Panasonic Lumix S1 Review
Now, the two 24 and 47 megapixel resolution full format models Lumix DC-S1 and DC-S1R are fully developed, and I have received two units for testing. In this article I am reporting the test of the Panasonic S1 and in another article, the S1R model.
- Robustly processed housing with ergonomic operation
- Very effective dual image stabilizer
- Extremely high resolution electronic viewfinder
- Very good image quality up to ISO 400, good up to ISO 3,200
- Relatively poor resolution values due to restrained image processing
- Big and heavy
- Some video options only available after paid activation
- Viewfinder only partly suitable for spectacle wearers despite reduction setting
Mirrorless system cameras are small and light even in 35 mm full format? Not so at Panasonic. With its Lumix DC-S1, the manufacturer has taken a completely different path and easily outperforms DSLRs such as the Nikon D750 or Canon EOS 5D Mark IV in terms of size and weight. In fact, Panasonic has a robust finish, an ergonomic housing and a wide range of equipment for photographers and videographers.
As with other manufacturers (such as Pentax or Fujifilm), the trend is towards a mirrorless second system. With the S1 and S1R models, Panasonic aims to appeal to other target groups that require more resolution and other performance data that the compact Micro-Four-Thirds system cannot score with. However, the statement is quite clear that in the course of the year there will also be camera and lens innovations in the Micro-Four-Thirds system and, contrary to assumptions to the contrary, this will of course be continued, as it also offers advantages over a full format system.
Similar to Sony or even Nikon, Panasonic launches with the S1 and S1R two different resolution models on the market at the same time. While the S1 with 24 megapixels (without low-pass filter) and a maximum of ISO 51,200 is supposed to be better suited for video and low-light applications, the S1R with 47 megapixels (also without low-pass filter) and a maximum of ISO 25,600 offers the highest resolution of the entire mirrorless full format market to date. Instead of a back-illuminated sensor, the S1R’s sensor uses a new, thinner and more effective microlens layer with aspherical lenses and improved optical fibers to guide light more effectively to the photodiodes. In addition, the new sensors can be read out twice as fast because the analog-to-digital conversion works in parallel with the readout instead of serially after it. This enables higher frame rates, also reduces noise and decreases the rolling shutter effect.
But Panasonic also sets new records in other respects. For example, the OLED viewfinders of both models have a higher resolution of 5.76 million pixels than all previous electronic viewfinders, but still offer a very short delay of 0.005 seconds and a very smooth viewfinder image with either 60 or 120 frames per second. The 0.78x magnification factor, on the other hand, is customary on the market. By the way, you can choose different sizes in the viewfinder (0.74x and 0.7x), which is especially interesting for people who wear glasses. This means that only a part of the viewfinder display is used, but you can also see the entire view with glasses.
Interestingly, the continuous shooting speed of both models is identical with a maximum of nine frames per second. With autofocus tracking, it is even only six frames per second. Thus, Panasonic doesn’t necessarily appeal to sports and action photographers; here, other manufacturers rely on much higher frame rates. After all, the S1 achieves significantly longer series of shots. The buffer of the S1 holds up to 999 JPEGs or 90 raws (70 images raw+JPEG), with the S1R it is “only” 50/40/35 images.
The mechanical shutter is up to 1/8,000 second fast (the electronic shutter up to 1/16,000 second) and designed for 400,000 releases, making it very durable and robust. It works so quietly and smoothly as with no other mirrorless full format camera. In addition, the shutter allows the fastest flash sync speed on the market: 1/320 second.
The S1 and S1R’s case, which is quite large at around 15 x 11 x 10 cm and quite heavy at just over a kilogram, offers an ergonomic handle. It is made of a magnesium alloy and sealed against dust and splash water. The S1 and S1R are supposed to work flawlessly even in frost down to -10°C and Panasonic even certifies its two full format machines to be shock-resistant, without, however, naming any concrete standards. The menu has been redesigned for better operation, in concrete terms the second menu level is now no longer divided into page numbers that had to be scrolled through for a long time, but into sub-tabs with more meaningful symbols. A freely assignable My menu is also not missing and the Quick menu has also been redesigned and can now be customized.
The image sensors of the cameras are movably mounted for image stabilization, so that up to 5.5 f-stops longer exposure times should be possible from the hand. Panasonic is also the only manufacturer in the full-frame sector to offer a Dual-IS, which further improves image stabilization and allows up to six f-stops longer exposure times. The lens stabilizer works in addition to the camera stabilizer and does not replace the stabilization on certain movement axes, as with other manufacturers. Five axes are stabilized by the sensor, namely the pivoting and tilting both horizontally and vertically as well as rotary movements as the fifth axis. As soon as the stabilizer starts working, the viewfinder image looks nailed down. The new indicator display for the image stabilizer is very practical. Two red circles symbolise the area of shake correction, while a wandering green dot in them indicates how far the stabiliser has currently compensated for a movement. So you can very well estimate how well the stabilizer works in the current shooting situation.
Panasonic also wants to be the leader in autofocus, although the image sensors do not have integrated phase autofocus points. Panasonic is relying on two “mainstays”: On the one hand, the sensor is read 480 times per second and communicates with the lens just as frequently. On the other hand, the so-called DFD autofocus is used: Using two differently focused images, the camera calculates where the focal plane should be based on the lens characteristics and can move to it at lightning speed. This imitates the principle of a phase autofocus, because it also recognizes how far the focus has to be adjusted. Fine adjustment is then performed by the contrast autofocus. Within 0.08 seconds, the S1 and S1R should be able to focus with this system, even at up to -6 EV when using an F1.4 fast lens.
