Home News Panasonic’s Lumix S5 kit: The Lightweight L-Mount alternative

Panasonic’s Lumix S5 kit: The Lightweight L-Mount alternative

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Better late than never. For some reason, the Panasonic S5 kit I ordered in September has just arrived at Macfilos Towers, at least a month late. Some readers, including contributor Narain Jashanmal, have had theirs for several weeks.

Since today is the start of the second national Lockdown in England, I dashed up to Milton Keynes yin advance to take delivery of the Panasonic from John Murphy, the manager of Wex Photographic’s new store in the Central Shopping area. This is a spacious store and one where you can actually park very easily. I didn’t have to pay to park, of course, because I was able to hook up Oskar the I-Pace to a convenient charging point outside the store. The joys of electric motoring…

Positive

First impressions of the S5 are very positive. And the small and light 20-60 S (at 350g) shows a great deal of promise, at least in the choice of focal-length range.

After five years using 28 mm on the Q and Q2, I’m more than ever comfortable with wider lenses. I always had a soft spot for the 28 mm Elmarit-M as an everyday lens. But 24mm is now taking over as the starting point for standard zooms (as with Panasonic’s impressive but inexpensive 24-105 mm zoom) and having an even wider 20mm at your disposal is now a bonus.

The 20-60 range is unusual (not sure if it is unique but no doubt someone will know) and I hope to find it very useful. My old friend Don Morley bought the Panasonic 20-60mm and has been delighted with it, particularly when twinned with the Leica CL where the focal length range moves up from 20-60 to 30-90. It’s not the fastest of zooms, ranging from f/3.5 to f/5.6, but that’s an acceptable tradeoff for size and weight.

The S5 is everything I had hoped for in terms of size and weight. Even with the (kit) 20-60 lens attached, the rig weighs just over a kilogram. The body alone tips the scales at 714g.

Dynamic range is impressive

Unlike the majority of modern mirrorless cameras, the S5 adopts a more traditional approach, foregoing the favoured top-plate function screen and a minimal of soft controls in favour of compact dimensions and intuitive direct control operation.

Indeed, I already love that control layout, and I expect to find it very easy to get used to. I particularly like the ability to reverse the screen, something I have always enjoyed on Panasonic’s micro four-thirds bodies.

In fact, talking about MFT, this camera feels more like, say, the Panasonic G9 in use. It’s little more than 50g heavier and is of very similar size. It’s only the extra weight of full-frame lenses you have to worry about. And even that is becoming less of a problem as more lightweight primes (not to mention this 20-60 zoom) are being introduced.

Check out the Macfilos L-Mount Lens Database here

So far the S5 hasn’t had a serious outing, except for a couple of test shots, but I’m looking forward to using it over the winter, comparing it with the more bulky full-frame offerings from both Panasonic and Leica. One thing I do know, the S5 with that 20-60 lens is more likely to be picked up and carried around all day than the heavier opposition.

The only major drawbacks of this camera are the relatively low-resolution viewfinder (but it’s actually quite good) and the “old” 24MP sensor when everyone else is edging to 50MP and over. Many photographers, however, don’t worry about this and can actually make a virtue out of fewer pixels in return for reduced storage needs.

But watch this space. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find a 47MP version of the S5 coming within the next twelve months. Physically there’s nothing to stop this, provided heat considerations in the smaller body can be dealt with.

More on the Panasonic S5

10 COMMENTS

  1. Hope I have not mislead you Mike as I have not used the Panasonic 20-60mm lens on my CL at all, however this wonderful little lens has become a permanent fixture on my full frame Leica SL on which I just love it. Anyway I sincerely hope you will be at least as impressed with your 20-60 as i continue to be, and please do try it on tour SL2 ASAP as I think you will be rather surprised at just how good this decidedly cheap yet versatile little lens truly is. Best regards, Don

  2. Hi Mike – I’ve been using the 20-60 on the SL2 for months and it hardly comes off except for when I spy birds on the river when it’s the 55-135 TL

    • Thanks, Tony. I get such good reports of this lens from many quarter that I’m very much looking forward to trying it out. I also have the bulky Sigma 100-400 to try out, so interesting times ahead.

  3. Look forward to reading your review of the Sigma 100-400mm Mike. I acquired the Panasonic S1R a few months ago and very impressed with its capabilities; cannot justify the S5 as well.

    • Thanks, Dunk. As you will remember, I had the S1 when it first appeared and I was extremely happy with it. I imagine I would have been even happier with the S1R. The change to the SL2 was really so I could write knowledgeably about both Leica’s and Panasonic’s L-mount cameras. The S5 is something exciting, I think, because (in common with some other full-frame products from other manufacturers) it offers a real alternative to APS-C and, even, MFT. The market place is certainly an interesting one at the moment.

