Panasonic G5 Electronic Shutter Review

gtbarnes

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I've seen a lot of questions about the electronic shutter function on the G5 lately, so I figured I'd chime in. I've been shooting on the OMD since June (and was primarily a Pentax user before that, though I switched to Sony's full-size Alpha line for a few months in between, due to the K5's focus shifting problems). Lately, my paid workflow has shifted towards photographing a lot of classical music concerts, where shutter sound is a nightmare. Even though I couldn't find any thorough info on the G5's electronic shutter, I pulled the trigger and ordered one to try out, with the faint idea of slimming down my m43 kit, and switching to a dual m43/NEX workflow.

Long story short: The electronic shutter does work well, but it takes a lot of practice for certain scenarios, and you're dealing with one more variable for flaws in your image.

First off, you're limited to a maximum ISO of 1600. Compared to the OMD, this isn't too much of a concern, as anything above 1600 on the G5 starts to fall apart (in terms of noise, and especially dynamic range). Up to 1600, however, the two cameras are very similar. I actually might prefer the G5's output, but only by a small margin. There are also limits with shutter speed (I believe 1 second is the maximum length), and I recall reading that the scanning of the image sensor takes 1/10th of a second, though you can absolutely use quicker shutter speeds than this (not sure how this works from a technical standpoint).

Compared to the mechanical shutter, I can't see any technical image differences in the RAW files. However, because it scans the sensor rather than taking one direct "snap" of the scene, you do encounter rolling shutter problems. And it isn't just with fast moving subjects or long telephoto reaches. Here's a quick gif I made to demonstrate:

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While the effect is noticeable while flipping through images, you don't normally notice it while viewing a single image alone. The distortion is there, but you can't perceive it unless you have something else to compare it to. Granted, if you're shooting a tree unstabilized at 300mm, you will probably end up with a distorted image. But for real-world circumstances, it isn't too big of a concern.

Like I said before though, the presence of rolling shutter adds one more variable for errors. My main telephoto zoom on my OMD was the non-SWD 50-200mm 4/3rds lens, which I manually focused 99% of the time. I also have a Minolta "Beercan" 70-200mm f4 lens, which performs great under most circumstances. However, with the electronic shutter, I've found that the combination of rolling shutter (as well as the lack of stabilization) makes these lenses much more annoying to use on the G5. The way that the sensor "scans" the image amplifies any camera shake, and can even produce images where half the frame is sharp, while the other has shake. If you're already dealing with a high amount of rejects from limited ISO range and rolling shutter artifacts, you want to minimize other weaknesses as much as possible. It's doable, but complicated.

So to wrap everything up: It works, and it's silent. But it does have its flaws, and it takes practice. You're best off using stabilized lenses (if shooting telephoto), and shooting in high-speed burst mode to get as many photos to choose from as possible.

It works well enough that I'm currently selling off my OMD to finance my switch to a dual system, and I'll be picking up the Panny 45-200mm in the process to use as my main concert zoom. I vastly prefer the ergonomics of the G5 over the OMD (even with grip), and I'm half convinced that the AF speed is actually a tad faster on the G5. I also like the EVF more on the G5, and the video quality is fantastic. But I'll definitely miss the IBIS of the Olympus.

Here are some samples from a concert I shot last weekend, all using the G5 with electronic shutter, some more edited than others:

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addieleman

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Thanks very much for sharing, it's good to have more specific info on this. Especially the total scan time of 1/10 s can be a problem as you have shown.
 

phrenic

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Nice writeup, very useful for people curious about the camera. I find its not ideal but when you need to be silent it sure is nice to have the option..

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elavon

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Thank, this is very good review of the most interesting feature of the G5. If I compare G5 to G3, GH2 and OMD this is the feature that differentiate this model.
 

gtbarnes

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John M Flores has some fun examples using the Pentax Q electronic shutter on a traveling motorcycle. (some "toy lenses" do not include a leaf shutter, including the fisheye, so the body defaults to E-shutter).

Visions of Jello | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

You can count the scanned sections.
Oh man, I'm glad the G5 doesn't suffer from it nearly as bad. Else my clients would end up with strange modern art instead of concert photos ;)


Thank, this is very good review of the most interesting feature of the G5. If I compare G5 to G3, GH2 and OMD this is the feature that differentiate this model.
Yeah, it's certainly unique (though the GH3 has the option too), and I'm surprised that so many reviews barely mentioned it as a footnote. I sort of treat my G5 as a one-trick-pony, but if you've gotta shoot in quiet environments, it's a valuable thing to have.
 

Kiwi Paul

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There is another advantage of the electronic shutter, the well known issue of the 45-175 and it's unsharp images caused by mechanical shutter interactions with the lens, this is negated when using the electronic shutter and the 45-175 can be used to it's full potential.

Paul
 

addieleman

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There is another advantage of the electronic shutter, the well known issue of the 45-175 and it's unsharp images caused by mechanical shutter interactions with the lens, this is negated when using the electronic shutter and the 45-175 can be used to it's full potential.

Paul
That's exactly the reason why I'm considering to replace my GH2 by a G5, although I'm getting doubts now seeing the distortions you can get with moving objects or shaky hands. An alternative is to replace the 45-175 by the Panny 45-150.
 

~tc~

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I would think the 35-100/2.8 would be a better choice for you than the 45-200. Much sharper IQ and the aperture will greatly help your ISO/shutter speed concerns
 

addieleman

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I would think the 35-100/2.8 would be a better choice for you than the 45-200. Much sharper IQ and the aperture will greatly help your ISO/shutter speed concerns
I think so too. I'd regret to lose the range over 100mm, and for the price of the 35-100 I'd like to have excellent sharpness across the whole frame, which it doesn't seem to do.
 

gtbarnes

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I would think the 35-100/2.8 would be a better choice for you than the 45-200. Much sharper IQ and the aperture will greatly help your ISO/shutter speed concerns
Yeah, I was considering that too. But price-wise, it's a bit of a stretch, especially since I use the G5 in such limited circumstances. Average stage lighting generally allows for shutter speeds of around 1/100 at f4 and iso 1600, which isn't too much of a stretch for the 45-200 to handle. And the extra reach is pretty important in this case, despite it softening up at the longer end. If the 45-200 ends up being a dud though, I'll definitely reconsider!
 

entropicremnants

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Thanks for the expose' on this. I was wondering about this feature as I'm getting a G5 to go with my E-M5 for shooting events.

The G5 will be my wide angle camera and the E-M5 my tele camera. It'll be nice to have the silent shutter option on the G5 though I don't consider the E-M5 a very noisy camera.
 

Kiwi Paul

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The GH3 can be used with electronic shutter too but its limitations are the same as the G5, i.e. ISO1600 max, not sure what the scan time is though, I imagine its similar to the G5 so the jello effect will still be present if not used carefully.

Paul
 

GFFPhoto

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Thanks for this. I have been thinking of picking up a discounted G5 after G6 release specifically for situations like this (unless the G6 has a significantly faster rolling shutter). Were these hand held or tripod shots?
 
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