Operation and controls

A reworked UI and extensive customization makes it easy to get a high level of control over the S1R. Panasonic says it's spoken extensively to pro shooters and tried to make sure the camera can be configured to work the way they want it to.

Key takeaways

  • Revised menus are easier to navigate, despite extensive feature set
  • Q.Menu is attractive but rarely needed on a camera with so many control points
  • Extensive customization of buttons, controls and their behavior
  • Settings can be saved to an SD card (but only work on other S1Rs)

Panasonic has further cleaned-up its menu structure, with icons breaking up each section

The S1R has an updated menu structure and a re-worked Q.Menu system. The main menus are a further update of the structure used in the recent GH models. Each tab is broken down into sub-sections but, rather than having an index page explaining what each subsection is, they're indicated by a series of icons. This removes one level of menu but still allows relatively fast navigation to the section you need.

New Q.Menu

The redesigned Q.Menu, in its 6 x 2 'strip' format

Panasonic has redesigned the Q.Menu, which is one of the key ways of interacting with secondary settings that you wouldn't want to assign to a button. There's a choice of layout: a 3 x 4 grid of icons that appears next to a small preview window, or a 6 x 2 array that stretches across the screen and appears without any preview image.

The Q.Menu in its 3 x 4 grid arrangement with preview window

Unlike the older implementation that had a preset or a customizable version, the new Q.Menu is always customizable, so you can choose the 12 settings you most need access to. Both versions are touch-operable and you get to choose whether the front command dial scrolls through the available options or through the possible values of the current option.

The Q.Menu can be configured to offer 12 different settings for video shooting, so there isn't a tension between finding space for the stills and video options you want to access.

Image Stabilizer Status Scopes

In addition to improved image stabilization (IS), the camera has a feature that shows how hard the IS system is having to work. This draws a dot, representing the central point of your initial composition, which then dances about as your hands shake (but the scene itself is kept still, courtesy of the IS system).

The idea is not only to show how hard the IS is working but to provide a visual indicator to train you to hold the camera more steadily and to encourage you to fire the shutter at a time of minimal movement. This should ensure you get the best possible results and help to extend the limits of what the IS system can do.

Customization

As you'd expect of such a pro-level camera, the S1R allows extensive customization, not just of the buttons but of the way the buttons behave.

The first pleasant discovery is that Panasonic has applied the same logical structure to the page from which you choose button functions as it has to its menu as a whole. So, rather than having to hunt through a seemingly endless list with no pattern to it, you can scroll straight past the 'Stills: AF' options to 'Video: Display,' if you're trying to assign zebra warnings to a custom button.

Button and dial behavior

In terms of behavior, Panasonic says it asked professional shooters how they wanted the buttons to operate. So perhaps it's no surprise that the ISO, WB and Exposure Comp buttons on the top of the camera can be configured so that you hold them and turn the dial (Nikon-style) or press then turn (which Canon shooters will be used to). There's also an variant of that second option that lets you cycle through the available options by pressing the button repeatedly.

It's possible to further define the dial behavior when you use the ISO or Exp Comp buttons. For instance, for ISO you can have one dial adjusting the ISO setting and the other defining the upper ISO limit used in Auto ISO mode, or just have both dials set ISO. For Exp Comp you get the choice over which dial (if either) sets Flash Exposure Comp.

This level of camera adjustment continues to the extent of letting you hide the Photo Style color modes you don't use, and decide whether the AF point should loop around from one side of the screen to the other.

Savable settings

Those users who do end up significantly customizing their camera will appreciate the ability to save their settings to a memory card. This means you can instantly recall your setup if you end up using a rented camera or, perhaps more likely, lose your settings after a firmware update. Settings files from the S1R will not be cross-compatible with the S1, however, as the file format has not been designed to accommodate the slight spec differences between the two cameras.

Overall performance

Just like its lower-resolution S1 sibling, the S1R is a very responsive camera in use. Power-on speed is about par for the course for full-frame mirrorless cameras - not instant, but not exactly slow, either. General operation is swift, and the camera responds very rapidly (if not instantaneously) to your exposure control adjustments. Navigating the menu is smooth and speedy. All of this contributes to a feeling of polish and refinement, which is a good thing on this hefty professional camera.