Posted on Tuesday, September 26, 2023
By Mark Foley, Technology Editor, ProductionHUB
When is the last time you can say that you actually had fun or actually looked forward to going out on a shoot? Seriously, think about that question. Was it last month, last year, never? I hope that whatever projects you are working on, they are bringing joy and satisfaction to you and your work. Sure, shoots can sometimes be a pain, that’s nothing new, but may I also suggest that the very act of being creative and hence having fun with a camera like the LUMIX S5llX can also be a professionally fulfilling experience.
Which brings us to my next point.
Unpacking the LUMIX S5llx
Recently, I had the opportunity to work with the LUMIX S5llX. I now want that camera like yesterday. Yes, I know I say that a lot! Now, the original LUMIX S5 which is a very good camera has been around for a while, but this refreshed version is in a class all by itself. Let’s take a look.
One of the first things I noticed was just how physically easy the camera felt in my hands.
Coming in at 1.68 lbs., I could easily move around to capture a variety of angles without keeling over from heat exhaustion. The camera came nicely set up, wrapped up in a really nice sturdy SmallRig Cage, which would be an additional and separate cost but, in my opinion, a worthwhile step to protect your investment and a handy place for the SSD. The review package also came with a Sony Tough SD Card and a super-fast SSD LUMIX approved external 1TB Samsung SSD. LUMIX suggests you will need to use an SSD from their approved list. This is a really important to know item if you are going to be recording/working in ProRes which I will get to a little later.
There are some other recording options such as the Kondor Blue with 2TB Drive that you can think about adding in the future but it was unavailable due to a backorder issue at the time of this review. Overall, the LUMIX S5llX did come with many menu options to learn, and once I started to get used to them, having so many options and set ups was a big plus. Overall, the S5llX had a nice solid feel and balance to it but as mentioned does come in at a light 1.68 pounds. The S5IIX is built with a magnesium alloy body and is designed to be dust and splash resistant. Additionally, if you are used to shooting handheld or on a gimble I think most shooters would be comfortable with on location all day. If I was building out a bigger set up with bigger glass, and along with some other additions I am thinking maybe a tripod would be in good order. But hey, either way these are your creative choices on your shoots not mine, so you decide whatever works best for you!
There was a lot more to unpack with the LUMIX S5llX and all the new features so let’s dig right in.
A New and Improved Phase Hybrid AF system
One of the things I have heard previously from readers and LUMIX owners was the “problem” with how the S5ll previously handled the issue of auto focus. Personally, I used to run in manual focus a lot of the time so it didn’t bother me all that much, but here is where I think it now matters a lot more. Shooting in 4K and anything above requires a ton of attention to focus and a great on camera or on set monitor. Focus adjustments are so minute now, so I used AF a lot on the LUMIX S5llX. Much credit to the product engineering team at LUMIX for listening to end users and addressing the AF “issue”. The new improved Phase Hybrid AF system utilizes an amazing 779 AF points. By combining Phase Hybrid AF with their recognition technology, LUMIX (in my opinion) has made a big leap in the “following” or AF ok let’s call it the auto focusability (my new camera word of the day) of the S5llX camera.
The Phase Hybrid AF can also deal with more than one subject quite well and functioned just fine with sketchy light levels and some pain in the backlighting issues.
I did like the continuous Auto Focus when following moving subjects while shooting and zooming. The camera also had an additional AF micro adjustment as well. Like I said earlier I didn’t used to be an AF fan but you know with shooting at ever increasingly higher increments in 6K or 8K, a half a nudge off on the focus control and you are scrooged. Also again, that is also a good reason, when possible, to get those extra(younger) eyes on the set and a really good and bigger monitor on your shoot.
Do You Want to Go Steady?
No, not that kind of steady.(insert laugh track here) Again, another nod to LUMIX product engineering for improving the overall image stabilization capabilities over the previous I.S. with the LUMIX S5llX. I put the I.S. through some rigorous testing and managed to engage all of the different variations of available I.S. and found that overall that the I.S. worked really well in minimizing the unwanted shake and roll that I tried to make happen when shooting (Use my squatting pic here)So what is this upgrade all about?
