Panasonic Lumix S5 review: A True Enthusiast’s Camera | Digital Trends

    “Imperfect but capable, the Lumix S5 is the miniature S1 we always wanted.”

    Excellent design, construct high quality

    Improved face/eye autofocus

    96MP high-resolution mode

    Unlimited 4K/30 recording

    30-minute 4K/60

    Low-resolution EVF

    Autofocus lags behind competitors

    Slow steady capturing

    When Panasonic launched the full-frame Lumix S collection in 2018, it made one factor very clear: This wasn’t Micro Four Thirds (MFT). Beyond the apparent format change, the S1 weighed nicely over 2 kilos — eclipsing most DSLRs — with a large 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, but it surely maintains a completely weather-sealed, magnesium alloy physique.
    Starting at $2,000, I feel the S5 is the digicam that many Panasonic followers have been hoping for in 2018. It is sized and priced to compete with the Canon EOS R6, Sony A7 III, and Nikon Z 6. The query now could be whether or not it does sufficient to carry as much as that competitors in 2020. Panasonic remains to be taking part in 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 clients worrying concerning the destiny of Micro Four Thirds. Personally, I nonetheless assume MFT cameras have a spot, and even the 3-year-old GH5 retains some benefits over the S5 in terms of capturing pace and video.
    But there’s little question the S5 makes for an attractive full-frame improve for MFT shooters.
    Although smaller, the S5, fortuitously, carries over many 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 removing of the highest LCD show, the place you’ll now discover the mode dial (curiously, the mode dial doesn’t lock, however does at the very least have robust resistance between positions).

    Overall, the digicam feels nice. Even as somebody over 6 ft tall with fairly massive fingers, I discovered the S1 to be barely too large for me, however the S5 is nearly good. The weight financial savings is evident, but it surely 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 peak). The new battery is 2,200 mAh, however is rated for 470 images (1,500 in energy save mode), which is definitely about 100 greater than an S1.
    How is that this potential? Well, right here’s the place the dangerous information is available in.
    The majority of that vitality 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 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 just a little know-how 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 dashing 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 large strides ahead.
    Daven Mathies/Digital TrendsFor nonetheless images, DFD now works way 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. This remains to be the case with the S1, S1R, and S1H. Most of the complaints with DFD would possibly really not contain DFD in any respect, because it seems.
    But these points with processing look like solved. Now, within the S5, DFD stays energetic consistently in AF-C.
    Subject 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 digicam can now acknowledge a human head separate from the face and physique.
    Subject recognition has additionally seen some fairly dramatic enhancements due to up to date algorithms.

    This appears like a nicely, duh function at first, however Panasonic instructed 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 will possibly proceed to remain locked on to the top, whereas the earlier system had bother shifting from face- to body-detection. (And when you’re questioning, sure, the S5’s AF enhancements are coming to the S1 cameras later this 12 months by way of firmware updates.)
    Daven Mathies/Digital TrendsIn apply, the S5’s autofocus labored nicely more often than not and I instantly seen the enhancements in AF-C and topic monitoring. Sadly, it stays removed from good. DFD is exceptionally quick, but it surely often will miss focus for no obvious purpose. Also, when you zoom whereas focusing in AF-C mode, this may throw the digicam off, inflicting a major focus delay even when the topic hasn’t moved. It’s finest to set your zoom earlier than half-pressing the shutter to keep away from this, however some fast-paced conditions merely received’t enable for that.
    Autofocus can also’t sustain in burst capturing. The S5 tops out at 7 frames per second, dropping to 5 with steady autofocus. So AF-C focus has improved, however you’ll be able to’t push it very far.
    This is one space the place the Panasonic GH5 outranks the S5. The Micro Four 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 completely different between the S collection and G collection.
    DFD can even go away videographers wanting, at the very least YouTubers and vloggers who rely on autofocus. As Panasonic defined it to me, DFD can’t function any quicker than the refresh fee of the sensor. In photograph mode, Panasonic can flip that as much as 480 frames per second. But 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 consequently.
    Still, 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). However, it nonetheless struggled after I moved out of direct mild, or if I obtained too near the digicam too shortly. Compared to the extremely good autofocus on Sony cameras, the S5 nonetheless doesn’t stack up, regardless of notable enhancements. Fortunately, it has different video options that redeem it, which I’ll get to later.
    Image stabilization and high-res shot
    The S5 makes use of a redesigned sensor-shift stabilization system to suit its smaller physique. Fortunately, it’s nonetheless a very good performer, rated for 6.5 stops of shake discount with a suitable 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 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 the sudden within the unusable zone. As at all times, efficiency will range from shot to shot and lens to lens, however don’t anticipate a seconds-long handheld publicity to come back 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 worth.

