What's new and how it compares

The Panasonic Lumix DC-S1 is well-suited for both still and video capture and offers a variety of new and exciting features to aide creators.

Key Takeaways

  • 24MP sensor offers a multi-shot high res modes to boost captured resolution
  • The L-mount body joins a system being developed with Leica and Sigma
  • Dual IS II combines in in-body and any in-lens stabilization
  • HLG Photo mode opens door to natural-looking high-dynamic range stills for HDR displays

New sensor

The S1 uses what Panasonic claims is a newly designed full-frame 24.2 Megapixel sensor. In order to maximize resolution, there's no optical low-pass filter, though it does have an anti-reflective coating to reduce ghosting and flare. All of the data captured by the sensor is run in parallel through the company's latest Venus engine. The native ISO range on the S1 is 100 - 51,200, with the ability to expand to 50-204,800.

Out of camera JPEG.
ISO 100 | 1/80 sec | F4 | Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm F4 @ 31mm.
Photo by Jeff Keller

Lens system

The Panasonic S series of cameras uses the L mount, which, until the announcement of the 'L Mount Alliance' last year, was exclusive to Leica's full-frame and APS-C format mirrorless cameras. Leica calls its full-frame lenses 'SL', while APS-C lenses for crop sensors are known as 'TL'. There are currently, eight full-frame Leica lenses available: five primes and three zooms.

'S Pro' lenses will be marked as 'certified by Leica'

Panasonic has itself launched a trio of lenses alongside the S1. There's a 50mm F1.4 S Pro, 70-200mm F4 S Pro and 24-105mm F4 Macro OIS (which is also the kit lens). All three lenses are weather-sealed, and both of the 'S Pro' models have a clutch mechanism for quickly switching between Auto and Manual focus. They're promising more than ten lenses by 2020, including 70-200mm F2.8 and 24-70mm F2.8 and 16-35mm F4 zoom lenses.

Interestingly, the two existing 'S Pro' lenses are marked as 'certified by Leica,' which Panasonic says means their design and manufacture meet the standards achieved by the so-called 'Panaleica' lenses in the Micro Four Thirds system, but won't be branded as such to avoid confusion between them and Leica's own 'L-mount' optics.

Sigma is the third member of the L-mount Alliance, and has committed to releasing eleven of its 'Art' prime lenses for the system, along with an MC-21 adapter that will support users that own Canon EF-mount Sigma lenses, albeit only in Single AF.

Dual IS 2

Out of camera JPEG.
ISO 800 | 1/60 sec | F4 | Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm F4 @ 51mm.
Photo by Carey Rose

The S1 has 5-axis image stabilization built right into its body. Using this system alone, the camera can reduce shake by up to 5.5 stops, but if you attach a stabilized lens, such as the new 24-105mm F4 Macro OIS, that number rises to 6 stops (in controlled testing - actual performance will vary). That's because the two systems work in conjunction, with the lens' stabilizers adding additional correction for yaw and pitch motion.

It's a system first introduced in the GX8 and means that on-sensor IS can help provide correction for the large translational movements (handshake that shifts the camera up, down and side to side) that are prevalent when using wide-angle lenses. The greater potential travel of the in-lens IS unit can correct for the large pitch and yaw movements (handshake that rotates the camera's field of view up, down and side to side) of longer focal lengths.

Autofocus

The S1 uses the same Depth from Defocus AF system as Panasonic's Micro Four Thirds cameras, but with more processing power allowing a doubling of the system speed to 480 adjustments each second. DFD is contrast-detect based but uses an understanding of each lens's optical characteristics to work out where to drive the focus to.

Edited to taste in Adobe Camera Raw.
ISO 400 | 1/160 sec | F2.8 | Panasonic Lumix S Pro 50mm F1.4.
Photo by Dan Bracaglia

We've tended to see better results from the depth-aware phase detection autofocus technology used by most of Panasonic's rivals, though DFD has been pretty good on Panasonic's Micro Four Thirds cameras. DFD tends to 'flutter' just in front of and behind the plane of focus while focusing, which can be somewhat disconcerting.

Panasonic claims that the S1 can focus in light levels as low as -6EV (essentially starlight) using its Low Light AF mode, which is triggered automatically and works by boosting the gain prior to focusing. In low-contrast situations (the company uses foggy/misty conditions as an example,) the S1 can focus down to -3EV with its standard AF mode.

AF Tracking now tracks whatever is under your focus point when you half-press and reverts to your original AF area when you release

The S1 builds on the machine learning Panasonic used for subject recognition on the DC-G9. The camera's AF algorithms have been trained to detect humans (their bodies, not just their faces) as well as cats, dogs and birds, and will keep tracking them even if they turn their back to the camera. As you'd expect, the S1 can also detect faces and eyes, automatically transitioning between those options and body detection as the subject's size in the frame changes.

The camera's AF Tracking mode has been updated, too. It now tracks whatever is under the focus point when you half-press (or AF-On) and then reverts to your original AF area when you release. This is finally taking hold as the way cameras work across multiple brands.

HLG Photo

One unusual feature of the Panasonics is the ability to capture still images using the Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) gamma curve. HLG is a standardized Log curve and color response designed to be shown on compatible high dynamic range televisions. These are TVs capable of brighter output and more subtle (10-bit) control over their color and brightness. They make it possible to display footage with a wide dynamic range in a way that looks natural (rather than 'HDR' that tries to squeeze a wide dynamic range into the limited output of a standard-DR monitor).

