The Lumix S1 isn’t the digital camera I believed Panasonic would construct. It’s larger, heavier, and costlier than I anticipated. However it’s also bolder, taking dangers and attempting new issues different firms draw back from. Panasonic has written a brand new recipe for a mirrorless digital camera, one which leaves no components 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 will probably be profitable.

That religion is properly positioned. The S1 is among the most versatile and succesful cameras ever made, mirrorless or not, and it’s extra spectacular for being a first-generation product. It exhibits what’s doable when a digital camera is constructed with out the same old constraints placed on dimension and weight, and whereas which will restrict the breadth of its attraction, it’s dominant for the appropriate buyer. Backed by the power of two different firms, Sigma and Leica, within the heroic-sounding L-Mount Alliance, Panasonic additionally has a aggressive edge not normally afforded to new digital camera techniques, as extra native lenses will likely be accessible for the S1 in its first yr than Nikon’s and Canon’s new mirrorless techniques.

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Design and dealing with

It isn’t simply picture high quality or efficiency that separates knowledgeable digital camera from a client mannequin. Management and sturdiness are equally vital. 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 absolutely embracing the truth that mirrorless cameras are sometimes used as alternate options to a DSLR.

Fortuitously, 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, USB-C port that may energy and cost the digital camera, and each headphone and microphone jacks.

Daven Mathies/Digital Tendencies

Daven Mathies/Digital Tendencies

Daven Mathies/Digital Tendencies

Daven Mathies/Digital Tendencies

The physique is totally lined in buttons, dials, and switches offering extra direct entry management than another mirrorless digital camera. The button format could be very comparable, though not equivalent, to that of the Lumix G9, the most effective Micro 4 Thirds cameras we’ve ever examined. Additionally it is the identical because the S1R — you don’t sacrifice any usability by choosing the S1, regardless of it being $1,200 cheaper.

I like is 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 operate for it. There’s no extra digging by way of the menu attempting to determine which icon corresponds to which button (though, Panasonic has redesigned the menus, and that individual job is evident now).

Panasonic Lumix S1 In contrast To

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

The interface provides different enhancements. If you wish to shortly 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 normal, however I used to be shocked by how pure it felt to faucet ISO thrice to boost it by a cease, quite than having to control two completely different controls.

On the entrance of the digital 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 commonplace single-point autofocus and face/eye-detection. This let me change focus modes on the fly to suit the state of affairs with out even taking my eye from the viewfinder.

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

It’s this consideration to element that makes the S1 an awesome digital camera. Even the shutter button has been angled barely to the appropriate to higher suit your index finger. The one nagging level is the facility change, which is positioned in an ungainly place simply behind the shutter launch, however not less than it’s on the appropriate facet of the digital camera.

Consumer expertise

Increase 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 may see element within the highlights and shadows. It’s so sharp, you may’t make out particular person pixels wherever.

Take an image, and the subsequent factor you discover is how whisper-quiet the shutter is. Such a gentle noise coming from such a hefty digital camera is complicated at first; wanting 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. The truth is, 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 digital camera’s speaker. I double-checked the settings to verify the mechanical shutter was on; it was.

Daven Mathies/Digital Tendencies

Adore it or hate it, there isn’t a getting round how a lot the S1 weighs. It is a heavy digital camera, and the trio of Lumix L-mount lenses at present accessible are not any lightweights, both. The 2 zooms, a 24-105mm f/four and 70-200mm f/four, are each well-made and really feel good within the hand, however even with their comparatively gradual f/four apertures, they’re nonetheless fairly massive. The S Professional 50mm f/1.four — which is a surprising 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. The truth is, look away from full body solely. Panasonic will fortunately promote you a Micro 4 Thirds digital camera, in spite of everything.

However regardless of the load, or maybe due to it, the S1 gives a satisfying taking pictures 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 three million greater than the Sony A7 III. It could possibly additionally refresh at both 60 or 120 frames per second.

Pushing that many pixels that shortly spells catastrophe for the battery, nonetheless. 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 %. It’s not a scientific measurement, and battery life varies enormously 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 attractive 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 just about inconceivable to detect particular person pixels, even when wanting on the nice textual content within the publicity meter, for instance. It’s a good looking piece of engineering and will ease any lingering considerations 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 price of moiré. That’s a bit of 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 taking pictures. 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 pictures 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 digital camera on a tripod and activate Excessive Decision Mode to create a 96MP picture. The S1 is mainly two cameras in a single, providing you with decrease decision if you want pace, and ultra-high decision if 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.

