Tech Review: Panasonic Lumix GH5 is the Little Mirrorless Camera that Could

I got to know Panasonic’s brand new flagship mirrorless camera for two weeks. At first we eyed each other dubiously — a full-frame freak and a mirrorless crop? How could we ever get along? But as we got to know each other, I fell more and more in love with its ease of use, its lovely results and its lightweight portability (at least compared to what I’m used to).

This is not a “gimmicky” camera. If it were at a party with the rest of the market’s mirrorless options, it would be graciously laughing at the others’ jokes — not the centre of attention, but not hiding by the canapés table either. It doesn’t claim flashy slow motion modes or a ridiculous megapixel value to grab attention, but it doesn’t need to — this quiet achiever shoots beautiful images and lovely video, and its results speak for themselves.

Above: Pretending to be a food blogger. Shot on the Lumix DC-GH5 with Leica 12-60mm lens. 12mm, 1/20 sec, f3.2, ISO 250, handheld.

I’m the kind of girl who reads manuals and follows instructions, but the GH5 was so well-designed and user-friendly that I found in this case, I didn’t need to. I like to shoot with manual settings, and I had no trouble locating the controls for shutter speed, aperture and ISO — they were exactly where I expected them to be. The eyepiece protrudes a little more than I’m used to, and while I doubt most users would favour the viewfinder over the super-convenient pop-out screen, that extra distance between my face and the viewfinder meant I didn’t end up transferring all my makeup on the LCD. #ladyphotographerproblems solved! The only thing that tripped me up was the mode dial’s lock-and-unlock function – in order to switch between, for instance, aperture priority mode and video mode, you need to push the button in the centre of the dial to unlock it, rotate the dial to the appropriate position, then push the button in the centre again to lock it. It took me a few minutes of attempted turning to figure that out!

One camera hardware feature I’ve never come across before the GH5, but found incredibly useful, is the tiny focus area joystick located just above the LCD and below-left of the AF lock button. It made moving the focus area super simple, as well as returning the screen to live view mode from the setting display.

I tested the Lumix GH5 with the Leica 12-60mm f2.8-4 kit lens, which is available bundled with the camera for RRP $3,363. That wide aperture allows for decent low light handling and a fairly shallow depth of field even at 12mm (approximately 18mm equivalent on a full frame), but for my preferred area of lifestyle portraiture this lens wouldn’t be ideal – I prefer longer focal lengths and the super-shallow depths of field only made possible with apertures wider than f2. If I welcomed this camera into my family of bodies for professional photo use, I’d be venturing out into the wider range of lenses available and things would get costly very quickly.

Above: Shot on the Lumix DC-GH5 with Leica 12-60mm lens. 12mm, 1.3 sec, f10, ISO 250, with tripod.

That said, if your focus is on places more than people, or if you prefer the look of a wide lens, this kit would serve you well. The GH5 with the 12-60mm would make a fantastic travel camera, and vloggers would get a lot out of this setup for their day-to-day video needs – especially with that pop-out screen making recording yourself easier. It’s also weather sealed, which makes it a great candidate for video professionals in outdoor fields where things can get a little unpredictable!

I used the GH5 far more for video than I did for photographs, and it far exceeded my expectations. I enlisted the help of a camera illiterate friend to film a dance video (which I also feature in – hence why I wasn’t holding the camera myself) and asked him to shoot handheld roving shots. The camera’s 5-Axis dual IS 2 stabilisation elevated the production quality hugely – a feature I’m now longing for in my own equipment. Shooting 4K video at 60fps also took our video to the next level, and while the GH5 is the first mirrorless camera to record 4K 10-bit 25/30p videos to SD card, my poor old SD cards were no match for the rate at which the data is written – I had to switch them out for the super-fast cards Panasonic kindly supplied with the camera. The dual card slots made separating video and still images easy, plus it halved the frequency of having to swap out memory cards.

Above: Video shot on the Lumix DC-GH5 with Leica 12-60mm lens.

As someone keen on night photography when I visit new places, I like to test cameras out in the dark. Decent ISO performance is important to me, and the GH5’s auto ISO system is very intelligent – allowing you to set a highest ISO limit to prevent the camera from selecting an available but unusable ISO. One of our video takes and several photos from the same day were taken in a very dark alley just after sunset, both at ISO 1000; there is some noise present in each, but certainly not enough to concern me. I didn’t push the ISO up to full throttle this time, but given the aforementioned stabilisation features, a higher ISO wouldn’t be necessary as frequently if you’re able to shoot handheld at slower shutter speeds. I really enjoy the visual effect of slower shutter speeds, so that’s a very good workaround for me.

Above: Shot on the Lumix DC-GH5 with Leica 12-60mm lens. 12mm, 2.5 sec, f10, ISO 250, with tripod

It may not boast the features that so many shiny new cameras do, but the Lumix GH5 isn’t about being flashy – it’s about being hardworking, high performing and consistent, and I would gladly welcome it into my camera family.

Score: 9.0 out of 10
Highlights: User-friendly, great image stabilisation, quality fast kit-lens options
Lowlights: Not ideal for low light shooting (no pun intended, I swear)
Manufacturer: Panasonic
Price:  GH5 body only RRP $2999, Leica 12-60mm f2.8-4 lens only RRP $1199. Available as a bundle – currently $3363 at Teds.com.au at the time of writing
Available: Now