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: Build & Handling
A lot has been reported about the size of Panasonic’s S-series models. Compared to Canon, Nikon and Sony who’ve made a clear effort to keep their full frame mirrorless offerings as small and lightweight as possible, Panasonic’s approach is quite different. The S1R is the largest full frame mirrorless cameras we’ve tested since the Leica SL.
It’s quite a beast in the hand and doesn’t give you an instant impression of having a size or weight advantage over many full frame DSLRs. The body on its own weighs a substantial 1020g and when this is paired with a pro-spec lens such as the Lumix S Pro 50mm f/1.4 (955g), it’s actually heavier than some full-frame DSLR and lens combinations. The Nikon D850 (1005g) with the excellent Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM (815g) is just one example of a setup that weighs less.
One theory for making the body big is to ensure the S-series is quite different from Panasonic’s G-series cameras. When you inspect the S1R closely though, you realise it’s closely related to the Lumix G9, with its top plate LCD, large handgrip and general arrangement of buttons and dials sharing much of a likeness to its G-series cousin. The size of the body does present a few benefits. There’s ample space for large buttons, you get a rectangular top plate LCD display and a 3050mAh battery, which supplies enough power for 1100 images in its power save LVF mode. The battery level can also be set to show its remaining capacity as a percentage.
The lockable mode dial has a switch around its base, giving users the option of customising burst settings to drive mode I or II, including the option to setup and shoot using the 6K/4K photo modes. Between these drive modes and the self-timer mode there’s the option to create a time-lapse or stop motion animation in-camera. On the opposite side of the top plate, white balance, ISO and exposure compensation all get their own dedicated buttons, but rather than uniting the On/Off switch with the shutter button, it’s shifted further back. One reason for this is due to the front dial being positioned ahead of the shutter button, rather than behind it as on the Lumix G9.
At the rear of the body, the AF mode button merges with the focus mode switch. This is a little plasticky though and neither the button or the switch feels quite as robust as the rest of the body. There’s a lock switch alongside the playback button too, which can be assigned to instantly disable the cursor, joystick, touchscreen, dials or DISP. button. The AF-ON button falls nicely to hand for those who like to use back button focusing, as does the joystick, which is used to select and nudge the AF point quickly across the frame without having to stretch your thumb too far. My only other criticism at the rear is the control dial, which feels a tad plasticky and a touch on the small side. Five buttons at the rear can be setup to illuminate in the dark, however the three key buttons behind the shutter button on the top plate do not illuminate.
Studying the body from the front, you’ll notice two function buttons (Fn1 and Fn2) beside the lens mount. Head to the Fn button set option in the menu and you’ll find different functions can be set to a variety of buttons in both record and playback modes. Another handy feature is the Fn lever, at the front of the body. This can be used to quickly select different shooting functions and from the menu you’re given 19 options in total, including AF mode, photo style, image quality, self-timer, shutter type and focus peaking. The S1R’s level of customization is excellent, allowing users quick and easy access to setting it up exactly as they’d like to use it.
As for the S1R’s magnesium alloy die-cast front and rear panels, these give the body a good sense of strength and robustness. It has a high-end, premium feel to it that all serious and professional photographers look for and with weather seals at every joint, dial and button, it has the protective measures in place to let you keep shooting whatever the weather. It can even be used in temperatures as low as -10°C. The shutter meanwhile is very sweet sounding and is made to endure 400,000 actuations.