Panasonic takes a step forward in excellence by unveiling its latest full-frame hybrid camera. The manufacturer renews the Lumix S series, with the proven Lumix S5, to catch up with the competition. This includes a new phase and contrast detection autofocus, 30 fps continuous shooting, and a feature-rich video mode, along with a new image sensor and built-in stabilization.
While Panasonic introduces two new models, the Lumix S5 IIX and the Lumix S5 II, this review focuses on the Lumix S5 II. The main differences between the two hybrids are the matte black finish of the S5 IIX and video performance. Notably, the S5 IIX will not be available until the summer.
|Model||Panasonic Lumix S5 II|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame|
|Sensor Resolution||25.28 MP|
|Video Recording Resolution||6K|
Design and Ergonomics
Slightly larger than its older sibling, the Lumix S5 released in 2020, the S5 II has dimensions of 134.3 x 102.3 x 90.1 mm and weighs 657 grams (body only). Its design is solid and shows. The camera has remarkable finishes, thanks to its magnesium alloy, as well as being weather-sealed.
The anti-slip coating provides good stability and a rugged look. It features a deep grip for a solid and secure hold.
Numerous and Practical Buttons
Panasonic did not skimp on buttons and manual settings. While photography beginners might be intimidated by the abundance of buttons, advanced users will quickly find their habits and appreciate having everything they need at their fingertips.
On the top surface, two serrated wheels are located on either side of the viewfinder. On the right, the shooting mode dial includes classic P, S, A, and M modes, as well as a video mode, an intelligent automatic mode, Slow & Quick mode, and three custom modes. On the left of the viewfinder, a wheel provides access to various burst options, discussed later, and a High-Resolution mode.
The shutter release button is surrounded by a control dial for aperture settings, with exposure compensation, white balance, and ISO adjustment buttons nearby. The red video recording button is also present.
A switch between single, continuous, and manual autofocus modes is conveniently located near the viewfinder, with a button in the center to access AF modes (tracking, zone, pinpoint, etc.). Having these options within thumb’s reach is appreciated, and navigation is easy to grasp.
In terms of connections, the Panasonic Lumix S5 II includes standard USB-C and HDMI A ports, as well as two 3.5mm jacks for a microphone and headphones. The compartments remain accessible even with the screen unfolded, which won’t bother videographers in action, for example.
Storage is provided by two SD card slots (UHS-I and UHS-II) on the side of the body. The battery compartment is located underneath the camera, secured by a mechanical lock.
The Lumix S5 II features a 3.68-million-dot OLED viewfinder. Pleasant to use and responsive, it offers two refresh rate options in settings: 60 or 120 frames per second, a nice touch.
The screen, on the other hand, is mounted on a ball joint for full articulation in all directions. This feature is essential for photographers seeking creative shots and vloggers. With a resolution of approximately 1.84 million dots, the screen is fully touch-sensitive. Users can directly use the screen to navigate through options and menus, as well as to set focus points.
The screen brightness is adjustable automatically or through six levels (ranging from +3 to -3) to ensure visual comfort, regardless of surrounding light conditions.
Control and Navigation
Navigating menus can be a unique experience when unfamiliar with a manufacturer’s camera bodies, which can result in pleasant surprises or frustrations. In this case, despite years of using Canon cameras, the experience is enjoyable. The menus are modern, clear, and readable. The options are easy to find and more. This is an excellent point for Panasonic, which could easily sway enthusiasts from competing brands.
Navigation can be done using the directional pad, joystick, or by touch. The eight-directional pad is particularly pleasant to use, well-balanced, and precise. Users quickly grasp the mechanics and find their bearings; in short, the Lumix S5 II is easy to handle, which is commendable.
Emphasis on Customization
Above all, the camera body is designed to adapt to the user, not the other way around. While other cameras can seem rigid and generate frustration, the S5 II is a flexible tool thanks to the plethora of customization options Panasonic provides.
From image settings to autofocus speed and various displays, there’s enough to spend hours tweaking the hybrid. Add to that the ability to create three incredibly comprehensive user profiles, plus the three customizable modes C1, C2, and C3, this camera will appeal to the most meticulous photographers and videographers.
