Monday, October 3, 2022
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Panasonic Lumix DC-GH6 review

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The Panasonic Lumix DC-GH6 is the latest in a line of high-end Micro Four Thirds cameras aimed at video shooters. The GH6 can shoot a vast range of 4K-focused video modes, including slow-motion from 120 fps capture, full-sensor ‘open gate’/anamorphic shooting, and capture in industry standard formats such as ProRes 422 and 422HQ.

The GH6 is built around a sensor with parallel high and low-gain readouts to deliver a ‘Dynamic Range Boost’ mode that Panasonic says delivers more than 13 stops of dynamic range at higher ISO settings. It becomes the first GH camera to use the full VariCam V-Log profile.

Key specifications

  • 25MP CMOS sensor with parallel readouts
  • Built-in fan for unlimited recording
  • UHD or DCI 4K in 10-bit 4:2:2 at up to 60p
  • Slow-mo UHD or DCI 4K in 10-bit 4:2:0 at up to 120 fps
  • 5.7K full-width capture at up to 60p
  • 5.8K Full-sensor ‘open gate’/anamorphic capture at up to 30p
  • Full V-Log/V-Gamut shooting
  • Range of capture formats including ProRes 422 and 422 HQ
  • 1 x CFexpress Type B, 1 x UHS-II SD slot
  • Stabilization rated to 7.5EV, maintained at longer focal lengths with Dual IS 2 lenses
  • Tilt-and-articulating screen from S1H
  • Full-sized Type A HDMI socket
  • 14 fps shooting with AF-S, 8 with AF-C (75 fps with e-shutter)

Promised via future firmware:

  • Direct recording to SSD over USB
  • HDMI interface to v2.1 standard
  • 4K/120 over HDMI with live view and 4K/120 Raw stream over HDMI

The Panasonic Lumix DC-GH6 comes at a recommended price of $2199. This is a $200 increase, compared with the GH5’s original price in March 2017 but $200 less expensive than the GH5S was, at launch.



What’s new

Sensor

The GH6 is based around a completely new sensor: the highest resolution chip we’ve yet seen in the Four Thirds sensor size. Panasonic is being distinctly tight-lipped about the fabrication process, which strongly suggests the camera isn’t using the Stacked CMOS technology that’s underpinned the latest generation of high-end cameras. Although we don’t have absolute confirmation, we think it’s extremely likely to be a BSI design.

It’s a fast sensor, though, with our readout speed tests suggesting rolling shutter isn’t going to be a concern. There’s also no anti-aliasing filter, which makes sense, since most footage will be output at a lower resolution than it’s captured in (ie: 4K output from 5.7K capture).

29.97, 25, 24, 23.98p 59.94, 50p 119,88, 100p
5.8K (Full sensor height) 17.6 ms
5.7K (1.9:1) 12.4 ms 12.4 ms
DCI 4K (1.9:1) 12.4 ms 12.4 ms 6.8 ms
UHD 4K (16:9) 13.3 ms 13.3 ms 7.3 ms

The GH6’s sensor, which we’re told is ‘not made by the company everyone always assumes we use,’ features a dual output gain design. This is not to be confused with the switchable dual gain sensors we’ve seen in an increasing majority of modern cameras, but instead is closer to the design used in Arri and some Canon cinema cameras. The sensor has two, parallel output paths and at high ISO settings, the output from both paths is combined to give both highlight and shadow detail.

Find out more about dual conversion gain, dual output gain and how they work

In stills mode this system is automatically used from ISO 800 upwards, whereas in video mode it is an optional feature called ‘Dynamic Range Boost,’ which can be engaged when the ISO setting is three stops above its base setting. Dynamic Range Boost is available for video up to 60p.

Color mode Base ISO Setting Dynamic Range Boost
Standard modes
(inc Cinelike V2 / D2)
ISO 100 ISO 800+
V-Log / HLG ISO 250 ISO 2000+

Both V-Log and HLG modes rate their base ISOs as 1.3EV higher than the other color modes, which gives a good indication of how much additional highlight capture they’re designed to accommodate.

If you combine DR Boost mode with V-Log mode, you gain an extra stop of highlight capture when you reach ISO 2000, whereas in stills mode and other video modes, you only see an improvement in shadow performance. This increased DR helps explain how the GH6 is able to offer full ‘V-Log.’

