Shortly before Panasonic’s development announcement at Photokina, I was invited to take a look at a mock-up of the company’s new full-frame mirrorless cameras. With 47Mp, the S1R is the high-resolution model to the photo/video hybrid S1.
No photographs were allowed at the press event but there was a prototype camera at Photokina 2018 that I was subsequently allowed to shoot.
The Panasonic Lumix S1R has the same design and build as the Panasonic Lumix S1. The mock-up and prototype cameras were all badged S1R, but the S1 will look the same.
As they have different pixel counts (47million vs 24 million), we can expect some difference in the S1R and S1 continuous shooting rates and burst depths.
Panasonic is aiming the Lumix S1R at landscape, still life, macro and commercial photographers. Essentially, anyone who needs to capture lots of detail. The company hasn’t revealed much about its video capability, but, like the S1 it will be able to shoot 4K video at 60P.
In addition, we’re told that there will be a Dual IS system to stabilise stills and video, plus the autofocus system will be fast and accurate. To quantify ‘fast’, Panasonic is claiming focus will take place in 0.04sec. The two cameras will also feature a new Venus Engine processor. However, as yet there’s no information about the sensitivity range or continuous shooting rate.
Both cameras have two card slots. One accepts SD-type media while the other is for XQD cards.
Build and Handling
As I mentioned, the S1R has exactly the same DSLR-like body as the S1. The mock-up I handled was also close to the final weight of the camera. You wouldn’t describe it as light, but it has a deep, ergonomic grip so it’s comfortable to hold. It’s also weather-sealed and guaranteed to operate at down to -10C.
It’s interesting that it’s bigger than the Nikon Z 7 and Sony A7R III. Nikon has been on a mission to reduce the size of its cameras, whereas Panasonic moved to make its high-end models larger. Both companies have been addressing criticisms or perceived shortcomings of their cameras so that they’ve now gone in opposite directions.
Panasonic has used a similar control layout to the Lumix G9, but there are a few differences. There’s an additional switch on the back of the S1R, for instance, which isn’t on the G9. I’m told that this will deactivate some controls to prevent accidental setting changes.
Happily, the mini-joystick on the back of the S1R is easier to reach than the G9’s.
The mock-up was non-functional so it was impossible to check the function of any of the controls. However, it seems likely that the switch on its front will be customisable like the one on the G9. I find this handy for switching the G9 between normal and silent shooting.
There are also a couple of buttons between the finger-grip and the lens mount that are likely to be customisable. I found these easy to reach yet unlikely to be pressed by my fingers as I held the camera.
On the back of the mock-up S1R, there was a button marked AF-ON. However, after speaking to Panasonic’s representatives, it seems likely that this will actually be an AF/AE Lock button.
As on the G9, the S1R has a chunky mode dial on the left side of the top-plate. Beneath it is the drive mode dial. To the right of the EVF, near the shutter button, there are buttons to access the White Balance, Sensitivity and Exposure Compensation controls.
Screen and Viewfinder
As yet I don’t know the resolution of the screen or viewfinder. However, Panasonic has said that the resolution of the electronic viewfinder (EVF) will beat the competition. Canon, Sony and Nikon all have EVFs with 3,690,000 dots, so that’s promising news for the S1R.
The screen is a 3-inch dual-tilt LCD and I’m told it will be touch-sensitive. I’m hoping that Panasonic gives the S1R the same level of touch-control as the G9. This makes navigating the menu and adjusting settings much quicker than without touch-control.
Panasonic’s highest-resolution sensor to date has 20.3 million pixels. It captures an impressive amount of detail, but the prospect of a 47Mp full-frame sensor is very appealing. It should enable a huge step-up in detail resolution.
In addition, the increase in the size of the sensor will mean that there will be much more control over depth of field than with one of Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds cameras. The combination of high-detail gathering and shallow depth of field is enticing, one always seems to enhance the other.
No doubt the dual card slots will please professional and high-end amateur photographers. The SD card port will allow most people to use their existing cards while the XQD card port will provide the fastest writing speeds.
The dual-tilt screen could also be very attractive to landscape, still-life and macro-photographers as it makes shooting away from head-height much more comfortable. However, landscape photographers may wish for a slightly smaller, lighter camera – although to be fair S1R isn’t as bulky as an SLR.
Panasonic has also plumped for contrast detection focusing in the S1R. The G9 uses contrast detection and it does a great job with sports photography. The S1R is more likely to be used with slower-moving subjects, so I expect the system will be up to the task, but we’ll have to wait to find out for sure.
We’ll update this post as we get more details, so watch this space.