Panasonic has used its GH series to push boundaries, and I worry that the limit may have already been reached.
The GH4 was the first 4K mirrorless camera. At the time, it was a killer feature. Less than three years later, the GH5 was the first 10-bit, 4K and 4K 60p camera available on the market. Not only that, but its internal IBIS system was top-notch, and Metabones speed boosters had already been proven to work with the GH4. What will the GH6 be notable for?
What the GH6 Needs to Compete
When the GH5 was released, the optimal camera for run-and-gun shooters was the a7S II. Sony’s camera could only shoot 8-bit 4K footage, couldn’t reach higher frame rates in 4K, and only had a single SD card slot.
However, the landscape has changed in the past five years. There’s a new class of camera operator that sits between prosumer video and high-end cinematography. RED’s Komodo sits at the top of this market, Blackmagic’s 6K Pro sits at the lower end, Sony’s a7S III, and Canon’s R5 C in the middle. Note that they all have much larger sensors than the GH6, so Panasonic will need to find other ways to pull customers away from these four systems if it wants to compete.
In my eyes, I think a competitive GH camera would have had these specs:
- The same great internal IBIS that Panasonic has been known for.
- Ditching SD cards to allow for internal compressed raw video recording.
- The best autofocus system Panasonic has ever made.
- More than a single quarter-twenty thread underneath.
- Dual-Gain ISO to compete with larger sensor cameras.
- Full-sized HDMI port, USB-C port for power.
The GH6 gets a lot right, but only nails two out of six here. I fear that it’s stuck between a prosumer market and a higher-end commercial shooter market. You can check out the GH6’s specs here.
An Awkward Position
The only real competitive factor of the GH6 is Panasonic’s IBIS. To this day, I still love the GH5’s IBIS above all else. It’s incredibly reliable for run-and-gun hybrid shooting.
Unfortunately, run-and-gun hybrid shooters could use Sony or Canon’s autofocus systems too. During Panasonic’s livestream, Matt Frazer described the autofocus as: “I know it’s not what people wanted, but please take a look at the image.” I would take that lack of confidence in their AF system as a reason to never trust it, at least with important work.
Which leaves the GH6 in an awkward spot. The lack of internal raw recording means that higher-end crews have better options to choose from. However, the lack of a true dual-gain ISO sensor and an uncompetitive AF system, means that single shooters also have better options to choose from.
Is the Price Right?
The GH6 will only cost $2,197.99, even cheaper than Blackmagic’s 6K Pro although more expensive than their regular 6K version. Many users may want to swing for a Metabones speed booster, which will bring the GH6’s price tag a little under $3,000. That’s still a great deal.
Do you know what costs money? Paying royalties to RED so the GH6 could have an internal raw recording codec and the R&D needed to implement that. They’ve probably spent enough money getting the CFexpress card slot, as usually, Panasonic wouldn’t pay royalties for SD cards (they partly own the standard).
For this price, I think it’s fair that Panasonic released a true GH5 upgrade. They’re staying in their lane. Unfortunately, the GH5 had a much better value proposition at the time of its launch. ProRes Raw recording on the GH6 will eventually work with an external Atomos monitor, and we’ll even see regular ProRes recording in an SSD with a firmware upgrade. By the time this camera is released, it will have more competition than a GH camera has ever faced.
I’m also negating some of the incredible upgrades that the GH6 has managed to include. ProRes will be available internally from HD up to 5.7K, a new mode promises two extra stops of dynamic range, and it will hopefully do all of this without overheating. For this price, it’s a deal.
The GH6 will signify a cap on Micro Four Thirds filming. It’s as far as Panasonic can take the camera format without completely re-writing the script. It's not exactly in the spirit of previous GH cameras and probably should have been released two years ago.
At the same time, the GH6 could be perfect for the high-end prosumer market. It will be so much more lightweight than a full frame camera, have amazing IBIS, and will support cheaper media (SD cards and SSDs via USB). I love the GH5 and hope the GH6 finds love too.
