The world of the mirrorless camera is certainly heating up. The Micro Four Thirds format is getting replaced by full-frame and the format itself is getting ever more rounded each year. This is evident by the release of the Panasonic Lumix S1R which has been whipping up enthusiasm since it was first announced at Photokina 2018.
At the time of writing, there is still only a small selection of lenses to go with this camera body. But, the likes of Sigma and Leica have already signed up to produce a bunch of L-Mount lenses, with possibly 42 lenses being available by the end of 2020. Lots of possibilities with this camera body, so let’s dig in and see what all the fuss is about.
Like any new, super camera, the basic specifications are a good starting point. The Panasonic Lumix S1R sports a 47.3MP full-frame CMOS sensor, which wins the highest resolution mirrorless sensor around at the moment. The high resolution can also be utilized with the multi-shot High-Resolution mode, which when strapped to a tripod can composite images together to produce a 187-megapixel image.
Panasonic is known for its video side of things, with this one being incorporated with 4K at 60/50FPS. There’s also a 6K Photo mode which can capture an 18 megapixel image at 30FPS.
The electronic viewfinder has also been up’ed a notch to 5,760 million dots, with lag-free viewing. The rear screen has also been increased in quality to 2,100k dots, providing a very sharp view of your subject matter. The screen can also tilt, but only by 45 degrees.
There’s a dual card slot, which is a needed facility for any type of professional shoot. The access to the memory cards is a little fiddly with the convoluted card door, but it does feel very robust and once you get used to it, quite straightforward.
The image stabilization uses Panasonic’s 5-axis in-body system, which is stated to offer up to 5.5 stops of compensation. As for the general build of the camera, being aimed at the professional, its dust and moisture resistant and can cope with the cold down to -10 degrees. Wrapped around a magnesium alloy body, everything feels rock-solid, with logical placement of dials and buttons and as sturdy as you would expect from a top-end camera body.
The Panasonic Lumix S1R in Use
The AF system is very fast and accurate, using the DFD contrast AF system. It may not use the phase-detection AF of other manufacturers, but it’s still very astute at locking onto a subject. The Eye AF system is very good at locking onto a subject using a rectangular marquee.
If there are multiple subjects in the scene, the nearest is usually selected first, but this can be changed via the focus lever. Once you lock onto the subject’s face, crosshairs move to the subject’s eyes which you can also change when needed. It’s all very impressive and works efficiently.
As for the image stabilization system, it does an excellent job of getting those low shutter speeds when handheld. In reality, the Panasonic Lumix S1R provides roughly four stops of stabilization, which although lower than quoted, still works very well in the real world. The quoted ISO range of 100 to 25,600 is as you would expect for this level of camera, but noise only starts to show significantly around 12,800.
As for total resolution, the Panasonic does a very good job of utilizing the full-frame, 47.3MP sensor. Across the ISO range, the Panasonic does well keeping up with the rest, with probably only the Lumix S1R with its larger sensor and 50MP resolution being the better contender. The same goes for signal-to-noise ratios and the dynamic range of 12EV being impressive, especially between the lowest ISO up to 1600.
As for overall image quality, Panasonic is capable of capturing loads of sharp detail and is actually a very good lowlight performer. The AF system can handle most scenarios thrown at it and the eye-tracking is going to be very helpful for those who specialize in portraits or even wedding photography.
It may not be the fastest operator for action or event photography, but unless you are wanting to fire off the highest of frame rates, the Panasonic is a great performer.
How Does It Compare?
As an isolated case, the Panasonic could be argued to be everything you need in a mirrorless camera. However, the other players on the market have worthwhile offerings with very rich feature sets.
The Nikon Z7, although bulky in itself, is still a lightweight compared to the Panasonic. Nikon also has the advantage of a much wider range of lenses and all their DSLR versions can easily fit the format with an adapter. The Panasonic has a touch more resolution and does 4K video at 60P, but the Nikon also has a slightly better ISO range going down to 64, which could tip the balance for some users.
There’s also the obvious consideration of the Sony a7R III. It’s an older unit, but still has a healthy 42.4-megapixel sensor. It also can use a wide range of lenses and can now be found for much cheaper than the Panasonic. As a good all-round performer, you obviously can’t go wrong with the rock-solid workings of the Sony.
|Panasonic Lumix S1R||Nikon Z7|
|Video||4K / 60p||4K / 30p|
The Panasonic Lumix S1R is clearly aimed at the serious photographer, with a solid build and all the features you would need to cover most bases. The 4K/60p video is still the standout feature for Panasonic and when a good bunch of prime lenses are available for this format, it should attract the attention of the more serious video guys.
It’s up there with the top performance, with a very good feature set, but this release may not stop you in your tracks as quickly as when Sony brought out their offerings. However, we wait to see how this pans out when the platform has a wider range of lenses to jump into.
Images are clearly excellent from this camera and you won’t be left feeling wanting, considering its latest line of features. It’s also not the cheapest unit on the market, which is no surprise if you want the latest and greatest. But, as a rock-solid performer, this camera body is definitely worth a closer look.