A still photography look at the LUMIX GH5 (Updated)

Update: I received a few comments from readers who who report having trouble getting good quality still photos with the GH5. I have added some screen shots from Lightroom with […]

Written By Rob Knight

On April 12, 2017
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Update: I received a few comments from readers who who report having trouble getting good quality still photos with the GH5. I have added some screen shots from Lightroom with a still image at ISO3200 as an example of the still image quality. This shot was made with the Leica 12-60mm f2.8-4 lens, and I have included the jpeg out of the camera and the processed raw file. I have also updated the images in the post so you can click on them to see the full-size image.

Call me crazy, but I’m going to tell you why the LUMIX GH5 is my favorite micro 4/3 camera without mentioning the video features. Ok, I might mention 6k photo mode, but not the amazing 4K video and high-end recording features. Those features have been (and I’m sure will continue to be) covered elsewhere in great detail.

This is a user report about still photography.

LUMIX GH5 and Leica 100-400mm f4-6.3. ISO800, f5.6, 1/2000 sec. Raw file, default settings in Lr Classic CC except for applying the Camera Vivid raw Profile.

The first LUMIX camera I bought was the GH3. I was using cute little retro-styled m4/3 cameras at the time, but when I felt that familiar DSLR-like shape in my hand I was reminded why cameras had evolved into that shape in the first place. It was comfortable to hang onto all day and I didn’t feel like I was going to drop it. The other thing I love about the GH cameras is the abundance of external controls. I rarely have to go into the menu to change settings while I’m  shooting, and I can make most adjustments without taking the viewfinder away from my eye. The GH5 definitely builds on the ergonomics of its predecessors. It’s a bit larger than the GH4, and I’m so glad! The grip is fantastic. I have a place for my pinky finger, even without the battery grip!

By the time the GH5 came out I had all but abandoned my GH4 in favor of the LUMIX GX8 with its higher resolution, stabilized sensor. The GX8 has been my daily driver since it was released and I think it is a great camera. However, the range-finder-style camera body has limitations for some of the photography that I like to shoot. Mainly for long lenses and wildlife. Shooting the LUMIX/Leica 100-400mm f4-6.3 on the GX8 is not fun for long. The small grip on the GX8 is great with most lenses, but on the 100-400mm it’s just not enough. The external controls on the GH8 are great, but not quite as extensive as the GH bodies. Needless to say I’ve been looking forward to the next GH camera for a while.

I’ll cut to the chase and tell you that I haven’t been disappointed at all with the GH5. It has been a pleasure to shoot with in every situation, and my other camera bodies haven’t seen the light of day since I pulled the GH5 out of the box. Here are some of my favorite features of the GH5… besides the unbelievable 4K video quality.

Image quality

First and foremost the LUMIX GH5 is a camera, right?! It has a 20.3mp sensor with no anti-aliasing filter. That means there is nothing in the optical path to reduce the sharpness or resolution of the sensor. I shoot a lot of different nature subjects that require all the resolution and sharpness I can get. Leaves, feathers and fur all benefit from the extra sharpness the GH5 has to offer.

Stabilized sensor/ dual is

Also important for nature photography (and lots of other subjects) is the built-in image stabilization. The GH5 employs the latest generation of what Panasonic calls Dual IS. The sensor is stabilized in the camera, and it works in conjunction with the stabilizer in most LUMIX lenses. This combination gives you 5-axis stabilization that is tuned for the focal length of the lens you’re using. In my experience this system works remarkably well to reduce camera shake and allow much longer shutter speeds without a tripod.

AF joystick

This is the first seemingly tiny addition to the GH5 that I want to mention. Just to the left of your right thumb as you hold the camera is a small joystick you can use to move the focus point or focus area. I have used the touch screen to adjust the focus point for years, but the joystick allows me to do so without taking my eye away from the viewfinder. They also added the sweet little joystick to the battery grip! LUMIX cameras allow you to change the focus point on the touch screen while using the viewfinder, but I use my left eye sometimes and that basically makes that feature unusable. Hooray for the joystick!

Front Fn button

Another small thing I love is the programmable Fn (function) button on the front of the camera next to the lens mount. Lots of cameras have buttons like this already, but this is the first GH camera to have one. I use this Fn button on my GX8 more than any other programmable button. I was really glad to see it on the front of the GH5.

