Panasonic Lumix S1R Review

Panasonic Lumix S1R Review
Review

Panasonic announced the 47Mp Lumix S1R at the same time as the 24Mp Lumix S1. They are both full-frame mirrorless cameras and they have the same weather-resistant build and control layout. Only their sensors and features relating to their pixel counts are different.

However, while the S1 is the all-rounder and has more video options, the high-resolution S1R still has an impressive video specification.

Like the S1, the Lumix S1R is an advanced camera with plenty of customisability and a dual-tilting touchscreen. There’s also a class-leading electronic viewfinder, and a nippy AF system. And, despite the already high pixel count, there’s a High Resolution mode that produces 187Mp images that are superb but challenging for computers.

It’s a complex camera, but well thought out and capable of producing superb results.

Check the price of the Panasonic Lumix S1R at Wex Photo Video, Park Cameras, Adorama, B&H Photo Video, and Amazon

For Panasonic Lumix S1R

  • Robust build
  • High-quality high-resolution images
  • Excellent handling with lots of customisation

Against Panasonic Lumix S1R

  • Big for a mirrorless camera
  • AF system not as dependable as some
  • Currently limited lens range

Panasonic Lumix S1R Review

 

 

Features

The Panasonic S1R has a sensor with an effective pixel count of 47.3million. Unlike Panasonic’s G-Series Micro Four Thirds cameras which have a native aspect ratio of 4:3, the S1R’s 36x24mm sensor is a 3:2 device. However, there are also aspect ratio settings of 4:3, 1:1, 16:9, 2:1 and 65:24 should you want them.

Given the high pixel count of the Panasonic S1R in comparison with the S1, it’s no surprise to find it has a more limited sensitivity range. The standard range is ISO 100-25,600, and there are expansion settings to take it to ISO 50-51,200. That upper value is the same as the Lumix S1’s highest native setting.

High Resolution Mode

Panasonic is aiming the Lumix S1R at professional photographers who want a high-resolution camera. For many, the 47Mp resolution is likely to be enough, but like the S1 and Panasonic G9, the Lumix S1R has a High Resolution mode.

When this is mode is activated, the camera shoots a series of 8 images in quick succession. Using the in-body stabilisation mechanism, it moves the sensor a fraction between each shot. The camera then merges the images to create one much larger raw file.

When the aspect ratio is 3:2, using High Resolution Mode results in 16,736 x 11,186-pixel images. That means the images have 187million pixels! At 300ppi this enables you to create 141.7 x 94.56cm (55.787 x 37.227-inch) prints.

There are a few restrictions applied when you use High Resolution mode. For example, it can only works with the electronic shutter, the minimum aperture is f/16 and the shutter speed range is between 1 and 1/8000sec. Sensitivity can be set up to ISO 3200.

Panasonic also recommends that the camera is supported on a tripod.

If your computer is getting on a bit, you may find it gasping for breath when you open the high res images. My mid-2014 MacBook Pro, which has 16GB 1600MHz DDR3 memory, took a few seconds to open a file and sparked up the fan soon after.

Panasonic Lumix S1R Review

Continuous Shooting

As in the S1, Panasonic has coupled the Lumix S1R’s sensor with a new Venus Engine processor. Despite the higher resolution of the S1R, it has the same maximum continuous shooting rate as the S1. That’s 6fps with continuous autofocusing (C-AF) and 9fps in single AF mode (S-AF). However, the burst depth is more limited at ‘more than 40 images’ if you shoot raw files, ‘more than 35 images’ if you shoot raw and jpeg simultaneously and ‘more than 50’ jpegs. These figures require a Sony G-Series XQD card. I found I matched them rather them with a UHS-II SDXC card.

If you need more speed, there’s 4K/6K Photo mode. This lets you shoot 4K (8Mp) images at 60fps or 6K (18Mp) images at 30fps. This technology also fuels the S1R’s Post-Focus feature that allows you to shoot a burst of images with different focus points. You can then select the point of focus you want post-capture.

