Sophisticated technology makes S1 picture perfect

Sophisticated technology makes S1 picture perfect

Noel Campion reviews the Panasonic Lumix and is left impressed by its outstanding performance

I’ve been testing the Panasonic Lumix S1, which was first announced early in 2019 and is their first foray in the full-frame mirrorless market.

Also announced at that time was the S1R, a high-resolution camera that offers a massive 47.3-MP sensor.

The S1 has a 24.2-MP sensor that is designed to meet the demands of hybrid shooters who required a pro camera for both video and stills.

On paper, the Lumix S1 has an impressive feature set including 5-axis IBIS or in-body image stabilisation, 10-bit internal 4K recording, a class-leading electronic viewfinder with 5.76-million-dot OLED display and a top-down LCD display.

It also has dual card slots — UHS-II and XQD for built-in redundancy.

The body is incredibly rugged and designed to meet the demands of the most challenging professional users.

However, all of this weather sealing and toughness comes at the cost of size and weight.

The S1 weighs in at 1,021 grams, over 370 grams more than its main rival, the Sony A7III.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and some users will actually prefer the larger, heftier body.

For one thing, it makes it easier to hold the camera steady when taking photos and videos.

Something I was really impressed with is the IBIS. This can allow you to get sharp images at slower shutter speeds thanks to 5.5-stops of image stabilisation.

Combined with the 2-axis OIS (Optical Image Stabiliser) in the Lumix S Series lenses, this Dual IS 2 system increases the level of compensation to 6-stop which means you can more often leave the tripod at home.

Making use of sophisticated technology, vibration measurements are taken not only from a gyro sensor but also using information from the CMOS itself and from an accelerometer sensor.

This implementation is the best I’ve used on any full-frame camera.

The S1 features a large and deep grip which makes it easier to carry and balances the weight nicely.

It’s also covered in a textured rubber material that gives you confidence that it won’t slip out of your hand easily.

I love the overall ergonomics and physical controls that make using the S1 an enjoyable experience for the enthusiast, but it’s also the practicality of the buttons and dials that pros need for fast access to regularly used features.

My review unit only came with one lens, the Lumix S-24-105 f / 4.

I would love to have tested more lenses with this camera, but the 24-105 focal length covers a broad range of needs and is a great all-in-one option.

Panasonic formed the L-Mount alliance with Leica and Sigma and adopted the mount Leica uses for its full-frame SL and APS-C TL cameras.

It’s relatively large with an inner diameter of 51.6 mm and flange depth of 20.0 mm and in theory, should allow for lenses with wider apertures.

At the time of the launch last year, there were only three lenses available for the S1 including a 50mm f / 1.4 prime, the 24-105mm f / 4 and 70-200mm f / 4.

However, between Sigma, Leica and Panasonic, there’s the promise of up to 60 lenses to be launched this year.

Photo taken with Lumix S1 by Noel Campion
Photo taken with Lumix S1 by Noel Campion

The S1 has controls that are often only accessible on other cameras by going into the menus.

On the top left is the mode dial, which has a pushdown locking button. Under this is a five-position drive mode switch.

You also get a three-position switch for single, continuous and manual focus modes. On the top right is a screen which displays all your current settings and just behind the shutter button on the grip is dedicated WB, ISO and exposure buttons.

There’s even a dedicated button for switching from the EVF to the rear screen.

The EVF is the best I’ve used. It’s bright and super sharp making it fantastic for getting critical manual focus and reviewing images.

The rear screen is also excellent. I’m not the biggest fan of screens that fully swing out to the side and can twist to face you while looking into the lens.

I understand the benefits for people who vlog, although I would suggest the S1 is too big and heavy for that.

The S1 implementation allows you to tilt the screen up and down, but you can also tilt it out to the right at 60-degrees.

This is great for getting low down shots in vertical mode.

The rear screen is fully touch-enabled allowing you full control over menus and playback, unlike the Sony cameras.

The menu systems take a little getting used to if you’re coming from another system but it makes logical sense.

You can customise the buttons the way you want them and the customisable Q button gives you quick access to commonly used features.

The port selection is excellent with both headphone and mic ports, as well as XLR support via a dedicated hotshoe.

You also get a fast USB Type-C port and full-size HDMI output to external recorders or monitors.

The S1 supports both Bluetooth and WiFi (5Ghz / 2.4Ghz) remote control, using the Lumix Sync app for remote shooting and photo transfers.

The Lumix S1 uses contrast-detect and it simply isn’t as good the phase-detect systems used by its main rivals.

However, it does fight back with AI features that assist the focus system and this can be updated to allow it to improve over time.

The S1 is capable of shooting in bursts up to 9 fps, but only 6 fps in continuous AF mode.

If you use the high-speed XQD card it will take 90 RAW images before the buffer fills and can shoot JPEG photos continuously until the card runs out of storage.

Overall, the S1 is a lovely camera to use and is packed with tons of features that are too many to cover here.

I mainly used it for stills, but many will buy it for its video features alone.

The menu system is very snappy and the camera starts up in split seconds making sure you don’t miss an opportunity.

Image quality is outstanding, based on the 24-105 lens I had and this is one of the best cameras I’ve used for low light performance matching the class-leading A7III.

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