Panasonic Lumix S5 Review: In-Depth Lab Tests

December 2, 2020

By Jacqueline Tobin

Panasonic's Lumix S5: The main menu can be navigated using touch control, as can two quick-access menus.

Rangefinder is a member of the Technical Image Press Association (TIPA), which has contracted with Image Engineering to perform detailed lab tests of digital cameras and new releases like the Panasonic Lumix S5. See here for a full methodological rundown of how Image Engineering puts cameras through their paces. 

It’s no secret that Panasonic has moved aggressively to build out its lineup of full-frame mirrorless cameras. The newest member of the family, the Lumix S5, is the least expensive of the pack with a body-only price of $2,000. Like all of its full-frame models, the S5 uses the L Mount and is compatible with L-mount lenses from Leica, Sigma and Panasonic.

Panasonic Lumix S5 sensor.

Top Features of Panasonic Lumix S5

The Lumix S5 features a 24-megapixel sensor with an ISO range of 100-51,200 (expandable to 50-204,800). If you need to coax more resolution out of the camera, there’s a High Resolution mode that delivers a 96-megapixel-equivalent image.

The camera boasts 225 autofocusing points and uses Panasonic’s Depth from Defocus technology to acquire a target in as little as .08 seconds. It can also lock focus in low light, down to -6EV. More low-light assistance comes in the form of the camera’s in-body image stabilization system, which can deliver up to 6.5 stops of shake reduction when paired with stabilized lenses, or 5 stops when using non-stabilized lenses.   

As for video, the S5 is a powerhouse in the specs department. It boasts 14-stops of dynamic range and uses the same Dual Native ISO technology that previously had been deployed on the company’s cinema cameras. The S5 has two native ISO options, 640 or 4000, so you can ramp up light sensitivity while preserving dynamic range and minimizing image noise. The camera captures 4K video at 60p (10-bit, 4:2:0) and at 30p (4:2:2) internally and supports V-Log/V-Gamut and Hybrid Log Gamma profiles. The video features will improve still further with a future firmware update that will unlock DCI 4K, raw video output, vectorscope display and more.

In addition to its status as the most affordable mirrorless in the full-frame S-series lineup, the S5 is also the most compact (it’s even smaller than the GH5). Despite its trimmer dimensions, the camera still offers a dust- and splash-resistant build and a pair of SD card slots. It’s still a bit hefty, though: at roughly 1.6 pounds, it’s heavier than both the Nikon Z 6II and Sony a7C. 

Learn more about the Panasonic Lumix S5.

Resolution & Texture Reproduction

At ISO 100, the S5 is capable of resolving 92 percent of its sensor’s theoretical maximum resolution. This trails the performance of its sister camera, the Lumix S1, in resolving power—the S1 could resolve 97 percent of its sensor at ISO 100. By comparison, the comparably priced Nikon Z 6II can resolve 100 percent of its sensor’s theoretical maximum at ISO 100, Canon’s EOS R reached 98 percent, while Sony’s a7C could reach 95 percent at ISO 100.

While it couldn’t out-resolve some of its marquee competitors, Image Engineering found that the S5 did as good a job at consistently sustaining its resolving power as you ramp up the ISO. At ISO 800 it could resolve 90 percent of its theoretical maximum and 87 percent throughout the rest of the ISO range, putting it roughly on par with the a7C and Z 6II at the higher ISOs and outperforming the EOS R, which dropped sharply above ISO 3200. 

The S5 does a better job reproducing low-contrast details than high-contrast and sustains crisp texture reproduction through ISO 800. At ISO 3200, Image Engineering warns that texture reproduction starts to degrade. 

Visual Noise 

When viewing the S5’s output on a digital display at 100 percent, Image Engineering found the files clean through ISO 1600, which, they noted, represented a “big improvement” over the S1. These results trail the a7C, which produced noise-less image in this viewing condition up to ISO 3200, and the Z 6II, which didn’t show noise in this viewing condition at any ISO level tested. It does best the EOS R, however, which begins to show noise at ISO 400 at this viewing condition. 

In small (postcard-sized) or large (11 x 15-inch) prints, the S5’s sensor is noise-free at every ISO level. Again, this outperforms the S1 and the EOS R, which produce visual noise in large prints at ISO 6400 and above. The S5’s performance in these viewing conditions is comparable to competitors like the Nikon Z 6II and Sony’s a7C. 

The Lumix S5 Dynamic Range and Color 

Image Engineering rated the dynamic range of the S5 as “excellent” at 11.2 f-stops at ISO 100 and 10 f-stops or higher at several ISOs tested. It outperforms the Lumix S1 and Nikon Z 6II and is roughly comparable to the Sony a7C. It does lag the Canon EOS R, however, which delivers a strong 14.1 stops at ISO 800 and 10.9 stops at ISO 100.

As far as color reproduction is concerned, Image Engineering found only six strong deviations from the reference colors, all of which were bright reds. That’s comparable to the EOS R, slightly better than the Z 6II (seven strong deviations) but considerably below the performance of the a7C, which only notched two strong deviations from Image Engineering’s reference test. 

Color production test for the Panasonic Lumix S5.
The Lumix S5 color reproduction. The top half of the chart compares a reference color (right half of each color patch) with the color reproduced by the camera (left). Below that is a table that lists the DeltaE, or degree of variation, of each color patch from its reference target. Red cells indicated strong color deviations, light green cells represent colors with noticeable deviations, and a dark green field represents a moderate deviation.


The resolving power of the S5 in video is quite a bit lower than when shooting stills. Image Engineering notes that the camera is capable of resolving 78 percent of its theoretical maximum (compared to 111 percent on the S1) at low ISOs. The S5 underperforms the EOS R, Z 6II and the a7C in this regard. 

When it comes to reproducing fine textures, Image Engineering found the S5 to be “excellent” at low ISOs. Dynamic range when recording video was 9.7 stops at low ISOs and 9.3 stops at higher ISOs—roughly equivalent with Image Engineering’s results from the a7C and the EOS R but about a stop below what the Nikon Z 6II could achieve at comparable ISOs.


Image Engineering clocked the S5’s startup time at .9 seconds—faster than the EOS R and comparable to both the a7C and Z 6II. The S5 doesn’t outpace its rivals in the continuous shooting department. Using the electronic shutter, it was recorded at 7.2 frames per second (fps) for both JPEG and RAW images and a slightly slower 6.9 fps when using the mechanical shutter. The best of the crop, the Z 6II, is twice as fast as the S5 when using the mechanical shutter.

In bright light (300lx), Image Engineering found that the S5 could lock focus and shoot a picture in a fifth of a second. In lower light (30x) this process took half a second—faster than the a7C, comparable to the Z 6II and a bit slower than the EOS R. 

Final scores on speed, handling and more for the Lumix S5.
Final scores from Image Engineering on the Lumix S5.

Price: $1,999 (body)