But the autofocus can do much more than just focus on one of the 225 focus areas. The Panasonics recognize faces, eyes and pupils and now even whole bodies and also animals like cats, dogs and birds, wolves, lions etc. This even goes so far that the camera in AF-C mode is aware of the typical movements of the animals and can react accordingly in advance. Thanks to body recognition, the Lumix can focus on a person even when no face is recognized. Blurred people shots should be a thing of the past. By the way, in face, body and eye recognition it is possible to switch between several recognized faces, bodies and eyes simply by using an eight-directional joystick.
The rear screen also has a high resolution of 2.1 million pixels. It can be tilted a good 100 degrees up and 45 degrees down, as well as 60 degrees to the side, which allows shots from near-ground or high perspectives in both portrait and landscape format. Such a mechanism is already known from Fujifilm. Panasonic uses it because it is much more robust than a lateral swivel and pivot joint, as is otherwise known from Panasonic. It’s no problem to lift the camera and lens (together weighing more than two kilograms) on the display, even if this doesn’t happen in everyday life. Of course, the 8.1-centimeter LCD is a touch screen with a fingerprint-repellent coating. Thanks to the RGBW subpixels (in addition to red, green and blue, also with white subpixels) it is also very bright and rich in contrast. The monochrome status display on the top of the camera is also a must. It can be illuminated, as can five buttons (Q-Menu, Back, Play, Display and Delete).
The S1 and S1R are equipped with a double memory card slot. This way two cards can be inserted. While one compartment is compatible with SD, SDHC and SDXC with UHS I and UHS II, the other accommodates the faster and more robust XQD memory cards. A compatibility to CFexpress will follow later via firmware update. Also not to be left unmentioned is the possibility to attach an optional portrait format battery access, which is not offered by every competitor.
Panasonic also places a lot of emphasis on the video functions, although here the S1 is still a bit better than the S1R. First of all, both models are capable of 4K video recording at up to 60 frames per second. At 30p the S1 uses the full sensor width and reads the entire sensor, while at 4K60p a 1.5x cropping mode with loss of image angle and pixel binning (without line skipping) is used. The S1 can record 4:2:0 8 bit directly to the memory card, via the HDMI-A connector even 4:2:2 in 8 bit are possible. A later, chargeable software key is also to enable 4:2:2 10 bit 60p via HDMI and 4:2:2 10 bit 24p/25p/30p internally to the memory card as well as V-Log-L. In addition, there is no time recording limit for up to 30p, while 60p videos are possible for a maximum of just under 30 minutes at a time. In Full-HD, the S1 even offers frame rates of up to 180p for 15 minutes at a time.
What is also not missing beside the normal continuous shooting function are the 4K-photo functions with up to 60 frames per second and 6K-photo with 30 frames per second. In this case, an MP4 video is recorded from which images can later be extracted. Depending on the mode, for example, the camera shoots before the shutter release button is pressed or moves through the focus range during shooting, so that you can then shift the focus or even add up all the shots for photos with a greater depth of field (so-called focus stacking).
Those who are not satisfied with photos with 24 or 47 megapixel resolution can activate the HR mode, which takes eight slightly shifted photos from the tripod using a sensor shift and converts them into a much higher resolution photo. As a result, the S1 achieves 96 megapixel resolution (12,000 x 8,000 pixels), the S1R even achieves a phenomenal 187 megapixel resolution with 16,736 x 11,168 pixels. The recordings are saved in raw format, with two modes: One for static subjects and one for moving subjects where the camera needs to be able to compensate for motion blur to get a sharp picture. Hands-free shooting is also possible in the latter mode. However, the motion blur compensation mode may reduce the effective resolution depending on the amount of blur.
Other interesting features include HDR photo shooting with HLG standard for playback on 4K HDR TVs, the new AWBw white balance with a warm tint, or the new highlight metering, which is designed to prevent the erosion of individual highlights in the image, for example in stage photography. The cameras also offer new panorama aspect ratios such as 2:1 or 65:24.
In addition, the S1 and S1R can be remotely controlled from the computer via USB, allow for charging and continuous power supply thanks to USB-C with Power-Delivery (PD) (normal battery charging cups are still included in the scope of delivery) and have Bluetooth and WLAN, which in addition to 2.4 also sparks to 5 GHz for higher transmission rates. For iOS and Android there will be a new app called Lumix Sync to remote control the cameras and transfer images. The battery DMW-BLJ31 is completely new and offers with 3.050 mAh an especially large capacity for about 1.100 pictures in LVF-Power-Safe mode. As an option, the remaining capacity can be displayed with percentage accuracy.
As accessories Panasonic offers an XLR adapter (DMW-XLR1) for the hot shoe (interesting for video recording), a larger eyepiece (DMW-EC6) for the viewfinder, a remote release cable (DMW-RS2), various system flash units (Micro-Four-Thirds compatible), a special battery charger (DMW-BTC14) and the battery handle DMW-BGS1.
Matching the S1 and S1R models, three lenses have also been announced, which we present separately (see further links). Furthermore, thanks to the Leica L bayonet, both models are compatible with existing Leica lenses. Sigma also wants to offer lenses with a suitable mount (including conversion service). A PF and an EF adapter are also already available, so that you can connect Canon lenses, for example.
The Lumix S1 and S1R are available since April 2019. The case of the Panasonic Lumix DC-S1 is supposed to cost almost 2,500 euro, the case of the Panasonic Lumix DC-S1R is just under 3,700 euro. The set of the S1R as well as the S1 each with the 24-105mm lens (R24105) costs 900 Euro more, i.e. almost 4,600 Euro for the S1R and 3,400 Euro for the S1.
