Panasonic’s 25-megapixel GH6 is the highest resolution Micro Four Thirds camera yet

Deepak Gupta February 22, 2022
Updated 2022/02/22 at 1:52 AM

After a bit of a delay, Panasonic has finally unveiled the 25.2-megapixel GH6, the highest resolution Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera to date. You can think of it as a mini version of your S1H “Netflix camera” as it’s loaded with professional video features like 5.7K V-Log ProRes video, a tilting swivel screen, and CFexpress capture. However, it’s still stuck with contrast detection rather than phase detection autofocus like most modern cameras. Fortunately, I was able to get my hands on a pre-production unit to check out the new features and get an initial idea.

First, let’s talk about the most interesting changes. As mentioned, the GH6 has a 25.2-megapixel sensor with high-speed readout, although it’s not stacked like its Micro Four Thirds rival, the OM-1. This obviously gives a much-needed upsampling, although stills performance is slightly below the GH5 II (8 fps with continuous AF compared to 9 fps).

The GH6 still uses a contrast-detection autofocus system (what it calls “depth of blur” or DFD) instead of phase detection like almost all of its rivals. Like the GH5 II, it also includes face/eye/head/body/animal AI recognition. While Panasonic has pretty much perfected its DFD system, it’s still not as fast or reliable as phase detection systems.

When taking pictures of people in low light, I sometimes couldn’t focus fast enough to get the shot right, for example. By comparison, the latest cameras from Sony and Canon (the A7 IV and EOS R6) don’t have this difficulty, even in low light. And I still saw some flickering or hunting with AF video.

In terms of video, things are more positive. The GH6 can now record 5.7K video with V-Log at up to 30 fps with internal capture for ProRes or ProRes HQ, or 5.7K up to 60 fps for 10-bit H.264/H.265 MP4 recording (all intra or long GOP). You can also record 4:2:0 4K 10-bit at up to 120 fps using the longGOP codec. All of these modes use the full width of the sensor with super-sampled video, although the 4K 120p setting does introduce some pixels.

It will also be able to record ProRes RAW to an external Atomos recorder via a future firmware update. More interestingly, the GH6 is one of the first mirrorless cameras with an HDMI 2.1 output, so it will eventually allow you to record 4K RAW externally at up to 120 fps via a future update. When it first launches, it will support 4K at up to 60 fps, with simultaneous external and internal recording.

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In terms of video quality, Panasonic promises over 13 stops of dynamic range using ProRes and V-Log recording. It also claims that you’ll see less noise at higher ISO settings (ISO 6400 and up). For both video and stills, it wasn’t as good in low light as the GH5s (which are less than half the resolution), but it wasn’t too far off.

5.7K video capture at up to 30 fps in ProRes HQ uses internal data rates of 1903 Mbps, far beyond SD UHS II capability. As such, the GH6 is the first Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera with a CFexpress Type B card slot. This is required for ProRes recording and many of the high frame rate MP4 codecs.

The downside now is that there is only one CFexpress slot, so you won’t be able to get a backup for certain video resolutions unless you use an external recorder. However, the GH6 will eventually support recording to an external SSD recorder via the USB-C 3.2 port, which also lets you power the camera while shooting.

If you’re worried about the rolling shutter with the extra resolution, the high-speed sensor readout should reduce that more than ever. I confirmed the rolling shutter was very manageable even at the highest resolution of 5.7K and 60p. However, it is present if the camera or subject moves too quickly.

As with previous GH models, the video quality is excellent, with the 5.7K video particularly sharp and useful for editing. The ProRes option also saved me an extra step compared to the GH5s as I no longer need to transcode the video. The downside is that video files are 4-5 times the size – so you’ll want to invest in high-capacity CFexpress Type B cards, which can very expensive.

The GH6 has five-axis in-body stabilization like the other models, but now offers up to 7.5 stops of vibration reduction with supported lenses, just behind the 8 stops on Canon’s EOS R6. With improved IS and E stabilization, it really smoothes the video well, even for situations like walking, better than most mirrorless cameras I’ve used.

The GH6 looks like the GH5 II, but is slightly heavier (823 grams compared to 727 grams with battery and memory card), and the body has changed in several notable ways. It’s a lot thicker to begin with, thanks in part to an active cooling fan that ensures the GH6 doesn’t experience overheating issues like Canon’s EOS R5 and R6. To that end, Panasonic promises unlimited recording in all video modes, including 5.7K 60p and 4K 120p.

    Panasonic GH6 mirrorless camera gallery

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The other big change is with the grip which is considerably deeper than on the GH5 II (or GH5 and GH5s. With that, the GH6 is considerably more comfortable to use than any Micro Four Thirds camera I’ve experienced, particularly with large lenses. Panasonic has also made several other changes to the button and dial layout, most notably with the addition of a dedicated audio button that lets you change things like gain levels and quality. It also has an extra record button on the front of the camera that’s extremely useful for vlogging.

The GH6 now has a rotating screen like the SH1, with the same 1840K dot resolution as the GH5 II. This makes the camera thicker but more practical for low-angle and other types of photography, and the tilt option prevents the screen from being blocked by cables if you use an external recorder. It’s also Panasonic’s brightest display to date and was highly visible even in bright sunlight.

Unfortunately, the 3.68 million-dot OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF) remains unchanged from the GH5 lineup. While it’s true that the GH6 is more of a video than a still camera, many photographers prefer to use an EVF in bright sunlight, so a sharper image would have been nice. Also unchanged is the BLK-22 battery which offers fewer shots than the GH5 II (380 compared to 410) and slightly less recording time – likely due to the fan and the extra resolution.

Panasonic GH6 mirrorless camera gallery

Steve Dent/Ploonge

The GH6 has some other serious downsides compared to rivals. One is the relatively small size of the sensor compared to a full-frame camera. This offers fewer creative possibilities, although it is also more forgiving in terms of focus and makes lenses cheaper and lighter.

The biggest flaw, however, is the contrast-detection autofocus. The good news is that Panasonic seems to have finally realized that buyers want phase detection and hinted that it’s not out of the question for future models.

The GH6 was rumored to cost $2,500, but there’s good news on that front. It will go on sale in March for $2,200 (body only), making it relatively cheap for models that can match video specs. It looks like a solid choice for this, with video quality on par with any rival. We’ll take a look at it all in our next review.

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