We thoroughly tested the new Panasonic Lumix S1R, a muscular 47 MP mirrorless designed to fill up on details in every situation.
While smartphones stifled enough compact cameras and DSLRs lost their traditional appeal, the new market for mirrorless 4/3, APS-C and Full Frame it attracted more and more curiosity among the public. In this field, it must be said that Sony has made school, and probably still today it reigns almost undisputed because of its aggressive prices and its extremely compact products, other international brands, however, have tried to keep up with them and among these, there is certainly Panasonic.
Queen of 4/3, especially in the video field, Panasonic has recently wanted to have its say in the professional field too, with three mirrorless Full Frame machines of the highest quality. We think of the Lumix S1, the Lumix S1H that we reviewed a few weeks ago and the muscular Lumix S1R, object of our test today.
If the S1 can be considered the all-rounder of the range, declared enemy of the Sony A7 III, and the S1H is a movie set beast with integrated fans, the S1R undermines the A7R line-up, showing off a very very high resolution and a perfect image quality for study and portraiture. So let’s go talk about our experience with the Panasonic Lumix S1R.
In line with the sisters, the S1R sports a well-made package, which makes us immediately understand that we have a high-end product in our hands. Panasonic sells both “Body Only” and in the kit 24-105 F4, a solution that we have tried firsthand and that perhaps has not convinced us to the end, we will see later why. Just taken out of the original packaging, the machine certainly stands out because of its generous size, close to those of S1H but with a slightly more graceful overall design – given the absence of fans and a fairly classic screen orientation system.
Panasonic’s choice to focus on extreme solidity at the expense of compactness can certainly turn up the nose, especially to see many competing products, if, however, you are looking for a professional mirrorless in a war trim, spotless and fearless, you have perhaps found your winning horse.
Probably 148.9mm x 110mm x 96.7mm x 1.02 kg today are dimensions and a weight “out of maximum time”, reserved for the more complex (mechanically speaking) SLR cameras, but we are aware that such a ” size “can like, restore security.
The true qualities of the S1R, however, are preserved inside: the heart of this camera is, in fact, a 47mm MP Full Frame 35mm CMOS sensor (50.44 MP total) capable of taking exceptional images, to be previewed on what is probably the best viewfinder of the current mirrorless market.
If the rear display is a 2,100,000 pixel TFT Touch LCD, it is the LVF OLED viewfinder to take most of the applause, thanks to 5,760,000 pixels, 120 fps and a lag of just 0.005 seconds. It is the exact same mounted on the S1H and the sense of wonder is, in fact, intact, in a very short time it will become your best ally – and we hope to see sights of this quality soon also on competing products. Panasonic also with this S1R the excellent partnership with Leica continues, with which it shares the fleet of L optics, certainly another added value of the product.
Everything under control
What we have said for S1H, we can repeat it also in this case: despite a few buttons less than the sister video-oriented, on the body of the S1R, however, we have everything we need. All the key functions for professional use of the machine can be reached quickly and easily, even if obviously you will have to familiarize yourself with the positions. Coming from the world of professional SLR cameras, the transition will be painless as we will have all the dials and control buttons to which we are basically used – another aspect that on a more compact body we probably would not have had.
Of course, we have found an autofocus/shutter button perhaps too sensitive, it is not uncommon in fact to take photographs by mistake or start sudden bursts. Like any new camera, therefore, we will have to take the “measurements” with its electronics and controls, but in a short time, you will also feel at home with this S1R.
As said at the beginning, we tested the body with the kit lens, the Panasonic 24-105 F4, a good quality lens which, however, fails to make the most of all the potential of the exceptional sensor mounted on the S1R.
Having the aperture at F4 over the entire focal range is certainly an excellent advantage, we speak in any case of a somewhat “dark” value, with a good but not exceptional blur, obviously incomparable with higher-end lenses with 2.8-diaphragms “to come down”. It is therefore, in our opinion, a goal not up to the body that is to accompany.
The Japanese company probably wanted to wink at those users “frightened” by the big leap to Panasonic in the professional field, which has a fair number of high-quality lenses but which certainly cannot compete with other brands, at least today.
