Panasonic Lumix S1 Review

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This is a guest review of the Panasonic Lumix S1 by wedding and portrait photographer Steve Vansak. Steve has been shooting with the S1 professionally for over 3 months, and shares his impartial views with us below.

It was quite a shock in the fall of 2018 when Panasonic announced they would be releasing two full-frame mirrorless cameras: the 24.2MP Panasonic Lumix S1 and the 47.3MP Panasonic Lumix S1R.

The other jaw-dropping part of this new venture is an alliance with Leica (who is providing the mount along with lens support), and with Sigma, who is re-engineering their entire Art line for L-mount.

I’ve been an Olympus micro four-thirds user for years, so I was familiar with Panasonic mainly through their lenses for that format.

shk-fs-table__imageHighly Recommended ★★★★Incredible image quality, dynamic range & high ISO.Check Price

I’d been wanting to add a full-frame mirrorless system to my wedding kit, and I was thrilled to see the Lumix S1 with two card slots and other perks that bested the offerings from Canon and Nikon.

I took the plunge and purchased the Lumix S1 in a kit along with the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f/4 lens. How in the world was I going to be shooting weddings with (gulp)… a kit lens?!

Rest assured, this is a professional lens all the way, with great sharpness and micro-contrast.

Combined with the Lumix S1’s incredible dynamic range, color tonality (the skin tones are magnificent), and outstanding high ISO performance, this combo has worked amazingly well for the 3 weddings I’ve shot with it so far.

I have pushed the ISO up to 12, 800 during one of my weddings and the images are super clean and the colors hold up. I have no doubt it can be pushed higher and may be the new low light king as of this writing.

Panasonic Lumix S1 | Controls & Ergonomics

Lumix S1

The DSLR-style ergonomics of the Lumix S1 make it a pleasure to hold and operate.

The Lumix S1 is NOT a large and heavy camera. It’s like a DSLR in its design, and hence not like any mirrorless camera before it. The grip is large and wonderful to hold.

Button placement is spot on for me, as I imagine it is for many others who prefer to feel their way around when changing settings as opposed to menu diving.

The build of the camera is stellar and screams quality. The only hardware issue I found is that the battery grip appears to have a gap on the right-hand side. It’s too early to tell if this will become a significant issue.

EVF and LCD

Panasonic_S1_Review_3

Panasonic Lumix S1 + Leica 90mm f/2 | 1/640 f/2 ISO200

The viewfinder is 5.76 million dots and is wonderful to look through. I rarely use manual focus, but this viewfinder has made it very easy to do so.

The 8.1cm (3.2”) LCD allows you to control everything from image viewing to enabling menu items using touch. It has a triaxial tilt mechanism, just like Fuji cameras.

This viewfinder is one of the reasons I purchased the Lumix S1. My eyes are still doing well, but 11 years of wedding photography, with hopefully many more to come, has had me thinking about eye fatigue.

Panasonic S1 Image Quality

I have no idea who manufactured the sensor in the camera, nor do I care. All I know is that it delivers incredible image quality.

A few years ago I added the Nikon Df to my bag based on its wonderful dynamic range and great high-ISO performance.

However, the lack of two card slots and the small array of center focusing points soon had it sitting on the shelf on wedding days.

The Lumix S1 has memory slots for XQD (or CF-Express) and SD, and the dynamic range is outstanding. Not to mention, it has edge-to-edge focusing points.

Lenses for the Panasonic S1

Panasonic has launched the Lumix S1 with three lenses: the Panasonic Lumix S 24-105mm f/4, the S PRO 70-200mm f/4, and the S Pro 50mm f/1.4, the most incredible 50mm lens I’ve ever used.

My first use of the Lumix S PRO 50mm f/1.4 lens was at a camera store demo in Chicago. It was the first time I’d used the eye/body detect AF mode as well.

Leica lenses for the Leica SL camera can also be used natively on the Panasonic S1 (such as the incredible Leica 90mm f/2, used for the close up head shots in this review), along with the L-mount versions of the Sigma Art series. Further, more is coming from all three parties with 42 promised by 2020.

