Lumix GH6 Has Much Improved Autofocus

Posted Feb. 22nd, 2022 by Daniel J. Cox

The Lumix GH6 has much improved autofocus. Many of you may recall my association with Lumix pretty much ended for one basic reason. That was my frustration with autofocus issues on fast-moving subjects. Our official working relationship ended in September 2019.

Now fast forward to mid-February 2022 when Mathew Frazer of Panasonic contacted me. Mathew wanted to know if I’d be interested in testing the new GH6, and I said yes. As I had already heard, he mentioned that the GH6 was mainly a video-centric camera. He’s been shooting his son’s basketball games and was so impressed with the autofocus that he thought of me. That led to an email to see if I might be interested in giving it a try, and I’m very grateful he did. Lumix no longer sponsors me, but I’ve never lost my enthusiasm for the quality of their products overall. They just had one Achilles heel, and that was their autofocus.

That seems to have changed with dramitcally improved autofocus

Thankfully, it seems they may have eliminated that one issue. I recently had a few days to test the new GH6. My main reason for wanting to try this camera was to see if its AF had improved. And I’m happy to report for fast-moving, coming at the camera subjects, they have closed the gap dramatically.

Lumix GH6 Has much improved Autofocus
Lumix GH6 AF-C ISO 200 1/5000th of a second at F/2.8

The test gear

For the famous Speeding Pooch Test, which is a fast dog coming straight at you and a test just about everybody is now replicating, I used the GH6 with the Leica 200mm F/2.8. Keep in mind that the GH6, being a Micro Four Thirds camera, you multiply all lenses by 2. So basically the 200mm becomes the equivalent to a 400mm F/2.8. That’s decent magnification. Not too much and not too little for a test like this. I also chose to shoot at the widest aperture, F/2.8, to make sure there was little to no benefit of a smaller aperture for better depth of field. I wanted to see this camera work to get it right.

Lumix GH6 autofocus
100% crop of the image above

All photos were shot with the camera set to default AF settings. There are many options for tweaking the AF system, but I’ve always been a believer that it should just work. That combined with the fact I had very little time to test this unit, I just went with what was there. And frankly, that’s the way it should be. Real-life can often be just like this test situation. No time to make changes. For the dog test, I had very little time to even think about making adjustments. It was a spur of the movement opportunity. The same happens in the field when you all of a sudden have a chance for great action. How many of us have time to tweak the camera for specific situations? Not me.

For these tests, I used the Central AF pattern. I did not try the Tracking Mode. I didn’t have enough time, so I went with what I knew and the results were very positive. Here’s a link to full-sized JPEGs that you can download. These are for your own personal use and are watermarked. Please do not share them anywhere else.

Speeding Pooch Test results

Since I’ve been doing these tests clear back to early Nikon digital cameras, I use the 3,2,1, Star Rating system. 3 Stars represent perfect focus. 2 Stars are close to perfect and possibly even useable but not dead on. 1 Star is completely out of focus.

For this series of the Speeding Pooch Test I came up with:

3 Stars: 92 frames
2 Stars: 19 frames
1 Star: 61 frames

Closest Frames to Camera Were Most Problematic

As is typical with all cameras I’ve tested, the closer the dog came to the camera, the harder it was for the AF to keep up. The reason is the AF system needs to move the internal lenses further within the lens barrels as the subject gets closer. Some of the very closest images were razor sharp, but many were not.

Things I noticed

As we’ve all been hearing, the GH6 is mostly a video-centric camera. And after handling it I agree wholeheartedly. It’s being compared in many ways to the Canon 5C, a so called hybrid camera that does both stills and video. And like the Canon 5C, the GH6 is fairly large and bulky, all due to the special vents on the back of the body, and so much so it really takes away from a comfortable still shooting experience. For video, it’s fine when compared to what other video cameras are like. But as mainly a stills shooter, I would like something smaller. And who knows, maybe we’ll see an updated G9 that gives us better handling with the added tools and autofocus of the GH6. Hopefully, leaving out some of the video capabilities would give a stills version of this camera better ergonomics.

