I was lucky enough to try out the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 recently and quickly came to the conclusion that it really is the top-quality Super 16/Micro Four Thirds documentary video and stills photography camera that I have been hoping for.
As reported in a previous article, the GH5 loaner at right arrived in a stripped down state, minus its rubber eyepiece, HDMI port protector and the lens hood for the provided Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 Aspheric kit zoom lens, so there were some minor challenges.
Sadly, the loan period expired before Panasonic released its feature-packed firmware version 2.0 so I have yet to experience all that the GH5 can do now, firsthand, so no HLG HDR or ALL-Intra for me for the time being.
Top of the wishlist
The GH5 and associated accessories have been living at the top of my video camera hardware wishlist for some time, but purchasing must be put off until our self-financing effort via land subdivision and sale is finally finished sometime early next year, after getting through the multiple gauntlets of high-priced consultants, three levels of bureaucracy, recalcitrant tradesmen and the inevitable cost overruns tying up all our savings until completion.
When I do get my own GH5, one thing is certain – I will be adding a battery grip and XLR adapter and I am hoping that Olympus will have released its M.Zuiko Pro 17mm ultra-fast prime lens by then along with the 42mm and perhaps a 12mm or 14mm focal length.
Although I do love my Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro zoom lens for stills and video, I always feel safer supplementing it with a fast prime to account for available darkness situations and find a moderate wide-angle more versatile than a so-called normal focal length of 25mm in Micro Four Thirds.
I am hoping Olympus’ excellent pro-quality M.Zuiko Pro lens range will achieve a full complement of well-spaced fast primes and zooms by early to mid-2018.
Although I own and use several non-M.Zuiko Pro Olympus and Panasonic lenses and find their lack of manual clutch focus annoying, their focus-by-wire challenging but workable enough via back focus button, I am far more comfortable with lenses I can manually focus fast with repeatable and predictable results.
Stills made with the GH5
The Panasonic Lumix GH5 is a fine stills camera made more so with the absence of an anti-aliasing filter to combat moiré.
I am adding photographs here as I reprocess them in the latest versions of some raw processors and image editors.
Most have been done in DxO Optics Pro Elite as that is the very first raw processor I ever used and remains my reference for all camera types other than Fujifilm.
DxO products are built on a codebase that supports only Bayer sensors, not non-Bayer sensors such as Fujifilm’s X-Trans.
Video still frames shot with V-Log L, processed with Leeming LUT One for V-Log L 501 rc2
Leeming LUT One is being updated to version 501 to get even better results from GH5 V-Log L footage at the moment and will be released soon along with LUTs for Cinelike D and HLG HDR.
In the meantime, here is a gallery of GH5 V-Log L video still frames minimally graded with Leeming LUT One version 501 RC 2 with the occasional addition of a second LUT from Paul Leeming’s free Leeming LUT Quickies 1 version2 set.
I found that the combination of V-Log L plus Leeming LUT One with the GH5’s in-body stabilization is a powerful one, granting me the confidence in knowing I am able to shoot almost anything anywhere.
As a result using the GH5 was, quite simply, fun.
Of course neither IBIS nor V-Log are the answers to every shooting situation and there are times when I will want to carry a monopod, a tripod or one of the new generation of gimbals like the Zhiyun Crane 2.
Video still frames shot on GX8 with Cinelike D, processed with Leeming LUT One for Cinelike D 501 rc2
I was so taken with the GH5’s V-Log capability that I quite forgot to shoot enough Cinelike D footage, but here is some footage from my GX8 by way of comparison.
According to professional documentary cinematographers like Rick Young of Movie Machine, the GX8’s sensor is not dissimilar to the one in the GH5 and produces similar results to the point where they use both cameras on the same projects.
I don’t think I am going to have any problems editing footage from the GH5 and GX8 together in the same project when using the appropriate Leeming LUT One for each.
GH5 first impressions
The GH5 packs so much more processing power in than its GH4 predecessor and GX8 sibling, and that extra hardware has to go somewhere so a slightly bigger and heavier body it is.
