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Panasonic S5 IIX review: Power and value in one vlogging package

Phase-detect autofocus, ProRes capture to an SSD and incredible stabilization.

Photo by Steve Dent / Engadget

Earlier this year, Panasonic launched the S5 II and S5 IIX full-frame cameras, finally embracing phase-detect autofocus that puts it on par with rivals. I’ve already tested the S5 II and found it to be one of the company’s best cameras yet for content creators. Now, we’re looking at what I think is the more interesting model, the S5 IIX.

It has an identical design and shares many of the same features as its sibling, like the new autofocus system and highly effective in-body stabilization. However, it adds a key function: the ability to record high-quality, easy-to-edit ProRes video internally onto SSDs via the USB-C port. With a bit of rigging, you can record hours of 4K or even 6K video to a relatively inexpensive drive.

The S5 IIX is built for video pros, and offers a lot of extras for just $200 more than the S5 II.

  • Good autofocus
  • 6K ProRes and RAW video
  • SSD capture
  • Powerful stabilization
  • Solid handling
  • Noticeable rolling shutter
  • Not the best photo camera
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What’s surprising is that the S5 IIX only costs $200 more than S5 II. ProRes RAW is also included for free, whereas it’s a $200 upgrade on the S5 II. To see if it’s worth that, I shot photos and videos in Paris, Brittany and elsewhere around France.

Body and Handling

I’ve already looked at the S5 II’s body and controls, and the S5 IIX has an identical layout – but it’s worth revisiting them briefly — particularly in the context of video and content creation.

One key difference is the general appearance. The S5 IIX has a distinctive dark design, with a black logo and subtle gray graphics on the controls. The only dash of color to be found is the red record button. Quite a number of bystanders have oohed and aahed over the black-on-black look.

Like the S5 II, the X model is a nice handling camera. The grip is large and uses relatively tactile materials, and features a ridge at the ring finger so it won’t slip out of your hands. The controls are spot on, with the record button in an easy-to-find location on top. That said, it would’ve been nice to have another one on the front like the GH6. The menus are also among the best among camera companies (and nearly the same as the GH6), with most settings easy to find.

It weighs 714 grams, a bit more than Sony’s A7 IV and the Canon EOS R6 II. An external SSD can also add 100 grams or more, making it a bit heavy if you’re holding it out at the end of your arm while vlogging.

The screen fully articulates for self-shooting and has a sharp 1.84-million-dot display. It features a 3.69-million dot electronic viewfinder with resolution that’s comparable to rivals and easily enough to check focus when shooting on a bright day. It has a full-sized HDMI port that’s key for a camera with RAW video output, and USB-C for capturing internal video.

The S5 IIX also includes dual UHS-II SD card slots, headphone and mic ports, plus the same battery as the original S5, GH6 and other models. You can get about 370 shots on a charge by CIPA stands, fewer than most of its rivals. For video, you can shoot for about 45 minutes at 4K 60p, again, a touch less than rivals.

If you’re planning to rig the S5 IIX to use SSDs, many folks are using the SmallRig universal holder with a hotshoe mount, though any clamping type device will work (I’m using a smartphone tripod mount from Joby). If you need to use a shotgun microphone along with the SSD, you may need to mount it elsewhere on the camera, though, or use a cage. As for SSDs, Panasonic lists models from Samsung and SanDisk compatible with the GH6 (which has the same USB-C feature) and those should work for the S5 IIX as well. Other high-speed models should work as well.


Yes, the S5 IIX is a hybrid camera, but video is the main attraction. With high-quality ProRes capture to an SSD, plus RAW video over the HDMI port, it offers a lot of capability for the price.

First, let’s look at capture via the USB-C port. It supports internal 10-bit ProRes capture to supported SSDs, which is a huge benefit to videographers. Media is relatively cheap, and there’s no need to transcode or even transfer footage – you can just hook up an external drive to a PC or Mac and start editing.

Panasonic S5IIX review: Power and value in one vlogging package
Image by Steve Dent for Engadget

In ProRes USB-C mode, there’s a strange mix of recording formats. It captures 5.8K 17:9 30p footage in either ProRes HQ (1.6Gbps) or regular ProRes (1.1Gbps), but not at 16:9. It can only capture 17:9 C4K at 60p with a crop, or 30p supersampled video without a crop. But again, not 16:9 Ultra HD. The 17:9 part isn’t a huge deal as you can crop the edges, but it’s odd considering most vloggers shoot 16:9 UltraHD. Perhaps that’s something Panasonic can address in a future update.

Luckily, you can capture 16:9 5.9K 25p footage and 4K 60p and 30p at 16:9 in the .MOV format. The latter supports All-I with data rates up to 800Kbps when capturing to USB-C, which is nearly as good as ProRes quality-wise though a bit slower for editing.

