The New Panasonic GH6: King of Micro Four Thirds?

It’s been 5 years since Panasonic released their Lumix GH5, one of the most popular and important mirrorless cameras ever released. The GH5 broke a lot of barriers as a hybrid camera and offered features that full-frame cameras did not. Shortly after, Panasonic followed it up with the release of the G9, another huge hit for the Micro Four Thirds (MFT) market.

People have been waiting a long time for the successor to the GH5 and it’s finally here. Panasonic has announced the new Lumix GH6. It has all the makings to be the be an absolute workhorse for stills and video. Some have gone as far as saying the GH6 rivals many full frame cameras on the market today, especially for hybrid shooters.

Benefits of Micro Four Thirds are the size of the bodies and lenses and the ability to process data extremely quick – this leads to great internal video and still features that some higher resolution full-frame cameras are not capable of.

The downsides? For Panasonic, autofocus has been an issue with the MFT line, and there are cons to the smaller sensors, like worse noise handling and dynamic range than full-frame/APS-C cameras.

Yet, the GH6 has improvements and upgrades over the GH5 in all the right areas – this is an exciting camera.

Let’s dive in!

Panasonic Lumix GH6

Price: $2,199

Key Specifications

  • 2MP Live MOS Micro Four Thirds Sensor
  • 4K 60p 4:2:2 10-Bit Unlimited Recording
  • 7K 60p, 4K 120p HFR, FHD 300p VFR
  • ProRes 422 HQ, V-Log and DR Boost
  • Dual I.S. 2, 7.5-Stop 5-Axis Stabilizer
  • 100MP Handheld High-Resolution Mode
  • 68m-Dot OLED Electronic Viewfinder
  • 0″ 1.84m-Dot Free Angle Touchscreen
  • CFexpress Type B & SD UHS-II Card Slots
  • Built-In Active Cooling

New Sensor

The GH6 has a brand-new sensor from Panasonic, a 25.2 MP single layer CMOS sensor. It’s the first MFT camera to surpass a resolution of 20 MP. The increased resolution does not sacrifice speed or processing power either. The GH6 is twice as fast as the former GH5. This enables the GH6 to do some pretty incredible things, like hit a burst rate of 75 fps for RAW photos and record 4K/120p at 10-bit 4:2:2 with no limit. Yes, that’s 75 fps!

Overall, speeds are quite impressive. It’s not at the same level of some of the stacked, full-frame sensors out there, but the smaller sensor and improved overall speed do allow the GH6 to have some great features.

Autofocus

The biggest qualm of the Lumix G line is the autofocus. While serviceable for most still work, the AF system has had flaws that are most noticeable in wildlife/fast-moving genres and video. The biggest question with the GH6 is, is it improved? The answer is yes, but by how much, well, probably not enough to erase concerns.

Panasonic utilities a Depth-from-Defocus (DFD) system that uses depth and micro changes in focus to analyze a scene. This differs from many AF leading systems on the market that use a phase detection system, and many hoped Panasonic would go this route.

It turns out, the new DFD system in the GH6 is actually quite great for still work. It is vastly improved for wildlife photography, but users will still find phase detect AF systems, like that of the Canon R5, to be much better. But, outside of fast-moving subjects, the AF system in the GH6 works great.

The DFD system relies on a lot of information and frames for analysis, and consequently, video users will be disappointed that the AF system isn’t much of an improvement in 24p modes. However, the system works much better at higher frame rates (more frames, more data). Whether or not this is a big issue for video remains to be seen, as many videographers use manual focus regardless of the AF system.

Stills

The GH6 is a great stills camera, a nice upgrade over the GH5 and G9. The new sensor has better noise handling, dynamic range, and image quality than its predecessors. However, Panasonic also has done away with some still-centric features and modes, like focus stacking. There is a Handheld HiRes mode, which allows one to take multiple exposures handheld and the GH6 takes those, merges them, and outputs a file up to 100MP. Pretty cool.

