Hands-on with the Panasonic Lumix S5

Introduction

The Panasonic Lumix DC-S5 is a less-expensive addition to the company’s full-frame range of L-mount mirrorless cameras. It’s smaller and lighter than the existing models and is designed for both stills and video shooting.

It’s based around the same 24MP BSI CMOS sensor as the S1 but as far as the rest of the specification goes it differs in a number of ways. Panasonic promises some autofocus improvements over the existing cameras (at least until firmware updates are issued for the other models). The company highlights ‘ambitious amateur photographers’ and ‘video creators’ as users who’ll appreciate the camera.

Ergonomics

The S5 is noticeably smaller than the S1, S1R or S1H. In fact it’s even a fraction smaller than the company’s Micro Four Thirds video powerhouse the Lumix DC-GH5. It’s around 30% lighter than the S1.

This reduction is size has been made possible by a couple of design changes. The use of a smaller battery and the absence of an LCD settings panel on the top of the camera are the most significant.

The body is still made from magnesium alloy and features extensive weather-sealing measures (though Panasonic doesn’t claim the same level of freeze resistance as its bigger models).

Viewfinder and screens

Another area in which the S5 has been simplified is the camera’s display panel specs. It uses a 2.36M-dot OLED EVF, which is comparatively low by contemporary standards, alongside a 3.0″ 1.84M-dot rear LCD. The greater emphasis on video/stills shooting means that rear screen features a hinge for full articulation, rather than the twin-hinged panel well-liked for stills shooting on the S1.

For comparison, the S1 has a 5.76M-dot EVF and 3.2″ 2.1M-dot LCD.

Sensor and stabilization

The S5 uses the same 24MP sensor as the S1 and S1H, with no anti-aliasing filter. It’s a dual-gain chip, which Panasonic describes as having ‘Automatic Dual Native ISO.’ As with the S1, Nikon Z6 and Sony a7 III, this means it switches to a higher gain readout mode (with less read noise) for its higher ISO modes. Unlike the S1H, you can’t choose which gain mode to use for the ISOs around the switching point.

Like the S1, the S5 features a 5-axis in-body image stabilization system rated as giving 5 stops of correction, and this system can work collaboratively with in-lens stabilization systems to provide 6.5EV of correction with ‘Dual IS 2’ lenses.

The S5 can shoot at up to 5 frames per second with continuous autofocus or 7 fps with just a single AF acquisition.

High Resolution and High Dynamic Range modes

When mounted on a tripod the S5 can use its stabilization system to shoot a sequence of 8 images, each a little offset from the last and these images can then be combined into a 96MP high-res image. Unlike the S1, the new camera can directly produce a JPEG result, rather than being limited to generating a Raw file.

As on previous Panasonic cameras, there’s a mode that prioritizes maximum resolution and a second that compares the images for movement that’s happened between shots, and uses single image data for the parts of the scene where movement has occurred. The latest implementation can use shutter speeds as long as eight seconds per frame, up from a single second on the older cameras.

The S5 also provides the option to shoot Hybrid Log Gamma still images, which contain more dynamic range than conventional JPEGs, for viewing on HDR TVs that can show brighter whites and a wider range of tonal information.

Card slots, connections and connectivity

The S5 has two SD card slots, one of which has a UHS-II interface, the other of which uses the slower UHS-I type.

As you’d expect, the S1 has both mic and headphone sockets. The mic input can accept typical mic levels or line level inputs, with the option to provide power to the external mic if needed. The camera has a ‘micro’ Type D HDMI port, rather than the full-sized Type A port on the other S-series cameras.

The S5 also includes dual-band Wi-Fi, allowing faster 5GHz connections to Wi-Fi networks or 2.4GHz connections to smartphones.

Video specifications

Despite being a less expensive model, the S5 offers an impressive video spec. Like the S1, it shoots full-frame UHD 4K footage at up to 30p or UHD 4K at up to 60p from a Super 35 (~APS-C) crop or a native 3840×2160 pixel region (a slightly greater, 1.56x crop).

Most notably, it includes the ability to capture V-Log footage, for people who need flexibility when they color-grade their footage. It can shoot 10-bit video, with 4:2:2 chroma sub-sampling in modes up to 30p and 4:2:0 for its 60p capture. It can also capture Hybrid Log Gamma footage optimized for HDR displays. Available codecs and bitrates are essentially the same as those of the Panasonic S1 with the optional Log upgrade installed.

The camera can shoot for up to 30 minutes when shooting 4K at 50 or 60p, or when capturing 10-bit 4K footage. There are no limits on its capture at 30p or slower. Panasonic says this is based on testing at 40°C (104°F) and that extreme temperatures could eventually cause the camera to stop recording.

Improved Autofocus (stills)

One of the major features is the camera’s improved autofocus. The biggest changes come when shooting bursts of stills. Panasonic says it found a way to re-work its subject recognition algorithm in a way that lets the AF system perform more Depth-from-Defocus calculations. This reduces the amount of hunting (and distracting viewfinder flutter) when performing continuous AF.