  4. Mike, you got it at last!

    My time and experiences with the S5 were brief. The opportunity to get a nearly new Q2 at a good price presented itself – it had been my plan for some time to get one if and when I had the chance, so I took it, trading in my Sony RX1R II, S5, TL2 and a few other bits and pieces. Leaving me with the Q2 and SL2 (with a few lenses). The Q2 is pretty incredible and a perfect partner to the SL2.

    Back to the S5 – while definitely smaller than the SL2, in practical terms didn’t really feel much lighter. I had the body only, so never had the chance to use it with the 20-60mm lens. I primarily used it with the 24-105mm f/4 Panasonic and the 45mm f/2.8 Sigma, it pair nicely with both, especially the latter and the Dual OIS with the former was a nice bonus. I never warmed up to the Sigma 45mm other than it’s size and weight, it was OK on the SL and CL but I wasn’t a fan of the images I captured with it on the SL2 or the S5 (it went towards the Q2 as well).

    The cameras I would most directly compare the S5 with, and which I’ve personally used, are the Nikon Z6 and Sony A9 II, granted the latter is a much more expensive camera with a significantly more advanced sensor.

    Agree with Mike that the S5’s ergonomics are great. Panasonic’s menus are probably second to Leica (Nikon is close, Sony still leaves much to be desired) and it is nice to have so many buttons to assign functions to. The quick menu fully configurable and works nicely with both touch screen and dials.

    AF on the S5, including C and subject recognition/tracking is fast and accurate. The visual feedback about subject tracking and eye detection traffic in both the EVF and on screen is much more detailed and actionable than what Leica offers but performance is not on par with the Sony A9 II (but then what is) and probably about the same as the Nikon Z6 with firmware from early this year (I don’t have the Z6 anymore so haven’t tested the latest firmware). Battery life is also on par with the Nikon, but way behind the Sony.

    Ultimately, for me, consolidating down to the Q2 and SL2 was something I’d planned for a while, it just happened soon than I expected and that pair is for my use cases a efficient and effective.

    By itself the S5 is a great way into the L-mount – it is essentially a more compact S1 (the size/weight of which was the main knock against it) and if you were going to have only one camera body, or are looking to add a full frame companion to a APS-C body (CL or T/TL) and are happy with 24MP, it’s a great choice. If I didn’t already have the SL2, I would’ve been very happy with the combination of the TL2 and S5.

    My biggest gripe was that, as of 3 weeks ago (this may have changed) there was still no RAW support for the S5 files in Lightroom or any other program I tried it with. The JPGs are very good and presets can be tweaked in camera but this forced a major change in my workflow.

    • Thanks, Narain. I agree with most of what you say except that I do feel the S5 is genuinely lighter and smaller than either the S1 or SL. I took it out again today, just for a walk, and I was impressed with the images I captured. Agree that the AF is fast and accurate. And the 20-60 is a great little lens which could have been built just for the S5. It probably was. I don’t notice any shortcomings in build quality compared with the 24-105, a lens which is in a higher price bracket.

      I didn’t think about RAW. I just loaded the files into Lightroom and they were there for processing. I presume there has been an update.

      All in all, I feel quite enthusiastic about the L-Mount and I am now fully committed.

      Congratulations on the Q2. It’s probably my favourite camera of all time, as was the original Q, and it performs impeccably. If I had no system cameras I would happily make the Q2 my one camera.

      • Thanks Mike!

        Glad you’re enjoying the S5 so much.

        Agreed re L-Mount, the first of the new Panasonic lenses (85mm f/1.8) looks like it’s been well received and I will certainly get it for SL2, at 335g it’s what we’ve been waiting for weight wise and it’ll pair great with the S5.

        So far, that’s been my experience with the Q2. Thanks to 50mm crop mode test a few days ago, I’ve started playing with the frame lines more. I initially considered them a bit gimmicky but have come to appreciate them because:

        1. They restrict the area of where the focus points can be set.
        2. It’s the closest digital equivalent to working with a rangefinder, where you can track movement outside the frame and into the frame lines for perfect timing.

        Am thoroughly enjoying it.

        • “They restrict the area of where the focus points can be set.” I must admit I hadn’t considered this point but you are right. I will test this out. I also plan to get the Panasonic 85mm because of the size and weight. I bought the 35mm Sigma f/1.4 and haven’t used it much because of its weight and bulk. I think the three new Panasonic primes are more likely to please.

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