Hands on: Panasonic Lumix S1 review

Panasonic’s new camera goes head to head with the Sony A7 III and Nikon Z 6

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Our Verdict

We were trying out a pre-production camera, so the sample images captured with the S1 may not represent the final image quality. Even so, the images appear very sharp and detailed with very good colour rendition. We had the chance to try the camera out in a range of conditions and while it stumbled a little in indoor shooting in very dark conditions, in regular lighting it was extremely quick and accurate. First indications are that the Panasonic Lumix S1 is an extremely capable and responsive camera.

For

  • Solid pro-feel construction
  • Twin memory slots
  • 4K video at 50/60fps

Against

  • Limited range of lenses
  • Bigger than some full-frame mirrorless cameras

The Panasonic Lumix S1 is the cheaper option in Panasonic’s new Lumix S full frame mirrorless camera line-up.

It has a 24-megapixel sensor compared to the 47-megapixel sensor in the flagship Panasonic Lumix S1R model, but it’s well over £1,000/$1,000 cheaper. However, the Panasonic Lumix S1 has the same build quality, external controls and autofocus system and, like its more expensive S1R sibling, shoots 4K video at up to 60/50fps. 

What’s more, the S1 is going to benefit from a firmware upgrade later in 2019 that will add Panasonic’s V-log video mode and higher quality recording both internally and to external recorders. 

The Panasonic S1R might have much higher resolution for stills photographers, but the S1 could be a better (and more cost-effective) choice for videographers.

See also: Best Panasonic cameras in 2019

Panasonic Lumix S1: features

The S1 uses the new L-Mount developed jointly by Leica, Panasonic and Sigma, and is launched alongside three new L-Mount lenses. We had the chance to try out the new camera and the Lumix S 24-105mm f/4, 50mm f/1.4 and 70-200mm f/4 telephoto zoom.

You can read more about the specifications and features of the Lumix S1 in our in-depth news story, but the highlights include its 24 megapixel full-frame sensor, a maximum ISO of 51,200, the ability to capture 4K video at up to 60/50p and a continuous shooting speed of 9fps. 

Although this is the first with the focus locked on the first frame, and it drops to 6fps with continuous autofocus.

The Lumix S1 goes straight up against the Sony A7 III and Nikon Z6, both in terms of resolution and price. It loses out to both in continuous shooting speed, but it makes up for that with its 60fps 4K video capability.

Panasonic Lumix S1: build and handling

The Lumix S1 is also designed to withstand serious professional use, with a magnesium alloy construction, weather sealing and a 400,000-shot shutter life. It might be priced to appeal to enthusiasts, but it’s built for professional use.

It’s not particularly small. It feels similar in size to the Nikon Z6 and bigger than the Sony A7 III, but this does allow you to get a proper grip on the body. 

The extra size also allows more space for external controls, so while Sony, Canon and Nikon were first to hit the full frame mirrorless market, Panasonic has taken the time to get everything right.

The S1 has a proper external drive mode dial, for example, which is stacked under the mode dial at the left end of the top plate. This feels much better and more direct than having to select the drive mode via a digital interface.

The same applies to the autofocus mode and settings. On rival cameras this means digging into the digital display, but on this one there’s a dedicated control on the back of the camera for selecting single AF mode, continuous AF or manual focus, with a button in the centre for selecting the AF point/mode.

The Lumix S1 has all the external controls of a full size DSLR. It even has a large top-mounted status LCD panel, with a small backlighting button alongside to make it easy to read in dark conditions.

All the controls feel positive and robust, so that while the specifications alone might make the S1 seem very much on a par with existing full frame mirrorless cameras in this price range, the build quality and handling really do seem first rate.

Sample images

Image 1 of 7

Shot with pre-production Panasonic S1 and 50mm f/1.4 and not necessarily representative of final quality.

Shot with pre-production Panasonic S1 and 50mm f/1.4 and not necessarily representative of final quality.


Image 2 of 7

Shot with pre-production Panasonic S1 and 50mm f/1.4 and not necessarily representative of final quality.

Shot with pre-production Panasonic S1 and 50mm f/1.4 and not necessarily representative of final quality.
Image 3 of 7

Shot with pre-production Panasonic S1 and 70-200mm f/4 and not necessarily representative of final quality.

Shot with pre-production Panasonic S1 and 70-200mm f/4 and not necessarily representative of final quality.
Image 4 of 7

Shot with pre-production Panasonic S1 and 50mm f/1.4 and not necessarily representative of final quality.

Shot with pre-production Panasonic S1 and 50mm f/1.4 and not necessarily representative of final quality.
Image 5 of 7

Shot with pre-production Panasonic S1 and 70-200mm f/4 and not necessarily representative of final quality.

Shot with pre-production Panasonic S1 and 70-200mm f/4 and not necessarily representative of final quality.
Image 6 of 7

Image 7 of 7

Panasonic Lumix S1: performance

We were trying out a pre-production camera, so the sample images captured with the S1 may not represent the final image quality. 

Shot with pre-production Panasonic S1 and 24-105mm f/4 and not necessarily representative of final quality.

Shot with pre-production Panasonic S1 and 24-105mm f/4 and not necessarily representative of final quality.

Even so, the images appear very sharp and detailed with very good colour rendition. 

We had the chance to try the camera out in a range of conditions, from the dark interior of a cocktail bar to bright outdoor sunlight, and its auto white balance system adapted very well to different conditions.

Panasonic has stuck to its DFD (Depth from Defocus) system for the S1 and S1R rather rather than the phase detection/hybrid AF systems used by rival mirrorless camera makers, considering this to offer the best performance available right now, and the system does seem to offer very fast and snappy responses. 

The Panasonic Lumix S1 stumbled a little in indoor shooting in very dark conditions, where it occasionally hunted a little before locking focus or got confused by bright naked light sources, but in regular lighting it was extremely quick and accurate.

Panasonic Lumix S1: early verdict

We need to spend more time with a proper production of this camera to reach some proper conclusions about its image quality and performance, but the first indications are that the Panasonic Lumix S1 is an extremely capable and responsive camera.