We were seriously impressed with the Lumix S5 when it launched back in 2020, and now Panasonic is back with a new and improved version. To be clear, the S5II hasn’t replaced the S5, but is instead available alongside it as a more premium option.
As much as we love the brand’s cameras, there’s been one ever-present issue with Panasonic’s offerings: the lacklustre autofocus performance. That all changes with the S5II and the introduction of its new phase hybrid autofocus system.
So, has Panasonic hit the nail on the head and created one of the best cameras to buy today? On paper, it certainly seems like it.
We’ve spent plenty of time with the camera, shooting both photos and videos in a variety of conditions, here’s what we found out.
Panasonic Lumix S5II
If you have $2000 to spend on a full-frame mirrorless body, we think the Lumix S5II is the way to go, especially if you shoot a lot of video. No one else is offering as much for the money, it’s a wonderfully well-rounded camera.
- Excellent phase hybrid autofocus system
- Best-in-class image stabilisation
- 6K video capture
- 30 fps bursts with 200 frame buffer
- Superb value
- Less lens options than the competition
- 1.5x crop at 4K60
- Dimensions: 134.3 x 102.3 x 90.1 mm
- Weight: 740g
- New 8-direction joystick
The S5II has a very similar look and feel to its predecessor. The button layout remains unchanged, as do the materials and colours used on the camera’s body.
The spec sheet tells us that it’s actually slightly larger in all dimensions, as well as being about 26 grams heavier, but if you aren’t holding them side by side, you’d never be able to tell. The only obvious change is the S5II badge on the front of the camera.
Most of the changes are performance oriented and found on the inside of the camera, with the exception of a new 8-direction joystick. This is found in the same position as the 4-direction joystick on the original S5 and allows you to move your focal point diagonally.
We tend to use the touchscreen more frequently than the joystick for moving the focal point, but if you spend a lot of time looking through the EVF, you’ll no doubt be pleased with this improvement. Alternatively, it can be assigned as extra function buttons, but you’ll still only get four directions if you choose to do that.
Connectivity and displays
- Full-size HDMI, USB-C, Headphone and Mic sockets
- Dual SD card slots, 1x UHS-II and 1x UHS-I
- 3,680k OLED LVF and 1,840k flip-out LCD
Starting with connectivity, things remain functionally very similar, as well. Thankfully, though, this model ditches the micro HDMI in favour of a full-sized HDMI port – very welcome news for those who use an external monitor.
There’s a USB-C port, which has been upgraded to USB 3.2, and separate 3.5mm headphone and mic sockets. When the screen is flipped out, neither of the 3.5mm jacks or USB-C get in the way of the articulation – however, the HDMI will get blocked, which is no big deal in the majority of cases.
It’s worth noting that the S5II can’t record externally to USB-SSD, you’ll need the pricier S5IIX model if you want to do that. Since there are no heavy ProRes codecs on the standard model, SD cards get the job done just fine.
Around the other side, we find dual SD card slots, just like the S5. These have been upgraded, too, both are now UHS-II compatible, whereas the S5 only features a single UHS-II slot.
The other big news is a new and improved OLED EVF. This looks great, it’s very sharp and smooth, and it made it very easy to dial in our settings and frame our shots. We weren’t able to test it side-by-side with the S5, so it’s hard to say exactly how much it has improved, but from memory, this is certainly a step up.
The flip-out LCD appears to be the exact same as its predecessor, but no complaints there, it’s very responsive and is easy to see in a variety of lighting conditions. It would have been nice to see the GH6‘s tilting functionality make its way to this model, too, but the standard flip-out articulation is more than enough for most scenarios.
- New 24.2MP sensor with IBIS and Active I.S.
- Phase hybrid AF, 779-point
- Up to 30fps electronic burst shooting with 200 frame buffer
We were really pleased with the photos we were able to capture on the Lumix S5II. The images are sharp and detailed, while the colours are natural and lifelike. The RAW files hold up to some serious colour grading, and the JPEGs don’t fare too poorly, either.
Shooting on the S5II is a breeze, the new autofocus is fast and reliable and the subject tracking works excellently, even in challenging conditions like a busy city street. In animal tracking mode, the reliability wasn’t quite as rock solid, but it still performed admirably.
We reckon the new autofocus system goes toe-to-toe with the likes of Canon and Fujifilm. It’s not quite on Sony’s level yet, but we can imagine it getting there eventually.