V Log graph LRG
The GH6’s log profile is called V-Log and uses a larger chunk of the V-Log curve than the GH5’s V-LogL mode, but less than the S1H does.

The GH6’s Log mode is called ‘V-Log,’ rather than ‘V-LogL’ which has been used on previous Micro Four Thirds models, to describe the truncated version of the V-Log curve that’s better suited to these cameras’ dynamic ranges. It’s worth noting that even cameras with the ‘full’ V-Log curve still only use a subset of the full curve, depending on their DR output.

Codecs

The GH6 expands the range of compression and codec options available. New to the GH6 are the option to shoot in Apple ProRes 422 HQ and 422 formats. These are both relatively large All-I formats, which has necessitated the inclusion of a CFexpress Type B card slot. The great benefit of ProRes is that, although it puts significant demands on the camera’s internal data rates, it’s very easy at the editing stage, with no need for transcoding.

For the more conventional MOV modes, Panasonic says it’s mainly used the less efficient (larger) H.264 codec for the camera’s 4:2:2 modes because 4:2:2 H.265 decompression puts a significant burden on most computers. The 4:2:2 H.264 modes include both All-I and Long GOP options, with H.265 used to deliver Long GOP 4:2:0 files that balance size and quality. MOV modes of 600Mbps or below can be written to SD card.

With the v2.0 firmware update, ProRes modes were extended to include 5.7K, DCI 4K and FullHD capture. This exclude 16:9 UHD 4K or the camera’s open gate/anamorphic modes, but otherwise lets you choose the file type you want to work with, with almost all combinations of frame rate and resolution that the camera offers.

Hand-held high-resolution mode

P1000912
Hand-held high res sample. Note the vapor trail across the top middle of the image has a single, sharp aircraft at its head.
OM System 12-40mm F2.8 PRO II | 1/100 | F4.5 | ISO 200
Photo by: Richard Butler

Most of the GH6’s biggest advances come on the video side of the camera, as you might expect. And, for that matter, some of the multi-shot modes, such as 6K/4K Photo and Focus Stacking that appeared in previous GH models are absent. But there is at least one photo mode worth drawing attention to, in particular because it’s likely to carry on through to a more photo-focused model, if Panasonic chooses to make one.

The camera’s 8-shot high resolution mode, which delivers 50 or 100MP images, now gains a hand-held mode, in which the camera aligns and combines images even if there’s some camera movement between shots. What’s interesting is that this is combined with Panasonic’s existing motion correction processing, meaning you can capture 100MP images, hand-held, even if things move within the scene.

Updated noise reduction

The GH6’s noise reduction has been updated, with what Panasonic is calling ‘2D Noise Reduction,’ which aims to suppress color noise and avoiding the graininess that would appear at higher ISO with its existing system. In video this is taken further, with the camera analyzing movement within the scene so that it can distinguish between real changes (movement) and temporal noise. This added dimension sees it branded as ‘3D Noise Reduction.’

Autofocus

The GH6’s AF system is based around its Depth-from-Defocus system that builds up a depth map of the scene by nudging the focus and analyzing any changes, based on an understanding of the out-of-focus rendering of the lens.

It’s backed-up by AI-trained subject recognition, with a choice of human (torso/head/face/eye), face/eye (just looking for faces and eyes), and Human/Animal, which spreads the net a little wider and recognizes cats and dogs. These options can be set separately for stills and video mode.

Fundamentally, though, DFD is better the more often it refreshes, which means it works well in stills, where lots of measurements can be taken between shots, but less will in video, especially at slow frame rates and long exposures, where there’s no time to re-assess between video frames.

Other improvements

As is usual for a new GH model, Panasonic has looked to expand or improve a lot of the camera’s existing functions. These mostly pertain to video and, while each change is, in itself, pretty minor, they add up to a camera that’s just that bit easier to use.

Luminance Spot Meter
Like the S1H and GH5 II, the GH6 gets a ‘Luminance spot meter’ function to help set exposure in V-Log mode, along with the ability to resize the waveform monitor display.

The changes that stood out to us were the ability to gain a magnified live view while recording video (previous GHs only gave a magnified view before recording). Also, anyone using the Display Assist mode to preview Log footage can now upload their own LUT in the industry-standard .CUBE format. Finally, for a camera with so many video modes, we really appreciated the ability to filter or create a custom list of video modes for quick access.

