Panasonic’s GH5 was such an iconic vlogging camera Panasonic unveiled of them Micro Four Thirds successors to replace it. The $ 2,500 GH6, due to arrive later this year, has major upgrades like 4K 120p video and even 5.7K. The other is the model I’m reviewing today, the $ 1,700 GH5 II.
As the name suggests, the GH5 II is more of a refresh, with the same 20-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor. However, it has a brand new processor that dramatically improves speed, video quality, and artificial intelligence. Better yet, it’s $ 300 less than the GH5 at launch.
- 4K 10-bit 60p video
- Improved stabilization
- Video streaming
- Excellent video quality
- Poor autofocus
- No external RAW video
The big question is whether it’s worth buying this model, waiting for the GH6, or even buying an older GH5 which is now heavily discounted. To find out, I tested the new features of the GH5 II, video quality, autofocus and more – here’s what I found out.
Bodywork and handling
If you are already familiar with the GH5, you will be very comfortable with the GH5 II – the bodies are almost identical. That’s a good thing, as it still outperforms many newer cameras, thanks to the great grip and logical control positions.
There are, however, a few key changes. While the rear screen is a bit smaller at 3 inches instead of 3.2 inches, it has a slightly higher resolution and is noticeably brighter. This fixes one of the GH5’s biggest problems: its relatively dark screen.
The electronic viewfinder (EVF) has the same resolution of 3.68 million dots and the same magnification of 0.76x, but has double the refresh rate at 120Hz. This makes a noticeable difference in image quality. ; more than a resolution bump in my opinion. However, it also drains the battery a bit faster.
Another great improvement is the addition of USB-C PD compatibility which allows the battery to charge faster. And it comes with a more powerful DMW-BLK22 battery, the same one found in the company’s S5 full frame camera. While it’s still rated CIPA for 410 shots like the GH5, it does offer a few extra minutes of video recording.
The GH5 II has better menus than the GH5, winning over those introduced on the GH5s. This is a color-coded tabbed menu system with tips for finding the option you’re looking for. It also has the Panasonic Varicam pro model information panel (also available on the GH5), which shows important parameters at a glance. Another feature for professional shooters is the dual zebra control which lets you check two levels at once, like highlights and skin tones.
As with the GH5, the new model has two UHS II card slots, but they now support V90 maximum speeds (300MB / s). This will ensure a stable capture if you are using the new All-I 4K video settings up to 400Mbps, or let the buffer clear faster if you are taking photos.
There are several subtle but important changes in the video capabilities of the GH5. A key component is an update to the image stabilization system. It now offers up to 6.5 EV of shock protection, up 1.5 EV from the GH5. When working with compatible lenses and using IS boost mode, it is designed to provide more stable shots even if you are walking or moving.
No stabilization system built into the camera will ever beat a gimbal. However, the GH5 II does a better job than most mirrorless cameras I’ve tried in smoothing out walking or running, provided you’re reasonably careful. More importantly, it makes portable camera pans and other movements smoother than the GH5. If you need some extra stabilization, there’s an electronic mode that helps, although it tapers off slightly.
Another key change concerns the autofocus system. In general, continuous autofocus for video is faster and smoother than before, although you’ll still see a tiny bit of chasing or wobbling that is inevitable with a contrast-only AF system. As before, the system performs best at higher frame rates when it has more information to work with.
The GH5 II also brings intelligent AI autofocus features that could not be added via firmware to the GH5 due to its relatively old processor. It offers double the face and eye tracking speeds and can focus when a face is tilted away from the camera. It can recognize human heads and bodies, making tracking more possible if a person turns or walks away from the camera. It adds new animal tracking features that can also handle most pets and some types of wild animals.
With these features turned on, it’s easier to keep someone in focus if they or you are on the move. Again, this works best at higher frame rates, but overall the improved focus success rates make the camera more convenient for vlogging or run-and-gun work, especially for solo operators. Animal tracking is also very useful, especially if pets and / or children are running around.
Is the subject tracking of the GH5 as good as on Canon or especially Sony’s latest mirrorless cameras? No, because both of these brands use phase detection systems that can focus directly without any oscillation. Sony’s latest models, especially the A1 and A7S III, also have blazingly fast tracking capabilities that Panasonic has yet to match. Still, the new model is a big step up from the GH5 and certainly good enough for many types of projects.
Video made the GH5 popular because it was way ahead of the competition for price when it arrived. Five years later, it’s getting pretty old, so a new processor has helped Panasonic improve the specifications of the GH5 II to what it does on full-frame models like the S5.
To that end, the new model now offers 10-bit 4: 2: 0 4K and C4K (4096 x 2160) video up to 60 fps, rather than just 8-bit video at 60p as before. This makes it best for slow motion or high frame rate videos if you want to use log or HDR video settings. Like the GH5, it can also handle 6K 30p (4,992 x 3,774) anamorphosis with 10-bit, 4: 2: 0 color settings. And where All-I capture was limited to 24/25 fps on the GH5, the GH II can now do so at up to 30 fps.
While the GH5 II comes with the VLog-L shot out of the box, it’s limited to 12 stops of dynamic range instead of 13 like Panasonic’s BGH1 camera and other recent models. Panasonic has also introduced two new video modes, Cinelike D2 and Cinelike V2, which allow you to shoot newspaper-like videos with less hassle. These offer slightly more saturated colors and improved skin tones than the original Cinelike D and V modes.
Like other newer models, the GH5 II displays a red frame around the screen while recording, along with aspect ratio guides and TikTok-style portrait video mode. With the same sensor, the GH5 II has roughly the same read speeds, so as before, the roller shutter is present but well controlled.
The GH5 II can now capture video simultaneously to an external recorder via the HDMI port, unlike the GH5. However, it cannot capture RAW video like the S5, for example. Hopefully this and the limited VLog-L dynamic range will be addressed in future firmware updates.
With all these settings, the GH5 II delivers crisp video with high levels of color accuracy for demanding work. It handles skin tones well and the colors are natural and precise. Shooting in low light is not its strong point, however, due to the smaller size of the sensor. You’d better use the GH5s or one of Panasonic’s new full-frame models for that.
The new video quality changes are subtle, but could be useful for certain types of work. Overall, it delivers the video quality that everyone loved from the GH5, and a bit more.
A key new feature for the GH5 II is the ability to stream live over the web, using WiFi or USB-C. The latter, however, will require a firmware update which essentially allows the GH5 II’s USB-C port to be used as a wired LAN connection.
You can either stream to a smartphone over WiFi using the Lumix Sync app, or stream directly over WiFi without the need for a PC or phone. The latter requires you to use Lumix Network software for PC or Mac to write your streaming settings to an SD card. As it uses RTMP / RTMPS standard, it supports YouTube, Facebook and other services. Best of all, it supports camera audio as well as video.
Live streaming requires a robust connection, however, as I struggled to maintain a live stream in the countryside with a 16Mbps connection. You won’t want to use the maximum 1080p 60fps settings unless you have an internet speed well above 16Mbps.