In addition to contrast detection autofocus, the Lumix S5 II now features a 779-point phase-detection hybrid autofocus system. This is a first for Lumix, and the results are impressive.
The Panasonic S5 II is capable of tracking a subject’s eye and face, as well as animals and people. Although it doesn’t support tracking as many subjects as its competitors, which include vehicles and can differentiate birds from mammals, it does excel in performance. The directional stick is conveniently placed for the thumb and is responsive when making adjustments. It’s easy to capture the subject with this camera.
As seen here, when the subject tracking is set to Animal, it does an excellent job of following a bird in the sky. The eye tracking feature also works well, tracking the model until they’re too close to the lens for focusing.
In electronic shutter mode, the burst capture rate goes up to 30 frames per second, a significant improvement compared to the 7 frames per second of the original S5. It’s worth noting that Sony cameras in the same price range, such as the Alpha 7 IV, are limited to 10 frames per second.
In testing, burst and autofocus work together to achieve near-perfect results in action shots, like tracking a skateboarder in motion. Except when the subject is obstructed by a tree, the camera never loses track of them. With RAW+JPEG recording, the hybrid allows capturing more than 200 images, provided an ultra-fast SD card is used. The best memory equipment will always bring out the best performance from a camera.
The Lumix S5 II offers a shutter speed range from 1/8000 to 60 seconds. However, it has a somewhat limited battery life. Panasonic claims a capacity of 370 images, which is less than its predecessor, the S5, and significantly less than Canon’s latest EOS R6 II, which can capture up to 760 images using the display. In testing conditions with numerous setting adjustments and cold weather, the battery showed signs of weakness quite quickly. Regardless, it’s always wise to have multiple batteries when using a mirrorless camera, which consumes more power than a DSLR.
A Somewhat Limited Battery Life
Panasonic claims a battery life of 370 images for the S5 II, which is relatively low compared to its predecessor, the S5, which boasted between 440 and 470 images, and Canon’s latest EOS R6 II, which can capture up to 760 images using the display. Indeed, under testing conditions that included numerous setting adjustments and cold temperatures, the camera’s battery showed signs of weakness quite quickly. Nevertheless, it’s always wise to have multiple batteries when using a mirrorless camera, as they consume more power than a DSLR.
In terms of performance, it’s worth noting that the S5 II is not the fastest at startup. However, the tested model had a pre-production firmware version, which could explain the delay between turning on and the camera becoming fully operational. This lack of responsiveness could be easily fixed in the future.
This new mirrorless camera from Panasonic is equipped with a 35mm full-frame (35.6 x 23.8 mm) CMOS sensor with 24.2 million pixels. Additionally, a new processor boosts the autofocus capabilities.
For this test, we used the S 20-60mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, which comes bundled with the hybrid camera. It’s a sturdy, versatile, and compact lens, perfect for beginners and photographers looking for easy-to-carry and adaptable equipment. More advanced users, in terms of experience or budget, will find plenty of options among the extensive catalog of L-mount lenses compatible with the S5 II. Remember, Panasonic, Leica, and Sigma are partners in this lens mount system.
Increasing Sensitivity Without Losing Detail
The S5 II’s ISO range spans from 100 to 51,200 (204,800 extended). Observing the ISO increase below, we see that images remain highly usable even when reaching high sensitivity, around 8,000 ISO. Furthermore, the Dual Native ISO technology combined with the processor minimizes noise to maintain good image quality.
Panasonic announces a dynamic range of 14+ stops, an impressive score made possible in video, particularly by the integration of adaptive image profiles in the S5 II, including a flat V-Log mode that allows for extensive editing. We will revisit this in the video section of the test.
Regarding the image style, the camera includes a series of presets accessible via the Q button. In addition to creative styles like Monochrome, Landscape, Vivid, and Natural, the Lumix S5 II offers four customizable styles and direct access to your own LUTs, which you can create yourself.