The S5IIx integrates a new in-body image stabilization called Active I.S. The team at Panasonic developed a new and improved algorithm to figure out how to use the information gathered from a gyro-sensor but also collect information from the image sensor and an accelerometer sensor within the body of the camera. The 5-axis Dual I.S.2 works 6K, 5.9K, 5.8K, 4K, UHD, HD, and anamorphic. According to Panasonic, the body I.S. compensates for camera movement even when L-Mount lenses without O.I.S. are used and when other lenses are fitted via an adapter. The Body I.S. sits internally in the camera and the O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer, 2-axis) resides in the LUMIX S Series lens. The 5-axis Dual I.S. compensates very well for the moving artifacts that can happen when shooting active and moving video.
The Magic of the LUMIX S5llX and “Real Time LUT”
I have always been deathly afraid of “baking” a certain look into what I am shooting. In fact, I might be the most neutral or old school native shooter because I will always want to be able to go back and ask my editing guys and gals (who are a lot smarter than me) to make the right adjustments. Unless there is no time(imagine that) for post color grading, shooters or cinematographers in my experience would almost never “bake” a look into their final image and prefer to capture in Log, which allows for more dynamic range. But again, as you know for some projects extended post or color correct just isn’t in the cards. The LUMIX S5llX comes along and to use a cliché becomes a game changer with Real Time LUT. But before we get there, let’s get a quick refresher on LUTS in general.
What is a LUT anyway?
Again, technically speaking a LUT (Look-Up Table) is a math formula used to transform colors from one color space to another. For cameras, LUTs are often used to convert the flat, low-contrast footage captured by the camera's sensor into a hopefully more appealing image.
S5IIX’s Real Time LUT function allows cinematographers to apply a 33 Point Cube LUT to the camera's live view and video output in real-time, which can help users visualize the final image during production, speeding up the post-production workflow. But why would a cinematographer bake in a look?
Using S5IIX’s Real Time LUT function for a professional production, a cinematographer can upload a Transform LUT to the S5II/X by replacing Panasonic V-Log/V-Gamut color space with another camera system’s color and gamma space.
Our first example is from Ben Meredith, first time director and actor for the film “Orchid.”
Matching large professional cinema cameras with a hybrid mirrorless camera system can be difficult but according to Meredith, the full-frame S5IIX has a set of unique features that helped complement the Mini LF. “The LUMIX S5llX has the ability to shoot ProRes out to an SSD that allows us to have the same files to match the ALEXA Mini LF’s post workflow,” said Meredith. “It also does a full 6K, which is really nice for us to have the ability to punch in or move the frame around."
“We programmed the S5IIX to lock in with our ARRI LogC3, which mimics the LogC color space and profile of the Mini LF,” explained Meredith. “Then in post, when we're trying to match frames, it just makes everything a lot easier and a lot quicker.”
Like I said, I think the ability to go in and add in the Real Time LUTs will really speed up the post production process.
How Many Recording/Viewing Options Do You Want?
Lumix S5llX offers a full-sized Type-A HDMI socket for streaming video out to monitors, external recorders, video capture cards and storage devices. RAW video can only be recorded via the HDMI. Users can also stream via the USB 3.2 Gen 2 port as the Lumix S5llX can record content directly to an SSD. This is useful for all the camera’s video formats and for stills, and SSD devices of up to 2TB can be used. The camera also uses this function to record in ProRes when resolution exceeds FHD. Users can record FHD ProRes HQ in 4:2:2 at 50p directly to one of the two SDXC II card slots, but anything more demanding than that needs to go to an SSD.
The Lumix S5IIX is also capable of recording 5.8K Apple ProRes footage to an SSD or Atomos device connected via HDMI or USB, or 5.9K Blackmagic Raw (Braw) externally via HDMI to a Blackmagic Video Assist recorder without needing a firmware upgrade or paid license. It also has ALL-Intra recording (C4K, 4K or 3.3K at 800Mbps (USB-SSD), 600Mbps or 400Mbps).
