Mirrorless Camera News and Commentary

News and commentary about the mirrorless camera world (latest on top). Hover or tap on News/Views in the menu bar above to see the full list of recent articles as well as folders containing all older ones dating back to 2011.

Fujifilm Drops a New Flagship, X-H1

Fujifilm today introduced the much-leaked X-H1 model, an upscale model to the X-T2 that was previously regarded by many as the APS-C flagship for the company.

bythom fujifilm x-h1

The big changes are the addition of a 5-axis sensor-based IS system (claimed 5.5 stops CIPA), an improved autofocus system for low light, a new 3.7m dot EVF (the X-T2 was 2.4m), and a more robust body build using a stronger frame. The video capabilities have been extended to record at higher bit rates, add a 120 fps HD slow motion capability, add F-log recording, perform face detection while recording video, and more. A new "film simulation," Eterna has been added.

Plenty of small things have been tweaked, as well. The X-H1 body is a bit bigger and heavier than the X-T2, with improved ergonomics, including a new top LED. The exposure compensation dial has been removed and Fujifilm moved to the Nikon-style button+dial design for that. Electronic first curtain shutter, flicker detection, Bluetooth, and a touchscreen capability have been added, as well.

The new X-H1 body is bigger in all dimensions than the X-T2, and it adds about 6 ounces (170g) in weight.

Price for the new body is US$1899.

A number of Nikon supporters challenged me on my assertion late last year that Nikon needed to come out with a D500s model early this year. The X-H1 is one of the reasons why. Nikon has not defended the APS-C speed camera position particularly well, producing neither the lenses that the D500 really needed, as well as failing to do the kind of push-hard incrementation that Fujifilm has been pursuing and which has now produced the very nicely specified X-H1. I'd say that the X-H1 is fairly squarely aimed at cameras like the D500, which is now two years old.

Fujifilm is trying to win with technology, features, and performance. In the near US$2000 price point we have the Olympus E-M1 Mark II and the Nikon D500 as the primary competitors taking that approach. In many ways, Fujifilm is benchmarking those competitors and adapting many of their best traits.

Whether that turns into real volume for Fujifilm is still to be seen. Nikon's better dealer network has them still in the mid-twenties in terms of ILC camera sales percentage, while Fujifilm still sits in single digits. Still, in marketing perception is everything, and I'm pretty sure that everyone's perception of Fujifilm at this point is that they're adding capability and performance at every model iteration and now able to match many competitors head on. Coupled with their wide range of X lenses—a bigger and better selection of APS-C lenses than Canon, Nikon, or Sony can claim—that bodes well for them.

Indeed, Fujifilm has done what everyone else except Canon and Sony haven't: produced true video lenses for the X series. Announced with the X-H1 were two cinema lenses, the MKX18-55mm t/2.9 and 50-135mm t/2.9. Both these lenses were previously sneaked for the Sony FE mount earlier, but now will appear in X mount cladding, as well.

I do have to wonder if Fujifilm is making the same mistake that Olympus made, though. Rumors already are floating about an X-T3 later this year, which will leapfrog the X-H1 in a number of features (and megapixels). This is similar to the E-M1/E-M5 leapfrogging that's been going on across town. The problem is this: if these are really different body entries, they're not highly discriminated, and essentially Fujifilm and Olympus are encouraging their user base to churn on buying constant upgrades.

Fujifilm has crammed a lot of bodies into a small space (US$900-1900): X-E3, X-T20, X-T2, X-H1, X-Pro2. I don't think they can all survive long term, so what really are the core models here?

Finally, Fujifilm also announced major firmware updates for the GFX (version 3.0) and X-T20 (version 2.0).

