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New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

Internal ProRes recording, 300fps slow motion, unlimited recording, Vlog and 75fps still shooting are just a few of the new features that make the Lumix GH6 a truly astonishing camera, says Damien Demolder

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

The Lumix GH6 isn’t just a step forward for Lumix cameras, it’s a massive leap for the whole mirrorless camera sector that bridges the gap between handheld cameras and the cameras that inhabit the world of cinema. Its new processing engine operates at such a pace we can now mix high-resolution video with the colour-depth, bit-rates and frame-rates that deliver cinema quality to the hands of videographers who could only dream of such things in the past. And with internal ProRes recording at up to 5.7K we don’t even need an external video recorder to achieve it.

There are so many major new features in the GH6 that I’ve broken them down into video and stills sections, but will deal with the basics first. I intended to make a short list of the highlights that just had to be mentioned up-front, but it actually isn’t very short!

Highlights:

  • New 25.2MP LIVE MOS sensor with no Low-Pass Filter
  • New Venus Engine that’s almost twice the speed
  • Internal Pro Res HQ recording up to 5.7K in 30p
  • C4K 4:2:2 10-bit 60p directly to the memory card
  • Full V-Log as standard
  • 5x slow motion in 4K
  • 12.5x slow motion in FHD
  • Unlimited recording time in all settings
  • 7.5 stops of IBS with any lens
  • Faster AF in 24/25/30p
  • 75fps RAW+JPEG stills
  • Electronic shutter to 60s
  • New firmware to introduce USB-SSD recording
  • £1999.99 body-only
  • £2199.99 with Leica 12-60mm f/2.8-4

The Body

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

The basic body shape of the Lumix GH6 is very much what we would expect, with all the key physical GH characteristics in place. From most angles it has the same design and proportions as the GH5M2 and GH5 before that. On closer inspection though you will note that it has a new slightly more pronounced hand grip, that the body is somewhat thicker and that the ‘pentaprism’ housing is squarer and flatter in the style of the S series bodies.

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

A very exciting new physical feature is the tilt-and-angle rear screen. The whole screen housing can tilt up and away from the body using a hinge at its top. Then a further vari-angle hinge allows the screen to twist and turn in almost any direction. This obviously makes the screen easier to see from a massive range of angles, but it also means the screen can be angled freely without clashing with any cables in the camera’s ports. The design is like that used on the Lumix S1H but without the retaining lock on the tilt action.

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

The reason for the additional thickness of the Lumix GH6 body is that the camera has a built-in fan to ensure the sensor and processor remain cool enough that recording is never interrupted by overheating. The fan is much like that used on the Lumix S1H, and it pulls air into one side of the body and ejects it out the other side.

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

There are a number of user options so we can tailor the way the fan works, but by default it will be on and will run almost silently in the background. We can choose to only have it come on when the camera is getting warm, or we can force it to run in Fast or Slow modes – or switch it off completely.

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

The rear of the camera is as familiar as the top plate and again shows us all the control points we would expect from a Lumix camera. As the menu is the new S-series-style pressing the Q button also brings up the newer Quick Menu, and pressing the AF Area button in the centre of the AF Mode dial offers us the option to add Human detection to almost all the AF area array options. The main difference for the G series is having a dedicated AF On button next to the AF Mode dial.

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

A new function button has appeared on the front of the body tucked away between the grip and the lens. The lower function button is set by default to depth-of-field and shutter speed effect preview, while the new upper one – function button 2 – is set by default to magnify the scene for focus checking. Crucially it is now possible to activate a magnified view during recording to check the accuracy of your auto or manual focusing.

As always these buttons can be reassigned with a long press - there are too many functions to count that can be assigned to each button.

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

SmallRig already has a new cage tailored for the body shape of the Lumix GH6. This is the Black Mamba kit 3441 that comes with additional cable clamps.

With the fan and the larger right hand grip the GH6 is different enough from the GH5 models to need its own accessories. There are no contacts on the base for a grip so we don’t need to worry about whether the older ones will still fit, and it seems a number of cage manufacturers are working on custom cages specifically for this camera.

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

SmallRig will introduce the Black Mamba 3441 kit as shown above, with a new design to wrap around the front of the grip and protect it from drops. The existing XLR Helmet kit won’t fit this new cage, so we shall have to wait and see it the company will bring out a new one.

Apple ProRes to the card

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

Taking a cue from the Lumix S series the GH6 has grown a second red record button that’s positioned ideally for left-handed operation. This additional button gives film makers an extra access point when the top of the camera is cramped with accessories or when the right hand is busy with other tasks.