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Body & controls

The body of the GH6 looks a little like a slightly deeper version of the GH5, crossed with an S1H. From the S1H comes a second large, red [REC] button on the front of the camera, giving easy access, if the camera is mounted in a rig that makes the top-plate button inaccessible. Also from the S1H comes a Lock switch on the left shoulder of the camera, which can be configured to lock whichever combination of buttons you want to disable.

Fan

The GH6 body becomes the first in the GH series to add a fan. As usual for such designs, the fan blows air across the back of a heat sink, and is mounted outside the camera’s sealing. The inclusion of a fan allows the camera to shoot 4:2:2 10-bit 4K at up to 60p for unlimited periods. Other modes can be shot for extended periods, with the option to relax the temperature restrictions to allow essentially unlimited recording in all but the most extreme conditions.

The GH6 body becomes the first in the GH series to add a fan.

The fan is primarily used to cool the camera’s processor and dissipate the heat given off by the CFexpress card. Heat from the sensor is conducted down to the camera’s base plate using a carbon sheet.

The fan can be manually set to continuously run at a set speed or in one of two auto modes: one of which prioritizes keeping the body cool, the other of which only engages if absolutely necessary.

Rear screen

The GH6 gains a tilt/articulated 1.84M dot rear touchscreen. The panel is mounted on a fully-articulating hinge, that is itself attached to a cradle that tilts up by around 30 degrees or around 45 degrees. This lets you extend the screen out from the back of the camera before deciding if you need to flip it out to the side, ensuring it can stay clear of the camera’s left-mounted ports.

The viewfinder is a 3.68M dot OLED panel behind optics that offer 0.76x magnification (in equivalent terms).

Audio button & 4 channel audio

The top of the GH6 gains something that’s unique amongst stills/video mirrorless cameras: a button that gives direct access to the camera’s audio settings. Given how critical sound is to video content, this is a genuinely useful shortcut as you go to set up a shot.

The GH6 also gains 4-channel audio capabilities, with the 3.5mm mic input providing a 2 channel/stereo input and the existing, optional DMW-XLR1 adapter can be used to provide another two inputs. The camera’s internal mics can capture 48kHz, 24-bit audio, with external mics also able to capture at up to 96kHz.

All four channels of audio are output over HDMI.

Additional Fn button

While the button layout of the GH6 very closely matches that of the previous generation of cameras, it does find room for an extra Fn button on the front of the camera. By default, this is used to give a magnified view, which is now maintained while the camera is shooting video. This and the two [REC] buttons are among the thirteen customizable buttons on the camera’s body.

On the subject of button usage, the camera’s ‘Focus Transition’ mode, in which you pre-define specific focus distances, then tell the camera to drive the lens between them, while recording, has been made less fiddly by using the WB, ISO and Exp Comp. buttons to set up these focus distances. Sadly these buttons can’t be used to drive the focus between these presets, during recording.

Battery

The GH6 uses the same DMW-BLK22 as the Panasonic S5. It’s a 16Wh unit, that’s enough to power the camera to a CIPA rating of 360 shots per charge when used with SD cards and the 12-60mm F2.8-4. This number decreases around 10% if you use CFexpress cards. As usual, these numbers may significantly underestimate how many shots you’ll get during typical use, but are broadly comparable across cameras. 360 shots per charge is a good, though not great, number. Engaging power-save mode more than doubles this figure.

Despite the larger battery, this number is around a 15% reduction, compared with the GH5 Mk II. In video, this difference becomes apparent, and is exacerbated by the extent to which the fan needs to operate. The older BLF19 batteries can also be used but some high-speed modes are disabled.

The camera can be both powered and operated over its USB type C socket, if you have a PD-rated power source that can deliver 9V, 3A.

Unlike previous GH models, there isn’t a battery grip available for the GH6.

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Video capabilities

As you’d expect, the GH6 has a diverse and extensive range of video shooting modes and support features. We’ll look at the main resolution modes offered and the capabilities offered within each.

