Why I moved from Canon to a Panasonic GH5

by Johan Kok

My First Serious Camera

My first serious investment in photography was a Canon 600D with two kit lenses. It was while learning to use my camera and gaining the skills I needed for more serious photography that I became a fan of the brand. Besides, once you are in, it becomes an expensive exercise to change brand.

Following this initial purchase was my investment in a Canon EF 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L lens. It was the older push pull version but worked well for a long time. My next major investment was upgrading to a Canon 7D mark II followed shortly by the EF 100-400mm L mark II. These upgrades coincided with a desire to take my wildlife photography much more serious.

The 7D mark II and the new 100-400mm II proved to be a great combination for a serious wildlife photographer on a budget. Naturally I dreamed of one day owning the flagship 1DX and some of those fantastic prime telephoto lenses but that level off success has eluded me thus far.

Forward to the present day (about 4 years on) and I still have a full time day job and a growing family with all the responsibilities that go with that. All the while I have been working on building a wildlife photography business on the side as an additional form of income. My focus started with the possibilities offered by micro stock photography. While microstock photography has given me a fair number of sales the revenue remained very low, even with 100s of downloads. It was clear that even with quality photos one would need an immense portfolio to get a substantial income. That portfolio requires a lot of time to build.

Moving to Video

Video has always been as much of an interest for me as photography, so much so that I completed a Diploma in Digital Film in my own time a few years ago. Eventually I started uploading some wildlife stock footage to a few of the sites. In spite of the small number of clips and low sales volumes the revenue far outstripped that of my image portfolios. Now the path was clear, my focus had to shift to stock footage and away from photos.

Initially my Canon 7D mark II served me well. The quality of the HD footage it produces is great, it has fast focus, I had a great lens and things were looking good. Unfortunately as I learned more I realised that the future is soon going to be 4K and I needed to start now to future proof my portfolio and position myself for when 4k becomes mainstream.

I waited with baited breath for Canon to catch up and start offering 4K in their mid-range APSC sensor cameras. Unfortunately it has yet to happen and while their new micro 4/3 camera offers 4K it did not prove to be the solution I was looking for. After a lot of research I settled on the Panasonic GH5 as a main contender to replace my trusty 7D mark II.

Changing from Canon to Panasonic

The specs and the reviews for the GH5 and the Panasonic Leica 100-400mm looked very good on paper but I was worried about performance in the real world. Adding to my concerns were a lack of reviews about the GH5 and the 100-400mm lens as a combination for wildlife film or photography. I also considered just getting the body and using an adapter like a speed booster with my Canon lenses. A trusted photographer recommended that it would probably not be wise for what I wanted to do.

Panasonic Leica 100-400mmEventually I gave in and listed my 7D mark II and all my lenses for sale on a local auction site and two weeks later I was off to the local camera shop to make my new purchase. So the burning question is, was it the right move? Well it is too soon to answer that confidently yet. I am only just getting to know the camera and learning how to set it up properly for both photos and video.

What I can confidently say is that the GH5 far surpasses the 7D mark II in the video department, even just based on initial filming. On the photography front I would say the 7D has the edge, especially with regard to autofocus performance. I won’t fully discount the GH5 though, initial tests have shown some advantages. The 2x crop factor is very handy for bird photography while the dual image stabilisation allows hand holding that is just ridiculous at times. Combine this with the much smaller size of this combo and it becomes a very handy travel solution for wildlife photography. Just look at some examples below from a day I spent at Auckland Zoo with the family.

Close up of a Kea taken with the Panasonic GH5 and Panasonic Leica 100-40mm Lens

Above: Close up shot of a Kea taken with the Panasonic GH5 and Panasonic Leica 100-400mm and it is the JPG straight out of the camera.  Shot in aperture priority at ISO 1600 | 400mm | f/6.3 | 1/320sec and hand held.

Above: Another close up, this time of a Tui and again it is the JPG straight out of the camera.  Shot in aperture priority at ISO 3200 | 400mm | f/6.3 | 1/125sec on a tripod.

I hope this post has given you some useful information. If you have any questions post them in the comments and I will try my best to give you an answer. I will also be following up this post with a full review of the Panasonic GH5 for wildlife photography and also as separate review for wildlife video.

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