The Panasonic Lumic DC-GH5 (the GH5 for short) is a fantastic camera. For my money, I believe it is the best camera for around $1,000. While the GH5 is a great camera, it will not suit the needs of many professional videographers looking to take the next step in regards to their video production capabilities. This article will highlight the main differences between the GH5 vs. the Sony a7S III and focus on the particular filming situations that might require an upgrade.
I’ve shot extensively with the GH5 and own the a7S III. I have some test shots from both the a7S III and the GH5 in the video above to offer further insight as to what separates the two cameras.
Here’s why I decided to upgrade from the GH5 and what the Sony a7S III allows me to do that wasn’t previously achievable with the GH5.
How much more expensive is the Sony a7S III vs. the GH5?
The a7S III was released towards the latter half of 2020 at an original price of $3,499. The GH5 is going on four years old and can version be had for as low as $1,299.
A note about the cost of memory cards and media
As noted below, the Sony a7S III is a very powerful camera, with a beefy processor to make sure you can capture footage at high frame rates. What this requires is a memory card that can write information quickly and take advantage of these features. Without getting into the nitty-gritty, these are memory cards that are roughly $100 for 64GB.
While the GH5 can record high quality 4K video, it doesn’t do so with the same compression rates nor with so many frames at the same time. I’ve shot with Sandisk memory cards that are half the cost as the media for the a7S III, and they’re perfectly suitable.
Pro tip: look at Prograde memory cards. They’re less expensive than Sony’s Tough cards and still get the job done.
What are the biggest features the a7S III has vs. the Panasonic GH5?
So yes, the a7S III will dramatically advance your filmmaking if you need these features:
- The ability to shoot in low light
Barring anything super crazy, you can raise the ISO on the Sony a7S III without really ever having to worry about noise. This is an incredible feature that gives those shooting with high frame rates peace of mind (shooting at higher frame rates requires more light to compensate for the added frames). It’s also just a great feature to have if you’re vlogging in an apartment with little ambient light.
- Higher resolution and higher framerates
And speaking of higher frame rates, the a7S III lets you shoot in 4K at 120fps without an external monitor. These higher frame rates allow you to slow down action shots or help make jarring shots less erratic by giving editing programs more frames to work with.
- A Full Frame camera
The GH5 has a micro four-thirds sensor. Camera sensors have a lot of nuances, but in short, a micro four-thirds sensor (also written MFT) will crop an image 2x. Meaning a 35mm lens will appear as a 70mm as if it were on a full frame camera. A full frame camera is ideal in that it will allow more light to hit the sensor, resulting in more sharpness and better picture quality. Given there’s no crop factor with a full frame camera, you will also have a wider focal length when you attach a wide angle lens.
- Better Autofocus
Although some firmware updates have improved the autofocus capabilities of the GH5, autofocus isn’t that camera’s strength. The a7S III has hundreds more focus points than the GH5, and as a newer camera, will offer a far better solution for those needing better autofocus.
- Dynamic range
In short, dynamic range is a camera sensor’s ability to recognize light from dark. If you’re shooting a sky or a subject against bright light, having a “high” dynamic range (usually 15+ stops) will help maintain detail. Dynamic range is usually one of the largest factors that separate a $3,000 camera from a $30,000 camera.
Is the Sony a7S III the best Sony Camera?
These are the closest “competitors” to the Sony a7S III in the Sony camera lineup.
|Release Date||Full Frame||Cost|
|Sony FS7 mark ii||11/16||✖️||$8k|
The Sony a7S III is basically the Sony FX6 wrapped in a bigger body, but that different body is not insignificant. The FX6 allows for:
- Variable ND filters (the a7S III requires you to screw filters onto each lens)
- 16-bit raw output (this lets you record video with a ton of color information)
- Internal sound recording (you can’t plug in professional, XLR microphones directly into the a7S III unless you use an adapter like the Beechtek or the Sony K3M)
Frankly, if you don’t really know what these things are, it’s likely not worth paying an additional $3k.
What is the biggest feature the GH5 has vs. the a7S III?
Cost. You can load up two GH5s with the accessories to boot for less of the cost of the Sony a7S III. Beyond that, one of the cooler features the GH5 offers is its 4K live cropping feature, allowing you to create smooth pans and “dolly-esque” shots without ever having to move the camera.
Is there a Pansonic full frame camera?
The closer Panasonic competitor to the a7S III is in many ways the Panasonic S1h. The two are much more comparable in that both are full frame cameras and are engineered for video shooting. The a7S III is better in low light but is also an additional $1,500.
What lenses are the best for each camera?
Lenses are a lengthy discussion, but by and large follow these principles:
- Prime lens have less “moving parts” than zoom lenses and allow for better quality corner to corner
- Cinema lenses do not have autofocus capabilities but will result in a sharper image and better bokeh (blurred background)
- Panasonic GH5 lenses use a Micro Four Thirds sensor, which isn’t terribly hard to come by but still isn’t usually as popular as the Nikon (F mount) Canon (EF Mount) or Arri (PL Mount). This will likely only become a factor when shopping for cinema lenses.
Is the Sony a7S III approved for Netflix
The answer is: basically. Netflix lists the Sony FX6 as a compatible camera, which, as mentioned above, is strikingly similar to the a7S III. This being said, it isn’t the camera as much as the camera’s video settings (i.e. what create the deliverable) that determine whether or not it will meet Netflix quality standards.
Those Netflix Standards are:
Given that the a7S III can rival some cameras 2 to 3 times more expensive than its MSRP, there are some costs that will sneak up on you that are worth noting if you’re treating it like a cinema video camera,
An external battery is likely desirable as many people will be using an adapter to record audio into the camera.
A cinema lens works very well on the a7S III, but can take up half the size of the body and might provide some stress over time (i.e. you’ll likely want to invest in some 15mm rods).
Autofocus is great, but might start to drift a bit with low light.
All that said, you usually get what you pay for with a camera, but the above shows the a7S III is a tremendous deal for its price bracket and might be the most advanced camera many videographers need.