The Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 Mark II is an updated version of the company’s most video-focused Micro Four Thirds camera; the GH5. It offers increased capabilities over the original model and will eventually sell alongside a higher-end GH6 model, whose development was announced at the same time.
The GH5 II gains an updated ‘Venus’ processing engine from the full-frame S1H, allowing it to capture 10-bit 4K footage at 50 or 60 frames per second and promises improved autofocus. It retains the same sensor as before but now with an anti-reflective coating to better control flare.
- UHD or DCI 4K 10-bit 4:2:0 capture at up to 60p with no crop
- UHD or DCI 4K 10-bit 4:2:2 capture at up to 30p with no crop
- Image stabilization rated at up to 6.5 stops
- V-Log L included as standard
- 3.0″ 1.84M-dot rear touchscreen
- 3.68M-dot EVF, with 0.76x magnification and up to 120Hz refresh
- Live streaming options via Wi-Fi or smartphone (Full HD)
- Anamorphic capture and support tools
- Improved AF with face/eye/body detection
- USB-C socket with PD-compatible power and charging
As in previous instances, Panasonic is using the ‘Mark II’ nomenclature to indicate that this is a refreshed version of the GH5, not a completely new camera in the same range. The company believes that not everyone will need the added capabilities of the more expensive GH6, and that an updated GH5 will continue to make sense for some users.
The GH5 II has MSRP of $1699: $300 lower than the original GH5, and comparable with the discounted price the older model was selling for.
The use of a more powerful processor allows the GH5 II to offer the same face/eye/body and animal recognition AF capabilities as Panasonic’s latest cameras. But, in addition to more sophisticated recognition algorithms, the camera can also read-out its sensor faster, meaning it can run its AF system at 48 frames per second when shooting 24p footage. This means the AF system gets more frequent updates from the scene, something that its Depth-from-Defocus system benefits from significantly.
Enhanced video capabilities
The new processor also extends the video modes the GH5 II can offer, opening up the option to shoot 10-bit 4:2:0 4K 50/60p footage (the original GH5 could only capture 60p footage in 8-bit precision), making it much more usable for Log shooting. The higher frame-rate 10-bit footage is recorded using the H.265 codec.
In addition to 10-bit capture of faster frame-rates, the GH5 II also gains All-I capture for 29.97p and 23.98p, previously only possible for 24.00p. ‘4K’ Anamorphic footage, shot using the full sensor region is now available at up to 50p.
In addition to the expanded video spec, the GH5 II also gains the video tools Panasonic has developed for its more recent models, including a red frame around the screen while recording, a wider choice of aspect ratio guides and the ability to shoot portrait orientation video.
|The Luminance Spot Meter is the smaller square on the display and lets you assess the exposure of the element underneath it.|
The GH5 II also gets the S1H’s Luminance Spot Meter, which gives you an exposure rating in % IRE for a small, selectable region in the scene, or a rating relative to middle grey (42 IRE) in stops, if you’re in V-Log L mode.
The GH5 II includes more advanced live streaming options, allowing live broadcast over the web, either across Wi-Fi or – following a future firmware update – using a USB connection to a smartphone or wired LAN connection.
The camera can stream via Wi-Fi through a smartphone using the Lumix Sync app. Alternatively, you can use the Lumix Network Settings software for Mac or Windows to write the streaming settings to an SD card, which then allows the camera to connect and stream directly over a Wi-Fi network without going through a PC or smartphone, up to 1080/60p.
Doing so uses the RTMP/RTMPS standard, so the camera can stream directly to YouTube, Facebook or any other service that supports this protocol. It also means that continued support isn’t reliant on Panasonic’s own software. Unlike many camera-as-webcam applications, this approach also includes camera audio.
A pre-announced firmware update will add support for wired connections to facilitate more stable, higher quality connections, including the ability to tether directly to a smartphone over USB (Android only, at first). The camera will also be able to connect directly to a PC over a wired LAN using RTP/RTSP protocols. Panasonic says this update should arrive by the end of 2021.