EV Compensation, WB and ISO Buttons

Lumix does switches and buttons better than anyone else. I’ve written extensively on the three top buttons, just behind the front Shutter button on the GH4 and GH5. They are the ISO, +/- EV Compensation, and the WB. All right there, within easy reach and very handy. I’m happy to say the GH6 sticks with that layout.

Like the Lumix G9 in the photo above, the WB, ISO, and +/- EV Compensation are all right next to the shutter button on the new GH6

AF Switch moves too easily

The one exception to a quality switch is one used to go from AF-S, AF-C, and Manual Focus. It’s well placed just to the left of where your thumb sits, but it’s changed too easily from whatever setting you choose. While shooting the Speeding Pooch Test, I accidentally knocked it to AF-S. As I write this, I’m thinking I need to check metadata to make sure some of the 1 Stars were not related to this problem. I’ll let you know.

I’ve always felt Lumix has had a decent menu system. And in the GH6 they’ve tweaked it to be even better. However, there are a lot of new options. The possibilities are seemingly endless. Below is a nice run-through of the Menu via a video by Amateur Photographer TV.

Front Dial

As I’ve gotten used to my Olympus cameras I’ve come to appreciate the front dial being forward of the Shutter button. On the GH6 it’s the same as other Lumix bodies, behind the shutter button. Kind of a niggly frustration but one I noticed.

Spring-loaded Lock/Unlock Mode Dial

Thankfully Lumix has kept the very positive option of having a spring-loaded lock button on the Mode dial. Push it down and it locks the Mode in place. Push it again and it pops up. This option allows the Mode dial to turn freely.

Sony has chosen to keep it locked at all times, making it difficult to turn when needed. You have no choice. I appreciate it when a manufacturer gives you the option. Thankfully the Lumix has the option as do my Olympus cameras.

Much improved AF Pattern options

Many more AF pattern options. I used the Group setting in the middle placed in the middle as large as it would go.

Final thoughts

With the GH6 we now have two amazing new Micro Four Thirds bodies. In case you missed it, the other camera announced last week is the new Olympus OM-1. It too looks to be a fabulous update, but I can’t say for sure since I haven’t had any luck getting my hands on one. However, from everything I’ve seen and read online, the Olympus is a big upgrade for video but keeps its base plate firmly planted in the stills side of photography.

The need for both stills and video

I’m writing this on my way to Churchill, Manitoba on the shores of Hudson Bay. I’m heading there to shoot material for Polar Bears International and the Arctic Documentary Project. For this assignment, I’ll be shooting both stills and videos, so I can use a hybrid that can do both.

It’s possible the GH6 may be in my future. It all depends on how much improved the video capabilities are of the new Olympus E-M1. I’m hopeful the E-M1 will have enough video proficiency for what I do. Based on what I’ve read I’m guessing it will. But the beauty of the Micro Four Thrids system is if I need the GH6 I can easily add it to my bag of tricks.

Lumix GH6 Has much improved Autofocus
American dipper captured with the Lumix GH6 and the Olympus 150-400mm lens. Shot handheld at 1/30th of a second to blur the water

Mix and match both bodies and lenses

All my Olympus lenses, including the 150-400mm that I used for the image above, work with the Lumix bodies. All my Lumix lenses work with the Olympus bodies. It’s just one of the major benefits to using cameras that use the Micro Four Thirds mount. I switched from Nikon ten years ago for this mobility. Can you imagine if we would have had Canon, Nikon, and now Sony sharing a lens mount? How nice would that be for the consumer? Below is my video comparing my new Olympus MFT camera and 150-400mm zoom to the Sony A9 and 200-600mm zoom. In this situation I had to choose because these lenses aren’t swappable between the two systems. In the MFT world you can do this with ease.

Either way, things are looking up for the world of Micro Four Thirds cameras and lenses. Lumix has built a fabulous new camera. And… the new OM-Digital Solutions has done an admirable job bringing a new company online with what looks like an impressive new body. At one time I was a bit hesitant to recommend either company. However, with the new Lumix GH6 and the Olympus OM-1, I’m feeling much more positive about the future of Micro Four Thirds.