Ergonomics and Workmanship Of The Panasonic S1
The Lumix S1, which cost just under 2,500 Euros in the EIA (a good 3,400 Euros with the Panasonic S 24-105 mm F4 Makro OIS set lens used in this test) is packed in an elegant box with a hinged lid. The camera, which measures 15 x 11 x 10 centimetres and is very bulky, weighs just over one kilogram and comes ready to operate with a lithium-ion battery, an SD and an XQD memory card. With the 24-105, the weight is almost 1.7 kilograms. This makes it larger and heavier than any other 36x24mm mirrorless system camera and outperforms even most DSLRs. In return, it scores with a robust housing that consists almost entirely of a magnesium alloy. Seals also keep dust and spray water away from the electronics inside the camera.
The large handle is ergonomically shaped and offers enough space for a medium-sized hand. Generous, grained rubber coatings on the handle, on the front, on both sides and on the right part of the back provide additional grip, as does the clear grip projection in the front area, which “hooks” between the index and middle finger. This allows the Lumix S1 to be held comfortably in the hand for longer periods of time.
However, the camera has become so large that not all controls are easily accessible. To turn on the camera, either use your left hand to operate the lever located on the right side of the top of the camera or flex your index finger a lot, the same applies to the button next to it for illuminating the status LCD on the top. In addition, the video knob is only conveniently accessible for long thumbs and is located quite close to the viewfinder. If you look through with your left eye, you have the nasal bone in front of the video recording button. Right-eyed people, on the other hand, encounter this problem when they want to press the playback button to view the image in full resolution and free of disturbing ambient light in the viewfinder. Only people who wear glasses are fine with this aspect, as they are further away from the viewfinder, which has other disadvantages, more on this later.
Fortunately, most of the controls are easy to reach, almost all of them with the thumb or index finger of the right hand. With a little practice, the Panasonic can be operated rather blindly, the easiest way to find the ISO button on the top of the camera. And not only because it is the middle one of three buttons, but also because of the two clearly perceptible “pimples” on the button. Moreover, you don’t have to be able to operate the camera completely blind in the dark, as five of the buttons light up as soon as you activate the status LCD illumination. These are the Playback, Q-Menu, Back, Display and Delete buttons. In addition, many of the operating elements can be reprogrammed. Also exemplary are the locked program selector wheel and the programmable locking switch which locks any operating elements.
The electronic viewfinder is a gem, especially if you don’t need glasses or can get by with dioptre correction in the range of -4 to +2 dioptres. This is the closest you can get to the eye with the 0.78x magnification of the viewfinder and have the best overview. Thanks to the high resolution of 5.76 million pixels, individual pixels are hardly noticeable. Also laterally incident stray light is least disturbing. The recording parameters are displayed above and below the viewfinder image (but the viewfinder and monitor display style can be configured differently). Other aids, such as grid lines or the electronic 3D spirit level, are displayed directly in the viewfinder image. Even the current working range of the optical image stabilizer can be visualized and thus it is possible to judge whether it is reaching its limits. However, this causes the fade-in of the autofocus points to fade into the background.
Wearers of glasses with severe ametropia are not quite as happy with the viewfinder. It cannot be avoided that stray light occurs more frequently. But the high magnification makes it impossible to see the corners. Panasonic offers a switchable viewfinder magnification as a solution. In reality, simply a smaller area of the electronic viewfinder display is used, which means that you effectively lose some resolution. However, depending on the distance of the glasses from the eye, even the smallest magnification (0.7x) does not allow you to see the corners perfectly. A practical feature is the proximity sensor, which switches to the electronic viewfinder from a distance of about eight centimetres from the rear screen. With an optional 120 instead of 60 frames per second, the viewfinder also offers a very fluid image.
Less successful is the realization of the exposure preview, which also makes the live histogram somewhat less useful. While the live image becomes correspondingly darker or brighter when using exposure compensation, this is not the case in manual exposure mode. Instead, you have to rely on the light balance, which also only works accurately within a very limited range. If you activate the exposure time simulation, you will get an exposure preview, but at the same time you will also get the exposure time effect, so that the viewfinder image will be very unattractive jerky at longer exposure times (e.g. when shooting at the blue hour from a tripod. The “Blue Hour” is a term which refers to the period of twilight each morning and evening where there is neither full daylight nor darkness) for the fine image composition.
The rear screen could initially be considered very ordinary. It measures just over eight centimetres diagonally and at first glance can only be folded down 45 degrees and up 90 degrees. In addition, the screen can also be folded 60 degrees to the right after lateral unlocking. This has been known from Fujifilm, for example. This allows you to take upright format shots from a frog’s eye view with the handle on top or from a bird’s eye view with the handle on the bottom. Such constructions are also very robust.
The screen technology itself is a bright RGBW subpixel matrix with white subpixels, but with a maximum brightness of just over 700 cd/m², which is still quite easy to read in direct sunlight. The depths are drowning, but you can still recognize the scene If in doubt, the OLED viewfinder is the much better choice in bright environments. Even though the screen with 2.1 million pixels can’t keep up with the viewfinder resolution, it still has a much finer resolution than most other screens. It is also a touch screen that does not get greasy as quickly as it would without a fingerprint repellent coating. However, it is not always included in the operating concept. When the live image is activated, for example, only the autofocus point is moved by touch. If you have called up a function or the menu with a key, it is suddenly possible to operate functions with a fingertip.
The touch buttons also appear in the viewfinder but cannot be operated blindly from the screen. In general, one does not move the autofocus point by default when using the viewfinder, unlike usual, not via touch monitor but with the well-functioning focus joystick. The touchpad function, just like the touch trigger, must first be activated by menu.
Speaking of menus: This is very extensive and organized in two levels. The six main categories each contain up to nine subcategories marked with symbols, which in turn contain up to eight menu items. The subcategories replace the previous menu pages at Panasonic, which provides a little more order in the menu. As it is sometimes difficult to find individual menu items in this way, you can put together a menu yourself in a main category. The quick menu can also be customized and three user memories allow access to frequently used recording settings.
