Everyone is talking about the Canon, Sony, and Nikon full frame mirrorless cameras. But there is another brand that isn’t getting a lot of attention: Panasonic. It released the Lumix S5 last year and now I got a chance to review this camera.
Back in 2019 I got the Panasonic Lumix S1 mirrorless full frame camera for a review. I was positively surprised by the looks and its ease of use. The size of the camera was probably one of the reasons why the camera was less attractive to many users. Compared to the other full frame mirrorless cameras the Lumix S1 was large and heavy.
A Less Heavy Panasonic Full Frame Mirrorless Camera
Panasonic released the Lumix S5 full frame mirrorless camera last year. It is smaller in size and less heavy. The camera is even smaller compared to the Lumix GH5 which has a M43 sensor. But it has the same 24 mp sensor as the Lumix S1 and looking at the price and options it can be seen as a competitor of the Nikon Z6 II and the Sony A7 III.
Panasonic Netherlands asked me to review the camera, and supplied the camera together with a Lumix S 20-60mm f3.5-5.6, a Lumix S 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6, and a Lumix S 85mm f/1.8 lens. It turned out to be the perfect set for some landscape photography, portraiture and some action shots of the dogs in the park
The Looks and Some Specifications
Although the camera is quite small, it doesn’t feel as such. It fits nicely in my hand and the buttons are similar to the S1. The main difference with the Lumix S1 is the LCD screen on top of the camera. Panasonic placed a PASM wheel on that spot, removing it from the other shoulder of the camera. There you can find a wheel that allows you to set the frame rate burst settings.
The back of the camera is almost similar to the Lumix S5. It is striking how the joystick only works in four directions instead of eight. It can’t be used in the diagonal direction.
A possible downside is the placement of the AF-ON button. It sits very closely to the joystick, making it possibly more difficult to use if you have large hands. But perhaps is only a matter of getting used to.
Since the Lumix S5 is also a very capable camera for video recordings. A large red recording button is placed at the top of the camera. Its full articulating screen makes it easy to use the camera for vlogging.
I have made a list of some of the important specifications of the Lumix S5
- 24.3 mp full frame CMOS sensor without AA filter
- Contrast detection DFD AF with body, face, head, and eye detection
- IBIS up to 6.5 stop
- 2.36 million pixel OLED EVF with a 0.74x magnification
- 3” 1.84 million pixel fully articulating LCD touch screen
- Up to 5 frames per second with continue AF, or 7 frames per second without AF
- Two card slots, one UHS-II and one UHS-I
- 96 mp high-resolution multi-shot in JPEG or raw
- Post-focus for placing focus afterwards, or for focus stacking
- Live view composite mode
- 4K 30p ( 1-bit 4:2:2) video or 4K 60p with APS-C crop
- Anamorphic recording functions
- WiFi and Bluetooth connections
Special Functions of the Lumix S5
One of the most striking possibilities the Lumix S5 offers is a 96 mp resolution multi-shot function. With a series of images, it is possible to obtain a resolution that is four times the sensor resolution. You can choose to generate the super-resolution as a raw file or a JPEG file.
The 96 mp resolution function offers an effective motion correction function. It can eliminate movement that occurs while the multi-shot images are being made. This makes it possible to shoot 96 mp images of moving subjects which is quite impressive.
The 96 mp resolution isn’t the only special function the Lumix S5 offers. You can bypass the 5 frames per second bust speed with continue AF by choosing the 6K/4K photo option. With this function activated it is possible to shoot 30 frames per second in 6K resolution, or 60 frames per second in a 4K resolution. For this, the camera makes a short video clip. Afterwards, you can choose the best frames and let the camera produce a JPEG image.
The same principle is used for the post-focus function. By recording a small video clip with a changing point of focus, the Lumix S5 makes it possible the choose the focus point afterwards. If needed, you can also merge different frames for a focus stack. This all can be done inside the camera and the result is a Jpeg image.
The Lumix S5 is the first full frame mirrorless camera that offers live view composition. This option is well known from the Olympus M43 mirrorless cameras. Now it is available for the first time in a full frame camera. This function records only the changing light values of individual pixels, thus recording only the pixels that are becoming brighter. It should be a perfect solution for shooting star trails or making light paintings.
Although the camera offers a lot of special functions, the menu isn’t complex. You can collect the most used menu function in My Menu. But it is also possible to assign other functions to the available buttons on the camera. You can even change the location of the histogram on the LCD screen just by swiping.
Shooting With the Lumix S5 and the Image Quality
After a month of shooting with the Lumix S5 I was convinced. It handles very well and is fun to use. The image quality is good and when recovering the darker parts in an image, the noise levels are well within control. The Lumix S5 handles higher ISO levels well also.
Photographers that shoot in raw are able to shoot at ISO 800 while exposing for the brightest parts in the frame. Recovering shadows show the same noise levels compared to higher ISO levels.
Panasonic makes use of the Depth of Defocus system. This DFD system compares two out of focus images to determine the focus direction. After focus is achieved, the contrast detection system will fine-tune the focus.
