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Panasonic S5 Review | Photography Blog


The Panasonic Lumix S5 is the smallest and lightest full-frame mirrorless camera that Panasonic have released so far. It’s intended to be a cheaper all-round hybrid camera with features that will appeal to both photographers and videographers alike.

It’s much smaller than the S1, S1R and S1H full-frame cameras, and actually about the same size as the popular GH5 model, which has a comparatively tiny Micro Four Thirds sensor. Note that Panasonic still have plans to release a GH6 model, so the new S5 isn’t meant to be a direct replacement.

While the video-centric S1H proved to be a big hit for Panasonic, the stills-focused S1 model wasn’t as nearly as successful, hence the release of the new S5.

The Panasonic S5 features a 24.2 megapixel CMOS sensor with an expanded ISO range of 50-204,800, the latest Venus image processing engine, a free-angle 3.0-inch touchscreen LCD with 1.84m-dot resolution, and a 2.36m-dot OLED electronic viewfinder.

It offers UHD 4K/60p video recording with 4:2:0 10-bit colour internally to the SD card using an APS-C crop, or 4K/30p internal recording with 4:2:2 10-bit color using the full-frame, both for up to 30 minutes. In addition 4K/30p and 1080/60p with 8-bit colour can both be recorded without any time limit.

The full V-Log profile is already pre-installed on the Panasonic S5, while HDR (High Dynamic Range) video recording in 4K is also possible. You can switch between NTSC/PAL modes at any time, and Anamorphic 4K is included, as is automatic dual native ISO.

External microphone and headphones are supported via dedicated 3.5mm ports and recording to an optional external recorder is possible via the HDMI Type D port.

A standout feature is the High Resolution mode, which allows the Panasonic S5 to capture 96-megapixel equivalent photos by rapidly taking 8 separate images and combining them into one.

Other key features of the Panasonic Lumix S5 include a 6.5-stop Dual Image Stabilizer, 5fps continuous shooting with full-time auto-focusing or 7fps without, 60 fps continuous shooting when using 6K or 4K Photo modes, an improved 225-area DFD autofocus system offering an acquisition speed of 0.08 sec that works down to -6EV low-light, and Eye AF mode and animal recognition driven by Artificial Intelligence Technology.

The weatherproof Lumix S5 has a thumb-controlled AF joystick on the rear, dual SD XC memory card slots, Bluetooth 4.2 and 5GHz/2.4GHz Wi-Fi connectivity, and USB charging.

Main rivals include the Sony A7 III, Sony A7C, Canon EOS R and the Nikon Z6.

The Panasonic S5 is priced at £1799 / $1999 body only or £1999 / $2299 with the S 20-60mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, and it will start shipping in late September 2020.

Ease of Use

Panasonic S5
Front of the Panasonic S5

Panasonic have so far concentrated on the mid to high end of the mirrorless camera market with the release of the Lumix S1, S1R and S1H models, but now they’re seeking to widen the appeal of their L-mount system by releasing the smaller, lighter and crucially cheaper S5 model.

Measuring 132.6 x 97.1 x 81.9 mm and weighing 630g body only, it’s significantly more compact than the next model up the range, the S1, which in comparison measures 148.9 x 110.0 x 96.7 mm and weighs 899g.

Indeed, the new Panasonic S5 is even smaller and lighter than the perennially popular Lumix GH5, a Micro Four Thirds model which measures 138.5 x 98.1 x 87.4 mm and weighs 725g. Even with a battery and card fitted, the S5 still only tips the scales at 712g.

In terms of its competitors, the S5 is a little heavier than all of them, but comparable in overall size, with the exception of the ground-breaking Sony A7C.

If you were previously intrigued by the Lumix S-series but were put off by the relatively large size of the S1 bodies, then the S5 is definitely small and light enough to reignite your interest in the range.