Panasonic is not weird with the interfaces. At the bottom side, the tripod thread is located in the optical axis and at a sufficient distance to the battery compartment. The electronic connection for a multifunction handle is also located under a cover cap. The lithium-ion battery is sufficient for 380 pictures according to the CIPA standard, whereby one is always exactly informed about the charging status thanks to a percentage display. The viewfinder is a little more power-hungry than the screen, 360 pictures are possible. Thanks to the USB-C charging and continuous current function in on and off mode as well as the supplied external USB-C charging cradle and the 18 watt USB-C power supply unit, you have maximum flexibility when refuelling energy. Also weaker USB power supplies, for example from the smartphone, are at least suitable for recharging the battery. The use of a Powerbank is also possible.
The other interfaces are all located on the left side of the housing. Large, robust rubber covers protect them. Below the lower one there is a large HDMI-A socket as well as the USB-C port. A screw-on cable holder is also included in the scope of delivery to keep mechanical stress away from the plugs and sockets. Behind the upper flap there is a microphone input and a headphone output, each as a 3.5 mm stereo jack. And finally, a remote release cable can be connected to a separately “plugged” 2.5 mm jack socket. In addition, the Lumix S1 communicates wirelessly via WLAN on 2.4 and 5 GHz as well as via Bluetooth, more on this at the end of the next section.
The memory card flap is located on the handle side and, like the battery compartment flap, has a switch lock. Unlike Canon or Nikon, Panasonic relies on two memory card slots, whereby one is compatible with SD, SDHC and SDXC including UHS I and II and the other with the faster, more robust, but also more exotic and expensive XQD (later, via firmware update, compatibility with CFexpress will follow). A 400 MB/s fast XQD card achieved a memory speed of 157 MB/s in the camera according to our measurement. The SD card compartment doesn’t need to hide behind this with 113 MB/s of memory speed measured by us, even if the SD card would have also had a lot of room for improvement with 250 MB/s write speed.
In terms of price, Panasonic places the Lumix DC-S1 well above the entry-level segment, so there are no scene mode programs to be found. Nevertheless, Panasonic does not do without the fully automatic “iA” with motif recognition, motion detection, face recognition etc., so that you can even put the camera into the hands of a layman, as this automatic works well and reliably. However, photographers can become more creative in the classic shooting programs program automatic, aperture priority, aperture priority or manual mode. ISO sensitivity can also be controlled manually or automatically in each of these programs, the latter in the manual exposure program also in combination with exposure compensation ranging from -5 to +5 EV.
Although the S1 does not have an integrated flash, a TTL system hot shoe with a standard center contact is of course available and accommodates the flash units compatible with the established Micro Four Thirds cameras (Panasonic Lumix G or Olympus). Wireless control is also possible with the appropriate flash on the camera without any problems, all imaginable flash settings are available in the menu. The shortest synchronous time is 1/320 second, not bad for a mechanical focal plane shutter.
Speaking of the shutter: It works electromechanically and is very robust and quiet. Shutter speeds of up to 1/8,000 second are possible, and it should be able to withstand at least 400,000 releases. If you wish, you can also activate an electronic first shutter curtain for even less vibration or a purely electronic shutter. This does not work entirely without the rolling shutter effect, but for most subjects it is so small that it is practically invisible. Purely electronically, 1/16,000 second short exposures are also possible.
Image stabilisation at Panasonic is provided by the Dual-IS system known from Micro Four Thirds. On the one hand, the image sensor is movably mounted and corrects camera shake on five axes: tilt and swivel horizontally and vertically and rotations as a fifth axis. This allows up to 5.5 f-stops longer exposure times without blurring, claims Panasonic. The image stabilizer also works in conjunction with the optical image stabilizer of the lens, if the lens has one, and is designed to allow up to six f-stops longer exposure times. In practice, we were able to hold five aperture stops well out of our hands, but at six stops, slight blurring was visible at 105 mm focal length, at least at a relatively short shooting distance. A good help is the fade-in indicator display for the image stabilizer. Two red circles symbolise the area of shake correction, while a wandering green dot in them indicates how far the stabiliser has currently compensated for a movement. So you can very well estimate how well the stabilizer works in the current shooting situation.
The image composition shows how effective the image stabilizer is. As soon as the shutter-release button is pressed halfway, the viewfinder image appears nailed down. Those who would like to correct the image section minimally after focusing have no chance, as the image section only adjusts when there are significant deviations. By the way, if desired, the image stabilizer automatically detects drag and does not correct the panning direction so that the drag effect works as desired.
Those who are not satisfied with photos taken with the 24 megapixel resolution of the S1 sensor can activate the high-resolution mode, which takes eight slightly shifted photos from the tripod using sensor shift and converts them into a much higher resolution photo. The S1 thus achieves 96 megapixel resolution (12,000 x 8,000 pixels). The recordings are saved in raw format, with two modes: One for static subjects and one for moving subjects where the camera compensates for motion blur as much as possible to get a sharp picture. It can happen that partial areas, so to speak, dissolve a little less than those around them where there was no movement. This mode also allows hands-free shooting.
Panasonic is also setting standards with its DFD autofocus system, which is purely contrast-based. The sensor is read out 480 times per second and communicates with the lens just as frequently. Based on two differently focused images, the DFD autofocus calculates where the plane of focus should be and can approach it at lightning speed using the lens characteristics. This imitates the principle of a phase autofocus, because it also recognizes how far the focus has to be adjusted. Fine adjustment is then carried out by the contrast autofocus, and according to Panasonic, this is also possible at up to -6 EV, if an F1.4 fast lens is used. With the 24-105 mm we used in the test, with its F4 aperture, the autofocus should still work at -3 EV.
