(Pocket-lint) – When it comes to video-centric interchangeable lens cameras, there’s arguably nothing better than Panasonic’s Lumix GH series. And for 2022 it’s got a new champion at the top of its line-up: the GH6.
Thing is, the GH6 arrives only a handful of months after the previous GH5 Mark II model, so how exactly do the two differ and which makes best sense to buy for your particular workflow?
- Both cameras: 3.68m-dot OLED viewfinder
- Both: 3.0-inch 1.84m-dot vari-angle LCD screen
- Both: Dust & splash resistant magnesium alloy design
- GH5 M2: 89.1 x 138.5 x 87.4mm / 727g
- GH6: 100.3 x 138.4 x 99.6mm / 823g
- GH5 M2: 2x SD card slots
- GH6: 1x CFExpress (Type B), 1x SD
As both cameras are built around the Micro Four Thirds system, neither is particularly large. The same can be said of the lenses, too, especially when compared to rival larger-scale systems from Sony and Canon.
That said, the GH6 is the largest of the series to date, expanding beyond the GH5 M2’s dimensions in order to accommodate an in-body fan for cooling. The GH6’s fan and visible vents are necessary to facilitate its unlimited recording and ensure the sensor won’t overheat (an issue that Sony cameras have been known to suffer). The GH5 M2 does also offer unlimited recording, but its recording options aren’t as high-end.
Other than the body dimensions differing, the two cameras’ controls are otherwise fairly similar. However, the GH6 adds a secondary movie record button to the front of the camera, plus a lock switch up top to avoid any accidental adjustments.
Both bodies are splash- and dust-resistant, feature the very same 3-inch vari-angle LCD screen and built-in OLED viewfinder, so there’s no jump up in terms of resolution or size in this regard.
Pop open the concealed card drawer and the GH6 has another big point of difference: it hosts one SD slot and one CFExpress (Type B) slot, whereas the GH5 M2 has two SD card slots instead. This is an important difference, as only CFE can record the top-end compression codecs and bitrates on offer from the GH6 (something that’s no such issue for the GH5 M2, although you’ll need a decent UHS SD card).
- GH5 M2: 20-megapixel Live MOS, 12 stops dynamic range in V-Log L
- GH6: 25MP Live MOS, 13 stops w/ Dynamic Range Boost in V-Log L
- Both cameras: Micro Four Thirds sensor size & lens mount system
The GH6 also brings a brand new sensor to the table, upping the resolution by around 25 per cent over the earlier GH5 M2. This, of course, means higher-resolution still images if you’re using this camera predominantly for that purpose (although, for tax reasons, the neither of these GH models is classed as a stills camera, the unlimited recording functionality sees to that).
The all-new sensor brings with it increased dynamic range potential, with a new Dynamic Range Boost option providing up to a claimed 13 stops (one more than the 12 of the GH5 M2). That’ll give plenty of headroom in the edit. V-Log L is also installed as standard, just as it is in the GH5 M2, but it’s worth pointing this out as it lacked in the original GH5 from years before (where it was a pay-for software update).
With Dynamic Range Boost on, the GH6 uses the upper portion of ISO sensitivity in a dual gain readout (it’s not the same as dual native ISO, though). That’s from ISO 800 in normal shooting, or from ISO 2000 in HLG and V-Log capture, allowing composite imaging for greater range at high quality.
- GH5 M2 maximum resolution: 4K 50/60p at 4:2:0 10-bit LongGOP
- GH6 maximum resolution: 5.7K 50/60p at 4:2:0 10-bit
- Maximum frame-rate at 4K: GH5 M2 60p / GH6 120p
- Max frame-rate at 1080p: GH5 M2 180fps / GH6 300fps
- Both cameras: Unlimited recording time (any setting)
- Both: MOV & MP4 / GH6 only: Apple ProRes
But the real reason above all else that you’ll want the GH6 instead of the GH5 M2 is its increased capacity for recording. It offers more resolution options (up to 5.7K), higher bitrate potential and more compression types – including, crucially, Apple ProRes (which is why that CFE card slot is an essential).
The GH5 M2 isn’t exactly poor in regard to its options, but you won’t get 5.7K at 50/60fps and you won’t get ProRes. You will get unlimited recording time whichever you pick, though, so if you don’t need the additional headroom for grading or expanded resolution then the 4K of the GH5 M2 will be plenty good for your needs.
There are umpteen recording options from both cameras, covering a vast gamut of resolutions – from Anamorphic to Cinema 4K (C4K), and 4K to Full HD (1080p) – with the GH6 always offering a little more in equivalent mode. If you’re shooting 4K, for example, the GH5 M2’s 4:2:0 output to card is strong, but the GH6 will cater for 4:2:2 to card.
There’s also an HDMI output on both cameras, permitting simultaneous recording to both card and via HDMI. However, as the GH6 has a higher internal bitrate (Panasonic tells us it peaks at 1903Mbps) you’ve got that prime quality available for capture external to camera. Again, if you don’t need ultra high-end data rates in your files then the GH5 M2 will do you just fine.
In a future update the GH6 will also add SSD recording via the USB-C output, Panasonic tells us. Indeed, the GH6 promises a bunch of future updates, including:
- DC1 4K Apple ProRes
- FHD Apple ProRes
- USB-SSD direct recording
- 4K 120p HDMI output (via HDMI 2.1 only)
- HDMI 4K 120p Raw video output to ATOMOS Ninja V+
How long you’ll have to wait for each of those to appear in a firmware update we don’t know though. Shame they’re not there on day one, as we suspect certain pros will be especially keen for certain specifics among that list.
- Both cameras: 3.5mm mic port, 3.5mm headphones out
- GH5 M2: 48kHz/16-bit // GH6: 96kHz/24-bit
- GH5 M2: 96kHz/24-bit via DMW-XLR1 XLR accessory
- GH6: 4-channel audio 48kHz/24-bit (only via XLR1)
- Both cameras: HDMI out
In addition to the HDMI output, there’s also a pair of 3.5mm ports on both GH5 M2 and GH6. That provides headphones and mic monitoring as you please, with the option of the DMW-XLR1 accessory for XLR output instead.
You’ll want this accessory with the GH6 if you wish to make use of its four-channel audio – something the GH5 M2 lacks, it’s just two channels – for recording multiple mic streams, for example.
Quality is also slightly different depending on whether you’re recording two- or four-channels, while the GH6’s default 3.5mm output quality is higher by default, according to Panasonic’s official spec pages.
So the big question: which should you buy, GH5 M2 or GH6? Well, it’s down to your needs and your budget. The GH6, while reasonably priced, is the pricier option as it’s the more capable of the two.
Both cameras offer unlimited recording, however, so that’s no problem whichever takes your preference, so long as you’re happy with 4K 50/60p maximum on the GH5 M2. The GH6 ups the ante with 5.7K, adds Apple ProRes compression, higher bitrates and frame-rate options throughout its options – all being key points as to why you may wish to buy it.
In summary: the GH6 is less consumer and more pro-level, with the kind of data rates that will make it B-camera capable for productions; the GH5 M2, meanwhile, will be spot on for creators happy with 4K for shooting from their at-home studios.
Writing by Mike Lowe.