Panasonic GH5: New Firmware Unlocks 6K Ultra High Definition Video

Panasonic GH5By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

“I’m hearing that coming later this year, there will be software updates for high resolution anamorphic video and 4K HDR capture modes. This leaves me to wonder if there’s more to the GH5 than meets the eye, and who knows just how far the GH5 can go? Could a firmware update push the video to 6K?” That’s what I said during NAB when Panasonic announced their latest Micro Four Thirds 4K camera. And now, it’s here, and I was right. 6K on the Panasonic GH5 is coming in late September.

GH5 resolutions

Image: Videomaker

Coming at the end of September, the GH5 firmware update will upgrade the anamorphic video recording mode to squeeze out every pixel from the GH5’s 6K image sensor. When it was originally released, the camera could shoot 6K still images, but was downscaled for 4K video. So the real estate was there, but it just needed a push.

Strictly speaking, while Panasonic calls it 6K, it’s more like 5K-plus with a 4992 x 3744 anamorphic resolution using Long GOP at 200 Mbps and 4:2:2 10-bit color. Pretty nice even if it does fall short of true 6K’s 6144 x 3160 resolution, it’s definitely a start. The 6K video result is also achievable in 25p PAL and CINEMA modes.

Panasonic also added Hybrid Log Gamma to the photo styles menu, which will be able to boost 4K into HDR. According to Panasonic, in this mode the GH5 records simultaneously in both SDR and HDR, and then merges it into a single video file that highlights detail in both light and shadow, if you’re viewing it on an SDR screen.

4K imaging is also standard at 400 Mbps using ALL-Intra file compression. The update also finally addresses issues in the GH5’s autofocus, which had trouble in low contrast lighting conditions, and now the autofocus is more reliable. Other improvements in the update include faster still image performance in 6K and 4K modes, better image stabilization, and more accurate white balancing. On top of that, Panasonic has improved the power save LVF function when in standby mode, improving battery life.

Here’s a complete list of fixes in the update:

  1. Compatibility with “LUMIX Tether” PC software
    This new firmware enables GH5 tethered shooting via USB, using “LUMIX Tether” PC software. Users can control the camera by connecting it to a PC via USB. It lets you view the image on a large PC screen while shooting, which is helpful in commercial photoshoots of portraits, products and so on, where continuous confirmation is required. You can use [6K PHOTO] [4K PHOTO] and start and stop video recording with the tethered shooting. It is also possible to choose the folder to save the image files in the PC.
  2. Improved auto focus performance
    -Auto focus performance for subjects with low contrast in photo shooting is improved.
    -Tracking auto focus performance in video recording is improved.
    -The customized AF area can be continuously displayed in [Multi AF] and [Custom Multi AF] during live-view.
    -The AF area in [Multi AF] can be moved to the other edge (side, top or bottom) when it reaches one edge.
    -The start point of AF lock can be set on the live view screen in advance in [AF Tracking].
    -The AF area can be moved while the shutter button is half-pressed or while recording in [Burst Mode], [6K PHOTO] and [4K PHOTO].
  3. Improved performance in [6K PHOTO] and [4K PHOTO]
    -The waiting time to start the next burst shooting sequence after [6K Burst] and [4K Burst] is shortened to less than half the time.
    -[Loop Rec] is available in [6K PHOTO]
    •Use of Panasonic SD Memory Card with Video Speed Class 90 is recommended for [Loop Rec] of [6K PHOTO].
  4. An additional ALL-Intra Video Recording mode
    -4:2:2,10-bit ALL-Intra video recording mode is added to 4K/FHD video recording.
    •Use of SD Memory Card with Video Speed Class 60 or higher is recommended for 4K ALL-Intra video recording. Operation is confirmed with Panasonic SD Memory Card with Video Speed Class 90.  New 4:2:2,10-bit ALL-Intra Recording Mode
  5. 4K HDR video recording -[HLG] (Hybrid Log Gamma) is added to [Photo Style]. HDR (High Dynamic Range) is a mode to reproduce both bright part and dark part in an image, making it look just as human eyes see. The camera records video with a designated gamma curve compatible with ITU-R BT.2100, and you can now choose Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) in [Photo Style].
    -A low-bit-rate recording mode 4K HEVC for HLG was added. This enables playback on AV equipment compatible with the HEVC compression format, such as Panasonic 4K HDR TVs.
  6. Enhancement of the Anamorphic video recording mode -High-Resolution Anamorphic mode, which enables video recording in 18-mega effective pixels, is added. *Recorded in HEVC
    New High-Resolution Anamorphic Mode