In AF-S mode, the Lumix S1, according to our measurements, beats all other full-frame cameras by lengths or easily by a factor of two to three in terms of focus and release speed. Without phase AF sensors, the Panasonic S1 with the 24-105 mm triggers within 0.11 to 0.15 seconds when focusing from infinity to two meters. Without focusing, the shutter release delay is only 0.05 to 0.07 seconds, which is also good, but by no means record-breaking. If you subtract this from the shutter release delay with autofocus, you get focus times of 0.04 to 0.1 seconds.
The autofocus not only uses Blunt’s preset 225 or the selected focus field, which can be varied in size, cluster, etc., but it also recognizes faces, eyes and even bodies. The outline of a person (or animal) is enough for it to recognize it as such and to focus on it. However, the autofocus loses a lot of performance when you want to take continuous shooting. The contrast-based DFD autofocus makes it much harder to track subjects than phased AF systems. You can tell that simply by the fact that the continuous shooting speed with AF-C drops from nine to five frames per second.
What the AF-C does better is the tracking function. Once shot at a subject detail, the autofocus holds it in place and moves briskly across the focus fields, depending on where the subject moves. Here, too, body recognition helps her to keep animals in focus better, because the camera knows certain animals such as cats, dogs or birds so well that it anticipates typical movements and the focus reacts accordingly. By the way, if the camera detects multiple faces or bodies, you can quickly switch between them with the focus joystick.
Despite the fast autofocus, the Lumix DC-S1 is therefore not a sports ace, which is also reflected in the continuous shooting speed. A maximum of nine frames per second are possible, since other 24 megapixel cameras can do more. After all, with a fast XQD memory card, you can take 1,000 consecutive pictures in JPEG at this speed – which is something that no Panasonic can match. In raw format, the buffer reaches 135 pictures when using a fast memory card. With a fast SD card this value drops to 98 pictures. Thus, those who are dependent on that last bit of speed when saving, use an XQD memory card with which we achieved 157 MB/s. This is not a record, but a good value. Apart from that, there are no disadvantages or functional limitations with a fast SD card; the 113 MB/s measured by us are sufficient for all photo and video applications. Even here, the full buffer is emptied onto the memory card in under 20 seconds, but the camera remains fully operable at all times.
If the nine continuous frames per second are not enough, you can use the 4K and 6K photo functions. In 4K, the camera captures 8.3 megapixel video for photo extraction with selectable aspect ratios between 1:1 and 16:9 without loss of resolution at 60 frames per second. In 6K the resolution even increases to 18 megapixels, but the frame rate drops to 30 frames per second. It should be noted that a still image extracted from a video does not reach the usual quality, but certain compression losses must be accepted. With the 4K/6K photo function, you can take pictures before the shutter release button is pressed, or start and stop shooting by pressing the shutter release button. In playback mode, you can then view the still images and extract individual ones. In the case of fast or sudden movements, it becomes very easy to catch the right moment.
But the 4K/6K photo function can do even more. For example, the focus area of a subject can be traversed so that the focus point can be moved in playback mode. It is also possible to stack the images to extend the range of sharpness. For quality-conscious photographers, however, the focus bracketing function should be much more attractive. It works with full resolution and finest focus steps, but the images have to be calculated afterwards on the PC with a suitable software.
Of course, the S1 is capable of focus bracketing as well as other shooting modes, such as white balance bracketing, aperture bracketing or classic exposure bracketing. These are possible with either three, five or seven exposures with 1/3, 2/3 or 1 EV exposure distance. The Lumix does not seem to offer an HDR function at first glance, but at second glance it does. It is one of the very few cameras to master the HLG photo mode. HLG stands for Hybrid Log Gamma and is the HDR format of modern 4K televisions. HDR images captured with this mode can therefore be played back directly on such a television as an HDR image.
The S1 is capable of video recording in 4K resolution at up to 60 frames per second. If you don’t want the 1.5-fold crop with the corresponding loss of image angle, you have to be content with 30p, because then the S1 uses the complete sensor width and reads the whole sensor. 4:2:0 8 bit the S1 can record directly to the memory card, via the HDMI-A connection even 4:2:2 in 8 bit are possible. A later, chargeable software key is also to enable 4:2:2 10 bit 60p via HDMI and 4:2:2 10 bit 24p/25p/30p internally to the memory card as well as V-Log-L.
Furthermore, there is no limit to the recording time at up to 30 frames per second, while 60p video can be recorded for a maximum of just under 30 minutes at a time. In Full-HD, the S1 even offers frame rates of up to 180p for 15 minutes at a time. Various gamma curves allow for adjustment of the tonal values, a flat mode for better post-processing is also included. HDR videos according to HLG standard can also be recorded and played back directly on suitable 4K televisions.
Although video recording can be started at any time thanks to the video recording button, in order to be able to exploit the full potential with all the setting options, the program dial should be set to video mode. During video recording, the optical image stabilizer is always active unless deactivated, and can be supplemented by a digital stabilizer for even greater effectiveness. Thanks to the microphone input, it is also no problem to record decent stereo sound if the internal microphones are not enough. Thanks to the headphone output, you can also control this sound sensibly, as the internal speaker is definitely not suitable for this. The microphone input provides optional phantom power for active microphones, but can also be switched to line-in operation. Panasonic also offers an XLR adapter (DMW-XLR1) for the hot shoe as an accessory.
In playback mode, there are no major image editing options such as red-eye retouching or filter effects, but raw images can be converted to JPEG with some adjustments possible. In addition to a protection function, the Panasonic also offers an image rating function. When deleting images, not only protected but also rated images can be excluded. Very playful for a camera for ambitious users and professionals is the slide show function, which comes along with music and cross-fade effects like a compact camera.
