The Panasonic S5 II is much more than the successor to the S5. It is the first Panasonic with phase-detection AF. This is a big step for Panasonic and it solves the only real drawback of the system. It’s not the only innovation and especially for hybrid photographers/filmmakers, the S5 II is a camera to consider.
TESTRESULTS Panasonic Lumix S5 II:
With phase-detection AF, Panasonic does away with the only real shortcoming of previous models.
Introduction Panasonic Lumix S5 II
The Panasonic Lumix S5 II replaces the Lumix S5, which was introduced in 2020 and is therefore not actually that old. Yet there is indeed a big difference between the two cameras. This is not in the sensor or image quality, but in the focusing system. Namely, the S5 II has phase-detection autofocus. Like all other brands, Panasonic’s new autofocus system is finally hybrid. It uses both contrast detection and phase detection. Those familiar with Panasonic’s history know what a big step this is. Whereas other brands like Sony with the A7S and Olympus with the E-M10 IV have recently made some models with contrast-detection autofocus, Panasonic until the arrival of this S5 II only made cameras with contrast-detection AF.
Panasonic has greatly refined its system in recent years, calling it DFD (Depth From Defocus). Thanks to DFD, Panasonic cameras can calculate with a few measurements in which direction and how much to focus. S-AF is very fast and precise with DFD, and results are also reasonable in C-AF, at least when taking photos. Thanks to ever faster processors, DFD got better every generation. Yet there remained a drawback to DFD and that is that the camera still has to search back and forth from time to time. When filming, you see this in the shots. The faster the readout from the sensor is and the faster the camera can do the calculations, the less you’ll see this, but for a brand that has vastly expanded video capabilities even on its base model, this is obviously something they were keen to fix. With phase-detection autofocus, Panasonic does away with the one thing on which they were really lagging behind the competition.
IBIS and cooling
However, the autofocus is not the only thing Panasonic has improved on the Lumix S5 II. Image stabilisation has also been improved. According to Panasonic, the system has become twice as effective. In practice, you might translate that to a stop gain. The S5 II’s built-in image stabilisation works across five axes and can be combined with image stabilisation in the lenses, if present. Together, they could then be good for 6.5 stops of correction. In practice, the S5 II’s stabilisation proves very good and indeed noticeably better than that of the old model. We find that of the new Sony A7R V just a fraction better, but then you are immediately talking about the best in this field and that camera is also twice as expensive. You won’t find better stabilisation in the Lumix S5 II’s price range.
Furthermore, the Lumix S5 II features Active I.S and there is a Boost I.S. mode. Active I.S. is suitable for video recording while walking. Boost I.S. especially for static shots where the camera more or less tries to fix the image, as if it were on a tripod. Both work very well and mean that, as a filmmaker, you need a gimbal or tripod just a little less often and can more easily take high-quality shots out of hand. Another change concerns cooling. The Lumix S5 II has active, built-in cooling that draws air in under the front of the viewfinder and blows it out to both sides. This makes it much less likely to overheat than the original S5. For a basic model, this is a unique feature and it shows that Panasonic takes video functions seriously. In practice, we didn’t manage to get the S5 II to overheat, although we should add that it was sunny but not very hot during the test conditions. Incidentally, the fact that the camera sucks in air does not mean that this made it susceptible to dust or moisture. True to Panasonic, the Lumix S5 II is still a very well-sealed camera.
Construction and operation
The Panasonic Lumix S5 II is slightly larger than its predecessor, the S5. In part, this is due to the built-in cooling system. This has air vents next to and below the viewfinder. On one side, the camera sucks in air, on the other side it blows it out again. Despite these openings, the camera is still completely weatherproof.
The Lumix S5 II is the smallest model of all Panasonic’s 35mm cameras. That is not by any means to say that it is a compact or lightweight 35mm camera. The Sony A7 IV, for example, is smaller in all dimensions, and the Lumix S5 II is heavier than basically all its direct competitors. Those larger dimensions do have their advantages. The grip is nice and big and the buttons are easy to operate. The Panasonic Lumix S5 II has a new AF joystick that can now move in eight directions, instead of four. The viewfinder has a higher resolution, going from 2.36 megapixels to 3.76 megapixels, with a refresh rate of 120 or 60 frames per second, and you can really see that extra resolution in the viewfinder. The image is visibly prettier. The Panasonic Lumix S5 II has a large HDMI connection, which is fully in line with the camera’s hybrid qualities. Again, this is still something special in this (and also higher price ranges). Like the S5, the S5 II has two SD card slots, only now both are compatible with the faster UHS-II cards. In the original S5, only one of them was. The S5 II uses the same battery as the S5.
The Panasonic Lumix S5 II has a new sensor. This is because the sensor of the S5 does not have phase-detection AF, while that of the S5 II does. However, the pixel count is the same, at 24 megapixels. We don’t see any quality differences, nor did we expect any. The S5’s sensor is also already a modern one and apart from the addition of phase detection, there don’t seem to be any major technical differences between the two sensors. When larger files are needed, the Lumix S5 II offers a 96-megapixel high res mode. The camera can compose the files in-camera, taking into account moving subjects in the image and reasonably eliminating them. The camera already does that for you. There is no need to merge the shots on the computer afterwards. The big advantage is that you can therefore check immediately, on the spot, whether the shot is good and free of artefacts caused by movement. The photos will not be as sharp as with a 100-megapixel camera, but the high res mode clearly provides higher sharpness and more detail than is possible with standard recordings. However, the high res mode does not work without a tripod. Some Panasonic cameras do.
