Panasonic Lumix S5 review: A True Fanatic’s Digicam

Panasonic Lumix S5 review: A real fanatic’s camera

MSRP $2,000.00

“Imperfect however succesful, the Lumix S5 is the miniature S1 we all the time needed.”

Execs

  • Glorious design, construct high quality
  • Improved face/eye autofocus
  • 96MP high-resolution mode
  • Limitless 4K/30 recording
  • 30-minute 4K/60

Cons

  • Low-resolution EVF
  • Autofocus lags behind competitors
  • Sluggish steady capturing

When Panasonic launched the full-frame Lumix S sequence in 2018, it made one factor very clear: This wasn’t Micro 4 Thirds (MFT). Past the apparent format change, the S1 weighed properly over 2 kilos — eclipsing most DSLRs — with an enormous grip, viewfinder bump, and battery. There was no mistaking it.

The downsized Panasonic Lumix S5 flips that notion on its head.

At 1.5 kilos, the S5 isn’t simply Panasonic’s lightest full-frame camera, it’s even lighter — barely — than the Lumix GH5, the corporate’s MFT flagship. It’s not fairly the lightest full-frame camera round, however it maintains a completely weather-sealed, magnesium alloy physique.

Beginning at $2,000, I feel the S5 is the camera that many Panasonic followers have been hoping for in 2018. It’s sized and priced to compete with the Canon EOS R6, Sony A7 III, and Nikon Z 6. The query now’s whether or not it does sufficient to carry as much as that competitors in 2020. Panasonic remains to be enjoying catch-up in some areas, however the S5 brings quite a bit to the desk that helps it stand out.

Design and dealing with

Smaller in each dimension than the GH5, the Lumix S5 is a daring transfer for Panasonic and one that may little doubt have clients worrying in regards to the destiny of Micro 4 Thirds. Personally, I nonetheless suppose MFT cameras have a spot, and even the 3-year-old GH5 retains some benefits over the S5 with regards to capturing velocity and video.

Panasonic Lumix S5

However there’s little doubt the S5 makes for an attractive full-frame improve for MFT shooters.

Though smaller, the S5, happily, carries over many of the buttons and dials because the S1, giving it a big quantity of direct-access management. It’s down a few buttons, however the larger change is the removing of the highest LCD show, the place you’ll now discover the mode dial (apparently, the mode dial doesn’t lock, however does at the least have robust resistance between positions).

Total, the camera feels nice. At the same time as somebody over 6 toes tall with moderately massive arms, I discovered the S1 to be barely too massive for me, however the S5 is nearly excellent. The burden financial savings is evident, however it nonetheless feels reassuringly dense, a reminder that it’s, certainly, a progressional-grade camera.

There’s additionally a brand new battery, because the S1’s humongous, 3,050 mAh battery actually couldn’t match within the S5 (it’s as tall because the camera’s deck peak). The brand new battery is 2,200 mAh, however is rated for 470 photographs (1,500 in energy save mode), which is definitely about 100 greater than an S1.

How is that this doable? Effectively, right here’s the place the dangerous information is available in.

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The vast majority of that power financial savings is probably going due to the lower-resolution digital viewfinder (EVF), which has simply 2.36 million pixels. To be honest, it’s nonetheless an OLED show and appears quite a bit higher than I used to be anticipating it to, however in comparison with the beautiful, 5.7-million-dot EVF within the S1 cameras, it’s noticeably inferior. It’s usable sufficient, however in 2020, low-res viewfinders don’t belong in a contemporary $2,000 camera. I’m unsure why Panasonic didn’t at the least give the S5 a 3.69-million-dot EVF, generally utilized by many manufacturers, which nonetheless would have left a noticeable spec hole between it and the S1.

Autofocus and capturing velocity

If there’s one factor that has been nagging Panasonic cameras for years, it’s a bit technology referred to as Depth from Defocus (DFD). This Panasonic-invented autofocus system will depend on lens profiles saved within the camera that maintain details about every lens’s blur sample, which permits the camera to find out if a picture is front- or back-focused. In different phrases, it is aware of which route to maneuver the lens to realize focus, decreasing looking and rushing up focus time. It appears like a sophisticated course of, however that is how Panasonic was in a position to overcome the standard limitations of contrast-detection autofocus.

