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REVIEW: Panasonic Lumix S5 Mk II

PANASONIC LUMIX S5 II: A new sensor and processor plus hybrid AF with phase-detection makes Panasonic’s second-generation S5M2 mirrorless camera an even better performer for stills and video recording. The Lumix S5 II ticks a lot of boxes for serious photo/video enthusiasts and professional videographers who also shoot stills. It provides a nice balance between stills and video capabilities in a camera body that is small and light enough to be easy to carry and also weather-resistant with a control layout and menu structure that makes it straightforward to operate.
RRP: $3199 (body only); $3699 (with 20-60mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens)
Two and a half years after the original S5 camera was released, the S5 II marks the introduction of a new sensor with on-sensor PDAF (Phase Detection Auto-Focus) capabilities to Panasonic’s full-frame mirrorless cameras. This means the camera can combine phase-detection with the existing DFD (Depth from Defocus) contrast-based AF technology used in the original S5 camera. The new hybrid AF system is faster and more accurate and more capable of subject detection. In the subject detection modes the camera will create a dynamic box around the detected subject, which follows them as they move. High-speed AF tracking is possible at previously unachievable speeds and hunting is significantly reduced.

Although the resolution of the S5 II is unchanged, a new image processor, which was co-developed with Leica, delivers improved imaging performance with better colour depth and detail in image and video recordings. The updated image processor also underpins a new Active IS. function that works with the existing 5-axis IS function and improves in-body stabilisation by being able to detect and predict camera motion, including when the camera operator is also moving.

The S5 II extends the video capabilities of the original S5 to support 6K (5952 x 3968 pixels) 30/25p recording as well as wireless and wired IP streaming. It is also the first full-frame mirrorless camera to record directly to an external SSD (solid-state drive) via USB-C. A new Real-Time LUT function has been added to the Photo Styles sub-menu. This setting lets users apply a look-up table (LUT) file that was registered in the LUT Library to the V-Log Photo style to save time when colour grading recorded footage. It provides a quick way to achieve a desired ‘look’ and can be useful when working in teams to synchronise the appearance of recordings from different cameras. Settings can be saved for future use in My Photo Style.

A new built-in cooling fan in the EVF housing allows the camera to record video for extended periods of time. The mechanism is located outside the sealed sections that protect the internal electronics of both the fan and EVF screen and has vents along the sides and under the front of the EVF hump where they don’t compromise the weather sealing’s integrity. Fins on the vents direct the air stream forwards so it’s not noticed by the camera users.

The S5M2 also replaces the mini HDMI port with a full-sized HDMI input and both SD media slots are now UHS-II compatible, instead of one being UHS-II and the other USH-1.

Purchasing points:

1. The new camera has a hybrid AF system that combines with Panasonic’s DFD (Depth from Defocus) contrast-based AF technology to provide faster, more precise autofocusing. Selectable AF points have increased from 255 in the S5 to 779 in the S5 II. The system can identify and track human faces, eyes, heads and bodies as well as animals (and animal+human) – but not vehicles.
2. Both the sensor and image processor have been updated, the former to include phase-detection pixels, while the latter is a new image processor, which was co-developed with Leica and is faster than its predecessor.
3. The updated image processor also improves the built-in sensor-shift stabilisation system, which is rated for up to 6.5 stops. Revised algorithms enable the camera to evaluate camera motion more precisely to support longer exposures for stills when the camera is hand-held as well as smoother video footage. A new Active IS function can detect and predict camera motion, including when the camera operator is also moving.
4. A new built-in cooling fan, which is housed in the EVF hump, allows continuous video recording for extended periods of time. Panasonic claims the system can operate successfully at temperatures up to 40 degrees Celsius. Recording stops when continuous high-resolution (6K or 5.9K) recording times exceed 30 minutes in the standard Thermal Management mode.
5. Video can be recorded at 10-bit depth for a wide range of settings, including 4:2:2 10-bit C4K/4K 50p. The SM52 can also record 4:2:0 10-bit 6K/25p LongGOP video in the H.265 codec, using the sensor’s full readout to produce 5952 x 3968 pixel frames. Such large frames can be cropped in post production to produce content for different applications, including social media.
6. A dedicated [Anamorphic (Video)] setting is available for use when anamorphic lenses are fitted to the camera for recording wider angles of vide with video recordings. Users can also select from a range of cropping areas.
7. The EVF housing is slightly larger to accommodate the cooling fan and the resolution of the screen has been increased from 2,360,000 dots to 3,680,000 dots. Its magnification and eye relief distance have increased marginally making it more comfortable to use.
8. Both media slots now accommodate UHS-II/V90 compatible SD cards.
9. An optional DMW-XLR1 adapter enables the new camera to record two channels of 48 kHz/24-bit or 96 kHz/24-bit and audio or four channels of 48 kHz/24-bit or 96 kHz/24 bit when a compatible external microphone is attached.
10. The S5 II can record long (more than 100 frames) bursts of shots at nine fps with the mechanical shutter in AF-S mode or seven fps with the electronic mode with continuous focusing (AF-C). The buffer memory has space for more than 300 frames Large/Fine JPEGs, or more than 200 RAW files.

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