Thankfully, the GH6 includes tools first introduced on the S1H, letting you filter its available modes (by frame rate, resolution, codec or compatibility with variable frame rate mode), it also offers the ‘My List’ option, that lets you select the modes you plan to use on a project and only see that list of modes. This prevents inadvertent selection of similar-looking modes, and ‘Rec Quality (My List)’ can be assigned to a button to allow quick access to your favored shooting modes.

As you’d expect, the GH6 has a diverse and extensive range of video shooting modes and support features.

The vast majority of the camera’s high-speed video modes are available as ‘High Frame Rate’ modes that appear amongst the standard video options and offer autofocus, audio capture and playback at the rate the were shot. It’s only really the 300 fps Full HD mode that has to be shot in Variable Frame Rate (VFR) mode, which is recorded at the slowed-down rate of your choice.

Autofocus is available in all but the fastest high frame rate modes. Autofocus during FullHD capture at 200 and 240p is limited to thirteen of Panasonic’s own lenses, with firmware updates adding an extra three lenses to the list in March 2022, but for most modes and most lenses, AF with tracking is possible.

5.7K

The GH6’s 5.7K capability captures the full width of the sensor, in a 17:9 aspect ratio. This either allows you to pan and punch-in, in the edit. Alternatively it gives you the footage in the natively-captured resolution, giving you more editing options if you’re editing for multiple output resolutions.

Format Frame rate Chroma Comp. Codec Bitrate (Mbps) VFR Card type
ProRes 422HQ 4:2:2 All-I ProRes 1903 CFe only
1587
1524
1522
ProRes 422 1268
1058
1016
1015
MOV 4:2:0 Long GOP H.265 300 CFe / SD
200 Yes

C4K/UHD

The core capabilities of the camera are its 4K options, all of which are available across both 16:9 UHD and 17:9 DCI aspect ratios.

With the exception of the basic MP4 files, not listed here, every output mode of the GH6 is 10-bit. It can shoot 4:2:0 4K footage at up to 120p and 4:2:2 footage at up to 60p.

ProRes 422 and 422 HQ support for DCI 4K up to 60p arrived with firmware v2.0.

Resolution Frame Rate Chroma Comp. Codec Bitrate (Mbps) VFR Card type

DCI (4096 x 2160)

or

UHD (3840 x 2160)

4:2:0 LongGOP H.265 300 CFe or SD
4:2:2 All-I H.264 800 CFe only
600 CFe or SD

LongGOP

.

200

4:2:0 H.265 Yes
4:2:2 All-I H.264 400

LongGOP

.

150
4:2:0 H.265 Yes

5.8K / 4.4K Anamorphic

The GH6 can shoot open-gate, 4:3 footage from its entire sensor. This can be used to let you pan or punch-in during the edit, or to provide scope for digital stabilization. Alternatively, it can be combined with an anamorphic lens, putting the maximum possible resolution behind the lens, to give the best-looking results when de-squeezed out to widescreen format.

If you need frame rates faster than 30p, the camera offers a smaller, 4352 x 3264 crop for 48, 50 or 60p capture.

Resolution Frame Rate Chroma Comp. Codec Bitrate (Mbps) VFR Card type
5.8K
(5760 x 4320)
4:2:0 LongGOP H.265 200 CFe or SD
4.4K
(4352 x 3264)
300

The full sensor region of the GH6 is very similar to what you’d get by taking a 4:3 crop from a Super35 (APS-C) camera’s 16:9 video. However, while this should deliver comparable noise performance, we can’t think of an APS-C camera that captures the 7.7K video that would be needed to deliver comparable resolution from such a crop.

Even if you did find such a camera, the GH6 also provides a desqueezed preview to give a more comprehensible way of framing your shots, and has stabilization modes that adapt to the fact that your lens has different effective focal lengths in its horizontal and vertical axes, which is a level of support you’ll find hard to duplicate.

1080 (FullHD)

Alongside the push in high-res modes, the GH6’s 1080 modes get a boost, too. The GH6 can shoot 1080 at up to 240p in 10-bit mode, and up to 300p if you use Variable Frame Rate mode (no AF, no audio).

The range of FullHD video modes is directly comparable with that of the 4K options, with a choice of 4:2:2 H.264 modes in All-I or LongGOP forms, or 4:2:0 H.265 LongGOP capture.

The 2.0 firmware has added the ability to shoot ProRes 422 or 422 HQ Full HD at up to 60p.

