Panasonic Lumix S1 Review | Redefining Mirrorless Cameras

Panasonic Lumix S1

MSRP $2,499.99

“The Lumix S1 is a camera constructed with out constraints.”

Execs

  • Finest viewfinder available on the market
  • Wonderful RAW and JPEG picture high quality
  • 96MP excessive decision mode
  • Distinctive construct high quality, management format, and UI
  • Nice subject-tracking autofocus

Cons

  • Large, heavy
  • Intermittent autofocus errors

The Lumix S1 just isn’t the camera I believed Panasonic would construct. It’s larger, heavier, and dearer than I anticipated. However it’s also bolder, taking dangers and making an attempt new issues different firms shrink back from. Panasonic has written a brand new recipe for a mirrorless camera, one which leaves no substances on the shelf.

But when Panasonic is an underdog, it definitely isn’t appearing like one. It slapped a $2,500 price ticket on the S1 — $500 greater than the Sony A7 III and Nikon Z 6, that are constructed round comparable sensors. It is aware of it has one thing particular right here and has religion that it is going to be profitable.

That religion is nicely positioned. The S1 is likely one of the most versatile and succesful cameras ever made, mirrorless or not, and it’s extra spectacular for being a first-generation product. It reveals what’s potential when a camera is constructed with out the standard constraints placed on dimension and weight, and whereas that will restrict the breadth of its enchantment, it’s dominant for the suitable buyer. Backed by the energy of two different firms, Sigma and Leica, within the heroic-sounding L-Mount Alliance, Panasonic additionally has a aggressive edge not often afforded to new camera programs, as extra native lenses shall be out there for the S1 in its first 12 months than Nikon’s and Canon’s new mirrorless programs.

Daven Mathies/Digital Tendencies

Design and dealing with

It isn’t simply picture high quality or efficiency that separates knowledgeable camera from a shopper mannequin. Management and sturdiness are equally necessary. Panasonic is aware of this, and the S1 is constructed like a tank. At 2.25 kilos, it has half a pound on the Sony A7 III and Nikon Z 6 — in actual fact, it’s even heavier than even the Nikon D850 DSLR. Panasonic is embracing the truth that a mirrorless camera has far more to supply than weight financial savings in relation to changing your DSLR.

Luckily, the S1 places that weight to good use. It’s professionally weather-sealed so it may possibly stand up to rain, snow, and mud. It has a big, snug grip that feels safe in your hand. It provides twin reminiscence card slots, one SD and one XQD (which may also be suitable with CFExpress playing cards within the close to future). There’s a full-size HDMI port, a USB-C port that may energy and cost the camera, and each headphone and microphone jacks.

Panasonic Lumix S1Daven Mathies/Digital Tendencies

Panasonic Lumix S1Daven Mathies/Digital Tendencies

Panasonic Lumix S1Daven Mathies/Digital Tendencies

Panasonic Lumix S1Daven Mathies/Digital Tendencies

The physique is totally lined in buttons, dials, and switches offering extra direct entry management than every other mirrorless camera. The button format may be very comparable, though not an identical, to that of the Lumix G9, among the finest Micro 4 Thirds cameras we’ve ever examined. It’s also the identical because the S1R — you don’t sacrifice any usability by choosing the S1, regardless of it being $1,200 cheaper.

I really like how simple it’s to customise the controls to your liking. Merely maintain a button down till the customized settings menu seems on the display, then choose the specified perform for it. There’s no extra digging by way of the menu making an attempt to determine which icon corresponds to which button (though, Panasonic has redesigned the menus, and that specific activity is obvious now).

The physique is roofed in buttons, dials, and switches offering extra direct management than every other mirrorless camera.

The interface provides different enhancements. If you wish to rapidly cycle by way of autofocus modes, ISO settings, or white steadiness presets, merely faucet the corresponding button. You’ll be able to press the button after which use one of many command dials to regulate the setting, as traditional, however I used to be shocked by how pure it felt to faucet ISO 3 times to boost it by a cease, quite than having to govern two completely different controls.

On the entrance of the camera you’ll discover a two-position change that may be set to toggle completely different settings. The alternatives are many, however I programmed it to swap between customary single-point autofocus and face/eye-detection. This let me change focus modes on the fly to suit the scenario with out even taking my eye from the viewfinder.

