Panasonic GH5 is coming… [updated]

Wishes and Expectations

The Panasonic GH5 is expected to be announced soon but due to Kumamoto Earthquake, latest rumours say that shipment won’t happen until early 2017.

I’ll write about my initial expectations before the latest rumours and include the new rumours as a side note.

What I expect:

  • In Body Image Stabilization (5-axis DUAL IS)
  • 1080p 120fps Slow Motion
  • 8-bit 4:2:2 Internal Recording
  • Dual Card Slot

With the GX85/ GX80/ GX7 MK II already having IBIS working with 4K recording, I think it’s only natural to expect it for the GH4’s successor. This is something that I have been wanting for a Panasonic camera ever since Olympus was able to make it work with a firmware update in the original E-M5.

Panasonic DMC-GX85 / GX80/ GX7 MK II
Since then, Olympus had a lot of chances of making it big in the video community with that magical feature alone, but they wasted it.

They even advertised the E-M5 MK II for video and somehow all sort of reviewers said that it was great for video but the more I watched the previews, the worse it looked. Until people started to actually review the camera and the video was no good indeed.

Nowadays the 1080p 120fps is basically the new standard for slow motion, Panasonic offers it in the FZ1000 but only at 96 fps in the GH4 and it’s quite soft and it has some artifacts too. So a good looking 120fps like Sony has been able to pull it off is the least I would expect.

Having a smaller Micro 4/3 sensor it’s almost like Panasonic is already coming from behind, so offering some form of 4:2:2, even as a 8-bit codec it’s a way to get some edge. Canon offers 8-bit 4:2:2 that in the 1DX MK II and the new 5D MK IV, but in the form of a very ancient and inefficient 500mbps MJPEG codec.

The MJPEG codec offers no real advantage, it doesn’t give you the small files of the new IPB codecs and neither the advantages of an All-I codec like ProRes that you can edit right away.

So, with MJPEG you basically get massive files and you still have to transcode it to edit.

But of course, I don’t think Panasonic would ever use MJPEG, so we can be at ease that the least they will use is the usual H.264.

I don’t quite see Sony offering any flavor of 4:2:2 internally for their photo cameras in the near future. Sony is very protective of their video cameras and as they are yet to even offer 10-bit via HDMI out, even if Panasonic offers internal 8-bit 4:2:2, that would be too close to the FS5 for Sony to step up.

Features I wish Panasonic would bring but it might be just wishful thinking:

  • 2.0x crop in 4K instead of 2.2x crop
  • New sensor with better DR and less noise — one of the biggest knocks in the GH4
  • 1080p 240 fps Slow Motion
  • 4K 60 fps Slow motion
  • A6300 Continuous AF Performance (CDAF plus on sensor PDAF)
  • 10-bit 4:2:2 Internal Recording
  • Multi Aspect Sensor — with 1.86x in video
  • New Grip
  • New Form factor

New Sensor?

The GH4 was pretty bad in terms of noise, it had noise even at base level ISO and the Sony’s BSI Copper Wiring Stacked Design 1" sensor had better Dynamic Range than the GH4 despite being much smaller. Not only that but being BSI it also had better noise grain as well. Panasonic already showed improvements in this department as the new GX 85/GX 80/ GX7 MK II, which seems about 1-stop better in low light performance but can they get better Dynamic Range?

The rumours have been all over the place when it comes to the sensor to be used inside the GH5. Initial rumours talked about the same sensor from the GX85 but then, with Olympus E-M1 MK II rumoured to have a new sensor, I seriously doubt Panasonic wouldn’t have the same sensor. The latest rumour even said it’s a 20MP sensor instead of the old 16MP, which sounds more on par with the E-M1 MK II rumours.

I think Panasonic could go back to the multi-aspect sensor. For the GH1 and GH2 Panasonic offered a 1.86x crop for video — very similar to the Red Raven 1.87x crop — , why can’t Panasonic offer that again? I really missed that since any less crop is a plus for a Micro 4/3 camera.

I don’t know if having the 1.86x crop for video and the IBIS would present an issue for Image Quality or vignetting in the corners but it would be nice if instead of 2.2x crop, Panasonic could go the other way and offer a 1.86x crop.

But I don’t know, Panasonic didn’t use it in the GH3 and at the time I was disappointed but it felt like Panasonic simply didn’t have the sensor they wanted. They usually use their in-house developed sensor and the GH3’s sensor seems to be the same as the Olympus E-M5, which is said to be a Sony sensor.

Then I thought that the GH4 would come with it and they had plenty of time to develop one if they wanted, but again no Multi Aspect Sensor. So at this point it seems that Panasonic has moved on, but who knows? After JVC was able to put a Super 35 sensor in their LS300 with Micro 4/3 mount, Panasonic might reconsider the Multi Aspect Sensor.

That’s very low on what I actually expect but it would be a great bonus and a great weapon against the competition.

10-bit 4:2:2 Internal Recording?

Also, it’s now said that the GH5 might even have 10-bit 4:2:2 internally and full sensor readout in 4K instead of the 2.2x crop . I just hope that full sensor readout doesn’t come at the cost of a worse rolling shutter. But both 10-bit 4:2:2 internal recording and no extra crop in 4K might not be just my wishful thinking after all.

The truth is that log profile is so much more powerful when having proper 10-bit 4:2:2 chroma subsampling, or maybe we should say that it’s not meant to be used with 8-bit 4:2:0 codec as it breaks down quite easily if you don’t nail the settings and exposure.