The GH5’s hardware ergonomics has advanced beyond that of the GH4 and Panasonic has done so with great balance and a solid feel in the hand.
Some reviewers have complained about its size and weight but, as always, I prefer small cameras to be a little weightier for better balance and achieve that by adding battery grips, cages and other accessories as appropriate.
Naked or mounted in Seercam’s excellent Cube GH5 cage with Classic Handle and Extension Kit, the GH5 felt just right and neither too heavy nor too light.
Other users may differ but I prefer a little extra weight due to permanent injuries received on the job some years ago as it helps with my own sense of balance and ability to move.
There were, as always, annoyances with the GH5 but they were minor and have now been accounted for in Panasonic’s GH5 version 2.0 firmware release.
Foremost was the positioning of the Display button in precisely the worst location possible, with one solution being adding a Sugru collar around it and the other, courtesy of firmware version 2.0, switching the button off via a menu item.
The other annoyances were so minor that they have escaped me now, sorry.
With the GH5’s stablemates
While the GH4 and GX8 retain their places in my heart for advancing the small camera moviemaking promise that Canon’s EOS 5D Mark II waggled so prominently about, the GH5 gives me the best of those two Lumix stablemates along with other fine qualities from more recent Panasonic releases, the G7 and the GX80/85.
I have not had the pleasure of trying either of those two latter cameras, but there are clear similarities between the GX8’s sensor and the GH5’s, something I deduced when applying Leeming LUT One for the GH5 to footage from the GX8.
The GH5 and its siblings show that the self-funded independent moviemaking road ahead belongs to mirrorless hybrid cameras, with an array of professional-quality features DSLR-users can only dream of and that may never come to DSLRs of either traditional major brand.
Pro-quality video features
Foremost of these features is the GH5’s ability to shoot 4K UHD and 4K DCI video in 10-bit 4:2:2 with the V-Log L flat logarithmic photo style, the closest thing to raw that can be achieved in a non-raw video camera.
The first thing I did when the GH5 review loaner arrived was to install indie documentary moviemaker Griffin Hammond’s GH5 camera settings file, but after comparing his Natural-based custom photo style with others offered by the GH5, it was clear that V-Log L was what I really wanted.
I had passed on V-Log L for the GH4 after downloading and trial-grading 8-bit 4:2:0 log footage that early purchasers were sharing.
Macro colour blocking and other strange behaviours indicated Panasonic was reaching too far with too little colour depth and that 10-bit 4:2:2 was the way to go.
Then there was the unfortunate still-current issue of the way in which Panasonic sells the V-Log L licence.
Sending a slip of paper in a cardboard box packed with synthetic filler around the planet so one can complete the transaction online before throwing box, filler and little bit of paper away – sheesh.
Sorry but time to wake up and smell the coffee of global environmental responsibility, Panasonic.
Getting the best out of non-log footage prior to the GH5
Instead of Natural or any other Rec. 709 photo style, I chose a Leeming-customized Cinelike D photo style for my GH4 and GX8, and have been happy with the results even though they both only shoot in 8-bit 4:2:0.
Then and now, 4K 8-bit 4:2:0 flat footage shot at 400 ISO satisfies a fair percentage of my short movie shooting needs.
Paul Leeming’s Leeming LUT One for the GH4 brought the best tone and colour rendering I had achieved in small camera video by combining Mr Leeming’s custom Cinelike D settings with his Leeming LUT One for the GH4 applied to my footage in Final Cut Pro X, Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve or, even, Adobe Photoshop’s Motion workspace for short video projects.
I have achieved good results on the GX8 with the GH4 and now more recently using the GH5 version of his Cinelike D LUT to the point where I am happily combining Cinelike D and V-Log L footage from all three cameras into the same movie project.
Mr Leeming tells me he will be updating some of his LUTs after having completed work on several feature film projects to approach the results he has obtained with the V-Log L photo style version of his LUT for the GH5.
Work is in progress right now on that and he will be releasing recommended camera settings for all Panasonic cameras along with two Leeming LUT One versions that will work for all off them, for Cinelike D and V-Log L.
