Body and Handling

Panasonic has set out the make the S1 and S1R some of the most durable mirrorless cameras on the market. Both models have sturdy, weather-sealed bodies and shutters designed to last twice as long as their peers.

The cameras have an extensive number of buttons, dials and levers, a dual-hinged LCD, ultra-high-res EVF, dual memory card slots and much more.

Key takeaways:

  • The S1/S1R have hefty, weather-sealed magnesium alloy bodies
  • Their EVFs are the highest resolution on the market, with 5.76 million dots; with 120 fps refresh rate and claimed 0.005 sec minimum lag
  • The S1 and S1R have dual-hinged, 2.1M-dot touchscreen LCDs that can tilt for both landscape and portrait shooting
  • Several of the buttons on the rear of the cameras are illuminated
  • The cameras has two card slots: one for XQD and another for SD

Overall build

At a fraction over 1 kilogram (2.25 lbs), the S1 and S1R are considerably heavier than cameras like the Nikon Z6/Z7, Canon EOS R and Sony a7/a7R III. They're also substantially larger.

The payoff is that the S1 twins feel a lot more like pro camera bodies than any of the models listed above. The cameras are bulky, but very well built. They're extensively sealed (as are the lenses) and can function down to -10°C (14°F).

Viewfinder

The S1 and S1R use 5.76M dot OLED viewfinders (though only appear to use a 3:2 region, which leads us to believe some of the panel is being cropped-off).

The S1 and S1R are built around the highest-resolution EVFs we've yet encountered. The 5.76M-dot OLED panels promise around a 25% linear resolution improvement over the 3.69M-dot panels used by most of their rivals. We've not had a chance to directly compare them side-by-side yet, but have been very impressed by the experience so far.

The finders 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 S1/S1R have 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 cameras' top left shoulders feature 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 S1 and S1R both feature eight-way rear joysticks for rapidly moving the AF point, a distinct improvement from the four-way joysticks on previous Panasonic model. You can choose how fast the AF point moves - another addition not seen on the likes of the DC-G9 - and whether it 'wraps-round' 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

One feature that sets the S1 and S1R apart from most of their rivals (and all 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 gigs 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

Like the top-plate LCD, dual card slots have somehow become signifiers of a camera being professional, despite not being a necessity for many users. The S1 and S1R both feature one UHS-II SD and one XQD card slot. 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

Both cameras use the same DMW-BLJ31 battery. It's a 23Wh battery (around 40% higher capacity than the already big Sony Z-type battery). Despite this, the S1 is rated at a rather disappointing 400 shots per charge, when shot using the rear LCD and 380 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.

As you'd expect, the S1 and S1R can charge over USB and, if attached to a suitably powerful USB power source, will charge even while operating (which is good news for timelapse shooters, for instance).

The supplied charger is an interesting affair, coming in four parts: a wall to figure 8 / IEC C7 cable, a power supply box that adapts this to USB-C, a USB C cable and a charging cradle that plugs into this power supply unit. 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 cameras will be supplied with both a USB-A to USB-C and a USB-C/USB-C cable.