Panasonic GH5 II vs GH5S vs GH6 – The 10 main differences

By the end of 2021, we should see three high-end Panasonic GH cameras on the market. The newly announced GH5 mark II, the older and specialised GH5S and the upcoming GH6, which will represent an important leap forward for the Lumix brand, as well as the micro four thirds system. Let’s see how these cameras compare.

Important: because Panasonic has only announced the development of the GH6 at this stage, there is not a lot of information about specs and performance. I’ve highlighted in colour what we know so far throughout the article, as well as my thoughts on other features it should have. Once more information is confirmed, I will update this article.

photo collage with close-up of the GH5 II, GH5S and GH6

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1. Sensor

The GH5 II features a sensor with 20.3MP and no low pass filter. It is an updated version of the sensor found in the original GH5 and has an Anti Reflection coating to reduce sensor flare in harsh backlit situations.

The GH5S has a 10.2MP sensor. The lower resolution has been designed to maximise low light performance. The sensor also supports a multi-aspect ratio. It is slightly bigger than the area covered by the lens, which makes it possible to change aspect ratios such as 4:3 or 16:9 while keeping the same diagonal angle of view.

graphic illustration showing how the multi-aspect ratio sensor works

GH6
We know very little about the GH6 sensor, but we do know that it will be a brand new chip (coupled with a brand new image processor) used for the first time in a micro four thirds camera.

We can also play the “guess the MP” game. We know that the camera will be able to record 5.7K video. This means that it needs at the very least around 18MP to produce that resolution in a 16:9 aspect ratio. However, the sensor is 4:3 meaning that there is extra space for more pixels on the top and bottom, so the total resolution of the sensor will be 25MP minimum. Given that, in general, digital cameras have more resolution that what is strictly needed for video, it is likely the number will be higher.

There is also the new 47MP four thirds sensor made by Sony, capable of 8K 30p recording. Panasonic hasn’t mentioned 8K however, so it might not use this one.


2. ISO range

The GH5 II has an ISO range that goes from 200 to 25600, plus a 100 ISO value (extended). Note that for video, the maximum level is 12800 ISO.

The GH5S has wider range that goes from ISO 160 to 51200, with extended values down to 80 and up to 204800. All settings are available for stills and video.

Furthermore, the GH5S has Dual Native ISO: one at ISO 400, the other at ISO 25600. This means that, for example, when you record at 6400 ISO, the camera will amplify the gain from the second native ISO (2500) rather than the first (400). In other words, it amplifies the gain by 1 stop and 1/3, rather than 4 stops, which means less noise.

graphic illustration showing the gain amplification with a single native ISO
graphic illustration showing the gain amplification with dual native ISO

GH6
There are no information about the ISO range at this time. It will have a completely new sensor with more megapixels than ever seen before on a m4/3 camera, so don’t expect very high numbers like those on the GH5S. My guess is that the range will be similar to 200-25600 which wouldn’t be bad considering the higher resolution. As for the dual native ISO tech, my guess is as good as everyone else’s, but it could remain exclusive to the GH5S.


3. Image quality settings

Despite being a camera designed for video more than anything else, the GH5S has one feature not found on any other micro four thirds camera from Panasonic or Olympus: 14-bit RAW output for still photography (which means more colour information in the RAW file in comparison to the other models that are 12-bit). I sometimes wonder why Panasonic even bothered with a specification like this on a video-centric camera like the GH5S, but it’s there.

The GH5 II on the other hand gets additional picture profiles not found on the GH5S, such as Cine-Like D2 and V2, Flat, L. Classic Neo and L. Monochrome S.

GH6
14-bit would be a nice implementation on the upcoming GH6, given that it has a completely new sensor with more resolution, something that could attract photographers and not just videographers. Wishful thinking? Probably, but let’s keep our fingers crossed! As for the new colour profiles, we should expect to see them on the GH6 because usually, new models incorporate all the features implemented on previous cameras.


4. Video capabilities

The GH5 II can record Cinema 4K and Ultra HD 4K up to 50/60p. It can also record anamorphic 4K (up to 60p) and 6K (up to 30p). Internal recording in 10-bit 4:2:2 is available up to 30p with the All-Intra H.264 codec and a bitrate of 400Mbps. If you record at 50 or 60p, 10-bit 4:2:0 is available with the H.265 codec (200Mbps).

GH5 II mounted on a gimbal and held by a camera operator

The GH5S has similar characteristics to the ones described above but with a few missing parts:

  • There is no 6K in anamorphic mode
  • 4K 50/60p is limited to 8-bit 4:2:0 internally

One thing the GH5S does better than the GH5 II is the fastest frame rate in Full HD, which is 240fps as opposed to 180fps (when using the VFR mode).

