Panasonic has decided to hit the full-frame mirrorless camera market hard with its Lumix S cameras and the promise of 42 lenses by the end of 2020. Find out what the camera is like in this hands on review of the Panasonic Lumix S1 written for Digital Camera World.
We’ve known these cameras were coming since Photokina (September 2018) but this is the first sight we have of the full specs for the new cameras. Panasonic showed off pre-production versions of its new models at a global press event in Barcelona on January 31 2019, together with the three new lenses which are going to kickstart the Lumix S full frame mirrorless camera system.
Panasonic Lumix S1
This is the cheaper of the two new cameras and comes with a 24-megapixel CMOS sensor (the Lumix S1R has almost double the resolution at 47 megapixels). In practically every other respect the two new models are practically identical.
Key features included a Dual I.S. image stabilisation system, with a 5-axis Body I.S. stabiliser offering up to 5.5 stops of shake compensation working in conjunction with a 2-axis O.I.S system in the Lumix S lenses. This offers combined shake compensation of up to 6 stops.
The S1 also has the world’s highest-resolution EVF to date, with 5.76 million dots, and a 2.1 million dot 3.2-inch tri-axial rear touchscreen that can flip sideways as well as up and down.
As you’d expect from Panasonic, video takes a front seat, and both cameras can capture 4K video at up to 60/50p. The Lumix S1 can record 4:2:0 8-bit video internally to a memory card or 4:2:2 video to an external recorder via HDMI. A software upgrade will follow to allow 4:2:2 10-bit recording internally at 30p/25p/24p and 4:2:2 10-bit at 60/50p externally. The upgrade will also add Panasonic’s V Log mode for extended dynamic range.
Available: March 18 2019
Price: £2,199.99 (body only)
More information: DC-S1 LUMIX S Full Frame Cameras – Panasonic UK & Ireland
Panasonic Lumix S1R
The sensor resolution is the chief difference between the Lumix S1 and S1R. The S1R has almost twice the resolution and should appeal to commercial stills photographers, where the S1 may prove marginally more appealing to videographers.
Both cameras have a High Resolution mode which combines eight images with microscopic sensor shifts between each to produce images with approximately four times the native sensor resolution. On the S1R, this means huge 187-megapixel images measuring more than 16,000 pixels across, though this mode is designed for tripod use rather than handheld shooting, and if the camera detects subject movement between frames it may drop the affected frame(s) and produce a lower resolution result.
The S1 and S1R have robust die-cast magnesium alloy bodies, full weather sealing and a shutter life rated at 400,000 shots. They feel noticeably larger than rival full frame mirrorless cameras from Sony, Nikon and Canon, but this gives them good balance with larger lenses and more space for controls. These include dedicated external drive mode dials, focus mode dials and focus levers.
Interestingly, Panasonic has stuck with its DFD (Depth From Defocus) focus system rather than using the on-sensor phase detection systems of other makers, saying for now that its performance is fine for this application.
Available: March 18 2019
Price: £3,399.99 (body only)
More information: DC-S1R LUMIX S Full Frame Cameras – Panasonic UK & Ireland
Lumix S lenses
At the time of launch Panasonic has three Lumix S lenses: the LUMIX S 24-105mm F4 MACRO O.I.S. standard zoom (£1,299.99), LUMIX S PRO 70-200mm F4 O.I.S. telephoto zoom (£1,749.99) and the LUMIX S PRO 50mm F1.4 fast prime (£2,299.99). It says it will have a further ten lenses by the end of 2020 and says there will be 18 L-mount lenses from Leica and 14 from Sigma by the end of that period too.
While the price for the Lumix S bodies is in line with comparable models from Sony and Nikon, those lens prices look expensive. Panasonic is pitching the Lumix S firmly at the professional market, where users will make their buying decision from a business point of view, but amateurs and enthusiasts may be put off.
We suspect Leica owners fall into three groups; those who appreciate fine engineering, photographic heritage and the unique handling experience of the Leica M rangefinder camera, those looking for a bit of a statement of status or an expensive bit of male adornment, and collectors trying to gather together every edition of every Leica ever made.
