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Panasonic's new Lumix DC-S1 and S1R: What you need to know

Panasonic's new Lumix DC-S1 and S1R: What you need to know


Panasonic Lumix DC S1 and S1R: What you need to know

Panasonic's new Lumix DC-S1 and S1R: What you need to know 1

The new Panasonic Lumix DC S1 and S1R are Panasonic’s first full-frame cameras, and only the second (and third) full-frame options for what had, until recently, been the Leica SL-mount. Broadly comparable in intent to Nikon’s Z-series, the S1 is a powerful all-rounder, featuring advanced video capabilities as well as 24MP stills, while the more expensive S1R is a high-resolution 47MP stills-oriented flagship.

We’ve had our hands on the S1 and S1R, and in this article we’ll pull out the key specifications, and walk through the major features and ergonomics of both cameras.

Panasonic Lumix DC S1 and S1R: What you need to know

Panasonic's new Lumix DC-S1 and S1R: What you need to know 2

Ergonomically and cosmetically, the S1 (shown here) and S1R are effectively identical. They’re DSLR-style full-frame mirrorless cameras intended for professional and enthusiast use. As such, they’re fairly large, chunky, and peppered with buttons, switches and dials.

Panasonic Lumix DC S1 and S1R: What you need to know

Panasonic's new Lumix DC-S1 and S1R: What you need to know 3

They’re also tough. Panasonic claims that the magnesium alloy bodies of the S1 and S1R are sealed against dust and moisture, and will operate down to -10°C (14°F). Essentially, we understand that the S1/R were designed to be at least as durable as the GH5 in tough conditions, which in our experience means they should be very tough indeed.

This shot shows the vertical controls on the optional grip, which like the S1/R is weather-sealed and built to a high standard.

Panasonic Lumix DC S1 and S1R: What you need to know

Panasonic's new Lumix DC-S1 and S1R: What you need to know 4

Panasonic has stressed to us that feedback from professional photographers was critical to the design of these cameras, and it turns out that when you ask professional photographers what they want a full-frame camera to look like, you end up with something that looks an awful lot like a high-end DSLR, complete with a large grip, and wide, fairly deep body.

Panasonic Lumix DC S1 and S1R: What you need to know

Panasonic's new Lumix DC-S1 and S1R: What you need to know 5

And… (drumroll…) twin card slots! The S1/R support SD (UHS-II / v90 compatible) and XQD recording media, with support for CFexpress (an evolution of XQD offering even higher data transfer rates which has the same form factor) coming in future. A ‘card lock’ feature issues an audible warning if the card door is opened while the camera is still writing data.

Panasonic Lumix DC S1 and S1R: What you need to know

Panasonic's new Lumix DC-S1 and S1R: What you need to know 6

The substantial handgrip houses an appropriately substantial battery, which is good for a curiously unremarkable CIPA-rated endurance of between 360 and 400 images, depending on which model, which card type you use and whether you use the EVF or LCD. These figures increase to ~1100 in ‘power save’ mode. In normal shooting, considering the battery’s high capacity, we’d expect much more.

Panasonic Lumix DC S1 and S1R: What you need to know

Panasonic's new Lumix DC-S1 and S1R: What you need to know 7

The single biggest difference at a component level is the sensors. The S1 features a 24MP, ‘high-sensitivity’ sensor with a maximum ISO sensitivity of 204,800, whereas the S1R offers greater resolution, at 47MP, with a lower absolute maximum ISO sensitivity of 51,200. Neither cameras’ sensors feature a low-pass filter, which should guarantee excellent sharpness, potentially at the expense of moiré in some situations. Both sensors are stabilized.

It’s worth noting that these sensors are not BSI-CMOS designs. This means that they are not variants of the manufactured sensors we’ve seen in contemporary Sony and Nikon DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. Until we’ve completed our testing we won’t know exactly what that means, except that we’re not expecting any PDAF striping or banding issues. Why? Because there’s no PDAF. More about that on the next slide.

Panasonic Lumix DC S1 and S1R: What you need to know

Panasonic's new Lumix DC-S1 and S1R: What you need to know 8

Panasonic has opted to use a variation of its established contrast-detection DFD autofocus system, rather than an on-sensor phase-detection system of the kind favored by other manufacturers. Despite their very different sensors, the S1 and S1R offer the same 225-zone autofocus system.