I don't think the GH6 will have a hard time selling. Especially to those heavily invested into the micro 4/3 ecosystem. Obviously, the GH6 will initially be expensive, but it's cheaper in the long run. When you factor in the cost of lens and accessories, micro 4/3 always wins over full frame and aps-c. Micro 4/3 cameras usually always have better stabilization and are less prone to overheating too. This is crucial to video oriented shooters. Pound-for-pound, micro 4/3 offer move features for a cheaper price too. For now, the only two real hindrances of the GH6 are poor autofocus. (Something that can likely be fixed in a firmware update) and Panasonic's tendency to fly under the radar (lack of advertising and promotion of it's cameras.)
There is a lot to like about the Lumix line; beautiful image, class leading stabilization, VLog, rock solid build quality. I bought the S1 when it was first announced but the achilleas heel of Panasonic cameras has always been their autofocus. This is not something that can be fixed via firmware, it was never fixed on the GH5, S1, S5, S1H and it won't be fixed on the GH6. While just 5 years ago no one would even think about using AF on a professional shoot, now even full fledged cinema cameras like the FX6 and C300 Mark III have robust autofocus systems that are used for professional video shoots every single day. I think it will sell okay and for those that already own a GH5 it's a nice bump in specs, but for everyone that has jumped ship by now and moved to Sony, Canon or Panasonics own full frame line, this is not going to bring them back.
For people who simply cannot afford the 7SIII, R5C and higher, it's a great option. Yes, it's close to the BMCC 6k (Pro), but the Lumix is much more functional "as is". The BMCC models need more rigging, to make them fully usable. And they lack in AF department too.
I was the biggest GH5 fan ever. I bought 8 of them. I love every single thing about them except for their lack of shallow DOF and their unusable continuous AF. I just got used to never using AF but then when I bought a Sony A7SIII and I saw just how incredible its AF was, I didn't want to go back to a camera without it. I still own 5 GH5s and I was excited about the GH6 but without usable AF I'm not sure it's worth the upgrade to me. I'll probably buy more Sonys.
Same – love the GH5, such a reliable workhorse and have run whole shoots on them. The a7SIII's AF blew my mind though, and anytime I'm shooting with Canon cine the Dual Pixel AF is a dream. Hard to go back!
Panasonic released new firmwares for the GH5 and GH5S in June 2021 that solved a lot of the focus issues people complained about. I got my GH5S after it was available, so I never used it without the firmware update, and I have had excellent auto-focus performance. One of the major mistakes that people seem to make when using Panasonic cameras is not changing the focus method to "face detect AF" and then they wonder why their faces aren't being preferentially focused on. The default focus mode is a sort of center oval and anyone who is shoved over to a "rule of thirds" line is likely to fall outside of that oval. Can't blame the camera for the operator not using it properly.
When you look at run and gun footage from other companies, the background is always jumpy unless you use a gimbal...probably sensor size limitation.
The GH6 has a huge amount of video features that Sony still hasn't added... anamorphic desqueeze and color parades e.g.
It'll always have it's place...
Substandard autofocus would be a deal breaker for me.
Good thing Panasonic fixed most of their pro camera AF issues in 2021, then!
They went from bad to not as bad. They are still no closer to Sony, Canon, and Nikon Z 9. As long as they stick to contrast detect autofocus, they'll always suck.
Sony, Canon, and Nikon are all really lousy. The supposedly better auto-focus is not worth the poor video quality they produce relative to the GH5 and especially the GH5s.
As previously stated if your already using the cameras its an improvement. Wish they would fix the AF but I also film a lot of hunting and backcountry and one thing they do have over everyone else is the packability of this camera. Two cameras, four lenses, 8 batteries and a solar charger fit in a sling bag really tightly, said sling back was made for one camera two lenses and some assc... if it was a standard DSLR. Size and great quality shots work for what I need.
You should update your firmware. Panasonic released firmware in 2021 for most of their current cameras that resolves the long-standing AF concerns. Also, most people don't set the focus method to "face detect AF" and then wonder why faces are not being focused on instead of an area in the center of the frame.