But the Safari edition Leica M10-P does look good, with a dark green satin finish that tones in beautifully with its tan leather strap. Apparently, it’s inspired by adventure and the great outdoors, and exclusivity is guaranteed by the fact Leica is only making 1,500.
It’s going to be teamed up with a Leica Summicron-M 50mm f/2 lens, also in green, and we’re told this camera/lens combo has been inspired by rugged and reliable Leica cameras designed specifically for the armed forces in the 1960s.
The Leica M10-P has a 24-megapixel full frame sensor and takes regular Leica bayonet lenses the same as those used on legendary Leica rangefinder cameras.
In fact, the M10-P still uses rangefinder manual focusing, just like Leica’s analog film cameras. There’s no autofocus system on these cameras; instead, you focus manually by turning the focus ring or focus lever on the lens to line up a ghost image of the subject in your viewfinder.
Leica experts swear by this system’s speed and instinctiveness but if you’re used to a regular digital camera you’re going to find it has a pretty steep learning curve. The direct vision viewfinder on Leica M models is separate to the camera lens, so you don’t get a through-the-lens view of the scene. This means it relies on ‘bright line’ frames to show you the angle of view for different lenses. This might bother people who like tight, precise framing, but it does offer an exceptionally bright and clear viewfinder that also shows you what’s happening around and outside the frame.
Damn, but that Leica M10-P Safari does look good, though.
Available: from February 15th
Price: Body £6,900, lens £2,300
More information: Official Leica Store | UK
Pentax has added to its premium quality ‘Star’ lens range with a new ultra-wideangle zoom for its APS-C cameras.
The HD Pentax-DA* 11-18mm F2.8 ED DC AW is designed to offer high resolution and high contrast without any blurring at the edges, and to accommodate the high resolution capture of digital cameras of the future.
The 11-18mm zoom range corresponds to around 17-27mm in full frame 35mm terms, so it’s not the widest-angle lens you can get for APS-C Pentax cameras. The Sigma 8-16mm, for example, goes far wider at 12-24mm equivalent.
But what the Pentax lens does have is a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture, which should make it especially useful in low light, given that Pentax DSLR bodies have in-body image stabilisation. It might be of particular interest to astrophotographers, given that some Pentax bodies have a star-tracking AstroTracer mode.
The HD Pentax-DA* 11-18mm F2.8 ED DC AW has an interesting adaptation for use in cold conditions, too, with a space for a small heating device and a metallic frame to conduct heat into the lens. This is designed to prevent condensation as outside temperatures fall.
There’s also a Focus Clamp to lock the focus in a specific position, which sounds like a useful feature for street photographers who like to use zone focusing for fast, reflexive shooting.
All this sophistication doesn’t come cheap. This is a lot of money to pay for some relatively ordinary optical specifications, especially in the the ASP-C camera market, especially when you consider you can get the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 lens in a Pentax mount for £1,000/$1,000 less.
At least Pentax is cleaning up its lens range, though. There was a time when the Pentax lens range was a mix-up of multiple old and new lens designs, overlapping focal ranges and noisy consumer lenses mixed in with newer high-quality optics. Pentax insiders probably understood all this very clearly, but to outsiders it was a bit of a mess.
Available: February 2019
More information: HD PENTAX-DA★11-18mmF2.8ED DC AW – K-Mount Lenses – RICOH IMAGING EUROPE S.A.S
Well here’s a rarity. A full frame 35mm f/2 lens that doesn’t need an engine hoist to get it into your camera bag. In fact, the new Pentax HD Pentax-FA 35mm F2 is very compact for a wide aperture prime lens with this focal length. This is how big 35mm SLR lenses used to be before the digital imaging revolution, so how has Pentax done it?
Well, by resurrecting one of its old 35mm SLR lenses. We’re not quite sure how this is going to work out. After all, this lens (and others of its time) were formulated when the sharpest film we had was Velvia 50 or Kodak Technical Pan and neither of those, good as they were, quite managed the resolving power of the 36MP sensor in the Pentax K-1 and K-1 II.
