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: Performance
As one would expect from a pro-spec body costing £3,399, the S1R puts in a very creditable performance. The Venus image processing engine showed that it’s up to the task of handling huge volumes of data from the powerful full-frame sensor and with high performance memory cards like the Sony 64GB G Series XQD card we used it with for our testing, there’s no hesitation between shots in single shot mode.
Speed tests set to continuous shooting resulted in the S1R being able to record 35 Raw and Fine JPEG files at 9fps, increasing to 40 frames when shooting in Raw and 55 frames when set to Fine JPEG. Switching the focus mode to continuous (AFC) sees the burst rate drop to 6fps – slower than the 10fps with continuous AF offered by the Sony A7R III. At this speed, 42 Raw and Fine JPEG files were recorded before the buffer required a breather.
The burst shot settings are easy enough to locate from the menu, however the descriptions fail to tell you how many frames per second the camera shoots at in each mode. Adding this or combining it within the continuous high-speed shooting icon onscreen would be useful for referral.
The camera fires into life very quickly from a flick of the on/off switch, which is great for instantaneous moments that may present themselves. I did however find the delay between reviewing an image on the rear screen in playback mode and then entering shooting mode a little irritating and felt that this transition could be made faster, which would further rule out the chance of any spur of the moment opportunities being missed.
The icon in the top right hand corner of the screen and EVF, which displays the function of the image stabiliser is very useful to glance at and changes automatically based on the lens you’re using. The effectiveness of the image stabiliser is such that I managed to capture a few sharp handheld frames at 1/15sec at a 200mm focal length. It can be setup to be always active or activated on a half press of the shutter, with the latter being the better option if you’d like to preserve battery life.
Occasionally we see something introduced onto a camera that’s so good and so useful, it makes you wonder why we’ve never seen it before. The way the ISO button can be tapped continuously to incrementally increase ISO without having to use a dial is a brilliant idea. When you get to the maximum ISO setting one more tap of the ISO button takes you to Auto ISO, with a second tap taking you to the lowest ISO setting.
Tapping the White Balance button works similarly and takes you through the various white balance settings very quickly. Trying out the new AWBw Auto White Balance mode showed that it too works effectively, reproducing a slightly more rosy skin colour to portrait shots than the standard AWB and AWBc (cool tint) modes.
A couple of other shortcuts I found during use included the AF ON button doubling up to rate/protect images in playback mode, holding the Q button in shooting mode takes you straight to the video settings and holding the AF area button in playback lets you swap to viewing images on the second card if one is loaded. I also noticed the shutter button isn’t quite as sensitive as the one on the Lumix G9, which required the lightest of presses beyond a halfway press to take a shot.
The S1R’s high-resolution mode is very user friendly, being both quick and easy to setup and use. To minimise risk of blur caused by knocking the camera during the start of an exposure there’s the option to delay the recording process from nine settings (1/8sec to 30secs). You also get the option to simultaneously record a normal image in the raw or JPEG format. I did find one small glitch however whereby the preview of the normal raw image directly after the high-resolution image was poorly rendered on the screen at high magnification in playback. Hopefully this will be addressed with a future firmware update.
With a fast shutter speed, the S1R takes eight consecutive shots in quick succession before merging this data to create one huge 187-million-pixel high-resolution image – a process that against the clock takes 18 seconds from start to finish. It’s important to note though that it’s not possible to change settings or recompose using the screen or EVF until the process is fully completed so an element of patience is required.
Interested to find out how High Resolution mode fares in situations where moving subjects are included in a scene, I switched it over to Mode 2 and attempted some high-resolution images on a blustery day where trees and greenery were blowing in the wind. The internal image rendering applied by the camera in this mode proved to be very effective in this situation, managing to keep branches and shrubbery sharp with no obvious traces of motion blur on close inspection. How it manages to do this is witchcraft. We intend to follow up with a more in-depth article all about the S1R’s high-resolution mode, how it works and the results you can expect from using it in due course.