The most recent model of Panasonic’s mid-range full-frame stills and video mirrorless camera is the DC-S5 II. It uses the L mount that is shared with Leica and Sigma and adds phase detection autofocus to its 24MP CMOS sensor.
Additionally, Panasonic revealed the DC-S5 IIX, a variant with a larger selection of video features that will be available later this year.
- Sensor with on-sensor phase detection and 24MP BSI
- E-shutter up to 30 frames per second with C-AF and raw image capture
- 96MP high-resolution multi-shot mode
- Up to 30p 6K 3:2 open-gate video capture (4:2:0 10-bit)
- From full sensor width up to 30p in 6K or DCI/UHD 4K
- Unlimited record times in DCI/UHD 4K up to 60p (S35)
- With an explicit “Dual Native ISO” gain selection, a dual conversion gain sensor
- Twin UHS-II card slots, a cooling fan
- Paid upgrade option available for raw video output
Additional S5 IIX features
Output in raw video
USB-based video recording to an SSD
modes of all-I compression
ProRes internal capture
Wireless and wired IP streaming
The S5 II will be offered starting in the final week of January at a suggested retail price of $1999 (€2199), while the S5 IIX won’t be available until the end of May. The S5 IIX will cost $200 (or €300) more than the less video-focused model.
A $200/200€ optional paid upgrade for the S5 II will include Raw video output.
What is novel?
AF with phase detection
The inclusion of on-sensor phase detection, a technology Panasonic has never before used, is the biggest news. Phase detection essentially operates by creating two slightly different views of the same scene (typically by creating separate images that “look” through the left and right sides of the lens) and comparing them. This gives the camera the ability to establish a perception of distance and depth in the scene, much like human vision, which uses two eyes separated from one another.
The camera can determine how far the focus needs to be driven in order to align the two perspectives, at which point the subject is in focus, by comparing the two images. In video mode, this is especially useful because it enables the camera to refocus without overshooting and, more importantly, allows the camera to check that it is still in focus without having to move the lens. As a result, phase detection can confidently maintain focus in situations where it must be decisive.
According to Panasonic, it enhances tracking ability, performance in low-light and backlit environments, as well as when handling multiple subjects (staying locked on your chosen subject better because it knows which one in the scene it is).
Subject identification (AF)
Panasonic has integrated its newly discovered depth awareness into the S5 II along with an improved iteration of its current subject recognition tracking system, which has been trained to recognize both humans and animals.
To increase your chance of success, there are three different recognition modes that help you focus on the subject type you want to target. The broadest tracking mode, Human + Animal, will track any subjects it has been taught to identify and, according to what we’ve been told, will give priority to animals. Eyes, faces, heads, and bodies are the subjects that human mode can detect in the order of importance. It will concentrate on the most significant of these that it can find. Last but not least, Face/Eye detection only concentrates on faces and eyes in the scene.
In all three modes, the camera will begin its search under your chosen AF point and the area immediately surrounding it, meaning that if the desired subject type is discovered there, it will be focused on. With this system, it is possible to specify a specific subject within a group using the AF point (you can also change its mind by tapping on the screen or using the joystick to jump between recognized faces). Additionally, it means that the camera won’t automatically give precedence to any human subjects in the frame if Face/Eye detection is left on to specify a non-human subject. The Face/Eye mode will choose to focus on someone facing the camera rather than just the closest human it can detect when your AF area fills the entire screen.
A newer version of in-body image stabilization
Additionally, Panasonic promises an enhancement to its image stabilization system that will make it twice as effective as the S5. Although it hasn’t been very clear about how these improvements have been made, it has adopted the branding “Active IS” for its revised system.
The business claims that its algorithms have been revised and that the camera now evaluates camera motion with greater accuracy. So far, the S5 II has impressed us with its ability to maintain both smooth video clips and still images. Particularly impressive is the Boost IS mode, which attempts to eliminate all movement for a video appearance akin to a tripod.
The eight-shot, 96MP High Resolution mode is supported by the same stabilization system. The S5 II lacks the GH6’s hand-held high-res mode, necessitating the use of a tripod or other fixed camera, but it still provides a motion correction mode to eliminate artifacts caused by moving objects in the scene.
A new processing engine, the first outcome of Panasonic’s L2 co-development project with Leica, sits at the center of the S5 II. The new processor, which we anticipate will also be found in upcoming Leica models, was created by combining the expertise and resources of the two companies.
Panasonic claims that the S5 II’s sensor is also new, but based on what we’ve seen, it performs similarly to its non-phase-detect predecessor. This suggests that the S5 II’s newly discovered ability to shoot at up to 30 frames per second in e-shutter mode is more a function of having a processor that can handle this speed.
The S5 II has a fan mechanism that enables continuous video recording. The fan at the top of the camera draws heat up and out of the device through vents along the sides of the viewfinder hump and under the leading edge. The vents are not a weak point for its dust and splash resistant design because, as usual, the fan is located outside the sealed area of the body.
When tested by Panasonic at temperatures of 40°C (104°F), the S5 II was able to record for an infinite amount of time in the majority of its video modes thanks to the fan. Panasonic notes that the majority of its competitors only provide data for 22–25°C (72–77°F), which is much less demanding and less indicative of the typical temperatures experienced across much of the US.
A good selection of tools are available to support shooting with anamorphic lenses, which works in conjunction with the S5 II’s capacity to record open-gate and 4:3 APS-C footage. The S5 II can stretch the footage horizontally, just like earlier Panasonic models, to provide a real-time “desqueezed” preview for a variety of squeeze factors. The camera can then overlay safe-zone markers for different output aspect ratios over this view, letting you know that the action is being captured in a portion of the frame that will be included in your finished video.
The S5 II can perform better image stabilization by adjusting its image stabilization system to account for the different effective focal lengths of your vertical and horizontal capture when you tell the camera the squeeze ratio of your lens.
Applying LUT to shooting
In addition to Panasonic’s own.VLT type, the S5 II can now import LUTs in the industry-standard.cube format. It adds the ability to apply the LUT to the footage as you shoot and has room for up to 10 LUTs in storage. Doing so limits your post-processing options and emphasizes the importance of getting the exposure and white balance just right when taking the photo, but it allows you to get the desired look right out of the camera.