Whichever way you cut it, the Lumix S5 is a remarkably small and compact full-frame camera, and one that thankfully doesn’t sacrifice the overall handling experience to achieve that reduction.

Indeed, comparing the S5 side-by-side with the larger S1, the two cameras look very similar at first glance.

They both utilise a familiar DSLR style with the viewfinder in the centre, a large tactile hand grip, and a healthy array of logically placed controls.

Panasonic S5
Rear of the Panasonic S5

Pleasingly, despite the reduction in asking price, the new Panasonic S5 still retains the tank-like build quality and weather-proof exterior shared by the other Lumix S-series cameras. Its magnesium alloy full die-cast dust and splash-proof body has all its main seams tightly sealed against moisture ingress. Phew!

Similarly, the S5 continues to offer the same dual image stabilisation system (in-body IS and lens IS) that’s employed by the S1- series for more effective, shake-free shooting when handled in lower lighting conditions. This provides a whopping 6.5-stops of compensation, putting the S5 right at the top of its particular class.

At the heart of the Lumix S5 is the same sensor that’s also found in the more expensive S1 and S1H models. This offers 24.2 effective megapixels from its 25.28MP full frame sensor, and is aimed at next generation photo and video creators, says its manufacturer.

Panasonic certainly haven’t cut any corners in terms of the S5’s build quality in order to meet the more aggressive price point. This is one of the best mid-range mirrorless cameras on the market in this regard.

The Panasonic S-series adopted Leica’s L lens mount when it was initially launched – something that saw the company enter a collaborative partnership, known as the ‘L-Mount Alliance’, with both Leica and Sigma – and as you’d expect, the new Panasonic S5 is no different in this regard.

Panasonic sent us the S5 with the S 20-60mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens for review. When we tested this lens a few months ago, we commented that it “is a welcome addition to the L-Mount range. It’s versatile, compact and light, handles like a dream and complements a Lumix S1 body well in all areas.”

All of those things hold true when using the 20-60mm on the S5 – indeed even more so, as the compact nature of this zoom perfectly matches the more compact S5. It’s almost as if the two products were developed alongside each other.

While photographers may bemoan the slight lack of telephoto reach available, videographers and especially vloggers will be delighted by the 20mm wide-angle focal length, which makes it possible to hand-hold the camera at arm’s length and still get yourself comfortably in the frame without having to resort to having to using a selfie stick or some other form of extension (or a different lens entirely).

Panasonic S5
Top of the Panasonic S5

Indeed, we said that “With silent focusing, minimal focus breathing, excellent autofocus and a focal range of 20-60mm, this lens in clearly positioned in the hybrid realm, practically serving photographers and videographers in a wide range of scenarios.” And that certainly applies to this lens when used on the Lumix S5, making the extra £200 / $300 for the S5 camera and lens kit something of a veritable bargain.

So the camera body is small, light but still well-built and weather-proof, and the 20-60mm kit lens is a natural partner, especially if you don’t already have a vested interest in either Panasonic’s S-series or the L-mount system in general.

Turning to the front of the Lumix S5, that wide L lens mount dominates proceedings, along with a hand grip that, while narrower than that typically found on a semi pro DSLR, nevertheless feels just right for the S5’s own shape and build, enabling the camera to be operated with just one hand, even if additionally curling the fingers of your left hand around the lens barrel feels much more comfortable and natural.

With the lower three fingers of your right hand curled around the S1’s grip, your forefinger is free to alternate between rotating the front control dial that sits slightly proud of the grip at its topper-most edge, and the slightly raised and angled shutter release button just atop it, which is responsively spring-y.

Sitting just behind these controls are three small raised buttons, just like on the S1 and S1R. From left to right, these are for manually adjusting white balance, light sensitivity and exposure settings. The Panasonic S5’s layout feels ergonomic and its operation – particularly of such key and regularly used features – well thought through.