On high of the camera is an LCD info show that’s the most important of any mirrorless camera. Activate the backlight, and it glows a heat amber colour — a number of of the buttons on the again of the camera additionally gentle up, though we want all of them did.

It’s this consideration to element that makes the S1 an incredible camera. Even the shutter button has been angled barely to the suitable to higher suit your index finger. The one nagging level is the ability change, which is positioned in an ungainly place simply behind the shutter launch, however at the least it’s on the suitable facet of the camera.

Person expertise

Elevate the S1 to your eye and the very first thing you discover is how lovely the view is thru the expansive digital viewfinder. Colours are wealthy, you possibly can see element within the highlights and shadows. It’s so sharp, you possibly can’t make out particular person pixels anyplace.

Take an image, and the subsequent factor you discover is how whisper-quiet the shutter is. Such a delicate noise coming from such a hefty camera is complicated at first; trying on the S1, you count on the fwap-clang! of a DSLR, and as an alternative you get one thing extra just like the muffled click on of a point-and-shoot. In actual fact, it’s so quiet that the primary time I shot the S1, I wrongly assumed it was set to digital shutter mode, and the sound I used to be listening to was only a simulated noise taking part in by way of the camera’s speaker. I double-checked the settings to verify the mechanical shutter was on; it was.

Panasonic Lumix S1Daven Mathies/Digital Tendencies

Adore it or hate it, there is no such thing as a getting round how a lot the S1 weighs. It is a heavy camera, and the trio of Lumix L-mount lenses at the moment out there are not any lightweights, both. The 2 zooms, a 24-105mm f/4 and 70-200mm f/4, are each well-made and really feel good within the hand, however even with their comparatively gradual f/4 apertures, they’re nonetheless fairly huge. The S Professional 50mm f/1.4 — which is a shocking lens — weighs over 2 kilos by itself. (It additionally prices $2,300 — yikes.)

When you’re on the lookout for a light-weight system, look elsewhere. In actual fact, look away from full body fully. Panasonic will fortunately promote you a Micro 4 Thirds camera, in any case.

However regardless of the burden, or maybe due to it, the S1 offers a satisfying capturing expertise. It feels purposeful, decided. It’s a pickup truck; it exists to do a job. You don’t purchase it to tackle trip. You spend money on it to do work.

Options and specs

If the skilled management format doesn’t promote you on the S1, the digital viewfinder simply may. We’ve seen nice EVFs earlier than, however none fairly like this. The OLED panel packs in some 5.7 million pixels, 2 million greater than the already glorious EVFs of the Nikon Z 6, Fujifilm X-T3, and Canon EOS R — and over 3 million greater than the Sony A7 III. It might additionally refresh at both 60 or 120 frames per second.

Pushing that many pixels that rapidly spells catastrophe for the battery, nevertheless. Even with a big capability of 3050mAh, battery life is rated for simply 380 photographs per cost. In my expertise, I made some 250 exposures earlier than the indicator dropped to about 50 p.c. It’s not a scientific measurement, and battery life varies significantly relying on use, however I’d count on to get round 500 photographs per cost. (An influence saving mode extends this to over 1,000, in response to Panasonic, however I didn’t take a look at this.)

You’ll love the gorgeous view by way of the expansive digital viewfinder.

At any price, it’s a small worth to pay for one of the best EVF available on the market. It’s nearly unimaginable to detect particular person pixels, even when trying on the high quality textual content within the publicity meter, for instance. It’s a phenomenal piece of engineering and may ease any lingering considerations {that a} diehard DSLR person could have about giving up their optical viewfinder.

Feeding that EVF is a 24-megapixel sensor with no anti-aliasing filter, offering sharper particulars on the potential value of moiré. That’s a little bit greater than half the decision of the Lumix S1R’s 47MP, nevertheless it’s greater than sufficient for many photographic duties.

It additionally helps for steady capturing. Each cameras can churn out 9 frames per second (6 with steady autofocus), however the S1 can keep that for for much longer. In our testing, we captured 75 photos at 9 fps earlier than the buffer stuffed up, in comparison with simply 32 for the S1R, when utilizing the XQD card.

