Many of us have stopped paying attention to the competing statements from Panasonic’s Kremlin on whether or not they were going to get around to using the autofocus technology that made all the other camera maker’s cameras have great autofocus. But with our gazes averted, they went and actually did the one thing that could make their autofocus acceptable to a majority of pro camera users: they adopted phase-detect AF. It happens to come out with the first revision of their popular video-centric-ish S5, with the Mark II impressing reviewers all around.
Yes, the camera is pretty excellent in general, provided you’re fine with 24 megapixels and don’t mind the autofocus tapping out in super-slo-mo. Subject detection, autofocus, color science, video clarity, image quality, and pretty much all the other biggies are as good or better than the Canon (better than) and Sony (as good) equivalents.
And the camera was released at $2,000, 20 percent below the price of the Canon and Sony competition.
To be clear, there are many legacy Panasonic shooters who don’t mind the Depth from Defocus (DFD) autofocus with which they were stuck. It should be said that there was a particular set of use cases for which Panasonic designed perhaps the absolute worst alternative. Their DFD system literally wobbled the focus in and out in order to help calculate the best focus. If it was faster than your shutter finger, that’s fine for a stills shooter, but if you’ve been recording video the whole time it’s racking focus you might pull out your hair. Somehow, with an enormous small-sensor army of Micro Four Thirds shooters coming from the GH5 days, this managed to become normal and tolerable in some circles. Specifically the circle of camera market share that is less than 4.5 percent of the market now.
But now, with the S5 II, things start to be tempting. Presumably, refreshes will flow through the lineups to provide phase detect autofocus to the next version of the flagship photography body, and the more serious video mirrorless bodies. Once that happens, a pro can envision using the entire suite. While Panasonic’s lens range is quite a bit smaller than most other first party systems, Sigma provides more than enough quality, value and focal length diversity – perhaps aside from the bright telephoto range.