Panasonic finally goes Phase Detect Autofocus with the new Panasonic Lumix S5 Mark II

Jan 4, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Panasonic finally goes Phase Detect Autofocus with the new Panasonic Lumix S5 Mark II

Jan 4, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Panasonic shooters have only been begging for it for about a decade, and Panasonic finally seems to have delivered. Panasonic has today announced the new Panasonic Lumix S5 Mark II (and S5 Mark IIX), and this finally marks Panasonic’s entry into the world of Phase Detect Autofocus. And no, it’s not just when shooting stills, either. Panasonic shooters finally have good autofocus when shooting video.

The Panasonic Lumix S5 Mark II replaces the Panasonic Lumix S5, launched only just over two years ago in September 2020. The full-frame L mount mirrorless camera has been one of Panasonic’s most popular over the last couple of years, thanks to its good balance of price vs performance. As with all Panasonic cameras, though, video autofocus performance was always an issue.

While the leaked spec sheet didn’t seem to show much difference over the original S5, aside from the addition of PDAF, Panasonic says the S5 Mark II sees a number of pretty significant improvements. While the resolution is the same, it’s a newly developed 24.2-megapixel CMOS sensor along with a new imaging engine developed in partnership with Leica. The autofocus system has 779 AF points, which they says significantly improves subject tracking, even in adverse lighting conditions.

As always, the 5-axis in-body image stabilisation system is a hybrid system that can work in conjunction with stabilised lenses to provide up to 6.5 stops of stabilisation, and it works when shooting video as well as stills. Panasonic says that it’s been given Active IS to optimise horizontal, vertical and rotational correction ratios by determining the status of camera shake. They say this provides much better stabilisation over traditional methods and works particularly well when shooting video.

When it comes to video capabilities, the S5 Mark II is no slouch, although it’s not quite as “high-end” as some might want. It offers 10-bit 4:2:0 6K at up to 30fps, 10-bit 4:2:2 4K UHD or Cine 4K at up to 60fps and Full HD 1080p at up to 180fps. Yes, there’s no 4K 120fps, which is a little disappointing when cameras like the Sony A7 IV have it, but for most people, it’s probably not going to be a dealbreaker.

 

The Lumix S5 Mark II and S5 Mark IIX both offer 14+ stop V-Log/V-Gamut capture and a real-time LUT function to enable colour grading while previewing your shot. This feature, Panasonic says, can also be used for live streaming so you don’t have to mess around with your log colour profiles just to live stream. You can apply the LUT right in the camera. A future firmware update is coming that also provides a live composite feature.

You also get the usual array of video assist functions including waveform monitor, vectorscope, zebra stripes and more. A new heat dispersion system also means that you have unlimited recording without the camera overheating – I guess we’ll see how well that works in the real world once it gets into the hands of people in very warm climates.

As far as the differences between the Lumix S5 Mark II and the S5 Mark IIX, the only thing I can really see is this.

The LUMIX S5IIX is capable of RAW video output and All-Intra, ProRes recording on SSD. It also features wired*4/wireless IP streaming function and USB tethering.

It looks like this capability is also going to be coming to the regular S5 Mark II as a paid firmware upgrade at some point, as the press release also lists “RAW data output using Software Upgrade Key DMW-SFU2 (S5II)”, but there’s no news as to when this will happen or what the upgrade price will be. The retail price difference between the two cameras is $200, so I think you can expect to pay at least that much. But, if you just decide to get the regular S5 II to begin with, it sounds like you can upgrade easily to the S5 IIX spec.

Photographer and YouTuber Richard Wong has had his hands on the new S5 Mark II for a little while now. He’s produced a very long and in-depth review of the Panasonic S5 Mark II (and S5 IIX), with some great comparisons of both the S5 Mark II’s IBIS system (which has been massively improved over the original) as well as the autofocus system and how it stacks up against the competition.

YouTube video

Overall, it looks like a very impressive camera from Panasonic – particularly for video shooters. The IBIS capabilities seem to parallel those of Panasonic’s MFT cameras (which is excellent) rather than their previous full-frame models. The autofocus system, too, actually looks like it now really competes with the likes of Sony, Canon and Nikon. Hopefully, PDAF will also start trickling down to Micro Four Thirds in future releases, too.

The Panasonic Lumix S5 Mark II is available to pre-order now for $1,997.99 and begins shipping at the end of January. The S5 Mark IIX is also available to pre-order now for $2,197.99 and begins shipping at the end of May.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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