Panasonic LUMIX S5ii Review : Now Perfected | Hybrid-Phase Autofocus & 10-bit 6K!
Updated: May 19
In light of taking this review up a notch and unlike the original S5 review where I had ample time with it, I only had a few days with this S5 mark ii. So what’s new? Or in other words, what has improved?
To start with a few, it now shoots 10-bit in ALL resolutions, including S&Q mode which goes up to 180fps in Full HD. A newly implemented 6K up to 25fps in both 3:2 and 17:9 aspect ratios, a newer processor and 24.2MP image sensor, which Panasonic suggests will do better in low-light and also to help its new Phase Hybrid autofocus! And yes, it's been something I’ve personally been looking forward to the most in Panasonic cameras ever since I experienced the GH6 sometime last year.. oh and yes, a new built-in fan too!
While Panasonic cameras have ceaselessly impressed me with their video priority functions over and over again, their biggest flaw had always something to do with their autofocus. Which previously were using contrast based autofocus. And if you happen to catch my full review of the original S5 where I profusely mentioned how contrast autofocus is just not suitable for moving subjects due to the fact that they are far cheaper to manufacture, which were also a reason why these Lumix cameras were a bargain compared to other full frame cameras out on the market.
So did these new features affect the price too? Well, good news! It's still under 2,000 US Dollars or RM9,499 (Body Only). Which puts it at an insanely competitive price point among other mirrorless cameras such as the Sony’s Aiv or A7siii and evens the playing field while giving a little more when in comparisons to Blackmagic’s Pocket cinema cameras. But of course, Blackmagic’s and Sony’s alpha series are in a league of their own but in a profound and “meta” way of saying things, so is this S5 mark ii.
Because there's just something about having video essentials like shutter angle options, anamorphic lens functions, and not to mention Panasonic’s L-Mount lenses which are now sorta doing things at a more collaborative level with Sigma, Leica and to some extent, even DJI, so I don’t know about you but I’m curious to see how this type of assemble initiative would even look like.
Another reason why I find Panasonic cameras to be just a breeze to use, is how users at varying experience levels could easily navigate and understand its menu system and base specifications. After using Sony’s for a good amount of years, I still have trouble remembering where some settings are buried under or what base level ISO’s I should be using for different picture profiles.
The Sony A7S iii for instance has dual ISO’s like most cameras do, but there’s nothing inside the camera that suggests its second base ISO of 12800 stated anywhere. It takes more of a learning curve to learn about it’s quirks while this S5ii simply categorises it as Auto, Low or High and ranges all the way up to 51,200 ISO and Expandable up to 204,800.
It’s also set to default at it’s 2nd base ISO of 640 when shooting in V-log just like how Sony’s set’s theirs at 800 if shooting in S-log, but as I’ve mentioned in the original S5 video, it really takes an eye to grade S-log footage, whereas V-log gives you just a bit more head room to fix over or under exposures, while also just having one the best colour science that feels more film centric. Although I’d still give Canon’s colour science to be the most accurate among the rest, if you’re looking for a specific look that other cameras just don't have at this price point, it gets harder to make an argument.
But truly, the biggest improvement is in it's autofocus, which now comes with hybrid phase-detection with face, eye, and even animal priority. It has a total of 779 autofocus points and results are a huge leap from contrast based autofocus. It may not exactly be in the same running with Sony's hybrid-phase detection, but it really comes a close second or third if I were to mention Canon's dual-pixel.
Ergonomics too just feels far better in my hand, having all of your essentials at an efficient reach such as your ISO’s, White Balance, joystick placement, a very responsive 3” touchscreen, scroll wheel, primary and secondary dials, focus servo options placed directly near the EVF which Panasonic also mentions has some improvements from 2300k or so dots to now 3,680k dots. It also now comes with a Full HDMI port from a finicky micro-HDMI. So yeah.. The little things always do matter.
Memory Cards & Battery
So even if you don't find any of this appealing enough, Panasonic is also releasing an S5 ii X, which would come with ProRes, faster reading speeds in Cinema 4K, 4K, & 3.3K up to 800 Mbps & Full HD at 200 Mbps.
At this point, Sony’s do have more of an advantage when it comes to reading speeds for accepting CF Express Type-A cards, while this still only accepts UHS-II SDXC cards, to which I have no complaints over. I’ll take slightly slower reading speeds than overpriced memory cards any day.
Battery life is still pretty much the same as before with these BLF19 batteries, which still managed me to get about 3 hours of on & off use.
I’m very aware that at this point, I sound like a Panasonic Fanboy. But I’ll counter that by saying, every brand has their strong suits. Sony’s and their countless autofocus subject detection modes, Canon’s and their Colour accuracy, Blackmagic with their inability to actually be pocketable, Nikon and Leica for being a photographer’s staple that prefer something more direct while carrying some of that heritage of yesteryears, and many other camera manufacturers that either have exploded the “content creator” narrative or imploded in their own ego for not wanting to evolve with the times.
In the case of the Panasonic S5 or this S5 mark ii may not sound or look like the perfect camera nor should it ever be, because there’s no such thing as a “perfect” anything, but to me it feels like it represents the unsung heroes. The gaffers, the art directors, our video editor who edits these videos and ultimately the person behind the camera. Whether you’re a professional or just someone who enjoys making videos, I believe this S5 mk ii, would be enjoyed by many just as I have. Question is, would I want it to be my daily driver?
Maybe once I've spent enough time with it as I'm still pretty much a hybrid user. While the S5ii has clever photo computations which ultimately produces up to 96MP of photo resolution, theres still a huge part of me who can't seem to move on from physical shutters and the sound it makes every time the trigger is pressed.
In a flux, the Panasonic S5ii is a perfected version of it's predecessor and if you're someone who shoots video, this camera would not disappoint.
Written by Fitri Aiyub