Why did I purchase the Panasonic Lumix S1?
So why the Panasonic Lumix S1 you might be asking, why not the incredible Sony A7III? Or the higher megapixel Canon EOS R? Why not stay with Nikon and get the Z6, I mean, I have been a Nikon shooter for the past 15 years? Well I am going to tell you why, and it might not be for the reasons most people think.
I won’t beat around the bush, the Lumix S1 is the weird option out of the bunch, hands down. The other three brands are well established in the Full Frame market, they have the lens’s, years worth of experience and of course the fan boys, who could forget about the brand die hards. I am no stranger to brand loyalty, it’s one of the reasons why I stuck it out with Nikon all these years, it felt “cool” to have Nikon scribed in yellow on the neck strap, even better when you saw another one out in the field, instant friends! In the high end video market things get even more heated with the Red and Arri camps, so honestly, getting away seemed kinda refreshing, it was something new, a Generation 1 product from Panasonic. I joined the Lumix S1 and S1R facebook group, I was member number 83, as I scrolled through I glanced over at the “recommended groups” tab off to the right, a Sony Alpha group, 37,000 members. I quickly made friends with employee’s and ambassadors from Panasonic, made connections with incredible photographers, everything felt so small, so new, like a family, I loved it!
Mirroless Cameras NEED TO BE SMALL, screamed the internet. I looked down at my hands, felt my D7000 in my grip. I don’t want something smaller than this camera I thought to myself. I don’t have small hands, I never looked at my camera and thought, this is great… but I wish it was a pound lighter. Maybe it’s because I am young and throw around weights everyday trying to become the next Arnold. I have shot with both the A7III and EOS R and both of them felt small in the hand, the buttons where squashed together and they both felt cheap for a “pro” body. The S1 feel rugged, a man’s man camera if you will (ladies will love it too), but above all it feels premium. From the power toggle switch to the LCD screen bracket, it just screams pro camera, I swear you could use it to pound in a nail and then go right on and shoot a photo of said pounded in nail, then you can post to IG “look at this nail!!! I...” am way off target, on to the next point.
Autofocus…. yes, the age old question of who does it better? Personally I have the most experience with Canon’s DPAF with their C300 cinema camera and that thing was sweet, oh mama!! Sony on the A7III really stepped it up and then we have Nikon jumping on the Phase Detect train and quickly closing the gap. Now these three all have something in common and that is “Phase Detect”. To keep this from becoming a lab report, there are plenty on online resources to learn about the different types of AF, the thing that struck me most about Panasonic was the fact that they deliberately chose not to implement this. This was not a lack of ability to use Phase, they “chose” this route because they firmly believe populating the sensor with more than just photo diodes will ultimately degrade the image quality, increase chromatic aberration and artifact’s. Utilizing technology that they developed, DFD (Depth from Defocus) and AI they are able to fill the gaps between Phase Detect and Contract based autofocus, and fill these gaps they have. The autofocus on the S1 is brilliant! It is on par with the Sony A9 in terms of outright speed and ability to grab single point focus. There is no hunting, it is bang on in a split second every time. Tacking is exceptional as well, often hitting 95-98% success rate on bursts. A important quality for me was the ability to use continuous AF tracking in video and I have been more than pleased with that as well! In my short time with the camera, it has been able to grab onto and successfully track just about everything with no hunting or pulsing. This is all on V1.0 firmware and with the help of AI and the enormous amount of processing power crammed in the S1, I only expect this to get even more refined.
Now for those who have been paying attention closely, you may have noted the part about why Panasonic chose to go with a contract based autofocus system and that reason being… Image Quality. For Panasonic this was the bold, circled and highlighted item at the top of their chart of importance. Image quality is king and they absolutely killed it!
I don’t think I have ever shot with a camera that resolves more detail, has more dynamic range and can give any scene that three dimensional feel. All of the above images where shot with the 24-105 f4 “kit” lens, which if we are being honest, looks nothing like a kit lens. Corner to corner it is tack sharp, there is absolutely no chromatic aberration and the build quality is probably the best out of any 24-105mm offered by Canon, Sony or Sigma. I have never had a camera where I wrap up a shoot and can not wait to get back home to open the shots up on my 27” 4K HDR screen and just pixel peep. Everyone who I have lent my S1 to in the past week has given me the same feedback, “this camera is the sharpest 24mp sensor I have ever seen”.
Before we wrap up, I just want to give you a quick lighting round of just a handful of the hundreds of “cool” things I have found out since purchasing this camera. The EVF is hands down the best in a camera today, not just in the mirrorless world, but even compared to the Arri Amira. The light up buttons on the back are surprisingly handy at nighttime. Battery life is not DSLR good, but about on par with Canon and Sony. The 4K footage is just drool worthy. The colors are fantastic, I would go as far as to say I like them more than Canon color. All 3 of the current lenses from Panasonic have a 77mm front element so a single filter will fit all three. The 70-200mm f4 tele lens has a Arca Swiss tripod mound built into the lens foot which is a cool addition. Camera has 2 card slots which can be set up to record video to one and photo’s to another. Having three user definable custom presets on the top dial will spoil you. The image stabilization in camera and in the lens is industry leading, no one in the full frame market comes close. It makes you want to shoot more!
To put a bow on this camera, in short, I have enjoyed it more than I ever thought I would. It’s fun and has personality, it is the swiss army knife of mirrorless with razor sharp photos and beautiful dynamic range, it has gorgeous high speed video and autofocus that will genuinely shock you at how fast it is. It genuinely does everything exceptionally well and in my opinion is the best hybrid camera on the market today. If you are interested in purchasing a S1 or S1R and have some questions, please feel free to contact me or post a comment and I would love to help you out! Thank you for reading! Keep shooting!!