HDMI output

The ability to output 4K 120p over HDMI during live view is promised in a future firmware update, with the HDMI interface being formally raised to V2.1 specification. The HDMI standard limits 4K video to 4096 x 2160 pixels, so this is the resolution output when the camera is operating in 5.7K mode. Shooting the camera in 4:3 aspect ratio modes (5.8K and 4.4K) results in the video being delivered as 2880 x 2160 footage.

Panasonic says it will also become possible to output a 4K/120 Raw stream for Atomos recorders (something that sits outside the HDMI standard).

SSD direct recording

Also promised in future firmware is the ability to output video directly to an external SSD. The GH6 has a USB 3.2 Gen 2 (10Gbps) interface, which comfortably exceeds the demands of ProRes 422 HQ capture.

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Image quality

Studio Scene

Our test scene is designed to simulate a variety of textures, colors and detail types you’ll encounter in the real world. It also has two illumination modes to see the effect of different lighting conditions.

Looking at the GH6’s detail levels, they’re essentially impossible to distinguish from its 20MP peers (which is to be expected: 25MP only represents an 11% increase in linear resolution). Even this small improvement is risked because the rather disappointing magnified live view on the GH6 makes fine focus extremely difficult.

In terms of noise, the new sensor performs comparably with the one in the G9. This means it falls a little behind the chip in the OM-1 at very high ISOs, but there’s no obvious low-light downside for the change in sensor maker or design.

JPEG detail is very good, with subtle sharpening bringing out, but not over-emphasizing, fine detail, meaning that fine natural textures are convincingly represented.

Default JPEG color looks good. There’s a hint of magenta to the central pink patch and a hint of green to the yellow, but both are subtle enough that we’d want to check whether they have any impact on real-world images.

JPEG detail is very good, with subtle sharpening bringing out, but not over-emphasizing, fine detail…

Noise levels are well controlled at higher ISOs but that comes at the cost of detail and texture being lost to noise reduction. Overall, it performs very similarly to its immediate peers.

The 100MP pixel shift high resolution mode looks very good, even when downsized back to a lower resolution. The multi-shot nature brings the expected improvement in noise and tonal quality you’d expect of multiple sampling. Sadly our favorite stills mode (the first hand-held high res mode with motion correction) can’t be shot using our studio tripod setup.

Dynamic Range

Looking at dynamic range, we see a different story. Our dynamic range tests show significantly more deep shadow noise (a result of electronic ‘read’ noise) than we’ve become used to seeing in modern sensors. This reduction in dynamic range gives you less scope for tonal edits, reducing the camera’s ability to capture high-contrast scenes.

Compare the GH6 with the OM-1 shot at the same exposure, and you’ll see a lot more noise in the shadows.

Things significantly improves from ISO 800 upwards, when the DR Boost mode kicks in, bringing it back into line with its peers. You don’t get the extra stop of highlight capture that DR Boost gives in V-Log video mode, just cleaner deep shadows. From a stills perspective, it’s a disappointing performance, with files that are noticeably less flexible than the GH5 II, for instance.



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Autofocus

As is the case with most modern cameras, Panasonic’s AF system has become quite complex as more and more area modes have been added, to cope with different types of subject. The GH6 does a pretty good job of adding its latest modes and additions without making things too much more complex.

GH6 AF modes
The GH6 provides seven different types of AF area mode, to which subject detection can be added. The three subject modes are: Human, Face/Eye and Human/Animal.

The camera gives you a choice of area modes, plus a tracking option, then lets you decide whether to activate human or animal subject detection modes, which are then used in relation to the type of AF area you’ve selected. We’ve found both systems to be very good at recognizing their subjects and very ‘sticky’ once they have.

Performance

The GH6 uses depth-from-defocus: a system that adjusts focus and builds a depth-map from the changes prompted by that change in focus. This helps the camera get close to being in-focus before fine-tuning using the iterative contrast detection approach.

P1022896
The GH6 does a great job of tracking subjects (especially humans), and generally does a good job of driving focus to the correct position. It won’t deliver pro-sports-camera levels of consistency, though.

In stills photography it can work very well: the fast sensor readout means the system can respond quickly to movements and, when used with Panasonic’s own lenses, delivers a good hit-rate. There’s some flutter in the viewfinder as the lens is constantly hunting for and checking focus, but the end images tend to be focused where you want them to be. We’ve found our success-rate to be lower when using other brands’ Micro Four Thirds lenses, which can’t make full use of the DFD system.