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Olympus Announces PL-9

I think you have to visit Japan or SE Asia to understand the PL series of cameras. Maybe even then you might not get it. I certainly don't.

bythom olympus pl9 top

The E-PL9 is the seventh generation of the mirrorless camera that kicked off Olympus' Pen m4/3 series, though it doesn't exactly sport much of a generational difference from its predecessor. Big story: added 4K video, some additional AF points, a new Art Filter (instant film), Panorama mode, and Bluetooth. Some minor cosmetic differences, including a slight hand grip on the front, but recognizable as the same basic camera Olympus has been iterating most of this decade. The press release is mostly marketing mumbo-jumbo about putting you "in touch with your creative side." Not sure why previous cameras couldn't do that. ;~)

I called the PL-8 the P-Late. It seemed like too little, too late. This one seems to be the P-Later.

Yes, that's a lot of snark.

Somehow, though, Olympus continues to be able to sell enough of these low end m4/3 models to keep them as current as possible. And again, I think that's mostly a Japanese thing, and a bit of an Asian thing. There's something about the size, style, and price that keeps the entry Pen selling in modest quantities. Just enough sales to keep it updated.

Thing is, though, the E-PL line is now going directly up against the Canon M6 in terms of size, style, and price. And it's getting more competition from others, particularly that new Fujifilm X-A5 with the pancake zoom. Same physical size camera from both those competitors, but with 24mp APS-C (larger) sensors. Olympus really needs to up their game on the PL models, I think.

New Sony Trade-in Event

Other than Canon, all the Japanese camera companies have the end of their fiscal year on March 31st. That's important for two reasons. One, the first window of new product launches is always in this first calendar quarter because of a series of trade shows ending in CP+ in Japan (this year March 1st). Second, this is the quarter when they all have a very good idea of what their year-end numbers will look like and they either try to goose them some with discounts—particularly on older models—or fix them. Thus, February and March are often the second best time to buy cameras (the Christmas holidays being the first).

bythom sony tradein

Sony started their "Winter Trade-in Event" on Sunday. This is a set of new instant rebates coupled with a few trade-in bonuses. As I understand it, you can trade in any working camera to get the bonus.

In particular, the full frame A7 and A9 series have some temptations now dangling out there:

  • A7: US$798 instant rebate price
  • A72: US$1098 instant rebate price
  • A7R2: US$2398 instant rebate price
  • A7S2: US$2498 instant rebate price

Trade-in bonuses of US$200-500 are also in effect (but be sure to start the process at this page):

  • A7R3: US$300
  • A7S2: US$200
  • A7R2: US$200
  • A9: US$500

Those trade-in bonuses are above and beyond what the dealer gives you for the trade in. So say that you can get US$500 trade-in value for your old Nikon D800 (yes, that would be a fair price for one in excellent condition as a trade, unfortunately). Trading it in under this program would mean you'd be paying US$1698 for an A7R2. Obviously, Sony is hoping that this kind of deal might make a switcher out of you.

So, this brings me to the recommendation portion of this article.

  • The A7R2 is still a very good camera. It'sbasically Sony's equivalent to the D810. Back when both were the current models, I judged the D810 as the best all around camera you could get, the A7R2 the second best. At an effective price of US$2199 plus whatever trade value you get, that's a fair deal, one that many should think about taking rather than paying the premium for the latest Mark 3 model.
  • The A7S2 is also still a very good camera. One of the best low-light "video" cameras you can get. At an effective US$2299 price you'd also have to consider the Panasonic GH5s these days. Everyone expects Sony to release a Mark 3 model of this camera soon, so be aware that you're buying at the end of a generation.
  • The A72 is the entry 24mp full frame camera in Sony's line. We also expect a Mark 3 version of it in the not too distant future, as well as some real competitors, probably from Canon first, then Nikon. I'm not so keen about buying into this model, though the new US$1098 price would make it one of the least expensive full frame cameras that you could find.
  • The original A7 is one I probably wouldn't recommend at this point, particularly since the A72 is only US$1098 at the moment. The original A7 just has a few too many "early camera" foibles, many of which were fixed in the A72. Still, it's a competent shooter when used within its means.
  • The A9 is a bargain if you're using the trade-in deal and need a state-of-the-art sports camera. At an effective price of US$3999 it starts to get into the realm where a lot of folk would take a chance on it. But be aware that you really want the GM lenses on this baby, and you have slim pickings above 200mm. I know that some are running lens converters on their A9 and getting good results, but I've tried that, and it isn't the same as using it with the latest Sony GM lenses. Don't buy high in one way and aim low in another would be my advice. You're either in for the full penny, or you should be out.