Dual SD slots

This feature is pretty much a given on a professional level camera in 2017. The GH5 has lots of options for using both slots. I generally use one for photo and the other for video, or one for RAW and the other for jpeg, depending on what I’m shooting at the time. You can also use one for overflow, or record to both cards at the same time for backup.

AF tracking

The auto focus tracking in the GH5 is unbelievable. The 225 point AF and the AF-C mode give you up to 9 frames per second with predictive auto focus. I’ve been using the custom area mode to select the exact AF are I want when I’m shooting moving subjects. Once you set the area you can use the joystick to make adjustments on the fly. For wildlife, sports, or anything else that moves, the GH5 is no joke.

Menu organization 

The GH5 has a menu that will be familiar to LUMIX users, but it feels easier to get around than previous models to me. The ubiquitous “custom wrench” menu now contains 5 sub menus so you can go directly to the item you want. There are now tabs on the right side of the screen so you can directly select the tab you want. I always liked the page-up/down feature of previous models, but the tabs work even faster.

Another great addition to the menu is the “My Menu” tab. Here you can save you most used menu items for easy access without scrolling. It’s about time the already excellent LUMIX menu got this upgrade.

Battery life

Like the GH4 before it, the GH5 has given me seemingly endless battery life. I put one full battery in the camera and one full battery in the battery grip and shot for 4 days. Now, I was not shooting all day each day, but I was out of town with my kids for spring break, and you can bet I made quite a few photos! I was worried that the stabilized sensor would drain the battery faster than the GH4, but in practice it still seems to go on forever.

6k photo/ post focus/ stacking

These features are blowing my mind a little bit. I made a 13″x19″ print of a 6k photo at a camera club event in February, and I could hardly believe my eyes. The GH5 will record 30 frames per second and then let you choose a frame to save as an 18mp jpeg! You can also shoot with the same resolution and choose the focus point after the shot, or do your focus stacking in the camera! I have only scratched the surface of these features, but I’m excited to see what I can do.

L. Monochrome

Last but not least is my favorite photo style. If you’re a die-hard RAW shooter you can skip this part. For the record I shoot RAW+jpeg, and I frequently end up using the excellent jpegs I get out of the LUMIX cameras. Especially when they are beautiful black and white images as rendered with the l.monochrome photo style. There’s just something about the look of the images I get using this style and the LUMIX/Leica lenses that I can’t get over. For some reason the l.monochrome style never made it into the GX8 and I was delighted to see it in the GH5.

See there! I didn’t mention 4K, waveforms, vector scopes, or any other video stuff. Don’t get me wrong, all of the video features in the LUMIX GH5 are unbelievable. But the fact is I’m mostly a still shooter and this camera is a really great still photography camera. If you have any questions about the GH5 please feel free to email me, and check out the work of my colleagues on the LUMIX Luminary team. I know we are all excited about this new machine!

The following are screen shots with the original image zoomed to 100% in Lightroom Classic CC. These were captured at ISO3200,

LUMIX GH5 and Leica 12-60mm f2.8-4. ISO3200, f4, 1/125sec. Raw file with default setting in Lr Classic CC

LUMIX GH5 and Leica 12-60mm f2.8-4. ISO3200, f4, 1/125sec. Raw file with noise luminance reduction at 25 and default sharpening in Lr Classic CC

LUMIX GH5 and Leica 12-60mm f2.8-4. ISO3200, f4, 1/125sec. Jpeg straight out of the camera. Standard Photo Style

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52 Comments

  1. Glenn Asakawa

    Hi Rob—thanks for your input and review of the still capabilities of the GH5. I know we’re social media acquaintances but wanted to give you feedback here. I am looking forward to getting one for my pro work on my college campus. Myself and my two photo colleagues will be getting them as soon as they come back from backorder in mid-May. There’s a lot of reviews and feedback on the video side, but not much in the way for stills so it’s great to hear your take on it. We’ve also been using the GX8 and I love it too, but agree that it’s not an easy transition from the Nikon DSLR’s we’ve been using for decades. So we’ll now have GX8 and GH5 bodies with lenses that range from 7mm to 100mm–essentially everything we need. I liked how you brought up that joystick and the fact that it’s also on the battery grip, which we’ve also ordered. Thanks again for this review!

