A head-to-head comparison between the Panasonic GH5 (on the left) and the Panasonic G85 (on the right).

First off, let me give you a bit of history on why I have two Panasonics on my kitchen table. I got the G85 mainly to shoot video and to have a smaller auto-focus camera for the times I needed one of those. (I’m going to ignore the topic of “needing” auto-focus and leave that for another post) This was replacing a Sony video camera that has a far smaller sensor so I could get better isolation of the subject when I’m filming. The Sony has a 0.28″ sensor while the Panasonic (and all micro 4/3 cameras) have a 0.85″ sensor.

It works well for video. I was shooting in 4K.

I also took it on my trip a couple of months ago. Even though it’s “only” 16-megapixels I’ve printed a crop of a shot at 12×16″ and I’m at a loss to see any pixelation. The resolution is more than adequate.

This begs the question: why did I get a GH5?

First off, while I just said that 16MP is good enough the GH5 has a 20MP sensor that seems to be better and lower noise.

GH5 Zoom

 

G85 Zoom

Both of these were taken with the same lens in the same conditions. (I was focusing on something in the foreground which is why things are blurry) In both of these, I cranked the hell out of the contract and zoomed in 8x to get a better look at the noise. I also turned off all noise reduction.

Both have noise, but the GH5’s noise seems to be a bit less intrusive.

There are big improvements on the video front for the GH5 as well. The biggest one is that you can shoot in 10-bit vlog format to get a better source dynamic range for easier post-production flexibility. You can also get an adapter that allows you to natively record balanced audio (from XLR jacks) for an overall less noisy sound. Another advantage is that you get to use the entire sensor as opposed to the G85 which, when recording in 4K, crops it a bit. While I’m not using it, you also have access to a full-size HDMI jack for external monitoring and recording. Coming later this summer will be a firmware update that should bring 400 Mbps recording if you’re into that sort of thing.

From an overall usability perspective, you have a better viewfinder on the GH5, 3.68mp vs 2.36mp on the G85. The rear screen is also a bit bigger and far higher resolution as well. 3.2” 1.62mp on the GH5 compared to 3.0” 1.04mp on the G85. The added pixels serve both to have an easier time in shooting because you see what you’re shooting better.

The added resolution allowed for a redesigned menu system as well with more information on screen at once:

GH5 rear display and menu

G85 rear display and menu

Both have an articulating touch screen and they do work nicely.

A feature that I really grew to like on the GH5 was the addition of the wheel around the directional pad. It makes for better accessibility of some of the shooting modes — like better being able to select the size of the auto-focus region for instance.

For mission-critical tasks the GH5 has dual SDCard slots and has the ability to record everything to both. In the unlikely occurance of a memory card failure (it’s happened to me once in 20 years) you’ll have a built-in backup. If you’re shooting something like a wedding, I would definitely use that feature since I couldn’t afford to re-stage a wedding for my clients.

Both cameras are weather sealed. The GH5 has a magnesium body to add to its strength. The downside is that it also adds to its weight.

The responsiveness of the GH5 is better and it seems to focus a tiny bit faster. The shutter also seems to have more heft — which isn’t that surprising since the maximum shutter speed is faster at 1/8000 instead of 1/4000. Both cameras have electronic shutters that can get to 1/16,000.

The G85 has a pop-up flash that the GH5 lacks.

The rest of the features are mostly the same between the cameras. I’m ignoring things like “added AF points” (software) or 6K burst mode. I’m sure it’s useful for someone, but it’s not something that I think I’ll wind up using. Both have focus stacking features. Both have great in-body image stabilization. Both are good cameras.

So, that’s basically the differences. The GH5 runs $1899 on Amazon as I’m writing this, and the G85 with a kit lens weighs in at $999.

If you’re starting out I would likely steer you towards the G85. You get a lot of bang for your buck with that camera. If have more serious stuff going on, especially if you’re doing video, the GH5 would likely serve you a lot better.