CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Cameras

Panasonic's Lumix S1, S1R full-frame cameras make a big first impression

And not just because they're crammed full of the latest tech.

panasonic-lumix-s1-s1r-screen-grab
Lori Grunin/CNET

I never thought I'd see a mirrorless camera bigger and heavier than a full-frame DSLR, but somehow Panasonic made it happen. And while there's a lot to like about Panasonic's entrants, the Lumix S1 and S1R -- novelties include a terrific high-resolution OLED viewfinder, HLG-tonemapped HDR photo, a triaxial tilt LCD and more -- the big body isn't among them.

Panasonic's S line is based around the Leica L mount, based on a strategic partnership with Sigma and Leica in the L-Mount Alliance. At launch, the S line consists of two pro-focused models: one with a high-resolution 47-megapixel sensor optimized for still-first photography, the S1R; and one with a lower 24-megapixel sensor optimized for video-first photography, the S1. This follows the same strategy Sony and Nikon have been following.

But Panasonic's cameras diverge from the others in two important ways. Nominally, they're more expensive. Available now for preorder with expected availability in April, the S1 runs $2,500 for the body (about £1,910 or AU$3,440). That compares to $2,000 for the Nikon Z6 (£2,100, AU$3,300) or the Sony A7 III (£2,000, AU$3,100). The S1R model goes for $3,700, while the Z7 and A7R III go for $3,400 (£3,400, AU$4,160) and $3,200 (£2,900, AU$4,600), respectively. 

It will be available in kits with the new Lumix S 24-105mm f4 Macro OIS lens; that tacks another $900 to the bill. The two higher-end lenses that will be available when the camera ships are the Lumix S Pro 70-200mm f4 OIS and Lumix S Pro 50mm f1.4.

When looking at the prices, however, keep in mind that Panasonic tends to "discount" its prices in the US a lot more than Sony and Nikon do, so the effective prices should be a lot closer to its competitors. And I can see the viewfinder, a brand new 5.8-megapixel OLED with a 120fps refresh rate (probably a Sony), bumping up the price.

The other big difference from its competitors is size. It's the biggest full-frame mirrorless body I know of -- it's even bigger and heavier than the Fujifilm GFX and Hasselblad X1D mirrorless medium format cameras -- and it's almost as big as the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

The extra girth is predominantly due to the sensor-shift stabilization mechanism. But Panasonic claims that it delivers 5 stops of compensation -- 6 stops with a compatible optically stabilized lens -- so depending on your shakiness quotient, it might be worth the extra burden.

The stabilizer's also an energy vampire. Despite a relatively luxurious 3,050-mAh battery it's rated for only about 350-400 shots. While you're likely to get more than that in practice, it's still low for a pro camera. But Panasonic added an intriguing IS Status Scope which indicates how far from stable you are -- kind of like a temporal level indicator.

Thankfully, though the lenses seemed pretty big, they're roughly comparable to the size and weight of Sony and Canon's equivalents. (Nikon doesn't yet have a 24-105 f4 or 70-200 f4, the two core lenses that Panasonic's launching with.)

The same...

The two models have identical bodies, which is essentially a variation on Panasonic's Lumix G9. Though heavy, it's comfortable to hold with a reasonable control layout that puts all the frequently needed buttons, dials and AF-area selection joystick within reach.

Some notable physical features include USB-C, 5GHz Wi-Fi, a three-way-tiling LCD and dual card slots. The latter includes one SD and one XQD, which will be updatable in the future via firmware to support CFExpress cards.

panasonic-lumix-s1-20

The triaxial tilting LCD. They're really useful, if somewhat awkward to manipulate.

Lori Grunin/CNET

Though the autofocus and metering systems are similar to those Panasonic's been using in its higher-end Micro Four Thirds models, the updated Venus Engine image processor and improved shutter mechanism eke out more speed, consistency and accuracy from them.

Plus, it adds capabilities like a new HSP file format for saving HDR versions of still images tonemapped with an HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) profile, animal recognition in the autofocus system and exposure leveling in time lapse.

