Panasonic announces the GH5S at CES 2018

At CES 2018 today, Panasonic has announced the GH5S, its latest Micro Four Thirds camera body. The most significant innovation is its 10.28MP sensor, which offers superior low light performance over its predecessor, the original GH5. It accomplishes this by using dual native ISO technology at 400 and 2500 ISO, which keeps the noise down and the max ISO up - the new max is an impressive 51,200.

The GH5S also offers improved variable frame rate options, allowing users to shoot FHD at 240 fps for a maximum of a 10x slowdown. It’s also notable that the GH5S comes with V-Log pre-activated, whereas GH5 users had to pay $100 for a code from Panasonic to activate it in their cameras. The GH5S can also shoot in HDR Hybrid Log Gamma, which is great if you’re concerned about future proofing yourself for HDR shooting.

The 6K photo feature, a nifty little feature on the GH5, has been replaced with a 4K photo feature. The lower resolution is most likely a result of the lower MP-capable sensor in the GH5S.

But all this good stuff comes with one big trade off: the GH5S does not have in-body image stabilization (IBIS), one of the original GH5’s most beloved features. The GH5’s IBIS was a terrific feature that allowed for very smooth hand held shots. When you combined it with a native Panasonic lens with image stabilization, you could use dual image stabilization, which was even smoother and more fantastic. I’ve personally benefited from this on many handheld shoots, particularly live music and behind-the-scenes gigs.

The lack of IBIS is also a disappointment to folks who use lenses that lack image stabilization, like the Rokinon Cine DS, SLR Magic, or Voigtlander lenses. These are terrific cinema lenses, and the GH5’s IBIS made handheld shooting with them much more viable.

I get the sense that the marketing team and the engineering team at Panasonic had a long talk about this, and somebody said, “But videographers are all using gimbals these days! They don’t need IBIS!” And there’s some truth to that statement, honestly. Many of us are using gimbals these days to get ultra-smooth footage, and thus IBIS is less of a necessity.

I wonder if Panasonic meant the GH5 and GH5S to be purchased as a “team” of cameras. The higher-res, IBIS-enabled GH5 is meant for all your handheld shots, while the GH5S is meant for your tripod / monopod locked down shots. They certainly could make a good a-cam/b-cam combination when paired together, each one taking the lead in the situations that play to their particular strengths. Their camera bodies and batteries are identical, which is nice; if you choose to upgrade, you don’t have to purchase a new cage, and if you’re buying the GH5S as a b-cam, it can use the batteries and other gear you already own.

Time will tell if the GH5S sees wide adoption, but I see its release as a win-win for the GH5 community overall. Folks who need improved low-light capability, HDR shooting, and C4K at 60fps now have it, and folks who are happier with their old GH5 cameras might see an influx of used bodies into the market. Even better, the cameras are distinct enough that the GH5 isn’t yesterday’s news, and should retain a decent amount of value, even in the face of its night-vision-capable twin brother.