High-end Panasonic mirrorless Cameras have been a staple of independent and documentary filmmaking for years. In 2017, Panasonic introduced the original GH5, a flagship model that was three years in the making. It was fast, durable and easy to use – very popular, clearly distinguished in the market.
A lot has changed since then. Other manufacturers are now making great cameras for cinematographers that can shoot 6K. But the new GH6 continues to hold its ground for both video and photography, especially at this price.
The GH6 has a surprising amount of weight, but not so much that it becomes wrist strain. It comes with a UHS-II SD card slot as well as a CFexpress card slot, which becomes essential for high-end video shooting (more on that below). Its three-inch flip-up screen can be rotated to be visible to the camera subject, making it convenient for online content creators who need to be their own team.
The bodies of photographers and cinematographers are built for functional muscle memory. Along with the typical layouts like white balance, ISO and exposure compensation buttons at the top, or dials for hands-free control of things like aperture, there are also some red buttons for video recording. There is one button on the top plate and another on the front panel. You can start recording video footage regardless of which photo mode you are currently in.
The material on this camera has some of the most satisfying tactile feedback I’ve ever encountered on a camera. Its design is not what far from many other similar cameras, but the difference is in subtleties. For example, the audio information button at the top is rubberized, giving it a bit more friction than the machined metal video button next to it. Once you get familiar with the layout, little details like this make it easy to tell which button or dial your finger is on without looking.
The kit comes with an F/2.8 zoom lens, which is slightly better than the stock 12-60mm. It also includes optional Power OIS, which combined with built-in image stabilization makes the whole system impressively smooth, even when shooting handheld. Inside the GH6 is a 25.2MP Micro Four Thirds sensor. It’s on the small side, but it works well enough for this camera.
Battery life, unfortunately, is average. A fully charged battery is enough for about an hour of continuous use, be it photos or 4K video. However, it can be much less, especially if you’re relying on Apple ProRes recording. However, the convenient thing is that you can charge the battery using the device’s USB-C port. If it provides enough power (about 9V/3A), you can control the camera from USB-C power. However, you may need a spare battery or two.
Balance and focus
It feels like the Lumix GH6 is waiting for you to use it on the go. The level sensor head-up display has a built-in accelerometer to display tilt and tilt, which turns green when you’re at the highest possible level. It’s the kind of feature that’s unnecessary if you have a good tripod or gimbal, but if you can only take your camera and feet with you, it’s a handy tool.
The camera uses contrast-detection autofocus. This type of autofocus is getting old, but at least the GH6 does a good job of it. A blue overlay will highlight areas of the image that are in sharp focus, and pressing the autofocus button repeatedly can (sometimes) switch between different objects in focus.
When you manually rotate the focus lens, an indicator appears that shows the focal length and, very importantly, in which direction you are moving the focus. It’s that super handy feature that’s hard to live without once you have it – no more wondering if you’re over- or under-focused.
Options after options
The GH6 comes with an impressive array of video recording options, and a firmware update at the end of July added even more. The main star of the show is the addition of Apple ProRes 422 and 422 HQ. Depending on your media, you can shoot up to 5.7K video at 30fps in ProRes 422 HQ, one of the best compressed codecs to use without delving into studio-grade cameras. This is especially handy for filmmakers who want to edit for 4K output.
Media matters because with certain video settings, the SD card you have lying around probably won’t be able to work. The maximum speed of most typical SD cards is around 300MB/s to read speeds, but their write speeds can often be much lower. For example, this 128GB SD card writes at around 120MB/s and normally retails for around $36. Meanwhile, the 128GB SD card, which it is possible recording at the nearly 240MB/s required for 5.7K ProRes recording costs about $120 at the time of writing.