Being long-time users of cameras like the GH5, we found the menu system and button layout to be familiar and intuitive. One of Panasonic’s strongest features is the degree to which you can configure and remap buttons to suit your specific needs, and we’re massive fans of this. Though, for those less familiar with the system, we can imagine the sheer breadth of options being a little overwhelming.
We were extremely impressed with the upgraded image stabilisation system, and though it may be of the most benefit to video shooters, it’s excellent for photography, too. We were able to take up to one-second-long exposure shots, handheld, with tack-sharp results. Impressive stuff.
Low-light handling is good, too. The camera handles noise exceptionally well, and thanks to dual native ISOs of 640 and 4000, you’ll need to get into the range of 25,600 and above before the graininess starts to negatively impact your photos.
A key feature of the S5II is its ability to shoot at up to 30fps bursts with the electronic shutter. This is a massive improvement over the meagre 7fps offered by the S5, and makes it much more appealing to sports and wildlife shooters. You’ll need to be careful with rolling shutter effects at these high speeds, though, as the sensor readout isn’t the fastest. Of course, you’ll have no such issues using the mechanical shutter, which now allows for up to 9 fps bursts.
- 6K recording at up to 30fps in 4:2:0 10-bit
- 4K recording at up to 60fps in 4:2:2 10-bit
- Unlimited recording time and onboard LUTs
Just as we found with photography, it’s again the autofocus and stabilisation that steal the show in video modes. The autofocus is superb for video shooting – it’s extremely reliable and while, again, we think Sony has the edge overall, the Lumix S5II is not far behind at all. It’s especially good at tracking people and faces, and there’s none of the frustrating focus pulsation that comes with Panasonic’s contrast-based modes.
We think the video image stabilisation is the best that you’ll find on any mirrorless camera today. It’s exceptionally smooth, to the point where you can leave the gimbal at home in most situations. Plus, there are none of those annoying corner wobbles that you’ll find on other IBIS systems – at least at 20mm and above, as we did our testing with the 20-60mm kit lens.
You don’t get Apple ProRes options on the S5II (you need the S5IIX for that), but the resolutions and frame rates that support 4:2:2 10-bit colour have been expanded significantly on this model, and that includes Cinema 4K at 60fps. You’ll be able to output ProRes RAW and BRAW over HDMI soon, too, since there’s firmware on the way that unlocks these capabilities.
Our biggest disappointment with the video shooting on this camera was the fact that you need to use an APS-C crop to shoot at 4K resolutions above 30fps. If you primarily shoot at 4K60, as many people do, this could prove to be a deal breaker. On the plus side, though, 6K shooting can be done with no crop whatsoever.
There are no recording time limitations on this camera, and the cooling has apparently been tested at 40 degrees Celsius, which is far too warm for our British bodies. We’ve used this camera extensively, sometimes out in direct sunlight, and have never seen any of the temperature warnings that so often plague high-spec mirrorless shooters.
When it comes to audio, the S5II supports up to four-track 96kHz/24-bit LPCM recording, and it can be used with Panasonic’s XLR adapter, too. The audio quality is excellent, and the preamps work brilliantly. If there was one thing we could change, though, it would be the ability to switch to two-track recording. It’s not a huge deal, but the camera is always recording four tracks, even when using a stereo mic, which leaves us with extra lines of empty audio in our video editing software.
We loved the original Lumix S5, but the unreliable contrast-based autofocus system always held us back from recommending it over the competition. The S5II fixes that with the introduction of its new phase hybrid system, which is what has really sold us on this model.
Aside from that, the other improvements are very welcome, too. Burst shooting is much improved on this model, and the added resolution and increased bitrate for video shooting is great news for filmmakers. Add to this the best image stabilisation system that we’ve seen on a full-frame camera, along with a full-size HDMI port, and you’ve got yourself an extremely compelling camera body.
In all honesty, the only real gripe we have with this camera is that it can’t shoot 4K 60fps video without a crop. This is something that’s possible with the cheaper Canon R8, but then you’ll lose out on most of the other professional video perks that come with the S5II, and crucially, you don’t get that wonderfully smooth IBIS.
When it comes to all of the other specifications, the S5II is more in line with the Canon R6 Mark II or Sony A7 IV, both cameras that cost $500 more, and it bests them in many areas. So, while $2000 isn’t exactly cheap, relatively speaking, the S5II is a bit of a bargain.