Panasonic S5II and S5IIX: Initial Thoughts & Review

Finally a Phase Detect Hybrid Auto Focus System from Panasonic!
By Nirupam Nigam

The Pansonic Lumix S5II and S5IIX are two of the most exciting camera announcements from Panasonic in years. They are the first two Panasonic models designed with a phase detection autofocus system - modernizing a brand that has been overlooked in the past for its autofocus limitations. Both full-frame cameras are identical, but the S5IIX is equipped with additional features for video like ProRes and All-Intra recording. Surprisingly, with a retail price of $1999.99 and $2199.99 respectively the Panasonic S5II and S5IIX might be considered a better deal even the Sony A7 IV and Canon R6 Mark II. On the otherhand, L mount cameras do tend to have more limited underwater lens and housing options which may make it difficult for this camera to become popular with underwater shooters. 


Key Panasonic S5II and S5IIX Specifications

  • 24.2 megapixel full frame CMOS sensor
  • Dual native ISO
  • Phase detect hybrid autofocus system with 779 af points
  • low light autofocus down to -6 EV
  • 5-axis in body image stabilization
  • 6K/30p 4:2:0 10-bit video recording
  • 4K/60p 4:2:2 10-bit recording (with a crop)
  • dual UHS-II SD card slots
  • 1/250 sync speed
  • Size: 134 x 102 x 90mm
  • Weight: 740 grams

The Panasonic S5IIX allows for all-intra video recording and ProRes recording as well as higher bit rates up to 800 Mbps. The Panasonic S5IIX is a worthwhile upgrade for underwater video shooters who want to focus on color correction during post production. 


A New Phase Decect Autofocus System

If you're a Panasonic shooter, you may have felt the familiar frustration of watching your camera pan in and out attempting to acquire focus. Fortunately, the S5II's headline feature is a new 779 point phase detect autofocus system. This AF system is rumored to be as effective as equivalent AF systems from Canon and Sony complete with accurate subject tracking. For many udnerwater photographers who never previously considered Panasonic, it's worth taking a look at the S5II. The autofocus system appears to be acceptable for quick action shooting like sharks and bait balls. 


Panasonic S5II for Underwater Photography

Currently there is one anodized aluminum housing for the Panasonic S5II and S5IIX from Nauticam. While the port charts are not equipped with an extensive linup of lenses for shooting underwater, there are a few good options. For underwater macro photography, we recommend the Sigma 105mm macro lens. However, it's important to note that the Sigma 105mm macro does have issues with focus breathing for those video shooters out there. A Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens can be mounted on the Panasonic S5II with the Sigma MC-21 converter. This is a great options for wide reefscapes and close focus wide angle. The Panasonic 16-35mm f/4 lens can be a good rectilinear wide angle lens optino and has compatibility with the Nauticam WACP-2

Although the Canon EOS R8 is probably the best value full-frame camera for underwater photography, the Panasonic S5II could be a good option to consider. This is especially the case for underwater photographers who already own existing L-mount glass or want to make use of the wide range of Sigma L-mount options. 

If you don't consider the lack of underwater lens and housing options, the Panasonic S5II does have all the features of a pro-body full-frame camera including 5-axis in-body image stabilization, 14 stops of dynamic range, and 9fps burst shooting. So if you're a GH5 shooter thinking of getting more into photography, the S5II allows you to stay in the Panasonic sphere of photography with a competant photos system. 


Panasonic S5II For Underwater Video

The Panasonic S5II is arguably a more compelling camera for underwater video than underwater photography - especially the S5IIX. While it's a shame that it adds a crop when shooting 4K/60p, the ability to shoot 4K/60p is essential for underwater video. In fast moving underwater environments, shooting 60 frame per second allows you to slow down your footage in post processing for additional stability. Most underwater video shooters will want to spend the extra $200 for the S5IIX in order to record all-intra 4:2:2 with bit rates up to 800 Mbps. All this extra data allows you to more accrately color grade your footage which is essential with mixed light issues underwater. 

If you are a macro shooter, or need the ability to crop of additiona "b-roll", the ability to film in 6K/30p is also extremely useful. While it's important to set your camera on a tripod in these situations to improve the stability of your clip, a 6K clip has a lot of versatility. 



Overall the Panasonic S5II and S5IIX may not end up being the most popular cameras in the underwater market. That being said, they are Panasonic's best full-frame options to date for underwater shooters and are suprisingly affordable cameras.






Nirupam Nigam is the Editor-in-Chief of the Underwater Photography Guide and the President of Bluewater Photo - the world's top underwater photo & video retailer. While growing up in Los Angeles he fell in love with the ocean and pursued underwater photography in the local Channel Islands. After receiving degrees in Aquatic and Fisheries Science and General Biology, as well as a minor in Arctic Studies, Nirupam worked as a fisheries observer on vessels in the Bering Sea and North Pacific. Since then, Nirupam has been a full time underwater photographer and photo gear head. Check out more of his photography at!


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