SSD Capturing for ProRes!
If you really want to stretch out the capabilities of the LUMIX S5llX utilizing external recording an SSD really works well. Yes, I know the camera comes with other options such as recording to a SD or Fast card. But SDs that can handle a lot of data tend to be expensive and easier to lose. Not that I have ever misplaced an SD card. Recording in ProRes to an SSD which I did, was an incredibly efficient process. Using the easy-to-follow menu directions, I just “rooted” my recording preferences to the SSD. The camera even provided a warning when what I was trying to do recording wise was not going to happen. Again, reading the directions and learning most of the menu functions helps to avoid that conundrum.
So, after that I was able to shoot, then just take the SSD to my Mac, plug it in and start editing. I know some of you are rolling your eyes because I didn’t download my files from the Samsung SSD at first. I did download to a backup drive later but honestly; I was too anxious to see how quick I could start editing as if I didn’t have the time to do that. Yeah, it worked like a charm.
As a disclaimer I was just shooting the LUMIX and was not trying to match other cameras at that point. I did see that some users were complaining about where to put the SSD while recording. Do I have to answer that? I did have the supplied Small Rig Cage, so I just stuck the SSD on top. If I was shooting on a tripod and I had a long enough tether, I might just Velcro it to the tripod. Going handheld, one could look at other third-party options. Depending on your SSD placement, I might recommend the shortest pigtail just to minimize connecting cables getting in the way. Oh, and one last thing. If you are working on a project you just have to hand off to a client, an SSD is perfect. Just unplug and hand it off. Either way save yourself the aggravation and figure this out on your test set up before the actual shoot.
Open Gate Frame Marker Horizontal vs Vertical Framing
I might have just saved the best feature(s) for last? As mentioned in my previous LUMIX G6 review Open Gate is listed in the menu in the camera as Anamorphic. “Open Gate” uses your full frame sensor and allows for the proper framing of images when you are trying to shoot for the vertical vs horizontal. So, for those of you unfamiliar with the concept of Open Gate here we go. Essentially what the Open Gate feature allows you to do is to use the full sensor to capture your images vertically without having to crop those images that you might have been stuck if you only had the option to shoot horizontally thereby keeping so much more of the original. So, if you are shooting for YouTube or other social media platforms and your audience is getting their content via smartphone you can shoot for the vertical and not cut off content that might have been lost if you had to crop original 16:9. One feature I found to be extremely helpful in this process is the framing grid that allowed me to size up what I wanted to shoot.
Of course, the other great part of shooting “Open Gate” is that since you shot using the entire sensor you can still use that footage in 16:9. I would definitely walk through the entire menu and experiment prior to going out on the shoot. With the ever increasing focus on shooting for social, having this option might be something that you really want to take a look at.
So why consider the LUMIX S5llX? From a cost vs benefits perspective at around 2,200 dollars this camera shines. It really is a versatile, yet powerful workhorse that just happens to make beautiful videos for now and for the foreseeable future. With features such as the ability to record ProRes/ProRes RAW, Real Time LUT, Open Gate shooting, and enhanced auto focus and image stabilization this camera is certainly in the mix. Bottom line? The LUMIX S5llX does a lot of things very well and I would add it to my collection in short order.
Key specifications *
- 24MP BSI CMOS sensor with on-sensor phase detection
- Up to 30fps e-shutter shooting with C-AF and Raw capture
- 96MP multi-shot high-resolution mode
- 6K 3:2 open-gate video capture up to 30p (4:2:0 10-bit)
- 6K or DCI/UHD 4K from full sensor width up to 30p
- DCI/UHD 4K up to 60p (S35), unlimited record times
- Dual conversion gain sensor with explicit 'Dual Native ISO' gain selection
- Cooling fan
- Twin UHS-II card slots
- Optional paid upgrade for Raw video output
- Raw video output
- Video recording to SSD over USB
- All-I compression modes
- Internal ProRes capture
- Wired/wireless IP streaming
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