It’s additionally by no means been sufficient to maintain up with cameras utilizing quicker phase-detection focus. Sadly, that’s nonetheless the case with the S5 — however that doesn’t imply Panasonic hasn’t made some massive strides ahead.

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For nonetheless images, DFD now works rather more reliably for steady autofocus (AF-C). As Panasonic defined it to me, DFD doesn’t stay energetic throughout AF-C in older cameras as a result of it required an excessive amount of processing energy, forcing them to fall again on commonplace distinction detection. That is nonetheless the case with the S1, S1R, and S1H. Many of the complaints with DFD would possibly truly not contain DFD in any respect, because it seems.

However these points with processing seem like solved. Now, within the S5, DFD stays energetic continually in AF-C.

Topic recognition has additionally seen some fairly dramatic enhancements due to up to date algorithms. The S5 can detect our bodies and faces at half the scale because the S1 — as small as 2.5% of the body — and the camera can now acknowledge a human head separate from the face and physique.

Topic recognition has additionally seen some fairly dramatic enhancements due to up to date algorithms.

This appears like a properly, duh function at first, however Panasonic instructed me that head-detection was pivotal in enhancing the general reliability of subject-recognition focus. Now, if the camera loses sight of a face, it could proceed to remain locked on to the top, whereas the earlier system had hassle shifting from face- to body-detection. (And in case you’re questioning, sure, the S5’s AF enhancements are coming to the S1 cameras later this 12 months through firmware updates.)

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In apply, the S5’s autofocus labored properly more often than not and I instantly seen the enhancements in AF-C and topic monitoring. Sadly, it stays removed from excellent. DFD is exceptionally quick, however it often will miss focus for no obvious purpose. Additionally, in case you zoom whereas focusing in AF-C mode, this can throw the camera off, inflicting a big focus delay even when the topic hasn’t moved. It’s greatest to set your zoom earlier than half-pressing the shutter to keep away from this, however some fast-paced conditions merely gained’t permit for that.

Autofocus can also’t sustain in burst capturing. The S5 tops out at 7 frames per second, dropping to five with steady autofocus. So AF-C focus has improved, however you’ll be able to’t push it very far.

That is one space the place the Panasonic GH5 outranks the S5. The Micro 4 Thirds camera can shoot as much as 12 fps, or 9 with AF-C. I don’t know why AF-C efficiency is so dramatically completely different between the S sequence and G sequence.

DFD can even go away videographers wanting, at the least YouTubers and vloggers who rely on autofocus. As Panasonic defined it to me, DFD can’t function any quicker than the refresh price of the sensor. In picture mode, Panasonic can flip that as much as 480 frames per second. However in video mode, the place the sensor is actively recording and studying out pixels, it tops out at simply 30 fps, or 60 in APS-C crop modes. That provides DFD a fraction of the samples to work with, and autofocus predictably suffers in consequence.

Nonetheless, the S5’s video autofocus has been improved over the S1 cameras. I used to be in a position to check it side-by-side with an S1H, and the S5 tracked my face and eyes a lot better as I moved all through the body (the S1H was all however unusable). Nonetheless, it nonetheless struggled once I moved out of direct gentle, or if I obtained too near the camera too rapidly. In comparison with the extremely good autofocus on Sony cameras, the S5 nonetheless doesn’t stack up, regardless of notable enhancements. Fortuitously, it has different video options that redeem it, which I’ll get to later.

Picture stabilization and high-res shot

The S5 makes use of a redesigned sensor-shift stabilization system to suit its smaller physique. Fortuitously, it’s nonetheless a superb performer, rated for six.5 stops of shake discount with a suitable stabilized lens, simply half a cease shy of the S1. I don’t suppose there can be a lot of a real-world distinction. With the 20-60mm equipment lens, which isn’t stabilized, I shot right down to 1/6 second with impressively sharp outcomes, however 1/3 second was all of a sudden within the unusable zone. As all the time, efficiency will range from shot to shot and lens to lens, however don’t anticipate a seconds-long handheld publicity to return out sharp.

The S1’s 96MP high-resolution mode additionally made it into the S5, turning the modest 24MP camera right into a decision monster… you merely can’t get extra decision wherever close to this worth.

