Will I Switch to Panasonic from Sony? For Video of Course… By Steve Huff

Will I Switch to Panasonic from Sony for my Video needs?

By Steve Huff

Video is here, video is big and video is more popular today than photography. Doesn’t take much to see it, and I saw the signs 2-3 years ago, and now it is almost unstoppable. Today on Youtube alone there are thousands of people who review cameras and g gadgets. There are millions of vloggers who document their lives, or just film everything they can. There are countless videos on almost anything we can consume or buy as today some have discovered that making videos can be a career. With so many creating videos, we are seeing camera companies putting better video capabilities into their cameras. Look at what Sony has been doing? Look at Canon, look at Nikon and of course, Panasonic who was one of the first to jump into the video game, with their GH series of cameras. With Sony releasing cameras that seem to offer it all..video, photos, etc, Panasonic is still keeping it simple, and focusing on VIDEO with their GH5 and GH5s. They have been VERY popular among filmmakers, vloggers and those who LOVE shooting video or being creative.

In fact, we are in a time right now where I see some people either dumping (or talking about it) their Panasonic GH5 camera for the new Sony A7III, and me,  I may be taking a step backwards to the Panasonic GH5S from Sony! Am I crazy? Maybe. But I do know what I like, and I really am liking what I am seeing from the GH5S in regards to video, and in a few other areas. Yep, I rented one for a week from lensrentals.com just to see what all the talk was about with these series of cameras from Panasonic. I have always dismissed them and the reason why is, well, they are Micro 4/3, and we all know that low light and DR is not the strong point of Micro 4/3.  I also own the EM1 MKII and for video, it is lackluster in a few areas (when compared to Sony and others) and not one I can really use or enjoy using for my video projects. Low light, forget it with the Olympus. Color? Eh, it’s ok. That is Micro 4/3 and the flagship from Olympus yet for video it is a non starter for me.

Low light video with the Panasonic is very UN Micro 4/3 like…ISO 12800 in my low light room last night.

But I had to try the Panasonic as many of my friends use them for their video work, and they would not shoot anything else for the money, I mean, they LOVE these cameras! So I rented the GH5S as I shoot a lot of video, more than I ever have, and some of it in pretty low light (outside of what I do here). I expected to like it but never expected I would think of dumping my cameras from Sony that I use only for Video as I never really had many complaints about it though the color was never to my liking and always the biggest challenge/dislike for me with Sony video.

Before I go on, I do want to say this article is not about stills. For stills, for photography, Sony rules the day over Panasonic. But for video? Even with the blazing fast AF from Sony, the full frame sensor and low light abilities (the A7III has amazing low light as do all Sony’s) and video capabilities, the Sony’s are not the best for video from what I am seeing. In fact, after just a day with the GH5S I noticed and realized that the color coming from the Panasonic was so much nicer looking than what I was able to get from any of the Sony’s, again, with video. Somehow, the Panasonic comes across as more cinematic as well, which I love.

No mistaking that big red REC button!

I know some people who are hardcore fans of the GH5 for video, and not just film makers. Yes, for low budget indie film this is a remarkable camera bargain and gets close to some of those mega buck large cinema cameras. But the GH5 and S are also used by many more than just film makers. It also has a great design and feel. A much nicer and easier menu system. Slap it into video mode and changing settings could not be easier. Button placement is also quite nice, and better than any Sony I have used. That big red video record button is also nice, and easy to find. It’s not a small tiny button hidden on the back within a mass of other small buttons.

The GH5S feels fantastic … but…

So far, great design, great feel, great menu, great button placement and my 1st video tests showed me how much different the color and feel were over the Sony cameras I have shot with, and the low light just amazes me. Usable ISO 12800 no problem.  Keep in mind, I am not speaking about buying a GH5 or S just for my youtube channel. I do much more than that with video though I do use my cameras for vlogging, video reviews and even travel and mini documentaries. Even with my enthusiastic first feelings on the GH5S, there was one area that I was disappointed in, and I am not alone in this disappointment as it has been the biggest criticism of the camera to date by 90% of those who reviewed it. (there are probably 2000 or more reviews of this camera).

