What's new and how it compares

Key Takeaways:

  • High bitrate shooting in 10-bit 4:2:2 color
  • 'Open gate' and anamorphic shooting options
  • 'Dual Native ISO' lets you see and exploit the sensor's dual gain behavior
  • Developed with input from Panasonic's Varicam (pro cinema camera) team

Advanced video features

The 'H' in the S1H's name should immediately invoke the GH series of video-focused Micro Four Thirds cameras. So, while the S1H's sensor is likely to be very similar to the one in the more affordable S1, the camera offers a wealth of video capabilities and support features missing from its more mass-market stills/video sibling.

So, while the S1H appears to offer the same full-width 4K/30p video and 4K/60p from a Super35 crop as the S1, there are a host of differences in terms of aspect ratio capture, compression choices, shooting duration and high-speed shooting options. So, for instance, the S1H can shoot the wider DCI 4K format at 400Mbps in 10-bit 4:2:2, whereas the S1 only offers UHD and bitrates of up to 150Mbps.

On the down-side, the 24MP full-frame sensor in the S1 and other cameras isn't the fastest to read out, which is likely to result in visible rolling shutter. Jordan at DPRTV has already demonstrated this in his first-look video.

The S1H offers a broad range of shooting resolutions, frame rates and bitrates, far beyond what the S1 can achieve.

The S1H can also shoot 'open gate' 6K video from its full sensor region or capture 5.9K (5888 x 3312 pixel resolution) 16:9 footage, which the S1 can't. The differences go much deeper than this, though.

There are also modes to support shooting with anamorphic lenses, which we'll cover at a later date.

Anti-aliasing filter

Having said that the sensor is very similar to the one in the S1, there's at least one important hardware distinction: the S1H has an anti-aliasing filter.

This may sound odd, from a stills perspective, since it's become common to sell cameras without AA filters and trust that a combination of high pixel density, lens performance and diffraction will minimize the risk of aliasing occurring. However, since the visual effect of moiré can be highly distracting in video (it can 'dance' across fabrics, which is horrible to watch), and cine lenses are quite likely to comfortably out-resolve 24MP on full-frame, it's a valuable thing to include.

Dual Native ISO

We first saw Panasonic's 'Dual Native ISO' system on the GH5S. With the S1H the company has been a bit clearer about what it means.

Essentially it's a way of exploiting and revealing the 'dual gain' sensor function that's become increasingly common in modern cameras. Dual gain sensors have two read-out modes at the pixel level: one that gives the widest dynamic range and a second, higher-gain step that reduces shadow noise at the expense of some dynamic range. Rather than hiding this effect behind the scenes, Panasonic lets you see and specify which of the sensor's two modes are used.

To understand what's going on, it's important to recognize that 'ISO' doesn't tell you how much amplification is being applied: ISO is calculated from the combined effect of tone curve and amplification. Panasonic makes this distinction relatively clear:

Color mode 'Low' base ISO 'High' base ISO
V-Log 640 4000
Standard 100 640
HLG 400 2500
Cinelike D2 / V2 200 1250

Note that there's always a 2 2/3 EV separation between the Low base ISO and the minimum ISO offers by the higher gain step. The Low base setting all use the same underlying amplification, as do the High base settings, they're just rated as different ISOs because of the shapes of their respective tone curves.

The camera gives you a choice of manually specifying which mode you're using or has an 'Auto' setting. Panasonic tells us this mode tries to always offer the lowest noise: potentially stepping to to the higher gain mode before the specified 'base' setting (with the odd side-effect that your highlights might clip slightly earlier, since these would essentially be Extended/pull settings as we'll discuss in a moment).

Diagram showing the relationship between the Low and High gain modes for the V-Log color mode. The light blue modes are 'extended' settings.

Conversely, if you manually select the 'Low' setting, it'll let you choose two ISO settings normally offered by the 'High' mode, but with a little more noise than actually using the High setting (eg ISO 4000 and 5000 in V-Log mode).

Extended ISO modes

What's good to see is that Panasonic also makes clear what are 'pull' settings (which use highlight-clipped versions of the tone curve to offer 'low ISO' modes when amplification can't be lowered any further). By default, the S1H will only show you 'full' ISO settings that use the full tone curve. Only if you opt to show 'Extended ISO' settings will the lower, highlight-clipping modes be accessible.

Pull settings are always marked with an 'L'. In both the Low and High gain modes, the camera will offer up to a 1EV pull setting (base amplification but with a tone curve that gives the expected footage brightness with 1EV less highlight capture).

Low gain ISO options
High gains ISO options
Standard ISO range 640 - 5000 4000 - 51200
Extended ISO range L.320 - 5000 L2000 - 51200

Other 'Varicam' features

As well borrowing the 'Dual Native ISO' behavior and full V-Log shooting from the Varicam line, Panasonic says that various aspects of the video processing have also been based on input from its professional video team.

Like the S1 with the optional video upgrade, the S1H can shoot the full V-Log/V-Gamut color mode (right) used in Varicam cameras, which is flatter and less saturated than the standard color mode (left), to provide great scope for post-shoot color grading.

The most obvious of these in the full V-Log / V-Gamut profile, designed to match the output of the Varicam cameras and with a tone curve designed to encode 14 stops of dynamic range, but changes have also been made to the Cinelike V and Cinelike D color profiles. The 'V2' versions of these profiles match the Varicam versions.

Across all color modes, Panasonic says its adjusted its noise reduction, leaving a slightly higher level of noise in the footage to leave more options in the post-processing workflow, rather than risking over-correcting noise and losing detail. Again it's a move informed by input from Varicam engineers.