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: Verdict
With the launch of the Lumix S1R, it’s clear that Panasonic is taking its entry into the full-frame mirrorless market very seriously. Rather than testing the water and taking the cautious approach of launching a full frame model aimed at amateurs and enthusiasts, the manufacturer has thrown absolutely everything into making the very best full frame camera they can for serious and professional photographers who are known for being one of the hardest audiences to please.
With stellar image quality from its 47.3MP full frame sensor and highly effective in-body image stabilisation, it falls into the same camp as the Nikon Z 7 and Sony A7R III with the benefit of being able to create whopping 187-million-pixel images using its extremely effective high-resolution mode. There’s so much more to like besides its image quality. It has the best EVF of any camera right now, offers resilient build quality, features an informative top plate display, provides twin card slots, a sensitive touchscreen and has a well thought through layout of buttons and dials if you exclude the rather poorly positioned on/off switch.
The S1R is neither small nor lightweight though. It’s actually quite the opposite and its big muscular body and heavy lenses offer no practical weight or size advantage over a full frame DSLR setup. Those who are fed up with lumping around a heavy system won’t find their answer in the Panasonic Lumix S1R. As good as it is to have a large grip and spacious layout of buttons, the weight of the camera with the heavy Lumix S Pro 50mm f/1.4 lens it was supplied with did take its toll and I looked forward to taking it off my shoulder at the end of a long days shooting.
One other area where the S1R is also at a disadvantage is its focusing ability in poor lighting conditions. It’s focus speed just didn’t seem to be a match for the phase-detect AF systems employed by many of its rivals.
For a first generation full frame model, the Panasonic’s Lumix S1R is a supremely impressive camera. It boasts a mouth-watering spec for serious and working pros whose main concern isn’t size or weight, but is about the feel, operation and quality of the images their camera delivers. It doesn’t get quite the same rapturous applause that the Sony A7R III or Nikon Z 7 received, but don’t let that take anything away from what Panasonic has managed to achieve. If you’re not already heavily invested in a full frame system and demand top notch image quality from a well made camera, the S1R is certainly worth exploring and shouldn’t be written off just because of its size and weight. To sum up, the Panasonic Lumix S1R is very good indeed, however it’s not quite perfect.