Right off the bat, I realized that the GH5S was not going to work for all of my needs as Panasonic decided to make a change with it and took out the in body 5 AXIS IS which was amazing on the standard GH5. For many this was a dealbreaker with the new S. The GH5 has it, and it is $400 less expensive. It loses that 2 stop advantage of the S in low light but everywhere else it is about the same. The S gives us a wider perspective, though a small change/difference. Without the in body IS, the GH5S is unusable as a vlogging camera and I will say now, it is NOT meant to be a vlogging camera. The GH5 is good for that as are many other cameras. If only vlogging is your thing, go for a GH5 if you like or use your phone, or a canon, or a Sony. But if you vlog and want to stand out from the crowd with insanely good quality, a GH5 and Leica 12mm f/1.4 could be the trick. It has amazing 5 Axis IS built in, no gimbal needed, so walk around shots are not an issue. The S on the other hand would need a gimbal for a walk around camera, as without one the shakes are AWFUL. Gimbals are heavy.

Panasonic removed the 5 Axis for a reason, as filmmakers did not want it. So they created the camera that filmmakers wanted and even without the in body IS it is still an amazing film making tool. My work is 75% tripod, 25% handheld. So I figured it out today.. I need one of each for my work!!  The GH5 for walk around, hand held shots, and the S for tripod and low light. Lol. The camera game never ends but I wish I would have rented one of these a long time ago, or listened to some of my friends who love them. If I did, I would have avoided testing others for this need of mine.

After a while with the GH5S I broke down and ordered one as I could not believe the quality of the video when compared to the Sony A9, A7RII, A7III. Now, the Sony’s are WONDERFUL for video and many use them with gorgeous results. They also offer better AF of you want to use it, and offer full frame.

But the Panasonic’s were MADE pretty much, just for video. They excel in this. They offer the most options for quality whether you want low or extreme high quality. They offer VLOG which is AMAZING and offers the most color depth and dynamic range. I feel it is the 10 bit vs 8 bit thing that pushes the quality over the edge for Panasonic. The Panasonic files are so rich, have deep blacks, superb color even at high ISOs up to 12,800. At 12,800 I see no graininess, no mush, no off color. See the video above for a low light 12800 chat with the GH5S.

With the Sony’s I do mush in low light, with premium lenses. In fact, I also prefer the color science of the Panasonic so much more than what I can get from the Sony (with video). This is one main reason so many love Panasonic. The color, the depth, the cinematic look, the ease of color grading, the VLOG profile… it all just works, and works well.

I very rarely shoot in 4K. I like a good 1080P HD file and with the GH5S, I get a lovely 10BIT file in whatever quality I desire. I can go low bitrate or up to 200. It allows me to shoot 8 bit as well for when I do want to do a quick vlog or something that doesn’t need top quality.

But shooting in 10 bit is for me, a revelation. The fact that I went to Amazon and ordered a GH5S hours after the rental was received says a lot. I will not be using this GH5S for stills, at all. It will be strictly video. I am also adding a GH5 for the 5 Axis IS and will use that for travel and when on the road with a Leica 12mm f/1.4 lens for Micro 4/3. I will also use some of my Olympus glass as I have the 8mm fisheye, 17 1.2, 25 1.2 and 45 1.2 as well as the 7-14 2.8. That’s the beauty and what also pushed me to the Panasonic. I remembered that I had a ton of Micro 4/3 glass from Olympus! I also have the little 7.5mm LAOWA f/2.

I am late to the GH5 party, but better late than never. I have seen what so many love in these, and I would say that if you are thinking of switching to Sony, well, it could be a good choice for you over a GH5 camera. You will lose that special Panasonic color, and 10 bit but you will gain AF speed and full frame. You will have great low light as well. It all comes down to your personal preference.

The GH5 series also has the ability to use speed boosters and lenses in Canon or Nikon mount. This speed booster will allow these cameras to have a shallower depth of field and faster apertures getting closer to a full frame look, or Super 35.

So for now, as of right now, I am switching to Panasonic over Sony for my video. I am losing the blazing AF and full frame DOF control but am gaining something more important to me. Color quality, depth, 10 Bit capability and also I am finding the audio pre amps to be better as well, as my external mics sound better through the Panasonic. I can deal with using manual focus or even slower AF and I can deal with less shallow DOF.

Yep, I know the Sony A7SIII is coming, but after testing the Panasonic for video I am not interested in Sony at this time. Sure, the new A7SIII may do 10 bit, it will have the fast AF, great battery and be full frame..but, it will still have the Sony color science and for video they lag behind in that area compared to Canon and Panasonic. With video, color is what pulls you in. The look and feel of the footage is what keeps you drawn in. I found nothing better in that area in the $2k price range over these Panasonic cameras.

