After making Micro Four Thirds cameras for over a decade, Panasonic has entered the full frame market with a bold statement. Michael Topham got to test the Panasonic Lumix S1R
Panasonic Lumix S1R: Features
The Lumix S1 and Lumix S1R share an identical body design, but employ different sensors to cater for different audiences. The 47.3-million-pixel CMOS sensor located behind the S1R’s large diameter L-mount doesn’t break the 50-million-pixel barrier, but its high 8368×5584 pixel count places it above its high-resolution rivals such the 45.7MP Nikon Z 7 and 42.2MP Sony A7R III.
The high-resolution possibilities don’t end here. Enormous 187-million-pixel images can be produced using its high-resolution mode, which stitches together image information recorded from eight exposures taken as the in-body image stabilisation system makes subtle adjustment to the position of the sensor. Panasonic has refined this mode too, introducing Mode 2 that’s designed to minimise motion blur associated with moving objects such as greenery landscape scenes. More on this later in the review.
The S1R’s standard sensitivity range of ISO 100-25,600 is expandable to ISO 50-51,200 equivalent, and with Panasonic’s new Venus Engine processor on board it can shoot up to 9fps with fixed autofocus (AFS), or 6fps using continuous AF (AFC). If this isn’t fast enough there are the S1R’s 6K/4K Photo modes to fall back on. These can be used to extract 18-million-pixel JPEG images at 30fps, with 4K Photo offering sequences at 30fps or 60fps at a lower 8-million-pixel resolution.
Switching from the mechanical shutter (60secs-1/8000sec) to the electronic shutter (60secs-1/16,000sec) permits silent shooting, with a direct silent mode setting also available from the menu. Another familiar feature is the 5-axis Dual I.S II image stabiliser, which offers 6 stops of compensation to counteract camera shake when shooting stills or movies. It works in the same way as the Dual I.S II system found inside the Lumix G9, combining 2-axis stabilisation from the lens with 5-axis stabilisation in the camera. Added to this, Panasonic has introduced what’s called an I.S. Status Scope to help photographers identify camera shake easily by displaying a graphic interpretation of the vibration.
For autofocus, Panasonic has used its formula of contrast detection and Depth From Defocus (DFD) technology again, with the Venus Engine, CMOS sensor and Lumix S lenses all communicating at a rapid 480fps. The lock-on acquisition speed of autofocus (0.08secs) isn’t as quick as the Lumix G9 (0.04secs), but the focus tracking has been refined with ‘advanced artificial intelligence technology’ that can now detect the difference between humans, cats, dogs and birds. The camera’s low light performance also boasts an impressive AF working range of -6EV to 18EV.
The S1R presents 4K video recording at 50/60p, with high-speed video options to record 2x slow motion at 60fps in 4K and settings down to 6x slow motion in Full HD at up to 180fps. The S1R’s sister model, the Lumix S1, offers better the better video spec for moviemakers, allowing full-pixel readout using the full width of the sensor at 30p and 4K 60/50p 4:2:0 8 bit recording direct to an SD or XQD-card.
Panasonic will also provide a paid-for software key later this year for the Lumix S1. This will unlock the option to record 4K 60/50p 4:2:2 10 Bit via HDMI-output and 30/25/24p in 4:2:2 10 Bit internal, with V Log included.
Back to the camera in question, the Panasonic Lumix S1R provides a 2.5mm remote port, with a 3.5mm mic socket and headphone port located behind a separate hinged door. Advanced audio quality is available too using Panasonic’s optional DMW-XLR1 microphone adapter, allowing pro-spec microphones and XLR input sources to be connected. It’s good to see the S1R providing dual-card slots (SD and XQD) and it’s UHS-II compatible too. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity options are also present and let you pair and transmit images to smartphones running Panasonic’s new Lumix Sync app that’s available for iOS and Android.