Panasonic’s general-purpose full-frame mirrorless camera is very capable, says Andy Westlake, but bulkier and slightly less refined than its competitors
Panasonic Lumix S1: Verdict
With the S1, there’s no doubt that Panasonic has produced a highly accomplished camera that’s a strong competitor to its 24MP rivals, the Nikon Z 6 and Sony Alpha 7 III. It’s solidly built and handles exceptionally well, while its superb viewfinder and screen give a class-leading viewing experience. The image quality is genuinely superb, too. Overall there’s a huge amount to like here, especially if you habitually shoot a mix of stills and video. But the question is whether, in such a competitive market, these benefits are sufficient to offset Panasonic’s decision to make the system so large, heavy, and expensive.
This is brought into sharp relief when you compare systems based on the S1 and the Sony Alpha 7 III. For the same price as the S1 and its three lenses (24-105mm f/4, 70-200mm f/4 and 50mm f/1.4), you could buy the A7 III and Sony’s equivalent optics, then add a 16-35mm f/4 wideangle zoom and 90mm f/2.8 Macro, and still have money to spare. What’s more, the S1 with its three lenses is heavier than the A7 III-based kit, even with one of those extra two lenses added into the bag. This is compounded by the fact that there are vastly more lenses available for E-mount, not only Sony’s own but also third-party options ranging from Samyang’s budget offerings to Zeiss’s premium Batis range.
As a result, it feels that in its determination to distinguish between its high-end full-frame and Micro Four Thirds models, Panasonic has rather painted itself into a corner. By making a camera that’s strongly tailored towards the needs of professionals, it’s limited the S1’s appeal to enthusiast photographers, and in particular DSLR users looking to reduce the weight of the kit they’re carrying. For such buyers, Sony and Nikon simply offer better-balanced systems.
This isn’t to belittle the S1: it really is a very good camera indeed, and the more I used it, the more I came to appreciate its very real strengths. But if Panasonic wants to make serious inroads into the full-frame mirrorless market, I suspect it needs to make a smaller, lighter and simpler body that’s closer in concept to its main competitors.