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Sony A7S versus Panasonic GH5

The Sony Alpha A7S and the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in April 2014 and January 2017. Both the A7S and the GH5 are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on a full frame (A7S) and a Four Thirds (GH5) sensor. The Sony has a resolution of 12 megapixel, whereas the Panasonic provides 20.2 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Sony A7S vs Panasonic GH5

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Sony A7S and the Panasonic GH5. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the A7S – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Sony A7S vs Panasonic GH5
Compare A7S versus GH5 top
Compare A7S and GH5 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Panasonic GH5 is notably larger (14 percent) than the Sony A7S. Moreover, the GH5 is substantially heavier (48 percent) than the A7S. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Sony FE Lens Catalog (A7S) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (GH5). Mirrorless cameras, such as the two under consideration, have the additional advantage of having a short flange to focal plane distance, which makes it possible to mount many lenses from other systems onto the camera via adapters.

Concerning battery life, the A7S gets 380 shots out of its NP-FW50 battery, while the GH5 can take 410 images on a single charge of its DMW-BLF19 power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Sony A7S» 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 17.2 oz 380 Y Apr 2014 2,499- i Sony A7S
Panasonic GH5« 5.5 in 3.9 in 3.4 in 25.6 oz 410 Y Jan 2017 1,999 i i Panasonic GH5
Nikon D500« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 30.3 oz 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Nikon D750« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 26.5 oz 1230 Y Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
Nikon Df« » 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.6 in 26.8 oz 1400 Y Nov 2013 2,749 i i Nikon Df
Olympus E-M1 II« » 5.3 in 3.6 in 2.6 in 20.2 oz 440 Y Sep 2016 1,999 i i Olympus E-M1 II
Panasonic G9« » 5.4 in 3.8 in 3.6 in 23.2 oz 400 Y Nov 2017 1,699 i i Panasonic G9
Panasonic G85« » 5.0 in 3.5 in 2.9 in 17.8 oz 330 Y Sep 2016 899 i i Panasonic G85
Panasonic GH4« » 5.2 in 3.7 in 3.3 in 19.8 oz 500 Y Feb 2014 1,499- i Panasonic GH4
Sony A7S II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 22.1 oz 370 Y Sep 2015 2,999 i i Sony A7S II
Sony RX1R II« » 4.4 in 2.6 in 2.8 in 17.9 oz 220 n Oct 2015 3,299 i i Sony RX1R II
Sony A7 II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 21.1 oz 350 Y Nov 2014 1,999- i Sony A7 II
Sony A7« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.7 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7
Sony A7R« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.4 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 2,299- i Sony A7R
Sony RX1R« » 4.4 in 2.6 in 2.8 in 17.0 oz 270 n Jun 2013 2,799- i Sony RX1R
Sony RX1« » 4.4 in 2.6 in 2.8 in 17.0 oz 270 n Sep 2012 2,799- i Sony RX1

The camera’s price is obviously a critical decision-making factor. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The GH5 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 20 percent) than the A7S, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.

 

Sensor comparison: Sony A7S vs Panasonic GH5

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Sony A7S features a full frame sensor and the Panasonic GH5 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the GH5 is 74 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 2.0. The sensor in the A7S has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the GH5 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors.

Sony A7S and Panasonic GH5 sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the GH5 offers a higher resolution of 20.2 megapixel, compared with 12 MP of the A7S. This megapixel advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 3.34μm versus 8.45μm for the A7S). However, it should be noted that the GH5 is much more recent (by 2 years and 9 months) than the A7S, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the GH5 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

A7S versus GH5 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under review, the A7S has a notably higher overall DXO score than the GH5 (overall score 10 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. 0.2 EV in additional dynamic range, and 2.2 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Sony A7S» Full Frame 12.0 4240 28321080/60p23.913.2370287Sony A7S
Panasonic GH5« Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/60p23.913.080777Panasonic GH5
Nikon D500« » APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.014.0132483Nikon D500
Nikon D750« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/60p24.814.5295693Nikon D750
Nikon Df« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280-24.613.1327989Nikon Df
Olympus E-M1 II« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/30p23.712.8131280Olympus E-M1 II
Panasonic G9« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/60p----Panasonic G9
Panasonic G85« » Four Thirds 15.8 4592 34484K/30p22.812.565671Panasonic G85
Panasonic GH4« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34564K/30p23.212.879174Panasonic GH4
Sony A7S II« » Full Frame 12.0 4240 28324K/30p23.613.3299385Sony A7S II
Sony RX1R II« » Full Frame 42.2 7952 53041080/60p25.813.9320497Sony RX1R II
Sony A7 II« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.913.6244990Sony A7 II
Sony A7« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.814.2224890Sony A7
Sony A7R« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.614.1274695Sony A7R
Sony RX1R« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p25.013.6253791Sony RX1R
Sony RX1« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p25.114.3253493Sony RX1

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the GH5 provides a better video resolution than the A7S. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/60p, while the Sony is limited to 1080/60p.