    Reply
    • Rob Knight

      Thanks for the kind words, Glen! I think you’ll be stoked with the GH5

      Reply
  2. Scott

    Hi, I appreciate the photography focused review! I have been looking high and low, and this is hard to come by. I actually now own a GH5. I switched from a long time Nikon owner, d90, d7000 and d750, with the trinity of lenses.

    To be honest, I am having a world of trouble getting tack sharp images with the GH5. I have been trying in several lighting conditions, and with several lenses but something just seems a miss. I am hoping it is a user error issue. How are you getting excellent photos? Settings?

    Reply
    • Rob Knight

      I don’t have any unusual settings for getting good results. What lenses are you using on your GH5? I find that sharpness issues often relate to glass and not the camera.

      Reply
    • Val

      completely agree, coming from a “proper” camera the gh5 just don’t cut. I don’t see any details and i used the best pana/leica lenses with it. also the look is closer to the iphone. video is great. And the handling is really nice. So sad sbout the photo output. 42.5 1.2 comes best but even a fuji aps-c is far better i. detail, resolution, dynamic and color.

      Reply
      • Rob Knight

        Wow, I could not disagree more. I’m curious as to what conditions (lighting, etc) you are using the GH5 in to not see any details

        Reply
      • Tess

        I have to agree with the other commenters who are disappointed in the photo capabilities of this camera. Comparing it to the iPhone is not an exaggeration, especially in less optimal lighting conditions (but still enough light to get decent pics out of my Nikon 3400). The GH5 is a superb video camera, but I must use my Nikon to get decent stills. I don’t even find the example images you posted in this review to be acceptably sharp or detailed. I appreciate the review, though, and respect your opinion – I just have a different one.

        Reply
        • Rob Knight

          Thanks for sharing your opinion. Judging a camera’s sharpness based on small images on the web is not exactly fair for the camera. I’m still waiting for some of you commenters to send me a raw file so I can try to figure out why you’re not getting good results with this camera. rob@robknightphotography.com

          Reply
    • Dominik

      Totally agree, i just bought a GH5 and i’m totally disappointed. There is almost no detail but a lot of noise even with ISO 400. And this is definitely not because of the lens. I use a Lumix 25mm 1.7 which i used before on a 6 years old Olympus PE-N. And on this old camera it is really sharp with a lot of details.

      Reply
      • Rob Knight

        Would one of you please send me a raw file to have a look at? Send the file or a dropbox link to rob@robknightphotography.com. I have a hard time understanding why you would be getting “no detail” unless there is a problem with your camera. I know LOTS of professional photographers who use the GH5 every day, and they certainly wouldn’t do so if there was an inherent problem with that model.

        Reply
        • Dominik

          Hi Rob,

          I played around with the settings and now finally i get quite better results. So with the Lumix 25mm 1.8 i need to close the shutter to 2.8 and the images are really sharp but at 1.8 it’s curious. Sometimes it’s sharp, sometimes it’s not. Will do some new testshots and send it to your dropbox.

          Reply
          • Rob Knight

            Yes, please send me some test shots. Also please keep in mind that you’re judging a $2k camera based on the performance of a $250 lens. That’s a pretty important part of the equation.

    • Verlon

      I also migrated from Nikon D750 and fast zooms to the GH5. The lens I am most often using is the Nocticron 42.5 F1.2. I am extremely pleased with the lens. I have trouble getting good low light images. While the D750 was perfectly fine at ISO3200, the upper limit on the GH5 seems to be 1600 as the grain is much worse. Smaller sensor, okay. I guess I can try to work around it unless someone has some useful tips. Even on lower ISO images, digging out the shadows is producing less useful results. Does the V-Log expanded dynamic range help with stills? Or is it only for video. Please do not take this wrong, the GH5 is a fantastic camera, and the ergonomics are solid down to little things like the little bumps on the ISO button so (as you might have read in the article), you never have to take your eye off the viewfinder. I love the smaller lenses and one camera that does great video and great stills. I just need help with this one little hurdle.

      Reply
      • Rob Knight

        Thank you for sharing your specific experience. If you find yourself “digging out the shadows” a lot, you might want to consider exposing more “to the right”. That is to say, get your exposure as bright as possible (to the right side of the histogram) without clipping the highlights. The grain at higher ISO settings shows up first in the underexposed areas of the image. If you are bringing up the shadows in post you are effectively bringing up the grainiest part of the image. If you start brighter and bring down the exposure in post you will not have the same trouble. That said, I have regularly shot the GH5 at ISO3200 for wildlife and indoor events with great results. I expose so that I don’t have to bring up the shadows in post. The correctly exposed areas of the images are killer.

