Panasonic unveiled an updated Lumix GH5 today, dubbed the GH5 Mark II. While looking almost identical, it offers some noteworthy improvements over the 2017 camera, like built-in livestreaming and a new processor that enables 10-bit 4K/60 recording and better autofocus.
Cool. Nobody cares. The much more interesting news was the announcement of the development of the GH6, a true successor to the GH5 and a camera that may just keep the Micro Four Thirds format from falling into obscurity.
Panasonic is tight-lipped about the GH6’s full capabilities, but the specs it did reveal are mouthwatering. (See what I did there? Tight-lipped? Mouthwatering?) We’re talking a brand-new sensor (finally), 10-bit 4K at 120 frames per second, or 10-bit 4K/60 with 4:2:2 chroma subsampling. Oh, and it can record 5.7K footage also at 60 frames per second.
A lot of these specs shoot above what even the full-frame, $4,000 Lumix S1H can do, but the GH6 should cost just $2,500. Notably, that also significantly undercuts the full-frame Sony A7S III, another 4K/120p-capable mirrorless camera and current YouTube darling.
Is Four Thirds enough?
The biggest issue facing the success of the GH6 is the sensor size. In the past, Panasonic simply went above and beyond what anyone else was doing with video, making its GH line the obvious choice for any slightly serious videographer. But many other cameras have now crossed over the “good enough” line. 4K is everywhere, 10-bit precision is far more common than it once was, and even log profiles and RAW video (whether internal or over HDMI) are now offered by several manufacturers, most with cameras that also have larger sensors.
So is Micro Four Thirds still worth it? It certainly maintains some advantages, starting with cost. The GH series has continuously delivered professional video features that would cost much more on cameras with larger sensors. The smaller sensor should also run cooler, and indeed Panasonic has stated the GH6 will offer “unlimited recording” at 4K/60p. While it did provide the caveat that this is only when used below the certified operating temperature, Panasonic typically tests its cameras at higher temperatures than other manufacturers (for the S series, Panasonic told me this is 104 degrees Fahrenheit, and I expect the GH series is the same).
Whatever the final details of the GH6 end up being, it’s sure to be another excellent video camera for everyone from YouTubers to documentary filmmakers. And like the GH5 before it, it will offer class-defining specifications and performance you can’t get elsewhere for the same price.
For many people, I think the smaller sensor will be a perfectly acceptable trade-off. But for those who simply don’t need such wild specifications, there are plenty of “good enough” full-frame cameras for less money. As such, I expect the GH6 will appeal to smaller niche than its predecessors — but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want one.