The GH5 II’s in-body stabilization system is rated as delivering up to 6.5EV of compensation, when measured using the CIPA standard test. This is 1.5EV more than the original GH5. Panasonic says this figure is maintained for longer focal length lenses with Dual IS 2 that synchronizes with the in-body system.
New color modes
Panasonic has added two new color modes to the GH5 II: L.ClassicNeo, a ‘nostalgic’ profile with subtle saturation and contrast, and L.Monochrome S, a subtle monochrome mode that Panasonic says should suit portraiture.
The GH5 II also gains Cinelike D2 and Cinelike V2, the updated low-contrast and ready-for-use cine-style color modes (the GH5 has the original versions of both). What’s noticeable, though, is that these don’t result in an increase in base ISO, as they do on the full-frame ‘S’ series Panasonics, which suggests they aren’t the versions designed to accommodate extra dynamic range.
This would make sense, since the smaller sensor in the GH5 II wouldn’t peform well if the exposure were reduced in such a manner. We compare the GH5 II’s Cinelike D2 curve to that of the original GH5 later in the review and found it’s not a match for the profile of the same name in the S1H.
Interestingly, the GH5 II does not get the expanded, 13-stop version of V-Log L we saw in BGH1 box camera module.
The whole design (and some of the potential drawbacks) of the V-Log system is based on the use of different portions of the same Log curve, depending on how much usable dynamic range the camera can record. This means you can use the same LUTs across multiple cameras, the main thing that changes is the point at which the highlights clip.
However, despite this by-design cross-compatibility, and the increased DR (ie: lower noise) that the new processing enables in the GH5 II, it has been given the 12-stop version of V-Log L, to ensure the GH5 and GH5 II behave consistently if shot side-by-side.
No Raw video output
Another interesting omission is the decision not to include Raw output from the GH5 II. Panasonic says that stripping out all the processing that usually goes into the cameras footage means that you’d have to do a fair amount of work to the Raw footage, just to bring it up to the same standard, and that there’d be little to gain even if you did.
There’s plenty of reason to believe this is true: even the 12-stop version of V-Log L will encode most of the sensor’s DR (10-bit Log encoding is much more efficient than 12-bit linear, so is unlikely to result in any significant loss of tonal precision), so is it really worth the additional work, if you mainly just gain the ability to make greater corrections to white balance?
How it compares
The updates in the GH5 II push it back into the position of being probably the best-specced crop sensor stills/video hybrid on the market. While its headline specs don’t look radically different to the Fujifilm X-T4 (which also has stabilization and a fully articulated screen), the distinctions start to reveal themselves when you look at the details of what support tools are provided and how long each camera can be expected to shoot for.
|Panasonic DC-GH5 II||Panasonic DC-GH5||Panasonic DC-GH5S||Fujifilm X-T4|
|MSRP at launch||$1699||$1999||$2499||$1699|
|Sensor size||Four Thirds||Four Thirds||Four Thirds
Up to 120Hz
Up to 100Hz
|Rear screen||3.0″ 1.84M-dot
|Image stabilization||Up to 6.5EV
|Up to 5.0EV||None||Up to 6.5EV|
|Highest res 10-bit video||DCI/UHD 4K 60p, 4:2:0
(60p 4:2:2 over HDMI)
(60p 4:2:2 over HDMI)
(60p 4:2:2 over HDMI)
|DCI/UHD 4K 60p 4:2:0|
|Approx rec limits||—||—||—||20 min (4K/60)
30 min (4K/30)
|Log support||V-Log L (12-stop)||V-Log L (12-stop)
|V-Log L (12-stop)||F-Log|
|Anamorphic support||‘4K’ up to 50p
‘6K’ up to 30p
|‘6K’ up to 30p||‘4K’ up to 30p||No|
|Video tools||Zebras (x2)
Lum spot meter
B/cast safe rec
Corrected Log display (w/ LUT upload)
B/cast safe rec
Corrected Log display (w/ LUT upload)
B/cast safe rec
Corrected Log display (w/ LUT upload)
Corrected Log display
|HDMI port||Full size||Full size||Full size||Micro|
|410/410||400/410||410/440||– / 500|
|Dimensions||139 x 98 x 87mm||139 x 98 x 87mm||139 x 98 x 87mm||135 x 93 x 64mm|
The camera we can’t yet compare the GH5 II to is the forthcoming GH6. Panasonic has made clear that the range-topping model will shoot 4K at up to 120p and 10-bit 4:2:2 footage at up to 60p, with a 5.7K/60p capture option, but we don’t have any further detail, beyond the fact it will cost around $2500 at launch. This means the GH5 II is being repositioned as a more affordable option in the lineup.