Video autofocus

Somewhat ironically, for such a video-focused camera, it’s video capture where the biggest drawbacks in the focus system become apparent. Its need to slightly over and under-shoot to find focus is visible in the resulting footage, and although it’s much more stable than older models, the camera will occasionally have to hunt to re-confirm its focus position, which again means some pulsing and flutter will appear in your recording.

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Video performance

By Jordan Drake

Video quality

The DR Boost mode is arguably the biggest upgrade of the GH6 over earlier GH models. This must be manually enabled, and increases the minimum available ISO by three stops (Jumping from 100 to 800 in most modes or 250 to 2000 in V-Log and HLG). When combined with the V-Log gamma setting, this delivers an extra stop of highlights, giving over a stop more dynamic range than GH bodies have previously offered. When dealing with extremely contrasty situations, we feel that the dynamic range benefit of DR Boost is absolutely worthwhile. However, if your scene’s contrast can be capture without enabling DR boost, the standard base ISO will result in cleaner shadows and midtones. Make sure to double check whether or not DR Boost is enabled when metering a scene to ensure best results.

The Panasonic GH6 is capable of capturing very detailed video in a huge variety of resolutions and frame rates. The oversampled 4K recording at standard framerates is competitive with similarly video-focused models but it’s at high frame rates such as 4K/120p where the GH6 captures significantly more detail than all its immediate rivals. If you need a camera to capture fine details at high speed, the GH6 is one of best cameras available. Just remember that in challenging lighting situations 4K/120p and high speed 1080p capture will not allow you to use the DR Boost mode for extended highlight capture.

When combined with the V-Log gamma setting, [DR Boost] delivers an extra stop of highlights as well, giving over a stop more dynamic range than GH bodies have previously offered.

When using the 5.8K ‘open gate’ recording, the image is significantly sharper than even the flagship full frame S1H, due to the lack of an AA filter. This makes the option of cropping in on 5.8K 4:3 or 5.7K 17:9 footage even more useful.

Raw video recording is possible with an external Atomos Ninja video recorder, with a Ninja V+ required for 5.7K/60p and 4.4K/120p recording. As we’ve come to expect from Panasonic, this gives you substantially more flexibility when adjusting white balance or the level of noise reduction, but the initial capture is much noisier than even internal recording with noise reduction at the lowest setting.

Rolling shutter performance is excellent, with figures that compete with the very best of its peers. This is especially impressive considering that all of the 4K modes are significantly oversampled. Rolling shutter artifacts can certainly still occur, but are much better controlled than other cameras near its price.

Panasonic GH6 Canon EOS R5 Sony a7S III / FX3 Panasonic S1H
4K/24p
DCI / UHD
12.4 / 13.3
(o/s from 5.7K)
15.4 / —
(o/s from 8K)
— / 8.7ms 24.2 / 25.7
(o/s from 6K)
4K/60p
DCI / UHD
12.4 / 13.3
(o/s from 5.7K)
9.6 / —
(pixel binned)
— / 8.7ms 13.8 / —
(1.5x crop)
4K/120p
DCI / UHD
6.8 / 7.3*
(o/s from 5.7K)
7.7 / — *
(pixel binned)
— / 7.6ms
(1.1x crop)
— / —

*Faster readout implies lower bit-depth readout

While low light performance is still limited by the smaller sensor, in most other regards (dynamic range, sharpness, rolling shutter) image quality is comparable to much more expensive hybrid cameras, and will certainly meet the needs of many professional videographers and cinematographers.

Video Handling

In terms of physical controls for video shooters, the GH6 is one of the best cameras we’ve ever tested. Every control is logically laid out, and the addition of a record button in the front makes it far easier for creators filming themselves, or when using a video cage. The dedicated audio button and corresponding audio menu is a great idea that seems long overdue on hybrid cameras. The flexible tilt/articulating screen (which no longer requires a difficult-to-operate switch) is the most elegant design we’ve seen, allowing full articulation while keeping the LCD away from any connected cables. All dials have a nice resistance to keep you from accidentally changing exposure, and the locking mode keeps you from accidentally drifting off the ‘Manual Movie Mode’ where the camera is likely to spend much of its time.