Autofocus

The contrast-based autofocus that Panasonic uses has been much maligned in Internet photography forums. I haven’t found it to be an issue with what I do as a wedding and portrait photographer.

I mostly use S-AF, which is very accurate, and hop into C-AF for things like couples walking down the aisle. I’ve been able to track these types of shots even in dimly lit churches with no problem.

I was recently shooting the first dance in one of the most dimly-lit venues I’ve ever been to, with the couple backlit by very bright string lights.

The Lumix S1 struggled to achieve focus. I turned on the matrix-like AF assist beam of my Profoto A1, and was then successful in locking focus.

The Lumix S1 does have its own AF assist beam, but I needed the extra help in this situation. So, there are limitations here for wedding and event photographers, but nothing deal-breaking.

The camera only shoots 6 FPS, so this is not a sports-oriented camera.

However, the Panasonic Help YouTube channel has great tutorials for tweaking the AF, and I have no doubt with those recommendations that the Lumix S1 could be used for some fast-action sporting events.

The eye/body AF worked very well during a bridal portrait session. With multiple people in the frame, the system will draw boxes over faces and bodies.

It is up to the photographer to press the joystick to select what they want in focus, which then turns the selected box yellow.

In groups, I prefer to have eye AF off, but I will use it in single or couples portraits. This is just my preference.

Using the Panasonic S1 for Video

Since I’m a wedding (stills) photographer, I didn’t get into the video aspects of the Lumix S1 as I feel I’d be talking out of school.

Many are getting this camera strictly for video even though Panasonic is marketing these two bodies for stills shooters.

It WILL do excellent video, but I simply am out of my league on that front, so have left it to the YouTube video above to explain whether the S1 is suitable for video shooters.

Unique Features of the Panasonic Lumix S1

Previewing motion blur is possible with the Panasonic Lumix S1‘s innovative Constant Preview feature | Left-hand image was shot handheld at 1/10, thanks to the 6.5 stop 5 Axis IBIS.

I have always been told to take the road less traveled. In my wedding business I do look at what other photographers are doing in my area and then do the opposite.

The Panasonic S1 takes on that same aesthetic and is perhaps why I’ve taken the plunge with this new system as opposed to others with a (mostly) full lens line up.

So what has Panasonic done that sets it apart from the other full frame mirrorless cameras? Here are a few features that are important to me.

Lenses

The L Mount Alliance itself is unique and important. In addition to Panasonic, Leica and Sigma are making lenses for the mount which will make 42 lenses to choose from by 2020.

The Sigma MC-21 adapter brings Canon EF lenses to the party with full AF (S-AF only) and other adapters bring a variety of different branded lenses in manual focus.

Sure, the Leica lenses are on the pricey side but they are available to rent should you need them. Also, Leica TL lenses will natively mount to the S1 with full AF if you can fathom an APS-C crop and loss of resolution. 

I can’t ever recall such an open system with three companies (possibly more in the future) making products with the same mount. This is a big deal.

Focus Peaking during AF

A small, but favorite feature of mine on the Lumix S1 is focus peaking during AF mode. It adds a nice colorful glow around the areas of your image and is especially helpful shooting at f/1.4 with their astounding 50mm f/1.4 lens.

Constant Preview

Constant Preview is Panasonic’s terminology for seeing your exposure in your eye before you take the shot, a mainstay feature of mirrorless cameras.

However, on the Lumix S1, they take it a step further by allowing me to see actual motion blur live in my eye.

I’m near Chicago and love to capture the blurring L train above my clients’ heads for city engagement sessions (see above image). I can now “dial in the blur” of the train live in my eye as I change my shutter speed. It’s terrific. 

Image Stabilization

The 6.5 stop 5 Axis IBIS is incredible considering this is a full frame sensor and has been rated above the Sony and Nikon full frame cameras.

While I do not need to handhold images for 7.5 stops like the class leading Olympus EM1 X does, the Panasonic Lumix S1 stabilization is a boon to wedding photographers trying to nail focus in a run and gun environment. 