Unlike the bigger S1-series, there’s no top-plate LCD screen on the new Lumix S5. Instead the large shooting mode dial has been moved from top-left on the S1 to top-right on the S5,and there’s now a new Burst/Bracketing Shooting dial in its former position.

This smaller but still chunky, roughly ridged and raised dial over at the left hand edge of the camera has 5 different settings, which variously provide quick access to the self-timer, interval shooting, 6K modes, burst shooting and normal single shooting modes.

Underneath the dial is a shiny red ring, just like on the S1-series cameras, which has perhaps been deployed to lend the cameras a more professional air.

Panasonic S5
Tilting LCD Screen

Stereo microphones and a vacant hotshoe for an accessory flash are slotted directly on top of the EVF. Interestingly there’s no built-in pop up flash on the Panasonic S5, which is maybe a slightly surprising omission for a beginner-focused camera, but one that’s inline with the other Lumix S cameras that have been released so far.

The chunky, roughly ridged and raised shooting mode dial makes it easy to adjust settings from intelligent Auto focus to program, shutter priority, aperture priority or manual pretty quickly.

On the same dial we also get a manual video mode setting, a brand new S&Q setting, and no fewer than three custom modes. In the S(low)&Q(uick) shooting mode, the S5 can capture Full HD video at up to 150fps and 180fps and then play back the videos at 24p, 30p, or 60p.

Unlike the S1-series, there is no dial-unlocking button that needs to be depressed in tandem with a turn of said dial to be able to arrive at your preferred setting. The dial on the Panasonic S5 is pretty difficult to accidentally turn, so we didn’t miss the S1’s lock button too much.

The on/of switch is more of an actual lever which sits adjacent to the shooting mode dial. This is quite stiff in operation – you almost have to force it – which, to give it a positive spin, means this is a camera that is almost impossible to accidentally activate or deactivate.

Flick this lever to on and the camera is ready to take the first shot just as quickly as your finger can move from it to the shutter release button just in front. There’s no waiting around with the S5 – it’s ready when you are.

The control dial at the front of the handgrip is, incidentally, mirrored by one the size of a five pence piece that sits recessed into the top plate at the back. Here it readily (and again, ergonomically) falls under the thumb of the right hand; thereby continuing to give the impression that the layout has been well thought through, making the Panasonic S1 quickly feel familiar in a new pair of hands.

While holding down, say, the likes of the ISO button, you can once again use this alternative dial to scroll through settings that alter in real time in the electronic viewfinder on the rear LCD screen. You’re not left grappling around trying to find a way to adjust the essentials – the methods to do so are, literally, at your fingertips.

Panasonic S5
Memory Card Slots

Completing the S5’s top-plate is a one-touch movie record button, finished in the same dark red as the ring which sits underneath the drive mode dial. Just like the shutter release button, again this has a nice springy feel to it that makes it easier to locate and activate.

Video recording is one of the areas where the Lumix S5 leaps ahead of its main rivals.

This is the only sub-£$2000 camera currently on the market to offer UHD 4K 60p 4:2:0 10-bit internal video recording, 4:2:2 10-bit internally in any resolution or frame rate, 4K at up to 60p internally, and an anamorphic mode.

There is a slight drawback, as it uses a Super-35mm crop in this particular mode rather than the full-frame, but it’s still an impressive achievement at this price-point none-the-less.

There is also an APS-C crop when shooting in Full HD at higher than 60fps and when shooting in the 4K anamorphic mode.

An even higher quality 4K 60p 10-bit 4:2:2 10-bit mode is available if recording via the HDMI port to an external device.

Alternatively, 4K/30p internal recording with 4:2:2 10-bit color using the full-frame of the sensor is also available, which as with the headline-grabbing 4K 60p 4:2:0 10-bit mode has a 30-minute time limit.

If you need to record longer than 30 minutes in one take, then the Lumix S5 can record both 4K/30p and 1080/60p with 8-bit colour for an unlimited amount of time.