Body and controls
The GH5 II’s body is essentially unchanged from that of the GH5S, which itself is very similar to previous GH models. There’s a large red [REC] button on the top of the camera, along with dedicated (but customizable) buttons for WB, ISO, Exposure Comp and now Photo Style. There’s an AF joystick on the back of the camera and an AF drive mode switch surrounds a well-placed AF-On button.
As usual, the body feels solid and is designed to be dust and moisture resistant. Like the GH5S, the twin card slots on the camera’s side can now make full use of V90 UHS-II SD cards.
The GH5 II has a slightly smaller rear screen than its predecessor: it’s a 3.0″ panel rather than 3.2″. It’s still a 3:2 aspect ratio and has slightly increased resolution. The most significant difference, though, is that it can be made brighter than the older screen, which makes it easier to operate the camera outdoors.
There’s a slight overlap between the screen’s articulation and the headphone socket, so it’s worth positioning the screen before plugging-in, especially if the connector in your chosen cans is of the larger type.
There’s a similarly subtle change to the viewfinder. It’s still a 3.68M dot OLED display and is mounted behind the same optics, so still offers 0.76X magnification. However, the increased speed of the camera allows it to be refreshed at up to 120Hz, for a smoother, more responsive view.
Menus and displays
|The GH5 II gains the ARRI/Varicam style info display, as well as updated menus|
The GH5 II gets the updated menu system introduced on the GH5S. It’s a well-arranged series of tabs with icons to hint and remind you where to find the option you’re looking for. It also includes the ability to create a filtered list of video modes, to make it quick to access the ones you plan to use and to reduce the risk of selecting one you hadn’t.
The GH5 II also gains the ARRI-style information panel display, first introduced in the GH5S. These changes to the interface and menus make it much easier to use a GH5 II in conjunction with a GH5S or S1H.
The GH5 II uses a new, more powerful battery: the DMW-BLK22. This is now rated at 2200mAh, giving 16Wh of capacity. Despite the increased capacity, Panasonic quotes essentially the same 410 shot-per-charge battery life figures (per CIPA) as the original GH5.
The camera comes with an external drop-in charger that accepts both the new BLK22 and the older BLF19 packs from the GH5 and those batteries will still work in the Mark II, just not for as long. Alternatively, the GH5 II can be charged or powered over its USB-C socket, if the power source is USB PD compatible.
This section is based on our initial usage of the camera around its launch, and hence predates the rest of our testing and conclusions.
|The GH5 II (left) is a refresh, rather than a radical reworking, of the GH5 (right)|
How you react to the GH5 II probably depends on what you think ‘Mark II’ should denote. If you’re expecting a Canon-esque complete reworking of the camera, it might seem a little undercooked. But if you see it as a genuine mid-life refresh, with a few spec enhancements and enough processing power to leave room for further firmware updates, then it looks pretty competent.
Pricing it $300 below the original list price of the GH5 lends weight to the second interpretation. Yes, the street price of the first-gen GH5 has dropped since launch, but the decision to introduce a new version down at that price means it’ll sell for less than the original GH5 for most of its time on the market. Panasonic’s suggestion that the GH6 will launch at around $2500 suggests the GH5 II is destined to be the ‘affordable’ GH in a multiple camera range.
|The GH5 II doesn’t represent some ambitious moon shot for Panasonic, but it’s more than a small step forward.
ISO 200 | 1/800sec | F4.0 | Panasonic Leica 50-200mm F2.8-4.0 @ 200mm
Photo by Richard Butler
And this makes sense: the GH5 was the only mainstream stills/video camera hybrid to offer 4K/60p when it was launched, whereas now it’s a feature available on Fujifilm’s X-T4, Canon’s EOS R6 and various high-end Sonys. As such, the GH5 II isn’t nearly as far ahead of the market as the original version was. In fact even the addition of 10-bit 4K/60p isn’t enough to make it unique.
