Panasonic Lumix S5 Review – Seriously Underrated!

Panasonic S5 Review

The Panasonic Lumix S5 is, in my opinion, the best-value full-frame hybrid camera on the market. It not only takes fantastic still images, but the video quality out of this is as good as far more expensive cameras from Sony like the FX3, A7SIII, and A7IV.. all of which I have currently or have owned.

Paired with the now-great L-Mount lens lineup, the Panasonic Lumix S5 will give you professional results in any shooting condition. In today’s video, I will discuss why the Lumix S5 is so underrated and why I ended up with 4.  No kidding! This review is not sponsored. I paid for all of my Panasonic S5 cameras.

Panasonic Lumix S5 Camera Review
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S5 First Impressions

I felt slightly underwhelmed when I first got the Panasonic Lumix S5 after shooting with the GH5 and GH5S. However, this didn’t last too long! The only lens I had at the time of purchasing the S5 was the 20-60mm kit lens. This kit lens was good, but I didn’t see enough difference between the Kit lens on the S5 and the GH5.. at first.

The other issue I had at the time was the lack of lenses. One thing I love about the S-series lenses now is their f1.8 primes. They are all the same size and basically the same weight. They cover all the main focal ranges from 24, 35, 50, and 85mm. The results using these lenses on the S5 are as good as regular frame rates compared to the Sony FX3 or A7IV.

Image quality

The video quality out of the S5 is fantastic. We get 10-bit 4:2:2 recording and 14+ stops of dynamic range. 10-bit allows for more color information to be captured, resulting in more flexibility in editing. The S5 also features the full version VLOG straight out of the box without needing a paid firmware upgrade. VLOG offers an excellent dynamic range and color grading.

The S5 is loaded with a 24.2MP CMOS Sensor and features a dual native ISO that allows for pristine image quality even in low light. The low base ISO is listed at 640, and the high base dual iso is 4000. This means the S5 is a capable video camera from normal lighting conditions, through sunset, into extreme low light situations. I found shooting in low light up to ISO 8000 was not a problem on the S5.

Comparisons

After shooting some in-studio and outdoor comparisons, I realized that the overall look of the S5 was really something special. The kit lens performed as well as my faster prime lenses for MFT, and I noticed a considerable difference range when compared with the original GH5.

The more I used the Panasonic Lumix S5, the more positive feedback I would get in my videos on YouTube; even with the kit lens, the overall look was improved. In addition, shooting in the VLOG profile was easy to grade, and I could get great straight-out-of-camera results just using the natural profile.

The color science was also vastly improved over the original GH5 and was slightly better balanced than the GH5S (which I love the look of).

History

I have been using a 4-camera setup on my guitar channel for years. My guitar channel ran Micro Four Thirds for years. For kicks, I swapped out my primary GH5S for the S5 and immediately noticed a difference. The kit lens provided me just as shallow depth of field as my fastest MFT Prime lenses but also handled the lighting setup so much better. Now, depth of field isn’t everything, but it can improve the look of a lackluster or small room by adding that subject separation.

Once I saw how great this looked, I was keen to upgrade my entire 4 camera setup. I ended up trading in both of my GH5 cameras for S5s and would eventually end up upgrading my full 4 camera set up to S5s. When getting the other S5 cameras, they came free with the 20-60 kit lens and a free 50mm F1.8. This 50mm F1.8 has some of the best optics I’ve seen on a lens, and it leaves my Sony Zeiss 55 1.8 dead, especially in how it renders the background.

Lens Selection

Part of the battle for swapping systems is getting the lenses. 50mm, for me, is what I used on all of my side cameras, and a 35mm is used for the front shot. The 35mm wipes the floor with my old 15m, F1.7 prime that I used to LOVE. Sure, the lenses are a bit bigger than some MFT lenses but not all of them. The end result was improved dynamic range, better color science, better low light performance, more background blur when it’s appropriate, and a much more polished look overall.

