The Panasonic LUMIX S1 and the LUMIX S1R are two new, full-frame system cameras from Panasonic, the brand best known for its Micro Four Thirds models. The full-frame sensor in these cameras is four times larger than that in the Micro Four Thirds models, and that means a huge leap in image quality for Panasonic. That also applies even more for the LUMIX S1R, the model with extra-high resolution. Where the LUMIX S1 has to make do with 24 megapixels, the LUMIX S1R has 47. And for those who that’s not enough, the camera has the multi-shot mode to take pictures with a resolution four times higher. And although the LUMIX S1R is a dream for every photographer, you can photograph with it just as easily as you can film.
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Full-frame, HIGH-reS hybrid: Panasonic LUMIX S1R
Panasonic Lumix S1R versus Nikon Z7
The Nikon Z series was a welcome answer to the A7 models from Sony for some photographers due to the better ergonomics. The Nikon Z7 has a bigger grip and bigger buttons so that the camera sits better in the hand and is easier to use. The Panasonic LUMIX S1R is even bigger. The LUMIX S1R is therefore the ideal camera for photographers who appreciate the dimensions of a modern SLR, but who still want the benefits of a system camera and an electronic viewfinder. The LUMIX S1R is considerably bigger and heavier than the Z7. The lenses also seem to reflect those differences. Nikon prefers to opt for zooms that can be retracted extra for transport; Panasonic, for larger models that feel particularly robust.
The image quality of the two cameras does not differ much. They have almost the same number of megapixels. The Panasonic does score slightly better with its high res mode, with which you can create shots with more than 180 megapixels, and the quality of the video is also slightly better. The LUMIX S1R also has a better viewfinder, while the Nikon Z7 is a fraction faster. The major difference between the two cameras, in addition to the design, is the autofocus system. Nikon has a phase detection system, while Panasonic is sticking to contrast detection with DFD. That system is very accurate, but it needs to search a bit more for the focus than phase detection AF does. And you can see that in Continuous AF. That makes the C-AF on the LUMIX S1R less suitable for video. On the other hand, the Panasonic has a linear video focus setting (see video below). The latter is perhaps more important for serious videographers than the less good C-AF.
Panasonic Lumix S1R versus Canon EOS R
The Panasonic LUMIX S1R is also a very different camera than the Canon EOS R. You may not be able to compare the two, because the Panasonic LUMIX S1R is a top model from Panasonic, and the EOS R series does not yet have a professional model with high resolution. For the time being, however, the Canon EOS R is the best that Canon has in mirrorless terms, so we will have to use it for comparison. The EOS R is a lot smaller and slightly more advanced in terms of operation, with its Touch Bar and programmable ring on the lenses. The Canon EOS R takes at least a bit of getting used to, and that doesn’t work for everyone. The Lumix S1R is a bit more traditional when it comes to the placement of the buttons, and we think Panasonic has made a good choice.
The viewfinder of the Panasonic is also nicer, but the Canon EOS R, on the other hand, offers a turning and tilting screen with which you can also vlog. For the Canon EOS R, the same applies in terms of autofocus as for the Nikon Z7. The Dual Pixel AF is even very good at following people, even with video. But the Canon EOS R loses points because the camera has no built-in image stabilization. And that is precisely something that works very well on the Lumix S1R. Certainly if you want to work with non-stabilized fixed focal lengths or older lenses, that makes a big difference. A big difference between the LUMIX S1R and the EOS R is of course the resolution. The LUMIX S1R has about 50% more pixels and a High Res mode. On the Canon EOS R you can, of course, get started right away with all Canon EF lenses, while the range of lenses from Panasonic is still somewhat limited.
Panasonic is best-known to most photographers for its Micro Four Thirds cameras, a system that is also supported by Olympus. Less well-known is perhaps the deep cooperation that Panasonic has had with Leica for 18 years. Both brands have been releasing compact cameras for years that are sold under their own name with minimal differences, and Leica is involved in a number of Panasonic’s lenses for the Micro Four Thirds system. On the other hand, it is not strange to assume that Panasonic is involved as a technology giant in the development of various Leica products.
At Photokina 2018, it was announced that the two brands had established a partnership with Sigma under the name L-Alliance. The name is derived from the L-mount that Leica has been using for some years for the Leica APS-C and full-frame system cameras. Panasonic announced the arrival of its own full-frame system cameras and lenses with this mount at Photokina 2018, and Sigma now also has a camera for this system: the Sigma FP. The Panasonic cameras, the LUMIX S1 and LUMIX S1R, are now available, and the series has also been expanded with a model that is even better for video: the LUMIX S1H. The LUMIX S1 has a 24-megapixel sensor, and the LUMIX S1R, a 47-megapixel sensor. They are cameras for photographers who are looking for the highest image quality and usability, for both photography and video. Apart from the sensor, the LUMIX S1 and S1R are identical. For this test, we have been able to adopt many points from the LUMIX S1.