The wireless functions are also very powerful. The built-in WLAN not only transmits at 2.4 GHz, but also at 5 GHz. This reduces the range, but increases the data throughput. The S1 connects not only to smartphones and tablets, but also to WLAN hot spots and computers connected to them, so that you can also back up your images wirelessly. Thanks to Bluetooth, it is also possible to establish a permanent connection to the smartphone in an energy-saving manner, whereby the S1 taps the smartphone’s location data and saves it directly in the photos taken. But the smartphone app also offers extensive remote control options including live image transmission. Of course, the Lumix S1 can also be remote controlled from a PC via cable.
The Panasonic Lumix DC-S1 is equipped with a 24 megapixel 35mm sensor that offers a wide range of sensitivity from ISO 50 to 204,800. The S 24-105 mm F4 Macro OIS (S-R24105E) is a mid-range lens with a continuous speed of F4 that covers a good standard focal length range from wide angle to light telephoto and also offers a macro function.
We will dedicate a separate test report to the lens itself as soon as I am able to test it on the Lumix S1R, as the lens should be able to unfold even greater potential here thanks to its 47 megapixel resolution.
The optical errors of the lens are very small, also thanks to the correction by the image processor in the tested JPEG format. The edge darkening does not even reach half an aperture stop and the distortion is only minimally barrel-shaped in wide angle. It disappears completely when zooming. Panasonic also has the color fringes well under control overall, they are less than half a pixel wide. Only in the corners in the wide angle they can be easily visible with up to 1.5 pixels.
However, when measuring the resolution at 50 percent contrast, the first weaknesses of the lens become apparent. For this purpose, it must be said in advance that the S1 image data is prepared very cautiously, especially when resharpening. What is good for image editing (here you could actually use the raw format anyway) is bad for those who want to use the images without editing. The resolution measurement also results in lower measured values due to the almost missing edge contrast enhancement, especially at 50 percent contrast. So it is not surprising that the resolution maximum is only 52 line pairs per millimeter (lp/mm). That’s not much for a 24 megapixel image sensor, which should easily be able to crack the 60 lp/mm. 50 lp/mm is rather the range in which good 16 megapixel cameras operate.
But also relatively seen the lens weakens in resolution, especially at the image edge and partly at open aperture. In wide angle, the image resolution is already good from the open aperture with just under 50 lp/mm in the image center, at F8 the maximum of 52 lp/mm is reached. Towards the edge of the image, however, the resolution drops by a good 40 percent, here it is just under 30 lp/mm at open aperture and only 35 lp/mm at the maximum achieved at F11. When zooming in, an additional open aperture weakness is revealed. At 50 mm focal length, the resolution is only 30 lp/mm in the center of the image, the image edge is just below. When fading down to F5.6, the center resolution increases considerably and reaches its maximum with 47 lp/mm. The image border also increases quite well to 37 lp/mm, but only reaches its maximum resolution of 40-41 lp/mm at F8 and F11.
As you zoom further, the resolution decreases further. In the center of the image at open aperture it is still 30 lp/mm, but at the edge of the image only a weak 19 lp/mm. They are not worthy of a full format camera, the lack of resolution at the edge of the image can be seen even with 20×30 cm small exposures. After all, the resolution increases very strongly during the fading. The maximum in the image center is reached in the telephoto range at F8 with almost 50 lp/mm, the image border is then at 36 lp/mm, its maximum is reached only at F11 with almost 39 lp/mm.
The Lumix S1 can again score points for the signal-to-noise ratio. Up to ISO 400 it is in the good range of over 40 dB and up to ISO 6.400 in the acceptable range of over 35 dB. The constantly fine-grained noise is visible above ISO 6.400, above ISO 25.600 it is very strongly attracted and becomes clearly disturbing. Color noise, on the other hand, is practically only apparent at the highest sensitivity of ISO 204.800.
Above ISO 400, noise reduction starts to slowly destroy fine details. ISO 1.600 and 3.200 are still pretty uncritical, but at ISO 6.400 it becomes borderline. Depending on the quality requirements, this is the end at the latest. The Panasonic Lumix S1 can’t be called a lowlight weapon because of its good image quality at highest sensitivities, but the good image stabilizer makes up for this depending on the scene.
The restrained image processing is not only reflected in the low sharpness artifacts, but also the tonal value curve is not too much divided. The output tonal range is very good up to ISO 400 with over 224 of the 256 possible brightness levels. At ISO 1.600, the limit from good to acceptable range is already slightly undercut at 160 steps, but after that the output tonal range decreases more slowly. Only above ISO 25.600 does this become unacceptable.
The large Panasonic can score clearly again in terms of input dynamics. In the ISO 100 to 800 range, it achieves over eleven aperture stops and thus offers good reproduction of high-contrast subjects. In the range from ISO 50 to 25,600, the input dynamics are good with over ten f-stops.
The color rendering is also surprisingly neutral. Colors are reproduced very accurately by the S1, even the maximum deviations for some warm shades are small and relate more to saturation than to the hue itself. The actual colour depth is extremely good up to ISO 200 with over eight million colour nuances, and even up to ISO 6,400, Panasonic still differentiates over four million colours, which is very good.
If you are looking for a large, heavy, but also robust and ergonomic mirrorless full-frame system camera that is packed with technical highlights and is also very suitable for video recording, the Panasonic Lumix DC-S1 is the right choice. The camera is not slippery and without flaws, it corners a little here and there and sometimes leaves some air up, but does not afford any major blunders. The contrast-based DFD autofocus shows its strengths especially in single AF mode and when tracking subjects. However, when it comes to fast continuous shooting with AF-C, the S1 is not the first choice. The equipment can be described as over-complete. The S1 offers everything you need for everyday photography and much more. The operating concept is also well thought out in total, whereby one can get problems with smaller hands to reach all buttons comfortably with the large case, though.