Looking back at my footage in-studio with the GH5S versus the S5, there’s no comparison overall. I am not saying that GH5S looks bad because it didn’t. . I still use and shoot with the GH6 and GH5M2, but the overall look is vastly different, and I pick the right camera for the job at hand.

Panasonic Lumix S5 50mm f1.8 Prime Lens
My Favorite Video Lens: Panasonic Lumix S5 50mm f1.8 Prime Lens

Slow Motion

The slow motion on the Panasonic Lumix S5 is solid. It supports up to 1080p up to 180fps. The sweet spot for me is 100 or 120p, depending if I am shooting PAL or NTSC footage. The full-frame sensor gives you great HD slow motion that can be slowed down in the camera and put directly on the timeline. I love using this for product shots, and the image is noticeably better when compared to the GH5 or GH5M2.

Autofocus

Autofocus on the Lumix S5 has been fine for my use case. I find the new lenses work pretty well for standing headshots or product B-Roll shots. I use autofocus a lot when I am outdoors, and it does a decent job. It’s not as good as Sony, but I’ve learned to make it work for my situation. In the studio, I use manual focus 100% of the time, and I know what I want in focus, IS in focus.

I made an entire video about the S5 autofocus called “Decoding the Panasonic Autofocus.” You can watch that video here:

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Trade-Offs

The most significant trade-off for me with the S5 was no full-sized HDMI port. I managed to get around this problem by using a dongle that I can highly recommend and will link in the description. While there is no full-size HDMI port on the S5, the micro port is very sturdy, unlike other camera brands that feel dodgy right out of the box. I’ve had no issues using this setup with a live switcher or for live streaming.

Panasonic Lumix S5 Micro-HDMI Port
Panasonic Lumix S5 Micro-HDMI Port

The second biggest trade-off is 30-minute recording limits in 10-bit modes. This isn’t a deal-breaker for me. I felt like the 8-bit full frame look was better than the 10-bit MFT look in the studio, and in 8-bit, you can record as long as you want.

Thirdly, the IBIS is not as good as the GH5M2 or GH6. This is one of the big reasons why I still love MFT. Their IBIS is incredible. The S5 has nicer Image Stabilisation over the A7SIII, so for handheld work, it works a treat.

Lastly, there’s an APS-C 4k60p crop that is unavoidable. When shooting in HD, you get the full-frame sensor, but in 4k, it does crop in by 1.5x. This is NOT a deal breaker for me at all. While I wish we had 40k 60p 8-bit full readout without time limits, it is what it is.

My Panasonic S5 Video Review

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Sony A7IV or S5

If you need the best in autofocus, get the A7IV. Otherwise, the S5 is a much better camera considering the price difference.

I purchased an A7IV right after launch, and I came to realize it felt like an overpriced S5 with a way worse rolling shutter and fewer features, so I returned it. The A7IV can record unlimited in 10-bit, so it does have the advantage there over the S5.

If you work on a tripod, the A7IV is a good choice, but I didn’t love it for handheld use. I found the stabilization on the S5 better overall for both walking and handheld shots.

The S5 not only has a more affordable entry point, but the image quality is fantastic. You also have all the video tools like waveform and vector scopes, as well as far better audio preamps. For those shooting a short film, the S5 supports DCI-4K, Anamorphic Lenses, and 5.7k out to an ATMOS ninja v.

What about the A7C? It’s cheaper than the A7IV and priced similarly to the S5 in most locations. This is a no-brainer for me. I would take the S5.

The build quality of the S5 is far superior, the color science is better, and there are far more codecs and resolutions to choose from. The S5 is also loaded with two SD card slots, so I would trust it far more on a crucial shoot where redundancy is essential. The only advantage the A7C has is that the autofocus is better. For folks behind the camera, the S5 is a clear winner.

What about the GH6 or the S5? Stay tuned; I have a video coming up about that. Subscribe and leave a like if this video was helpful, and I will leave affiliate links to the S5 and my lens choices in the description box below.

Thanks for reading my review and for watching my content on YouTube.