This technology dovetails with the Focus Stacking feature that enables images shot in this way to be merged for greater depth of field.

If the electronic shutter is used the S1R can shoot entirely silently at shutter speeds up to 1/16,000sec. The mechanical shutter tops out at 1/8,000sec and both shutters allow a maximum exposure time of 60sec.

Memory Card

The S1R has two memory card slots. One is compatible with XQD cards while the other is a UHS-II compatible SD/SDHC/SDXC slot.

If you have a card in each slot, they can act as an overflow or as a back-up, so your images are duplicated. Alternatively, you can save one file type to one card and another to the other card.

Video

While Panasonic created the Lumix S1 for creatives who want to shoot both stills and video, it’s aiming the S1R at professional stills photographers.

Nevertheless, the S1R can shoot 4K (3840×2160) at 60fps and 150Mbps. There’s a good range of other frame and bitrates available. However, the S1’s HEVC 4:2:0 10-bit internal recording option is absent from the Lumix S1R.

It’s also worth noting that the optional (paid for) firmware upgrade that will give the Lumix S1 V-Log recording is not coming to the Panasonic Lumix S1R.

However, like the S1, the S1R has both 3.5mm mic and headphone ports to enable audio motoring and ensure high quality.

Panasonic has given the Lumix S1R a 5-axis Dual IS system which offers a claimed 6EV of shutter speed compensation. This system combines two-axis lens-based stabilisation with 5-axis in-body image stabilisation (IBIS), and it works with both stills and video.

Autofocus

As with the S1 and its Micro Four Thirds cameras, Panasonic has used a contrast detection autofocus (AF) system in the Lumix S1R. This is claimed to have an impressively wide working range of -6Ev to 18Ev.

The AF system draws on the company’s Depth From Defocus (DFD) technology to speed the focusing. Combined with the high-speed communication afforded by the Lumix S series lenses, it delivers a claimed focus acquisition time of 0.8sec.

Artificial Intelligence is all the rage in photography at the moment, and Panasonic has employed it to help the S1 and S1R identify humans, cats, dogs and birds. Once the camera has identified one in the scene, it can focus on it. 

Helpfully, you can press the joystick on the back of the camera to toggle through identified objects to select the one you want to focus on.

L-Mount

As they are Panasonic’s first full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Lumix S1 and S1R use a different mount from any other Panasonic camera. However, they don’t use a completely new mount as they have Leica’s L-Mount.

This mount was introduced by the Leica T, which was announced in 2014 and has an APS-C sized sensor. However, the L-mount has a diameter of 51.6mm, which means that it can also work with full-frame sensors. And in fact, Leica did so when it introduced the SL.

The mount has a flange depth of 20mm, that’s 4mm deeper than the Nikon Z mount which has a diameter of 55mm.

Panasonic Lumix S1R Review

Build and Handling

Like the S1, the Panasonic Lumix S1R has a DSLR-style design. And it’s a similar size to a full-frame DSLR like the Canon 5D Mark IV. Perhaps because Panasonic made the Lumix GH5 and G9 quite large for Micro Four Thirds cameras, it’s had to make the S1 and S1R big.

While that large scale isn’t especially travel-friendly, there are some advantages. For instance, the grip is hefty and comfortable. The buttons and dials are also bigger and less fiddly than on some smaller mirrorless cameras.

That means it may seem a more comfortable transition to mirrorless photography for full-frame DSLR users.

However, one issue that you may notice when using the S1R for the first time is that the shutter release feels a bit soft. As a result, you may take a few random shots. Thankfully, it’s something you get used to. After shooting with the S1, I swapped to the S1R and didn’t have the same problem. The shutter release is the same, but I’d got used to it.

As I mentioned earlier, Panasonic is aiming the Lumix S1R at professional photographers and it’s given the camera the type of build they expect. It’s solidly built with a magnesium alloy body and weather seals. It’s also designed to operate at down to -10C.

