Panasonic Lumix S5 evaluate: A real fanatic’s digicam
“Imperfect however succesful, the Lumix S5 is the miniature S1 we all the time wished.”
- Wonderful design, construct high quality
- Improved face/eye autofocus
- 96MP high-resolution mode
- Limitless 4K/30 recording
- 30-minute 4K/60
- Low-resolution EVF
- Autofocus lags behind competitors
- Gradual 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 digicam, it’s even lighter — barely — than the Lumix GH5, the corporate’s MFT flagship. It’s not fairly the lightest full-frame digicam round, nevertheless it maintains a totally weather-sealed, magnesium alloy physique.
Beginning at $2,000, I believe the S5 is the digicam that many Panasonic followers had 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 continues to be enjoying catch-up in some areas, however the S5 brings lots 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 question have prospects worrying concerning the destiny of Micro 4 Thirds. Personally, I nonetheless assume MFT cameras have a spot, and even the 3-year-old GH5 retains some benefits over the S5 in the case of capturing pace and video.
However there’s little question the S5 makes for an attractive full-frame improve for MFT shooters.
Though smaller, the S5, thankfully, carries over a lot of the buttons and dials because the S1, giving it a major quantity of direct-access management. It’s down a few buttons, however the larger change is the elimination 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 very least have robust resistance between positions).
General, the digicam feels nice. Whilst somebody over 6 toes tall with fairly giant palms, I discovered the S1 to be barely too massive for me, however the S5 is nearly excellent. The burden financial savings is evident, nevertheless it nonetheless feels reassuringly dense, a reminder that it’s, certainly, a progressional-grade digicam.
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 digicam’s deck top). The brand new battery is 2,200 mAh, however is rated for 470 images (1,500 in energy save mode), which is definitely about 100 extra than an S1.
How is that this potential? Properly, right here’s the place the dangerous information is available in.
The vast majority of that power financial savings is probably going because of the lower-resolution digital viewfinder (EVF), which has simply 2.36 million pixels. To be truthful, it’s nonetheless an OLED show and appears lots higher than I used to be anticipating it to, however in comparison with the gorgeous, 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 digicam. I’m unsure why Panasonic didn’t at the very 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 pace
If there’s one factor that has been nagging Panasonic cameras for years, it’s somewhat expertise known as Depth from Defocus (DFD). This Panasonic-invented autofocus system is dependent upon lens profiles saved within the digicam that maintain details about every lens’s blur sample, which permits the digicam to find out if a picture is front- or back-focused. In different phrases, it is aware of which course to maneuver the lens to realize focus, decreasing searching and rushing up focus time. It seems like a sophisticated course of, however that is how Panasonic was in a position to overcome the same old limitations of contrast-detection autofocus.
It’s additionally by no means been sufficient to maintain up with cameras utilizing sooner 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.
For nonetheless pictures, DFD now works far more reliably for steady autofocus (AF-C). As Panasonic defined it to me, DFD doesn’t stay lively throughout AF-C in older cameras as a result of it required an excessive amount of processing energy, forcing them to fall again on normal distinction detection. That is nonetheless the case with the S1, S1R, and S1H. Many of the complaints with DFD may truly not contain DFD in any respect, because it seems.
However these points with processing look like solved. Now, within the S5, DFD stays lively always in AF-C.
Topic recognition has additionally seen some fairly dramatic enhancements because of up to date algorithms. The S5 can detect our bodies and faces at half the dimensions because the S1 — as small as 2.5% of the body — and the digicam can now acknowledge a human head separate from the face and physique.
Topic recognition has additionally seen some fairly dramatic enhancements because of up to date algorithms.
This seems like a properly, duh function at first, however Panasonic advised me that head-detection was pivotal in bettering the general reliability of subject-recognition focus. Now, if the digicam loses sight of a face, it might proceed to remain locked on to the top, whereas the earlier system had bother shifting from face- to body-detection. (And should you’re questioning, sure, the S5’s AF enhancements are coming to the S1 cameras later this 12 months through firmware updates.)
In apply, the S5’s autofocus labored properly more often than not and I instantly observed the enhancements in AF-C and topic monitoring. Sadly, it stays removed from excellent. DFD is exceptionally quick, nevertheless it sometimes will miss focus for no obvious purpose. Additionally, should you zoom whereas focusing in AF-C mode, it will throw the digicam off, inflicting a major 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 received’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 possibly can’t push it very far.
That is one space the place the Panasonic GH5 outranks the S5. The Micro 4 Thirds digicam can shoot as much as 12 fps, or 9 with AF-C. I don’t know why AF-C efficiency is so dramatically totally different between the S sequence and G sequence.
DFD may also go away videographers wanting, at the very least YouTubers and vloggers who rely upon autofocus. As Panasonic defined it to me, DFD can’t function any sooner than the refresh charge of the sensor. In photograph 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 offers DFD a fraction of the samples to work with, and autofocus predictably suffers because of this.
Nonetheless, the S5’s video autofocus has been improved over the S1 cameras. I used to be in a position to take a look at 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 after I moved out of direct gentle, or if I bought too near the digicam too rapidly. In comparison with the extremely good autofocus on Sony cameras, the S5 nonetheless doesn’t stack up, regardless of notable enhancements. Happily, 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. Happily, it’s nonetheless an excellent performer, rated for six.5 stops of shake discount with a appropriate stabilized lens, simply half a cease shy of the S1. I don’t assume there shall be a lot of a real-world distinction. With the 20-60mm package lens, which isn’t stabilized, I shot all the way down to 1/6 second with impressively sharp outcomes, however 1/3 second was instantly within the unusable zone. As all the time, efficiency will fluctuate 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 digicam right into a decision monster… you merely can’t get extra decision anyplace close to this value.