And if 24 megapixels aren’t sufficient for you, place the camera on a tripod and activate Excessive Decision Mode to create a 96MP picture. The S1 is principally two cameras in a single, supplying you with decrease decision while you want velocity, and ultra-high decision while you want element for landscapes or nonetheless life topics. (If you really want to maximise element, the excessive decision mode on the S1R outputs a staggering 187MP.)

Panasonic Lumix S1Daven Mathies/Digital Tendencies

Excessive decision mode works by taking eight photos and mixing them into one, nevertheless it shifts the sensor by microscopic quantities between every. Not solely does this seize extra spatial decision, nevertheless it additionally cancels out the impact of the Bayer filter by recording full RGB colour information at each pixel location. Additionally, it dramatically reduces the prospect of moiré.

It’s made potential due to the 5-axis sensor-shift stabilization system within the S1. Past excessive decision mode, this provides as much as 6 stops of shake discount when paired with an optically stabilized lens. That’s 1 to 1.5 stops lower than what you get within the Olympus OM-D E-M1X, nevertheless it nonetheless makes an enormous distinction in real-world situations, for each stills and video.

Autofocus

The one controversial line the S1’s spec sheet is contrast-detection autofocus. Panasonic opted towards the quicker phase-detection autofocus in favor of its personal Depth from Defocus (DFD) technology, which is principally hyper-advanced distinction detection. Part-detection is the gold customary of autofocus, because it not solely is aware of when a picture is in or out of focus, but additionally whether or not an out-of-focus picture is front- or back-focused. Meaning it is aware of which path to show the lens to realize focus, rushing the method up and usually eradicating the main target “searching” that happens in contrast-detection programs.

DFD closes the hole between distinction and section detection by repeatedly evaluating two photos at barely completely different focus positions, then analyzing the change in blur between the 2 to find out which path, and by how far, to maneuver the main target. This runs at a blazing 480 frames per second on the S1, good for a claimed focusing velocity of 0.08 seconds — inside hanging distance of one of the best phase-detection programs.

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It really works nicely about 90 p.c of the time. Evaluating it side-by-side with a Canon EOS RP (which makes use of phase-detection), I couldn’t inform a distinction in velocity in any respect, even when rapidly focusing forwards and backwards between close to and distant topics. On this situation, it was flawless.

Nonetheless, in different conditions the autofocus would typically hunt earlier than locking in, inflicting a major delay earlier than I may snap the image. It felt nearly random. Autofocus would work for some time, after which all of a sudden begin looking for no obvious cause. This may very well be an issue in case your images calls for a quick response time.

The S1 additionally will get superior subtract monitoring due to deep studying. It might acknowledge individuals, both full our bodies or simply the faces and eyes, and a few animals. This function works even at lengthy distances. As you possibly can see within the video on the high of the web page, which was shot on the S1, it additionally works in steady mode. Even with out a 180-degree flip display, I may belief the camera was preserving me in focus. Nonetheless, you possibly can discover some “respiration” within the background highlights — that’s the DFD system barely adjusting focus to create these comparability photos it wants.

Picture high quality

Whereas S sequence clients possible skew towards skilled and can shoot in RAW, it’s price noting the S1 produces a number of the greatest out-of-camera JPEGs I’ve ever seen. Panasonic’s colour science is basically dialed in right here. Pores and skin tones look implausible, with good colour and tonality that softens shadows in your topic with out eradicating an excessive amount of distinction. It’s a glance that’s tough to repeat when working with the RAW file. (All RAW photos have been transformed to Adobe DNGs, as third-party RAW help for the S1 wasn’t out there on the time of this review. Picture high quality could change barely when the information are formally supported.)

In fact, the JPEGs received’t maintain as much as manipulation in postproduction. That’s the place the RAW information are available in, and the S1’s are each bit as malleable as these from Sony and Nikon, and even perhaps extra so. That is the place the camera advantages from its DFD autofocus system. By not layering phase-detect pixels over the sensor, you possibly can push exposures a lot additional with out working into banding.

Excessive ISO efficiency can be strong, with good noise ranges by way of ISO 25,600. The highest ISO of 51,200 is usable at diminished picture sizes, however does present a major leap in noise in darkish areas. That is the place the S1 has an edge over the S1R, which tops out at ISO 25,600 and reveals barely extra noise all through the ISO vary. You’ll be able to increase the S1’s ISO even increased, to 204,800, however count on heavy noise at that setting.