Panasonic Lumix S1R Review

Controls

Panasonic has used a similar control layout to the Lumix G9 for the S1R, but there are a few differences.

Happily, the mini-joystick on the back of the S1R is more accessible than the G9’s. It’s also been improved so it operates with movement in eight directions. It’s primarly purpose is for setting the AF point. That’s particularly useful when shooting through the viewfinder.

Additionally, as already mentioned, you can push the joystick inwards to move between subjects that the camera has automatically detected when using face, eye, human or animal detection.

The joystick is also useful for moving through settings in the various menus. Although the navigation pad around the Menu button is probably a more natural choice, I don’t like the feel or action of this control. Thankfully, the touchscreen is also on hand and you can tap your way around the menu.

As on the G9 and S1, the S1R has a chunky but rather plasticky mode dial on the left side of the top-plate. Beneath it is the drive mode dial. To the right of the electronic viewfinder (EVF), near the shutter button, there are buttons to access the White Balance, Sensitivity and Exposure Compensation controls. These are easy to reach and identify when you’re looking in the viewfinder.

Helpfully, you can toggle through the white balance and sensitivity (ISO) settings by repeatedly pressing the appropriate button. That’s a simple but clever trick.

Customisation

Panasonic has given the Lumix S1R lots of scope for customisation. That means it takes a while to get the camera operating just as you want it, but you can make it work for you.

I particularly like that there are a couple of buttons between the finger-grip and the lens mount that are customisable. I find these buttons easy to reach yet unlikely to be pressed accidentally by my fingers as I hold the camera.

There’s also a switch on the front of the Lumix S1R just like on the G9. I like to use this to swap between regular and silent shooting, but can be set to access other features such as the Photo Style, Shutter type or Image Stabiliser.

Panasonic Lumix S1R Review

Switches and Dials

One bone of contention is the location of the on/off switch, which is just in front of the rear scrolling dial on the top plate. It’s not a deal breaker, but, switching the G9 on and off with the switch around its shutter release feels easier, or more natural.

Switching mirrorless cameras on and off is a great way to save power, so it’s perhaps more critical than with DSLRs where this switch is placed.

A switch just next to the AF-On button can be used to switch between single, continuous and manual focus. A switch or dial always gets my vote for this type of control over a button or menu because you can see which mode is selected without powering up the camera and you can change it quickly.

Inside the focus mode switch is a button which you can push to choose between the various focusing modes on offer. That requires the camera to be powered up, but its any easy and obvious route to this key feature.

To the left of a viewfinder is a lock switch, which can be used to ensure that all of your settings stay locked in and don’t get accidentally changed. However, you can also customise the lock switch to make it so that it only locks some functions, and leaves the others free.

I don’t like the feel of the large navigation pad on the back of the camera. Again, it’s not a deal-breaker, but it doesn’t feel as ergonomically shaped as those on some other cameras.

Electronic Viewfinder

At its development announcement, Panasonic promised that the S1 and S1R’s viewfinder would surpass the resolution of the viewfinders of rival products on the market. Canon, Sony and Nikon all have EVFs with 3,690,000 dots – so with 5,760,00 dots – the S1R’s has surpassed all of those by some way.

In practice, this makes for an extremely smooth viewing experience, especially if the frame rate is set to 120fps rather than 60fps. Moving subjects don’t get lost or distort as you pan with them because the viewfinder can keep up.
There’s also a contrast ratio of 10.000:1, which means images look natural.

Interestingly, I experienced a little lag with the S1 in very low light, but I didn’t have the same experience with the S1R. It’s possible there was a feature selected that had an impact upon the EVF refresh rate, but I checked everything obvious and couldn’t find it. Apart from that, I think the S1 and S1R have the best electronic viewfinders around.