The Panasonic Lumix S5 II can record in many different formats. The S5 even features ‘open gate’ 6K up to 30 frames per second in 10 bit 4:2:0. In ‘open gate’, the camera writes away all the information from the sensor as a video file. You then get 5952×3968 pixels in a 3:2 ratio per frame. In post-processing, you can extract any aspect ratio from this, up to 4K portrait. It is also possible to shoot in ‘open gate’ with anamorphic lenses, making the 3:2 ratio more elongated and cinematic, with no loss of pixels. This possibility is extra interesting because the camera can display a corrected aspect ratio in the viewfinder. So you can already see the final result and so can the colours if you work with a log profile. In fact, you can also load your own LUTs into the camera so that the viewfinder and screen display the colours and contrast as they might look after editing. To make it extra nice, you can even adjust the image stabilisation to work anamorphically. The image stabilisation then works differently vertically than horizontally, taking into account the different proportions of the image. No other brand offers all these features in a 35mm system camera.
Even for those who don’t want all that, the S5 has a lot to offer. In 6K, you can also just film in 17:9 or 16:9 ratio, and the same goes for 4K. In 35mm you can then film in 30 or 24 frames per second, in Super 35 4K is possible up to 60 frames per second and with less ‘rolling shutter’. In ‘Slow and fast’, the camera reaches a maximum of 180 frames per second in Full HD. HLG and V-Log are obviously present, but the S5 cannot film in ProRes or raw via HDMI by default. The original S5 could do that Panasonic did announce that there will be a paid update that allows raw via HDMI. Furthermore, the Lumix S5 II offers the ability to record echo on four channels without an adapter, and the camera has a separate screen display for audio capabilities. For image review, you can use waveform playback. Overheating is not likely to occur thanks to the built-in fan and the fan operation is adjustable. The quality of the video is excellent and the better image stabilisation helps to capture good footage even from handheld shots.
Panasonic Lumix S5 II X
Those who absolutely need the maximum in filming capabilities are at Panasonic’s beck and call with a special edition of the S5 II. That’s the Lumix S5 II X, which offers both raw video and the ability to film in ProRes for a small amount more. The files are then too big to write away to the UHS-II SD cards, but the Lumix S5 II X solves that by offering the option to save recordings to external SSDs via the USB-C output. For avid filmmakers, this is a win-win model. You then get the easy-to-process ProRes files on fast and relatively cheap external hard drives. You can even connect those to your computer that way and importing is not even necessary if you don’t want to.
The big news, of course, is that the Panasonic Lumix S5 II finally has a hybrid AF system like almost all other modern cameras also have. It uses phase detection to get to a certain point quickly and contrast detection for fine-tuning. This allows the camera to track and track subjects better. This also ensures better AF performance when using Ai-based subject recognition. The Panasonic Lumix S5 II has 779 focusing fields that just barely cover the edges of the image. In practice, it is actually remarkable how imperceptibly well the system works. It is not inferior to autofocus systems from other brands and the characteristic pulsing of DFD autofocus is gone. The focus simply does what you expect from a modern focusing system and that is a big compliment. Panasonic own can opt for both linear and non-linear focusing when focusing manually. In the former case, a given turn of the focus ring always causes an equal change in the set distance. For making focus pulls during filming, this is important. The stroke is even adjustable between 90 and 360 degrees in 30-degree increments. With non-linear focusing, the change in set distance depends on how fast you turn. This allows you to make extra precise adjustments.
The most special thing about the Panasonic Lumix S5 II is what will hopefully be normal on all Panasonic models in the foreseeable future: phase detection autofocus. Apart from that, the camera has other features you won’t easily find on competitors and certainly not in this price range: high res photos, four-channel audio, LUTs and waveform playback during filming and, of course, built-in cooling. For photographers, the list of special items is pretty short, but those who film regularly will certainly appreciate the extra features.
Relative to competitors
The Panasonic Lumix S5 II’s price is one of the camera’s attractive points. That only just above that of the Canon EOS R6 and thus well below the price of the EOS R6 II and is also a bit lower than the price of the Sony A7 IV. The Sony has one of the best AF systems in this price range and higher resolution, but does not offer the extensive video capabilities of the Panasonic, nor does it have a high res mode for photos. The Canon EOS R6 II is a very good all-rounder, with similar resolution. Its video capabilities are excellent, with oversampled 4K 60p without crop and 6K ProRes Raw via HDMI. However, the EOS R6 II does not have the advanced support for anamorphic lenses or LUTs and lacks things like waveform playback. The R6 II is a faster camera though, with 12 frames per second with mechanical shutter and 40 frames per second with electronic shutter. The numbers for the Lumix S5 II are 7 (or 9 if you turn off the AF) and 30, respectively.
Panasonic Lumix S5 II
|video||6K to 30bps|
|ISO||100-51,200 (50 – 204,800 extensive)|
|max. series rate||7 -9 (mech. with/without AF) – 30 (elect. shutter)|
2 x UHS II SD
|weight (incl battery)|
$ 1,997,99 (body)
Conclusion test Panasonic Lumix S5 II
With phase detection, the Panasonic Lumix S5 II is at a stroke potentially one of the best hybrid cameras on the market, and at a competitive price too.
Especially for hybrid image makers, for photographers who also shoot regularly or cinematographers who need regular shots, Panasonic’s cameras have always been very attractive. The GH models for the Micro Four Thirds system are pioneers in this field and still offer many features you still don’t see from the competition. If we had one criticism of Panasonic cameras, however, it was invariably the autofocus performance, especially in video. While the GH6 and S5 already outperformed previous models, the back-and-forth focus searching during shooting wasn’t quite gone. Thanks to the introduction of phase detection, Panasonic has been able to put an end to this, making the Panasonic Lumix S5 II one of the best hybrid cameras on the market in one fell swoop, and at a competitive price as well. That Panasonic has also improved the camera in other areas (viewfinder, cooling, stabilisation) are the icing on the cake.