However, what is still unusual is the level of support tools and features that are included. Few of the other cameras that can match the GH5 II’s video modes are as video-focused in their execution as the Panasonic. Dual Zebras and Luminance Spot Meter make it easier to set exposure correctly. The option to set exposure time in shutter angle is still a valuable rarity in mass-market cameras.
|The ability to create a custom list of the modes you intend to use on a project, and control exposure in shutter angle (which you don’t need to adjust when switching from 24 to 60p capture), makes the GH5 II much quicker and easier to shoot.|
The GH5 II is one of the least expensive cameras to offer the option of an XLR audio input module or control over whether the camera restricts its recording to ‘broadcast safe’ values or offer two levels of input gain for external microphones: its video prowess runs deeper than a simple consideration of frame rate and bit-depth.
In some respects its closest rival is its full-frame cousin, the Lumix DC-S5. It doesn’t offer the GH5 II’s full range of video tools, nor its full-width oversampled 60p capture, but it still includes a lot of similar know-how for a fairly similar amount of money, with the low-light and shallow depth-of-field capabilities it’s hard for the GH5 II to match.
|There aren’t many other sub-$2000 cameras that will shoot high-quality 10-bit 4K with the option of XLR audio inputs.|
Then, of course, there’s the autofocus. Chris and Jordan’s tests show it does well in 60p mode, but that 24p still lags behind the best of the competition, which limits the types of shooting the GH5 II can adapt to.
But, while the GH5 II doesn’t push the market forward in the way its predecessor did, it still looks to offer a compact, high-quality, stabilized video platform at a competitive price.[You can see whether this initial impression was changed by our subsequent experiences and testing, in the rest of the review]
The video quality, in terms of sampling, at least, is a match for that of the GH5. The focus of this test shot isn’t quite as precise, but the levels of detail and the aliasing patterns are extremely similar. Like the original GH5, the Mark II is capturing data using its horizontal pixels and then downsampling this 5.2K data down to 3840 or 4096, depending on whether you’re shooting UHD or DCI 4K. In the process it appears to be applying a low-pass filter, which removes the high-frequency patterns it cannot accurately represent.
As a result, the footage doesn’t always look quite as sharp as its peers, but should be less susceptible to aliasing, which would be difficult to remove, where it occurs. As before, this is a very sensible, high quality result. Noticeably, the quality of the 60p footage is very similar to that of the 24p capture (with a touch more noise as a result of the faster shutter speed that’s needed, meaning less light was captured, per frame).
DR and Cinelike differences
One of the differences between the original GH5 and the version II is the move from offering the semi-flat ‘Cinelike D’ color profile to ‘Cinelike D2.’ In the company’s S1H, engaging Cinelike D2 resulted in a 1EV increase in minimum ISO, and more than a 1EV increase in highlight capture, as a result. The D2 profile was also much more linear than before.
There’s no corresponding change in exposure intent on the GH5 II; no shift in minimum ISO, so there’s no way it’s going to incorporate an extra stop or so of highlights.
|GH5 Cinelike D
F2.8 ISO 200
|GH5 II Cinelike D2
F2.8 ISO 200
Shooting the old profile and the new next to one another, we see Panasonic has managed to find room for an extra 1/3 EV of highlights, now giving 4.0EV above middle grey, rather than 3.7EV. That’s not a match for the 5.0EV we saw in the S1H, but like that camera, we see the D2 profile is rather more linear, with less of a roll-off in the highlights and slightly brighter shadows, which should help give a little more gradability when working with the files.
