In my last Panasonic Lumix S5 II review – the full frame camera scored the maximum 5 star rating – I particularly praised its video features, which are second to none in the sub $2000 / £2000 price range. We already knew that the next version of the camera is in the works, and the S5 IIX – which boasts even more advanced video capabilities – has just been officially announced.
I described the S5 II as the first video camera, the second camera and its main rival, Sony A7IV photo first, then video (which costs an extra 20%). But while the S5 II has an all-around advantage when it comes to video, the Sony A7 IV has some advantages over it when it comes to video quality.
The two camera brands have previously taken different approaches when it comes to video quality. In a duel between the S5 II and A7 IV, the S5 II offers uncropped 6K/30p video with 10-bit MOV recording, LONG GOP compression and 200Mbps bit rate, while the A7 IV has a lower 4K resolution in 16:9 but excellent ALL-Intra (ALL-I) compression and 600 Mb/s bit rate. Not an easy choice then – but now the S5 IIX is stepping in.
When further details of the S5 IIX were revealed on May 9, everything changed. The supercharged version of the S5 II outperforms the Sony A7 IV in all aspects of video quality and ranks among the best mirrorless cameraespecially the video.
The decision for video makers just got a lot clearer – but who needs the S5 IIX the most? I’ve spent quite a bit of hands-on time with the S5 II and S5 IIX simultaneously, and here’s what I think.
We highlighted how the S5II and S5 IIX fit together in ours Explaining the key differences between the Panasonic S5 II and S5 IIX models article and at first glance not much has changed in the S5 IIX. The camera bodies are identical except for the later model which has greyed out controls and black markings. It looks super sleek, but practically it’s a confusing design choice – when I first held the camera, I had a hard time making out the controls in the dim lighting of the launch site.
Even the video specs look largely similar: uncropped 60K/30p video from the full 3:2 matrix aspect ratio, 4K/60p video with Super 35 crop (APS-C) and Panasonic’s new phase-detection autofocus, well implemented. But it is in these areas that the Sony A7 IV has an advantage over the S5 II – better compression and bitrate – where the S5 IIX took it to new heights and tied the score.
Picture 1 With 3
Recording to an external SSD via the USB-C port is now possible on the S5 IIX in addition to an SD memory card, and I paired the camera with a SanDisk Extreme SSD offering data transfer rates of up to 1050MB/s. With this setup, there’s a wide range of enhanced video qualities available – too many to list here, but the highlights include Apple ProRes raw, with 422 HQ 5.8K, which delivers an impressive 1.6Gbps bit rate. This blows away the MOV S5 II format, LONG GOP compression and a maximum bit rate of 200Mbps.
Even direct to SD card, the S5 IIX can now record in ALL-I compression and matches the 600Mbps bit rate of the A7 IV. You can boost the ALL-I transfer speed up to 800Mbps with SSD enabled. It’s also possible to shoot Blackmagic raw (BRAW) while the S5 IIX is connected to an external monitor like the Atomos Ninja V – serious filmmakers need not tell you how exciting this is.
So not only can the S5 IIX record video at a better 6K resolution than the A7 IV’s 4K, but it can also record internal ProRes raw to an SSD, external BRAW to a monitor, and offers ALL-I compression at the same bit rate on an SD card. There is only one winner here.
Who is the S5 IIX for?
For the video productions I make, I’d prefer to shoot using the S5 II’s LONG GOP compression. Its 10-bit 6K/30p 420 420 video looks super sharp, and Panasonic’s color technology is a great starting point for simple gradation. In addition, the bit rate of 200 Mbps allows you to create files of reasonable size, even for high-definition 6K video.
I don’t really need the S5 IIX’s extra bitrate, and practically speaking, its ProRes raw and ALL-I files eat up hard drive space super fast and require a top-end PC for processing. But you can take this format or leave it – all the same S5 II video recording modes are available here in the S5 IIX. I worked for clients who absolutely required higher video quality, for whom I usually rented the necessary equipment.
And for all that extra edge, the S5 IIX is only a moderate extra expense over the S5 II, and actually cheaper than the A7 IV, as you can see in the table below comparing the prices of the three cameras. Panasonic has also announced price cuts on several full-frame lenses, putting more pressure on Sony and other companies.
For those who already own an S5 II, the V2.0 firmware was also announced on May 9, which also enables ProRes raw video output and recording to SSD, albeit via a paid DMW-SFU2 dongle which costs $300 / £200 / AU$300 USD. In addition, there is still no official word on the additional features of the S5 IIX over the S5 II with the paid key DMW-SFU2.
If I was buying a Panasonic from scratch, I would definitely choose the S5 IIX over the S5 II. In fact, I can’t think of a reasonable reason to choose the former, and I’ve updated our S5 II review to reflect this development. We have a new video king in town.
|Panasonic Lumix S5 II||$1,999 / £1,999 / from AU$3,000|
|Panasonic Lumix S5 IIX||$2199 / £2299 / from AU$3300|
|Sony A7IV||$2,499 / £2,400 / from AU$4,000|