With the S1 series, Panasonic has a monopoly on full-frame mirrorless cameras that record high-quality 4K 10-bit video. However, over the past two months, Canon and Sony have released some great video-centered cameras that fit the S1 for video while being considerably smaller than the two-pound-plus S1. Now Panasonic has responded with the full-frame Lumix S5. It takes almost everything that is good with the Lumix S1 and puts it in a much smaller and lighter body.
The S5 retains key video features of the S1, such as 4K 10-bit video, built-in five-axis stabilization, and a fold-down display, and to top it off, it has a new, improved autofocus system that’s faster than Panasonic S1’s larger full-frame cameras.
Considering that it looks more powerful than the S1 and yet costs 500 less less, is there a catch? To find out, I put a pre-production model to the test around Paris and in the French campaign to see what he could and could not do.
Body and Handling
With the S5, Panasonic finally has a full-frame camera that is as small as the competing models such as Sony’s A7 III and Nikon Z6. At 714 grams with battery and memory card, it weighs a little more than the A7 III and Z6. However, it is almost 300 grams or 0.7 pounds lighter than the S1. At the same time, the S5 has a magnesium alloy body designed to distribute heat so that it does not suffer from overheating problems like its rival Canon EOS R6 (more on that soon).
I loved the handling of the S1, but I found that the S5 was just as good and even better than the A7 III and the Nikon Z6. It has a nice handle to get started, as well as many manual controls that allow you to adjust the continuous striking, shutter, aperture, ISO and other controls without ever diving into a menu.
If you set up your buttons and quick menu correctly, you should rarely — if ever-need to explore the main menus. If you do, Panasonic has updated them to make them more logical and easier to navigate.
Navigation is also facilitated by the fact that you can use the menus, as well as focus and other functions directly from the touch screen. It also turns to the side and rotates 270 degrees so you can see yourself, which makes the S5 a very good vlog and selfie camera. It’s incredibly versatile.
Unfortunately, the S5 contains only one OLED EVF with 2.36 million points, significantly less than the OLED model with 5.76 million points of the S1. Perhaps Panasonic thought that video marksmans did not need high-resolution EVF, since they would mainly use the touch screen. I don’t agree, but I would have expected Panasonic to use at least a 3,69 million dot screen like the one on Sony’s A7 III at a similar price from 2018.
The S5 also has a small memory compromise. You get two SD cards, but only one is a faster UHS-II slot, the other is UHS-I. Panasonic told me they did that because the S5 is primarily a video camera and faster speeds don’t help the video because the maximum data rate is 150 megabits per second far below what a higher UHS-I card can handle.Slower speeds aren’t ideal for burst striking, but again, the S5 isn’t exactly a sports camera, as I’ll discuss soon.
As for the connectors, the S5 has headphone and microphone jacks with line and microphone level inputs that can accommodate many types of powered and non-powered microphones. It is also compatible with Panasonic xlr1 adapter for multi-channel XLR audio inputs. However, you only get a micro HDMI port and not a regular HDMI port like the S1 or GH5 — which is not ideal for professional marksmans who use external recorders.
A nice new feature is the USB-C port, which can charge the battery and power the camera at the same time-a boon for event videographers. The new battery has decent endurance as it can handle 470 shots per charge and well over an hour of 4K striking. the new cells can be used in a GH5 (and charged in SPARE GH5 chargers), but the S5 cannot use GH5 batteries.
I will be brief when it comes to fixed photography as this is not a priority with this camera. The S5 is certainly not a sports camera, on the one hand. It only makes bursts of 5 frames per second with continuous autofocus, less than half of what the A7 III can handle. On the plus side, it offers great photos with natural colors and skin tones. Thanks to the image stabilization, the double ISO system and the huge camera sensor, it shines even in low light conditions.
For example, although the S5 is not a high-resolution camera like the A7R IV, it has a high-resolution mode that combines multiple photos into a single 96-megapixel image. The results can be pleasant, but you need a tripod to get functional images.
The S5 has an advantage over its competitors because the photos do not have the very small streaks that can be caused by the phase detection pixels on the sensor. Overall, however, the S5 is a video-centric camera, and photos are just an added bonus.