The GH5S also has one exclusive option: it outputs 12-bit Apple Prores RAW video to the Atomos Ninja V recorder via the HDMI output, thanks to firmware 2.0 (available in early June 2021).

Neither the GH5 II nor the GH5S have a recording limitation, so they will keep going until the battery rans out, or the SD cards are full. They also have a lot of advanced settings for video makers, including pre-installed V-Log L and HLG profiles, among many other things (zebra, waveform, etc.).

front view of the Panasonic GH5S with sensor cap attached

GH6
Panasonic said it will be able to record up to 5.7K/60p video in 10-bit, as well as 10-bit 4K 120p with the HFR/VFR mode. The company also mentioned DCI 4K up to 60p in 10-bit 4:2:2. The latter is the only format where they’ve specified 4:2:2, so it could be that the others are 10-bit 4:2:0 with the H.265 codec. RAW output via HDMI could be a possibility, and I’m expecting to see all the video related settings such as V-Log L and HLG.


5. Image stabilisation

The GH5 II features an updated stabilisation system with a rating of 6.5 stops of compensation when using sensor and optical stabilisation together (Dual IS). The camera also has a more advanced algorithm to correct shakes with natural results during movie recording. This comes from the flagship S1H full frame mirrorless camera.

illustration showing dual is at work

The GH5S doesn’t have in-body stabilisation. Panasonic made this decision after listening the feedback of video makers who said that IBIS can be affected by micro vibrations when doing camera car shots or other kinds of specialised shooting. You can of course rely on optical stabilisation with OIS lenses, or use a third party gimbal, the latter being a solution adopted by many filmmakers.

GH6
There is no mention of IBIS as of now on the GH6, although being the flagship, we can probably expect this kind of technology on the camera. After all, Panasonic has already made the GH5S for those who don’t want IBIS, so it would be strange to have two GH cameras out of three without it. Plus the sensor shift technology can be used for more features than just stabilisation, like for example creating images with a higher resolution (pixel shift). The G9 can do it, full frame mirrorless cameras such as the S1 and S1R can also do it, so that is another feature I would like to see on the GH6.


6. DfD Autofocus

The GH5 II and GH5S have contrast detection autofocus (DfD, or Depth from Defocus, a technology developed by Panasonic) with very similar features and algorithms, which include deep learning with face, eye and body detection, as well as animal detection (make sure to have the latest firmware installed on the S model).

autofocus setting with human or animal detection on Panasonic cameras

There are a few small differences: the GH5S has a locking speed of 0.07s, which is slightly slower than the original GH5 rated at 0.05s. Although there is no an official confirmation, I’m assuming the GH5 II rating is the same as its predecessor.

Then we have the minimum sensitivity in low light, where the GH5S has a 1 stop advantage over the GH5 II: -5Ev vs -4Ev.

GH6
The GH6 will introduce a new sensor and a new image processor, so it is plausible to expect a new generation (the third) of Panasonic’s DfD autofocus. I know that many are hoping for phrase detection, but the company seems to continue to believe in its technology (they’re using it on the full frame S series as well) so I can’t really see how they would suddenly change direction.


7. Focus Ring Control

One useful feature for video makers that is only found on the GH5 II for now is called the Focus Ring Control. With it, you can control how the focus ring behaves when rotated at different speeds.

There are two settings: Non-Linear and Linear. With the former, the focus transition depends not only on the rotation angle of the focus ring, but also on how quick or slow you rotate said ring. For example, if you rotate it very slowly, several rotations may be required to go from one point to another. If you rotate it very quickly however, you can rapidly change the distance with just half a full rotation, or even less.

close-up on the GH5 II with XLR microphone mounded on the hot-shoe, held by the hands of a camera operator

If you select Linear, the speed in which you rotate the ring won’t accelerate or decelerate the focus transition. It remains constant. This setting makes it easy to work with video when using a follow focus, or when you need to repeat the same focus change multiple times. You can also tell the camera to save the last focus distance used when turning off the camera, and determine how much angle of the ring’s rotation to use (the default is 360˚, but you can decide to use only 180˚ for example).

Note that only a small selection of Lumix lenses are compatible with this function (see the list in our GH5 vs GH5 II article) and you’ll need to update the firmware of the lenses (available in early June 2021).

Surprisingly, this feature has not been added to the GH5S via firmware (so far at least).

GH6
I would hope to see such a setting on the upcoming GH model, also considering that it is available on all the S-series cameras.