*1 “High Resolution Anamorphic Mode” records motion picture with an aspect ratio suited for an anamorphic lens,4:3. The effective picture size
for this mode is equivalent to the number of pixels produced by 6K (approx. 6,000 (horizontal)k3,000 (vertical)) images (approx. 18 megapixels).

*2 High resolution Anamorphic mode

-[Anamorphic Desqueeze Display] was added, which lets you view an enlarged image in Cinescope size while recording with 2.0x and 1.33x Anamorphic lens.

-[Video Guide Line] is added to display the image in a variety of aspects, such as Cinescope, 16:9 and 1:1 while recording video. This can be used not only in Anamorphic mode but also in other video recording mode.

7. Enhancement of Body I.S. (Image Stabilizer)
-[I.S. Lock(video)] is added. This powerfully compensates for handshake when the viewing angle is fixed.
-A new handshake correction mode is added, which provides optimum correction when using 2.0x and 1.33x Anamorphic lens.

8. Correction of white balance setting
-When the K (Kelvin) value was changed after adjusting the color temperature with 2-axis white balance compensation, the setting was reset. This bug has been fixed.

9. Improved usability of Time Lapse Shot
-The time to finish shooting and the number of recordable pictures are displayed on the stand-by screen.

10. Improved usability of Power Save LVF
-Power Save LVF can now be used during all stand-by display options.

11. Wireless functions
-The Bluetooth Remote Control function can be used with Image App, which will also be updated at the same timing with the GH5 firmware release.
-If the camera has not completed image transmission when it is turned off, it restarts transmission when it is turned on with the [Auto Transfer] function.

12. Other improvements
-A rating function using an Fn button is available in Playback Zoom and Multi Playback.
-The following functions can be assigned to Fn buttons – [Constant Preview] [6K/4K PHOTO Bulk Saving] [Min. Shtr Speed] [RAW Processing] [Rec/Playback Switch] [Destination Slot] and [Mic Level Adj.].
-The DISP.Button can be locked.
-In Relay Rec, there were cases where the video file number was not able to be reset. This bug has been fixed.
-In Relay Rec, there were cases where the video file number was reset after formatting the SD Memory Card. This bug has been fixed.
-In Backup Rec, there were cases where the file number was not reset even after applying resetting. This bug has been fixed.
-The image quality when applying the following settings is improved: Extended low ISO, [i.Dynamic] (Intelligent D-range Control) and Highlight Shadow.

Now granted, these improvements are not strictly speaking 6k, it does prove that there’s a lot more to Panasonic’s image sensor that meets the eye. I also think that it could probably be pushed even further if Panasonic had the mind, at least to crossing the 6K finish line. But what if it could even take us to 8k? Probably not, without some seriously hackery of the firmware code.

But you can bet that Panasonic has it’s eye on 8K, and a GH6 is probably just over the horizon. Meanwhile, I think it’s safe to say that this puts Panasonic back at the top of the Prosumer pyramid, leaving everyone else to play catch up.

Look for the free firmware update to be released at the end of the month.

Hat Tip: Videomaker

About James DeRuvo

James has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. A writer about the technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James is also an award winning film director, having garnered a Telly Award for his short film Searching for Inspiration. He's also worked as a producer of many talk radio programs in Los Angeles with topics ranging from entertainment to travel to technology.