Jordan Drake's perspective on the S1H

I’ve had the pleasure to test drive the Lumix S1H for several months now while shooting DPReview TV, as opposed to our usual GH5/GH5S setup. I’ve been seriously considering moving over to the S1H for our primary camera (A-Cam), and here are what I consider the major S1H advantages to be, as well as some of the frustrations I’ve dealt with.

Interface

The S1H's new graphic display is consistent with the ones on Panasonic's Varicam cameras

In the course of shooting our YouTube show for over a decade I’ve moved from video cameras, to cinema cameras , and most recently to mirrorless. While I’ve loved the size and form factor of mirrorless (and not being constantly stopped on the street to ask what I’m shooting), I’ve missed a number of assist tools commonly found on cinema cameras. The GH5 was the first mirrorless camera to offer a waveform and vectorscope (for judging exposure and color, respectively), but the implementation of both were flawed. The waveform took up much of the GH5’s screen and could not be resized, and the vectorscope could not be used while setting white balance, which is exactly the time you’d want to use a vectorscope.

The S1H resolves both of those concerns with a resizable waveform, and a vectorscope that is visible when changing white balance. These small changes immediately make the S1H a much more enjoyable camera to shoot with than any camera in the GH line. Panasonic went further though, and offered a display mode for camera settings based on the Varicam and EVA-1 cinema cameras (which themselves were modeled after the ubiquitous Arri Alexa interface). This makes the S1H extremely approachable to anyone with a professional video or cinematography background, and when using the touch interface, it makes changing major settings a breeze. When I’m setting up for a shoot, this is the display I have the S1H set to.

The menu system and user interface are extremely well thought out, and while there are a huge number of customizable buttons, the S1H is very usable out of the box if you don’t have time to personalize it. My major complaint when shooting is that you cannot ‘punch-in’ to confirm focus while recording. This is a feature found on nearly all major cinema cameras, and some mirrorless cameras from Sony and Fujifilm. If you need to precisely focus mid-take, an external monitor would be a smart investment.

Displays

This LCD design makes me happy.

The EVF and rear LCD are both outstanding panels, and a huge jump up over the GH5/GH5S. While it may not be an option to punch-in and check focus while recording, I was surprised how often I could pull focus using only the EVF. When going back to the Micro Four Thirds cameras, or even high end video EVFs, I found myself missing the stunning resolution of the S1H EVF. I quickly developed a routine of framing a shot with the LCD, and using the EVF to confirm focus.

The LCD is no slouch, and features my favorite design I’ve yet seen for adjusting the viewing angle. I love fully articulating screen of the GH5, but the various ports on the side of a camera will often interfere. The S1H allows me to tilt the screen out and then articulate it, avoiding any cables. I also appreciate this design when shooting low angles, as I can simply tilt the screen and keep the display centred with the lens. My one complaint is the release switch to tilt the screen forwards is on the base of the camera, and it can become very difficult to reach when using large video tripods, which I expect many S1H users will be relying on.

V-Log

While the full frame sensor in the S1H provides the expected benefit of improved low light over Micro Four Thirds, the biggest image quality upgrade I’ve found over the GH5/GH5S is the inclusion of the professional V-Log profile. As seen in the Image Quality tests, this profile (also available for the S1) captures substantially more highlight information than the more DR limited V-Log L profile found in the GH4, GH5, GH5S and recently the G9. With the GH5, I am often struggling to capture enough information in contrasty scenes, but with the S1H I often find myself with more than enough DR, often throwing away highlights in post for a more natural look. I’d much rather have the latter concern.

I also find the V-Log profile quite straightforward to colour grade, much like Canon’s C-Log 2 profile, and much easier to work with than Fujifilm’s F-Log or any variant of Sony’s S-Log. The ability to add custom LUTs to the S1H means I can look at a graded preview while filming V-Log, and the excellent waveform makes exposing very straightforward. On the GH5/GH5S, I rarely used V-Log L unless I absolutely needed the flexibility in post. With the S1H, I’ve found myself shooting about half my footage in V-Log, and it hasn’t noticeably increased the amount of time I spend editing.

Size & Weight

Yes, it's big.

The heft of Panasonic’s S series cameras has quickly become the stuff of legend. My preferred GH5/PanaLeica 10-25mm F1.7 combo weighed in at 1.4kg (3.1lbs), but the S1H/24-70mm F2.8 setup is an impressive 2kg (4.4lbs). This nearly 50% weight increase is certainly noticeable, and I’ve been avoiding using lighter supports like GorillaPods and smaller heads to avoid any tragedies. Also, the larger and heavier body requires a more substantial gimbal. While I could use a small, inexpensive Moza Air gimbal for the GH5 combo, I’ve been forced to use the much larger DJI Ronin-S for the S1H. That’s why you may have noticed a lack of gimbal shots on DPReview TV while we’ve been testing the S1H.

When looking at larger, heavier cameras it’s important to remember that the size and weight of your supports will also go up. While the added weight of just over half a kilogram might not sound like much, the requirement of a more solid tripod and beefier gimbal might make you question if the upgrades are worth it. I’ve certainly found myself questioning the compromise as I drag a heavy video tripod up another hill.

Adaptability

The short flange-back distance of the L mount means there's room to adapt PL or EF lenses

Adapting lenses is incredibly common in the professional video world, as having seamless autofocus performance is much less valued than having a variety of aesthetic options. While it was very straightforward to adapt lenses to the Micro Four Thirds cameras, few cinema and manual focus photographic lenses were made for the format. This meant my adapted lenses were often larger and heavier than necessary, and finding truly wide lenses was difficult. The S1H works seamlessly with Super35 lenses (some would say better than in full frame mode, as 4K/60P is Super35 only), as well as the latest full frame cinema lenses, current and vintage anamorphic lenses, and when using the endless vintage photographic lens options.

It’s a real advantage to be able to choose lenses for the look you desire, and know that there is an adapter option and compatible recording area for pretty much anything you can find. When discussing an S1H shoot with a local cinematographer, he was thrilled to be able to use PL spherical lenses, PL anamorphics, Canon EF zooms, and vintage Nikon AI lenses with a single camera, and without time consuming lens mount changes. This flexibility will likely make the S1H very popular in rental houses.

But will I switch?

For most of the content I shoot, the S1H is simply a better camera than the GH5/GH5S I’ve been using. Sure, if you ask Chris, I’m guilty of complaining about my heavier gear bag, but the benefits in dynamic range, usability, and lens flexibility are absolutely worth it to me. However, the smaller Micro Four Thirds cameras still have their place, and I’ve still been using them for gimbal work, product shots, and time-lapse on a regular basis. I’ve been budgeting for the inevitable day where the S1H has to go back to Panasonic, because it makes it easier to produce better looking and sounding videos, and at the end of the day we can’t ask more from a camera than that.