Codec Solutions

I wonder what kind of codec Panasonic will use in any of the 4:2:2 cases, be it 8-bit or 10-bit. AVC Ultra is used in Varicam cameras but if I’m not mistaken they are All-I codecs and I don’t think Panasonic would offer their AVC Ultra like that in a Lumix cameras, plus the bitrates are pretty massive compared to the 100mbps used today in Panasonic’s Lumix cameras.

Panasonic has a 200mbps All-I 1080p codec for the GH4 and the U3 cards can deliver 240mbps of continuous recording and that should be more than enough for 8-bit 4:2:2 but maybe not enough for 10-bit 4:2:2. Will Panasonic adopt faster cards then? Will they offer an alternative for internal recording?

I can see Panasonic offering a new form of Grip that would allow faster media recording. Maybe one compatible with SSD, P2, CFast or something else.

The ideal solution would be to use XQD or some other fast card because it wouldn’t require a new grip for that, maybe even the new UFS. I suggested the grip because it would be a way for Panasonic to offer more connectivity and also capitalize on a new accessory, not that I would want that but it’s something that has been done before and with nobody else making a similar offer, I would understand if Panasonic did so.

Another possibility and the one I prefer the most is if Panasonic adopts H.265 HEVC codec — just like Samsung did with the NX1.

Some people complained about the lack of support for H.265 and maybe Samsung was too ahead of time but the fact is that the new CPUs and GPUs of today all support H.265 natively and this is certainly the future for video — as it can maintain the same quality in a much smaller file.

HEVC H.265 vs AVC H.264

Soon enough H.265 is going to be the new standard for web and even broadcast, it will be vastly adopted in the next few years and it would be wise of Panasonic to get into that now.

Panasonic’s TVs already support the codec and even at 10-bit 4:2:2 it would certainly fit the same U3 cards that is already in use. Most people have to transcode the 100mbps H.264 codec anyway, with increase in popularity, the support for H.265 transcode shouldn’t be an issue at all. I really hope that Panasonic goes this path.

Slow Motion

I don’t know if Panasonic would offer 4K 60fps but that would certainly be a way to get an edge over Sony since that’s something they only offer in their video cameras.

Without an AF100 successor, Panasonic has no interchangeable lens camera to protect under $10k like Sony does, so unless they have plans for that, in theory they could very well go all-in and go for features that Sony wouldn’t follow.

Moreover, Panasonic already offers 4K 60fps in some other 4K cameras like the DVX200, which was announced more than a year ago. There is the possibility of only getting 4K 60fps with an extra crop instead of the full sensor readout, but that’s just a small compromise.

1080p 240fps would be an interesting thing too, even with an extra crop, limited recording or worse quality, I hope Panasonic has the means to make it happen. But if Sony is already offering good video quality for 1080p 240fps with a slight crop, I can’t see why Panasonic can do that as well.

Auto Focus

Sony stepped up their game with the Continuous AF used in the A6300, Panasonic has yet to use on sensor Phase Detection or any alternative solution for it so that’s why I listed it as a possible wishful thinking.

Panasonic’s DFD — Depth From Defocus — can help at times but a new and improved AF has become very important nowadays. With Canon’s Dual Pixel AF and accessible gimbals for mirrorless cameras, a decent continuous AF is the next step a lot of people want.

New Form Factor?

I think Panasonic might come with a new form factor for the GH5. Maybe a no time limit with IBIS might require a better heat dissipation, even more if it feats a more processing intensive task like H.265 decoding.

I’ve seen people doubting Panasonic would make it work because Sony hasn’t been able to. Look, the reason Sony can’t solve the overheating issue is because it’s not a priority for them, just that. It think I already wrote about it but I had some NEX cameras and they overheated even at 1080p.

Why? Because Sony loves the small and compact form factor, they love to claim the smallest camera in each class and of course, in a super compact body, heat dissipation will be an issue. So Sony knows about the overheating issue since then and if they insist in these compact form factor, they do that by choice. Also because soon enough there should be an A9 line up that won’t have any of that or so you can go for the FS5.

There is something else I wish Panasonic would do regarding the form factor but I don’t quite think they will but I’ll let that idea for my Panasonic Wishlist — which I will probably publish it later.

Final Thoughts

If Panasonic can really offer IBIS, 4K without the extra crop and 10-bit 4:2:2 for internal recording, we are talking about a pretty good video camera there.

Put a Focal Reducer like the Speed Booster and add the Sigma combo of 18–35mm f/1.8 and the new 50–100mm f/1.8 and you have one of the best Run & Gun combo set out there.

Constant f/1.2 with stabilization, 10-bit 4:2:2 V-log in a Super 35-like sensor?

Not to mention that Panasonic offers no time limit recording, no overheating issue and great battery life. For AF and Gimbal action you can carry the Panasonic 7–14mm f/4 and the 12–35mm f/2.8 or even the Olympus 7–14mm f/2.8 and 12–40mm f/2.8 — since IBIS would still allow IS for non-OIS lenses — and you are good to go.

I don’t think it will be the same price as the GH4 was announced though. A lot of manufacturers already announced some price adjustments and if Panasonic really offers all of that, it might come with at least a $100 or $200 price tag increase but I don’t think that would be unreasonable. Again, if it really has 10-bit 4:2:2, there will be nothing like it in the market.

I wish that some of the other stuff I wanted could be there in the GH5 but the rumored specs are already quite good, even if it’s 8-bit 4:2:2 or if it does require something extra to get the 10-bit 4:2:2, that’s still not bad at all.

[update: August 31, 2016]

According to 43Rumors there are new specs leaks:

  • 20MP Sensor
  • Dual Card Slots
  • 4K Photo Stills 60fps
  • 6K Photo Mode 30fps
  • 1-stop better ISO

I was going to comment on that here, but it would end up becoming and article within an article, so I published the commentary HERE.