Panasonic is the first brand to produce 10-bit still images that can be played back on HDR TVs

Until now, HLG has solely been used for video (it was developed as a broadcast standard), but Panasonic is the first camera brand to use it to produce 10-bit HDR still images that can be played back on compatible TVs. The 'HSP' file format is part of the ITU-R BT.2100 standard, which should mean they're reasonably well supported in the future.

For now there's no software that allows HSP files to be edited but this could be the beginning of an era of photography that takes us beyond the limitations of the basic sRGB JPEG (which typically contain around 8.5EV of dynamic range) and standard-DR displays, to let us show a more realistic version of the world.

High Res mode

Like the company's DC-G9 enthusiast Micro Four Thirds camera, the S1 offers a 'High Resolution mode'. By shifting the sensor eight times, the camera is essentially canceling out the Bayer color filter then offsetting and doing so again, thus increasing the pixel output by a factor of four.

The S1's High Res shots (which are Raw files) are 96MP. The Raw images cannot be converted to JPEGs right on the camera, and the camera cannot produce a High Res JPEG at time of capture.

The S1 offers a choice over whether to average any movement (to simulate the effect of a long exposure) or to attempt to automatically cancel out any motion. Both modes must be shot from a tripod to ensure the camera can precisely control the relationship between sensor and scene. In our experience, the S1 does an excellent job with moving subjects, even in complex scenes, with very little ghosting in the motion-correcting 'Mode 2.'

High Res Mode 2 does an excellent job correcting for moving subjects in a scene.
ISO 320 | 1/500 sec | F5.6 | Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm F4 @ 48mm.
Photo by Dan Bracaglia

Other features

The S1 also offers an array of features that Panasonic has developed over its decade of making Micro Four Thirds cameras. These include the 6K and 4K Photo modes that essentially make it easy to grab high-res stills from the cameras' video streams.

6K Photo mode creates sequences of 18MP images, either in the 4:3 or 3:2 aspect ratio at 30 fps. Meanwhile the 4K Photo mode lets you capture 4:3, 3:2, 16:9 or 1:1 images of around 8MP at 60 or 30 fps, from an APS-C-sized region of the sensor.

Output size (3:2) Crop Factor Shutter rate
6K Photo 5184 x 3456 1.16x ~22ms
4K Photo H 60 fps 3504 x 2336* 1.5x ~12.3ms
4K Photo 30 fps 3504 x 2336* 1.5x ~12.3ms
* Oversampled from roughly 3996 x 2664 pixel capture

Because the 6K/4K Photo modes are derived from video capture, the camera's AF slows considerably, to nearer the speeds offered in video shooting.

Panasonic Lumix S1: how it compares

With a list price of $2499, it's clear that Panasonic doesn't believe it needs to compete on price. It's also interesting to note that the S1 is the largest camera in this group, physically.

And, while it doesn't offer the Raw video output that Nikon has planned for the Z6, it's the only one of this group to shoot 4K/60p (albeit from the APS-C crop of its sensor). That said, you have to pay extra if you want access to the camera's full V-Log function (though its HLG mode may act as a work-around for many situations).

The biggest point of difference is the Panasonic offers a higher resolution finder than any of its immediate peers and also makes greater claims for its expected shutter life:

Panasonic S1 Canon EOS R Nikon Z6 Sony a7 III
MSRP (body) $2499 $2299 $1999 $1999
Pixel count 24MP 30MP 25MP 24MP
Sensor tech CMOS CMOS BSI-CMOS BSI-CMOS
AF system Depth from Defocus
(Contrast Detection-based)

Dual Pixel
(On-sensor PDAF)

On-sensor PDAF On-sensor PDAF
Image stabilization 5-axis in-body + lens Lens only 5-axis 5-axis
Maximum frame rate 9 fps (AF-S)
6 fps (AF-C and live view)
8 fps (AF-S)
5 fps (AF-C)
12 fps
(12-bit Raw)
10 fps
High Res mode Yes No No No
Viewfinder
res / mag
5.76M dots
/ 0.78x
3.68M dots
/ 0.76x
3.68M dots
/ 0.80x
2.36M dots / 0.78x
Rear screen 2.1M-dot two-way tilting touchscreen 2.1M-dot fully articulated touchscreen 2.1M-dot tilting touchscreen 921k-dot tilting touchscreen
Top-plate settings display Yes (LCD) Yes (OLED) Yes (OLED) None
Backlit buttons Yes No No No
Video capture

UHD 4K 30p
(full sensor)
UHD 4K 60p (1.5x crop)

UHD 4K 30p
(1.83x crop)
UHD 4K 30p
(full sensor)
UHD 4K 24o
(full sensor)
UHD 4K 30p
(1.2x Crop)
Log modes HLG 10-bit
(Optional 10-bit 4:2:2 V-Log)

C-Log
8-bit (internal)
10-bit (HDMI)
N-Log
10-bit (HDMI)
S-Log 2 / 3 / HLG
8-bit
Memory cards 1 XQD + 1 SD Single SD Single XQD Dual SD
Battery life (CIPA) LCD/EVF 400 / 380* 370 (LCD) 380 / 310 710 / 610
USB-charging Yes Yes Yes Yes
Shutter life rating 400k cycles 200k cycles 200k cycles 200k cycles
Dimensions 149 x 110 x 97 mm 136 x 98 x 84 mm 134 x 101 x 68 mm 127 x 96 x 74 mm
Weight (CIPA) 1017 g** 660 g 675 g 650 g
* With SD card: battery life rated at 380/360 shots with XQD card
** With SD card: 4g more with XQD