear to be any surprises on the image quality fronts as the 24.2MP full-frame sensor in the S5II produces attractive results with noise kept under control very well through the native sensitivity range.

For

  • Smaller than Panasonic's other full-frame cameras
  • Phase detection focusing with subject detection
  • V-log pre-installed

What is the Panasonic Lumix S5II?

Panasonic introduced the Lumix S5 as its smallest and most affordable full-frame mirrorless camera. Now the Panasonic Lumix S5II has been introduced alongside it, debuting a hybrid autofocus (AF) system that uses phase detection as well as contrast detection. There’s also an extended range of video features including the ability so shoot internal 4:2:0 10-bit 6K (3:2) and 5.9K (16:9) footage at 30fps, and 4:2:2 C4K and 4K footage at up to 60fps.

Like the S5, the Lumix S5II is aimed at content creators who want to shoots stills and video but there’s a shift in emphasis towards video.

Specification

  • Camera type: Mirrorless
  • Announced: 4th January 2023
  • Sensor: 24.2Mp full-frame (35.6 x 23.8mm) CMOS sensor
  • Lens mount: L
  • Construction: Magnesium alloy with dust and splash resistant seals
  • Autofocus system: Hybrid (contrast and phase detection) with 779 points
  • Stabilisation: 5 axis in-body IS to 5EV, 6.5 with Dual IS
  • Screen: 3-inch 1.84-million-dot vari-angle touchscreen
  • Viewfinder: 3.68-million-dot OLED electronic viewfinder with 0.74x magnification
  • Key video specifications: 6K (5952×3968) (3:2) 29.97p, 200Mbps (4:2:0 10-bit LongGOP) (H.265/HEVC, LPCM) or 23.98p, 200Mbps (4:2:0 10-bit LongGOP) (H.265/HEVC, LPCM), 6K (5952×3136) (17:9) 29.97p, 200Mbps (4:2:0 10-bit LongGOP) (H.265/HEVC, LPCM) or 23.98p, 200Mbps (4:2:0 10-bit LongGOP) (H.265/HEVC, LPCM), 5.9K (5888×3312) (16:9) 29.97p, 200Mbps (4:2:0 10-bit LongGOP) (H.265/HEVC, LPCM) or 23.98p, 200Mbps (4:2:0 10-bit LongGOP) (H.265/HEVC, LPCM), C4K (4096×2160) 29.97p, 150Mbps (4:2:2 10-bit LongGOP) (H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, LPCM) or 29.97p, 150Mbps (4:2:0 10-bit LongGOP) (H.265/HEVC, LPCM) or 23.98p, 150Mbps (4:2:2 10-bit LongGOP) (H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, LPCM) or 23.98p, 150Mbps (4:2:0 10-bit LongGOP) (H.265/HEVC, LPCM), [4K] 3840×2160 29.97p, 150Mbps (4:2:2 10-bit LongGOP) (H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, LPCM) or 29.97p, 150Mbps (4:2:0 10-bit LongGOP) (H.265/HEVC, LPCM) or 23.98p, 150Mbps (4:2:2 10-bit LongGOP) (H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, LPCM) or 23.98p, 150Mbps (4:2:0 10-bit LongGOP) (H.265/HEVC, LPCM)
  • Sensitivity: Dual native ISO (Auto, Low, High), Range: ISO100-51,200, expandable to ISO 50-204,800
  • Shutter speed: Stills: 60-1/8,000sec, Bulb, Video: 1/2-1/16,000sec
  • Maximum continuous shooting rate: Mechanical shutter: 9fps with S-AF, 7fps with C-AF or manual focus, Electronic shutter: 30fps with S-AF or C-AF
  • Memory: Dual SD card slots, both UHS-II
  • Battery life: LCD, LVF: 370 images, in Power Save LVF mode: 1,500 images
  • Weight: 740g with memory card, hot shoe cover and battery
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 134.3×102.3×90.1mm
Panasonic S5 II

Features

Panasonic has used a new 24.2MP full-frame CMOS sensor in the Lumix S5II and the Panasonic Lumix S5IIX announced at the same time. That’s the same pixel count as is in the Lumix S5, but the big news is that the new sensor features pixels that are used for phase detection focusing. Consequently, the Panasonic S5II and S5IIX are the first Lumix cameras to feature phase detection focusing. This is combined with contrast detection to create a hybrid focusing system with 779 points and a subject detection system that can track humans or animals, or both.

In both cameras, the sensor is teamed with a new processing engine that was developed by the L2 Technology partnership between Leica and Panasonic.

Panasonic has shifted its focus towards video rather than stills and consequently the Lumix S5II’s video features are a step up from those in the original S5. The headlines are that the new camera can record 4:2:0 10-bit 6K (3:2) or 5.9K (16:9) footage at 30fps or 4:2:2 C4K and 4K footage at up to 60fps internally. What’s more, there’s a new heat management system with an internal fan that enables unlimited recording times if you have the storage capacity and power.

There’s also HFR (High Frame Rate) recording at up to 120fps and Slow & Quick mode at up to 180fps – both in Full HD.

V-Log and V-Gamut are installed as standard rather than as a paid extra, plus there’s a new Real Time LUT function that enables colour grading LUTs to be uploaded to an SD card and applied in-camera.

Experienced videographers will also be pleased to see that a Waveform Monitor, Vector Scope and Zebra Pattern are available along with System Frequency (24.00Hz) and Synchro Scan (for setting precise shutter speeds).