But although the lens design may come from another era, Pentax has modernised it with the use of its latest multi-layer HD lens coatings to deliver high-contrast images free of flare and ghost images, and claimed edge-to-edge sharpness. A highly stain-repellent SP coating has also been applied to the front surface to make it more weather, smear and grime resistant.
Quite apart from the new coatings, the HD Pentax-FA 35mm F2 has two other things in its favour: size and cost. We’ve forgotten just how small 35mm prime lenses used to be, and this one is not much thicker than a pancake lens. You could squash it in a corner of your camera bag and hardly know it’s there.
It’s also cheap. These days, fast prime lenses for full frame DSLRs and mirrorless cameras can be massively expensive, but the £399.99 SRP of this Pentax lens is pocket-money by comparison. In fact, we had a little scout around, and there are no rival lenses with these specs, in this price bracket, even from the likes of Samyang.
We’ll reserve judgement on this lens’s optical performance until we get one in for review, but two things are for sure: there’s nothing else like it at this price, and any lens this small has a head start for all-round likeability, regardless of its performance (OK, up to a point).
Unfortunately, it doesn’t do much to reinvigorate the Pentax product line or its market position. Much as we love the Pentax brand (and it’s made some good cameras), it feels like a company that’s just trickling along without any particular direction.
Available: February 2019
More information: HD PENTAX-FA35mmF2 – K-Mount Lenses – RICOH IMAGING EUROPE S.A.S
Tripod and accessory maker Benro has announced the first in new series of gimbal stabilisers. The RedDog R1 has a 3-axis gimbal stabiliser, a swivel handle for swapping quickly between different filming heights, and three operating modes.
Many mirrorless cameras now offer effective image stabilisation systems to cut camera shake, but this is little help when shooting handheld video while moving. Image stabilisers can cut high-frequency ‘jitters’, but to keep subjects centred and produce smooth camera movements you need a stabilising gimbal mechanism like this one.
The RedDog R1 has a swivel handle for its Upright mode (high and medium angles) and Carry mode (for low angle filming). The handle has an ‘ergonomic’ silicon grip and built-in controls.
The three shooting modes are Locked-Down Mode, Horizontal Follow Mode and Universal Follow Mode. Locked-Down Mode is for locking on to a subject while moving the gimbal, Horizontal Follow Mode is for panning movements and Universal Follow Mode is for smooth camera movements towards or around your subject.
The RedDog 1 has a maximum payload of 1.8kg, so it’s well suited to current mirrorless camera systems. It’s been designed with Sony and Panasonic cameras particularly in mind, and offers zoom control with Sony Power Zoom lenses.
It also comes with a free companion Benro RedDog smartphone app, which is used to control the gimbal remotely, calibrate it and instal firmware upgrades.
The RedDog 1 is powered by its own battery which offers up to 12 hours life on a single charge. It also packs down into a fitted carry case which retains the gimbal’s axis positions to reduce setup time later.
Bowens has been a household name in professional photographic lighting for so long it was a surprise when the brand went into liquidation in 2017. But now it’s back, thanks to an exclusive deal with Wex Photo Video.
Wex has relaunched the Bowens XMT500, a monobloc design being sold either on its own or as part of a Twin Head Kit. The XMT500 features TTL operation via a remote that attaches to your camera’s hotshoe, high-speed sync (HSS) for shutter speeds up to 1/8000sec with Nikon, Sony and Canon cameras, and recycle times as low as 0.01sec.
It’s not restricted solely to TTL operation – you can also regulate the XMT500’s output manually, with eight stops of power adjustment. Full power output is 500Ws, but can be reduced right down to 2Ws. Wex says the XMT500 will be backed up by a wide range of lighting modifiers and shapers and will have a 2-year warranty.
The Bowens XMT500 is battery powered, so you can use it on location where there are no nearby sources of mains power, and offers up to 500 full-power flashes on a single charge. Empty batteries can be recharged in four hours and they can be swapped out for fully charged spares so that you can keep working.
The Twin Head kit will consist of 2 x XMT500 heads, each with a detachable wide angle reflector, LED model lamp and flash tube, 2 x lithium-ion batteries, 1 x multi-voltage charger and an XMT carry bag.