The Panasonic LUMIX S1R is an impressive camera. It is big, sturdy, and weighs quite a bit. Those who like holding a modern full-frame SLR can indulge themselves. The LUMIX S1R feels the same as a full-frame SLR, except that it has no mirror. The attention to detail and the refinement of the camera is impressive. This is a real camera for high-end photographers and videographers, and it is clear that Panasonic is listening carefully to its own users and ambassadors.
Due to the large number of physical buttons, their logical placement and the well-arranged menu, you get used to the camera fairly quickly. It is of course not possible to fully understand it in half an hour, because the options are too extensive, but all the basic options and settings are very quickly accessible. What’s very nice is the ability to put all your settings on an SD card so that you can easily transfer them to a second body, as well as the separation between the video settings and the settings that you want to use as a photographer. This allows you to switch very quickly between functions, and you can really use the camera as a hybrid for taking photos and moving images.
Panasonic S1R: BUILD
The camera looks a bit like a sturdy LUMIX G9, including the red ring around the adjustment button on the left shoulder. But the LUMIX S1R is a lot more robust. This gives the Panasonic LUMIX S1R even more room for big buttons and space for a big battery. The camera feels very robust and has extensive gaskets to make it dust- and (splash) waterproof. Panasonic has more than earned its spurs on this point with models such as the LUMIX GH5 and G9. The S-series cameras have both an XQD and SD card slot and will also be able to use faster cards in the future.
On the back, there are many physical adjustment buttons, including a joystick for the autofocus that is nice and fast and, for example, a selection button for switching between various AF positions. On top of the right-hand side next to the shutter-release button are two adjustment wheels and an on/off switch and buttons for the ISO value, exposure compensation and white balance. On the left is the mode button that we know from the G9, with an additional adjustment wheel below for transport selection. On the front, the mount release button is surprisingly located on the bottom left of the mount instead of – more commonly – on the right. There are also two programmable buttons between the lens and the grip. Panasonic has also further refined the menu structure, so that you no longer have an endless series under one tab. In combination with the touch option, this ensures a very user-friendly menu structure..
SCREEN AND VIEWFINDER OF THE PANASONIC LUMIX S1R
The viewfinder has the highest resolution available: 5.7 million pixels. The amount of detail that you can see as a result is phenomenal. The viewfinder magnification is not only substantial, with 0.78x, but also adjustable. Glasses wearers can reduce the magnification slightly so that you can see everything well with your eye at a slightly greater distance from the viewfinder. On the right shoulder, we also find an LCD with all the information about the camera settings. The screen on the back is 3.2 inches and has 2.1 million pixels. The screen tilts both horizontally and vertically and is of course touch sensitive. The screen cannot be folded up for selfies but always stays behind the camera. Many photographers find that better, and it works very quickly. Panasonic also claims that this solution is stronger than a screen that turns. Due to the lack of a hinged construction for turning, the screen can also be slightly larger. We find the camera a bit on the heavy side to carry at arm’s length for a long time. A LUMIX GH5 is a nicer camera for vlogging in that regard.
Autofocus SPEED AND ACCURACY Panasonic LUMIX S1R
The autofocus uses Panasonic’s latest-generation DFD technology. It is thus a contrast-detection system, but, thanks to DFD, the camera can interpret the blur and the system knows in which direction it should focus and how much. It looks a bit like a phase detection system in this respect, although you still occasionally see the typical back-and-forth searching as the camera tries to apply the latest corrections. The system works quickly and very accurately, and, with the brightest lenses, it can focus down to -6EV, which suddenly seems to be the new standard, with cameras such as the Canon EOS R and the Olympus OM-D E-M1X that can do that. Just like the new Olympus, the Panasonic S and S1R also have AI-based algorithms that can recognize people and animals, making it possible for the camera to select the right AF fields and adjust their size. The latter is unique, and you see the green area that indicates the focus area getting bigger and smaller while you take pictures. The camera of course also has the ability to focus on a human eye, and that makes portrait photography with little depth of field a lot easier.
Panasonic aims high for the new sensors, with aspherical micro lenses. Noise and dynamic range must be of the highest level. However, Panasonic does not yet use a BSI sensor like Sony does starting with the A7R II. The pixels on the Panasonic sensor must therefore share the space with the electronic circuits. With Sony, the pixels are on one side and the other electronics on the other side. To overcome possible disadvantages of this set-up, Panasonic has taken extra measures to better direct the light to the pixels and to prevent light beams from overflowing to the wrong pixels. Together with improved color technology, this ensures excellent performance and a very good color reproduction, both in photos and in video. Just like with the S1, shots at 6400 ISO still look great with the LUMIX S1R, with little noise. The sharpness of the shots is of course a lot higher than with the ‘normal’ S. That of course also has to do with the quality of the lenses.