In addition there are 3.5mm ports for connecting an external microphone and headphones while an XLR mic can be connected via the optional DMW-XLR1 adapter. Also, the S5II has a full-size HDMI port for connecting external devices like a monitor/recorder.

Provided you’re happy to pay for an optional firmware upgrade, the S5II is capable of raw video output.

Panasonic Lumix S5II review

Build and handling

While the dimensions show that the Panasonic S5II has gained a few millimetres in comparison with the original S5, it still feels significantly smaller than than the Panasonic Lumix S1 and Lumix S1R. In comparison with the S5, there are also no changes to the control layout which blends the arrangement seen on the Panasonic Lumix S1R and S1 with those of the GH5 II and means you get direct control over the most important parameters.

The exposure mode is set using a dial on the right of the top plate while a second dial on the left is used to set the drive mode. Front and rear control dials enable the exposure to be adjusted quickly while a mini-joystick is available for selecting the AF point. In a welcome upgrade, this joystick works in 8 directions rather than just 4, making it quicker and easier to move the active AF point diagonally.

Like its predecessor and the S1 cameras, the S5II has a switch on the right of the viewfinder to set the focusing mode. It enables you to switch quickly from single to continuous AF or manual focus mode and back without accessing the menu. This switch surrounds a button that provides a fast route to the AF point selection options – including Animal detection and Human Eye detection.

Panasonic Lumix S5II review

Screen and Viewfinder

Panasonic has stuck with the same 3-inch 1,840,000-dot vari-angle touchscreen for the S5II as it uses on the S5. This can be flipped around to face forwards, which is perfect for vlogging, but it can also be rotated and tilted to be helpful when shooting high- or low-angle images in portrait or landscape orientation.

I’ve been able to shoot with a pre-production sample of the S5II and I found the screen gives a clear view that matches the captured image well. I was in Valencia in Spain, so the conditions were brighter than we usually get at this time of year in the UK, but it was overcast. I’ll have to wait until I get a full-production sample to test the screen in very bright conditions.

While the S5 has a 2,360,000-dot OLED electronic viewfinder, the S5II has a 3.68-million-dot OLED with the same refresh rate of 60 or 120fps. There are viewfinders with higher resolutions, the Panasonic S1R and S1 for example have a 5,760,00-dot viewfinder, but the S5II’s viewfinder proved perfectly acceptable during my testing. I’ve found the S1 and S1R’s viewfinder’s get a bit laggy in low light and I didn’t notice that in the S5II’s, but I’ll be checking further when a full production sample comes in for testing.

Panasonic Lumix S5II review

Performance

The biggest question on everyone’s lips about the Panasonic Lumix S5II is about the autofocus performance. Photographers and videographers have been asking for the company to introduce phase detection focusing, and at last, it has. And the early signs are very good.

My first experience of shooting with the S5II (a beta sample) was in the gloomy conditions of a room decorated to look like a wedding reception complete with a (glum-looking) bride and groom. The camera did a great job of spotting and focusing on their eyes in the frame and mostly stayed with them very well. When my hand was knocked by another journalist while I was shooting one video clip, the composition completely changed so that the bride and groom were out of the frame, however, the camera quickly latched onto an eye when I recomposed the shot, recovering the situation very well. In other clip, however, the focus switched to someone in the background when the groom looked down, momentarily hiding his eyes.

Significantly, when the camera locked onto a pair of eyes, it stayed with them and there was no obvious pulsing – something that has been an issue for other Panasonic cameras. However, there was some pulsing later in the day when I videoed a fountain after the sun had gone down. I’ll look into this further when I get a chance.

Further good news is that the stabilisation system does a good job of ironing out the usual shake and wobble that comes as a result of hand-holding a camera.

On the image quality front, it seems that there’s not a great deal of change. The S5 delivers great quality images and the S5II appears to do the same. I can’t yet open the raw files from the S5II I was shooting with, but the JPEGs look good through much of the native ISO range (ISO 100-51,200). The results at ISO 51,200 look overtly digital in places if you examine them at 100% on-screen, but they are pretty good at normal viewing sizes.

In the Natural Photo Style, colours look natural but switching to the Vivid option gives them a bit more pep. The default Auto White Balance system struggled a little in the gloomy artificially-lit interior and produced quite warm images, but that’s not usual and I’ve seen far worse. I’ll experiment with the other options for our full Panasonic S5II review.

Panasonic Lumix S5II sampel images

These images were shot a pre-production sample of the Panasonic Lumix S5II. Image quality may vary from the final camera. Follow the link to browse and download full-resolution images from the Panasonic S5II.

Panasonic Lumix S5 image gallery

Panasonic Lumix S5II sample video

This video was shot on a pre-production version of the Panasonic Lumix S5II in 6K (5952×3968) (3:2) 4:2:0 10-bit at 25p and 200Mbps.

Early verdict

Although the launch price of the Panasonic Lumix S5II is the same in the USA as the S5’s was two years ago, in the UK it’s gone up by £200. That seems to be par for the course at the moment in the UK. Nevertheless, it’s great to see the S5II squeeze under the £2000 bar and it appears to offer a good deal for the money.

Naturally, I need to do a lot more testing of the camera before I make the final call, but the Lumix S5II seems to be a good performer with the improved AF system, enhanced video features excellent stabilisation making an enticing proposition for anyone looking to get more serious about video on a full-frame camera.

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