Panasonic Lumix S1R Review

Screen

Panasonic opted for a 3.2-inch triaxial tilting screen with 2,100,000-dots. The triaxial tilt means you can push it up, down and to the side. This makes it much more useful than standard tilting screens for shooting portrait format images, while also being more robust than a fully articulating screen.

The only disappointment is that the screen can’t be flipped around for viewing in front, but it’s not a very significant issue for a camera like the S1R.

I’m glad that Panasonic hasn’t been half-hearted about the level of touch control that’s possible via the Lumix S1R’s screen. Although there are plenty of buttons and dials, you can navigate the main and Quick menus and make setting selections with a tap. You can also swipe through images in review mode and double-tap to zoom in to check details.

Furthermore, the screen is very responsive, so it’s a delight to use.

Performance

I have shot with the Panasonic Lumix S1R in a wide range of situations. Everything from bright sunshine and clear blues skies to heavily overcast and rain, as well as dark interiors.

And the camera handled it all well.

The Lumix S1R’s standard white balance setting is a good default choice, but the Sunny/Clear sky setting produces slightly warmer, more attractive images in dappled light or shade. I also found the Shade setting a good option around sunset when I wanted to make the most of the warm tones.

Exposure-wise, the 1,728-zone multi-pattern system takes a lot in its stride. And coupled with the excellent EVF, I found no reason to switch to a different setting. On a few occasions, I reduced the exposure by 1/3 or 2/3Ev to get more vibrant colours or to capture a bit more of the highlight detail. And when shooting along a river with lots of bright reflections, I increased the exposure by 2/3Ev.

That’s all fairly standard stuff and nothing to get concerned about. The critical point is that the viewfinder provides a good preview of the image so you can rely on it for assessing the exposure.

The stabilisation system also performs well. For example, when I was shooting indoors at the 55mm point of the Lumix S 24-105mm f/4 lens, I got perfectly sharp results at 1/8sec. They stand scrutiny at 100% on screen.

Dynamic Range

When I tested the Panasonic Lumix S1, I found that it had an extremely good dynamic range. The Lumix S1R also impresses in this area, but you need to be a little more careful. I found that you can brighten low sensitivity images (ISO) images by around 3Ev without introducing too much noise and still get attractive colours.

That’s useful if you want to underexpose to protect the highlights of a landscape image.

Autofocus Performance

Like the S1, the Lumix S1R has a fast and accurate contrast detection system.
The new subject detection mode – which makes use of artificial intelligence – can tell the difference between human and animal subjects, as well as giving you face and eye detection modes. In practice, when shooting portraits, the camera identifies and locks on to faces quite easily. It also identified my dog quickly. However, it struggles to keep up with him when he’s moving at pace.

I got some sharp images of him, but the AF system isn’t up there with the best that Sony has to offer.

I haven’t been able to compare the two cameras directly, but I think the S1’s AF system is a little faster with moving subjects. That could be down to the cleaner signal that the lower resolution sensor generates.

Image Quality

Thanks to its 47Mp sensor, the Lumix S1R captures lots of detail. The shot below isn’t the greatest image of my dog but the crop shows the level of detail that the S1R captures.

Noise is also controlled well, but naturally, you wouldn’t want to push the sensitivity as high as with the 24Mp S1. And indeed, Panasonic has reduced the range for this reason.

If you hunt around ISO 1000 images, you may spot a little texture in the shadows of raw files. And there’s just a hint of smoothing in the Jpegs, but nothing to worry about.

Hop up to ISO 6,400 and the noise is more noticeable at 100%, but it’s still very well controlled and not an issue at normal viewing and printing sizes. Another step up to ISO 12,800 and some very fine detail is lost from the Jpegs. Even at around A4 size (210 × 297mm or 8.27 × 11.69inches), the Jpegs can look a little smooth whereas the raw files have a bit more crispness.
The results at ISO 12,800 and 25,600 aren’t bad, but if you want to get the best results possible from the Lumix S1R, it’s worth staying to ISO 6,400 or lower if you can. I’d go above this is the conditions demanded it.

