Very Quick Thoughts On The New GH6 From Panasonic

Very Quick Thoughts On The New GH6 From Panasonic

(I’ll also talk a little about the new Olympus Camera…)

You might know that I am a former Olympus Visionary. I was an Olympus Visionary for nearly five years and resigned that position last Fall. You may correctly assume I am most familiar with Olympus’ Micro Four Thirds cameras and lenses. However, there are times I have tested or used Lumix gear, almost exclusively for video.

Sample GH6 image – ISO 2500 – no noise reduction applied in post

Panasonic sent me one of the GH6 bodies and a few lenses to test before the camera hit the streets. I had zero expectations, but wanted to explore it and see how it would handle a real-world situation. I took it with me on an eagle-photography-video expedition last month to Alaska and put it through its paces. I got some great results and think it’s a winner. But there’s more to it than that.

Right off the bat I want to say that I don’t think I have had enough time with the camera to formulate a hard and fast opinion about it. I have had enough time with it to have a pretty good idea of its strengths and weaknesses.

I will mention that lots of people have contacted me to ask my opinion of the new OM SYSTEM OM-1 Mirrorless Camera. Since I resigned my status as a Visionary, I have no access to that camera and wasn’t asked to test it. (Ironically Panasonic – whom I never represented as an ambassador did ask me to test the GH6.) I did get a chance to play with the OM SYSTEM OM-1 Mirrorless Camera for a few minutes thanks to my friend Jeff – who let me check his out. But it wasn’t enough time to do a review.

Sample GH6 image

In the past, my position on Olympus v. Panasonic has been – Olympus for stills and Panasonic for video. While the two have continued to move closer and closer to each other over the past five years, I’d say that is still the way it comes down for me.

The GH6 is particularly impressive as a video camera. I have been using Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 6K Pro bodies for the last six months and compared to that camera, the Panasonic has several advantages.

  • It’s smaller and lighter
  • It has real autofocus (the Blackmagic says it has AF but it really doesn’t do much more than get you close)
  • The Panasonic has amazing image stabilization – some of the best I have ever tested
  • The Panasonic and the Blackmagic are close at high ISO but the Panasonic is easily the best camera I have ever tested or used at ISO 2500. It is simply amazing. In fact, it performs better at ISO 2500 than it does ISO 800.
  • It works with a wider variety of lenses both from a focal length and affordability point-of-view
  • It’s $300 less expensive (although that’s not much of a difference)

Sample GH6 Video

The Blackmagic is 6K and the Panasonic 5.7K. That is a small distinction but it might be enough to hurt the Panasonic when it comes to professional productions. Lots of companies have demanded 6K lately and unfortunately, I don’t see them being flexible enough to consider 5.7K close enough. I could be wrong.

One big advantage the Blackmagic has over the Panasonic is built-in, optical ND filters. If you aren’t a video person this won’t mean anything to you. But to video people, it’s huge. We basically set our exposure using ND filters because our shutter speed (angle) is usually fixed and if we want a nice, pleasing bokeh, we shoot wide open which means on a sunny day we need to knock down the light – even at low ISOs. So ND filters are critical. I got very used to having built-in ND filters on the Blackmagic and it was a bit of a hassle to have to fix twist-on NDs to the Panasonic. Had Panasonic included built-in ND filters with this camera, it would have been a category killer (IMO.)

Sample GH6 image

As a stills camera, the Panasonic really shines in almost every area but one – autofocus. For whatever reason, Panasonic is still using contrast-based autofocus. And I will say that it works much better than I thought it would. But the real problem for me was the difference in keeper rate compared with my old Olympus cameras. For birds-in-flight (something I do regularly) the contrast-based AF is just not fast enough. My keeper rate was around 35% on the Panasonic compared to 85% on my OM-D E-M1 MK II – and I assume, based on my quick look at the new OM-1 that the keeper rate with that camera would be closer to 95%.

The OM-1 has the best AF I’ve seen on almost any mirrorless camera (I will get hate mail from Sony users here but with the exception of the A-1, I have not seen AF that comes close to matching the OM-1.)

As for the specs on the OM-1, well they really did boost up the video specs quite a lot but they lag behind the Panasonic and also don’t offer the specs required for professional production.

This is just a quick little post to share my initial opinions. Since I am concentrating mostly on video these days, I wouldn’t buy an OM-1 but if I just needed a stills camera, it would be my first choice. The GH6 would be my choice amongst M43 for video. I still cannot get over how clean files were at ISO 2500. I mean seriously – it blew my mind.

The good news is that despite the fact that nearly ALL cameras have been great for a long time, camera manufacturers are continuing to pursue even greater products. It’s a wonderful time to be a photographer or a videographer.

You cannot go wrong with either camera IF – it meets your needs, i.e., stills v. video. The GH6 is far better than the GH5 and the GH5 was no dog. The OM-1 is not FAR better than the camera it replaces but it’s certainly better enough that I’d upgrade if I were still an Olympus man.

Sample GH6 image – ISO 2500 – no noise reduction applied in post


My advice to people looking to buy a new camera is pretty consistent. Stay off the camera forums – you will run into more disinformation than information there and the fanboys will say anything they need to in order to justify their choice of camera. Most of them are in desperate and constant need for confirmation bias. The best way to decide if a camera is right for you, is to rent or borrow one for several days and use it the way YOU normally use your camera. This will give you a much better idea as to which (if either) you need.

The gear is all great and if you can afford it and want it, I say buy it. Just remember that while gear is good, vision is better.

3 Responses

  1. Good and helpful article. Your conclusion especially had wise words. Thank you! I have a “busy as I want” creative agency and in our video area, I’ve done wonders (and made plenty of money) from my trusty Canon 70D. I’m a “pro” only because I have ideas and vision that “sells” but I’m not a true cinematographer. More of a hack that captures what I want! Even so, I’m years overdue in an upgrade. Well-earned. But there are so many amazing choices today. I want something primarily for video/film-look, efficient and unleashes my creative vision in a fast, down-and-dirty and “few limits” way. I need great tools. Been looking at GH5 (and iterations), Gh6, BMP4/6k, the Canon 80D and C series, and a few others. I’m thinking the GH6 checks all the boxes and then some. Any other advice, please share.

    1. Thanks Michael. I own the BMP6K Pro – it’s great but no autofocus and big and bulky – Used the 80C and didn’t care for it. The GH6 AF can’t compete with the Olympus but it’s better than ever and if you’re not doing birds, it’s more than good enough. I found the footage from it to be beautiful. Of course a lot of that has to do with what lens you use. If I wanted a hybrid video/photo camera that was small and lightweight I’d go GH6 in a heartbeat over the BMP or Canon. My two cents.

      1. Good enough for me. I’ll pull the trigger on the GH6 as I’m really not sure what else I’m waiting for! Thanks again! 🙂

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