Body and Handling

Panasonic has set out the make the S1 one of the most durable mirrorless cameras on the market. It has a sturdy, weather-sealed body and shutter designed to last twice as long as its peers.

The camera has an extensive number of buttons, dials and levers, a dual-hinged LCD, ultra-high-res EVF, dual memory card slots and much more.

Key takeaways:

  • The S1 has a hefty, weather-sealed magnesium alloy body
  • The EVF is the highest resolution on the market, with 5.76 million dots; with 120 fps refresh rate and claimed 0.005 sec minimum lag
  • The S1 has a dual-hinged, 2.1M-dot touchscreen LCDs that can tilt for both landscape and portrait shooting
  • Several of the buttons on the rear of the camera are illuminated
  • The camera has two card slots: one for XQD and another for SD

Overall build

At a fraction over 1 kilogram (2.25 lbs), the S1 is considerably heavier than cameras like the Nikon Z6/Z7, Canon EOS R and Sony a7/a7R III. It's also substantially larger.

The payoff is that the S1 feels a lot more like pro camera body than any of the models listed above. The camera is bulky, but very well built. It's extensively sealed (as are the lenses) and can function down to -10°C (14°F).

Viewfinder

The S1 employs a 5.76M dot OLED viewfinder.

The S1 (and S1R) is built around the highest-resolution EVF we've yet encountered. The 5.76M-dot OLED panel promises around a 25% linear resolution improvement over the 3.69M-dot panels used by most of its rivals.

The finder can be set to refresh at 120 or 60 fps and promises lag as short as 0.005 sec (up there with the most responsive on the market), which should give one of the most lifelike EVF experiences around (until you use continuous focus, anyway - more on that later in the review.)

An eye-sensor beside the finder can be set so that the camera goes into sleep mode a specified number of seconds after you take your eye away. According to Panasonic, this can more than triple battery life. You can also still wake the camera up with a half-press of the shutter. This is may also be a useful workaround for the power switch which, while harder to operate accidentally, is slower to access than it would be if placed around the shutter button.

A large, circular rubber eyecup is held in place with a latch and has to be rotated before it can be removed, which should eliminate the risk of it coming dislodged or lost accidentally. Panasonic says it will make other eyecups available.

LCD

The S1 has a 2.1 million-dot touchscreen LCD with a double-hinged design of the kind that we first saw on Fujifilm's X-T2. It can tilt up and down when shooting landscape and up while in portrait orientation.

Drive mode dial

The Drive Mode dial on the camera's top left shoulder features two continuous burst drive mode positions (marked I and II). These can be customized to set your preferred shooting speeds or for accessing the camera's 6K/4K Photo mode.

Highly customizable joysticks and switches

The S1 features an eight-way rear joystick for rapidly moving the AF point, a distinct improvement from the four-way joysticks on previous Panasonic models. You can choose how fast the AF point moves - another addition not seen on the likes of the DC-G9 - and whether it 'wraps-round' from one edge of the screen to the other. It's also possible to customize what happens when you press the joystick inwards (with the option to reset the AF point position, swap between recognized faces / bodies, act as a Fn button, access the Menu or do nothing).

A two-position switch on the front of the camera can be configured to control one of a number of functions, including AF Area mode, focus peaking, shutter type and self timer.

There's also a Lock switch on the top left shoulder of the camera. As you might expect, this deactivates certain control points. You get to choose which control points are rendered inactive, so it can be used to lock just the dials or to temporarily deactivate the touchscreen.

Backlit buttons

The top plate display and five buttons on back (playback, Quick menu, back, display and trash) illuminate with the press of a button.

One feature that sets the S1 apart from most of its rivals (and all mirrorless competitors) is the inclusion of illuminated controls. These are likely to be especially valuable for anyone shooting in low light, either on a tripod (where it can be combined with the camera's red and black Night Mode display) or at gigs where you can't always see your controls.

The buttons can either be set to stay lit-up or can be configured so that they light up when you hit the illumination button for the top-plate LCD.

Dual Slots

The S1 offers one UHS-II SD and one XQD card slot. The SD slot allows the use of V90 cards so is more than quick enough for all the cameras' video modes. The main difference is that the continuous shooting capability is extended if you use XQD slot.

As you'd expect, you can choose how they're both used. The 'Relay' option starts using the second card when the first is full, 'Backup' mode writes all files to both and 'Split' saves different media types to different cards. The following four types of file can be assigned to the different slots as you prefer:

  • JPEG/HLG Photo
  • Raw
  • 6K/4K Photo
  • Video

A write warning light is positioned next to the card door and there's an option for the camera to emit a warning noise if you try to open the door while it's still writing. The ability to split stills and video onto different cards makes it easier to shoot both stills and video in the same session.

Battery and charger

The camera uses the DMW-BLJ31 battery. It's a 23Wh battery (around 40% higher capacity than the already very big Sony Z-type battery). Despite this, the S1 is rated at an unremarkable 400 shots per charge, when shot using the rear LCD and 380 when using the EVF, and a little lower if you shoot to XQD, rather than SD.

You shouldn't be too disheartened by these figures: most people will find themselves getting many more shots (often several times more shots) per charge than the CIPA rating implies, depending on their shooting style. And, if you set the camera to jump to sleep mode, one second after you take it away from your eye, these CIPA figures jump to over 1000 shots per charge.

However, it's interesting to note that the Nikon Z6 can achieve the same 380 shot rating when using its (similarly-specced) rear LCD panel, despite a battery capacity 40% lower than the Panasonic.

As you'd expect, the S1 can charge over USB and, if attached to a suitably powerful USB power source, will charge even while operating (which is good news for timelapse shooters, for instance).

The supplied charger is an interesting affair, coming in four parts: a wall to figure 8 / IEC C7 cable, a power supply box that adapts this to USB-C, a USB C cable and a charging cradle that plugs into this power supply unit. This makes it easy to adapt for other countries and means you can unplug the cradle and directly charge/power the camera, but does mean you have to carry two plastic bricks and two cables. Alternatively, of course, if you have another device, such as a laptop, that powers over USB-C you may only need to bring that power pack and the battery cradle with you when you travel.

The camera will be supplied with both a USB-A to USB-C and a USB-C/USB-C cable.