I also love the swivel screen of the Panasonic, and am hoping Sony does a redesign with the A7SIII and adds one. The next 3 months is going to bring a load of new cameras to us. Nikon and Canon are jumping into the IC mirrorless game and Sony’s A7SIII has to be on the way soon. Should be interesting indeed!

 

 

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22 Comments

  1. The 10-bit color science and low-light ability of the GH5S are very impressive indeed. I’m thinking of buying one and pairing it with a Panasonic Leica 42.5mm f1.2 Nocticron to shoot nighttime video.

  2. I assume ‘serious’ filmmakers don’t want IBIS in the GH5S as they will more than likely use a custom built rig for handheld work. It is possible to buy fairly cheap options for handheld. Saying that putting the strap around my neck to steady the camera works well for me. Of course the GH5 with IBIS is cheaper so no brainer really.

    My only real issue with the GH5 is the m4/3 sensor having a 2x crop. You either stick with m4/3 lenses or have to delve into ultrawide territory for some focal lengths – can be expensive and limiting, depending on the lens brand used. I prefer crop (gives a Super 35 perspective) or fullframe.

    • I have been using the GH5 and GH5s, testing both and have realized that these are NOT meant to be used with any kind of auto focus when it comes to video. Photo it is great, video, the AF is not only slow but it loses what it is locked onto constantly. The Sony’s do not have this issue, at all. The Sony AF for video is quite amazing really, almost like it came from the future, lol. Fast, reliable and locked on. The negatives of the Sony for video (30 minute limit, not as good of colors, no 10 bit) is indeed better to take over the AF of the GH5 series IF someone is looking for an AF video camera. Most use the GH5 and S with manual focus, I am aware of this and in this way these cameras are fantastic. The S has a 1.8 crop, the GH5 a 2X crop. So I do enjoy the S for that reason but without IBIS, well, the GH5 is much nicer to use handheld. It’s like Panasonic crippled it so their GH5 would still sell, not so much the demands of the industry (can always turn it off if you do not want it) The S has slightly faster and better AF and even though they are the same system, for some reason the S is a tad quicker but still very unreliable. The only usable AF mode is single point, and even then it waves in and out quite often. I was all set to switch to the GH5 and S for my video needs outside of this site but feel I will stick with Sony. It already has the low light (and better) of the S, no crop at all, and better battery by a little bit. Ill deal with the lack of 10 bit, 30 minute limit (though it has messed me up a few times) and different colors and probably snag an A7SIII when it arrives. I use AF and MF, and the GH5 cameras AF is really unusable for video out in the real world. A Static subject is ok, but any movement, forget it. Panasonic needs to add phase detect to the GH6.

  3. Hi Steve, literally just bought a GH5 (12-35mm f2.8) for an upcoming trip. I want to use the GH5 for both stills and videos and wanted to know about your thoughts on it for stills as well as which lenses you would use for a hiking/scenic trip.

    I’m coming from a x100t/rx10iii and will be leaving these two at home and purely using the GH5 + DJI Mavic.

    • Hey Jason! Well, I have tested the GH5S for stills (I was one of the rare ones who LOVED The A7SI and II for stills) and was VERY happy with its performance. I mean, I could live with this for perusal photos, family, vacation, or anything besides my truly serious work. The GH5S is supposed to be even better for stills but I feel people say this due to the higher MP count. I find it interesting that so many feel they need massive MP when almost no one priest anymore and if they do, it’s not large sizes. Heck I will be using my GH5S for photos as well. But I have a GH5 arriving today so will compare. Though both will be good. I hear the G9 is the best photo Micro 4/3 but lacks in video when compared to the GH5 series. I will say Panasonic needs to add phrase detect AF, BADLY to a future GH6. If they added fast phase detect AF, kept in body IS and improved the low light of the GH5 sensor it would be one heck of a camera that would make sure they remain tops for video work in this form factor. The 12-35 lens is fantastic BTW, and it is a huge jump over the RX100 and RX10…camera and that lens. You will be happy I think.

  4. You gotta wonder how the GH5S will compare to the video capabilities of the new Nikon FF MILC due out anytime now … and will we see a full court press and review of that new Nikon here at SHP dot com? … crazy to think a Nikon could get any luv here.

