Conclusion

What we like What we don't
  • Good Raw and excellent JPEG image quality
  • High-resolution mode provides tons of resolution and a noise/DR benefit
  • Effective 5-axis image stabilization
  • Class-leading build quality and weather-sealing; durable shutter
  • Single AF is very fast and precise
  • Large, ultra-high-res EVF
  • Good quality UHD 4K video
  • Face, body, eye and animal AF system works well
  • Linear manual focus response option for video
  • Responsive touchscreen
  • Excellent AF controls, including joystick
  • Dual card slots
  • Top-panel display
  • Illuminated rear buttons
  • Easy to use, mostly reliable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity
  • USB charging
  • AF-C less reliable than competition
  • AF-C wobble can be distracting when using the EVF
  • Choosing one face to focus on from multiple in the scene can be unreliable
  • Unimpressive maximum burst speed with autofocus
  • Heavy relative to other mirrorless cameras
  • Battery life lags behind competition
  • More expensive than peers
  • Non-matched card slots (you'll need XQD and fast SD to make full use of both)

Overall conclusion

The full frame mirrorless camera market has gotten crowded, and it's gotten crowded quickly. Within the last twelve months, the market has expanded from Sony's somewhat mainstream and Leica's aspirational offerings to include capable new options from Nikon, Canon, Sigma and, of course, Panasonic with its Lumix DC-S1 and the subject of this review, the 47MP Lumix DC-S1R.

Its a tough crowd to stand out in, to be certain. The Panasonic isn't physically smaller, doesn't shoot faster nor focus as dependably as most of its competitors. That sounds like a pretty big net deficit to come back from, but there is plenty that the S1R has going for it.

Out-of-camera JPEG.
Lumix S Pro 50mm F1.4 | ISO 100 | 1/1000 sec | F4

For starters, there's the image quality. The 47MP sensor in the S1R isn't class-leading in ultra high ISO performance, dynamic range or resolution, but it is a good sensor that puts out pleasing files. Panasonic also deserves praise for putting out some truly excellent (if large and expensive) lenses at launch, so you can get the full benefit of those 47MP using native lenses right away. The S1R's JPEG engine is up there with the best, trading just slightly clunkier noise reduction compared to Sony (the class leader in this respect) for great out-of-camera color rendering. And for those that need more resolution, the 187MP high-res mode is impressive, with some of the best motion correction on moving objects that you'll see this side of a modern smartphone (many modern phones stack over a dozen images with zero shutter lag).

This camera is meant to be a solid, reliable workhorse, and at that, it succeeds

And then there's the feel of the thing. In the hand, the S1R feels solid, reminiscent of pro-level sports DSLRs like Nikon's D5 or Canon's EOS-1D X II. The grip is fantastic for medium-and-larger-sized hands, and the abundance of external controls means you shouldn't find yourself diving into the menus too often. The weight, though, does mean your wrist will tire from longer shooting sessions. The collection of autofocus controls is a particular strong point, clustering together autofocus modes, areas, a joystick and AF-On functionality for easy right-thumb access while shooting.

But despite those excellent controls, when it comes to autofocus, it's not all good news. Panasonic's Depth from Defocus system drives compatible lenses very, very quickly, and gives a pretty good hit rate, but the focus 'wobbling' and drop-off in viewfinder resolution will be off-putting to some users and doesn't inspire confidence. Couple that with a lackluster burst speed with autofocus, and action shooters that also crave billboard-ready resolution may need to look elsewhere. The AF system can also prove problematic for video shooters, but we'd expect those users to be more tempted by less expensive options anyway. Video on the S1R is good for a high-res camera, but you can save some money and get better video quality by shopping around a bit.

Out-of-camera JPEG.
Lumix S 24-105mm F4 Macro | ISO 100 | 1/125 sec | F11

In the end, I'm reminded of sentiments expressed by Panasonic executives in an interview we published earlier this year where they claimed that they were proud of their 'cameraness.' It's easy to poke fun at that sort of statement, but after using the S1R extensively, I get it. This camera is meant to be a solid, reliable, familiar-feeling workhorse, and it mostly succeeds at that while being chock-full of photographer-focused features with a size and quality of build that users of pro-DSLR cameras will find familiar.

The Panasonic Lumix DC-S1R is perhaps not the best value on the market, nor the absolute best option for those looking at high-resolution mirrorless full-frame cameras. But it is objectively a very good camera, maybe even a great camera; one that is immensely enjoyable to work with and that puts out files that are a pleasure to edit. And because of that, it easily earns one of our awards.


What we think


Dale Baskin
Editor

Using the Panasonic S1R reminds me more of a pro-level DSLR than a mirrorless camera. It’s large, solid as a rock, and has well-designed controls that provide a DSLR-like ergonomic experience. Then there’s the viewfinder, which is decidedly *not* DSLR-like, but that’s not a criticism. The 5.76M-dot OLED is spectacular and provides all the benefits of a mirrorless display, such as integrated histograms. It could be a great camera for someone who wants to go mirrorless but hasn’t fallen in love with the smaller bodies of most mirrorless cameras.


Jeff Keller
Editor
The Panasonic S1R is an interesting beast. Its build quality and design are unmatched and resemble a professional-level camera, but its AF performance and the shooting experience can’t compete with those cameras, or cheaper mirrorless alternatives. As a portrait or landscape photographer, its high resolution and reliable eye/face detection are make it a good choice, though some may find it to be a bit too heavy to lug around for hours.

Compared to its peers

Sony's newly released a7R Mark IV puts up some stiff competition. It comes with higher resolution, faster burst speeds, a promising-looking phase-detection-based autofocus system, better battery life and a smaller size. That being said, while Sony has claimed to have increased the build and weather-sealing aspects of the Mark IV, the Panasonic S1R still feels more solid. Plus, in the everyday uses of manipulating controls and navigating the menus, the Panasonic is more responsive at the former and better organized regarding the latter. The high-res mode on the Panasonic is also an in-camera affair while Sony forces you to off-load that processing to a computer. Lastly, the Sony comes with far more lens options at the time of writing.

Nikon's Z7 is another natural point of comparison. Though they boast similar resolution, the Nikon's sensor performs better at the highest ISO values. Panasonic's 'Tracking' autofocus is easier to initiate with a simple-half press of the shutter when your subject is under the AF point, while the Z7 requires more button presses. The Nikon also succeeds at being extremely well-built, with a nice grip, while being smaller and lighter than the Panasonic.


Scoring

Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category. Click here to learn more about what these numbers mean.

Panasonic Lumix DC-S1R
Category: Semi-professional Full Frame Camera
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Connectivity
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The Panasonic Lumix DC-S1R is an impressively well-built full-frame mirrorless camera with lots of resolution, well thought-out controls and ergonomics and competitive video quality. Unfortunately its burst shooting speeds are simply outdone by the competition and for less money, and it falls slightly behind in overall image quality and autofocus performance as well. But the fact remains that the S1R is enjoyable to use and is worth a look for those that want a well-rounded high-resolution professional camera.
Good for
Landscape, studio and event photographers, those with larger hands that prefer a larger grip and camera, outdoor photographers who need especially solid build quality.
Not so good for
Travel photography and family photographers for whom the S1R's size and weight will be a burden, sports photographers who will need more speed and better autofocus, and dedicated video shooters.
89%
Overall score