Above – One of my first photos taken with the Lumix S5. Wife and daughter hiking in the forest, Hasso, Inuyama.
It’s been a year since I bought the Panasonic LUMIX S5 so I thought I’d do a quick review one year on. Skip this if camera gear isn’t your thing. Just for reference, there are no affiliate links here so I make zilch on this post and I have no affiliation with any camera companies. I also know little about all the technical wizardry. I just take photos.
Over the past year the Panasonic LUMIX S5 has become a vital part of my day-to-day life, helping me capture moments of hiking trips and adventures and more importantly my daughter’s childhood and her daily interaction with family. I use a camera as a sketchbook to capture daily and often mundane moments that I like to print out and add to a daily-ish journal. It keeps me sane.
There is nothing more important in photography than capturing your life and that of your family to pass on to future generations. It doesn’t matter how ordinary life may seem family photographs are important. Photograph your family regularly even if they hate you for it and print! (Yes, print!) the photos.
It doesn’t really matter what camera you use, but…
The Panasonic LUMIX S5.
In 2013 I sold all my digital gear to a friend and bought a Leica M6 that I still use today. Panasonic and Leica have a partnership and when I decided to go back to digital in 2016/17 I wanted to continue using Leica gear. The problem, as many will be aware, is that Leica gear is ridiculously expensive. Luckily the Leica-branded Panasonic gear isn’t. That, simply put, is why I chose Panasonic when switching back to digital. First a LUMIX LX100 with a Leica Panasonic lens, then the LUMIX G9 micro four-thirds camera with a Leica DG 12-60mm, as well as Leica DG 15mm f1.7 and 25mm f1.4 prime lenses.
For a while I held on to my micro four-thirds gear but I knew it’s days were numbered as soon as I saw the first image from the full frame S5 back in late September 2020. I was fooling myself into thinking that micro four-thirds was enough and that was a mistake. Full frame suits my needs better, especially now that I photograph my daughter all the time and enjoy the option of shallow depth of field portraits, so I eventually said goodbye to the G9 and all the lenses in late spring 2021, trading them in at MapCamera in Tokyo. The G9 is a superb camera and if Panasonic were ever to put a full frame sensor in a G9 body wth all the G9’s functionality I’d probably switch again.
I hate having too many choices. Two digital systems made leaving the house more difficult as I’d have to choose which camera and lens combo to take before leaving. Some people love that but I’m not one of them. That’s why I often stick to the same (and expensive) film in my Leica M6 (Fuji Provia 100 in case you were curious). And when I leave the house nowadays it’s usually the S5 with just one lens.
So why is the S5 the perfect camera for me right now? Here are a few reasons:
- It’s slightly smaller than the G9 which makes it better for carrying around all day. Yes the lenses can be bigger but with the lenses I use (see above) it makes little difference.
- Full frame image quality is better than micro four thirds. People can argue all they want on the internet but whenever I pull up a micro four thirds image alongside a full frame one I always prefer the full frame. It’s also for that reason that I couldn’t care less about smartphone cameras. I’m yet to see a smartphone camera that can compete with a full frame body. Especially when printing the results.
- The S5 is an L-Mount camera which means that if for any reason Panasonic chooses to stop making cameras I can switch hassle free to either Sigma or Leica. In fact the long term goal is to buy a Leica SL2-S or equivalent and some Leica lenses once (if ever) I can justify the cost.
- The S5 has more video functions than I’ll ever need or be able to learn and the quality is stunning no matter what settings I use. It’s for that reason that the lack of phase detect autofocus is of little concern to me. It works superbly for photography and that’s all I really care about (especially compared to the previous full frame camera I owned – a Canon 5DMII).
- It has more customisable buttons than I will ever need. I have buttons set up for photographing my daughter indoors and outdoors. One turn of a dial and all the settings are ready. Kids are fast and being able to switch between settings seamlessly is a life saver. I also have buttons set up for high resolution mode, silent electronic shutter mode, 6K post focus, and more.
- Image stabilization is insane. I rarely use a tripod anymore and 99% of the time regret carrying one when I do because I never use it.
- GPS. One of the best things with modern cameras is their ability to record GPS data seamlessly.
Yes, other cameras can do very similar things to the S5 but as I mentioned above I’m a sucker for Leica and appreciate (perhaps naively) their partnership with Panasonic. And I already knew how to use Panasonic gear which meant the learning curve for the S5 was kept to a minimum.
Is there anything I don’t like? Yes, of course.
- It occasionally freezes when connected to Wifi via the smartphone app. Hopefully that’ll be resolved in a firmware update in the near future.
- Leica M mount lenses (via an adapter) don’t work as well as I hoped for. They look soft and fuzzy wide open so I stick to using the Panasonic and Sigma lenses instead.
The main purpose of my photography nowadays is to photography family and hiking trips and try and relive the joy and sense of adventure I had in the mid to late 1990s when I was backpacking around the world exploring new places and photographing whatever took my fancy. That’s one of the main reasons I still shoot film as well as digital. Those backpacking days are long gone but with a smallish, fairly compact modern full frame camera in hand I can still wander, explore and photograph and at least pretend I am twenty+ years younger with no family or work commitments.
I buy my new digital camera gear locally from real people in real shops. Usually Mitsuboshi Camera in Kasugai because they give you a 10-year warranty.