Review: Panasonic GH6
Ever since they were first released in 2009, the Panasonic GH series of cameras have had a cult following amongst imaging professionals who regularly shot both stills and video. With the release of the GH6 though, one has to ask if this camera is now better suited to videographers than photographers?
Without doubt, the Panasonic GH6 is one of the biggest and boldest Micro Four-Thirds cameras on the market. Weighing 823-grams, the GH6 is 100-grams heavier than the GH5, and a few full-frame cameras too. Thanks to a new cooling fan behind the sensor, the body and grip also have more depth, which should appeal to many photographers.
The magnesium-alloy body is also weather-proof and freeze-proof, and able to work in conditions from -10ºC through to +40ºC.
The top deck is similar to previous GH models with a Drive Mode dial to the left of the EVF and an Exposure Mode dial to the right. Three buttons just behind the shutter release provide quick access to the White Balance, ISO and Exposure Compensation while on the back panel the Control Dial and Joystick have been relocated for better ergonomics.
Also new to the back panel is a Lock lever that can lock down all controls, including the joystick, menu buttons and front and rear dials so that nothing can be accidentally bumped in critical shooting conditions.
Like the GH5, the GH6 has dual memory card slots but instead of two SD slots, the GH6 has one SD and one CFExpress card slot; CFExpress cards offer fast write speeds of 1800MB/s or more which is essential for capturing high quality video formats, but these cards are also significantly more expensive than SD cards.
The 3,680,000 Dot OLED Electronic Viewfinder has the same resolution as the previous GH5 model, while the 1,840,000 Dot Free-Angle Tilting Touchscreen LCD offers a slight resolution improvement. The monitor refresh rate can be set to 30hz or 60hz, although 60hz does use more battery.
The LCD panel can be tilted upwards to 30º and 45º or the display can also tilt and rotate outwards, making it easy to use when shooting in the vertical at high or low angles.
One big boast for the GH6 is a new 25.2-MP Live MOS sensor which to date has the highest resolution sensor available in the Four-Thirds market. The sensor features dual gain readouts at each pixel location for an improved dynamic range, and a new “no low-pass filter” design allows the sensor to capture improved sharpness and detail.
As with previous models, the GH6 sensor is mounted on a five axis image stabiliser which now provides up to 7.5 stops of motion correction when capturing stills (up from the GH5’s 6.5 stops of compensation).
Because the image stabiliser does not have to shift the Four-Thirds sensor quite as much as an APS-C and full-frame sensor to compensate for motion, the GH6 is also exceptionally good at compensating for shakes and movement when capturing video handheld, to the point that you don’t really need a gimbal with this camera.
The GH6 can also capture 100-Megapixel JPEG and RAW images in “Multi-shot” mode - in the space of about a second the camera captures four images (when working handheld) or eight images (in tripod mode) and the files are then interpolated in camera into one large RAW image.
This technique is perfect for those who like creating big prints, although for best results you really need to be working off a sturdy tripod, and photographing static objects such as landscapes.
The GH6 also features a new Venus engine that provides twice the processing power of the previous GH5 model. Combined with the seriously fast write speeds of a CFExpress card, the GH6 can capture up to 14 frames per second in RAW mode using its mechanical shutter and a staggering 75 frames per second in RAW mode using its electronic shutter.
While capture speeds sound impressive, the limiting factor is the Auto Focus; the GH6 still relies on Panasonics DFD “Depth From Defocus” contrast based AF system which is not as fast as some newer AF systems that use predictive phase detection.
The GH6 can only continuously autofocus at speeds up to 8 frames per second, above which you need to be focusing in Single-AF or Manual Focus modes.
Without doubt, the GH6 excels in video capture; it can capture 5.7K at up to 60fps in MP4 and MOV formats, and 5.7K at 30fps in the ProRes 10-bit, a RAW video format that until now has only been available on professional video cameras.
Thanks to the cooling fan just behind the sensor (designed to cool the storage media), the GH6 can also record video indefinitely so long as you have enough memory and power attached to the camera. Also making the GH6 perfect for video is the image stabilisation that makes hand shooting with this camera a breeze.
From a photography perspective, the GH6 is a very capable camera if you are prepared to work within its limitations. The 25MP sensor can capture great detail even without using the 100MP Multi-shot mode, and the sensor’s dual gain system keeps noise down to a good, manageable level in low light up to about 1600-ISO.
Where photographers might feel disappointed though, is when they rely on the autofocus to capture fast moving subjects. Images captured in RAW mode also have a bit of a flatness to them, and the battery life on this camera is also rather limited (rated for 330 stills), to the point that I would probably carry a spare as a matter of course.
For photographers who like shooting videos though, the GH6 is currently one of the best cameras on the market. The ability to shoot 5.7K in ProRes is awesome, particularly if you are getting serious about video production, and as you explore the tools and menu options you will probably discover this camera is capable of almost anything.
The GH6 is one of the most robust Micro Four-Third cameras around, and while it might not suit everyone, it will appeal to photographers who prefer a big grip and easy-to-access controls.
A 25MP sensor (capable of capturing 100MP RAW files) with 7.5 stops image stabilisation, plus the ability to capture 5.7K video in Pro Res make the GH6 an awesome hybrid camera.
The Panasonic “Depth From Defocus” AF system is not really fast enough for the GH6. The autofocus works well enough in most situations, but it would be more impressive if it could keep up with the camera’s impressive capture rates.
Image Quality ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The dual gain sensor does a good job of managing noise up to 1600-ISO, and the lack of an antialiasing filter also gives images better sharpness and quality. RAW files feel a bit lifeless though
Shooting video with this camera is super easy, particularly if you take the time to learn all your options. You can quite literally shoot a movie with the GH6.
Value for Money ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
If making great photographs is your true passion, then this probably is not the camera for you. If you love making movies as much as making photos though, then the GH6 is a great investment.