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.
We’ve now had the chance to spend some time with a working pre-production model of the S1R. In many ways, it’s like a larger, chunkier G9, with a few added dials and buttons which make accessing certain settings even easier.
It’s worth noting that the Panasonic Lumix S1R has the same design and build as the Panasonic Lumix S1.
Panasonic is aiming the Lumix S1R at landscape, still life, macro and commercial photographers. Essentially, anyone who needs to capture lots of detail.
There’s also Dual IS system to stabilise stills and video, plus the autofocus system promises to 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
The joystick has been improved to move in eight different directions. You can use it to set the AF point – which is particularly useful when shooting through the viewfinder, as well as move through settings in the various menus and so on. Additionally, you can push the joystick inwards to move between subjects that the camera has automatically detected when using face, eye, human or animal detection.
One slight bone of contention is the location of the on/off switch, which is found just in front of the rear scrolling dial on the top plate. It’s not a huge deal breaker, but, switching the G9 on and off with its switch around the shutter release feels easier, or more natural. Switching mirrorless cameras on and off is a good way to save power, so it’s perhaps more important than with DSLRs where this switch placement is.
A switch just next to the AF-On button can be used to switch between single, continuous and manual focus. Inside the switch is a button which you can push to choose between the various focusing modes on offer.
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.
Screen and Viewfinder
At the 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 – it has very much surpassed all of those.
In practice, this makes for an extremely smooth viewing experience. We’ll be keen to give the device a more in depth test as soon as the full production sample is available, but it could just be the best EVF on the market.
The screen meanwhile has been revealed to have 2,100-dots. The 3.2-inch device is not articulating, but instead has a triaxial tilt meaning 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.
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. This can be used 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.
There are also a couple of buttons between the finger-grip and the lens mount that are customisable, as well as the switch on its front just like the G9. I find this handy for switching the G9 between normal and silent shooting. I found these easy to reach yet unlikely to be pressed by my fingers as I held the camera.
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.
As we have only been using a pre-production model – and so far in pretty limited circumstances, it’s difficult to give a full evaluation of how things like autofocus works. However, early indications are fairly promising.
The new subject detection – 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 identified and locked on to faces quite easily – we’ll be keen to see how well it copes with animal subjects.
Generally speaking, AF is acquired quickly and accurately, but again, we’ll be keen to put it further through its paces when full production samples are available.
As for image quality, as this is a pre-production sample, images are not necessarily indicative of final image quality. However, early results are very promising – particularly on the detail front.
Zooming in at 100% reveals a stunning amount of detail in shots, especially if shot with the 50mm f/1.4 Leica certified L Mount Panasonic lens. The S1R will likely be a very appealing choice for macro, still life and portrait photographers for that reason.
A new 187 megapixel mode (94 million pixels when shooting with the S1) works by shooting 8 different images, each with the sensor slightly shifted and merging them together. You’ll need to mount the camera on a tripod to take advantage of the mode, but it’s very simple to use. This is a mode we’re really excited to evaluate properly when the full samples become available.
Panasonic S1R Sample Photos
Ahead of the launch event we got to shoot with a pre-production model of the S1R in Portugal. Below is a gallery of Panasonic S1R sample photos we shot on this trip. Click on any image in the gallery to view it at full-resolution. Note, though, that these were shot with a pre-production model.
Panasonic S1R Sample Photos
Early First Impressions
At this stage, it is of course impossible to come to a definitive conclusion, but for a brand new system, the Panasonic S1R is looking extremely promising.
It might be difficult to convince dyed-in-the-wool Sony or Nikon full-framers to switch to Panasonic, but for those on the verge of ditching DSLRs, or buying into full-frame possibly for the very first time, this new system is very appealing.
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 should 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 look forward to a full production sample becoming available so we can look at the camera in much more depth.