Today’s headlines are full of stories of Canon and Nikon losing ground to Sony as the market shifts to mirrorless cameras. Much of the focus has been on full-frame contenders for replacing the old brands, but Panasonic’s popular MFT option – the GH5 – deserves even more attention. This camera offers videographers incredibly stabilized 10-bit 4:2:2 video recording internally and 4K / 60p, in a rugged body the size of a Canon Rebel with the ergonomics and button options of high-end professional DSLRs. Along with it’s sensor abilities, the GH5 has modern features like ability to change focus in post and an articulating touch-screen LCD that adds great shooting flexibility. I’ve started using the GH5 to shoot weddings and events, and have found it to be an excellent balance of ergonomics, image quality, and size. Switching from Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras that only offered 8-bit recording although with greater depth of field, I realized that Panasonic’s alternative offered the most filmmaking options and gave me the tools to react to anything to create a good visual in a live situation.
Picking up the GH5, this camera’s body immediately feels sturdier and more ergonomic than what I’ve been used to holding. This includes traditional DSLRs and Sony mirrorless cameras, which are either flimsy or bulky. This Panasonic finds the sweet spot for comfortable and solid handheld shooting, and along with its internal stabilizer, this camera is a gimbal and fluid head tripod all in one. The several custom function buttons let you solve any common problem and prevent time-wasting situations from happening again. There are enough to program everything you need into this camera, at the touch of a finger. The comfortably sized body provides room for other useful features along with these custom buttons, such as dual SD card slots to offer clients the most peace of mind possible. The GH5 body also has room for a full-sized HDMI connection, solving the common issue of breaking micro HDMI cable connections for mirrorless video users. Connecting and disconnecting an external monitor won’t be a problem anymore and you won’t have to buy five spare cables just to be on the safe side.
Holding and shooting with the GH5 is a dream. The stabilizer offers two modes of stabilization, one traditional mode that works together with placement on a gimbal and another that works even harder to make handheld shooting feel like operating a fluid-head tripod. This second mode uses processing to isolate the operator’s intentional movement along the X and Y axes, and allow movement along these axes alone to carry out precise pans and tilts without perceptible changes in the other axes. Moving on to the look to the GH5’s video, the 10-bit 4:2:2 recording that is possible provides stunning colour and ability to colour grade your footage. This is far superior to the abilities of the 8-bit Sony full frame mirrorless cameras, that depend on accurate lighting to provide a natural looking image and can render ugly skin tones in less-than-ideal circumstances. The 4K/60p mode allows for unprecedented resolution and frame rate possibilities in a camera this size, and although this setting cannot be used in combination with 10-bit 4:2:2 recording internally, it is useful for shooting projects that require high frame rate and resolution over filmic control over colour. Although the depth of field of the GH5’s MFT sensor initially looks very different from the image from a full-frame video camera, it is possible to work around this, as fast MFT lenses are available and cheaper than comparable full-frame lenses. A speed booster adapter can also be used to compensate for this.
The MFT Panasonic GH5 replaced my full-frame Sony as my go-to camera for video. It loses a few stops of depth of field but gains better colour, double card slots, an articulating screen (Sony is in the stone age), and as many function buttons as a full-size video camera. People have been obsessing over depth of field, with fast lenses on the market making numerical technical specifications their main selling point. My observation shooting with this camera has been that you gain enough from the MFT sensor over full-frame that depth of field becomes a technical feat that fades to the background of importance. Shooting on a GH5 gives you the ability to fine-tune richly captured colour, the ability to adapt to any situation with an ergonomic camera body and custom buttons, and the ability to shoot low or high angles and shoot with complete freedom handheld with its articulating LCD and internal stabilization. It’s a fully-rigged video camera and stills camera, gimbal, and fluid head, that can look filmic, for under $2000.