Comparative specifications -- Lumix S1


Nikon Z 6 Panasonic Lumix S1 Sony A7 III
Sensor effective resolution 24.5MP BSI CMOS 14-bit 24.2MP CMOS 14-bit 24.2MP Exmor RS CMOS 14-bit
Sensor size 35.9x23.9 mm 35.6x23.8 mm 35.8x23.8 mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.0x 1.0x 1.0x
OLPF Yes n/a Yes
Sensitivity range ISO 50 (exp)/ISO 100 - ISO 25,600/204800 (exp) ISO 50 (exp)/ISO 100 - ISO 51,200/204,800 (exp) ISO 50 (exp)/ ISO 100 - ISO 25,600/ISO 204,800 (exp)
Burst shooting 12 fps (9 fps raw) n/a 6 fps (9 fps with focus fixed on first frame) 90 raw/unlimited JPEG 10 fps 177 JPEG
Viewfinder (mag) EVF 100% coverage 3.7 million dots 0.5 in/1.3 cm 0.8x OLED EVF 100% coverage 5.8 million dots 0.78x OLED EVF 0.5-inch 2.4 million dots 100% coverage 0.71x
Hot Shoe Yes Yes Yes
Autofocus Hybrid AF System 273 phase-detection, contrast n/a DFD Contrast AF 225 area 693-poing phase-detection AF; 25-area contrast AF
AF sensitivity (at center point) -2 - 19 EV (-4 EV with low-light AF) -6 - 18 EV -3 - 20 EV
Shutter speed 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync; auto FP sync 1/8,000 to 60 secs; bulb to 60 sec; 1/320 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync
Shutter durability n/a 400,000 cycles n/a
Metering n/a 1,728 zones 1,200 zones
Metering sensitivity -4 to 17 EV 0 to 18 EV n/a
Best video H.264 Quicktime MOV 4K UHD/30p, 25p, 24p; 1080/120p H.264 4K UHD/60p @ 150 Mbps; H.265 4K UHD/30p HLG @ 72Mbps; 1080/180fps XAVC S 4K 2160/30p, 25p, 24p @ 100Mbps; 1080/120p @ 100Mbps
Audio stereo; mic input; stereo, mic input, headphone jack Stereo; mic input; headphone jack
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes Yes Yes
Maximum best-quality recording time 29 minutes, 59 seconds 29 minutes, 59 seconds 29 minutes, 59 seconds
Clean HDMI out Yes Yes Yes
IS Optical, Sensor shift 5-axis Dual I.S. 2 5-axis Sensor shift 5-axis
LCD 3.2 in/8 cm Tilting touchscreen 2.1 million dots 3.2 in/8 cm 3-way tilting touchscreen 2.1 million dots 3 in/7.5cm Tilting 921,600 dots
Memory slots 1x XQD 1x XQD, 1x SDXC (UHS-II) 1x SDXC
Wireless connection Wi-Fi (5GHz), Bluetooth Wi-Fi (5GHz), Bluetooth Wi-Fi (2.4GHz), NFC, Bluetooth
Flash No No No
Wireless flash Yes Yes Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating, via viewfinder) 310 shots (1,900 mAh) 380 shots (3,050 mAh) 610 shots (2,280 mAh)
Size (WHD) 5.3x4x2.7 inches (134x101x68 mm) 5.9x4.3x3.8 inches (149x110x97 mm) 5x3.9x3 inches (127x96x74 mm)
Body operating weight 23.9 oz (est.) 675 g (est.) 36 oz (est.) 1,021 g (est.) 23 oz (est.) 650 g (est.)
Mfr. price (body only) $2,000, £2,100, AU$3,300 $2,500 $2,000, £2,000, AU$3,100
Release date September 2018 April 2019 April 2018

...but different

The two models differ in a couple key ways. The most obvious, of course, is the sensor. The higher-resolution sensor in the S1R is a new architecture designed for fast readout and high performance in low light. The microlenses that sit atop each pixel are all ashpherical (complex curves, neither fully concave or convex), intended to improve the absorption of red wavelengths.

The sensor on the S1, on the other hand, has better characteristics with respect to video noise and color fidelity. On that camera, Panasonic plans to offer an optional update providing 4:2:2 10-bit output, a V-Log profile and HDR video. In order to add the HDR video support, the update will include an H.265/HEVC codec.