A bit extra shocking is that the S1’s 96MP high-resolution mode additionally made it into the S5, turning the modest 24MP camera right into a decision monster. That makes this the one $2,000 full-frame mirrorless camera with a pixel-shift decision mode. You probably have a tripod and non-moving topics, you merely can’t get extra decision wherever close to this worth. (You too can use it for transferring topics the place movement blur is desired, comparable to waterfalls or gentle trails, however decision will solely be boosted in non-moving areas of the picture — contemplating the transferring areas are blurred, that’s in all probability not a problem).

Panasonic’s implementation of high-res shot can also be extra person pleasant than Sony’s (which is barely obtainable on the A7R sequence), because it processes the file in-camera and delivers both a RAW or a JPEG. It doesn’t require any particular software program, and you may review the high-res composite proper on the camera’s monitor.

Picture high quality

Panasonic confused the S5 makes use of the very same sensor because the S1. Meaning 24 megapixels and no optical low-pass filter. A low-pass filter, just like the one used on the S1H, softens the picture subtly to fight moiré, an issue I bumped into when reviewing the S1 that’s nonetheless a possible concern with the S5. Personally, I’d quite have a barely softer picture than the chance of moiré, because the distinction is minimal, however that’s me. Most producers are opting to forgo low-pass filters as of late.

I haven’t been in a position to view the RAW information but, however primarily based on my expertise with the S1, there must be nothing to complain about. That camera delivered glorious efficiency throughout. One new function is Stay View Composite, which merges the highlights from a sequence of long-exposure frames to construct gentle trails whereas controlling ambient gentle on non-moving topics. It’s nice for capturing star trails, and in contrast to related modes in different cameras, it could truly save the composite as a RAW, which is fairly neat.

The 20-60mm f/3.5-5.6 equipment lens is an attention-grabbing optic. I just like the focal size, which begins at a a lot wider angle than most equipment lenses, however the variable most aperture poses an issue for capturing video. Except you don’t lock it down at f/5.6 or smaller, your publicity will change as you zoom.

Fortuitously, I used to be additionally in a position to check the S5 with Panasonic’s 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 Lumix S Professional lenses, offered for this review by Lensrentals. Whereas virtually laughably massive on the S5, theses lenses are beautiful and reveal what the camera is actually able to. Because of Leica and Sigma, there are many distinctive L-mount lenses to select from — however keep away from the Leicas in case you like having cash.

Video

As a video camera, the Lumix S5 is sort of a pickup truck. It’s not flashy or quick, however it works reliably and you may belief it to get the job carried out.

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In a time the place overheating complaints have taken middle stage, due to points primarily with the Canon EOS R5 but in addition the video-focused Sony A7S III, Panasonic has taken a conservative strategy with the S5, however its options are largely what’s anticipated in a $2,000 camera. There’s no 6K, as discovered on the S1H, not to mention 8K or 4K/120. It shoots 4K/60, however not from the full-frame, which is a bit disappointing however no completely different than the S1H.

However, you’ll be able to shoot it in nearly any setting and it gained’t shut down on you. The place the S1H has a fan to actively cool the sensor, the smaller S5 doesn’t. Nonetheless, Panasonic examined the camera at 104 levels Fahrenheit — roughly 30 levels hotter than most producers check their cameras. Based mostly on that testing, 4K/60 and any 10-bit choices are restricted to half-hour. Nonetheless, assuming you’re not in 104-degree climate, you’ll haven’t any drawback beginning one other clip instantly after that 30-minute cutoff. I examined the camera in direct daylight on a 70-degree day, and it had no hassle operating for a second 30-minute clip in 4K/60.

As for decrease framerates at 8 bits, file time is restricted solely by battery life and reminiscence card capability — and due to twin card slots and assist for USB energy, you should not have any drawback getting the S5 to remain awake longer than you’ll be able to.