Our major complaint with the interface concerns switching to high framerate modes when DR Boost is enabled. It is not compatible with high speed modes like 4K/120p and 1080/240p HFR. Switching to one of these high-speed modes requires a user to manually disable ‘Boost DR’, and it is easy to forget to re-engage it when leaving high framerate recording modes. We feel that that the camera should automatically disabled DR Boost when selecting a high framerate mode, ideally with a warning that dynamic range will be reduced. Upon returning to slower framerates, DR Boost should return to its previous setting. This would save time, and minimize the possibility of being in the wrong DR Boost mode when switching framerates. Fortunately, this could be a firmware fix, something Panasonic has a fantastic history with.

A full-sized HDMI socket and a screen that doesn’t clash with the headphone socket: it’s almost as if Panasonic checked how videographers would need to use the camera.

The other major concern we have with the video shooting experience is the quality of the ‘punch-in’ ability. The image is quite soft and low-resolution, which makes determining focus (especially at smaller apertures) extremely difficult. This is noticeable in both stills and video, and makes the otherwise welcome ability to punch-in while rolling a bit underwhelming. This would be fairly minor issue, except that the lack of top-notch autofocus means most GH6 shooters are likely to depend on manual focus frequently.

Video Stabilization

Stabilization in the GH6 has improved to a CIPA rated 7.5 stops when using supported Panasonic lenses. The tricky part is, a CIPA rating doesn’t tell you how the stabilization will look when recording video. Many highly CIPA rated stabilization systems can have a jerky look as the IBIS fights the movement of the camera.

Since its introduction in the GH5, we’ve been very impressed with the Dual IS mode where the camera’s IBIS cooperates with the lens’ stabilization system. Pans and tilts are very smooth, and walking footage still has natural bounce, but is well controlled. The GH6 performs even better in this regard, and makes a good argument for getting the camera with the Panasonic Leica 12-60mm F2.8-4 kit lens, just for the Dual IS support.

Surprisingly, though, the biggest change we saw was when using lenses without stabilization, or with unsupported stabilization systems. The stabilization when using the Panasonic/Leica F1.7 zoom duo, or Olympus lenses, is considerably improved. Upon seeing the results, we shot an entire episode in Germany primarily handheld with the 12-25mm F1.7 & 25-50mm F1.7, and were impressed with the outcome. We’d still consider Olympus/OMDS’s Sync IS system to have a slight edge, but when using unstabilized or unsupported lenses, I would consider the GH6 equally effective for video shooters.


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Conclusion

What we like What we don’t
  • Excellent video quality
  • Vast range of video options
  • Extensive video support tools
  • Excellent image stabilization
  • Fan provides dependability
  • DR Boost + V-Log delivers impressive files, especially in challenging light
  • Motion correction makes hand-held high-res mode much more useful
  • Quick access to audio settings
  • 4-channel audio option
  • Very few frame rate/resolution/codec restrictions
  • Still image DR is disappointing below ISO 800
  • Battery life noticeably shorter than predecessor
  • Magnified live view never very detailed (stills or video)
  • Awkward to have to disengage and reengaging DR Boost to use high speed modes
  • Low ISO footage without DR Boost mode is a touch behind that from the GH5

The GH6 is, in many respects, the usual impressive continuation of the GH line of cameras. As we’ve come to expect, it expands the range of resolution and quality options offered in video, and adds features such as four-channel audio capture and built-in cooling to make it a more credible and dependable video production than ever.

Even in the face of increasingly fierce competition from the likes of Sony’s a7S III, Canon’s EOS R5C (and even Fujifim’s X-H2S, to an extent), the GH6 offers a well-specced, well thought-out stable shooting platform that can adapt to a wide range of video shooting scenarios. Panasonic has continued to build-out the feature set and refine the user interface, with nice details such as quick access to audio settings.

Autofocus is still something of a weak spot for the camera. Its subject tracking modes do a good job of identifying and following their intended targets, and in stills mode the hit-rate is very high (particularly with fully DFD-compatible own-brand lenses). But in video, there’s still some flutter, wobble and uncertainty that can appear in your footage, particularly if you’re capturing at 23.98/24p.