A bit extra shocking is that the S1’s 96MP high-resolution mode additionally made it into the S5, turning the modest 24MP digicam right into a decision monster. That makes this the one $2,000 full-frame mirrorless digicam with a pixel-shift decision mode. In case you have a tripod and non-moving topics, you merely can’t get extra decision anyplace close to this value. (You can too 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 most likely not a problem).
Panasonic’s implementation of high-res shot can also be extra consumer pleasant than Sony’s (which is just 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’ll evaluate the high-res composite proper on the digicam’s monitor.
Picture high quality
Panasonic careworn the S5 makes use of the very same sensor because the S1. Which means 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 today.
I haven’t been in a position to view the RAW recordsdata but, however based mostly on my expertise with the S1, there must be nothing to complain about. That digicam delivered wonderful efficiency throughout. One new function is Reside 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 comparable modes in different cameras, it might truly save the composite as a RAW, which is fairly neat.
The 20-60mm f/3.5-5.6 package lens is an attention-grabbing optic. I just like the focal size, which begins at a a lot wider angle than most package lenses, however the variable most aperture poses an issue for capturing video. Until you don’t lock it down at f/5.6 or smaller, your publicity will change as you zoom.
Happily, I used to be additionally in a position to take a look at the S5 with Panasonic’s 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8 Lumix S Professional lenses, offered for this evaluate by Lensrentals. Whereas nearly laughably giant on the S5, theses lenses are attractive and reveal what the digicam is really able to. Because of Leica and Sigma, there are many distinctive L-mount lenses to select from — however keep away from the Leicas should you like having cash.
As a video digicam, the Lumix S5 is sort of a pickup truck. It’s not flashy or quick, nevertheless it works reliably and you’ll belief it to get the job accomplished.
In a time the place overheating complaints have taken middle stage, because of points primarily with the Canon EOS R5 but additionally 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 digicam. 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 totally different than the S1H.
Alternatively, you possibly can shoot it in just about any atmosphere and it received’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 digicam at 104 levels Fahrenheit — roughly 30 levels hotter than most producers take a look at their cameras. Primarily based 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 don’t have any drawback beginning one other clip instantly after that 30-minute cutoff. I examined the digicam in direct daylight on a 70-degree day, and it had no bother operating for a second 30-minute clip in 4K/60.
As for decrease framerates at 8 bits, file time is proscribed solely by battery life and reminiscence card capability — and due to twin card slots and assist for USB energy, you shouldn’t have any drawback getting the S5 to remain awake longer than you possibly can.
However permit me this transient apart: Whereas the digicam can file lengthy takes to huge SD playing cards, the footage will nonetheless be cut up into 4GB chunks due to the FAT32 file system. Actually? We haven’t discovered an answer for this but? Oh, however we now have: The S1H makes use of the ExFat file system, which permits for a lot bigger recordsdata (like, 16 exabytes). Now, I’m not solely clear on how Microsoft licenses ExFat. I imagine it’s a flat payment for digital cameras, however perhaps every mannequin line requires a brand new license, or perhaps there are quantity limitations, and the S5, being the next quantity digicam than the S1H, would make licensing too costly. This isn’t only a Panasonic drawback, nevertheless 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. Which means 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 advantageous, however you possibly can positively push the S1H footage additional in the case of colour 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 an alternative of shutter pace, 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 convey all of these issues to the S5. Much more impressively, whereas it received’t get the intraframe codec or 6K inside recording, it will get the identical 5.9K RAW video output because the S1H. Basically, which means you will get S1H high quality from a digicam that’s half the worth.
These are all decidedly area of interest capabilities, nevertheless it provides the S5 a novel benefit over its competitors. It additionally makes it the right B digicam to the S1H — or the right various for these of us who can’t afford one. An S5 and an Atomos Ninja V recorder would whole roughly $2,600, $1,400 lower than an S1H by itself.
You will get S1H high quality from a digicam that’s half the worth.
Is Panasonic actually OK with this? It simply introduced RAW output to the S1H earlier this summer time, and that’s the firm’s most costly full-frame digicam. Now it’s introduced the identical function is coming to its least costly full-frame digicam. That is big.
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 digicam.
For some prospects, 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 believe the S5 is precisely the digicam Panasonic wanted, and it ought to assist broaden the L mount to a brand new demographic.
The digicam has grown on me somewhat extra day-after-day that I’ve had it. Even with the imperfect autofocus and low-resolution viewfinder, that is nonetheless a correct fanatic’s digicam. It feels nice within the hand and the controls are ergonomic and practical. Panasonic didn’t dumb it down, and I actually respect that. It’s a miniature workhorse that may maintain rank with its bigger, dearer siblings.
Talking of which, I’m unsure what the promoting factors of the S1 are anymore.
Is there a greater various?
The $2,000 value vary has rapidly grown crowded with wonderful choices. For the nonetheless photographer, the Sony A7 III and Nikon Z 6 are legitimate alternate options, and each provide phase-detection autofocus and sooner 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 very least 2 years earlier than a alternative mannequin arrives, however anticipate it to final a few years longer should you don’t really feel the urge to always improve. Panasonic has a spectacular historical past of supporting cameras for years through firmware updates, as properly.
Must you purchase it?
Sure. The Lumix S5 is a good hybrid digicam at a good value. Nonetheless, vloggers, YouTubers, and sports activities photographers who rely upon dependable steady autofocus ought to rigorously take into account the alternate options.