For Lumix GH6 Specs Click Here

For Olympus OM-1 Specs Click Here

Add Your Voice!
There are 13 comments on this post…
  1. Luis MesaOn Mar. 16th, 2022 (2 months ago)

    I received my OM-1 two weeks ago. In my opinion it is a Great Leap Forward. The autofocus, the lack of noise at high isos, and the incredible ibis, definitely justify an upgrade in cameras. I most probably won’t get rid of my em1iii, as it is a great camera, but now it will become a back-up body. I am not the right person to comment on technical aspects, but as a user, this is a great camera. I look forward to testing the Lumix gh6. Your comment about the images really picked my curiosity, as I am a love great images.
    I’m on my way to Morocco tomorrow, where the OM1 will have to prove its worth, but I’m sure I won’t be disappointed!

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Mar. 16th, 2022 (2 months ago)

      Happy to hear from you Luis. Good luck in Moroco. Thaks for adding your voice. Alway appreciate hearing from my readers.

  2. Claude ChiarotOn Mar. 3rd, 2022 (3 months ago)

    Hi Dan,
    The Oly 150-400mm autofocus seems performing well per your test in photo mode, what about the the lens IS or the GH6 IBIS? which one perform the best, assuming you can only use one of the two?
    Also have you tested the autofocus and image stabilization in video mode?
    Thanks!
    Claude

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Mar. 3rd, 2022 (3 months ago)

      Unfortunately I didn’t have time to do a proper more lengthy test. My biggest concern was AF so that’s what I concentrated on. Thanks for your input Claude.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Mar. 23rd, 2022 (2 months ago)

      Sorry for the delay in getting back to you Claude. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make the additional tests you requested. I had the camera for a very short period of time and it’s now back with Panasonic. I hope to get again for more tests but so far that hasn’t happened. I will update you if things change. Thanks for the questions. I appreciate hearing from my readers.

  3. RobertOn Feb. 25th, 2022 (3 months ago)

    The menu video is for the OM-1. Any chance of posting the same for the GH-6?

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Feb. 25th, 2022 (3 months ago)

      Hey Robert, good catch. I have no idea what made me post n OM-1 menu. I must have grabbed the wrong link. Let me try and find the right one. Sorry about that and thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  4. Joel KleinerOn Feb. 23rd, 2022 (3 months ago)

    Your reports, and detailed information is always appreciated Dan. It’s great to hear that there is some improvement on the LUMIX GH6 auto focus. I’m sure the video features are 1st class for the videographers. As previously mentioned, it is great to know that the M 4/3rds cameras and systems are still alive and improving. The other question I have is how long will it take the new Olympus Co. and Panasonic to get these cameras in the hands of the photographic public. There seems to still be supply chain issues with respect to the photographic market as well as every aspect of manufacturing, worldwide.

    It is always wonderful to read a positive report. 📸 👌 😎

  5. Portrait of Joe Dotson

    Joe DotsonOn Feb. 22nd, 2022 (3 months ago)

    Thanks Dan. I am hoping that OM Systems (Or someone) will send you a new OM-1. I would like to see your comparison to the current OM-D E-M1X.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Feb. 22nd, 2022 (3 months ago)

      You and me both Joe. The new OM Digital Solutions is a very difficult group to communicate with. Not sure why. The folks at Lumix make it super simple and respond almost immediately even though I’m no longer an official ambassador. It makes for a nice working relationship. I’m hoping to test the OM-1 camera soon. Will let you know. Stay tuned.

  6. Mircea BlanaruOn Feb. 22nd, 2022 (3 months ago)

    I am so glad you are so satisfied with the new Lumix camera!!! That means the micro 4/3 standard has a bright future!!! I take photos with Olympus and Panasonic cameras since 2008, building also a collection of objectives in the same standard and I am not easily willing to give up and choose another brand…

  7. Joe DotsonOn Feb. 21st, 2022 (3 months ago)

    Dan, thanks for the new video. Did you have a chance to use the GH6 while shooting the snow geese? And if so, how was the AF compared to our G9’s.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Feb. 21st, 2022 (3 months ago)

      Joe, as I mentioned in the blog post, the GH6 is considerably better than what we’ve had so far. Photos from the Speeding Pooch Test had substantially more keepers than I ever saw with the G9.No I wasn’t able to test the GH6 on the swans I”m working on.

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