What Needs Improvement

Lumix S1 +Leica 90mm F2 / 1/250 F2 ISO 100

Lumix S1 + Leica 90mm f/2 | 1/250 F2 ISO 100

The Panasonic S1 is very much a complete camera even at launch. The company launched the first mirrorless cameras along with Olympus in 2008 and have been refining ever since.

Although this is their first full frame camera, it’s doesn’t feel like a beta system at all. However, as with any camera I have some nits.

  • The battery grip feels loose. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not in danger of coming apart or anything. It just has a bit of play in it due (in my non engineering opinion) having only one short pin in addition to it’s screen in mechanism holding it in. Other than this, the hardware is top of the line and very much in a professional class.
  • I’ve had the IBIS shut off on me when shooting with their heavy 50mm f/1.4 lens. There is a little symbol within the viewfinder indicating that it is working. It turned red and I then had to turn it back on. I noticed a few shots had blur from camera shake. This happened during a paid shoot and is a concern of mine. I believe it is a software bug in the 1.0 firmware.
  • Lumix Pro Services is much like CPS for Canon, NPS for Nikon, Pro Advantage for Olympus in that it allows you to register your professional equipment for cleanings, expedited repairs, loaner equipment, etc. However, as an owner and professional user of the Lumix S1, I cannot join the program due to Panasonic not making enough equipment for me to purchase and then join.  2 bodies and 4 lenses are required and well, they only have 3 lenses on the market!

Panasonic Lumix S1 Review | Conclusion

lumix s1

While the Lumix S1 is much larger than all mirrorless cameras that came before it, you don’t really feel it during use.

The Panasonic Lumix S1 very much feels like a camera and not a computer that takes pictures. It screams professional. Although the menus are deep and endlessly customizable, they are a joy to use. I actually had fun setting up this camera.

I’ve been spoiled by the class-leading IBIS of my Olympus OMD EM1 II, but the Lumix S1 is great in this department as well. Unique features such as focus peaking during AF mode and constant preview keep the tech-head in me happy.

The lenses are top-quality and the entire combo makes me feel like I’ve joined the Leica SL family. In a way I have, as Leica’s lenses work natively and vice-versa.

The AF is very accurate, and while the tracking capabilities of this camera are adequate, it is not a sports camera. For portrait, wedding and event photographers, the Lumix S1 is a fantastic choice.

The price is slightly higher than its competitors (see latest price here), but there are many more features packed into this body with so many lovely customisation options.

If you need a full lens line-up RIGHT NOW, Sony mirrorless is the best choice. However, if you’re willing to wait a few months for the lenses and you value terrific ergonomics, the Panasonic Lumix S1 is the way to go.

shk-fs-table__imageHighly Recommended ★★★★Incredible image quality, dynamic range & high ISO.Check Price

Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.

Steve Vansak is lead photographer and owner of Region Weddings, shooting wedding and portrait photography in Chicago and Northwest Indiana.

Build Quality8
Ergonomics & Handling 
9
Viewfinder/Screen Quality 
10
Metering & Focus 
7
High ISO Performance 
10
Image Quality10
Value9

12 Comments

  1. Arash on March 4, 2020 at 5:26 am

    Hi,
    wondering, are you using the Profoto A1 in any kind of auto or TTL mode? or strictly Manual?
    Thank you
    am

    • Steve Vansak on March 4, 2020 at 12:04 pm

      Hi Arash!

      On camera I use the Profoto A1 (the Nikon version) in all manual mode. I continue to do that today as there is no Panasonic version of that light.

      Off camera I’m using the Profoto Air Remote O / P to trigger the A1 in TTL, Manual, HSS and everything. You will have to have camera firmware 1.3 for Lumix S1 as well as the latest firmware from Profoto for that tripper and the A1.

      The Air Remote O / P will also control the other Profoto strobes like the B10 or B1 series in TTL and HSS with these firmware updates.

      At the time I wrote this review, I was only able to use my Profoto gear in pure manual fashion. So glad they came through with a firmware update so i can use all of the features now.