Sony has modest deals on FE lenses, and deals on some on the APS-C sensor mirrorless models (A5100, A6000, A6300, A6500), too, but these are not quite in the same league as the full frame deals at the moment.

The deals end—easy enough to guess based upon what I wrote in my first paragraph—on March 31st. Click on the banner graphic above if you want to see all the deals [advertiser link].

Corrected an error in the trade-in bonuses.

New Fujifilm Entry Cameras, Lens

The rollouts leading up to the big Japan trade show at CP+ starting March 1st have begun.

bythom fujifilm x-a5

First out of the gate is Fujifilm with the Bayer sensor X-A5 and X-A20, plus a new very compact 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. The X-A5 is a set of tweaks and changes to the X-A3, the X-A20 ditto compared to the X-A10. If you want full details on these cameras, see the data pages (links in the previous sentence). Neither camera has an EVF, so they both kind of fit into the large-sensor compact camera realm, only with interchangeable lenses. At only US$599 with the new lens, the X-A5 is a handsome and interesting entry camera choice that has to be considered against the Canon EOS M6 and likely whatever Nikon is cooking up for this Spring.

The lens, to me, is the most interesting aspect. It remains to be seen how good it renders, but the specs are right. It's basically a wide 24 to short 70mm variable aperture lens, but in a package size more befitting a small APS-C prime. You can't quite call it pancake, but it's about as pancake as we've seen any mid-range zoom to date.

Fujifilm will have an additional product launch in February prior to the CP+ show.

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Nikon Mirrorless Rumors

Please note the headline: these are rumors, not facts (coupled with some opinion).

Everyone seems to want to know what I've heard about upcoming Nikon mirrorless efforts, so I thought I'd describe that all in one place. I felt that this was necessary especially because all of the Internet discussions I seem to encounter have mostly centered around something different than what I hear Nikon will deliver first.

Mind you, these are a bunch of data bits gathered piecemeal from multiple sources that I've attempted to put together into one logical package:

  • Two DX mirrorless bodies shipping in May. 24mp, new sensor, though Nikon has prototyped higher count sensors. Roughly at least D3400/D5600 types of features/capabilities in all respects, but in a small, mirrorless camera. That would likely mean things like Compressed NEF 12-bit. Also much more attention to video features. What I don't know is whether Nikon's original goal of making this camera with no mechanical shutter (e.g. going all electronic) will be realized or not. If not with this first generation, it should happen soon thereafter.
  • Three initial lenses. One kit, one prime, one unknown but likely a superzoom, also shipping in May.
  • Two new accessories. One of them certainly has to be an F-mount adapter; the other, maybe that new N16F1 remote they keep hinting at?

This would be a "big launch" for Nikon. That's a lot of inventory to move near simultaneously and get dealers to take on and promote successfully. Nikon also has a lot of marketing to do to tell customers why their new entry makes sense to purchase considering all the mature competition Nikon will be going against. My guess—if I'm hearing the specs correctly—is that the main messages would all center around the new tech in the sensor coupled with legacy: silent shooting, fast autofocus, excellent video, and the ability to use all those existing DX lenses that Nikon never made (buzz, buzz). Oops, snark. ...all those F-mount lenses that are in everyone's closet. Oops, still snarky. ...all those nearly 100m Nikkors that they've sold in the last 60 or so years.

