This blog is a user's perspective on the Micro Four Thirds camera system. Read more ...

Lens Buyer's Guide. Panasonic GH4 review.

My lens reviews: Olympus 9mm f/8 fisheye, Lumix G 12-32mm f/3.5-5.6, Leica 25mm f/1.4, Lumix X 12-35mm f/2.8, Lumix X 35-100mm f/2.8, Sigma 30mm f/2.8, Sigma 19mm f/2.8, Lumix X PZ 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6, Lumix X PZ 45-175mm f/4-5.6, Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8, Panasonic Lumix G 100-300mm f/4-5.6, Panasonic Leica Lumix DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm f/2.8 1:1 Macro, Panasonic Lumix G 45-200mm f/4-5.6, Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 pancake, Panasonic Lumix G 14mm f/2.5 pancake, Panasonic Lumix G HD 14-140mm f/4-5.8, Panasonic Lumix G HD 14-140mm f/3.5-5.6, Panasonic Lumix G 8mm f/3.5 fisheye, Lumix G 7-14mm f/4, Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye, Tokina 300mm f/6.3 mirror reflex tele, Lensbaby 5.8mm f/3.5 circular fisheye lens
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Saturday 31 July 2021

GH5: Still relevant in a full frame world?

The consumer camera market has changed a lot during the last ten years. A short summary is that the bottom end has disappeared: People don't buy entry level cameras anymore, they have been replaced with smart phones.

What remains is the photo enthusiast groups, who are motivated by the photographic opportunities realized with higher end camera gear. And it is quite widely understood now that a larger imaging sensor gives you better image quality. So is there any future for the Micro Four Thirds format, and is the camera Lumix GH5 still relevant?

This diagram illustrates the relative sensor sizes for Four Thirds, and Full Frame. The Four Thirds sensor is about one quarter the size of Full Frame. As the sensor diagonal is one half, we say that the crop factor is 2x:

For some years, I have used both Micro Four Thirds, and the Full Frame Nikon Z system. Here are two setups with long lenses from both systems:

In the front, I have the Lumix GH5 with the Leica 100-400mm f/4-6.3 tele zoom lens. With the 2x crop factor, the focal length corresponds to 200-800mm for Full Frame systems.

Behind is the Nikon Z7 with the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 FP tele lens. The lens is not a mirrorless lens, so it needs an adapter to mount to the camera.

Despite having a much smaller sensor, the Lumix GH5 is about the same size as the Nikon camera. I think this makes quite good sense: The camera is not only about the sensor, it also needs a user interface, like viewfinder, grip, buttons, display, and so on. And to be usable, the camera needs to have a certain size. In my opinion, the GH5 has struck a nice balance, and it is a very user friendly camera.

When it comes to lenses, the story is different: Nikon Z lenses tend to be way bigger than corresponding lenses for Micro Four Thirds. This is still one of the big advantages of the M4/3 system.

But coming back to image quality, how do the systems compare? For photos, there is no comparison. While the Lumix GH5 takes very good images, the Nikon Z7 is simply way better. As you would expect from a high megapixel count fullframe sensor, the resolution is better, the dynamic range is better, and the low light performance is better. If photos is your main interest, there is certainly a benefit from changing from Micro Four Thirds to Full Frame.

However, when it comes to video, the Lumix GH5 still has a strong edge, despite being at the end of the lifetime. To illustrate, I have edited video examples from both systems into one stream. On the top you have the Nikon Z7 with Nikon 500mm f/5.6, and in the lower part of the frame you have Lumix GH5 with the Leica 100-400mm f/4-6.3 set to 400mm, meaning 800mm equivalent with the 2x crop factor.

On the left, you can see the video as it comes straight out of the camera. On the right hand side, I have applied image stabilization in post processing. As I could record using the 4:3 aspect ratio with the GH5, this gives me some more margin to apply image stabilization later.

We can clearly see that the handhold footage coming from the Lumix GH5 is way more stable, despite using a lens with 800mm reach, longer than the 500mm lens on the Nikon system. Also, the Nikon Z7 footage, even after image stabilization has been applied, has quite some rolling shutter artefacts which makes it harder to use. I could fix most of this as well by using the "Rolling Shutter Repair" effect in Adobe Premiere Pro, but this makes the video less usable.

So while both cameras and both lenses feature image stabilization, the Lumix system is way better at actually giving you stable footage. And the larger sensor in the Nikon camera has slower readout, giving you strong rolling shutter effects that makes it hard to use the video output.

So while Nikon Z7 is much better in terms of image quality, I would still get the Lumix GH5 for video.

And this seems to be Panasonic's strategy too. From Panasonics point if view, Micro Four Thirds is not dead. But they have adjusted the product line-up to match video better. Panasonic have developed the pair of video oriented lenses recently: 10-25mm f/1.7 and 25-50mm f/1.7. These are prestigious, high end lenses that are catered towards video professionals and amateur enthusiasts with deep pockets. Launching these lenses clearly show Panasonic's commitment to the system.

As does their camera news. While the Lumix GH5 is, in my opinion, one of the most capable consumer video camera, it has been updated to Lumix GH5 II, making it relevant for more years to come. And as we know, Panasonic has promised to release the GH6 soon, probably in the autumn.

We see a similar approach from Olympus, or their newer brand name, OMD: Less focus on the entry level cameras, and more focus on what Micro Four Thirds does well: More compact camera equipment, especially tele lenses, to cater for bird and wildlife interested enthusiasts who want lighter gear. The 150-400mm f/4.5 tele zoom lens is one example showing this strategy.

So Micro Four Thirds and Lumix GH5 are still relevant today, but we see that the product strategy is to go for niche markets: Video and birds/wildlife photographers.


  1. Show 35mm sensor size in your comparison. µ4/3 is about the same as 35mm (movie) film. 16x22mm for a long time.

  2. This is such a great post, and was thinking much the same myself. Be sure to keep writing more great articles like this one.