      Hope this helps!

      • Arash on March 4, 2020 at 11:12 pm

        Hi,
        Thank you for the reply, this is really great to know!
        am

  2. Steve Pearson on January 7, 2020 at 7:04 am

    Thanks, Steve. When the AF catches my grandson, running across the room, or outdoor landscapes or macro flower and landscape shots, the IQ is very good. I traded my G9 for the S1, for example, and compared shots of the moon. The detail difference was apparent when shots were displayed enlarged and side-by-side. I am still frustrated with slow AF at unpredictable times, using the S1. I suppose faster lenses (2.8 and below) will allow for quicker, more dependable AF. I am up-to-date on firmware for now and trust more are coming. I am firmly in the Panasonic camp of photographers.

  3. Wolfgang Winterstiner on January 4, 2020 at 8:53 am

    You’re review of this lens just made up my mind to purchase the Panasonic 24-105mm lens for weddings. I currently have a Sigma L-Mount 45mm f2.8 and also their 35mm f1.8 lenses. Now with the Lumix S1, Leica SL, and Leica T, I have three worthy cameras to mount these lenses on. Yes, I still want a Leica L-Mount lens, but for now that will have to wait. A review of your settings on the S1 for weddings would also be quite helpful, as none of my fellow pros shoot with the S1. Thanks for a great review.

    • Steve on January 4, 2020 at 3:14 pm

      Hello! The 24-105’s secret weapon for you will be that close focusing for wedding details. The Leica SL certainly is a beauty and I’d love to get my hands on one at some point. I’ve really enjoyed their 90mm F2 on the S1.

      My basic settings for the S1 at weddings are:

      AF-S ( I don’t use AF-C) with 1 area

      1 area+ is a great setting for subjects walking down the aisle (again, I still use AF-S with a few quick bursts)

      A rundown of an entire wedding and how I set the camera for various scenarios is a good idea for an article. I will talk with the site Admin to see if we can get a green light on that.

      Enjoy the 24-105mm lens. It’s very versatile and certainly not a “kit lens” despite it being packaged with the S1 and S1R at launch.

  4. Rasmus on September 4, 2019 at 11:15 pm

    Thanks for the review!

    I was on pre-order actually but decided to change my Olympus E-M1 Mark II for the Panasonic G9 instead as I am heavily invested in m43 lenses. The G9 is hands down the best camera I’ve ever used, menus, ergonomics, features, it’s amazing how an electronics company could get so much right in cameras.

    With the S1 family they’ve just upped the game and unless I feel the size of it is a problem I’m sure to add it in the future! This review put me on that course even more :-)

    • Steve Vansak on September 4, 2019 at 11:45 pm

      I think m4/3 combined with FF is a lethal combo for sure and a much better fit than APS-C. When you need the smaller size / weight and the longer reach, m4/3 will be there for you and an S1 can handle the other scenarios m4/3 doesn’t excel at.

      I hear the G9 is terrific and a cousin of the EM1 II in speed and IQ. I can see the G9 making sense for you with the S1 as I imagine the menu system as well as ergonomics will be familiar. While the S1 has size and weight, somehow they have managed to not make it feel that way in use. It’s difficult to explain.

      Glad you liked the review!!

  5. Vanessa on June 17, 2019 at 7:12 am

    The best camera I HAVE EVER USED in my life! Shooting for 13 years – diehard Sony/Nikon fan. Thanks for the write-up!

    • Steve Vansak on June 17, 2019 at 1:35 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article Vanessa! So many features in the S series cameras. Let’s hope they keep up the momentum. I’m hoping for more lighting support as well as lenses for the system. It’s early days though.

  6. Steve Vansak on June 13, 2019 at 5:54 am

    Hey Karl, welcome to the club!! I didn’t think I’d be shooting with a Panasonic camera in 2019 and here I am. They really did knock it out of the park on this one. Now bring on the lenses!!

  7. karl bratby on June 13, 2019 at 1:34 am

    Thanks for the review, ive just joined the S1 club, fantastic camera.

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