Don't shoot me if this turns out to be wrong. As I note, I'm pulling this together from a variety of sources, some of which have proven right in the past, others with which I have no real experience with in terms of rumors, but who seem to be in the right place to know what's going on. Moreover,this particular launch has been pushed back more than once already, and the details got clearer over time, an indication that something is going into production. I'm not entirely sure why the delay occurred, though I suspect sensor development had something to do with it. One source tells me that September will be the launch date if Nikon can't manage May.

May implies an NAB (April) launch, not a CP+ (March) launch, though that would be a bitembarrassing for Nikon when everyone else shows up at the home turf show with something new at CP+ and they don't. September implies a Photokina launch. I doubt that Nikon would launch a new system without having a trade show to do so at, as it substantially increases the press coverage they'd get, and they're going to need all thehelp they can get.

Where's the FX mirrorless camera, you ask? After all, that's the model that everyone on the Internet seems to want to talk about.

I don't know how far behind any FX models are from the DX mirrorless launch. Moreover, that adds complexity to that first launch: what message is Nikon going to say about possible future mirrorless offerings (e.g. Lens and Camera Road Maps)? Still, DX is a lower bar for Nikon and something they need to get done less they lose even more unit volume in their camera group.

First and foremost they basically have to match the Canon EOS M series with at least D3400-level performance and solid, competent products priced right (the lack of a physical shutter would help achieve that). I know many of you want far more. Given how good the D3400 is, how good the recent DX kit lenses have been, and how good Nikon's engineering team is, I expect something that's going to shove its way into the US$700+ price range in a way that will get attention, though.

Another question, of course, is that + in the last sentence. At prices much higher than that the new Nikon entry has to be better than a lot of existing crop sensor mirrorless cameras to resonate. I know that Nikon has carefully benchmarked the EOS M5/6 and the M5 sells for around US$1000 with kit lens, but I can't imagine Nikon being able to have any success at a higher price level than that. That price level is also where the Fujifilm XT-20 with kit lens sits, for example. And frankly, the D7500 and D500 live not very far above that price range, too, particularly when the latter is on sale.

Nikon needs to somehow find a way to sell more new consumer DX cameras, not replace volumes of other things, and that means US$500 to US$1000 has to be the target. Unfortunately, Nikon will have to shoot some of its own products in the foot to wedge in a new one. Which makes the degree of difficulty really high. Especially since there aren't many DX lenses to stick on that adapter (buzz, buzz: how many years have I been chastising Nikon for not filling out the DX lens set? Can you now see why? I've been told by at least one in Nikon management that some at the company have finally realized that Fujifilm has a nice, full crop sensor lens lineup, and that's a problem).

Yes, I know a lot of you were expecting full frame first. I don't think that has a chance of happening, though there certainly were debates within Nikon about doing just that. There's always the DL possibility, where the DX mirrorless efforts come up short in some way and upper management just decides to eat the R&D costs rather than ship. Just as that was the wrong decision with the DL models, it would be the wrong decision with DX mirrorless, too.

Any Nikon FX mirrorless should come later in the year and will shoot for a far higher price, but not too high lest it dislodge the D850 too quickly (or even the still popular D750). It needs to be somewhere in the Df/D610/A7 arena, which is basically above consumer DX (remember, the D6xx was really an FX D7xxx, so slightly more prosumer than consumer, even though Nikon currently describes the D610 as "FX entry-level"). An FX Nikon mirrorless also has to do better than what could be done with the same level of DSLR, otherwise it would be best for Nikon to just iterate all the FX DSLRs, perhaps just making them more hybrid (e.g. far better Live View/Video performance).