Panasonic S5
Connectivity Ports

High-speed recording is possible via the dedicated S&Q shooting mode, which provides a range of settings in 4K (1-60fps, 30x quick to 2.5x slow) or in FHD (1-180fps, 60x quick to 7.5x slow).

The full V-Log profile is pre-installed on the Panasonic S5 – it’s not the light version or a paid upgrade – offering 14+ stops of dynamic range, virtually the same as those of the Panasonic cinema cameras. HDR (High Dynamic Range) video recording in 4K is also possible.

You can switch between NTSC/PAL modes at any time without having to reformat the memory card or power down the camera. A REC Frame Indicator identifies whether the camera is recording or not.

An external microphone and headphones are supported via dedicated 3.5mm ports and recording to an optional external recorder is possible via the micro-HDMI Type D port.

Dual Native ISO is borrowed directly from the S1H and Panasonic’s broadcast line of video cameras. This automatically switches between native ISO settings of 640 and 4000 without increasing noise by changing the way the camera reads out the image sensor.

The one drawback on the S5 compared to the S1H is that you can’t manually switch between the LOW and HIGH settings, instead relying on the camera to do so at various ISO levels.

A Low ISO circuit provides base sensitivities of ISO 100 for normal use, ISO 640 when V-Log is applied, ISO 400 when HLG is applied, and ISO 200 when Cinelike D2/V2 is applied. A Low Noise circuit provides base sensitivities of ISO 640 for normal use, ISO 4000 when V-Log is applied; ISO 2500 when HLG is applied, and ISO 1250 when Cinelike D2/V2 is applied.

There’s no All-Intra codec – LongGOP is used instead – and the S5 uses a Micro HDMI port rather than a standard full-sized one.

Panasonic S5
Bottom of the Panasonic S5

If all of that wasn’t enough, Panasonic have already publically committed to further improving the S5’s video capabilities by the end of 2020.

To further enhance its performance, a firmware update is scheduled which will add Cinema 4K video recording and support RAW video data output to ATOMOS NINJA V over HDMI at a resolution of 5.9K 29.97p/25p, 4K(4128×2176) 59.94p/50p and Anamorphic 3.5K (3536×2656)/50p.

Extra video recording assist functions such as the Vector Scope Display, Master Pedestal Adjustment and SS/Gain Operation will also be added, as well as new L.MonochromeS and L.ClassicNeo Photo Styles.

With lugs for attaching the shoulder strap provided out of the box to be found left and right of the camera, the right-hand flank provides a port protected by a sliding switch that allows for the insertion of two SD-XC cards. Somewhat disappointingly, whilst one slot supports the latest, fastest UHS-II standard, slot 2 only supports the older, slower USH-1 standard, perhaps a concession to achieving the S5’s more economical price-tag.

The two ports on the left-hand flank provide a means of connecting a cable release, accessory microphone and headphones, plus USB-C and micro-HDMI leads, rather than a full-sized one, the latter presumably dictated by the size or cost of the camera, or perhaps both.

The rubberized flaps protecting these feel a little flimsier than the rest of the camera, and time will tell whether these become worn and stop adhering so flush-ly over time.

Moving to the rear of the Panasonic S5, again this is button festooned without being over-bearingly so.

The camera’s 3-inch LCD screen with 1.84m-dot resolution is also a touch screen, meaning that you can, if wished, drag the focus area around the screen with your finger or thumb. Alternatively, if you prefer physical controls, you can use the small thumb-operated joystick to the upper-right of the LCD to do the same. Once again it’s just so intuitive.

Panasonic S5
Tilting LCD Screen

Instead of the clever but rather convoluted three axis tilting LCD that’s featured on the S1 cameras, the new Lumix S5 has a rather more conventional free-angle screen that’s hinged on the left-hand side.