We shot a fast-strobing target, flickering at a known rate and then measured how many bright/dark cycles of that strobing were captured in each frame. Interestingly, shot in 10-bit mode, both 24p and UHD 60p video gave the same rolling shutter numbers.
|UHD Rolling Shutter||DCI Rolling Shutter|
Why do I say interestingly? Because the 10-bit 60p footage is recorded with 4:2:0 levels of color resolution while the 24p footage retains 4:2:2 res. The matched rolling shutter rates suggest the sensor is operating in the same readout mode (which should mean consistent levels of detail and dynamic range), it’s just that the camera is having to downsample the color detail in 60p mode, suggesting there’s a processor or pipeline limit to how much data it can handle and write to its cards.
In fact, all four modes measure as if they’re using the same readout mode: all four are made from the sensor’s full width, which means the ‘wider’ DCI footage is taken from a less tall chunk of the sensor. Hence, when read out at the same speed, it takes less time for the camera to read the shorter strip of sensor.
These sub 15ms rolling shutter rates are very good and should mean the camera only exhibits rolling shutter/jello effects in response to very fast movement. The consistency of detail, DR and rolling shutter rate means you can switch from 24 or 30p capture to 60p without any concern about intercutting the two types of footage.
The GH5 II promises enhanced in-body stabilization, and this can be supported with the addition of electronic IS (which imposes a slight crop). It can also work in conjunction with lens IS to boost the amount of shake correction available. There’s also a ‘Boost IS’ option for when you’re trying to pretend to be a tripod: this prompts the camera to apply its maximum correction without it constantly checking whether the movement its experiencing is intentional or not.
The results are impressive, with Dual IS (lens + body) and Boost mode combining to give near tripod levels of steadiness if you make an effort to stay still. With boost mode turned off, in-body plus EIS smooths out shake very well but also does a great job of interpreting intentional movement: there’s no obvious grab-and-release of the camera trying to initially correct for the pan in our test footage.
Click here to watch the video autofocus section of the DPRTV review of the GH5 II, describing and showing the AF performance in video.
The GH5 II gets the latest version of Panasonic’s depth-from-defocus algorithms, and its sensor should read quickly enough to let it refresh its understanding of the scene more often while shooting video. The results are a definite improvement over the older camera but, particularly when shooting at 24p (which gives the camera less frequent updates), the performance isn’t 100% dependable.
The other most significant addition to the GH5 II, beyond the ability to capture 4K/60p in 10-bit is its ability to live-stream its output. Lots of manufacturers have added the ability to use their cameras as webcams during the Covid19 pandemic, but Panasonic has gone a step further.
You can save the details of your Wi-Fi network to an SD card using the ‘LUMIX Network Setting Software’ app for Mac or PC, and have the camera directly connect. Alternatively, you can pair the camera with a smartphone using the LUMIX Sync app and stream using its LTE or 5G connection. Finally, Panasonic says it will add the ability to tether the camera to a smartphone using a USB cable, and again piggyback its network data. There are also various USB-to-computer options, but these don’t include sound.
The direct streaming options use the RTMP/RTMPS protocols, which should mean they work without the need for proprietary software, so you need not worry about longevity of support. In principle the camera can deliver up to 1080/60 streams.
|Resolution||Frame rate||Compression||Bitrate options|
(1920 x 1080)
(1280 x 720)
However, in our experience, we found that the system wasn’t always dependable. With a strong Wi-Fi or boosted cellular signal (such as those within office buildings), connections using a smartphone were strong and streaming generally worked well. However, out in the field using a full-strength 4G LTE connection with few trees or buildings obstructing us, we struggled to get a consistent livestream for 3 to 4 minutes without dropouts, even at the lowest available bitrates.
Our test scene is designed to simulate a variety of textures, colors and detail types you’ll encounter in the real world. It also has two illumination modes to see the effect of different lighting conditions.
At base ISO there’s no appreciable difference between the GH5 II and the original version. There’s a slight improvement in apparent sharpness, but this is likely to be due to the use of a more expensive lens when testing the newer model. As with the original GH5 there are hints of moiré, which makes sense, given the absence of an anti-aliasing low-pass filter.
Atthere appears to be a slight ISO advantage to the newer camera, but it’s not sufficient to make a visible difference . The JPEG engine appears to be tweaked a little to hold onto a little more detail , though.