On top of that, you can record 12-bit ProRes RAW or Blackmagic RAW files to Atomos or Blackmagic recorders via HDMI. It supports recording up to 5.9K 30p at 16:9 and not 17:9, or the rather odd 4.1K 4,128 x 2,176 17:9 format. Again, not a huge issue as you can crop the sides, but also a bit weird.

Panasonic S5IIX review: Power and value in one vlogging package
Image by Steve Dent for Engadget

As with other Panasonic models, you can capture “open gate” 6K 3:2 footage that uses every pixel on the sensor. That allows content creators to easily output both horizontal and vertical formats, but also to capture anamorphic video with supported lenses.

Finally, you can record to regular old SD UHS-II cards. Where the S5 II is limited to recording longGOP files that aren’t very easy to edit, the S5 IIX can do most formats using an All-I codec at up to 600Mbps.

So how is the quality of all the video? Mostly excellent, depending on the format. 4K 30p video is supersampled, so it’s extremely sharp. Panasonic’s colors are accurate, quite natural and easier to work with than Sony’s files, I find. Skin tones aren’t as flattering as Canon offers, though.

4K 60p video is cropped to an APS-C size which isn’t ideal, considering Canon’s like-priced R6 II has uncropped 4K 60p. Sharpness also drops a hair, as it’s pixel-for-pixel instead of supersampled. 5.9K video is also captured on a pixel for pixel basis, but I like that format as it allows for a lot of cropping options.

Compared to other mirrorless cameras with the same resolution, it has good low-light capability. The Dual ISO system does a good job keeping noise down at ISOs as high as 12,800 or even 25,600.

Panasonic S5IIX review: Power and value in one vlogging package
Image by Steve Dent for Engadget

Panasonic’s V-Log delivers extra dynamic range, particularly with ProRes. Of course the best option, quality-wise, is V-Log RAW video. That lets you edit video just as you would with RAW photos, with a lot of room to recover highlights and shadow details. With those things together, the S5 IIX delivers results in line with expensive, professional video cameras.

Pros will also appreciate the new hybrid phase-detect autofocus. It’s designed to eliminate the wobble inherent in Panasonic’s past contrast-detect AF camera, and it does that very effectively.

The S5 IIX offers continuous AF modes along with subject tracking, for both humans and animals. It’s not quite up to Sony and Canon models like the A7 IV and R6 II, as subject tracking isn’t quite as fast or reliable. However, it’s as good or better than Nikon and Fujifilm’s latest models.

Panasonic S5IIX review: Power and value in one vlogging package
Image by Steve Dent for Engadget

The S5 II has updated in-body stabilization borrowed from the GH6, and it’s powerful and impressive – the best on any camera on the market for video. It can’t match a gimbal, of course, but the electronic mode smooths out steps much better than the S5, despite some side-to-side sway.

It also has a “Boost IS” for handheld video with no movement, keeping shots locked off like the camera’s on a tripod. One cool feature not seen on too many other cameras is full stabilization support for anamorphic lenses (most types) via a setting.

And finally, it supports high audio quality either through the mic port or an XLR adapter that attaches to the hotshoe.


If you need to use the S5 IIX for photography from time to time, it’s not bad at all. You can shoot at up to 7 fps with the mechanical shutter or 30 fps in electronic mode. The buffer is quite impressive, as it allows for 200 shots in RAW before throttling. Oddly though, a USB-C drive doesn’t improve that number much compared to an SD card.

The autofocus can keep up as well, but as with video, it’s not quite as fast or smart as the AF on recent Sony cameras. It’s particularly noticeable when using the AI subject modes — for example, it can lose a subject’s eyes if they turn their heads. Tracking is also a bit more limited than Sony and Canon models. Still, for vlogging and most types of content creation, it performs well.

The stabilization system is rock solid for photos. And photo quality is outstanding, with dynamic range comparable to Sony and Nikon’s latest models. You also get natural looking colors and skin tones. It also shines in low light situations thanks to the stabilization, dual ISO system and relatively large pixels.


Panasonic S5IIX review: Power and value in one vlogging package
Image by Steve Dent for Engadget

When I reviewed the S5 II earlier this year, I said that its biggest competition would be the X version, and now I’m sure of that. Simply put, this is a $2,200 near-professional camera with the image quality and most of the features a content creator needs.

The new autofocus is good but not quite up to the Sony A7 IV, and it lacks full-frame 4K 60p video like the Canon R6 II. It’s far better for video than both of those models, though, thanks to the ProRes and other features nowhere to be found in either rival model. And the AF is as good or better than you’ll find on like-priced Nikon and Fujifilm models, with the focus wobble of past models a thing of the past.

One thing that might give you pause is the L-Mount lens choice and value. However, Panasonic recently lowered the prices on key lenses, including this 24-70m f/2.8 model. It now has 14 of its own lenses, on top of 31 from Sigma. All told, if I was looking for a new camera system for around $2,000, I wouldn’t hesitate to grab the S5 IIX.