Panasonic Lumix S1 Review

9.5

Mirrorless cameras are slowly becoming the norm the in the field of professional photography, and with the likes of Nikon and Sony already in the market with high tech mirrorless cameras, its a competition that needs brands to bring out the absolute best in order to make a dent in a market that has been essentially a two-horse race this far. The Panasonic Lumix S1 is one half the S1 series of mirrorless cameras launched by Panasonic, and while they are last to the market, they have made sure that they make their presence felt. At $2500, the Lumix S1 is the more affordable option of the two (Lumix S1 and Lumix S1R), but do not assume that it is any less powerful than its elder sibling, plus, with a feature set that can go up against the Sony A7 III and the Nikon Z6, the Lumix S1 is the most versatile mirrorless camera out there, catering to both, the photographers and the videographers.

Design and Overview –

Physically, the Lumix S1 is quite possibly, the heaviest mirrorless camera in the market. Weighing 1,021 grams, it clearly outweighs everything in its category, and although this may sound like a hassle, specially if you move around with your camera a lot, the weather proof casing and the BEST viewfinder ever will soften the blow. What about the view finder ?

The Panasonic Lumix S1 features a rugged body, which is heavy and weatherproof and thus ensures perfect handling ever on a mirrorless camera. The image and video quality are so good, even in low light, that the Lumix S1 beats the competition from Nikon and Canon almost feature for feature, with apparent ease. Dual high speed card slots, 5-axis in-body stabilization, the clearest EVF on the market and 10-bit, 4K video with no crop, all add to the Lumix S1’s prowess but the downside is that it is the most expensive 24 MP Mirrorless camera on the market, but what makes things a lot more tricky is that Panasonic is actually going to charge you a premium for a very key firmware update. So, if you are interested, I suggest you come in with a big enough budget.

It’s an OLED model with a 5.76-million dot resolution, 120 fps refresh rate and a super smooth .005-second lag rating. It’s brilliantly sharp and quick, making it possible to gauge focus and accurately preview photos and videos. This one feature makes the whole concept of an optical view finder look primitive and as such, gives the Lumix S1 a standing against DSLRs as well.

There is a whole slew of manual controls on the Lumix S1, giving you complete control on the photo and video settings. Another aspect that Panasonic have polished is the camera interface. While the camera interface is usually the ugliest feature of any professional camera, the systematic arrangement of menus and icons in the Lumix S1 almost makes it look like a device from another dimension. The device is fairly easy to setup and once done, you will find that you can use the camera without fidgeting within the menus.

The main reason for the camera being bulky is the 5-axis in-body stabilization (IBS). Alone, it offers an impressive 5.5 stops of shake reduction, compared to 5 on the Sony A7 III and Nikon Z6, and zero on the Canon EOS R. That means you can shoot — with the right conditions prevailing — at 1/8th of a second and lower and still get a blur-free photos.

Earlier, we mentioned that the Lumix S1 features two high speed slots – one SD UHS II and the other XQD. Although these two formats look incompatible, they serve a whole range of different purposes.  Photographers who need a reliable backup can use both slots at once, while videographers can shoot on XQD. This goes forward in showing how truly versatile the Lumix S1 really is.

Coming to the ports, Panasonic has bundled the headphone as well as the microphone ports. You also get the USB C Type port for charging the camera while the HDMI wraps a supremely gifted port and slot combo.

All in all, when it comes to the design and overview of the Lumix S1, you can clearly see that despite the rather hefty price tag, Panasonic has not cut corners in their pursuit to make the most versatile mirrorless camera in the market.

The L-Mount System –

Seeing that the Lumix S1 is a new kind of camera device for Panasonic, I expected them to create a custom mount for the same. However, its not exactly the case. What has been done instead, is that Panasonic has formed the L-Mount alliance with Leica and Sigma, and taken the same L mount that Leica uses for their full frame SL cameras. With an inner diameter of 51.6mm and a flange depth of 20 mm, its definitely not the smallest mount in the market, but what Panasonic has gained out of this move, is that they will now be able to create more varieties of lenses in a small amount of time.

The Lumix S1 has launched with three variations of lenses – a 50mm f/1.4 prime and a pair of zooms, the 24-105mm f/4 and 70-200mm f/4 models. Sigma has now gone a step further and committed to releasing no less than 14 Prime L-Mount lenses in 2019, ranging from a 14mm f/1.8 ultra wide angle prime to a 135mm f/1.8 model, along with a macro lens. 

Performance –

When it comes to the performance analysis of any gadget today, we have to keep things above all preferences and give a very balanced view so that you can take it all in and still have a window to form your opinion.

The Panasonic Lumix S1 definitely checks all the boxes when it comes to features, but does it deliver on the job?

Starting things off, we have the Depth from Defocus system retained by Panasonic, rather than the more conventional phase detect that you find in all the other cameras in the competition bracket. The reasoning behind this decision is that the phase detect adds a certain banding to photos when taken in extreme conditions. The Dfd system in the Lumix S1 however, is supposedly able to retain the full image quality.

We also have some interesting numbers here – a rapid .08 second focus lock-down time, and burst speeds of 9 fps in single AF mode, or 6 fps in continuous AF mode. These numbers are great, except that when they are put up against the nearest competitor, the Sony A7 III, you can see that the Lumix S1 starts breaking a sweat. The Sony A7 III holds the upper hand in another important aspect, the reliability of autofocus. There have been cases where the Lumix S1 just didn’t lock on to the subject via the autofocus, and this can really be irritating if you are trying to take a quick passing shot. On the plus side though, the Lumix S1 does feature the deep-learning algorithm, which is the best of the lot at the moment. The 5-axis in-body stabilization (IBS) system is absolutely spot on, maybe the best on any mirrorless camera. With all the space it takes up, it gives the sensor a lot of room to move and compensate for shifting or rolling movements. 

Coming to the battery performance , the 3,050 mAh battery unit is quite robust but is capable of only 400 shots compared to the 700 that you can get on the Sony A7 III. You can however, engage the power saving mode in case of normal mode, and get double the shots on the Lumix S1. Sounds a bit of a shot in the dark, but worth the try.

All in all, the Panasonic Lumix S1 is a complete package and possibly the best mirrorless camera in the market today. Yes, the Sony A7 III does deliver a few potent hits and even costs lesser than the Lumix S1, but you cannot take away the fact that the robust build, weather proof sealing, complete port and slot combo, and the L mount alliance, all form a package that brands are going to find very hard to beat. So, if you are looking to buy a mirrorless camera, and can afford to shell out a little more than $2000, you should definitely go for the Panasonic Lumix S1.