In addition to being able to use DFD more, the S5 also gains human head recognition, on top of the body, face and eye recognition that were already offered. This helps make sure that subject tracking doesn’t lose your subject or switch to a different person if your original subject turns away from the camera.

AF in stills is also based on reading the sensor out faster, which improves the speed at which it can recognize subjects. Other improvements allow it to recognize subjects that are smaller in the frame, better-recognize faces if they’re tilted to one side, and recognize eyes when subjects are side-on to the camera.

Improved Autofocus (video)

The video autofocus also benefits from the addition of head recognition and a faster recognition algorithm, in terms of the camera focusing on the correct subject. There are some responsiveness and stability improvements, too, but much of this applies primarily to the Super35 footage, which has faster read-out rates.

Some of the improved stability of the focus should extend to its full-frame 24p capture (which uses the camera’s slowest readout mode), but not necessarily the improved responsiveness.

Battery

The S5 uses a new battery called the DMW-BLK22. It’s a similar size to the one used in the GH5, but a slightly different shape, meaning older batteries won’t work in the S5 (though the new batteries will work in the older cameras). Conversely, the new external charger can be used to charge batteries both new and old, but the new BLK22 batteries won’t fit in the chargers supplied with older cameras.

Panasonic
DC-S5
New DMW-BTC15 drop-in charger Panasonic GH5, GH5S, G9 Existing BTC10 or BTC13 chargers
New BLK22 Battery Compatible Compatible Compatible Incompatible
Existing BLF19 Battery Incompatible Compatible Compatible Compatible

It’s a 15.8 Wh battery that powers the camera to a rating of 440 shots per charge when using the rear LCD and 470 shots per charge when using the viewfinder. The S5 can be charged or powered using USB-PD compatible chargers and power banks over its USB Type-C socket.

Summary

Overall, the S5 looks like an interesting addition to Panasonic’s S-series. Its launch price makes it a much more direct competitor to the likes of the Nikon Z6 and Sony a7 III, though it inevitably initially looks expensive next to these cameras (and even the better specced S1) given they’ve been on the market for more than 18 months and have dropped away from their MSRPs.

We’re told the other Panasonics will receive the autofocus improvements of the S5 by the end of 2020, but for now the S5 adds yet another competent-looking stills/video hybrid camera to the mix. Especially as Panasonic has already said that the S5 will receive a free update adding DCI 4K, Raw video output and shutter angle control at a later date.

Introduction

The Panasonic Lumix DC-S5 is a less-expensive addition to the company’s full-frame range of L-mount mirrorless cameras. It’s smaller and lighter than the existing models and is designed for both stills and video shooting.
It’s based around the same 24MP BSI CMOS sensor as the S1 but as far as the rest of the specification goes it differs in a number of ways. Panasonic promises some autofocus improvements over the existing cameras (at least until firmware updates are issued for the other models). The company highlights ‘ambitious amateur photographers’ and ‘video creators’ as users who’ll appreciate the camera.
Ergonomics

The S5 is noticeably smaller than the S1, S1R or S1H. In fact it’s even a fraction smaller than the company’s Micro Four Thirds video powerhouse the Lumix DC-GH5. It’s around 30% lighter than the S1.
This reduction is size has been made possible by a couple of design changes. The use of a smaller battery and the absence of an LCD settings panel on the top of the camera are the most significant.
The body is still made from magnesium alloy and features extensive weather-sealing measures (though Panasonic doesn’t claim the same level of freeze resistance as its bigger models).
Viewfinder and screens

Another area in which the S5 has been simplified is the camera’s display panel specs. It uses a 2.36M-dot OLED EVF, which is comparatively low by contemporary standards, alongside a 3.0″ 1.84M-dot rear LCD. The greater emphasis on video/stills shooting means that rear screen features a hinge for full articulation, rather than the twin-hinged panel well-liked for stills shooting on the S1.
For comparison, the S1 has a 5.76M-dot EVF and 3.2″ 2.1M-dot LCD.
Sensor and stabilization

The S5 uses the same 24MP sensor as the S1 and S1H, with no anti-aliasing filter. It’s a dual-gain chip, which Panasonic describes as having ‘Automatic Dual Native ISO.’ As with the S1, Nikon Z6 and Sony a7 III, this means it switches to a higher gain readout mode (with less read noise) for its higher ISO modes. Unlike the S1H, you can’t choose which gain mode to use for the ISOs around the switching point.
Like the S1, the S5 features a 5-axis in-body image stabilization system rated as giving 5 stops of correction, and this system can work collaboratively with in-lens stabilization systems to provide 6.5EV of correction with ‘Dual IS 2’ lenses.
The S5 can shoot at up to 5 frames per second with continuous autofocus or 7 fps with just a single AF acquisition.
High Resolution and High Dynamic Range modes

