As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases from amazon.com

Panasonic Lumix DC-GH6 initial review: Digital Photography Review


The Panasonic Lumix DC-GH6 is the latest in a line of high-end Micro Four Thirds video cameras. 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
  • ProRes recording for DCI 4K and Full HD
  • 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 will be available from ‘mid March’ 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 workIn 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.

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.

Panasonic describes the GH6’s Log mode as ‘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 is 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.

At first the camera’s ProRes modes will only be available for 5.7K capture, but DCI 4K and FullHD support will be added in firmware, due later in 2022. At this point, it should be possible to choose the file type you want to work with, and then find that almost all combinations of frame rate and resolution that the camera offers are available.

Hand-held high-resolution mode

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.

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.

Return to index


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 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 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.

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 won’t be a battery grip available for the GH6.

Return to index


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.

The vast majority of that 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 is promised in a future firmware update.

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

5.4K / 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.

A firmware update will also bring the ability to shoot ProRes 422 or 422 HQ Full HD.

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.

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

A promised firmware update will also bring 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.

Return to index


Initial impressions

The GH6 arrives at a point where 10-bit video capture is no longer the preserve of specialist video cameras: even mass-market cameras such as Canon’s EOS R6 and Sony’s a7 IV can shoot 10-bit 4K at up to 60p. Meanwhile, 8K capture is starting to become meaningfully accessible, and models such as Canon’s EOS R5C, Sony’s alpha FX3 and Panasonic’s own S1H are bringing fan-cooled reliability to the comparatively affordable end of the market, encroaching on what used to be the GH-series’ exclusive domain.

But while the bare specs don’t necessarily make the GH6 stand out, the way that its forebears did, the fine detail starts to. Dig into the video specs and you realise that pretty-much every mode is available in every sensible combination of bit-depth, codec and chroma sub-sampling level, meaning you can shoot DCI, UHD or Full HD at your choice of frame rates, with consistent options.

Similarly, we’re seeing no appreciable difference in detail capture as you push the frame rate up, meaning that you can happily inter-cut footage, seamlessly. It shows levels of detail comparable with the GH5, even at 120p.

But where we think the GH6 will start to shine is the breadth of shooting styles it can support. Want to shoot in maximum resolution and make the cropping and scaling decisions later? There are the camera’s 5.7K modes. Want to shoot with anamorphic lenses? There’s more comprehensive support for that here than on any other hybrid camera, with native 4:3 capture and modified stabilization support. Want to deliver industry-standard footage or take the processing burden off the editing stage? ProRes 422 (/HQ) options are coming to most of the camera’s resolution modes. Raw output is on the way, too.

The tilt/articulated screen mechanism keeps it clear of the camera’s ports. And, in addition to a full-sized HMDI port, there’s a USB 3.2 Gen 2 socket that will, via firmware, receive the ability to output footage direct to an external SSD.

From the large red [REC] buttons, to the ‘My List’ of video modes, to the dedicated audio setup button, we’ve not seen a hybrid mirrorless camera on which so much effort has been made to consider the needs of the videographer (and, in particular, the one-person camera operator/videographer).

The continued use of Panasonic’s Depth-from-Defocus system puts the camera at a disadvantage when compared to the level of simplicity and reliability that the latest phase detection systems can offer. Improvements have been made, and the GH6 is much better at knowing what it’s supposed to be maintaining focus on, but 23.98 and 24p shooters are still going to risk focus flutter and occasional drift, and even a small risk might be too much for some run-and-gun shooters.

There are photo features, of course, and the first hand-held, high-res mode with motion correction is a major leap in the usefulness of multi-shot modes, which risks being overlooked on such a video-focused model. But as a video camera, the GH6 appears to offer both a breadth and depth of features that few other cameras can stretch to.

Return to index


Sample gallery

Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter/magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review). Please refrain from using them for any commercial purposes.

Return to index


We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Cartizzle
Logo
Enable registration in settings - general
Compare items
  • Total (0)
Compare
0
Shopping cart