Panasonic GH5S Autofocus – an Unscientific Test

The Panasonic GH5S has started to ship and one of the most frequent questions we are being asked is: how good is the autofocus? In order to find out, I’ve composed this simple video sample for you guys to judge it for yourself. 

Of course, it would have been easy to place my “good face for radio” in front of the camera and jump in and out of the frame to determine the functionality of the autofocus, but why make life easy when if I can complicate things?

Why use autofocus?

In case you are asking yourself why would one choose to shoot in autofocus mode, then the answer is clear. This is a real word shooting scenario, meaning, a low-budget production handled by a single operator using a modestly-priced camera mounted on an affordable handheld gimbal. In such a case, a follow focus puller and his rig are not an option.

The storyline:

In order to execute this autofocus test I’ve teamed up with the dear people at Bösendorfer, a world leading class Austrian piano manufacturer and Jan Jiracek von Armin who is an extremely busy talented leading pianist and a piano professor. We gathered at the Bösendorfer showroom in order to film a short introduction to their selection of pianos.

Setting up the Panasonic GH5S:

While exploring the camera, I was not so happy with its autofocus performance, but in order to be double cautious, I decided to look online and choose 2 popular videos which successfully demonstrate how to set up the original GH5 for better autofocus performance. The videos I looked at were from Scott McKenna and Nick Stubbs. While Scott and Nick showed completely different methods on how to set up the camera for better autofocus performance, their results were the same: success! It is also worth mentioning that I chose the settings in their videos because I was looking for a way to nail accurate focus at the center of my frame (my protagonist’s face), and those two methods dealt with it in a successful way.

Here are Scott’s and Nick’s settings: 

Scott’s Panasonic GH5 setting

Scott’s autofocus settings: AF mode: 1-Area. AF Custom Settings: ON, AF speed +5, AF sensitivity, +1

Nick’s Panasonic GH5 setting

Nick’s autofocus settings: AF mode: Custom Multi, AF Custom Settings: OFF,

My results with the Panasonic GH5S:

Thinking those settings would work well on the GH5S, I experimented and decided to shoot the video above multiple times in both settings. Unlike them, however, my final result was less satisfying. At times, the camera changed its autofocus point with no real evident reason UNLESS some contrasty images in my frame really distracted it from nailing it 100%. Most disturbing is the scene where Jan’s face was fully on-camera, yet the GH5S still chose to focus elsewhere. Can it be that the green emergency sign on the left side of Jan’s face confused the AF system?

Jan’s face in focus

Jan’s face out of focus

Conclusion:

This is by no means meant to be a scientific experiment. It is a simple “true to working life” field test that was executed with camera settings which I hoped would give me good results. While it is fine about 90% of the time, there is absolutely room for improvement. Hopefully it can be done via a firmware update.

About the above video:

Shot with Panasonic GH5S. Lens: Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f/2.8-4. Edited on Adobe Premiere CC latest edition. Color corrected with FilmConvert. Sound recorded on a Tascam DR60d. Microphones used: AZDEN SGM250CX and 

Special thanks to Jan Jiracek von Armin and Sabine Grubmueller from Bösendorfer.

If you have been using the Panasonic GH5S in autofocus mode and found useful settings for it, please share it with us in the comment section below.