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.
Panasonic is best known for its electronics and white goods, but it's also a successful camera maker. It joined forces with Olympus to pioneer the Micro Four Thirds format, and makes its own successful line of cameras – it's particularly strong in the enthusiast/pro video market.
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.
Panasonic has released an update on the S1 and S1R full frame mirrorless cameras it announced at Photokina 2018. The company says the new cameras will feature a high dynamic range HLG Photo mode and a High Resolution Mode that uses the IBIS (in-body image stabiliser) to capture eight separate images and blend them into a single ultra-high resolution photography.
Unfortunately, Panasonic hasn’t revealed what this ultra-high resolution is going to be, but this system has already been used on Olympus Micro Four Thirds models to offer 50-megapixel images from a 20-megapixel sensor, though this can only be used with static subjects.
We do know that the new Panasonic S1 will be a 24-megapixel camera and the S1R will have 47 megapixels. Both cameras have in-body stabilisation and a Leica L lens mount developed by a new L-mount alliance with Leica and Sigma.
Panasonic is now saying that the new cameras will be available from the end of March 2019, so it’s surprising to have so little concrete information so close to launch date, though you can read more information on the Panasonic S1 and S1R on Digital Camera World.
2018 has been hailed as the year of the full-frame mirrorless camera, and saw the launch of the Nikon Z 6 and Z 7 and the Canon EOS R. Panasonic’s announcement of the S1 and S1R probably also counts as a ‘launch’, even though the cameras won’t be available until 2019.
This is certainly not great news for Sony which, until 2018, had the entire full frame mirrorless market to itself, and had nothing new of consequence to show at Photokina 2018. Sony does, however, have a major head start in its range of mirrorless lenses, and it seems likely that Canon, Nikon and Panasonic won’t catch up for some considerable time.
Available: End of March 2019
More information: LUMIX S series – Panasonic
Both brands use the same MFT lens mount and in principle you can use any MFT lens on any camera. But each company still makes its own range of lenses, and given that most users would probably prefer to stick to own-brand lenses, who’s got the best range?
What happens when you cross a Panasonic with a Leica? You get the stylish new Leica C-Lux, which looks for all the world like a Panasonic TZ200 but with an extra splash of exclusivity and style.
This is just the latest in a long line of collaborations between Panasonic and Leica. Leica still makes its own high-end rangefinder and mirrorless cameras, but at the cheaper compact camera end of the market, it rebrands key Panasonic cameras with the Leica look.
So the C-Lux is the Leica branded version of Panasonic’s TZ200 travel compact, which has a pretty enviable set of specifications.
The 20-megapixel 1-inch sensor is a good deal larger than the sensors in most travel cameras, which makes a substantial difference to the image quality, and it’s matched up with a 15x zoom lens which gives the equivalent of a 24-360mm zoom range.
The C-Lux can also shoot stills continuously at 10 frames per second, or high-quality 4K video, and with a maximum sensitivity of ISO 25,600 it handles low light shooting too.
Round the back is a touchscreen display – perfect for users upgrading from a smartphone – but there’s also a 2.33 megapixel electronic viewfinder, which makes it much easier to shoot in bright light when the rear screen might get swamped in glare.
The technical specifications may be the same as the Panasonic TZ200 but Leica has added its own dash of flair with a choice of two colours – Light Gold and Midnight Blue – and a range of complementary straps, cases and accessories.
The Leica C-Lux goes on sale in mid-July at a UK RRP of £875, and its bespoke accessories will go on sale at the same time.
More information: Leica website
Travel compacts are very versatile, practical cameras. The idea is that you get a camera small enough to slide into a jacket pocket, but a zoom range long enough to cope with practically any subject you might encounter on your travels.
The trouble with most travel superzooms, though, is that they use small sensors. The camera is small and relatively affordable with a massive zoom range – up to 30x or more – but the payback is a small sensor that doesn’t deliver any better quality than your smartphone, and sometimes less.
That’s where the ‘old’ Panasonic TZ100 scored a hit. It used/uses a much larger 1-inch sensor to deliver much better image quality. The compromise? Well, there are two. First, the bigger sensor comes with a smaller zoom range, though the TZ100’s 10x zoom range is still great. Second, these cameras cost more.
Anyway, Panasonic has launched a new travel compact in the same vein as the TZ100 – but the TZ200 sports a longer 15x zoom range.
It really does look like it does everything. It offers a 24-360mm equivalent zoom range, with image stabiliser, plus 4K video and Panasonic’s 4K photo modes, which let you capture 8-megapixel images in 30fps burst and ‘post-focus’ images where you can pick your focus point later.
You can compose your pictures on the rear touch-screen, but there’s also an electronic viewfinder for when the light is too bright to see the screen.
I think Panasonic has pushed the zoom range too far and at its 15x maximum zoom the sharpness just isn’t there.
HOWEVER (there’s usually a ‘however’ in my posts), I found the zoom a little slow, the touch-screen navigation a little fiddly and the image quality – frankly – a bit iffy at full zoom. I’ve suspected for a while that Panasonic applies different image processing for long-zoom shots to overcome inherent lens softness, and I’m even more sure about it now.
The other ‘however’ is the price. At £729 (yes, really), it’s pretty stiff, and I’m not convinced this camera is good enough, or nice enough to use to carry it off. Sorry, Panasonic.