Versatility and 15 photo styles options
I set the GH5 loaner up with Mr Leeming’s Cinelike D and V-Log L photo style customizations, but shot most of my video on V-Log L and have been very happy with the results and the one to two stops extra dynamic range that it bestows.
The GH5’s 10-bit 4:2:2 V-Log L and ISO range from a base of 400 up to 1600 or 3200 depending on how prepared one is to apply de-noising in post-production gives me the confidence to take on pretty much any subject or common lighting situation.
Panasonic has gone to town with photo styles on the GH5.
As well as four custom settings slots, eleven readymade customizable styles are available when shooting video and one has a choice of nine when shooting stills.
The Panasonic Lumix GH5’s 15 Photo Styles:
- Cinelike D
- Cinelike V
- Like709 – video-only
- V-Log L – video-only
The new ability to shoot JPEGs in Cinelike D or Cinelike V is an interesting one. I bought my GX8 as a backup video camera as well as production stills camera, and the addition of both customizable options to the GH5’s stills photo styles list improves its usefulness as a production stills camera, alongside of its 6K and 4K Photo capabilities.
Shoot Cinelike D or Cinelike V JPEG stills for fast, easy integration into the video edit without raw processing or painstaking colour matching.
If the video has been shot in Cinelike D customized for Leeming LUT One, create a matching customized Cinelike D for your JPEGs, hand them over to the production company then archive your raw files for post-processing later.
Movie production stills photographers traditionally rely on DSLRs encased in blimps, an unwieldy and costly solution to the need for shooting silently when the cinema cameras are running.
However, the production stills photographers of my early acquaintance carried Leica M rangefinder cameras that they used in between takes, not while movie film was rolling.
Although I did not enter my colleagues’ esteemed ranks working on feature films, I took on the occasional small production stills assignment and relied on my Leicas, 120-format rangefinder cameras and 4”x5” sheet film cameras, all mirrorless and close to silent when shooting.
Now, I might choose from an array of mirrorless cameras each with the native ability to shoot silently via their electronic shutter options with my current personal preference being rangefinder and rangefinder-style cameras in Micro Four Thirds and APS-C sensor sizes.
Sensors, sizes and camera shapes
In the long lead up to the arrival of the GH5, some documentary moviemakers of my acquaintance added a GX8 to their tool kit and raved about how good its video is and speculated that the GH5’s sensor may have similar qualities.
Their guesses were close to the mark especially in both cameras’ megapixel ratings. 20MP has become the new mirrorless base standard, and picky clients have even fewer reasons to demand their photographers shoot only with so-called “full format” or “full frame” cameras.
Until I invest in a second Fujifilm X-Pro2 rangefinder camera or more likely the coming OVF-less X-E3 for second-camera duties on documentary stills projects, I carry my 20MP GX8 alongside my 24MP X-Pro2.
Despite its lack of an OVF, the GX8 handles in a similar way to the rangefinder camera especially in allowing me to shoot with both eyes wide open and brain displaying wider and narrower images side-by-side.
Better yet, the GX8’s unique tilting EVF allows me to shoot as if using a waist-level viewfinder camera like the sadly discontinued Rolleiflex Twin Lens Reflex cameras.
Full articulation and HDR bracketing
The GH5 and other DSLR-style cameras do not, or at least they do so with some difficulty.
I was not a dedicated SLR photographer during the analog era, preferring rangefinders and the sheet film cameras with which I learned photography in art school.
However, I find that DSLR-style cameras like the GH5 and GH4 are my best option for two forms of photography for which I once relied on sheet film and roll film technical cameras – architecture and product photography.
The key feature tipping me over into relying on both cameras for both types of subject of matter is their fully articulated monitor.
The one or two-way tilting monitors on Sony’s and Fujifilm’s cameras do not come close in utility value. If a monitor is to move at all, please, give me full and not partial articulation.
I often shoot HDR architectural exteriors in our famous Australian laser beam sunlight that makes squinting into an EVF a challenge.
A fully articulated monitor can be tilted and swung away from the camera body and shaded or shielded with a hood.
It allows me to hold the camera high or low without the old news photographer’s Hail Mary guess at what the camera is actually seeing.