    A bit extra stunning 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. If you may have a tripod and non-moving topics, you merely can’t get extra decision anyplace close to this worth. (You may also use it for shifting topics the place movement blur is desired, resembling waterfalls or mild trails, however decision will solely be boosted in non-moving areas of the picture — contemplating the shifting areas are blurred, that’s in all probability not a difficulty).
    Panasonic’s implementation of high-res shot can be extra person pleasant than Sony’s (which is simply obtainable on the A7R collection), 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 assessment the high-res composite proper on the digicam’s monitor.
    Image high quality
    Panasonic pressured the S5 makes use of the very same sensor because the S1. That 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 relatively have a barely softer picture than the chance of moiré, for the reason that 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 needs to be nothing to complain about. That digicam delivered glorious efficiency throughout. One new function is Live View Composite, which merges the highlights from a sequence of long-exposure frames to construct mild trails whereas controlling ambient mild on non-moving topics. It’s nice for capturing star trails, and in contrast to comparable modes in different cameras, it will possibly really 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. Unless you don’t lock it down at f/5.6 or smaller, your publicity will change as you zoom.
    Fortunately, 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 Pro lenses, supplied for this assessment by Lensrentals. While virtually laughably massive on the S5, theses lenses are beautiful and reveal what the digicam is actually able to. Thanks to Leica and Sigma, there are many distinctive L-mount lenses to select from — however keep away from the Leicas when you like having cash.
    As a video digicam, the Lumix S5 is sort of a pickup truck. It’s not flashy or quick, but it surely works reliably and you may belief it to get the job achieved.
    Daven Mathies/Digital TrendsIn a time the place overheating complaints have taken heart stage, due to 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 principally 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 completely different than the S1H.
    On the opposite hand, you’ll be able to shoot it in nearly any surroundings and it received’t shut down on you. Where the S1H has a fan to actively cool the sensor, the smaller S5 doesn’t. Still, Panasonic examined the digicam at 104 levels Fahrenheit — roughly 30 levels hotter than most producers check their cameras. Based on that testing, 4K/60 and any 10-bit choices are restricted to 30 minutes. However, assuming you’re not in 104-degree climate, you’ll don’t have any downside 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 working for a second 30-minute clip in 4K/60.
    As for decrease framerates at 8 bits, report time is proscribed solely by battery life and reminiscence card capability — and due to twin card slots and help for USB energy, you shouldn’t have any downside getting the S5 to remain awake longer than you’ll be able to.
    But enable me this temporary apart: While the digicam can report lengthy takes to large SD playing cards, the footage will nonetheless be break up into 4GB chunks due to the FAT32 file system. Really? 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 totally clear on how Microsoft licenses ExFat. I consider it’s a flat payment 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 digicam than the S1H, would make licensing too costly. This isn’t only a Panasonic downside, but it surely’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. That 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 identical codec can 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 major two-shot is the S1H, whereas the second angle and B roll is the S5. The two cameras edited collectively high-quality, however you’ll be able to undoubtedly push the S1H footage additional in terms of shade grading. (This shoot was tremendous final minute and really tough, so please simply decide the cameras and, um, not my expertise.)
    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 pace, and a few video help instruments, like a vectorscope, are lacking.
    But 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. Even extra impressively, whereas it received’t get the intraframe codec or 6K inner recording, it is going to get the identical 5.9K RAW video output because the S1H. Essentially, which means you may get S1H high quality from a digicam that’s half the value.

    These are all decidedly area of interest capabilities, but it surely offers the S5 a novel benefit over its competitors. It additionally makes it the right B digicam to the S1H — or the right different 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 can get S1H high quality from a digicam that’s half the value.

    Is Panasonic actually OK with this? It simply introduced RAW output to the S1H earlier this summer season, 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. This is big.
    So lengthy 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.
    Our Take
    For some clients, the Panasonic Lumix S5 is what the S1 ought to have been, and will come throughout as a bit underwhelming now seeing it 2 years later. Late or not, I feel the S5 is strictly the digicam Panasonic wanted, and it ought to assist develop the L mount to a brand new demographic.
    The digicam has grown on me just a little extra day by 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 purposeful. Panasonic didn’t dumb it down, and I actually respect that. It’s a miniature workhorse that may maintain rank with its bigger, costlier siblings.
    Speaking of which, I’m unsure what the promoting factors of the S1 are anymore.
    Is there a greater different?
    The $2,000 worth vary has shortly grown crowded with glorious choices. For the nonetheless photographer, the Sony A7 III and Nikon Z 6 are legitimate alternate options, and each supply phase-detection autofocus and quicker steady capturing. However, neither can meet the S5’s video high quality. While the Z 6 does supply RAW video output by way of a paid firmware improve, it solely does so at a line-skipped 4K decision.
    How lengthy will it final?
    This could also be a “mini S1,” however it’s nonetheless constructed to carry as much as skilled put on and tear. It needs to be at the very least 2 years earlier than a alternative mannequin arrives, however anticipate it to final a few years longer when you don’t really feel the urge to consistently improve. Panasonic has a spectacular historical past of supporting cameras for years by way of firmware updates, as nicely.
    Should you purchase it?
    Yes. The Lumix S5 is a good hybrid digicam at a good worth. However, vloggers, YouTubers, and sports activities photographers who rely on dependable steady autofocus ought to fastidiously think about the alternate options.

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