 

Feature comparison: Sony A7S vs Panasonic GH5

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The two cameras under review are similar with respect to both having an electronic viewfinder. However, the one in the GH5 offers a substantially higher resolution than the one in the A7S (3680k vs 2400k dots). The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Sony A7S and Panasonic GH5 along with similar information for a selection of comparators. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec)
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Sony A7S»2400 n 3.0 921 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n Sony A7S
Panasonic GH5«3680 n 3.2 1620 swivel Y 8000 12.0 n Y Panasonic GH5
Nikon D500« »optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n n Nikon D500
Nikon D750« »optical Y 3.2 1229 tilting n 4000 6.0 Y n Nikon D750
Nikon Df« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 5.5 n n Nikon Df
Olympus E-M1 II« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 18.0 n Y Olympus E-M1 II
Panasonic G9« »3680 Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 8000 20.0 n Y Panasonic G9
Panasonic G85« »2360 n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 9.0 Y Y Panasonic G85
Panasonic GH4« »2359 n 3.0 1036 swivel Y 8000 12.0 Y n Panasonic GH4
Sony A7S II« »2400 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y Sony A7S II
Sony RX1R II« »2360 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 4000 5.0 n n Sony RX1R II
Sony A7 II« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y Sony A7 II
Sony A7« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n Sony A7
Sony A7R« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 4.0 n n Sony A7R
Sony RX1R« »- n 3.0 1229 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n Sony RX1R
Sony RX1« »- n 3.0 1229 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n Sony RX1

One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The GH5 has a touchscreen, while the A7S has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.

The reported shutter speed and shutter burst refer to the use of the mechanical shutter. In addition, the GH5 features an electronic shutter, which makes completely silent shooting possible. However, this mode is less suitable for photographing moving objects (rolling shutter) or shooting under artificial light sources (flickering).

The A7S writes its imaging data to SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards, while the GH5 uses SDXC cards. The GH5 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the A7S only has one slot.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
Sony A7S»YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7S
Panasonic GH5«YstereomonoYYfull3.1Y-YPanasonic GH5
Nikon D500« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0YYYNikon D500
Nikon D750« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0Y--Nikon D750
Nikon Df« »Y----mini2.0---Nikon Df
Olympus E-M1 II« »YstereomonoYYmicro3.0Y--Olympus E-M1 II
Panasonic G9« »YstereomonoYYfull3.0Y-YPanasonic G9
Panasonic G85« »YstereomonoY-micro2.0Y--Panasonic G85
Panasonic GH4« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Panasonic GH4
Sony A7S II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7S II
Sony RX1R II« »YstereomonoY-micro2.0YY-Sony RX1R II
Sony A7 II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7 II
Sony A7« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7
Sony A7R« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7R
Sony RX1R« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0---Sony RX1R
Sony RX1« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0---Sony RX1

The GH5 is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the A7S has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the A7S was succeeded by the Sony A7S II.

Review summary: Sony A7S vs Panasonic GH5

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Sony A7S better than the Panasonic GH5 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha A7S:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (10 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (2.2 stops ISO advantage).
  • More compact: Is smaller (127x94mm vs 139x98mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 236g or 33 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in April 2014).

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Advantages of the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (20.2 vs 12MP), which boosts linear resolution by 27%.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/60p vs 1080/60p).
  • More detailed viewfinder: Has higher resolution electronic viewfinder (3680k vs 2400k dots).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1620k vs 921k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (12 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology build-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.1 vs 2.0).
  • More solid recording: Has a full-sized HDMI port for a sturdy connection to an external recorder.
  • Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (20 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 9 months of technical progress since the A7S launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the GH5 is the clear winner of the contest (17 : 7 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision.

A7S 07:17 GH5

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the A7S or the GH5. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). You can find the full text of the reviews by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Sony A7S»-86/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Apr 2014 2,499- i Sony A7S
Panasonic GH5«HiRec85/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2017 1,999 i i Panasonic GH5
Nikon D500« »HiRec91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Nikon D750« »HiRec90/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
Nikon Df« »-81/1004/54/54/5 Nov 2013 2,749 i i Nikon Df
Olympus E-M1 II« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2016 1,999 i i Olympus E-M1 II
Panasonic G9« »HiRec85/1005/5-5/5 Nov 2017 1,699 i i Panasonic G9
Panasonic G85« »HiRec84/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2016 899 i i Panasonic G85
Panasonic GH4« »HiRec85/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2014 1,499- i Panasonic GH4
Sony A7S II« »Rec-4.5/55/55/5 Sep 2015 2,999 i i Sony A7S II
Sony RX1R II« »-82/100-rev4.5/5 Oct 2015 3,299 i i Sony RX1R II
Sony A7 II« »Rec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Nov 2014 1,999- i Sony A7 II
Sony A7« »HiRec80/1005/54.5/55/5 Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7
Sony A7R« »HiRec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2013 2,299- i Sony A7R
Sony RX1R« »--4/5rev4.5/5 Jun 2013 2,799- i Sony RX1R
Sony RX1« »-79/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,799- i Sony RX1

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, please send me an email, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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