At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, Panasonic is expected to announce the successor to the widely popular GH4, the GH5.
Actually, Panasonic had already announced the upcoming GH5, but the details were murky until now. Here's what is expected in terms of specs that we think are important for professional video shooters:
- A separate audio interface for a simple, powered XLR workflow
- It will feature in-sensor stabilization (a.k.a. IBIS) for handheld shooting
- There will be 2 SD card inputs, and the 30 minute time limit recording will be removed
- Full HDMI output will be possible for monitoring, as well as recording a clean signal
- 10-bit 4:2:2 internal recording, the golden fleece of image quality (for now)
GH5 AUDIO SOLUTION
Being able to attach an XLR input to the top of the GH5, and have the unit be powered by the camera (rather than with external batteries) is a great feature. It's one reason why Sony's small mirrorless cameras have been popular with news shooters, because of Sony's proprietary XLR-K2M accessory.
As you can see, the previous YAGH box was quite a bulky mess just to have powered XLR audio inputs. It actually had other features such as SDI out, all of which was a little overkill for a small camera. Plus, the YAGH originally cost $2000 by itself, which is a little crazy considering the cost of the GH4 itself.
At any rate, the GH5 audio solution will make it a very attractive camera for working professionals, not just hobbyists.
IMAGE STABILIZATION AND RECORDING TIME
IBIS, or in body image stabilization, will be a very useful feature for handheld shooting with the GH5, especially when paired with lenses that also have image stabilization. This is one feature that we wish larger cinema cameras also featured, but in the meantime, IBIS continues to be a solid reason to use small, mirrorless cameras such as the Canon M5, Sony's A6500 and their popular A7SII and A7RII, and Olympus's new EM1 II.
Essentially, the in-camera stabilization will allow shooters to capture on the fly B-roll without depending on monopods, tripods, or building out a big shoulder rig. The technology is rapidly evolving and we've even seen IBIS shots that look nearly as good as steadicam or gimbal footage.
Also important for the working shooter is the ability to record to multiple cards. Having a backup record is essential, as cards fail quite frequently. It's one of the reasons we quickly moved to the Canon C100 after shooting on DSLRs for a few years, because the C100 had dual slot record, which allowed us to sleep soundly at night.
For European shooters who have been hampered by the 30-minute record limit, the GH5 is also supposed to enable longer record times. That makes using this camera a contender for interviews, event videography, lecture recording, and set-it-and-forget-it video timelapses.
GH5 Video Image Quality
Finally, probably the one thing that has everyone excited is the GH5's image specs. The GH4 has long been a winner in terms of technical specs for the price - 4k recording has never been more affordable for the masses, thanks to the GH4.
Now, the GH5 is touting 6k record, although at this time that may be in the photo mode only. More importantly, however, is the bitrate and image quality. Most small mirrorless cameras have been limited to 8-bit 4:2:0 recording, which can make color grading a little tough when you're recording in a Log picture profile. So most of us have turned to bigger, much more expensive cameras to give us the image we want. For example, the C300 mark II we use can record in 12-bit 4:4:4.
So with a great image codec, and Panasonic's V-Log picture profile, the GH5 could be a sensible camera to consider for many everyday shooters. But without having tried one yet, what do we really think about the GH5?
GH5: Our Thoughts
If you've read our guide to Documentary Shooting or our article on Corporate Video Production, you know our guiding approach to considering any new piece of gear for our kit, especially a camera.
1) Will it enable us to capture more video, more efficiently, with less fuss, so that we can produce more work with better storytelling, and increase our quality of life?
Or 2) Is the quality improvement so drastic that we're willing to sacrifice ease-of-use in order to provide better results?
At one point long ago, we used to own a GH4. It seems like ages ago now, but it's probably only a couple years. At any rate, we liked it, but at the time, the Metabones adapter for Canon lenses turned off the image stabilization, so we couldn't use the camera in everyday scenarios. On top of that, the overall usability required more attention (i.e. fuss) than our C100 did, so we ended up spending more time staring at the back of the screen, trying to nail down settings, than focusing on shooting a good story.
In other words, the GH4 took some of the joy away from shooting, and it made the whole thing a little more frustrating. But hey, it had 4k.
At that time, none of our clients demanded 4k, so our camera choice was entirely based on what made our lives easier and what we liked to shoot with. So we quickly sold the GH4 and continued to use our C100s (and still do). And once our clients began to ask about 4k, there were many more 4k-capable cameras on the market. We opted for the Canon C300 mark II, which not only gives us image improvements, but also provides the ease-of-use and simplicity that we believe is incredibly important to help us continue to do this for a living, rather than get burned out fiddling with camera settings.
So with the GH5 coming out, we're glad to know there will be an option out there for an affordable, small camera with high image quality settings. And since it shoots in Log, you can bet the GH5 image will easily match up with just about any other camera. But the form factor hasn't changed, and there doesn't seem to be better auto-focus, so we don't foresee using it as either our A-cam, B-cam, or even a gimbal cam.
Of course there are shooters out there who love the DSLR or mirrorless form factor, and they are able to get past any usability limitations to capture amazing video. In fact, for some people, these cameras end up becoming an extension of their hands and brains, like the Canon C100 has been for us, and that's exactly when you know a camera can stop taking your attention away from the story, and start working for you.
Feedback from Other Shooters
Will you be getting the GH5 for your kit? Send us an email and let us know your thoughts!
Here's another opinion from a Digital Filmmaker reader:
I am excited about the GH5 for its internal recording and IBIS, but I can't shake the feeling that I should just get a camcorder that has everything in a single package.
I have used DSLRs for news videos, but they don't seem that great for run-and-gun once you add recorders and other devices. Many videographers would disagree, but I don't want to deal with making sure I have multiple devices turned on before I can record--I just know I'd miss something in the heat of the moment. With a DVX200, for example, I can frame my shot and hit record. Presto!
Unless I'm shooting in a studio under controlled conditions, I don't think I'll be getting a GH5.
That sentiment perfectly summarizes how many working camera operators feel about small DSLRs and mirrorless cameras: the quality is great, but you need so many accessories and workarounds for everyday shooting, that it starts to take a toll on the production.
The DVX200 would be a perfect alternative to the Panasonic GH5, because it has everything already built in, but still provides a cinematic look and feel to the imagery. And by the time you add everything to a GH5, including a handle solution, the audio accessory, some sort of cage, along with a shotgun mic, lens adapters (if you're using non Panasonic lenses), extended battery adapters for longer record times, and possibly even a matte box.... the whole setup starts to get really complicated, with a lot of parts that can get loose and slow you down.
But perhaps we just need to spend some time with the GH5 to see if it has a spot in our documentary or corporate kit? We shall see!