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However permit me this temporary apart: Whereas the camera can file lengthy takes to large SD playing cards, the footage will nonetheless be break up into 4GB chunks due to the FAT32 file system. Actually? We haven’t discovered an answer for this but? Oh, however we’ve got: The S1H makes use of the ExFat file system, which permits for a lot bigger information (like, 16 exabytes). Now, I’m not solely clear on how Microsoft licenses ExFat. I consider it’s a flat charge for digital cameras, however possibly every mannequin line requires a brand new license, or possibly there are quantity limitations, and the S5, being a better quantity camera than the S1H, would make licensing too costly. This isn’t only a Panasonic drawback, however it’s a bit absurd that we’re nonetheless counting on FAT32 within the 12 months 2020.

As for video high quality, what you get is usually an S1-level of compression choices. Meaning 10-bit 4:2:2 at 150 megabits per second. You do get each HLG and full V-Log, which is nice, however the S1H’s 400Mbps, all-intraframe codec isn’t obtainable. That very same codec can also be within the GH5, the opposite space the place the MFT flagship bests the S5.

The above video used the S5 at 150Mbps alongside the S1H at 400Mbps, each in V-Log. The primary two-shot is the S1H, whereas the second angle and B roll is the S5. The 2 cameras edited collectively nice, however you’ll be able to positively push the S1H footage additional with regards to coloration grading. (This shoot was tremendous final minute and really tough, so please simply choose the cameras and, um, not my abilities.)

The S5 additionally lacks different high-end video options discovered on the S1H. DCI facet ratios, the choice to make use of shutter angle as a substitute of shutter velocity, and a few video help instruments, like a vectorscope, are lacking.

However right here’s the loopy factor. Panasonic has already introduced a firmware replace, coming later this 12 months, that may carry all of these issues to the S5. Much more impressively, whereas it gained’t get the intraframe codec or 6K inner recording, it’s going to get the identical 5.9K RAW video output because the S1H. Basically, which means you will get S1H high quality from a camera that’s half the value.

These are all decidedly area of interest capabilities, however it provides the S5 a novel benefit over its competitors. It additionally makes it the proper B camera to the S1H — or the proper various for these of us who can’t afford one. An S5 and an Atomos Ninja V recorder would complete roughly $2,600, $1,400 lower than an S1H by itself.

You may get S1H high quality from a camera that’s half the value.

Is Panasonic actually OK with this? It simply introduced RAW output to the S1H earlier this summer time, and that’s the firm’s costliest full-frame camera. Now it’s introduced the identical function is coming to its least costly full-frame camera. That is large.

As long as you don’t thoughts utilizing an exterior recorder and don’t want dependable steady autofocus, the S5 is shaping as much as be a really spectacular, high-end video camera.

Our Take

For some clients, the Panasonic Lumix S5 is what the S1 ought to have been, and should come throughout as a bit underwhelming now seeing it 2 years later. Late or not, I feel the S5 is precisely the camera Panasonic wanted, and it ought to assist develop the L mount to a brand new demographic.

The camera has grown on me a bit extra every single day that I’ve had it. Even with the imperfect autofocus and low-resolution viewfinder, that is nonetheless a correct fanatic’s camera. It feels nice within the hand and the controls are ergonomic and practical. Panasonic didn’t dumb it down, and I actually recognize that. It’s a miniature workhorse that may preserve rank with its bigger, costlier siblings.

Talking of which, I’m unsure what the promoting factors of the S1 are anymore.

Is there a greater various?

The $2,000 worth vary has rapidly grown crowded with glorious choices. For the nonetheless photographer, the Sony A7 III and Nikon Z 6 are legitimate alternate options, and each provide phase-detection autofocus and quicker steady capturing. Nonetheless, neither can meet the S5’s video high quality. Whereas the Z 6 does provide RAW video output through a paid firmware improve, it solely does so at a line-skipped 4K decision.

How lengthy will it final?

This can be a “mini S1,” however it’s nonetheless constructed to carry as much as skilled put on and tear. It must be at the least 2 years earlier than a substitute mannequin arrives, however anticipate it to final a few years longer in case you don’t really feel the urge to continually improve. Panasonic has a spectacular historical past of supporting cameras for years through firmware updates, as properly.

Do you have to purchase it?

Sure. The Lumix S5 is a superb hybrid camera at a good worth. Nonetheless, vloggers, YouTubers, and sports activities photographers who rely on dependable steady autofocus ought to rigorously take into account the alternate options.

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