I've noticed that a lot of Nikon's FX mirrorless patents lately tend to speak towards something more Df-like (low light capable, slightly retro). We know that's what Goto-san was lobbying for with his public statements last year. As I noted in my article about Nikon's 2018, the combo of a low-light sensor mirrorless with a set of fast primes and a fast-ish mid-range zoom seems to be where Nikon is headed. And yet, the FX camera Nikon absolutely needs to replace and re-invigorate the most is the D610. Nikon certainly wants to reset the price level to something approaching US$2000, yet still cater to first time FX users, particularly Nikon DSLR users converting to mirrorless. Meanwhile, the Sony A7 is a moving target: everyone expects that camera to reach Mark III status at some point this year; plus no one really has been able to describe yet what Canon will be doing (they will be doing something full frame mirrorless this year).

One interesting aspect is how Nikon currently markets full frame. There are basically three messages you find in the product pages for FX on Nikon's Web sites: "greater resolutions", "exceptional in low light", and "full potential of finest lenses." Could it be that FX mirrorless would be marketed the same? 30mp with excellent low light capabilities and use of F-mount lenses via a "perfect" adapter sounds interesting, doesn't it?

Still, I haven't heard very many clear details of any Nikon FX mirrorless offering yet; not much seems to have leaked other than it's in the works and that it is still prioritized very high. What I'm not hearing at the moment is about any real effort to upgrade the aging DSLRs in the lineup.

Finally, I'll say this: Nikon seems to have finally come to the realization that they've messed up with lenses. In crop sensor, both m4/3 and Fujifilm APS-C have better specified, fuller, and more varied lens sets than Nikon does in DX (buzz, buzz boys and girls). Meanwhile, Nikon's FX lens line isn't exactly filled with video-capable lenses, and most recent lenses they've introduced have been bigger than the ones they replace, which runs counter to the standard mirrorless "small and light kit" approach.

Thus, Nikon finds itself having to produce a lot of new mirrorless lenses, and ridiculously fast if they want to be competitive. Yet as I've noted many times on dslrbodies.com, Nikon's average lens production is basically six new lenses introduced a year, with a peak something more like nine. Hmm. If the DX mirrorless camera ships with three lenses, that leaves only three more for the FX mirrorless camera this year if Nikon just plays to averages.

I've written it before: Nikon has been lazy in protecting their advantages. They've tended to do what they think is just enough rather than keeping their engineering teams trying to stay well ahead of competitors. A lot of this has to do with the bean counters at Nikon. In the trenches, Nikon has incredible engineering talent. Managing them they have a lot of bean counters who've been saying nay to all the right things that could be done (e.g. DL) and yay to all the wrong things (e.g. KeyMission). Nikon spent the last decade fishing for volume in all the wrong places, and actually producing negative volume.

While it has nothing to do with mirrorless, per se, let me illustrate how Nikon has gotten themselves boxed into this corner of design laziness. Let's just look at one technology: wired communications.

Many Nikon cameras still use USB 2.0 (2000 intro, 480Mbps). A small handful of recent ones use USB 3.0 (2008 intro, 5Gbps). The reason why they do this is cost: older parts are cheaper. Current USB technology is 3.1 (2013 intro, 10Gbps), and the next technology is USB 3.2 (2017 intro, 20Gbps). Of course, we could also do this type of wired communication with Thunderbolt, which was 10Gbps in 2009, and is currently at 40Gbps. And let's not talk about recharging a Nikon in-camera battery via wired cable ;~).

Now why is this of relevance? Well, cameras have been increasing pixel counts and frame rates constantly. While those counts keep going up, the wired communications have tended to not keep up. Olympus and Panasonic have USB 3.1 in their recent mirrorless cameras, which is about as "current" as we see, and I applaud them for that.

But Nikon? Their 9 fps, 45.4mp D850 is still USB 3.0. Shooting with that camera at my usual settings I generate 468MBs of data a second. That's 3.8 gigabits per second. Add in all the communications overhead Nikon generates and the way they manage the USB 3.0 channel, the wired communications is far slower than the camera's data collection. Tethered shooting or mass file transfer via wire, therefore, is decidedly old school and slower than it needs to be when you adopt old technologies like that. And that's in a professional camera.

