Conclusion

What we like What we don't
  • Excellent Raw and JPEG image quality
  • High-resolution mode also offers noise benefit
  • Effective 5-axis image stabilization
  • Class-leading build quality and weather-sealing; longest-lasting shutter in its class
  • Single AF is very fast and precise
  • Large, ultra-high-res EVF
  • Beautiful oversampled UHD 4K video
  • Face, body, eye and animal AF system works well
  • Firmware upgrade for 10-bit log footage
  • Linear manual focus response for video
  • Responsive touchscreen
  • AF joystick
  • Dual card slots
  • Top-panel display
  • Illuminated rear buttons
  • Impressive slow-motion video modes
  • Easy to use, mostly reliable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity
  • USB charging
  • AF system less reliable than competition
  • AF-C wobble can be distracting when using the EVF
  • Choosing one face to focus on from multiple in the scene can be unreliable
  • One touch magnification of AF point is not possible
  • Battery life lags behind competition
  • Heavy
  • More expensive than peers
  • Non-matched card slots (you'll need XQD and fast SD to make full use of both)

Overall conclusion

The Panasonic DC-S1 is among the most capable and the best-built stills/video hybrids in its class, with excellent 24MP Image quality and impressive oversampled 4K video. But the camera’s Depth from Defocus autofocus system is a bit less reliable than its peers, especially when photographing moving subjects, and the EVF experience tends to be distracting when using continuous AF, due to DFD 'focus wobble'. Among stiff competition, these shortcomings seem amplified.

The S1, along with its higher resolution brother, the DC-S1R, are the most professionally-built mirrorless full-frame cameras currently on the market - they are also the largest. The result is a camera with a big, comfortable grip and extensive direct controls. By comparison, their build-quality makes some of the competition feel downright dinky. That said, the S1 is very big and heavy.

Processed in Adobe Camera Raw.
ISO 400 | 1/60 sec | F16 | Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm F4 @ 24mm.
Photo by Carey Rose

Built to the specifications of working professionals, the S1 very much looks and operates like a high-end DSLR. Controls are well placed, operation speed is good and the touchscreen is responsive. The EVF is large, and its resolution matches the best out on the market. Like most pro-targeted cameras, the S1 has dual card slots; it can also charge over USB-C, which we found handy.

Panasonic has made excellent progress improving its cameras' JPEG profiles over the years and it shows. The S1's JPEGs have pleasing color, good sharpening and, generally speaking, intelligent (but not quite class leading) noise reduction. Raw image quality is also excellent, with a high level of detail capture and good high ISO noise performance. Plus, the camera’s 96MP high-res mode not only boosts resolution, it also improves noise performance.

We’re still waiting on the firmware update that will unlock the camera’s 10-bit V-Log footage (among other things), but even without that the S1 has a lot of appeal for filmmakers. Oversampled, full-sensor 4K/30p video quality is impressive and 4K/60p video (with an APS-C crop) also looks good. The camera can also capture decent-looking Full HD footage at up to 180 fps and play it back as 50 or 60p for slow-motion capture. Plus, a variety of filmmaking aids like the complete (and customizable) separation of stills and video settings, and focus ring sensitivity control add to its appeal.

Speaking of autofocus, the S1’s contrast-detect-only system is just a little behind the class leader in terms of focus accuracy and hit rate. However the experience of using the camera to photograph a moving subject in AF-C is behind the competition because it’s almost impossible to tell whether the subject is in-focus, when shooting through the viewfinder. So while you may walk away with a lot of keepers, your confidence in hit rate will be low until you actually sit down at a computer and look at the files. This is hardly the behavior we’d want from a camera with pro-level aspirations.

Overall, though, the Panasonic DC-S1 is an appealing camera with a lot to offer, as long as its bulk and slightly higher price tag aren't issues. Landscape photographers can take advantage of its high-res mode, while wedding photographers will appreciate its build quality and ease of switching between stills and videos. Videographers will get great results, with additional features on the way via the optional upgrade. It's not a perfect camera by any means, but Panasonic's inaugural mirrorless full-frame camera is a great first effort, and worthy of consideration for a wide variety of use cases.

