Body and Handling

Panasonic says it aimed to make the S1R the most durable mirrorless camera on the market. The body is almost entirely magnesium alloy and everything is extensively sealed.

The larger body is used to provide an extensive array of buttons, dials and levers, a dual-hinged LCD, ultra-high-res EVF, dual memory card slots and much more.

Key takeaways:

  • The S1R has a hefty, weather-sealed magnesium alloy body
  • Its EVF has an impressive 5.76 million dots. It runs at a 120 fps refresh rate and has a claimed 0.005 sec minimum lag
  • The 2.1M-dot touchscreen LCD tilts in two axes for both landscape and portrait shooting
  • Several of the buttons on the rear of the cameras 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 S1R is considerably heavier than cameras like the Nikon Z7 or Sony a7R III. It's also substantially larger.

The payoff is a camera that feels a lot more like a pro camera body than any of its immediate peers. The S1R is bulky, but very well built: if you're coming from a Canon 5D series or a Nikon D8x0, the size, substantial grip and numerous control points won't feel unfamiliar. The body is extensively sealed (as are the lenses) and can function down to -10°C (14°F).

Viewfinder

The S1R uses a 5.76M-dot OLED viewfinder, giving an impressive 1600 x 1200 pixel resolution (though this drops while focusing)

The S1R is built around one of the highest-resolution EVFs 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. It's comfortably the most lifelike electronic viewfinder we've used.

The finder can be set to refresh at 120 or 60 fps and promise 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.

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 more than triples battery life. It also means you can 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 S1R 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.

Joysticks and switches

The back of the camera has 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 around' 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, 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 cameras. 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

Another thing that sets the S1R apart from most rivals (and all its 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 live music or theatre performances 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

Perhaps the greatest giveaway of the S1R's 'pro DSLR replacement' ambitions are the presence of both a top-plate LCD and dual card slots. The S1R features UHS-II SD and XQD slots. 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.

If you choose to use both slots you get a choice of how they're 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.

Battery and charger

The S1R uses a massive (23Wh) DMW-BLJ31 battery. This is around 40% greater capacity than the already big Sony Z-type battery, but the S1R ends up delivering a rather disappointing 380 shots per charge, when shot using the rear LCD and 360 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 its battery capacity being 40% lower than the Panasonic.

The S1R can be both charged (and directly powered) over its USB-C connector. It can even charge while being operated, which is reassuring if you're shooting time-lapse sequences.

The supplied charger is a four part affair. To start with, there's a power outlet-to-IEC C7/ figure 8 cable, then a transformer that adapts this to USB-C, a USB C cable and a charging cradle that the battery slots into.

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 a 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 is supplied with both a USB-A to USB-C and a USB-C/USB-C cable.