There’s not enough of a difference infor us to conclude whether this has been adjusted, though there’s a hint of the more muted caucasian skin tones shown by the GH5S, but this could just be because our test image has come out a fraction darker. Overall, then, not much difference you’re likely to notice in day-to-day shooting.
Our Exposure Latitude test, which delves down into the deep shadows of the files doesn’t show a big difference in the noise levels between the older camera and the new one. Our ISO Invariance test doesn’t show much of a difference between shooting at base ISO and using a higher ISO setting, suggesting very little noise is being added by the camera. This give the option, when shooting high contrast scenes, to maintain your shutter speed and aperture but decrease ISO to retain more highlight information, without much of a noise penalty upon selectively brightening the Raw file.
|What we like||What we don’t|
The GH5 II is the first time that a GH model hasn’t represented a major push forward for video in stills/video ILCs, but that responsibility instead falls to the promised GH6. The GH5 II’s role is to provide an updated version of the GH5 at a competitive price, and it does so extremely well.
10-bit capture, which adds significant flexibility for color grading (especially from Log) has become more common since the launch of the original GH5 but the option to shoot 4K/60p in 10-bit is still comparatively rare. What’s also rare is a camera with such a comprehensive set of video support tools, whether that’s the provision of waveforms, luminance spot metering or the ability to attach an accessory to use XLR microphones.
Autofocus remains the GH5 II’s biggest weakness: it does a great job in stills shooting but can’t help but show some wobble and refocus in its video footage, especially when shooting at 24p. It works well in a wider range of circumstances than the original GH5 did, back at launch, but it’s not quite dependable enough for run-and-gun work where you only get one ‘take.’
Only the lack of truly dependable autofocus in video stops it being the default recommendation for budget video shooters
We also found the livestreaming options currently available to be unreliable. And, while the Wi-Fi and cellular networks we were using may have contributed to this, it adds too much uncertainty to make the feature truely useful. We’re hoping that the promised USB tethering option will improve matters.
Overall, though, the GH5 II is a very capable machine. It’s a solid stills camera in its own right, with attractive JPEGs and a good degree of flexibility to the Raw files, and autofocus performance is very good. But the GH5 II is at its strongest as a video camera, where it makes it comparatively easy to shoot good quality footage, whether you’re shooting HLG for direct playback on an HDR TV, Cinelike D2 with the intention of making slight adjustments, Log capture for more extensive grading work or Raw output to squeeze every last drop of performance out of the sensor.
There isn’t a camera that provides such an extensive array of tools to help you capture top-quality footage for anywhere near its price. Only the lack of truly dependable autofocus in video stops it being the default recommendation for budget video shooters, and that’s what sees it miss out on a Gold award.
The GH5 II gains a few improvements over the original Panasonic GH5 but has been launched at a price consistent with the first GH5’s street price, so the Mark II is the obvious choice between the two.
The Fujifilm X-T4 is the only other similarly-priced camera capable of 4K/60p capture. The X-T4 has an advantage in terms of still image quality, thanks to its larger sensor, and its autofocus in video can be more stable, if it works for your subject matter. However, the Fujifilm can only record for a limited amount of time, its image stabilization is much less polished than the Panasonic’s and it can’t match the GH5 II’s array of tools to help optimize exposure for video. If you’re primarily interested in video, the GH5 II is the sensible choice.
The Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5S is perhaps the only other credible rival to the GH5 II, with its slightly larger and more modern BSI sensor. The GH5S lacks image stabilization, though, and its native capture of 4K footage means its output isn’t quite as detailed as that of the GH5 II, in well-lit situations. It also exhibits the same risk of AF wobble when shooting video, so there’s nothing to be gained in that respect.
There are full-frame cameras offering 4K capture for a little more money than the GH5 II, but few of them can capture 10-bit footage or shoot at 60 fps. Panasonic’s own Lumix DC-S5 probably comes closest but its larger sensor exhibits more rolling shutter, and needs to crop back down to APS-C for its 60p mode. Also, remember that you’re likely to lose much of any image quality benefit if you need close the aperture to gain extra depth-of-field, so the GH5 II is still a strong option.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category. Click here to learn about what these numbers mean.
Panasonic DC-GH5 II sample gallery
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