The one factor to be careful for with the S1 is moiré. With out an anti-aliasing filter, sure high quality patterns — just like the threads in clothes — can create interference with the pixels, resulting in a rainbow-like impact (that is demonstrated within the video on the high of the web page). I solely observed this as soon as all through my review, but when {photograph} loads of portraits, significantly style the place clothes itself is the topic, this might trigger an issue.

To be truthful, that is no completely different than different cameras of comparable decision that lack anti-aliasing filters — just like the Nikon Z 6 — however it’s one cause why some photographers ought to go for higher-resolution fashions. With practically twice the pixels, the 47MP S1R shall be a lot much less vulnerable to moiré. Once more, for nonmoving topics, excessive decision mode provides one other answer.

Video high quality

The S1 is probably not the GH5 of the full-frame world, nevertheless it packs a punch in relation to video. It might shoot 4K at 24 and 30 frames per second from the total width of the sensor, or at 60 frames per second from a cropped area of the sensor. It might additionally produce in-camera gradual movement utilizing a excessive framerate mode. It doesn’t have the 400-megabit-per-second codec of the GH5, however it may possibly nonetheless output a clear sign over HDMI (which makes use of a full-size Kind A connector). Sooner or later, a paid firmware replace will unlock V-log and 4:2:2 10-bit recording.

Video high quality in 4K at 24 fps is sort of good. There’s loads of element and colour, and it’s definitely sufficient for the nonetheless photographer who must shoot video on the facet. Excessive framerate mode does cut back high quality, and is far more prone to moiré, as you possibly can see within the pattern video. That isn’t nice, nevertheless it’s additionally not unusual — most cameras drop high quality considerably in excessive framerate mode.

For now, the S1 is a succesful video camera that finds itself among the many better of its friends within the full-frame world, even when it doesn’t fairly match the smaller-format GH5. It is going to additionally get higher within the close to future, at the least for patrons who don’t thoughts shelling out an as-yet-unstated worth for the V-Log replace. However with Nikon quickly providing RAW video output on the Z sequence, Panasonic could have to work tougher to win over hybrid nonetheless/video shooters. Given the S1’s excessive beginning worth, ok isn’t ok.

Our Take

Panasonic is taking an enormous danger with the Lumix S sequence. Not solely is it getting into full-frame territory for the primary time, it’s doing so with a camera that throws out standard knowledge about what a mirrorless camera must be. It’s huge, it’s heavy, and it’s magnificent. Whether or not Panasonic can win working professionals away from the extra established manufacturers of Nikon, Canon, and Sony stays to be seen, however the S1 is definitely up for the problem.

The S1 isn’t good, nevertheless. Autofocus errors, as intermittent as they’re, are a trigger for concern. Softness and moiré in slow-motion video may make the function unusable. On a $2,000 camera physique, these could be considerably forgivable; on a $2,500 physique, clients are going to be extra important.

That mentioned, from the attitude of each picture high quality and options, the S1 stays probably the most spectacular mirrorless camera I’ve used up to now, and it’s solely going to get higher. Sigma not too long ago introduced it could carry 11 of its high-end Artwork lenses to the L-mount, and naturally Leica already makes a number of (not that most individuals may afford them). This may speed up the maturation of the S sequence at a tempo Canon and Nikon merely can’t match.

How lengthy will it final?

The S1 is sturdy and professionally climate sealed. It ought to maintain as much as the calls for of working photographers for years. It is a new system, so we don’t but know what Panasonic’s improve schedule shall be, however it can possible be 2 to three years earlier than a substitute camera hits the market.

Is there a greater different?

There isn’t anybody camera that’s definitively higher than the S1, however a number of have particular options which may matter to you. In order for you a smaller camera with out giving up the full-frame sensor, the Sony A7 III is an efficient alternative — it’s additionally cheaper and makes use of phase-detection autofocus.

No different camera can match the S1’s mixture of options, picture high quality, sturdiness, and management format. It additionally has one of the best EVF within the enterprise.

Do you have to purchase it?

Sure. For individuals who need one of the best at any value, the Lumix S1 makes a robust case to your cash.

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