Panasonic Lumix S1 review: Pushing your limits

Panasonic Lumix S1
  • Panasonic Lumix S1
  • Panasonic Lumix S1
  • Expert Rating

    4.25 / 5

Pros

  • Stellar ergonomics
  • Great results & expansive lens ecosystem

Cons

  • Autofocus not as fast as G9
  • Video record button placement not ideal

Bottom Line

Where other camera brands are just getting started with mirrorless, it feels like the Lumix S1 and S1R are more interested in pushing boundaries forward - and that’s something that’s easy to get on-board with.

Would you buy this?

The Pitch

While photography icons like Nikon and Canon are only just now making their entry into the full-frame mirrorless camera arms race, Panasonic have been playing in the space for a solid decade. And their experience with that shows in the confidence they’re putting behind the new Panasonic Lumix S1 and S1R. And that confidence is well-earned.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m currently in the market for my own upgrade to mirrorless - and the Panasonic S1 makes an appealing pitch. After a few days using the S1 in and around Hobart, I came away impressed.

The price here is steep - but not outrageous. The raw image quality isn’t as good as the S1R - but it’s far from flawed. As a camera, the S1 comes with a fair amount of heft - but more than enough ergonomics to make up the difference.

Credit: Panasonic

This camera didn’t just surprise me when it came to its capabilities but also when it came to the things it revealed about my own. The Panasonic S1 pushed me to do things that I didn’t know I was capable of doing with a camera.

What are the specs of the Panasonic Lumix S1?

The spec sheet for the Panasonic Lumix S1 is as follows:

Body type:  Interchangeable lens, mirrorless

Max resolution: 12000x8000 (High Resolution Mode)

Effective pixels: 24.2-megapixels

Sensor size: 35mm full-frame

Sensor type: CMOS

Autofocus system: Depth from Defocus AF

ISO: 100-512,00 (50-204,800 extended)

Interchangeable lenses: Yes

Lens mount: L-Mount

Screen: 3.2-inch, TFT LCD Monitor, triaxial tilt

EVF: OLED Live View Finder with 5760 dots

Batteries: 3050mAh

Max shutter speed: 1/8000 sec

Video Formats: MPEG-4, H.264

Storage options: SD Card slot, XQD card slot,

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2

Ports: USB Type-C 3.1 Gen 1, HDMI Type-A, Microphone jack,

Weight: 898g (body only)

Dimensions: 148.9 x 110 x 96.7 mm

Price: $3499

What I liked about the Panasonic Lumix S1?

The last Panasonic camera I spent much time with was the Lumix G9, and up-front, the Lumix S1 feels heavier duty - both in terms of physical form-factor and featureset.

It’s by no means light but it feels like Panasonic have made the best of a bad situation. It’s ergonomic where it counts. The material design and the shape of the camera’s grip combine to impressive effect and if you’re familiar with past Panasonic Lumix cameras like the GH5 and G9, you’ll be right at home here.

This familiarity even extends to the software as well. As someone more at home with the way Nikon’s software handles things, there was a definite adjustment period. However, I was genuinely surprised at how intuitive the S1’s menu system revealed itself to be over time. Discovering how to do this or how to change that proved an unexpected delight and by the end of my three day period with the camera, I felt right at home with it.

Credit: Panasonic

The placement of the buttons on the S1 has been slightly altered to accommodate the larger display and the ring-like on-off button found in the G9 has been replaced with a more straightforward dedicated power toggle. In short: there are some key differences but the G9 and S1 have more in common than the opposite.

Bigger and better is the name of the game here. The touch-sensitive LCD monitor on the back of the S1 is just that little bit wider and boasts bezels just that little bit thinner.

The one change I’m not happy with here is the migration of video capture button. This is is now nestled next to the viewfinder. It’s not super easy or comfortable to reach when needed.

Credit: Panasonic

Of course, the biggest advantage the S1 offers here is its full-frame sensor and support for the new L-mount system and HLG photos. Developed by Lieca, there’s a good amount of lenses on the table already - with both Panasonic and Sigma also signed on to be members of the L-Mount Alliance. Meanwhile, the HLG mode built into the S1 allows you to capture some incredibly dazzling high-dynamic range shots.

Behind these advancements, everything else that’s great about the S1 is inherited from past G-series cameras. There’s 6-stop 5-axis dual image stabilization. It’s got 0.08-second AF, a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000th of a second and -6EV low-light performance. There’s a High Resolution mode that lets you shoot in a resolution of up to 96-megapixels. The S1 touts dual memory slots (UHS-II + XQD), a triaxial rear monitor, 6K burst shots, AI-powered tracking and a shoulder-mounted LCD display for at-a-glance info.

And all things considered, it’s a really powerful feature set on offer here and I came away honestly kinda blown away with the images this camera let me capture. Whether we’re talking landscapes, portraits or something in between, the S1 delivered.

Here are some of my favorite shots to give you a taste:

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG
Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG
Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

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Read more on these topics: Panasonic Lumix, Lumix 1, Panasonic Lumix S1
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