    • I am excited about the new Nikon and Canon mirrorless cameras that are rumored to hit soon. BUT, I have never in life seen a version 1 of a camera be great. They always seem to have issues like slow AF, glitches, bad video, or something that keeps them from being really fantastic. Sony has had a head start, for years, so Nikon and Canon have to get it right out of the gate. For video though, I am a fan of Canon and Panasonic colors. Not so much with Nikon and Sony. All are wonderful, and can do the job but color is a personal thing. Even so, I am hoping the new Nikon is killer and also has a great design (like they did with the Df many years ago, but slimmer).

  5. Question: If one wants to shoot videos why not buy a camcorder? They are compact and seem to be what professional videographers use.

    • Pro videographers do not really use camcorders. They use either GH5’s, Canons or Sony’s or cinema cameras. If you shoot for the news, a camcorder will work great. If you want any kind of cinematic look, or greta low light performance or to use different lenses for different looks and varying depth of field, a camcorder will not cut it. Camcorders use 1″ sensors or smaller and suffer in low light and dynamic range, and they give a flat “video” look. So this is why I do not use camcorders. I do not know of anyone who does actually. I have many friends into video, and all use either a GH5, a Sony of some kind or a Canon of some kind.

    • With video, everything seems to be a compromise.

      With exceptional colour, large sensor, built in ND filters, excellent AF and proper XLR audio, Canon’s C series cameras seem to be ideal for just about everything.

      The compromise is that they are expensive when compared to a GH5 and other cameras and many in the C series range are HD, not 4k devices (if that is a problem for you).

      We have a more affordable “pro” camcorder in the Sony PWX x70 that is great for run and gun and ENG work with a 10bit codec, ND filters and brilliant XLR audio. But it has a slow lens and a small 1 inch sensor (big for camcorders). So it’s not great for low light and is a pig if you want to blur the background for interview work.

      However, something that is not mentioned here is how clients respond to different equipment that is used for what they consider to be an expensive paid shoot.

      You look like a boss with a Canon C100 series camera, even if it’s an older “cheaper” C100 Mk1 unit. You look like Spielberg with any of the Blackmagic URSA cams or another pro level rig that really looks the part.

      I no longer underestimate the importance of what you look like when pitching yourself as a professional. We whipped out a MFT Panasonic GX85 at an exhibition to shoot cutaways because of its 5 axis in body stabilisation. The client laughed at us and asked us where our real cameras were. So I pointed to that PWX X70 and an old VG30 and they were happy!

      The client didn’t care that the picture from the MFT GX85 is way better than the VG30 and has a much larger sensor than the PWX X70. They think they are getting good work when you whip out a “real” video camera.

      So, silly as it seems, I’d not want to pitch up with only a GH5 or even a BMPCC 4k to a corporate job without at least one “real” video camera in tow. Maybe you can cut it with weddings or more social events, but for corporate shoots the client wants to think that you have good equipment and he has no idea that a GH5 produces fantastic pictures. He just knows you pitched up with a dinky little MFT camera – not a “real” one.

  6. I think we are at the stage where it is super important to qualify just what is meant by “video”.

    For sure, there is an ENORMOUS wall of video content out there. Simply massive. But here is the thing – the vast majority of video content is vlogging, or simply documentary of events. The amount of creative story telling on video taking place is much, much less.

    For example – let’s take this website. I have not seen Steve make a creative video that tells a story or offers a narrative – instead video is being used as an alternative to typing something for people to read.

    The needs of vloggers speaking to camera and the needs of people creating narrative content are not always the same.

    • Again, the video I do is NOT on this site or for this site or for my youtube channel. I shoot video 5 days per week, and travel to do it many times. For video here I can use anything, a Sony RX100 would do.

  7. Interesting Steve, thank you. I currently use a Sony A6500 for video and I’m looking for a replacement. To me, AF, Stabilisation, colour science and easy handling are what I’m looking for. I shoot family moments as well as vlogs, interviews and travel videos. I’m looking into the GH5, but was also surprised by the Canon XF400 with 1″ sensor. Only 8 bit, a smaller sensor and no beautiful primes to work with, but a very reliable machine and it checks all the boxes. Have you considered this?

    • Ive tried the XF400 and was not a fan of the flat looking video and lacking DR. It has a small sensor. Id take a RX100 over it actually. Not knocking it, as many like it but it’s not versatile. Thank you.

  8. no, you’re not crazy steve
    IMO, m4/3 or even 1″ sensor is more “ideal” for videos. FF sounds kinda overkill in videos (except for shooting movies/commercial)

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