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Jordan Drake
Reviewer

The GH6 shooting experience caters to the needs of professionals, while taking full advantage of the benefits of a hybrid mirrorless design. The inclusion of ProRes recording, waveforms, vector scopes, shutter angles and built-in fan are features we would usually only expect from a cinema camera. However, the compact size, image stabilization and clever photography features take full advantage of the mirrorless format.

Panasonic has also recognized the limitations of Micro Four Thirds and worked to minimize them. The DR Boost mode increases the GH6’s dynamic range over what we’ve seen before with Four Thirds sensors, and when paired with the Panasonic/Leica F1.7 zooms you can achieve shallow depth of field and light gathering comparable to APS-C and even approaching some full frame camera bodies.


Our biggest concern, though, is the sensor. In stills mode it falls at least a stop behind its predecessor in terms of dynamic range. This deficit is made up from ISO 800, when the DR Boost mode kicks in, but this makes it a much more limited photo camera than previous GH models, despite the promise of the motion-corrected hand-held multi-shot mode.

Things are a little more positive in video mode, where you’re unlikely to be using the deep shadows (and where most modes will be applying the camera’s powerful noise reduction). Base ISO performance is solid enough and the extra stop of highlights you get (with DR Boost and V-Log mode) three stops above base mean that you have a camera that can continue to deliver good results in more challenging lighting. But it does appear the un-boosted performance isn’t quite at the level we’ve become used to, so there appears to be a trade-off for this wider operating envelope.

Focus Limiter Framegrab
For setups such as interviews, where the subject is only likely to move to a small degree, the GH6’s in-menu, configurable focus limiter can stop anything going badly wrong, but there’s still the risk of slight focus pulsing or flutter.

There are cameras that can match some of the GH6’s features, whether in terms of offering ProRes capture, 4K/120 or fan-cooled dependability, but there isn’t one that offers all of these together, along with tremendous cross-mode consistency (you can shoot just about every resolution and frame rate in the codec, bit-depth and bitrate that suits your needs).

The GH6 is the kind of production-standard powerhouse we’ve come to expect from the series, but we’re not sure Panasonic’s big gamble on a different sensor design delivers the pay-off it was clearly hoping for. It’s a superb video camera but while it does bring some exciting new photographic tricks to the table, overall it’s a less capable hybrid camera than its forebears.

Scoring

Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category. Click here to learn about what these numbers mean.


Compared to its peers

The Sony a7S III has a substantially larger full frame sensor and a price tag that’s 60% higher but its video focus and near full-width 4K/120p capability make it a natural competitor for the GH6. Like the GH6, it has sacrificed some photographic capability, mainly in terms of resolution, in order to be a more capable video tool.

The a7S III boasts a much more reliable phase detect and subject tracking system which has consistently impressed us. Also, it has a higher-res 9.44M dot (2048 X 1536px) EVF, is smaller and lighter and sports matched dual CFexpress A/SD card slots, allowing redundant recording at any resolution, framerate and codec.

The Panasonic GH6 delivers more detailed 4K video, higher resolution 5.7/5.8K recording options due to its higher resolution sensor, and anamorphic support. The option of recording internal ProRes will appeal to professionals who require a universally editable professional recording format. We also found the image stabilization and ergonomics superior on the GH6, and its fan cooling gives greater dependability.

You can also check out the Sony FX3, which sacrifices the a7S III’s excellent EVF for a built in fan, tally lamps, multiple 1/4″ mounting points and a several more Log profiles.

The full frame Canon EOS R5 C cinema camera takes the sensor and core design of the Canon R5, but adds a fan to mitigate the much-discussed overheating issues. It can record 8K video: way above the GH6’s maximum 5.8K 4:3 mode, but costs at around twice the price.

The R5C offers many of the same professional assist tools like waveforms, but adds internal raw video recording and Canon’s well regarded DPAF system. It also cleverly adopts the Cinema EOS interface when in video mode, but photo-focused EOS displays when shooting stills. However, it sacrifices IBIS in exchange for all these video additions.

The GH6 bounces right back with less rolling shutter in its oversampled 4K modes, more detailed 4K/120p, and full sensor anamorphic support. It also offers the IBIS that the R5C lacks.

The APS-C Fujifilm X-H2S also stands as an interesting alternative at a similar price, but we’ll wait until we’ve more extensively tested it before making final judgements.

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