Product photography in my cramped little kitchen-cum-studio is next to impossible without a fully articulated monitor allowing me to set up and make a shot while standing off at left or right of the camera and Panasonic has my eternal gratitude for this.
Much of my product photography is shot in HDR these days, a habit I took up when I discovered my GH4 allows up to 7 bracketed exposures.
I stayed away from High Dynamic Range photography for years when HDR appeared to be all about hyper-surrealism and the extreme exaggeration of colour and tones.
All that changed with Macphun’s Aurora HDR 2017 and now Aurora HDR 2018 used in combination with Macphun’s Luminar raw processor-cum-image editor, allowing me to produce architectural and product shots that look and feel more realistic than single-shot photography permits.
Recently I have found myself shooting 5 to 7 brackets at 2/3 to 1 stop apart, combining them in Aurora then exporting them to Luminar for export to JPEG after the most minimal of tweaks.
On lenses and the Leica kit lens
The loaner GH5 came with the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4.0 Aspheric Power OIS zoom lens, one of two kit zoom options with the other being the Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/.8 II Aspheric Power OIS zoom lens.
The Leica zoom lens’ optical qualities are a pleasant reminder of my beloved Leica M-System prime lenses and its 12mm to 60mm is a more versatile improvement on its Lumix sister’s shorter 12mm to 35mm focal range.
The rationale for kit zooms is that they should provide enough focal lengths to cover most stills or video situations that one might encounter.
The Leica zoom is a promising solution for photography given the GH5’s ability to leverage the lens’ Optical Image Stabilization with the camera’s In-Body Image Stabilization via its Dual IS capability.
Its low effective maximum aperture of f/4.0 at the long end is more of a problem for documentary video where shooting in unpredictable lighting is common despite the increasing availability of small, portable LED lights.
While carrying the GH5 plus Leica zoom throughout the day within a range of lighting conditions, I often found myself yearning for a faster maximum aperture or a longer maximum focal length as well as a more usable manual focussing system than focus-by-wire.
I would love to see Panasonic’s optical engineers take a leaf out of the Olympus lens design book.
The manual clutch focus feature in Olympus’ ever-growing M.Zuiko Pro prime and zoom lens range tipped the balance for me in buying two Olympus zoom lenses and I have more on my wishlist.
Ditto the Olympus M.Zuiko Pro f/2.8 zoom lens maximum aperture and f/1.2 prime lens maximum aperture.
Many times even f/2.8 can be a stop or two too little and having one or two f/1.2 prime lenses in one’s video camera kit proves to be a wise investment.
Enough for now?
I had intended this article to be much more in-depth when commencing writing, but being at the end of the review loaner queue tends to steal one’s thunder after so many brand ambassadors and early adopters have already published such excellent videos and articles.
What, I often wonder, would I have to add that is new and interesting to an already mature conversation?
I have removed the video still frames and photographs used to illustrate the first version of this article as software and LUT makers have now added or improved GH5 support to their products or that support will be be coming real soon now.
Header image concept and hack by Carmel D. Morris. Product shots made as single shots or HDR brackets on Panasonic Lumix GX8 or GH4 with Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 Aspheric lens then processed with Macphun Aurora HDR 2018.
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- Atomos Ninja Inferno 7″ 4K HDMI Recording Monitor and accessories – B&H
- Beachtek SC25 3.5mm to 2.5mm Stereo Output Cable – B&H
- Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera (Body Only) – B&H
- Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera with 8-18mm Lens Kit – B&H
- Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera with 12-35mm Lens Kit – B&H
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- Panasonic DMW-XLR1 XLR Microphone Adapter – B&H
- Panasonic DMW-BGGH5 Battery Grip – B&H
- Panasonic V-Log L Function Activation Code for DMC-GH4, DC-GH5, and DMC-FZ2500 – B&H
- Seercam GH5 Cage – B&H
- Seercam Cage for GH5 with Classic Handle – B&H
- Seercam Extension Kit for CUBE GH5 Cage – B&H
- Seercam GH5 CAGE w/HANDLE PLUS & ROD RISER – B&H
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