Edited to taste in Adobe Camera Raw.
ISO 500 | 1/160 sec | F2.8 | Panasonic Lumix S Pro 50mm F1.4.
Photo by Dan Bracaglia

What we think


Dan Bracaglia
Editor

The Panasonic S1, and its sibling the S1R, are the only full-frame mirrorless cameras on the market that handle and feel as if they were built to truly pro-level standards. This is refreshing to me. For years mirrorless cameras made strides in image quality, video and features, but never before has a full-frame mirrorless camera provided the same sort of ergonomic experience as a high-end DSLR, until now.


Carey Rose
Reviews Editor
The Panasonic Lumix S1 ticks a ton of boxes for me. The JPEGs are good, the Raw files are great, it's built like a tank and the high-res mode is handy for when I occasionally want more megapixels. In short, it's a near-ideal workhorse for the more serious gigs in my life. But (of course there's a 'but') its significant bulk means that I'm just not as likely to bring it along for more fun or casual photographic experiences compared to something that takes up less space in my bag or puts less weight on my shoulder.

Richard Butler
Technical Editor

The Panasonic S1 is probably the best stills/video camera of the current crop of full-frame cameras, in part thanks to how easy it is to switch back and forth without upsetting either method of shooting. However, while some people will appreciate the pro-grade build and degree of direct control, as an enthusiast photographer I found they weren't valuable enough to me to justify the camera's size and weight.


Compared to...

The S1 is pricier than the Sony a7 III, but substantially better-built with a superior control layout, higher-res EVF/LCD and better-designed menus. Both impress on the stills and video front. Unlike the Sony, the S1 offers both 4K/60p and 10-bit HLG, but the a7 III's AF and EVF experience (in AF-C) are both better than the S1's.

Against the Nikon Z6 it's a bit of a toss up, until you look at price: the S1's MSRP is $500 more than the Z6. If you want a compact, do-everything camera with still-robust construction - and that offers access to lots of legacy Nikon glass - then consider the Z6. If you want rugged workhorse with more direct controls and twin card slots, take a look at the S1.

The Canon EOS R is another competitor. While it has more resolution than the S1, the Canon falls short in terms of noise performance and dynamic range. We also much prefer the control layout of the S1 to that of the EOS R, and the Panasonic bests the Canon on video quality as well. Lastly, in-body stabilization on the S1 adds a lot of flexibility - and it's a feature that's missing from the EOS R.

The other decision you might be making is between the S1 and its higher-resolution sibling, the Panasonic Lumix DC-S1R. They're very similar cameras in most respects, with resolution and video capabilities being the main distinction. In general terms, the S1 is the better stills/video hybrid, and 24MP will be more than enough for many users. But the pro-level build and weight of the camera bodies may mean the S1R, with its higher resolution makes more sense for professional users.


Scoring

Panasonic Lumix DC-S1
Category: Mid Range Full Frame Camera
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Connectivity
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The Panasonic Lumix DC-S1 is an incredibly well-built (but heavy) camera with excellent image and video quality. The body has numerous control points and is highly customizable. The S1's built-in image stabilization is effective, and the camera can use this system to produce ultra-high-res stills. Autofocus is speedy and accurate in most situations, though the continuous AF experience can be frustrating when using the EVF. Video quality is excellent, with 4K/60p support and numerous capture controls, and more on the way via a paid upgrade. While it's more expensive than its peers, the S1 is great for a variety of use cases, and is worth your consideration if you don't mind its size and weight.
Good for
Those seeking a stills/video hybrid camera with a solid, weather-sealed body with excellent image and video quality.
Not so good for
Photographers requiring a top-notch autofocus system. Those looking for a lighter, more portable body.
88%
Overall score