Daven Mathies/Digital Tendencies

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

It’s made doable because of 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) expertise, which is mainly hyper-advanced distinction detection. Part-detection is the gold commonplace of autofocus, because it not solely is aware of when a picture is in or out of focus, but in addition whether or not an out-of-focus picture is front- or back-focused. Meaning it is aware of which course to show the lens to realize focus, dashing the method up and customarily eradicating the main focus “looking” that happens in contrast-detection techniques.

DFD closes the hole between distinction and section detection by constantly evaluating two pictures at barely completely different focus positions, then analyzing the change in blur between the 2 to find out which course, and by how far, to maneuver the main focus. This runs at a blazing 480 frames per second on the S1, good for a claimed focusing pace of zero.08 seconds — inside putting distance of one of the best phase-detection techniques.

Daven Mathies/Digital Tendencies

It really works properly about 90 % 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 pace in any respect, even when shortly focusing backwards and forwards between close to and distant topics. On this state of affairs, it was flawless.

Nonetheless, in different conditions the autofocus would generally 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 instantly begin trying to find no obvious purpose. This may very well be an issue in case your pictures calls for a quick response time.

The S1 additionally will get superior subtract monitoring because of deep studying. It could possibly acknowledge individuals, both full our bodies or simply the faces and eyes, and a few animals. This characteristic works even at lengthy distances. As you may see within the video on the high of the web page, which was shot on the S1, it really works in steady mode. You’ll be able to discover some “respiratory” within the background highlights, nonetheless — that’s the DFD system barely adjusting focus to create these comparability pictures it wants.

Picture high quality

Whereas S sequence clients doubtless skew towards skilled and can shoot in RAW, it’s value noting the S1 produces a number of the finest out-of-camera JPEGs I’ve ever seen. Panasonic’s colour science is de facto dialed in right here. Pores and skin tones look implausible, with excellent colour and tonality that softens shadows in your topic with out eradicating an excessive amount of distinction. It’s a glance that’s troublesome to repeat when working with the RAW file. (All RAW pictures have been transformed to Adobe DNGs, as third-party RAW assist for the S1 wasn’t accessible on the time of this evaluation. Picture high quality could change barely when the recordsdata are formally supported.)

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

Excessive ISO efficiency can also be strong, with good noise ranges by way of ISO 25,600. The highest ISO of 51,200 is usable at decreased picture sizes, however does present a major bounce 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 displays barely extra noise all through the ISO vary. You’ll be able to enhance the S1’s ISO even greater, 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 nice 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 evaluation, but when a number of portraits, significantly style the place clothes itself is the topic, this might trigger an issue.

To be honest, 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 purpose why some photographers ought to go for higher-resolution fashions. With almost twice the pixels, the 47MP S1R will likely be a lot much less susceptible to moiré. Once more, for nonmoving topics, excessive decision mode provides one other resolution.

Video high quality

The S1 is probably not the GH5 of the full-frame world, nevertheless it packs a punch in terms of video. It could possibly shoot 4K at as much as 60 frames per second (from a cropped area of the sensor) and may even 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 four: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 scale back high quality, and is rather more prone to moiré, as you may 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 digital 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’ll additionally get higher within the close to future, not less than 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 more durable to win over hybrid nonetheless/video shooters. Given the S1’s excessive beginning worth, adequate isn’t adequate.

Our Take

Panasonic is taking a giant threat with the Lumix S sequence. Not solely is it moving into full-frame territory for the primary time, it’s doing so with a digital camera that throws out typical knowledge about what a mirrorless digital camera must be. It’s massive, 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 excellent, nonetheless. Autofocus errors, as intermittent as they’re, are a trigger for concern. Softness and moiré in slow-motion video may make the characteristic unusable. On a $2,000 digital camera physique, these can be considerably forgivable; on a $2,500 physique, clients are going to be extra vital.

That mentioned, from the attitude of each picture high quality and options, the S1 stays probably the most spectacular mirrorless digital camera I’ve used so far, and it’s solely going to get higher. Sigma just lately 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). It will 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 will likely be, however it is going to doubtless be 2 to three years earlier than a substitute digital camera hits the market.

Is there a greater different?

There isn’t anybody digital camera that’s definitively higher than the S1, however a number of have particular options that may matter to you. If you would like a smaller digital 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 digital 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.

Must you purchase it?

Sure. For many who need one of the best at any price, the Lumix S1 makes a robust case on your cash.

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