8. Streaming options

An interesting addition to the GH5 II is a set of options to help you make live streaming videos using just the camera and your smartphone.

After installing the free Lumix Sync app on your Android or iOS device, you will be able to connect wirelessly to the smart device and stream directly to platforms such as YouTube, Facebook (and more) using the phone’s wifi or cellular connection. The maximum quality is 1080p and 60p.

photo montage showing the GH5 II and the Lumix Sync app

Alternatively, it will be possible to connect directly to a Wifi Router, or use the 4G/5G data of your phone with the USB cable. A wired IP connection to the computer will also be possible (some of these options will require a firmware update that is scheduled later in 2021).

Finally, there is also the possibility of turning the GH5 II or GH5S into a Webcam with the Lumix Webcam Software.

GH6
These features are all brand new (except the Webcam software), so we should expect to see them on other Panasonic cameras in the future, unless the company decides to make it exclusive to the GH5 II in order to differentiate the products and their targeted audience.


9. USB Power

Panasonic ships the GH5 II with a more recent battery, the DMW-BLK22, which has more amperage (2200mAh vs 1860mAh on the old one). However, the battery is also compatible with the GH5S.

One feature only found on the GH5 II is the possibility to power the camera via the USB C port while in use, which is a great way to extend the battery life without the need to swap batteries.

GH6
There is no information about the battery that the GH6 will use. Hopefully it will be the same to make all the cameras more compatible, but it will also depend on how much power the new high speed sensor and processor need. It is reasonable to expect USB Power Delivery.


10. Price

The GH5 II is launched at the retail price of $1700, €1700 or £1500 (body only).

The GH5S was launched at higher price, but can now be found for at $1800 / £1800 / €1950 for the body alone.

GH6
As you have guessed already, we don’t know the price of the GH6 yet, but according to multiple sources (Dpreview, Camera Labs), the price should not exceed $2500.


Similarities

The GH5 II and GH5S are identical when it comes to body design and dimensions (138.5 x 98.1 x 87.4mm). There is a difference in weight, with the GH5 II being heavier (727g vs 660g) which is certainly due to the presence of the IBIS mechanism. Both cameras are weather sealed.

The EVF is the same with 3.68M dots, 0.76x magnification, 21mm eyepoint and a maximum refresh rate of 120Hz.

The rear screen is multi-angle, touch sensitive and 3.2-in large. The one on the GH5 II has slightly more resolution (1.84M vs 1.62M).

The continuous shooting speed for still photos is the same with a maximum of 12fps. If you shoot 14-bit RAW on the GH5S, the speed decreases slightly at 11fps. Despite having more resolution, the GH5 II has larger buffer thanks to the updated image processor (108 vs 80 RAW, or 1000 vs 600 JPGs).

You will find many extra features in common such as 6K and 4K Photo, and more.

Concerning the physical ports, they have:

  • Full size HDMI (Type A)
  • USB Type C 3.1
  • 3.5mm mic input
  • 3.5mm headphone output
  • 2.5mm remote input

Finally, they both come with two SD card slots with UHS-II compatibility.

teaser image of the Panasonic GH6 showing only the top right part of the camera

GH6
We can’t comment on dimensions and weight yet. There’s only a teaser image so far (above), but it already reveals sharper lines (similar to the S series). The camera name has moved to the right side on the front.

We should expect full weather sealing of course, as well as two memory card slots (hopefully both SD types), plenty of connectivity and many (if not all) of the features seen on previous cameras. There could be a new EVF with more resolution (5.76M has been seen in other cameras, including Panasonic’s own S1R and S1H) and perhaps more resolution for the rear screen too.


Conclusion

For now, this comparison is more of a two-and-a-half-way rather than a real three-way comparison, because there is so little information about the GH6. What is interesting to analyse is that by the end of the year, there will be three high end GH cameras, each with its own unique characteristics that will target different needs in the video making community.

It’s easy to imagine that the GH5 II will be the best seller, especially because it is the least expensive model and because its Live Streaming features, if proven reliable and easy to use, could meet the increasing demand for an easy solution to stream professional content online.

The GH5S has the advantage of better high ISO performance, and the lack of sensor stabilisation will suit those who prefer to rely on external solutions to stabilise the footage.

There are so many things we have yet to discover about the flagship GH6. It will have video characteristics never before seen on a micro four thirds camera and, at long last, a completely new sensor. And my fear that Panasonic would use the GH5 II / GH6 double announcement to price the GH6 higher seems to have been appeased. Yes, it will be more expensive, but $2.5K sounds very reasonable. I’m excited to learn more about it.

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