Macro photography with the Panasonic GH5
The Panasonic GH5 is not designed for still photographs. That at least appears to be the general consensus. Many reviews for the GH5 brush over its stills capabilities, focusing almost exclusively on its video functions. The concept that this a video centric camera is further supported by Panasonic themselves, with the G9 marketed as the stills alternative to the GH5.
The reason that I mention this is because I too supported this theory. I purchased the GH5 for its video functionality. I was so convinced of this video centric mentality that in fact I’ve never used the GH5 or its predecessor the GH4 for stills photography. I have always used a full frame camera in the form of a canon 5D series. I’ve long felt that micro fours thirds failed to offer me anything of value.
Recently however I have been questioning that wisdom, the result of which is this blog post. Below is my experience shooting stills with the GH5 and the benefits of using micro four thirds for macro.
The GH5s greatest asset and the reason why I even attempted to use it for stills photography is its overall design and ease of use. This is a camera packed with all the latest technology in a body that is well designed and easy to use. For macro photography there are a couple of features which might seem insignificant but make working so much easier and more productive.
Flip out screen
The first is a flip out articulating screen. This might seen trivial to some, after all many cameras have had a flip out screen for years. However coming from the 5D MKIII, having a flip out screen is a revelation. It makes working at low angles so much easier particularly in bright sunlight which I often have to do.
Other features such as focus peaking and pinch to zoom all contribute to a shooting experience where it is easier to get critical focus, something of paramount importance in macro where the tolerances are so small.
One of the often cited limitations with micro four thirds is the effect the small sensor size has on your focal length relative to full frame. I have two lenses that I use for macro, a native lumix 30mm macro and an adapted sigma 150mm macro. The equivalent lengths of these lenses on a full frame camera would be 60mm and 300mm respectively. Without going into too great a detail about how this all works the effective result is that I’m getting a higher magnification for the same working distance as my full frame camera. For this reason and many others that I don’t have time to go into. I think macro photography is actually one of the greatest strengths of micro fours cameras.
Another stand out feature of the GH5 is the in-body stabilisation (IBIS). I would go as far as saying that this is the GH5’s most important feature. Its use is well documented with video and easy to assess. The degree to which the ibis is having an effect on stills if less obvious, however from my initial testing I would say its having a strong positive effect. The 150mm lens in particular is prone to camera shake and I’ve found a lot fewer of my images ruined due to shake when using the IBIS. In fact I’ve even started using this lens handheld for a few shots, something that I would never use it for on my 5D.
Finally another feature that might not be so revelatory to some is the frame rate. At 9 Fps this camera is significantly faster than my 5D. The benefit for macro is that it allows me to rapidly take pictures whilst pulling focus. This burst of images I can then focus stack to greatly increase my depth of field. Focus stacking Is usually a very slow and precise techniques however employing in such a way has allowed me to use it on faster moving subjects.
Using the GH5 for macro photography has really changed my preconceptions about micro four thirds. It still has its short comings and I’m by no means about to abandon my full frame cameras, however is does offer some exciting new possibilities for photography. I do feel that macro could well be one of the strengths for the micro four thirds system and I’m excited to test it out some more.