As somebody who owns five Panasonic cameras specifically for shooting video, I’ve learned to never rely on the autofocus from any of them and just go manual focus pretty much full time. It’s a lesson that many Panasonic video shooters learn quite early on. For some reason, Panasonic just really never seems to bring it home when it comes to video autofocus. Even with their newer full-frame S models.
It’s something that Kasey at Camera Conspiracies has definitely noticed, and spoken about at length across multiple videos. And now he’s attempted to quantify the situation in this beautifully hilarious song. Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s called “The Panasonic Autofocus Song” and it’s interspersed with clips where Panasonic’s autofocus absolutely fails to do its job.
The song jokes about the GH6 being Panasonic’s last chance to actually get autofocus right. And while it is a joke, it’s kind of also true. With Sony, Canon and even Nikon nailing autofocus pretty well these days when shooting video, Panasonic sits pretty far behind the pack.
Even the GH5 Mark II’s autofocus (which is supposedly the same as that found in the full-frame S series cameras) isn’t that great from what I’ve heard so far. Nor is the improved autofocus on in the latest Panasonic G9 firmware from just two months ago – at least, not for video.
The GH6 is rumoured to be Panasonic’s first-ever body with phase detection autofocus. If true, this should definitely offer a significant video autofocus improvement over their existing not-as-impressive-as-Panasonic-would-have-us-believe Depth from Defocus (DFD) and contrast-based autofocus systems.
To be fair, when Panasonic’s autofocus does see its target, it nails it pretty good. The problem is that it loses it again way too easily. Even when face detection AF mode is used, it will often randomly get distracted when it thinks it’s seen a face in the leaves of a tree behind the actual subject. And once it loses the subject, it doesn’t acknowledge the face again until it’s focused closely enough to recognise that there is actually a face in front of the camera (even if it’s still an out of focus blurry one).
For now, I think I’ll still rely on manual focus when shooting Panasonics. Maybe they’ll get their autofocus act together with the GH6. Maybe not. Whether or not I stick with Panasonic when my current bodies need replacing may depend on it, though. If I’m going to have to go manual focus anyway, there are plenty of other more capable options out there these days.