UPDATE: As we reported in December 2021, the Panasonic Lumix GH6 was clearly going to miss its promised 2021 launch date, prompting Panasonic to issue an apology on its Japanese website [machine translation]:
"Regarding the mirrorless single-lens camera "Lumix GH6", which was developed and announced on May 26, 2021, we were aiming for commercialization within 2021, but it is expected to be delayed. Currently, we are aiming for commercialization in early 2022. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience caused to customers who are waiting for this product."
At the end of its presentation at CES 2022, however, Panasonic did say that the Lumix GH6 would be released "before Spring arrives", leading some to speculate that it could be unveiled at the CP+ show at the end of February.
ORIGINAL STORY (25 May 2021): After endless speculation about when it might come and what it might look like, Panasonic has finally made an announcement about the long-rumored Lumix GH6.
However, it’s a development announcement only, and while Panasonic initially insisted the GH6 would arrive by the end of 2021, it’s still giving little away about its features or specifications.
The Panasonic GH6 is big news in the video and filmmaking industry because its predecessor, the GH5, was a landmark mirrorless film camera that was as highly effective for stills capture but boasted – for then – some pretty remarkable 4K filmmaking camera specs.
In 2021, hybrid cameras like these have become commonplace, but the GH5 broke the mold in 2017 and is still highly regarded today as an affordable, professional content creation tool, edging ahead of more stills-orientated cameras like the Panasonic Lumix G9. Indeed, Panasonic has today released the Lumix GH5 II, a much improved successor.
The Lumix GH6 will sit above this, however, as the new Lumix G flagship model and the top camera in Panasonic’s Lumix G Micro Four Thirds range.
Panasonic Lumix GH6 features and specifications
Panasonic says the Lumix GH6 (and the GH5 II) reaffirms its commitment to the Micro Four Thirds format. This format’s future may have been in doubt in some people’s minds when Panasonic launched its full frame Lumix S series and Olympus was put up for sale, but Panasonic is adamant that its Lumix G range serves a different audience to its full frame cameras and can go places and do things that bigger cameras can’t.
What we do know about the GH6 is limited, but includes the following:
• The GH6 will have a new high-speed sensor and newly-developed Venus engine processor. Panasonic has highlighted speed and processing and has not mentioned resolution. There has been lots of speculation that the GH6 might use a 41MP MFT sensor developed by Sony, but there is not indication of that here. On this information alone, we suspect the GH6 will keep the 20.3MP Live MOS sensor already in use but with much more powerful video features.
• The GH6 will be able to record 4:2:2 10-bit Cinema 4K at 60p. Panasonic keeps chipping away at the bit depth and color sampling restrictions of 4K video processing, so while the C4K 60p recording may not sound like big news, the 4:2:2 10-bit capture available at the same time is very impressive.
• The GH6 will also have “truly unlimited recording time”. Panasonic is not saying whether this is available for specific modes only, but for many filmmakers unlimited recording would be a much higher priority than 6K or even 8K capture. We don’t yet know if the GH6 will have passive cooling or internal fans, but one of the advantages of the smaller MFT sensor is less head buildup, so passive cooling may be all it needs.
• The GH6 will also offer 10-bit 4K 120p HFR (High Frame Rate) and VFR (Variable Frame Rate) recording for slow/quick motion video. That’s a big step up from the 60p max frame rate in the GH5 II, and recording at that bit depth will offer much more headroom for grading HFR/VFR footage later. This could be one of the big benefits of the new sensor and processing engine.
• The GH6 will be able to record 5.7K 60p video, which is pretty impressive, but also supports our suspicion that it’s going to stay with the 20.3 Live MOS sensor. 5.7K capture would correspond to this sensor’s maximum native resolution, and it’s significant that Panasonic hasn’t rounded this up to 6K, and hasn’t even mentioned 8K at all.
• There will be a new LEICA DG 25-50mm F1.7 MFT zoom. This is also under development and will join the LEICA DG VARIO-SUMMILUX 10-25mm F1.7 ASPH launched in 2019. Between them, these two lenses will cover a focal range of 20-100mm equivalent with a constant aperture of f/1.7. This lens will be pretty specialized and won’t be useful to everyone, but the development of a new lens as well as two new cameras does support Panasonic’s claim that it is committed to the Micro Four Thirds format.
Panasonic Lumix GH6: what WON’T we get?
Panasonic hasn’t given us much to go on and our speculation may be wrong, but his is what we think the GH6 will have and, more importantly, what it won’t have.
• No new sensor: We don’t think it will be the 41MP sensor rumoured. We think it will be the 20.3 Live MOS sensor already in widespread use.
• No 6K or 8K: It looks like a 4K camera, but with a 5.7K ‘flat out’ option that uses the maximum sensor resolution. 6K or 8K is, we think, ruled out.
• No internal raw: There’s no mention of this in Panasonic’s (scanty) press release, and we don’t think the GH6 will offer raw internal capture – though almost certainly it will offer raw output to an external recorder at some point. Panasonic seems to favor increased bit depths and color sampling resolution over raw capture right across the board. Even the mighty Lumix S1H stops short of internal raw.
Will the Lumix GH6 be worth the wait?
If you’re looking for wild, groundbreaking headlines and out-of-this-world specifications, you might be disappointed. We suspect Panasonic is not trying to make headlines with this camera, but to cement its reputation for providing properly thought-out and effective video cameras that do what filmmakers need, not what tech zealots demand.
Clearly the Lumix GH6 missed its launch date in 2021, and what we don't yet have is a price, but we do know this will be the flagship of the Lumix G range and will be positioned above the new Lumix GH5 II.