This system works very quick and accurate. The Lumix S5 also incorporates a body, face, and eye AF. Head AF is a new function, that makes it able to recognize heads. This is the answer to focus problems when someone turns their head. I found the system to work very well, no matter where the person is looking at.
The downside of the DFD is a noticeable fluttering of the image with continue AF settings. This problem was visible with the Lumix S1, back in 2019. Panasonic has made a lot of improvements to the Lumix S5 to reduce this effect. But it is not completely gone. The Lumix S5 still shows fluttering. Fortunately, the fluttering doesn’t affect the end result.
The Lumix S5 has some nice video options but I haven’t recorded a lot of videos to test this. But I have been told the camera is a very capable video camera, offering a 10-bit 4:2:2 recording in V-log/V-gamut. It also offers the possibility to make a waveform and vectorscope visible on the LCD screen. The latest firmware offers raw video recording, or Apple Pro-Res Raw over the HDMI cable.
The Lumix S5 has some build-in LUTs and offers support for anamorphic lenses in a 1.3x, 1.33x, 1.5x, 1.8x and 2x format. Just like previous Lumix models the Lumix S5 also has the Slow&Quick setting. This makes it possible to record in 180 frames per second for slow-motion recordings, or 1 to 24 frames per second for ultra-fast video.
My Conclusion About the Lumix S5
Shooting photos with the Lumix S5 turned out to be a lot of fun. The camera is well built and offers a very versatile user experience. Although the Lumix S5 has a lot of similarities with the Lumix S1, I find both cameras to be very different. I think the smaller size will make the Lumix S5 much more attractive.
The Lumix S5 offers a lot of nice options. Not only for photography with the 96 mp resolution, post-focus, and live view simulation. But also for video with anamorphic support, LUTs and a lot of control over the end result.
If you’re an action photographer, the Lumix S5 will be less attractive. Although it offers a 30 frames per second 6K resolution, it is not the same as a continuous burst of raw images. With only 5 frames per second, the Lumix S5 feels very slow.
Things I Like
- Real nice image quality
- Small camera body
- In-body stabilization up to 6.5 stops
- Capable AF and focus tracking
- 96 mp resolution multi-shot mode with movement compensation
- Double card slot
- USB-C in-camera charging
- A lot of video functions available
- Fully articulating LCD touch screen
- Post-focus and live view composition function
- Shutterspeed can go up to 60 seconds without switching to bulb
Things That Could Be Improved
- Continue AF shows fluttering
- AF works good but not as capable compared to the competition
- AF-ON button is located too close to the joystick
- Joystick is only working in four directions
- Continue burst of only 5 frames per second with continuous AF
- EVF resolution isn’t that high
- Video recording button can be unintentionally pressed too easy
- Only one UHS-II card slot
Unfortunately the Panasonic Lumix full frame mirrorless cameras are often overlooked. It is all about Sony, Canon, and Nikon nowadays. But the Lumix S5 turns out to be a great camera that can compete with its peers. It might not be as fast regarding frames per second, and it might not have the best possible EVF resolution, but not every photographer will need it.
Panasonic stands out with functions like live view composite and post-focus possibilities. And don’t forget the 96 mp resolution multi shot function with movement compensation. As far as I know it is the only one of its kind. If you’re in the market for a full frame mirrorless camera, I think the Panasonic Lumix S5 is well worth considering.
What do you think of the Lumix S5 full frame mirrorless camera? Please let me know in the comments below.
Great review, Nando. I shoot the G9 and absolutely love it for everything but low-light and astrophotography. In my admittedly opinionated view, the ideal camera from Panasonic would be a G9 scaled up to the full-frame sensor and size of the S5, and capable of using L-mount lenses. As you noted, the S5 mixes media storage types (UHS-I and UHS-II). The G9 uses two UHS-II slots. It boggles my mind why any manufacturer would mix media types on any given body. As for me, I'm waiting for Panasonic to announce the successors to the S1, S5 and G9 (no, I have no inside information) before making my choice to supplement my G9. I'm also waiting impatiently for Panasonic to expand the L-mount lens line to match the range of lenses in the M43 line.
Are the images SOOC or are they edited?
I think it is important that you specify that point. I feel unedited files would give a better assessment of how that sensor operates.
Good point. These are not SOOC but edited.
I believe an unedited image doesn't show what can be done with the sensor data. Unedited images are good for laboratory test, I think.
But the image of the horse is a jpeg straight from the camera - hence also edited but by the camera software. It shows only the results from the jpeg engine of the camera.
I have a GH5 and G9... I recently added an S5 to my kit and the difference shooting video is remarkable IMO. The low light and bokeh abilities are worth the upgrade to me. I will keep my G9 for outdoor sports, but for video, my S5 is my new A camera. A few drawbacks exist, like lack of full size HDMI... But totally worth the trade off especially at the S5s reasonable price point. Purchasing new glass is an issue, but i got an adapter to use the EF mount lenses i previously adapted to MFT mounts, like the excellent Sigma 18-35mm Art lens.