Panasonic introduced the world’s first mirrorless system camera back in 2008 and 10 years on it has made a development announcement about two full-frame models.
I was invited to a briefing before the announcement at Photokina 2018 and had the opportunity to take a good look at a mock-up. We weren’t allowed to take any photographs at that time, but there was a prototype sample on Panasonic’s stand at Photokina and I was able to photograph that.
Although there will be two cameras, the Panasonic Lumix S1 and Panasonic Lumix S1R, they have to same build and design. The mock-up and prototype cameras were badged S1R, but the S1 will look just the same.
Only the sensors of the two cameras are different. However, this has an impact on aspects such as the continuous shooting rate and burst depth. We’re still waiting to hear about them.
The Panasonic Lumix S1 has a 24Mp full-frame sensor. It’s aimed at creatives who want to be able to shoot both stills and video. Panasonic hasn’t revealed very much about the camera’s video capability other than to say it will be able to shoot 4K at 60P. I’m sure that many will be hoping that it comes close to the GH5 for video specification. I think there’s a strong chance that it will as the S1 is aimed at professional users.
The image sensor will be paired with a new Venus Engine processor. However, Panasonic hasn’t revealed the sensitivity range or continuous shooting rate that this will enable. However, 4K Photo and 6K Photo seems a safe bet.
Helpfully, Panasonic’s Dual IS system will be incorporated. This stabilises images and video.
Build and Handling
The mock-up that I saw wasn’t completely finalised, but I’m told its shape and weight were close to the final camera’s. Panasonic has adopted the DSLR-like shape of cameras like the GH5 and G9. But of course, the bigger sensor means it’s a little bigger. It’s also quite a bit bigger than the Nikon Z 7 and Sony A7 III. However, it feels very comfortable in your hand and has a big grip.
The new camera is also sealed at every joint and control point to keep out moisture and dust. It’s also guaranteed to operate at down to -10C.
The control layout is quite similar to the G9’s, but there are few changes here and there. There’s switch on the top-left of the back of the camera, for example, which isn’t on the G9. This is said to lock key controls to prevent settings being changed accidentally.
Clearly, Panasonic has listened to comments made about the design of the G9 because the mini-joystick on the back of the camera is in a much better location. It’s far easier to reach with your thumb.
A button on the back of the mock-up was labelled AF-ON. When asked about the lack of an autoexposure lock (AE-Lock) button, Panasonic’s representative said that the button’s labels weren’t finalised. So it seems likely that this button will be an AF/AE Lock button as on the G9.
As on the G9, there’s a switch on the front of the S1. This is customisable on the G9, so I expect it will be the same on the S1. Similarly, there are two buttons on the front of the S1 near the grip that are easy to reach with your fingers. Again, these are likely to be customisable.
Meanwhile, on the top-plate there’s a chunky mode dial to the left of the EVF, with a drive mode dial beneath. To the right of the EVF there are buttons giving quick access to the White Balance, Sensitivity and Exposure Compensation settings.
Screen and Viewfinder
Panasonic hasn’t revealed the resolutions of the screen or viewfinder. However, we were told that the electronic viewfinder (EVF) will have higher resolution than the competition. That means it will have more than 3,690,000 dots.
Meanwhile, the screen is a 3-inch dual-tilt device. We can safely expect it to be touch-sensitive. While the dual-tilt mechanism is great for stills, I’m disappointed that it can’t be flipped out to face forward. That would make presenting to camera far easier.
Panasonic’s GH-series of cameras have been incredibly successful. The company has managed to create something for which there is a huge demand. If the S1 has similar video capability to the GH5, I’m sure it will be very popular. Its main competition will be the Sony A7S II and A7 III. The GH5 already competes very well with these two cameras, so a full-frame camera with similar specification should fair very well.
The S1’s 24Mp sensor will capture larger images than the 20Mp GH5. However, the bigger chip should ensure better noise control and the ability to restrict depth of field.
A high-resolution EVF, paired with a dual-tilt screen will also ensure that users have a great view of the scene whether they are shooting in portrait or landscape orientation. The GH5 has a vari-angle screen that can face forward and it makes presenting to camera much easier. Unfortunately, the S1 (and S1R) need an external monitor or connected phone if you want to see yourself talking to the camera. That’s a real shame as it would give them a significant advantage over Sony’s A7-series cameras.
Panasonic has also plumped for contrast detection focusing in the S1. The step-up from Micro Four Thirds lenses means that Panasonic will need to be able to drive heavier elements quickly and smoothly to ensure fast focusing. And let’s not forget that smooth focusing is important to videographers.
The company is claiming that the two S cameras will have the world’s Fastest AF with an acquisition time of 0.04sec. I’m hoping that won’t be in a limited set of circumstances and that the S1 will be able to track moving subjects at least as well as the Panasonic G9.
It’s good to see two card slots in the S1. The SD slot will be appreciated by most photographers while the XQD port allows fast writing times.
We’ll update this post as we get more details, so watch this space.