Comparative specifications -- Lumix S1R


Nikon Z 7 Panasonic Lumix S1R Sony A7R III
Sensor effective resolution 45.7MP BSI CMOS 14-bit 47.3MP CMOS 14-bit 42.4MP Exmor R CMOS 14-bit
Sensor size 35.9x23.9 mm 36x24 mm 35.8x23.9 mm
Focal-length multiplier 1.0x 1.0x 1.0x
OLPF No n/a No
Sensitivity range ISO 32 (exp)/64 - ISO 25,600/102,400 (exp) ISO 50 (exp)/ISO 100 - ISO 25,600/51,200 (exp) ISO 50 (exp)/ISO 100 - ISO 30,000/102,400 (exp)
Burst shooting 9 fps (8 fps raw) 23 shots (12-bit) raw/25 JPEG 6fps (9 fps with focus fixed on first frame) 40 raw/50 JPEG 10 fps 76 raw/76 JPEG
Viewfinder (mag) EVF 100% coverage 3.7 million dots 0.5 in/1.3 cm 0.8x OLED EVF 100% coverage 5.8 million dots n/a 0.78x OLED EVF 0.5-inch 2.4 million dots 100% coverage 0.71x
Hot Shoe Yes Yes Yes
Autofocus Hybrid AF System 493 phase-detection, contrast n/a DFD Contrast AF 225 area 399-point phase-detection AF, 425-area contrast AF
AF sensitivity (at center point) -1 - 19 EV (-4 EV with low-light AF) -6 - 18 EV -3 - 20 EV
Shutter speed 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/200 sec x-sync; auto FP sync 1/8,000 to 60 secs; bulb to 60 sec; 1/320 sec x-sync 1/8,000 to 30 secs; bulb; 1/250 sec x-sync
Shutter durability n/a 400,000 cycles n/a
Metering n/a 1,728 zones 1,200 zones
Metering sensitivity -3 to 17 EV 0 to 18 EV -3 - 20 EV
Best video H.264 Quicktime MOV 4K UHD/30p, 25p, 24p; 1080/120p H.264 4K UHD/60p @ 150 Mbps; 1080/180fps XAVC S 4K 2160/30p, 25p, 24p @ 100Mbps; 1080/120p @ 100Mbps
Audio Stereo, mic input Stereo, mic input, headphone jack Stereo, mic input, headphone jack
Manual aperture and shutter in video Yes Yes Yes
Maximum best-quality recording time 29 minutes, 59 seconds 29 minutes, 59 seconds 29 minutes, 59 seconds
Clean HDMI out Yes Yes Yes
IS Optical, Sensor shift 5-axis Dual I.S. 2 5-axis Sensor shift 5-axis
LCD 3.2 in/8 cm Tilting touchscreen 2.1 million dots 3.2 in/8 cm 3-way tilting touchscreen 2.1 million dots 3 in/7.5cm Tilting touchscreen 1.4 million dots
Memory slots 1x XQD 1x XQD, 1x SD (UHS-II) 2x SDXC (1x UHS-II)
Wireless connection Wi-Fi (5GHz), Bluetooth Wi-Fi (5GHz), Bluetooth Wi-Fi (2.4GHz), NFC, Bluetooth
Flash No No No
Wireless flash Yes Yes Yes
Battery life (CIPA rating) 330 shots (1,900 mAh) 360 shots (3,050 mAh) 530 shots (VF); 650 shots (LCD) (2,280 mAh)
Size (WHD) 5.3x4x2.7 inches (134x101x68 mm) 5.9x4.3x3.8 inches (149x110x97 mm) 5x3.8x2.5 inches (127x96x63 mm)
Body operating weight 23.9 oz (est.) 675 g (est.) 36 oz (est.) 1,021 g (est.) 22.3 oz (est.) 657 g (est.)
Mfr. price (body only) $3,400, £3,400, AU$4,160 $3,700 $3,200, £2,900, AU$4,600
Release date September 2018 April 2019 November 2017

We've gone from one choice for mirrorless full-frame cameras -- Sony -- to four in less than a year, now that Panasonic has joined Canon and Nikon to compete. But while there's some intriguing new tech in the Lumix S1 and S1R, I wonder if there's enough here to lure entrenched Sony shooters or loyal Canon and Nikon buyers away from those systems.

Best Digital Cameras for 2019

All Best Cameras

More Best Products

All Best Products