Thus, when Nikon finally does introduce their next mirrorless system, the thing I'm looking for is where the bean counters reigned in the engineering teams too much. Three lenses at launch would be one of those. Will there be more? Thing is, the more of those little cost-cutting frictions there are, the less advanced Nikon's solution will look. Even for an entry DX consumer camera.

Still, I'm looking forward to what Nikon will offer. We should know soon, at least if we can believe these rumors.


*Once again, I've been using the shorthand "Buzz, Buzz" to razz Nikon about its pathetic approach to DX lenses since FX was introduced in 2007.

When Does Mirrorless Supplant DSLR?

It seems a post I made on an Internet forum last week rattled a few cages. Basically I predicted that mirrorless sales would equal DSLR sales in 2020.

That was a conservative prediction.

Realistically, if Canon and Nikon introduce new mirrorless systems this year that are competent, the more likely date where mirrorless unit volume will surpass DSLR unit volume is 2019. The straight linear trend looks like this (hashed lines; the solid lines are actual through 2017, linear estimates through 2020).

bythom ilc trendline

Note that 2016 was a problem for mirrorless due to sensor shortages due to the earthquake.

Implied in this graph is about a 10% drop in DSLR unit volume a year and a 10% gain in mirrorless unit volume (the 2017 gain for mirrorless was 25% [current trailing year numbers], but it was also a recovery year from sensor shortages).

But a linear trend is not necessarily what we'll see. In fact, it's highly unlikely that sales would progress linearly. As more mirrorless choices become available and it becomes clear that Canon and Nikon are endorsing such models, we're likely to see a higher mirrorless adaptation rate. Change the growth rate in mirrorless and the contraction rate in DSLRs by a factor of one point five to two and you get something like this:

bythom ilc trendline2

Now, of course, I can make a spreadsheet and the resultant graph look like anything I want. What I back in the late 70's dubbed the Visicalc Mentality.

Mirrorless initially looked like it was going to quickly erode DSLR unit volume back in 2012. That proved to be a false positive. Mirrorless was still nascent, Nikon was heavily promoting the Nikon 1 because they couldn't make DSLRs due to the quake and flood (and already discounting the Nikon 1), and there was a lot of sampling going on to see if mirrorless truly was the future of interchangeable lens cameras. Frankly, no, it wasn't yet ready back then. The great sensors weren't there yet, the focus systems weren't equivalent yet (other than perhaps the Nikon 1 with the smallest sensor on the market), and there were plenty of other issues that people quickly responded negatively to, including bad ergonomics and poor battery life.

Compare that to today. Let's use Canon as an example. You'd be hard pressed to show me how an entry Rebel DSLR is better than an EOS M5. After all, they're using the same sensor. The Rebel is bigger, heavier, bulkier. It doesn't do as well with face recognition autofocus, a big thing for the masses. In other words, most of the things that led samplers in 2012 to say "not ready yet" are no longer applicable. They can get equivalent or better results for their type of shooting out of a smaller, lighter, simpler camera now. A friend of mine says that there's a study that shows statistical significance to European camera sales to European airline carry-on practices. As airlines tightened carry-on weight limits, people in Europe bought smaller and lighter cameras, apparently.

So it's not hard to imagine that the factors are truly lined up this time for mirrorless growth at the expense of DSLR sales. With CP+ coming March 1st in Japan, any Canon/Nikon new entries start to further endorse that thought, as those two companies are the ones that lose the most as DSLR sales go down.

And clearly DSLR sales are going to go down, regardless of what happens with mirrorless. Why? Because most people don't need something better than a 24mp full frame DSLR so are reluctant to do any more upgrading, and highly competent DSLRs have been produced for some time now. The likelihood that you get a DSLR user to upgrade has lessened with each passing generation. Meanwhile, mirrorless has become more attractive to the new-to-ILC users.