For those who love highly detailed photos, the High Resolution mode delivers 96 MP images. This mode can be accessed through the menu or by turning the dial to the left of the viewfinder. However, it requires mounting the camera on a tripod and photographing a stationary subject. Unfortunately, this feature was available handheld on the Lumix GH6.
Lumix S5 II Colorimetry
As with each test, the Lumix S5 II is compared to the Canon EOS R6. Here, only the exposure has been corrected if needed. We note that the Panasonic model leans more towards cool and green tones in automatic white balance, unlike the Canon camera, which tends to favor warm and pink tones. Beyond these initial observations, color differences are not stark.
In terms of photo formats, this Lumix keeps it simple by offering RAW and JPEG images. Currently, only Silkypix software is compatible with processing RAW files from the S5 II until other development software—Lightroom, DxO PhotoLab, Luminar, Capture One, etc.—is updated.
While Panasonic has strengthened its Lumix S5 II for photography, it hasn’t forgotten users more focused on video.
It can record up to 6K 29.97p 4:2:0 10-bit or 4K 4:2:2 10-bit, and includes a Full HD mode up to 120p for quality slow motion. A 3.3K anamorphic mode, as found on the GH4 and GH5, is also available, giving a cinematic look to video productions. However, there is a 1.5x crop beyond 4K 30p, which was also present in the original S5.
Noticed in photo mode, V-Log image style and user-created LUTs stand out even more in video. V-Log flattens the image to provide more flexibility during post-production color grading, while LUTs offer a base look for the image. Users can develop their unique style according to their needs.
In video, the autofocus performs well, effectively tracking subjects (in this case, a person) without losing them despite obstacles or face turns. In our tests, subject tracking resumed smoothly.
The S5 II sensor features 5-axis stabilization, providing up to 5 stops of improvement according to the manufacturer, with additional options like Active IS for handheld video stabilization. In the video below, we tested various stabilization modes, which proved quite convincing.
Lastly, the camera promises unlimited recording time, regardless of the chosen format. To avoid overheating, Panasonic has incorporated a fan within the viewfinder, explaining its prominence.
Of course, whether there’s overheating or not, unlimited recording should be balanced with memory capacity and available battery life.
Price and Availability
The Lumix S5 II (model DC-S5M2) is priced at $1997 for the body only and will be available by the end of January. The kit including the Lumix S 20-60mm f/3.5-5.6 lens is priced at $2,499. For reference, the “X” version of the S5 II will be available for an additional $300 for the body only, at a price of $2,499, while the same kit goes up to $2,799. The Lumix S5IIX will be available in 2023, but the exact date is not yet specified.
Panasonic opts for a rather aggressive pricing strategy considering the competition. The Canon EOS R6 II, also capable of a 30fps burst, is priced at $2,899, while the Sony A7 IV is around $2,800. Nikon’s Z6 II, on the other hand, is priced around $2,300. The Lumix S5 II is thus in the lower range, making it even more appealing to users.
Panasonic takes a significant step forward with this new Lumix S5 II. Building on the already impressive performance of the S5, its successor confirms the manufacturer’s ambitions.
Photographers of all backgrounds will find the full-frame camera they need in the Lumix S5 II. With high-quality images, new autofocus, and a 30fps burst, this camera easily competes with rivals. Add to that a comprehensive video mode, including 6K resolution, anamorphic format, and responsive autofocus, and you have an ideal combination to attract videographers.
Although its price and multitude of manual settings may seem aimed at advanced users, the S5 II is intuitive and easy to use. Users looking to upgrade or newcomers to Panasonic can easily get to grips with it.
While it’s not without flaws, the S5 II has some serious advantages in the full-frame mirrorless camera market, and at this price, Panasonic has made a strong impact.
Pros of the Panasonic Lumix S5 II:
- Successful autofocus
- Numerous settings within easy reach
- Highly customizable
- Swivel screen
- Comprehensive video formats
- Unlimited video recording
- Easy navigation and handling
- Clean sensitivity increase
- Affordable price for full-frame
Cons of the Panasonic Lumix S5 II:
- Many buttons
- AF detection limited to humans and animals
- Slightly weak battery life
- Crop in 4K beyond 30p