The 47-megapixel sensor of the Panasonic LUMIX S1R is good and not inferior to that of other full-format sensors with around 40 megapixels. The LUMIX S1R has, just like the Sony A7R III and IV, no anti-alias filter. The Canon EOS R does have such a filter. Without an anti-alias filter, you run a little more risk of moire (unless you shoot in High Res mode), but you also get the maximum sharpness from the sensor. And that is of course the whole reason that you buy a camera like this.
DYNAMIC RANGE AND NOISE
The Panasonic LUMIX S1R also performs well at higher sensitivities and is reasonably comparable with the best cameras of the competition, such as the Sony A7R III and the Nikon Z7. Even at ISO 6400, the images still look virtually noise-free. At higher ISO values, the dynamic range visibly decreases, and you get more noise, but the latter can also be kept under control with careful post-processing. Because Nikon and Sony use part of the pixels for the phase detection autofocus, you can see it in the images in the form of stripes through the image in the case of extreme post-processing. The Panasonic Lumix S1R has no special phase detection pixels on the sensor because Panasonic does not use phase detection. This ensures that the Lumix S1 has a small advantage in this area if you have to clarify shadows (or underexposed images) very strongly..
One of the strong points of the Panasonic LUMIX S1R is the excellent image stabilization. Panasonic is one of the pioneers of built-in image stabilization and has many years of experience with it in Micro Four Thirds cameras. The image stabilization built into the body works over five axes and stabilizes every lens that you put on it, no matter how old. If you put a Panasonic lens on it that also has image stabilization, the two systems work together for an even better effect, and you can get more than five stops of correction. This allows you to work with low ISO values longer so that you can get higher image quality from the camera. Even in low light. The LUMIX S1R uses that Dual Image Stabilization. According to Panasonic, it is the only system for full-frame cameras in which the stabilization of the lens and that of the camera actually work together and reinforce each other. The result is a gain of 6EV according to Panasonic, and that is a lot for full-frame cameras. In practice, we were able to effortlessly get sharp shots with the 70-200 mm f/4 at 200 mm and 1/20th second. The image stabilization is thus good. However, we were unable to detect a major difference with other cameras from other brands. What you do notice is that a 47 megapixel sets higher requirements for handling the camera than a model with only 24 megapixels. We would therefore prefer to use slightly faster shutter speeds on the S1R than on the LUMIX S1.
Video Panasonic S1R
Panasonic has been making the best hybrid cameras with the Micro Four Thirds GH models for years. Fortunately, the LUMIX S1R has taken over many of the capabilities of the current top model in the GH series, the GH5. The LUMIX S1R can film in 4K up to 60 frames per second. In full HD, the camera can film at speeds of up to 180 images per second, with 50 or 60 images per second output. So you can easily make a 3x slow motion in full HD. The LUMIX S1R can also film in 10 bits and, together with the ability to film in 4K-60p, these are two major differences with the A7 III from Sony, for example.
The high-resolution sensor of the S1R ensures that you get a small crop if you want to film full frame in 4K. The S1R also has to combine 4K pixels in full frame, which results in a small loss of sharpness. The images are slightly sharper in APS-C than in full frame as a result. In full HD, it is reversed, and the full-frame version is slightly sharper than the APS-C version. If you are going to edit the images, it is always better to film in 4K and to convert them to full HD if necessary. This also gives you the highest quality in full HD.
A unique feature that Panasonic offers is the linear focus response. For photography, a non-linear focus can be fine, because the focus becomes more accurate as you turn the focus ring more slowly. This is unworkable for video. You can thereby effectively shift the focus accurately from one point to another during a shot. To make that possible, you can set the size of the setting stroke of the Panasonic lenses. You then get a linear focus so that with a piece of tape and a pencil, you can even indicate the arc you need to turn to make a certain focus pull. This makes it easier to use your Lumix lenses for video.