This is because the AF system is effectively a processing layer on top of the sensor, not built into it. Since both cameras feature the same processor, autofocus performance should be identical – notwithstanding the risk of misfocus being more noticeable in the S1R’s higher-resolution files.

This image shows off the S1/R’s large top-mounted LCD and twin control dials. Just to the right of the LCD is the on/off switch which interestingly – and in our opinion a bit disappointingly – has been moved from its G9 / GH5 position around the shutter button. While less likely to be bumped in its new position, we miss the ability to react quickly and turn the camera on with a single finger.

Panasonic Lumix DC S1 and S1R: What you need to know

Panasonic's new Lumix DC-S1 and S1R: What you need to know 9

The S1 and S1R both feature high-resolution 5.76M-dot OLED viewfinders, which Panasonic describes, accurately, as offering ‘the world’s highest resolution’. In use, the S1/R’s viewfinder experience is certainly impressive, and free of the ‘rainbow’ effect which for years has dogged the field-sequential viewfinders used in some of Panasonic’s M43 cameras. We’re not sure it uses all of those 5.76M dots, though, since that number implies a 4:3 finder and these appear to be 3:2.

Sharpness isn’t just about resolution, of course. The optical assembly in the EVF is unusually complex, comprising five elements in three groups, including three ‘optical glass’ elements. The EVF’s default (max) magnification is 0.78X, but this drops to 0.74X or 0.7X if you want to see information displayed around the preview, rather than overlaid on-top.

In this image you can see the S1/R’s rear controls, which include a combined rear dial / 4-way controller and a dedicated 8-way autofocus joystick. The joystick is, no pun intended, a joy to use, capable of directing your chosen AF point around the frame extremely quickly. The 4-way controller beneath it is less satisfying, being a smaller and shallower control which we can imagine being hard to manipulate with cold or gloved fingers.

Panasonic Lumix DC S1 and S1R: What you need to know

Panasonic's new Lumix DC-S1 and S1R: What you need to know 10

On the rear of the S1/R is a 3.2″, 2.1M-dot ‘triaxial’ tilting display, with a tilting mechanism designed to withstand professional use in tough shooting conditions. As we’d expect from Panasonic at this point, the display is touch-sensitive. A ‘night mode’ can be activated on both EVF and / or rear display which switches to a red on black interface to avoid eyestrain and dazzling when shooting in dark conditions.

Speaking of brightness, the rear display is an RGBW type, which includes (W)hite pixels alongside red, green and blue ones to improve visibility in bright conditions and reduce battery use the rest of the time.

Panasonic Lumix DC S1 and S1R: What you need to know

Panasonic's new Lumix DC-S1 and S1R: What you need to know 11

Aside from the difference in resolution for stills, video is where we see the biggest differentiators between the S1 and S1R. At a casual glance, both cameras appear to offer fairly similar 4K video shooting capabilities, but a closer look reveals that the S1 is better optimized for serious video capture.

Panasonic Lumix DC S1 and S1R: What you need to know

Panasonic's new Lumix DC-S1 and S1R: What you need to know 12

While both the S1 and S1R can shoot 4K/60 video, they differ in just about all important respects.

The S1 can shoot UHD/30p from the full width of its sensor and can do so for an unlimited time. It can also capture UHD/60p from an APS-C crop for up to 29:59 minutes. All this footage can be captured as 8-bit 4:2:0 footage or output over HDMI as 8-bit 4:2:2. The 30p footage can also be captured as 10-bit 4:2:0 high dynamic range footage in the camera’s HLG mode.

A paid firmware upgrade will allow 10-bit 4:2:2 capture and output of the 30/25 or 24p footage and access to the full V-Log gamma option (not the truncated V-LogL version offered in the GH-series cameras).

The S1R can shoot both UHD/60p and 30p from a 1.09x crop of its sensor, and is pixel-binned, which is likely to mean less detailed footage. There’s no HLG or upgrade option for the S1R, its 30p shooting is capped at 29:59 and the 60p option will shoot for about 10 minutes.

This shot shows the S1’s audio, HDMI and USB C I/O ports. The S1/R can be charged and powered via the latter.

Panasonic Lumix DC S1 and S1R: What you need to know

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The Panasonic Lumix DC-S1 and S1R will be available in April for $2499 and $3699 respectively. The optional video firmware upgrade for the S1 will be available at a later date, price still TBD.



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