One of the best mirrorless cameras just got better.
The Panasonic Lumix S5 is now 15% off. At just US$1,698, the S5 is a killer deal. If you’re looking for a full-frame mirrorless camera, the S5 should be worth considering. Especially for video shooters only. More on that in a moment.
Released in late 2020 – as part of the second wave of Covid no less – the S5 is Panasonic’s answer for those looking for a high-performance L-mount camera without the high price tag found in its high-end models such as the S1 and S1H.
Spec-wise, there seems to be little compromise given the S5’s significantly lower price: 24.2MP CMOS sensor; 4K/60 video; 5-axis Dual IS offering 6.5 stops of correction (with compatible L-mount lenses); V-Log; Dual native ISO; 4:2:2 10-bit video; High frame rate of 180 fps for slow motion; 4:3 anamorphic; 14+ stops of dynamic range (claimed); two SD card slots; And so on. You would be hard pressed to find a missing feature for filmmakers.
If you’re into camera gear and have been following the market for the past few years, you might even consider the S5 essentially a full-frame version of the GH5 (itself a beast of a camera for the price).
Consider the competition.
There’s the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K. An obvious competitor in this segment. For less than $2,000 you get a fully loaded mini cinema camera that works well with DaVinci Resolve and produces a great image. An added bonus: the ubiquitous Canon EF mount. Chances are all of your existing panes will work, if not all of them, at least if you’re a Canon shooter. The S5, on the other hand, will require an adapter. Something to keep in mind.
From Sony’s side, the A7 III is a remarkable and worthy alternative. I’ve been following the camera market on Stark Insider for a while, and perhaps the A7 III is the most popular and best-reviewed mirrorless camera (for video) I’ve ever seen. People love this thing. Undoubtedly a great option.
Still, in addition to the performance of the Blackmagic and Sony, it’s hard to deny the value of the S5. With the current sale, it undercuts both models and can be had for $300 less. These savings can be spent on lighting, gimbals, memory cards, lenses, and more.
I should also mention the GH5. Shoppers looking for a high-performance mirrorless camera in the, say, $1,000-2,000 segment shouldn’t discount this mirrorless behemoth. After all these years, the GH5 is still an incredible video creation machine. Don’t let the Micro Four Thirds lens mount deter you. Ignore the FUD. For video, it’s absolutely perfect. In fact, focusing is generally easier and more accurate with these types of Super 35-ish, non-full-frame cameras.
While I think the Blackmagic Pocket 6K, Sony A7 III, and even the GH5 are worthy players, I’d still bet on the S5 for video. Wedding sessions. Music videos. Fashion movies. Travel videos. Independent films. This thing can do it all, without breaking the bank.
There is one that deserves mention.
And that is: autofocus.
Not good. In fact, quite bad. In my testing, the S5 regularly struggled to focus while others locked up nicely.
Please don’t look to the S5 for fast, accurate autofocus. You will probably be frustrated. But for most serious video shooters, that’s no problem – at all. You’ll want to be in manual focus mode anyway. This won’t work for Vloggers of course. But for film productions, that goes without saying. Manual all the way. Additionally, due to the relatively poor contrast-based focusing system found on the S5 (as opposed to the more capable phase-detection systems found on Canon and Sony), using the Panasonic as a true hybrid – for videos and stills — not ideal. Instead, I’d recommend something like the Canon EOS R or RP or the aforementioned Sony A7 III.
AF aside, perhaps my favorite feature of the S5, or should I say, the result is the picture. Organic. Texture. And certainly not digital. Tweak that V-Log a little in post and you can get outstanding cinematic images that will belie the price of the camera.
I guess Panasonic has to compete significantly on price as it doesn’t quite carry the brand recognition and cachet found with Canon and Sony. It’s a win for consumers, however. Don’t let the lowest prices fool you – this is a phenomenally well built and well thought out camera. Fortunately, Panasonic continues to serve these video-centric niche markets.
At just $1,698, the Lumix S5 is incredible value for video shooters of all types (except those who need reliable AF!). My recommendation would be to steer clear of the more expensive full-frame models and look for a value that will do the job for less money. The S5 is the perfect example.