by Demothy Tien
When the Panasonic GH5 released in 2017, it was an incredibly revolutionary camera for filmmakers. It’s a 4k mirrorless camera that packs phenomenal video quality in a tiny form factor. It’s been 4 years now since the GH5 released and we’ve had several incredible cameras come out since then. Does the Panasonic GH5 still hold up for wedding filmmakers in 2021 or is it time for an upgrade?
Build Quality and Buttons
The Panasonic GH5 is an incredibly well built and intuitive camera to use. Ergonomics are fantastic, especially for a camera of its size. It’s incredibly compact and lightweight. The GH5 is pretty much the perfect travel camera.Button layout is also great on the GH5. Everything is easy to access and clearly labeled. There are a lot of buttons so settings and features are right within reach, without having to navigate through clunky menus. The GH5 also features dual UHS-II SD card slots which support relay and redundancy modes.
The Micro 4/3 system allows the camera to be even more compact and lightweight than it already is. Lenses are incredibly small when compared to their full-frame equivalents. While you are sacrificing low-light capability and bokeh, you’re getting a phenomenal camera for travel.
Photo by BestLightPhoto Blog
Panasonic GH5 for Video
The Panasonic GH5 released with some truly revolutionary video specs. It’s capable of shooting 4k 10-bit 4:2:2 up to 30fps internally and up to 60fps to an external recorder. You also get Panasonic’s incredible V-Log picture profile. This gives you some truly great range when grading in post.
If you don’t need that extra range when color correcting or grading, you still get a fantastic picture in Panasonic’s 8-bit modes. In 8-bit, the GH5 is capable of recording up to 4k 60p internally.
While there’s a handful of consumer cameras now that are capable of all of this and more, this was genuinely revolutionary at the time and these features still hold up to this day. Especially as a wedding filmmaker.
One of the GH5’s most praised video features is its incredible in-body image stabilization (IBIS). Thanks to its smaller micro 4/3 sensor, the GH5 has some of the best IBIS of any camera, even when compared to more modern cameras. When paired with Panasonic’s native lenses with stabilization, you gain access to Panasonic’s dual image stabilization. This provides easily some of the smoothest handheld shots I’ve ever seen -- eliminating the need for a gimbal in most scenarios.
Menus and Additional Features
This is where the GH5 truly shines. This camera packs SO MANY features that other cameras just don’t offer. The GH5 provides numerous function buttons that are honestly quite reminiscent of cinema and electronic news gathering (ENG) cameras. These buttons are all programmable so you can set them to whatever features work best for you.
As far as different functions go, the GH5 has no shortage of them. You have access to focus peaking, zebras, histograms, waveform and vectorscope monitors, and variable frame rate (VFR) modes. This is A LOT for a camera that was released in 2017.
The menus in the GH5 are very simple to navigate. The GH5 probably has the most intuitive menu system I’ve used in a camera so far (I know the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera has incredible menus but I haven’t personally had experience with it).
One of my favorite features of the GH5 is its adaptability. Due to the smaller sensor, you have room to adapt to SO MANY lenses. You have no shortage of lenses to choose from. And when using a speedbooster such as the Metabones or the Viltrox, you can essentially turn the GH5 into a full frame camera. The GH5 paired with a speedbooster and the Sigma 18-35mm F/1.8 is a legendary combo.
As much as I love the Panasonic GH5 with all its amazing features, it’s not a perfect camera. It has a host of flaws that stop it from being a perfect camera for video. First off, the biggest gripe many GH5 owners have, is the camera’s poor low light capability. And this basically comes with the territory when shooting on a micro 4/3 system. The smaller sensor means less light. This can be improved with a speedbooster and fast lens like mentioned above, but you are sacrificing autofocus performance and dual IS when doing this.
The next biggest gripe for GH5 owners is the HORRIBLE autofocus. Canon has been the king of autofocus with their Dual Pixel AF. Even Sony has pretty much completely caught up with Canon. The fact that Panasonic STILL uses contrast based autofocus is completely inexcusable. Now the AF performance has definitely improved with later firmware updates, I still find it pretty much unusable for my uses and can’t bring myself to trust it in any real world scenario. It’s just bad.
The Panasonic GH5 has a lot going for it. But how does it stack up to its competitors? Since the GH5’s release, we’ve seen so many incredible cameras released for video with mind-blowing specs. The Canon R5 is a full frame beast capable of shooting 8k RAW. The Sony A7SIII is considered one of the absolute best mirrorless cameras for video currently with features such as 4k 10bit 4:2:2 at up to 120p internally. Its improved color science, phenomenal low light capabilities and host of new features makes it the most compelling recommendation in 2021. Even Sony’s A7C rivals the GH5 as a compact option for filmmakers, essentially jamming the A7III into a smaller body.
With all these compelling options, why would I still recommend that you pick up a GH5 in 2021? Well, it pretty much boils down to its price-to-performance ratio. You can pick up a Panasonic GH5 right now (as of the writing of this article) for just shy of $1400. Native lenses in the micro 4/3 system are also SIGNIFICANTLY cheaper than their full frame equivalents. For the price of a single full frame mirrorless body, you can get two GH5 bodies PLUS a lens (maybe 2). The Canon R5, while capable of 8k and oversampled 4k, also suffers from its high price-point and also has overheating issues when shooting video. While they did improve it with a future firmware update, the issue still exists, just not as bad.
Panasonic did an incredible job future proofing its camera by packing tons of incredible features. Even the Sony A7C which released in 2020 and is only about $400 more, still lacks 10-bit recording.
Overall the Panasonic GH5 is a budget powerhouse. You simply can’t beat the features this camera packs in this price bracket. While the Sony A7SIII, in my opinion, is an overall better video option for weddings, it’s twice as expensive. So if you’re looking into entering the wedding filmmaking space and need a budget friendly option to start out, I can comfortably say that the Panasonic GH5 is still a strong contender in 2021.