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. 

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Pier-Yves MenkhoffWilliam Sommerwerckpaolo baroniClayton Moore Recent comment authors
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 Piotr Szubryt
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in Gh5 with shutter 179 degrees AF works much, much better, can you try this trick in S?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GcP0K26jEw

 paolo baroni
Member
paolo baroni

autofocus is for photographers and amateurs….

BrunoSlam Compte A Rebours
Member

Nope. It’s for low budget films.

 paolo baroni
Member
paolo baroni

you don’t know what a film is.

 Pier-Yves Menkhoff
Member
Pier-Yves Menkhoff

Stupid, empirical and phallic reaction. And why not say that it’s for girls too ? Apparently, you have never filmed in an emergency situation where an urgent focus is needed. I am happy to have a GH4 or GH5 in this situation. Sorry, but that’s impossible with a Canon or Nikon…

Member

Why would you choose “those guy’s settings”, first off they were the same bad setting everyone else were trying and 2nd those are old videos that obviously didn’t make a difference. YodaYeo made a great video earlier this month explaining why a 179° shutter at 30fps works best for GH5’s video AFC and Gerald undone did another afterwards fleshing out the custom settings. I did the same tests and got OK results, still not great but at least works like I’d expect contrast detect AF to work now. https://youtu.be/_GcP0K26jEw

Good video though, just outdated settings.

Member

this test is a little bit outdated with the 179° shutter setting revealed by YODAYEO:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pCgI4ht1Eo

What really surprised me is why the Panasonic enginieers couldn´t figure this out by themselves. Seems like they don´t understand their own system?

Clayton Moore
Member

Great sample. Your right of course about one or two settings. The fact that there have been so many postings with so many techniques means one thing. AF is not good enough. AutoFocus is NOT just for photographers and amateurs. When your a single operator and working fast its a feature that to quote Philip Bloom is necessary in any modern camera. Fact is, Panasonic need to bring it up to par with Canon and SONY its as simple as that.

 Nicola Verdi
Member
Nicola Verdi

And how many feature films Philip filmed? I can’t find one???

If you really want to learn about film and D.P work go here:
http://www.thehurlblog.com/ You will very quickly discover that Autofocus is just for photographers, bloggers and people filming interviews.

Johann Hütter
Member
Johann Hütter

but how many feature films are done with a gh5 or even a c300? for those cameras and their intended workflow autofocus can be very useful. i think the autofocus on the c300 mk2 is pretty great and enables single operators to get much better results with shallow depth of field than they were able to do before. e.g. filming someone giving a speech and pacing around the stage, using a 70-200 photo lens, with crappy, hardly existent focus travel – even with years of experience pulling focus while framing, you‘ll probably be not as good as canon’s dp-autofocus, and… Read more »

Clayton Moore
Member

Johann Hütter – your exactly right!!! Why do people assume were talking about this in relation to “feature film work”, or use that as a standard in these discussions? Big Feature film production is a work flow unto itself. The percentage of people that shoot features is minuscule , and most of the people who hang out here do not shoot features and never will, certainly will never see their work on “the big 20-60 foot screen”. The lions share of work is small business, corporate and non profit work. Documentaries of all lengths, news stories, commercials and promotions and… Read more »

 Markus Magnon
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Markus Magnon

Even when you are not shooting film I would never use autofocus. Traveling, interview… what if someone walks by and the autofocus decided that a guy in the backround is more important than my subject. For Interview just learn how to focus in a wide range. Set your camera to F4 instead F1.4. So the subject can move back and forth without getting out of focus. And maybe the autofocus one in one situation but not in another situation. Even if it work 99% at a time… I Would not use it unless it ist 100%. And no autofocus will… Read more »

Johann Hütter
Member
Johann Hütter

again, good luck with a 200mm photo lens on 2.8-4.0. and, why would an autofocus suddenly decide that the guy in the background is more important than the face you told it to track, unless your interview subject walks out of the frame? that‘s not how contemporary autofocus works. you‘re right, autofocus will ever get to 100%, but neither will manual focusing, nor would you use autofocus in every case. e.g., as you said, in an interview you‘d probably just set the focus and an appropriate aperture. or use the autofocus once for setup and then leave it there. although… Read more »

 paolo baroni
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paolo baroni

i am a single operator i film fashion run n gun i’ve never used autofocus…maybe you are not good at racking focus, but a medium skilled focus puller is 100% way better than any autofocus on the market….i don’t even find it useful on gymbals…again autofocus is for fotographers and NON professionals

Johann Hütter
Member
Johann Hütter

nah, i‘m good enough at racking focus while framing or zooming to work as an ENG-cameraman for national TV. still, i‘ve yet to meet the medium skilled focus puller, who can beat a tracking autofocus on a long photo-lens with a big-chip camera. and i‘ve also done some professional work with it, so, per definition, autofocus is for professionals too. besides, that’s not the point – when you got the budget for a focus puller, you’d use it, wouldn’t you? you‘re free to keep up your professional pride, but don‘t be surprised when others will produce better images for less… Read more »

 paolo baroni
Member
paolo baroni

it is not pride is called full manual to have the proper control on the camera….but since you like to play….play autofocus i don’t care….

Johann Hütter
Member
Johann Hütter

i got no gh5s but i thought it was allready quite established that autofocus on the current firmware works better with a shutter speed slightly below 180 degrees. could you update your test with those settings?

Clayton Moore
Member

Like most other things in life, there are not absolutes here. I use manual focus almost exclusively, but it’s not a religion, autofocus is just a tool for whoever needs it, for whatever reason, nothing more. I know “Pro” ENG operators that pull $1,300 a day just to shoot, they do it both ways. Clients only care if your shots are in focus.

 Markus Magnon
Member
Markus Magnon

You wrote: “autofocus is just a tool for whoever needs it”
And also: “Clients only care if your shots are in focus.”

… hmm. imho autofocus will never give you a 100% save option. Why not learn to focus at F4.0. You don´t have to shoot with a big sensor at F1.4. Even as a “one man DP” you can focus without using autofocus tool.

James A. Duke
Member

Johnnie,

Would you please let us know the setting of the camera: Mode, Aperture value, etc.

Thanks.

 William Sommerwerck
Member
William Sommerwerck

“Unscientific” can mean several things — not properly controlled, not related to the way a product is commonly used, come to mind. In other words, basically useless, as this example is. I was at one time an equipment reviewer (mostly audio), and I know that a proper review cannot be terse or casual. If you don’t have time to do it well — that is, uncover the reproducible reasons why two products behave differently — don’t do it.

The only good thing was hearing the pianist play the Bosendorfer.

 Tom Roper
Member
Tom Roper

William, you should use your own blog for lecturing people what not to do. What Johnnie illustrated was so obvious no explanations are needed.

Clayton Moore
Member

Tom. – “Like”

 William Sommerwerck
Member
William Sommerwerck

No, Mr Roper. What is obvious is that there’s no rational explanation for the variation in results. “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… Read more »

Jamie LeJeune
Member
Jamie LeJeune

That was lovely Johnnie. Thank you for the enjoyable test.