This can be tilted all the way out to the side of the camera, turned forwards for selfies and vlogging, and turned towards the back of the camera to help protect it when the camera isn’t being used. It’s very useful as an aid to shooting video as well as more unusual compositions when you can’t always get an eye flush to the viewfinder.

The top-left of the back of the camera is where we find the playback button for reviewing stills and video. There’s also a dedicated LVF button alongside it for manually switching between the rear LCD screen and the EVF, which perhaps feels a little redundant given that the camera automatically switches to the EVF when you hold the camera up to your eye (this setting can be turned on and off as desired).

Surrounded by a large, prominent and comfortable eye piece is a 2.36 million dot resolution 0.39″ EVF with 0.74x magnification, 60/120fps frame rate, time lag of less than 0.005 second and an eyepoint of approximately 20mm.

Whilst not on a par with the high 5.76 resolution EVF used on the S1 model, which offers a quality claimed as very close to human vision, nevertheless the lower resolution EVF on the S5 is still perfectly fine to look through.

Directly to the right of the EVF is a tactile circular switch for changing the auto-focus mode from single to continuous to manual focus, into which is set the AF area button for selecting one of the eight available AF modes. You can choose from Face/Eye/Body/Animal Detect, Tracking, 225-Area, Zone (Vert/Horz), Vert (Oval), 1-Area+, 1-Area and Pinpoint.

Along with the afore-mentioned AF joystick, the small AF On which can be used for back-focusing completes the S5’s very handily-placed collection of focusing controls.

The Panasonic Lumix S5 continues to employ a contrast-based auto-focusing with DFD technology, but Panasonic claims that a brand new algorithm means continuous auto-fousing for both stills and video has been enhanced, specifically for head, face, and eye detection.

Panasonic S5
Front of the Panasonic S5

Panasonic claim that the tracking performance speed is 2x as fast as previous systems for face and eye detection and 5x as fast for human and animal tracking performance, while its purportedly better at following subjects if they turn their heads.

As with the S-series cameras, we found the new S5 to be fast and responsive in the single AF-S mode for both stills and video, but a little less so in the continuous AF-C mode.

It undoubtedly locks onto the subject more quickly than the S1-series cameras, and also keeps them in focus more reliably as they move around the frame, but the characteristic “pulsing” effect as the DFD system scans back and forth is still evident.

It’s certainly not as pronounced as on the S1 or S1H, so much so that Panasonic are planning to roll-out the S5’s AF system onto those cameras in a future firmware update (and the S1R too), but the limitations of the contrast based AF mean that the Lumix S5 still lags behind the likes of the Sony A7 III and Canon EOS R6, especially when it comes to continuous AF during 4K video recording.

This being a Panasonic camera, as on its compacts we’re provided with the very useful Quick menu short cut button – located via the button marked with an enigmatic ‘Q’ situated to the right of the LCD – which gives completely customizable quick access to 12 of the camera’s key settings.

Menu / set, display and a shared delete/back buttons are also to be found at the rear of the S5, along with a familiar multi-directional control pad, encircled by a scroll wheel for maximum fluidity of operation.

The menu screens are, as expected, comprehensively featured but pleasingly legible and intuitively navigated. That said it was also nice to have the Quick menu feature in order to circumnavigate them when we knew what we wanted and wanted to get to the relevant setting swiftly.

At the base of the camera we find a single screw thread, located directly in line with the central point of the lens mount, for attaching the S5 to a tripod.

Also found here, nestled within the base of the S5’s handgrip is the rechargeable 2,200mAh DMW-BLK22 lithium ion battery. This provides 440 images (rear monitor), 470 images (LVF), 1,500 images (Power Save LVF mode), as measured using stringent CIPA industry standards, surpassing the 380 to 400 shot life of the Lumix S1.

A ‘proper’ charger with its own mains plug is also provided out of the box – or at least was with our fully working review sample – and you can also charge the camera whilst you’re out and about by attaching a power-bank to the USB-C port.

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