We're nearing that critical point where the future of ILC is mirrorless. We're not there yet. But we're closing in on it fast. Watch the moves Canon and Nikon make this year and you'll know that this is true.

An Interesting Thing About Updates

You might notice that I keep a last six-month firmware update list on the news pages (right column, below ads). In keeping this list current over the last few years, I've been starting to notice something: the cameras that are important and with longer future legs are the ones that tend to appear in that list.

Look at the cameras that got significant firmware updates (other than lens compatibility) in the last six months:

  • Fujifilm XE-3, XT-20, XT-2, X-Pro 2, GFX 50s
  • Hasselblad X1D
  • Leica M10, TL2
  • Olympus E-M1 II
  • Panasonic G80/G85, GH5
  • Sony A7RII, A7SII, A7II, A7RIII, A9, A6300, A6500

While, for instance, Sony is still selling the original A7 and the A6300, note that they're falling off the recent firmware update list. Likewise Fujifilm with the X-Pro1 generation other than for addition of lens compatibility tables.

Meanwhile, Nikon's fallen completely off the list, mainly because nothing is moving forward with the Nikon 1, it's a dead system.

Where's Canon? That's a good question. They simply haven't done much firmware updating in mirrorless, ever. That's a cocky position.

Reminder, this site'scamera database includes current firmware numbers for all mirrorless cameras.

Panasonic Copies the Sony S

Panasonic today announced an "s" version of the GH5, essentially replicating what Sony did with the A7s: lower megapixel count coupled with design changes to make the pixels perform better in low light.

bythom panasonic gh5s top

Instead of the GH5's 20mp m4/3 sensor, the GH5s gets a 10.2mp sensor. That means that the photosite size on this new camera is more akin to what the APS-C cameras such as the Fujifilm or Sony 24mp cameras use.

As with the GH5, the GH5s mostly concentrates on video-related features. The GH5s features 4K at 60 fps, recorded with Log or HDR Hybrid Log gamma and Long-GOP compression in 4:2:2 10-bit (150Mbps), not just giving a slow motion capability, but also improving the gradability of the resulting image as well. Also, 240 fps is now supported at 1080P, for an even better slow motion capability than exists in previous Panasonic bodies.

The big surprise is no sensor-based image stabilization. That seems a bit unusual in a camera destined for video use. Panasonic basically says "use OIS lenses or a gimbal." The good news is that there's no extra heat at/near the image sensor, which means the images stay more noise-free. Also oddly for such a video-related camera, the camera is multi-aspect ratio, providing the same basic pixel count and angle of view for 4:3, 17:9, 16:9, and 3:2 aspect ratios.

The sensor itself is dual mode in terms of ISO, providing base ISO of 400 and 2500, despending upon setting. Overall you can set ISO 160 to 51,200 normally, plus 80, 102,400 and 204,800.

Curiously, still photography buffs will finally get 14-bit raw in an m4/3 camera (all previous m4/3 cameras have been maxed out at 12-bit raw). This seems to imply that Panasonic is capable of extracting more shadow detail from this new lower megapixel count sensor, but bit depth is not the simple construct it at first appears. We've seen camera makers make other decisions that impact whether the full bit depth available actually produces usable data before, so this one needs to wait for testing.

Overall, the GH5s occupies the same place as the Sony A7s: a specialist camera designed specifically to enhance low light work. And as with the A7s, it comes with a bit of a price bump: the GH5s is US$2499, or US$500 more than the original GH5. That's not because the camera costs more to build, per se, it's because it's likely to have fewer takers, thus the development costs have to be paid back over a smaller number of units.

But I wonder about that. Given that the primary buyer of a GH5 is decidedly a video shooter, the added capabilities in the GH5s may make it the better choice, right? It very well may be that Panasonic ends up seeing the opposite of what they expect: the GH5s outsells the GH5. The tricky part is the lack of IS.

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2017 News/Views


2016 News/Views



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