        Reply
      • Rob Knight

        Oh, and V-log can only be used in the video mode

        Reply
  3. Alex

    How are things going with the GH5? Found any limitation or dislike yet?
    I am asking because I am considering getting one to replace my sometimes frustrating E-M1 and PEN-F. Not interested in video, just in stills.

    Reply
    • Rob Knight

      Hi Alex,
      As a still photographer I haven’t found anything to complain about with the GH5. I find that it just gets out of the way and lets me shoot!

      Reply
      • Ruta Swanson

        Hi Rob, I just got a GH5 and it seems that the liveview preview is not what the actual exposure is. Is it a screen setting that could be changed or does it just come this way?

        Reply
        • Rob Knight

          Sometimes the exposure doesn’t look quite right on the LCD if you have the LCD brightness set to automatic. Try choosing a particular screen brightness and see if that helps.
          Cheers!

          Reply
        • Ivan

          you want to enable Live Preview, or something like that.

          Reply
  4. John

    Hello Rob
    Do you extend to ISO 100 ?
    thanks

    Reply
    • Rob Knight

      Hi john, I usually stick to ISO 200. Honestly I haven’t found a reason to extend to ISO100

      Reply
  5. Anthony Voltinis

    Hey Rob, I am currently operating a Canon 60D. I am looking to upgrade to a new hybrid camera. Currently exploring the GH5 for it’s amazing video features. However, with your experience with the camera, can in handle event photography relative to something like the 5dii? (banquets, weddings, etc). Prior to purchasing the camera, I will most likely rent it. However, any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Rob Knight

      Hi Anthony, The GH5 works great for what I shoot. I would definitely recommend trying one in your real-world situations to make sure it works for you.

      Reply
  6. David Kashner

    What settings do you use for photography? I’m a filmmaker wth a gh5 and I’m starting to do photography and have been playing around with different settings but can’t seem to settle on one. TThanks in advance.

    Reply
    • Rob Knight

      Hi David, That’s a pretty broad question. What settings are you asking about?

      Reply
      • Melissa

        Hi Rob, perhaps David is talking about the photo style?
        What photo style do you normally use?
        Do you change any settings at all? Contrast, sharpness and so on
        Thanks

        Reply
        • Rob Knight

          Hi Melissa, I generally use either the Natural Photo Style or the Vivid style depending on the subject. I usually turn the noise reduction all the way down on the styles I use the most.

          Reply
  7. Tom

    Hi Rob,

    Thanks for a very informative article. I am new to photography at the tender age of 62 and want to buy a camera and a couple of lenses which are not heavy to carry. I have been looking at the G80 with the kit lens. I am hearing different roumers about the future of micro 4/3 saying it may not have a future? Can you let me know what you think.

    Reply
    • Rob Knight

      Hi Tom, in my experience at trade shows and events, the micro 4/3 format is going stronger than ever.

      Reply
  8. Lasse Lundberg Andreasen

    Hi Rob,
    Thanks for the review. How well do you think the Gh5 will fare for a wedding photographer?

    Reply
    • Rob Knight

      Hi Lasse, I know several wedding photographers who use the GH5 as their main cameras.

      Reply
      • Lasse Lundberg Andreasen

        Hi Rob,

        Thanks for your reply. I’m also shooting events, so would love to hear your thoughts from using the GH5 at the Photo Plus Expo

        Reply
  9. Matt

    Hi Rob,
    I’m actually a bit disappointed in the way the GH5 takes photos. I’m find my shots are quite noisy and can’t really make them look any better by trying the fix them in Lightroom. Any tips to how you got that great shot of the owl. Thanks for your review

    Reply
    • Rob Knight

      Hi Matt, I’d be interested to see your problem images. The hawk photo on this page was shot at ISO3200, and you’re looking at the jpeg straight out of the camera.

      Reply
      • Nadia La

        Hi, I am a beginner in photography but I also found the stills to be very noisy, any tips. I know it all depends on the settings and you can’t answer really without looking at an actual photo and the settings it has been taken with. But maybe just some general tips? Also, can anyone suggest a flash for GH5 that won’t cost me an arm and a leg?

