Panasonic Lumix DC-S5 II
The Panasonic Lumix DC-S5 II is the latest iteration of the popular DC-S5 full-frame camera. Boasting a new phase detection autofocus system and an internal cooling fan for extended video recording, the S5 II is a strong contender for video projects and still photography. However, its autofocus system falls short for moving subjects, making it less suitable for action photography compared to rivals such as the Canon EOS R6 Mark II and Sony a7 IV.
Panasonic Lumix DC-S5 II Still Photography
The S5 II boasts a 24MP BSI CMOS sensor with 5-axis stabilisation, which is comparable to similarly-priced cameras such as the Nikon Z 6 II and Sony a7C. The sensor has a native ISO sensitivity range of 100-51200 and offers extended settings from ISO 50 to ISO 204800. Users can choose to capture 8-bit JPGs or 14-bit Raw photos, but Panasonic has not included 10-bit HEIF support, despite the format’s increasing popularity in hybrid cameras.
However, the S5 II does offer an electronic shutter multi-shot mode that can shift the sensor with pixel-level precision. This mode produces either 96MP or 48MP images in Raw or JPG format, making it a useful feature for landscape photography. However, it requires a tripod and a relatively static scene, and the e-shutter doesn’t sync with flashes, limiting its utility in the studio.
The S5 II delivers image quality on par with other current-generation 24MP full-frame models. Photos taken with the S5 II were compared to those from the EOS R6 Mark II, and the results looked very similar, aside from slight differences in noise patterns. The camera produces strong image quality up to ISO 6400, with decent results even at ISO 51200.
There are several colour profiles available for those who want to capture ready-to-share JPGs, including standard, portrait, vivid, and landscape, as well as the film-like L.ClassicNeo and L.Monochrome looks. Additionally, users can utilise the V-Log, HLG, and CineD2 video profiles for stills and vice versa.
For those working in Raw format, profile selections can mostly be ignored, as users can tune colour, exposure, and contrast to their liking. S5 II photos can be processed in Adobe Lightroom Classic, with plenty of editing flexibility to push shadows without adding excessive noise and pull-in highlights.
Panasonic Lumix DC-S5 II Video Performance
Despite using a chip with a similar ~21ms readout time for its 16:9 footage, the S5 II enhances the video features of the S5. It offers the ability to shoot full sensor height 3:2 ‘open gate’ video up to 30p, allowing for cropping into various aspect ratios or panning around the frame in post-production. Additionally, there are 6K options available in UHD-style 16:9 aspect ratio or the DCI-like 18.9:1 format.
In addition, the S5 II offers full-width 4K modes (both DCI and UHD), sourced from 6K capture, and capable of reaching up to 30p with up to 10-bit 4:2:2 encoding. While Panasonic’s competitors have started adding 10-bit capture capability in this class, the S5 II stands out with its range of support tools and features that are not as common amongst the competition.
One unique feature of the S5 II is its waveform display and vectorscopes, which are standard ways of understanding tone and colour distribution in the video industry. These tools can be immensely valuable when setting exposure and white balance. The camera can also express its exposure time in terms of shutter angle, making it easier to maintain a sensible exposure when switching between capture frame rates.
The S5 II’s video capabilities also include a syncro scan for fine-tuning exposure time to better sync with flickering light sources, four-channel audio capture, and a video-focused settings display screen. The screen of the S5 II, reminiscent of Arri’s design and borrowed from Panasonic’s Varicam line, is notably clean and clear. Furthermore, the camera offers the ability to capture 4-channel audio (with an optional XLR adapter) and includes options such as line-level input and dual input gain settings on its mic inputs that its rivals lack.
The S5 II also introduces new functions such as ‘Full-range HLG’ shooting, which ignores the upper and lower brightness limits imposed by the HLG standard, providing more flexibility in post-production. This feature is useful if you have HLG as your final intended output or if you’re using it as a Log-like intermediate step.
Panasonic Lumix DC-S5 II Battery and Connectivity
The S5 II utilises the same DMW-BLK22 battery as its predecessor, providing approximately 370 shots per charge according to CIPA testing standards, which is slightly less than the original model’s 470 shots. However, if you activate power-saving features, Panasonic claims that you can capture around 1,250 images, which is a significant increase.
It’s important to note that stills performance ratings don’t account for video usage. During my testing, I discovered that 5.9K recording significantly drains the battery, so I recommend either carrying a spare battery or using the USB-C charging port to recharge between shooting sessions.
The camera features two memory card slots that both support SDXC cards and UHS-II transfer speeds. Additionally, it includes a full-size HDMI port for use with an external monitor or recorder, 3.5mm jacks for headphones and a mic, and a 2.5mm remote port. The hot shoe allows for on-camera accessories like an external flash (with 1/250-second sync) or an XLR audio interface. For the best audio quality, be sure to set the camera to utilise the MOV container format, which supports stereo 24-bit/48kHz with LPCM encoding.
Dual-band Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and Bluetooth 5 are also included, allowing for file transfers and remote control via the Panasonic Lumix Sync mobile app (available for Android and iOS). Bluetooth 5 also speeds up the pairing process for wireless remotes.
Panasonic Lumix DC-S5 II Conclusion
The Panasonic Lumix S5 II offers a range of improvements over its predecessor, but falls short in the autofocus department, particularly for fast-moving subjects. Despite this, the S5 II shines in video capabilities, making it an excellent choice for vloggers and indie filmmakers. However, it lacks ProRes recording, a feature found in similarly priced cameras like the Fuji X-H2 and Panasonic GH6.
Overall, the S5 II is a good camera and hopefully, a firmware update can come along to improve the autofocus system.