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

New internal recording formats and codecs will help film makers and videographers retain high quality recording without always having to mount an external recorder, as formats such as Apple ProRes HQ and 422 can now be used directly to the memory card. The ProRes format is available only in the highest resolution settings of the menu system, with 5.7k recording in the C4K 17:9 aspect ratio at 25/30p. As you can see, the data rates of the ProRes options mean they can only be recorded to the CFexpress card slot. However, I have been very pleasantly surprised how easily these very large formats have played and edited on my computer with Blackmagic’s Davinci Resolve.

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

In regular MOV format we have a 5.8k resolution recorded in 4:2:0 10bit at a SD card-friendly 200Mbps. This is a 4:3 aspect ratio option that is really designed for anamorphic shooting, but it can equally be used ‘open gate’ for 4:3 footage that can be used as-is for a retro look or cropped to whatever aspect ratio your project needs. The 5.7k 50p option below it offers users a 17:9 C4K aspect ratio and a data rate of 300Mbps, while the highest 16:9 option in the menu is 4K 4:2:0 10-bit at 100/120p, again with a data rate of 300Mbps.

In the MOV mode there are six pages of codec settings encompassing 34 different combinations, so you’ll be glad to know that to find the options we want we can filter by frame rate, resolution, codec and those that offer variable frame rates for slow motion. Favoured and oft-used settings can also be saved to a personalised list to make them much quicker to access.

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

The first setting in the menu to allow 4:2:2 and 10-bit is an All-Intra codec with C4K resolution and a 50p frame rate. This is a nice step up for best-quality regular video as this is the first time we’ve been able to use a high frame rate – for smooth footage or slow motion – in a C4K/4K 4:2:2 10-bit codec, so it brings more creative potential to these ‘best quality’ settings.

V-Log and Dynamic Range Boost

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

Along with the exceptional dynamic range that comes as standard with a full V-Log Photo Style the GH6 also offers us a Dynamic Range Boost mode that takes the camera’s ability to record very bright and very dark details to an impressive 13 stops. It does this by combining data from low and high ISO images to create an HDR-style image in video. When this mode is activated our ISO range is greatly reduced to between ISO 2000 and 12,800, but the benefit comes in retained highlights and increased shadow detail.

Remarkably the V-Log profile that comes pre-installed with the Lumix GH6 is the same full Log version that is used in the Lumix S series of full frame cameras. That also gives us extra dynamic range to play with and is a step ahead of the usual V-Log L version that the Lumix G cameras have used in the past. Lumix GH6 users will be able to download .vlt LUTs from the Panasonic Varicam LUT library to load to the camera to preview final effects in-camera while shooting. We can also now load the .CUBE LUT files that are usually used in post-production editing/grading software to the camera as well, which is really very convenient.

Slooooow motion and high frame rates

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

High frame rate video is available in resolutions right up to 5.7k where 50fps will give us either smooth motion or 2x slow motion. If you want higher frame rates than that 120fps can be had in C4K and up to 240fps in FHD. All of those settings are listed in the regular high-frame-rate options and all come with sound.

Variable frame rates of up to 300fps in FHD are also available without sound, and remarkably these can give us up to 12.5x slow motion effects. In C4K and 4K the best slow-motion effect via a VFR setting is 5x, in 4:2:0 10-bit.

These high speed frame rates are an indication of the new faster read-out speed of the sensor, so we should also see a significant reduction in the effect of rolling shutter when the camera is moving.

There is a change in AF speed for videographers too, again made possible by the increased processing speed. In the past to get the best from the AF system we needed to be recording in one of the higher frame rates, such as 50/60p. At 25/30p the camera would take half the number of samples and the AF would be much slower. Now in the GH6 video AF in 25/30p is sampled at 50/60p so we always get that better performance. The difference is evident immediately.

Image stabilisation

Panasonic’s leading image stabilisation system plays a key role in the performance of the Lumix GH6 and takes a step forward for those using both Lumix lenses and independent or vintage glass. We have Dual IS ll which combines the efforts of the camera with those of lenses with IS built-in to achieve 7.5 stops of compensation. That is impressive enough, but the same degree of stabilisation can also be achieved with lenses that don’t have any stabilisation built-in, including vintage lenses and modern manual cinema lenses. A new 5-axis gyro sensor along with the new processing power allows not only much smoother handheld footage shot without the aid of a gimbal, but will also enable easier framing with long lenses and the ability to use longer shutter speeds for stills than would otherwise be sensible.

When using the Leica DG Vario-Elmar 100-400mm f/4-6.3 at the long end, for example, without stabilisation a safe shutter speed would be 1/1000sec. With the stabilisation of the GH6 though, we will be able to use shutter speeds as long as 1/6sec. That’s pretty amazing.