The GH6, like the GH5 is undoubtedly a video powerhouse, thus I think we will actually see another new camera from Panasonic in the near future that is geared more towards stills. Much like how the G9 came a few months after the GH5 (the G9 had great video features, but was more stills focused).

Video

The GH6 is a hybrid camera, meaning it excels for stills and video, but there’s no doubt it is leaned more towards video. It has the best feature set yet for a MFT camera. It can shoot up to 5.7K/30p and 4K/120p in 10-bit 4:2:2 using ProRes codecs internally. That’s amazing. 4K/120p ProRes RAW support is coming in a future firmware update.

The faster sensor handles rolling shutter very well, there’s better dynamic range in log recording, better audio recording, and some nice new features like punch-in focus assist. Overall, the GH6 will be one of the best video mirrorless cameras on the market at its price. The video autofocus is still a letdown, but again, many professionals use manual focus anyway.

I think many nature photographers will be more than happy with the GH6 and the improvements. The increased resolution is great, and the weight savings of smaller MFT lenses is an added bonus for those looking to travel light. The GH6 will not perform at the same level, as say a Sony a7 IV, Canon R6, or Nikon Z6 II, but it will be very close at lower ISOs. The one area where the GH6 will struggle is fast-moving subjects, like birds in flight. It’s not impossible to get good shots by any means, but the stronger AF systems of the cameras mentioned above will produce a better keeper rate.

Body

Panasonic actually stuck with the same EVF and LCD as the GH5 II. The EVF is still a 3.69M dot panel and the LCD is a 3.0” 1.8M dot screen. A bit disappointing, as we’re seeing higher and higher resolutions for EVFs, and in my opinion, a higher resolution EVF does make a big difference in the shooting experience.

One great change in the body however, is the tilt/articulating design of the LCD, which is similar to the lauded Panasonic S1H.

Another important thing to mention is the size of this camera. MFT has a reputation of being smaller. This camera however weighs in at 823 g with a battery, that’s heavier than the Canon R6 and Nikon Z6 II. However, the MFT lenses are where you can really cut weight, so although the body is heavier, your final setup will likely be less weight (and more compact) than comparable full-frame cameras.

Verdict

The Panasonic GH6 is a really exciting camera release. There’s definitely a place for MFT and Panasonic has made some nice upgrades and advancements with this latest model. I do think the GH6 is primarily geared towards videographers and I think we will see another G release very soon, a more robust stills camera. Not to say the GH6 isn’t a great stills camera, but I think we’ll see some extra features geared more towards stills.

The GH6 is going to be a really great camera and it’s competitively priced. Panasonic has a great line of lenses for the MFT line too, which are high quality and very lightweight. There are tradeoffs, full frame cameras around the same price will get you better image quality, but the GH6 has many of those same cameras beat with its video capabilities and size factor. So, you’ll have to ask yourself what’s more important to you?

 

Matt Meisenheimer

Matt Meisenheimer is a photographer based in Wisconsin.  His artistry revolves around finding unique compositions and exploring locations that few have seen. He strives to capture those brief moments of dramatic light and weather, which make our grand landscapes so special.  Matt loves the process of photography – from planning trips and scouting locations, taking the shot in-field, to post-processing the final image.

Matt is an active adventurer and wildlife enthusiast as well. He graduated with a degree in wildlife ecology and worked in Denali National Park and Mount Rainier National Park as a biologist. He also spent 6 months working in the deserts of Namibia before finding his path in photography. Matt’s passion for the wilderness has taken him to many beautiful places around the world.

As a former university teaching assistant, Matt is passionate about instruction. It is his goal to give his students the technical and creative knowledge they need to achieve their own photographic vision. He truly enjoys working with photographers on a personal level and helping them reach their goals.

You can see Matt’s work and portfolio on his webpage at www.meisphotography.com

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