Let there be more light

Jinoy Jose P | Updated on September 26, 2018

Panasonic Lumix GH5S excels in negotiating low-light scenarios, offering a helping hand to professional as well as amateur filmmakers

The jury is out on whether the smartphone revolution, especially the boom in phone cameras powered by artificial intelligence, 4K skills and all that jazz, has impacted the coveted DSLR camera market, mainly the entry- and middle-level cameras. Industry insiders would confide there has been a dent, but the major threat for the future of DSLRs comes from elsewhere — namely the mirrorless camera, especially after Sony, Panasonic, etc introduced a series of powerful mirrorless cameras in the past few years.

The Lumix GH5S is one of the latest additions to Panasonic’s GH series of compact, mirrorless cameras, which cater to the semi-professional segment. Panasonic markets the Lumix GH5S as the “world’s first cinema 4K video recording” camera designed mainly for low-light conditions. In fact, the Lumix GH5S stays a notch above the GH5, thanks to a number of tweaks and changes in the new variant.

The camera body is extremely compact and easy to handle. One can easily operate it with one hand or can mount it on a gimbal and manoeuvre it without much effort. If you are a routine traveller, you know what we mean. The edges are robust and there is enough grip. The controls are easy to reach and there are no annoying, protruding buttons or wheels. What you see is what you get here.

Bright and beautiful

The body of the GH5S has a magnesium alloy full die-cast front, rear and top frame. It is splash- and dust-proof; again, helpful specs for the traveller. Panasonic claims it is freeze-proof as well (up to -10 degree Celsius). Shooting during winter in Ladakh? This won’t ditch you.

On the photo features side, let’s look at the most-hyped element first — the camera’s low-light sensitivity. The Lumix GH5S features 5EV (exposure value) luminance detection performance with low light autofocus. This enhances the sensitivity of the sensor much more, while optimising tuning. Our experience confirms the camera’s super fast focussing abilities, even under extreme low-light. The display can be enlarged up to 20x for accurate focussing. The camera in fact can focus on objects even under pitch dark conditions, thanks to Panasonic’s new 10.2-megapixel digital MOS sensor with ‘Dual Native ISO Technology’ and the in-house Venus processing engine version 10. The Venus Engine considerably improves the colour detailing and texture expression. The low-light recording easily meets professional standards.

The camera is capable of internal 4:2:2 10-bit video recording, which matches colour reproduction standards in professional filmmaking.

If you are a connoisseur of silhouettes or evening profiles and portraits, the Lumix GH5S won’t disappoint you. In fact, our results have been quite surprising, especially the videos we shot in the late evenings. The sensor responds intelligently to light sources and ambient lighting. The stills are detailed and deep, while video is rich and well saturated. The speed with which the camera processes changes in ambient lighting is quite impressive. This is a great faculty for filmmakers, especially those who are working on a shoestring budget as it saves them a lot of money in post-production.

Panasonic’s focus here clearly lies in the video. The camera can shoot 4K (Cinema 4K or C4K; 4096x2160) resolution defined by the industry standard of Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI). You can also shoot slow motion and time-lapse videos in 4K at 60 fps and Full HD (240 fps super slow motion videos). The GH5S has a Variable Frame Rate Effect (VFR), which was there in the Lumix GH5 as well. The VFR essentially helps you shoot slow motion video better and faster. These features work superb in daylight environs, too. But the slow-motion seemed to struggle a bit while functioning under extremely low-light and night conditions.

The Lumix GH5S sports a LiveView Boost, which improves the sensitivity of the Live view, helping you check the composition even inside a dark room. The camera offers an ISO sensitivity level of 51200 while recording videos, which is another blessing for small-budget filmmakers. Thanks to the Dual Native ISO tech, noise levels remain under control even when the sensitivity of the sensor goes up, unlike the conventional single native ISO mode. The dual circuits switch to high-native sensitivity before gain processing, making images look sharp and crisp.

Granted, several camera companies are now aggressively improving their video recording capabilities but Panasonic has clearly taken this to a new level with the Lumix GH5S. Through radical yet innovative methods such as lowering the sensor resolution and getting rid of image stabilisation, the camera-maker has proved it strongly believes in the market potential for still cameras that can shoot high quality videos.

Price: ₹1,89,990

Pros: Brilliant low-light photo-videography, fast focussing, great detail, compact and strong body

Cons: Battery drains fast, doesn’t optimise for low-speed cards

Published on September 26, 2018

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