        Reply
        • Rob Knight

          Hi Nadia, I regularly shoot the GH5 up to ISO3200 (event photography) with excellent results. In my experience the GH5 is on par with APS-C sensors. The GH5 captures lots of detail, and the raw files have plenty of room to edit the highlights and shadows. I’ve used LUMIX and Metz speedlights with the GH5. They both work very well.

          Reply
  10. Penny Love

    Hi Rob,

    I’m considering purchasing a GH5 instead of Canon because I run a video company but often times I have to do photography and I wanted to know if you tried using your GH5 for event photography specially at low light conditions? If so, do you have any samples to show? I’m asking because a few of my contractors use GH5 and they said they don’t recommend events that are in low light conditions but most VIP event we do are lit dark for the mood. Let me know, thank you!

    Reply
    • Rob Knight

      Hi Penny,
      I don’t shoot events very often. I will be shooting on the floor of the Photo Plus Expo in NYC this week and I can let you know how it goes when I’m done. Email me next week and I’ll fill you in!

      Reply
      • Frankie

        Hi Rob. Any chance you could email me your pictures too? I’m also in need of a video and photography camera. Kind regards, Frankie.

        berylrockproductions@gmail.com

        Reply
        • Rob Knight

          Hi Frankie, I can’t send you images that I shot for a client. I was very happy with the still photography results from the GH5. I will say that I am generally happier with the shooting experience I’ve had with the G9 so far.

          Reply
  11. Glasco Martin

    I hate to admit it but im with all the other commenters. I found my way onto your blog because ive desperately been looking for a way to get better stills out of the GH5.

    Great on video, but I’ve considered selling and getting a camera that is good at both video and stills 🙁

    Reply
    • Rob Knight

      I prefer thew G9 for stills because of the frame rate, high res mode, etc, but as I’ve mentioned I get great results with the GH5 as well.

      Reply
  12. Dave

    Hi Rob,
    I am new to the GH5 & am puzzled with some of my shots. At times, the camera snaps once & the picture is good. At other times, the camera makes multiple snaps & produces a composite photo. This is especially troubling when the subject is moving & I end up with a frankenstein-type image. Can you enlighten me a bit about what is happening & how I might cope with this?
    Many thanks.

    Reply
    • Rob Knight

      Sounds like you’re shooting in-camera HDR images. Make sure HDR is turned off

      Reply
  13. Brian

    Hi Rob! One of the items Ive noticed, in almost all the threads regarding the lens type and the GH5, is that nobody is talking about lens calibration. Can you let us know how to calibrate a lens on a GH5 (ie…the settings to adjust back and or front focus).
    Thank you for your efforts!!

    Reply
    • Rob Knight

      Since the Lumix cameras use contrast-detect focus, there is no need for calibrating lenses.

      Reply
  14. Bob

    Hi Rob,
    Bought the GH5 with the metabones adapter for my Canon lenses. For the most part they work great. I’ve been looking at the Panasonic 100 x 400 lens you referred to. I’m a little concerned which the reviews. Many people say the mount is very easily broken. When that happens the lens is trash. I hate to spend $1500 on a lens that is easily broken. Any comments or feelings on that lens?

    Reply
    • Rob Knight

      Hi Bob,
      I dragged the LUMIX 100-400mm all over the world for 3 1/2 years, and I never had a problem with the mount. I know lot’s of photographers who use this lens, and I don’t know of any broken mounts. I can’t speak to how the internet “experts” might use or abuse their equipment, but I can attest to the fact that the 100-400 is most certainly not “easily broken” 🙂

      Reply
  15. Rebecca

    What lenses are best and most economical to cover full range of focal lengths? What would you recommend?

    Reply
    • Rob Knight

      The Olympus 12-200mm lens is hard to beat for a wide range of subjects. It gives you a 24-400mm equivalent field of view and it’s weather sealed! If you find yourself shooting more wide-angle, telephoto, etc, then you should probably invest in a pro quality lens in that particular range.

      Reply
  16. Tom Fodor

    To all of the folks here who can’t seem to get quality shots out of the GH5, YOU MUST BE HOLDING IT BACKWARDS! Learn how to use it & you will get very good results. It’s not a full frame camera so stop trying to handle it like one.

    Reply

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