Panasonic’s general-purpose full-frame mirrorless camera is very capable, says Andy Westlake, but bulkier and slightly less refined than its competitors

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Panasonic Lumix DC-S1

Features:
Build/Handling:
Metering:
Autofocus:
AWB Colour:
Dynamic Range:
LCD viewfinder:

Pros:

  • + Superb viewfinder and screen offers an unparalleled experience composing images
  • + 5-axis in-body stabilisation helps keep every image sharp
  • + Well-designed control layout places all key settings at your fingertips
  • + Comprehensive feature set
  • + Excellent video specification and 4K output

Cons:

  • - Large and heavy: as big as a high-end full-frame DSLR
  • - Extremely expensive native lens system
  • - Not quite as refined as its main competitors
  • - Slightly uninspiring JPEG output

Product:

Panasonic Lumix S1 review

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£2,200.00 (Body Only)

Panasonic Lumix S1: Performance

Panasonic was the first company to make a mirrorless camera, and it’s now had over a decade to perfect the technology. So it should come as no surprise to hear that in most respects the S1 is an extremely capable camera that does what you ask with the minimum of fuss. It’s quick and responsive, and the excellent control layout makes it a pleasure to shoot with.

The S1 produces very pleasing images that are at least the equal of its 24MP full-frame peers. 24-105mm at 105mm, 1/50sec at f/8, ISO 100

As we’d expect the metering system generally does a very good job, although it has a tendency to underexpose in cloudy, low-contrast conditions. However you can see this live in the viewfinder, and compensate easily enough. If you’re a fan of the ‘expose to the right’ exposure methodology for shooting raw, then the Highlight Weighted Spot metering option is well worth exploring.

The S1 delivers excellent image quality. 24-105mm F4 at 24mm, 1/125sec at f/8, ISO 100

Panasonic’s colour palette and auto white balance has improved dramatically over recent years, although it still can’t quite match the best in the business at making attractive out-of-camera JPEGs. Its colour palette prioritises accuracy over the more saturated signatures provided by the likes of Canon and Nikon. Its standard auto white balance setting errs a little towards the cool side for my preference, but thankfully Panasonic has provided cool- and warm biased alternatives.

Panasonic’s default JPEG colour palette tends towards accuracy rather than punchiness. 24-105mm at 105mm, 1/125sec at f/8, ISO 400

Most users will, I suspect, be shooting raw. It’s here that you’ll discover just how fine the S1’s image quality really is. Low ISO raw files are highly detailed and noise-free, with an astonishing degree of malleability, meaning you can retrieve a phenomenal amount of detail from deep shadows without having to worry about noise. High-ISO image quality is also excellent, and I wouldn’t hesitate to shoot at ISO 12,800 as a matter of course, with ISO 25,600 being entirely usable with careful noise reduction.

RAW files are eminently usable at high ISO settings. 24-105mm at 46mm, 1/500sec at f/4, ISO 12800

Despite the huge battery, the S1’s stamina isn’t noticeably better than the Sony A7 III’s, which presumably reflects the processing power required to drive its huge, high-resolution EVF. However it should still last a day’s shooting, and can be topped up using a powerbank via the USB-C port.

Panasonic’s Dual IS system allows shooting hand-held at slow shutter speeds. 24-105mm at 52mm, 0.6sec at f/11, ISO 50

Panasonic’s in-body Dual IS2 image stabilisation system works extremely well, particularly if you can find somewhere to rest your elbows for extra stability. Using the 24-105mm f/4, in favourable conditions I was able to get sharp shots at shutter speeds as slow as 0.5 sec at the 50mm setting, and 1 sec at 24mm. This corresponds pretty closely to the claimed 5.5 stops of stabilisation.

High-resolution mode 2 is capable of producing highly detailed 96MP images. 24-105mm at 73mm, 1/8sec at f/8, ISO 100

High-resolution mode works remarkably well too. Like most such modes, it can still fun into problems with moving elements in a scene, in particular running water, which can be problematic for landscape shooters. But in favourable conditions it produces fine results, especially when set to Mode 2 to suppress motion blur. It’s not the same as having a 96MP camera, by any means, but there’s definitely a lot more detail than you get from a standard 24MP image. Below you can see a 100% crop of the image above, to show just now much detail is in the file.

High resolution mode 2, 100% crop

Like most cameras the S1 also has its quirks and irritations, but nothing that I’d consider to be deal-breakers. For example, you have to use different buttons to engage magnified view for focus checking depending on whether you’re in AF or MF mode, which can be confusing. The Q Menu is nicely designed for use with the LCD, but the icons and settings are shown far too small in the viewfinder. Also, when using the two memory cards sequentially, once you’ve filled the first the camera will obtrusively remind you of the fact every single time you turn it on, despite the fact that the camera will have switched to using the second card. But these are all quite minor concerns that could be easily fixed via a firmware update.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Panasonic Lumix S1: Features
  3. 3. Panasonic Lumix S1: Build and handling
  4. 4. Panasonic Lumix S1: Viewfinder and screen
  5. 5. Panasonic Lumix S1: Performance
  6. 6. Panasonic Lumix S1: Image quality
  7. 7. Panasonic Lumix S1: Verdict
  8. 8. Panasonic Lumix S1: Specifications
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