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Panasonic GH5S hits new lows at CES 2018 -- and that's good

By dropping back to a lower-resolution sensor, Panasonic promises to dramatically increase its low-light sensitivity.

gh5s-body-slant-k

The GH5S uses the same body as the GH5, but adds some snazzy  red accents so you can tell the difference.

Panasonic

While the size-to-capability balance of Micro Four Thirds cameras really can't be beat, the smaller-than-APS-C-size sensors can be a drag in low light. 

With Sony's full-frame, low-light-champion A7S II as competition, Panasonic took a necessary step backward. It created a 10.2-megapixel Four Thirds sensor for the Lumix GH5S, about half the resolution of the 20MP version in the GH5 in order to increase the low-light sensitivity to a native ISO 51,200 -- only a stop short of the larger sensor in the Sony. It also allows the camera to support 14-bit raw stills, something that's been lacking in Micro Four Thirds models as well, which have been stuck at 12-bit for a while.

One way Panasonic has decreased low-light noise is with something called Dual Native ISO Technology. If I understand it correctly, it creates a bimodal noise distribution (around ISO 400 and ISO 2500) to reduce the ranges across which it has to apply noise suppression. 

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Panasonic also upped the camera's top recording capability to Cinema 4K/30p and 60p, with 10-bit 4:2:2 internal recording in 30p and 4:2:0 8-bit in 60p. Unlike the GH5, the GH5S will come with the V-LogL and Rec. 709 lookup tables built in rather than as an extra cost option.

However, you do pay for the privilege. At $2,500, it's going to be about $500 more than the GH5 when it ships in February. (Directly converted that's about £1,845 or AU$3,190.)

Of course, it carries over the features of the GH5, such as Hybrid-Log Gamma support and variable frame rate recording, which allows for fast and slow motion. Welcome new capabilities include:

  • Improved low-light autofocus sensitivity, down to -5 EV
  • Similar continuous-shooting speed as the Lumix G9
  • A multi-aspect ratio sensor, so you won't be constantly changing the field of view as you flip between 16:9, 4:3 and other lenses
  • Time code in/out for syncing footing from multiple cameras

PC preview: What to expect from laptops, desktops and tablets at CES this year.

CES 2018: CNET's complete coverage of tech's biggest show.