Aspect Ratio

I’m a firm believer in making the aspect ratio decision at the shooting stage. It helps you to compose better images. Like the S1, Panasonic S1R has more aspect ratio settings than most cameras. And, if you shoot raw and Jpeg images simultaneously, you have the option to ‘uncrop’ the raw files. 

With 2:3, 4:3, 1:1, 16:9, 2:1 and 65:24 Aspect Ratio settings, there’s something to suit most scenes. However, after using 65:24 on the Fujifilm GFX 50R and Panasonic S1, I’ve started to get quite addicted to that format. And as the S1R has a 47Mp sensor, you still get 25Mp (8368 x 3088) images in this letterbox format.

Panasonic Lumix S1R in 65:24 Aspect Ratio

High Resolution Mode

I shot a variety of scenes with the new 187Mp High Resolution mode. I used both Mode 2 and Mode 2 to compare how each dealt with moving subjects in a landscape. Mode 1 is intended for use with motionless scenes while Mode 2 can cope with some subject movement. Both require the camera to be on a tripod.

After comparing the results from Mode 1 and Mode 2 with a standard image captured at the same time, I can’t see a massive difference between them. The ripples of a lake look slightly better in the Mode 2 image, but there’s just a hint more texture.

Similarly, I can’t see much difference between the Mode 1 and Mode 2 shots of some trees with gently moving leaves and branches.

It’s something I’d like to look at in more detail at a later date.

What is clear, however, is that the High Resolution mode captures smoother, more detailed images than the standard mode. If you compare standard photos at 200% and high-res images at 100%, the image elements are the same size and you can see a little more detail in the sharp areas of the high-res versions. The detail also looks a bit more natural and out of focus areas are smoother. The haze in a Lakeland scene, for example, looks less granular.

With the High Resolution mode images taking up more than 340MB on your card rather than the 85MB of standard images, it’s advisable to save them for those occasions when you really need the best possible quality. Processing the files is also likely to slow down some older computers and fire the cooling fans into action.

Video Quality

While the Panasonic Lumix S1R lacks the HEVC video option of the S1, and won’t receive the V-Log firmware update, it’s a solid proposition for shooting video. The exposure and colour match the stills and the level of detail in 4K footage is fabulous. The focusing also proves reliable with smooth transitions.

Sample Video

The video below was shot on the Panasonic Lumix S1R in 4K (3840×2160) 60p 4:2:0 8bit LongGOP 150Mbps LPCM MP4 with audio recorded by the onboard mic and the image stabilisation off.

Check the price of the Panasonic Lumix S1R at Wex Photo Video, Park Cameras, Adorama, B&H Photo Video, and Amazon

 

Verdict

Panasonic has packed the features into the Lumix S1R. Like the 24Mp S1, it takes a little getting used to, but its control arrangement and handling are good. If you’re looking for the size advantage offered by a mirrorless design, however, the Panasonic Lumix S1R is not going to fit the bill. It’s big and hefty.

Nevertheless, except for some rather plasticky controls, it also has a nice solid build, that befits a high-end camera retailing for over £3000/$3000.

Also, it sets a new benchmark for electronic viewfinders, with a super-smooth, high-detail view. And while the screen may not flip out for viewing from the front, its robust hinges allow it to tilt horizontally and vertically. This makes it useful for all sorts of photography as well as shooting video.

Naturally, the main reason for investing in a 47Mp camera is to produce images with lots of detail. The Panasonic Lumix S1R certainly delivers on this score. If you want to take things up a notch, there’s the High Resolution mode.

The main drawback with the S1R at the moment is the lack of compatible lenses. However, with Panasonic, Sigma and Leica involved in their production, it shouldn’t take too long for more optics to become available.

Panasonic S1R Sample Photos

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Panasonic S1R Sample Photos

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