4-Channel Audio

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

When used with the DMW-XLR1 the Lumix GH6 can record four channels of audio, and users can decide which they want to monitor at any one time via the camera’s headphone port. It’s possible to monitor each individually, two or all four at the same time.

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

The 3.5mm mic socket can now be used in conjunction with the XLR input via the hotshoe, to add another mic to the XLR mics in use. With a pair of mics attached to the XLR adapter and a pair of wireless mics connected via a receiver in the 3.5mm socket, we can now record four individual channels at the same time directly into the video file.

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

What is also exciting about the audio features of this camera is that in-camera audio can now be recorded in high resolution. Previously we didn’t have a choice about audio quality from the in-camera mics or those attached via the 3.5mm port, but now we can select between 48kHz/24bit and 96kHz/24bit for both the 3.5mm socket feed as well as any XLR mics attached via the DMW-XLR1. In previous G series models the best internal audio quality via the 3.5mm socket was 48kHz/16bit, so this is a significant step up.

Main control zone

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

The main control area of the camera’s top plate has a very familiar look, and offers us all the usual dials and buttons we’d expect in the places we’d expect to find them. There is a slight difference in the way the three WB/ISO/+/- buttons are marked as the slope off to the right is enough to define the exposure compensation button without it having its dome flattened – so it is domed in the same way that the WB button is, and the ISO button has the usual pair of nodules to mark it out in the trio.

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

The new button of course is the audio menu access which takes us to the camera’s audio settings with one press. With this button we can monitor our four channels on a larger screen, adjust gain levels, mute sound, choose our audio quality settings, switch between 2ch and 4ch input, pick realtime/recorded monitoring and decide which channels to monitor. Such direct and quick access allows us to really make the most of this camera’s extraordinary audio capabilities.

Cards and storage

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

One of the keys to the camera’s ability to record high data-rate codecs is its adoption of the CFexpress memory card format. Until now V90 rated SD cards have been more than enough for the data rates of this sort of camera, and in the Lumix GH6 the SD card slot, with the right card, is good for codecs that require up to 600Mbps – which covers us for all the usual settings as well as C4K 4:2:2 10-bit 30p ALL-Intra at 400Mbps. C4K 4:2:2 10-bit All-Intra at 60p however generates 800Mbps, so recordings with these settings need to go to the CFexpress card. In Pro Res all the codecs send out over 1000Mbps, while the 5.7K 422 HQ setting at 30p produces a data rate of 1.9Gbpsm. And that’s the sort of data rate only CFexpress cards can handle at the moment.

Ports

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

The output ports of the Lumix GH6 are pretty significant now and will be more so in the near future. The full size HDMI port can already carry C4K 4:2:2 10-bit in 60p to an external recorder – while the camera simultaneously records the same to the card – but with a future firmware update Panasonic has promised the GH6 will also be able to output 4K 120p as well as C4K at 120p in RAW to an Atomos Ninja V+. That will keep a lot of people very happy for a long time. The camera comes with a cable clamp that screws into the port section to secure the cables during use.

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

Recording directly to an external SSD via USB will become a feature of the Lumix GH6 in the near future

Another excellent option that’s on the way is the ability to record directly to an external SSD via the Lumix GH6’s USB 3.2 Generation 2 USB port. At the moment we don’t know what resolutions will be supported but with a theoretical 10Gbps the port is well capable of tackling anything the GH6 throws at it and portable SSD devices are already on the market that match the standard.

The USB port can also be used to charge the camera’s battery, and of course can be used to connect the camera to a computer for downloading and for remote control via the Lumix Tether software application.

Time Code and Tally Lights

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

As you might expect, the Lumix GH6 offers time code functionality to make synchronising footage and audio from multiple cameras/sources easier in post-production. Via the flash sync socket the camera provides time code in and out, and via the HDMI is provides time code out. A BNC converter cables comes as a standard accessory in the box with the camera.

Next to the flash sync terminal you’ll see one of the camera’s two tally lights that illuminate when video is rolling. The other is positioned on the back just above the memory card door, and both can be set to Low, High and Off.

Safety Zone marker

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

Another new feature for the Lumix cameras that’s been incorporated into the Lumix GH6 is the Safety Zone marker. This is found in the custom display settings menu and gives us a choice of a frame that includes 80%, 90% or 95% of the picture area. The idea of this is to create a buffer zone around the main elements of the picture so that should your video be shown on a screen that doesn’t match the aspect ratio you shot in, important parts of the frame won’t be cut off. TV screens and computer monitors are many different shapes and some will cut off the ends of your image to make the film fill the screen. The Safety Zone Marker displays as a frame within your image area that acts as a guide for your composition. A marker that covers 80% of the frame is the more cautious, while one that covers 95% is a little more risky.