The Panasonic S1 also partly sets new standards in the full format area with the video function, but the Japanese manufacturer is charging extra for some professional functions. The image stabilizer can be considered the leader in the full-frame format range – regardless of whether only the sensor stabilizer works or the Dual-IS in the lens and body at the same time. With image quality, on the other hand, there is light and shadow. Panasonic prepares the images very cautiously, which provides for a comparably low resolution and doesn’t make it the best high-ISO camera. But in return you get very honest, natural looking images with high color fidelity as well as tonal value and color differentiation.
|Sensor||CMOS 35 mm 36.0 x 24.0 mm (crop factor 1.0
)25.3 megapixel (physical)
24.2 megapixel (effective)
|Resolution (max.)||6.000 x 4.000 (3:2)|
|Video (max.)||3.840 x 2,160 60p|
|Lens||Panasonic S 24-105 mm F4 Macro OIS (S-R24105E) (zoom lens)|
|Video finder||EVF, 100% field coverage, 5,760,000 pixels resolution, 0.78x magnification (sensor-related), 0.78x magnification (KB equivalent), diopter compensation (-4.0 to 2.0 dpt)|
|Monitor||3.2″ (8.1 cm)|
|AV connector||HDMI output (Type A)|
|Scene mode automatic||yes|
|Automatic aperture control||yes|
|Bulb Long Term Exposure||yes|
|Exposure metering||Matrix/multi-field measurement (1,728 fields), center-weighted integral measurement, spot measurement|
|fastest shutter speed||1/8.000 s|
|Synchronous time||1/320 s|
|Flash connection||Hot shoe: Olympus/Panasonic (also Leica compact camera), standard center contact|
|GPS||external, permanent smartphone connection|
|Remote release||yes, cable release, remote control via smartphone/tablet|
SD (SDHC, SDXC, UHS I, UHS II)
|Number of measuring fields||225 Contrast sensors|
|Speed||0,11 s to 0,15 s|
|AF auxiliary light||LED|
|Dimensions||149 x 110 x 97 mm|
|Weight (ready for operation)||1.017 g (housing only
)1,694 g (with lens)
|Tripod thread||on optical axis|
|Zoom adjustment||manually on the lens|
|Battery life||380 recordings (according to CIPA standard)|
|– = “not applicable” or “not available|
This test of the Panasonic Lumix DC-S1 with Panasonic S 24-105 mm F4 Macro OIS (S-R24105E) was created with DXOMARK Analyzer.
- Robustly processed housing with ergonomic operation
- Very effective dual image stabilizer
- Extremely high resolution electronic viewfinder
- Very good image quality up to ISO 400, good up to ISO 3,200
- Relatively poor resolution values due to restrained image processing
- Big and heavy
- Some video options only available after paid activation
- Viewfinder only partly suitable for spectacle wearers despite reduction setting
Firmware update 1.3 for the Panasonic Lumix DC-S1 : Numerous improvements
After updating to firmware version 1.3, the Lumix S1 and S1R support the use of CFexpress memory cards in the XQD memory card slot. The theoretical processing rates should thus be increased threefold to up to 2,000 megabytes per second. The update also ensures compatibility with the Profoto Air Remote TTL-O/P and Profoto Connect-O/P wireless transmitters, the Fn buttons of Sigma L-mount lenses and the Panasonic Lumix S Pro 70-200 mm F2.8 OIS. Lenses adapted via Sigma MC-21 are to be better supported by the image stabilizer by having the lens stabilizer work together with the camera’s sensor shift system. The latter then only compensates for the rotational movements.
Autofocus has also been improved, such as by allowing AF+MF to be used in AF-C mode and by allowing autofocus to be set consistently on the Live View screen in Creative Video mode or other video recording modes when the video recording area is displayed. Furthermore, the exposure in the high-speed video mode can now be set manually depending on the exposure mode. Only with the S1, V-Log recordings could in some cases lead to a “blue clipping” effect and after images could occur, both of which are fixed with the update.
Further improvements in the S1 and S1R ensure that, for example, you can select on which card JPEG images developed in the camera from a raw file should be saved. In addition, the Fn key can now be used to check the aperture effect (dimming key function) and the Fn key can now be used to deactivate all physical operations. In addition, the AE button now also works in M when ISO Auto is active, the Focus tab in the video menu now includes the Auto Focus Assist Light function, and the exposure of still images (including 6K/4K still and post-focus shots) can be controlled via the HDMI output during playback after the update. Another new feature is the ability to set auto playback to 0.5 seconds and the flash can be deactivated in iA mode.
Further bug fixes and improvements can be found on the Panasonic firmware download website. There you can also find an English language installation guide. If you are not confident in the update yourself, you should ask your dealer or Panasonic support for help.