HLG AND HIGH RESOLUTION
The new Panasonic S models have HLG and the ability to make High Resolution photo files. We know both of these capabilities from a number of Micro Four Thirds models, although the HLG mode there is for video use. It’s nice to see that the S1 and S1R also have these advanced features and that HLG is also there for taking 4K photos. HLG is still an unknown option for many photographers. That will soon change now that the selection of 4K screens with a high dynamic range is increasing rapidly. The great thing about HLG is that you can photograph in it and that the images can be viewed just as well on a conventional screen with a standard dynamic range as on a new HDR screen. Thanks to HLG, the contrast size of the displayed file is adjusted to the capabilities of the screen. So, on a normal screen, you see a normal photo, and, on the HDR screen, you see an image with an extra-large dynamic range with much more details in the highlights and the deep shadows and brighter colors. If you have never seen the difference, go to a good electronics store and compare a 4K HDR screen with a normal screen, and you will immediately understand that this is really the technology of the future. The HLG shots are saved in a special HSP file format and can be viewed with a HDMI cable directly from the camera on a television or monitor.
Another function that the Panasonic Lumix S1R has is High Resolution. In this mode, the camera takes eight shots in quick succession. The sensor is shifted half a pixel each time by the built-in image stabilization. The processor in the camera then merges the eight images into a shot with a higher resolution than you can get with a single shot. The latter in particular makes the mode extra useful. Where you still have to export the individual files with the Sony A7R IV and merge them into external software, Panasonic can already do that in the camera and that ensures a much nicer workflow. The resolution in the HR mode is four times as high as normal. We are then talking about 186 megapixels for the LUMIX S1R.
The High Resolution mode does indeed work well and provides a visible increase in sharpness. However, do not think that the sharpness will be four times or even twice as high because the files have four times as many pixels, or 2x linear. But every visible difference counts. The degree of success depends on both the subject and the technique used. Any vibration in between the shots is deadly for the end result. Make sure you have a very good tripod, tighten everything well and try to keep the whole set out of the wind when you work outside. Furthermore, it is of course important that the subject stands still for a while. For landscapes, there is already a limitation because even a breath of wind causes movement in leaves and blades of grass. And that causes ugly artifacts. You don’t see that on an Instagram image, but we assume that’s not what you want to use the High Res mode for, either. If you start printing in large format, you will see such errors in the image. For studio work, the High Res mode is a good way to get even better files, and it can also be a solution if you occasionally need a larger file. The example below is the difference between a high res shot and a 2x enlarged normal shot. Both have the same dimensions, but of course not the same sharpness.
There are currently three lenses from Panasonic: a Panasonic S 50mm f/1.4, a Panasonic S 24-105mm f/4 and a Panasonic S 70-200mm f/4. The Panasonic S models have the L mount that we also find on Leica’s full-frame and APS-C models system cameras. The lenses that Leica makes for this can therefore also be used on the Panasonic. The partnership with Sigma will also rapidly increase the number of available lenses. Sigma is already releasing its Art lenses in a Sony FE mount, and an L version is therefore only logical. For the Sigma lenses with their own Sigma SA mount, there is now also an adapter to L-mount. In addition, the interest in launching more lenses for system cameras for lens manufacturers will increase now that Canon and Nikon have also entered the market with mirrorless cameras. Brightness and specifications will follow later. Panasonic promises to at least release 7 lenses and two teleconverters for 2020. We can therefore expect that within two years, most of the needs of photographers and videographers will be covered.
We are satisfied with the quality of the shots that we were able to make with the three current three lenses. The bokeh of the lenses is beautiful, especially of the 50 mm and 70-200 mm, and the sharpness of the lenses is also high. The 70-200 mm and 50 mm have a focus ring that you can pull back so that you can immediately switch to manual focusing, and the 50 mm has a ring for setting the aperture.
Panasonic Lumix S1R SAMPLE IMAGES
Curious about the performance of the Panasonic Lumix S1R in practice? Click on the button below and visit our renewed web gallery with sample images.
ConclusiON: Panasonic Lumix S1R REVIEW
The Panasonic LUMIX S1R is an excellent full-frame camera and one with which Panasonic has really created a distinctive model. The LUMIX S1R is big, heavy and robust. It is the ideal camera for photographers for whom mirrorless does not necessarily have to be smaller. It feels like an SLR camera, but one with an electronic viewfinder. The grip is big, the battery is big, the viewfinder is big.
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Everything about the camera is easy to operate, even wearing gloves. Panasonic can afford to make that choice. If you want it small and compact, then Panasonic has the Micro Four Thirds system. This is a camera for the true fan of photographic craftsmanship. The high resolution of the sensor and the option to quadruple it again in multishot ensure that you can take particularly detailed images with this camera. The choice to work with Leica and Sigma gives the system extra weight. Both literally and figuratively. The lens choice is currently limited to fantastic but also expensive Leica lenses and a limited number of good Panasonic lenses. However, Sigma has also announced the Sigma MC21 adapter with which you can use the big but also fantastic Sigma Art lenses with a SA (Sigma) mount on L-mount. The Panasonic LUMIX S1R is not only a really good camera, but also a camera that gives you, as a photographer, quite a selection.