New features for stills photographers

The most obvious new feature for the stills photographer is the increased resolution of the camera’s sensor. Although the jump from 20MP to 25MP isn’t dramatic the 5776x4336-pixel images will print to 19.3in wide at 300ppi instead of 17.3in –so we get an extra 2in on the longest dimension of the print at this best ‘photo-quality’ printing standard. This new sensor dispenses with a low-pass filter too, so we should expect maximum detail for our pixels.

We should also expect an improved AF performance all round if only due to the new Venus Engine processor the Lumix GH6 uses. Running at almost twice the speed of the previous generation it will be able to handle almost twice the sample frequency when searching for and tracking a subject. The uptick is such that lenses from the G system need new firmware for them to be able to make the most of the higher frequency. A number of lenses have already had that firmware made available in the major firmware release last June, and some others will have their firmware made ready in March this year.

75fps high drive

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

Previously only the G9 had a really high drive rate for shooting stills, and the GH series offered more modest burst modes – the GH5M2 for example manages a still impressive 12fps, but it doesn’t quite match the 60fps of the G9. The GH6 however, has a maximum burst rate of 75fps which it can maintain for up to 200 RAW+JPEG frames. There are three Super High modes: SH75, SH60 and SH20, all of which use electronic shutter and have a burst depth of 200 images. In mechanical shutter mode the top frame rate is very respectable 14fps, with M and L options of 6fps and 2fps. These modes have a burst depth of 40 RAW+JPEG, 65 RAW or 95 JPEG files.

100MP High Resolution mode

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

We’ve seen High Resolution mode before of course, but in the Lumix GH6 our 25MP sensor means we can come away with 100MP images. What’s more though is that these can be shot handheld, so there’s no absolute requirement for a tripod. If 100MP is more than you need a lower 50.5MP option is available. Files can be saved in RAW and/or JPEG formats, and another option simply matches the file type to that the user has selected for regular photos.

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

The High Resolution mode can be accessed via the main stills photography menu, but also has a dedicated access point on the drive dial on the left of the camera’s top plate. We haven’t seen the High Resolution mode on an external mode dial before so this is perhaps an indication, along with the high frame rate settings, that Panasonic see’s the GH6 as a true hybrid stills/video camera.

You can also see in this picture that the GH6 has a Lock Lever like the bigger S series cameras. This allows the user to set up the camera the way they need for a session or a particular shot, and then lock up to 21 of the camera’s external buttons and dials to prevent accidental settings shift.

The viewfinder is an OLED type with a resolution of 3.68 million dots and a maximum refresh rate of 60fps, while the 3in rear screen has a resolution of 1.84 million dots.

We have an increased the range of shutter speeds available in electronic shutter mode, which is great news. We can now use electronic shutter for openings as long as 60 seconds – as is the case with the GH5M2. The shortest shutter speed is 1/32,000sec in electronic mode and 1/8000sec in mechanical shutter mode. Long exposures in mechanical mode can be measured to 60 seconds but the bulb mode allows a maximum of 30 minutes. Electronic first curtain mode gives us 60-1/2000sec with a 30 minute bulb option. As before, our maximum flash sync speed is 1/250sec, and Panasonic says the mechanical shutter is good for at least 200,000 actuations.

Power

New processor and 24MP sensor super-power the Lumix GH6

The Lumix GH6 uses the same DMW-BLK22 battery as the Lumix S5, but unlike the Lumix S5 it can also run on the DMW-BLF19E that the other GH and G models use. With a capacity of 2200mAh the newer battery is somewhat more powerful that the older model, so when the older model is used resolution settings beyond C4K and frame rates beyond 50p are not available – so the older batteries are quite usable for most functions.

As has already been mentioned, the camera’s battery can be charged via the USB port.

Future firmware

Panasonic has already said that firmware is coming that adds some extra features to the GH6. We aren’t sure when this will arrive yet, but the firmware will include:

  • Cinema 4K ProRes 422 HQ / ProRes 422
  • FHD ProRes 422 HQ / ProRes 422
  • USB-SSD direct recording
  • 4K 120p HDMI Video output during Live View
  • Cinema 4K 120p HDMI RAW Video Data Output to ATOMOS Ninja V+

New firmware will be released in March for the Leica 12mm, 15mm and 42.5mm lenses which will enable them to keep up with their focusing whilst using the new fast frame rates.

Lumix Experience Facebook Group

If you have any questions on this piece, or any other, join the Lumix Experience Facebook Group where you’ll find other Lumix users and Lumix experts who will be delighted to help.

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