When mounted on a tripod the S5 can use its stabilization system to shoot a sequence of 8 images, each a little offset from the last and these images can then be combined into a 96MP high-res image. Unlike the S1, the new camera can directly produce a JPEG result, rather than being limited to generating a Raw file.
As on previous Panasonic cameras, there’s a mode that prioritizes maximum resolution and a second that compares the images for movement that’s happened between shots, and uses single image data for the parts of the scene where movement has occurred. The latest implementation can use shutter speeds as long as eight seconds per frame, up from a single second on the older cameras.
The S5 also provides the option to shoot Hybrid Log Gamma still images, which contain more dynamic range than conventional JPEGs, for viewing on HDR TVs that can show brighter whites and a wider range of tonal information.
Card slots, connections and connectivity

The S5 has two SD card slots, one of which has a UHS-II interface, the other of which uses the slower UHS-I type.
As you’d expect, the S1 has both mic and headphone sockets. The mic input can accept typical mic levels or line level inputs, with the option to provide power to the external mic if needed. The camera has a ‘micro’ Type D HDMI port, rather than the full-sized Type A port on the other S-series cameras.
The S5 also includes dual-band Wi-Fi, allowing faster 5GHz connections to Wi-Fi networks or 2.4GHz connections to smartphones.
Video specifications

Despite being a less expensive model, the S5 offers an impressive video spec. Like the S1, it shoots full-frame UHD 4K footage at up to 30p or UHD 4K at up to 60p from a Super 35 (~APS-C) crop or a native 3840×2160 pixel region (a slightly greater, 1.56x crop).
Most notably, it includes the ability to capture V-Log footage, for people who need flexibility when they color-grade their footage. It can shoot 10-bit video, with 4:2:2 chroma sub-sampling in modes up to 30p and 4:2:0 for its 60p capture. It can also capture Hybrid Log Gamma footage optimized for HDR displays. Available codecs and bitrates are essentially the same as those of the Panasonic S1 with the optional Log upgrade installed.
The camera can shoot for up to 30 minutes when shooting 4K at 50 or 60p, or when capturing 10-bit 4K footage. There are no limits on its capture at 30p or slower. Panasonic says this is based on testing at 40°C (104°F) and that extreme temperatures could eventually cause the camera to stop recording.
Improved Autofocus (stills)

One of the major features is the camera’s improved autofocus. The biggest changes come when shooting bursts of stills. Panasonic says it found a way to re-work its subject recognition algorithm in a way that lets the AF system perform more Depth-from-Defocus calculations. This reduces the amount of hunting (and distracting viewfinder flutter) when performing continuous AF.
In addition to being able to use DFD more, the S5 also gains human head recognition, on top of the body, face and eye recognition that were already offered. This helps make sure that subject tracking doesn’t lose your subject or switch to a different person if your original subject turns away from the camera.
AF in stills is also based on reading the sensor out faster, which improves the speed at which it can recognize subjects. Other improvements allow it to recognize subjects that are smaller in the frame, better-recognize faces if they’re tilted to one side, and recognize eyes when subjects are side-on to the camera.
Improved Autofocus (video)

The video autofocus also benefits from the addition of head recognition and a faster recognition algorithm, in terms of the camera focusing on the correct subject. There are some responsiveness and stability improvements, too, but much of this applies primarily to the Super35 footage, which has faster read-out rates.
Some of the improved stability of the focus should extend to its full-frame 24p capture (which uses the camera’s slowest readout mode), but not necessarily the improved responsiveness.
Battery

The S5 uses a new battery called the DMW-BLK22. It’s a similar size to the one used in the GH5, but a slightly different shape, meaning older batteries won’t work in the S5 (though the new batteries will work in the older cameras). Conversely, the new external charger can be used to charge batteries both new and old, but the new BLK22 batteries won’t fit in the chargers supplied with older cameras.

Panasonic DC-S5
New DMW-BTC15 drop-in charger
Panasonic GH5, GH5S, G9
Existing BTC10 or BTC13 chargers

New BLK22 Battery
Compatible
Compatible
Compatible
Incompatible

Existing BLF19 Battery
Incompatible
Compatible
Compatible
Compatible

It’s a 15.8 Wh battery that powers the camera to a rating of 440 shots per charge when using the rear LCD and 470 shots per charge when using the viewfinder. The S5 can be charged or powered using USB-PD compatible chargers and power banks over its USB Type-C socket.
Summary

Overall, the S5 looks like an interesting addition to Panasonic’s S-series. Its launch price makes it a much more direct competitor to the likes of the Nikon Z6 and Sony a7 III, though it inevitably initially looks expensive next to these cameras (and even the better specced S1) given they’ve been on the market for more than 18 months and have dropped away from their MSRPs.
We’re told the other Panasonics will receive the autofocus improvements of the S5 by the end of 2020, but for now the S5 adds yet another competent-looking stills/video hybrid camera to the mix. Especially as Panasonic has already said that the S5 will receive a free update adding DCI 4K, Raw video output and shutter angle control at a later date.Read MoreArticles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: