A photographer’s thoughts on the Panasonic Lumix GH5

First up, like most people, I’ve yet to get my hands on the new Panasonic Lumix GH5, but Ialready know it’s a camera which justifies the term, awesome.

How come? Well, a good hour or two of my evening yesterday was spent reading, watchingFacebook Live and YouTube as various websites and Vlogger, and of course Panasonic themselves, launched the camera.

I’m not going to list all the specs, just watch Panasonic’s intro video..

A number of serious photographers are now ditching the DSLRs for mirrorless kit as the features, robustness, and particularly autofocus on the latest models improve with every new camera.

I shoot almost all my work using a full frame Nikon D610, a good mid-range all round camera. I still need the toughness and particularly autofocus for sport which the Nikon gives, but I’ve enjoyed using several Lumix G cameras since the G1 came out in early 2009.

These Lumix have been my ‘day off’ cameras and now more part of my work kit, as their small size and weight, quietness, and image quality have sometimes made them the best cameras for the job. And increasingly I’m asked to shoot some video, so my GH3 and tiny GM1 come everywhere with me.

This was taken with my GH3 and Olympus 45mm f1.8 lens, the files so identical to my Nikon plus 85mm lens photos, I had to look at EXIF to tell them apart.

The portrait above shows that the smaller sensor of micro four thirds wants for nothing against full frame in real world use. Yes, photographers chasing very shallow depth of field booked, and/or wanting to print very large prints/repro’ will look to a larger sensor, but this has always been the case, and in the old days we called it, ‘use a Hasselblad’.

A lot of the talk surrounding the GH5 launch has been about the video specifications, which are pretty incredible, but my thoughts on learning about the new Lumix were what an incredible tool it is for photographers.

Here’s another of Panasonic’s very nicely done GH5 launch videos featuring award-winning photojournalist Daniel Berehulak, who also likes the camera.

For image quality, the GH5 is easily where 35mm, even 6x4.5 film formats were at, so the case for most photographers, including many pro’s, is why the need for larger, heavier, more costly camera gear?

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I’m glad I was carrying my lightweight Lumix GH3 kit climbing up the Brecon Beacons when I took this landscape, not my heavier Nikon bag.

But missing from even the best, top of the range, Lumix (and other mirrorless cameras) havebeen the combination of pro’ build and crucially, good tracking autofocus.

Single-shot AF has been lightning quick on Lumix cameras for years, easily as fast as myNikon. By all accounts, the GH5 now has continuous tracking autofocus to match a DSLR, and that is a game changer for the DSLR market and photographers.

To have such a fully featured camera, capable of such high-quality stills and video, yet so small and light compared to a pro’ DSLR, is a remarkable new development in photography.

So while the video aspects of the GH5 have caught the attention at the launch, it seems to me the holistic view of the camera is its true measure. Photographers now have a tool which can make broadcast quality video, and videographers have a great stills camera, without the size weight and cost penalties of ‘traditional’ kit.

GH5 photographers now have 6k Photo, which shoots 30 frames per second, making 18-megapixel files, which is remarkable. I don’t know what Henri Cartier-Bresson would have thought about this technology and the decisive moment, but it’s an amazing feature to explore and utilise on many action photo shoots.

The silent shutter mode makes the Lumix quieter than Cartier-Bresson’s famed Leica, while the Panasonic lenses actually are Leica quality.

The flip out and touch screen is incredibly useful on certain jobs where the best picture is at an unusual angle. Focussing anywhere in the frame, by touch, is so much easier than theNikon’s stuttering control ring. In fact the whole Lumix live view experience leaves the Nikon feeling very primitive by comparison.

Street photography in New York, using my GH3 with a silent shutter.

I could go on, I now think the GH5 begs the question, why use a DSLR, which now feels like an old technology. Of course, it still has its place as the right camera for some work, but to me, they feel awkward and limiting to use, and of course, heavy for a day’s work.

Lumix GH5, photo by Panasonic UK

Quite simply, the specification of the Lumix GH5 beats any DSLR I can think of. For a photographer, it surely must be the most complete camera out there, ticking the box for everything most photographers need, most of the time.

To me, the move to mirrorless now seems so logical for so many photographers.

Written by Andrew Higgins