News/Views

The GH6 Development Announcement

Along with the not-even-lukewarm GH5 II announcement, Panasonic also made a development announcement about the GH6. The details are vague, as with all development announcements, but the key bits are:

  • New image sensor capable of 5.7K
  • New image processor
  • DCI 4K at 60P, 4:2:2 color, 10-bit with no recording limits
  • 4K 120P 10-bit HFR/VFR
  • 5.7K 60P 10-bit
  • Before end of 2021
  • US$2500 approximate price

Of course, the GH5 II already shoots at 60P with 10-bit recording, and has an image sensor big enough to be called 6K, so I guess my first and foremost question is just how much better than a GH5 II is the G6 going to be, and in what specific ways. Given what Panasonic said in the press conference and release, that’s still very unclear. They did try to make this distinction in their material: the GH series is targeted towards professional video, YouTube vlogger video, and streaming demand. The GH5 II will focus on the latter two while the GH6 will focus on the first. Considering the bodies are similar in size and capabilities, it’s unclear just how much distinction they can make, though. This seems more like an arbitrary marketing statement than a clear engineering change.

With the G6, Panasonic also announced they’ll add a 25-50mm f/1.7 lens—they currently have a 10-25mm f/1.7 lens—and this gives a 2 lens solution for a fast 20-100mm equivalent.

The "New" GH5

bythom pan gh5ii

The Internet woke up confused this morning, as Panasonic did their best imitation of Groundhog Day and launched the GH5 Mark II. Still 20mp. Still 4K 60P video. Still 3.7m dot EVF, though it now refreshes faster. Still the same body. The key difference? A bigger capacity battery is included and you can charge using USB Power Delivery. Also, 10-bit 60P internally, plus some future firmware promises (including Live Composite).

The GH5 feels much like a firmware update coupled with some manufacturing efficiencies. Perhaps Panasonic saw what Nikon did with the Z6 II and Z7 II and said "yeah, we can do that, too." Only Nikon fixed a few key flaws in their original product and boosted performance measurably. It's unclear that Panasonic did either with the GH5 II. 

So I'm faced with two possible explanations: (1) m4/3 really plateaued and there's no more advances to be had, or (2) there still is a GH6 waiting in the wings to be launched (see next article). Neither seems like the right answer, frankly. 

I'm still waiting for Panasonic to rationalize its camera lineup. Clearly the GH5 Mark II did nothing along those lines. If you've not been paying attention, Panasonic currently supports at least six dedicated lens mounts among all its various still and video cameras: m4/3, L, EF, 1/3", 2/3" B4, and PL. Canon and Sony have basically both moved towards a one-mount solution (RF and E respectively), and Canon's move, in particular, puts cameras such as the Varicam and EVA1 in a bit of jeopardy of using lenses that might no longer be available new.

Thing is, Panasonic seems to be trying to push users to the L-mount, but not particularly hard or well. The S5 (or any of the other S's) isn't exactly a substitute for a GH on one front, as the lenses will tend to push the size/weight upward of where the GH5 users want to be. Moreover, it means giving up your m4/3 lenses and buying new L-mount ones. But when you look at the GH5 II and S5 specifications side by side, the S5 has a larger sensor and DCI video in a body that's not much different in size and weight as the GH5 II. Which would you rather have? 

More and more the Panasonic line—and I'm using that broadly across all their photographic/video products—seems to be a hodgepodge of concoctions without a clear focus. Moreover, many of their products seem niche-driven when the trend has been towards products that do everything. That doesn't feel sustainable to me, as many of those niches are barely hanging on (1/3" hangs on mostly because organizations don't want to replace their expensive lenses).

And then there's this: as one of the key members of the L-mount alliance, what is Panasonic really doing to push the alliance forward? Leica at least has a crop-sensor camera in the L mount (the mostly forgotten TL2). 

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