Panasonic Lumix DC-S1 Datasheet
|Sensor||CMOS sensor 36.0 x 24.0 mm (crop factor 1.0
)25.3 megapixels (physical) and 24.2 megapixels (effective)
|Image formats||JPG, RAW|
|Color depth||24 bits (8 bits per color channel), 42 bits (14 bits per color channel)|
|Metadata||Exif (version 2.31), DCF standard, IPTC|
|Autofocus mode||Autofocus operating range from -6 EV to 18 EV, contrast autofocus with 225 points|
|Autofocus functions||Single AF, Continuous AF, Area AF, Tracking AF, Manual, AFL function, AF Assist Light (LED), Focus Peaking, Focus Magnifier (6x)|
|Sharpness control||Depth-of-field control, depth-of-field button, Live View|
Viewfinder and monitor
|Monitor||3.2″ (8.1 cm) LCD monitor with 2,100,000 pixels, anti-reflective, brightness adjustable, colour adjustable, tilts 100° up and 45° down, tilts 60°, with touchscreen|
|Info display||additional info display (top) with lighting|
|Video finder||Video viewfinder (100 % field coverage) with 5,760,000 pixels, 0.78x magnification factor, dioptre compensation (-4.0 to 2.0 dpt)|
|Exposure metering||Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement over 1,728 fields, spot measurement, AF-AE coupling|
|Exposure times||1/8,000 to 60 s (automatic
)1/8,000 to 60 s (manual)
1/16,000 to 60 s (electronic shutter)
Bulb with maximum 1,800 s exposure time
|Exposure control||Fully automatic, Program automatic (with program shift), Shutter automatic, Aperture automatic, Manual|
|Exposure bracketing function||Exposure bracketing function with a maximum of 7 shots, 1/3 to 1 EV increments, HDR function|
|Exposure Compensation||-5.0 to +5.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV|
|Photosensitivity||ISO 100 to ISO 51,200 (automatic
)ISO 50 to ISO 204,800 (manual)
|Remote access||Remote release, cable release, remote control via smartphone/tablet
, remote control from computer: all functions
|Picture effects||Bleach bypass, Cross development, HDR effect, High Key, high contrast monochrome, Low Key, Miniature effect, Pop color, Retro, Black and white, Selective colour, Sepia, Toy camera, Star grating, Soft focus, 7 additional picture effects|
|White balance||Auto, Cloudy, Sunny, White balance bracket, Fine tuning, Shadow, Flash, Tungsten light, from 2,500 to 10,000 K, Manual 4 memories|
|Color space||Adobe RGB, sRGB|
|Continuous shooting||Continuous shooting function max. 9.0 fps at highest resolution and max. 999 stored photos, 6K continuous shooting at max. 30 fps (max. 10 minutes), 4K continuous shooting at max. 60 fps (max. 15 minutes)|
|Self-timer||Self-timer with 10 s interval, special features: or 2 s optional|
|Timer||Timer/interval recording with max. 9,999 recordings, start time adjustable|
|Recording functions||AEL function, AFL function, live histogram|
|Flash||no built-in flash availableShoe
: Olympus/Panasonic (also Leica compact camera), standard center contactShoe socket
|Flash range||Flash sync speed 1/320 s|
|Flash functions||Auto, fill-flash, flash on, flash off, high-speed sync, slow sync, flash on second shutter curtain, manual flash output, red-eye reduction, master function, flash exposure correction from -3.0 EV to +3.0 EV|
|Image stabilizer||Sensor shift (optical)|
|second memory card slot||
SD (SDHC, SDXC, UHS I, UHS II)
|GPS function||GPS external (permanent smartphone connection)|
|Power supply unit||Power supply connectionUSB continuous power supplyUSB charging function|
|Power supply||1 x Panasonic DMW-BLJ31 (Lithium Ion (Li-Ion), 7.4 V, 3,050 mAh
)380 images according to CIPA standard1
x Panasonic DMW-BLJ31 (Lithium Ion (Li-Ion), 7.4 V, 3,050 mAh)
380 images according to CIPA standard
|Playback functions||Video editing, cropping, image rotation, image protection, highlight / shadow warning, playback histogram, playback magnifier with 16.0x magnification, image index, slide show function with music and crossfade effects, zoom out|
|Face recognition||Face recognition|
|Image parameters||Sharpness, contrast, color saturation, noise reduction|
|Special functions||Electronic spirit level, Grid fade-in, Zebra function, Orientation sensor, Live View, User profiles with 3 user profiles|
|Connections||Data interfaces: Bluetooth, USBUSB type
:USB 3.1 SuperSpeedPlusWLAN
: available (type: ac, B, G, N)
|AV Connections||AV output: HDMI output (type A
)Audio input: yes (3.5 mm jack (stereo with power supply))
Audio output: yes (3.5 mm jack (stereo, 3-pin))
|Tripod thread||1/4″ in optical axis|
|Housing||Splash water protection, fall-proof, frost-proof up to -10 °C|
|Special features and miscellaneous||Magnesium bodyWithout
sensor cleaning systemVenus Engine image processorHigh-Resrecording mode with 96 megapixels5-Axis image stabilizer
with fade-in status indicatorFocus bracketingPost focusand focus stacking function16
image styles (incl. own memory locations)
OLED viewfinder with max. 120fps frame changeEye sensor
on viewfinderHLG photo mode
(HDR Still Photo Interface)
+/- 3EV Exposure compensation for video recording4K
slowmotion at 60fps maximum 2x1080p slowmotion
at 180fps maximum 6x4K
60p/50p max.29 minutes 59 seconds duration4K
30p/25p/24p without time limit1080p
no limitation of recording durationVideo
picture styles Cinelike D, Cinelike V, Like709, Like2100 (HLG)
HDMI-Live Output 4:2:0 8-bit animal detection AF
(dogs, cats, birds etc.
illuminated buttons (Play, Delete, Q-Menu, Display and Back)The following video functions can be activated optionally with costs:
|Technical notes||Certain video functions can only be used after a chargeable unlock code has been inserted.|
Size and weight
|Dimensions W x H x D||149 x 110 x 97 mm|
|Weight||1.017 g (ready for operation)|
|standard accessory||Panasonic DMW-BLJ31 Special BatteryPanasonic
DMW-BTC14 Charger for special batteriesUSB-C
to USB-C cableUSB-C
to USB-A cableUSB-C mains adapterPhotofunStudio, as download Tether and Silkypix
|additional accessories||Panasonic DMW-AC10E Power SupplyPanasonic
DMW-BGS1 Battery/Battery GripPanasonic
DMW-DCC16 Battery Compartment Adapter CablePanasonic
Panasonic DMW-FL200L Plug-on Flash with Swivel ReflectorPanasonic
DMW-FL360L Slip-on flash with swivel reflectorPanasonic
DMW-FL580LE Slip-on flash with swivel reflectorPanasonic
DMW-MS2 (stereo microphone)
Panasonic DMW-RS2 Remote cable releasePanasonic
DMW-XLR1 (microphone adapter)