The power mounts Leica L lenses it is a great added value, in this case however the prices go up considerably with the user prosumer which could be nothing short of discouraged. For all these reasons Panasonic has probably chosen to create a “handyman” kit also for this S1R, which however deserves glasses of a completely different calibre. Despite this, we managed to take excellent quality photos that we are now going to analyze.
Faithful colours and high dynamic range
Let’s start with the colours, with the CMOS sensor chosen by Panasonic that has given us excellent satisfaction, especially by taking photos of close-up subjects and panoramas. The machine can only work with sRGB and Adobe RGB profiles, we cannot go further, this is, however, a detail common to many other high-end SLR / mirrorless cameras.
The S1R also allows you to calibrate colour intensity, the number of details, contrasts and so on, taking advantage of different internal profiles, for our test, however, we decided to leave everything “flat” and then see what would come out working the files with Adobe Lightroom.
In the photos of the flowers below you can see how the S1R returns bright, saturated but realistic colours, and how the kit lens – despite being a “zoom” and F4.0 – manages to create good blurring around fairly close subjects, even if not too creamy.
If the greens and reds behave very well, the blues also have something to say, very natural and neutral, perfect for your panorama photographs. You can see for yourself what the S1R can do with the sky of Porta Garibaldi, with the bodywork of our Ford Fiesta ST or with the shades of Lake Varese.
The colours maintain good fidelity even at high ISO. Below, for example, you can see how the colours of the S1R remain full-bodied and saturated even at ISO 1000 while rising to ISO 6400 are the masters of deep but never absolute blacks, with the digital noise kept at bay correctly.
Even reaching ISO 25600 the S1R can create perfectly usable files, especially on the social network side, with the grain that makes itself felt but not in a sensational way.
This obviously if you take photographs with the correct exposure, if you intend to recover many shadows on the RAW at 25600 ISO the enterprise starts to get particularly difficult.
So we come to talk about one of the most important aspects of a high-end mirrorless: dynamic range. Panasonic has worked a lot on its sensors, managing to obtain exceptional results even with these “first generations” of S1. While not perhaps at the levels of Sony’s Alpha 7R (III and IV), this S1R still manages to achieve – on paper, according to DxOMark – 14 stops around ISO 100, then gradually decreasing as the sensitivity scale increases – as is normal.
In practice we are not convinced that we have touched the 14 stops in the recovery of lights and shadows, we are in any case at high levels, with RAW files that leave us a great deal of freedom in processing. We specifically made some mistakes to understand how much the S1R could recover and at the bottom, you can find our results.
So we come to talk about the aspect for which a mirrorless of this calibre should probably be purchased, with such a megapixel detail: portraiture. We took a series of outdoor portraits to test the S1R in natural light, far from the safety of the studio, and the results were more than satisfactory – always keeping in mind that we shot with the kit lens.
In this context, the naturalness and softness of the colours perhaps make the difference, if you like a more “creamy” and less artificial photograph, also all the pixels available allow you to have an exceptional detail – or cropping if necessary without losing who knows how much quality. (Just below you can admire a 100% crop of the original file that you find on the left)
Equipping the Panasonic Lumix S1R with a Leica L lens or the 50mm 1.4 Pro of the same Panasonic means taking home portraits of the highest level, with a wide dynamic range, soft colours and a detail that we could define “scary” – although obviously it is not the only machine on the current market that allows similar possibilities, it is clear. For these portraits thanks to Giulia Sabatino, you can find it on Instagram with nickname @lasabbi.
The Panasonic Lumix S1R is therefore as large and “safe” as a high-end SLR, with all the controls at hand, but with the soul and technology of a full-fledged mirrorless. The Japanese manufacturer has certainly worked very well with the S1 family, but several times we have had the impression of holding in the hands (also with the other machines of the Pro family) a “passing” generation, a great general rehearsal for something best that will come soon.
The size and weight of the rest are felt, the battery consumption (especially with the viewfinder set to 120 fps) ditto, we also appreciated only half the choice of inserting yes the double slot for memory cards but SD / SDHC / SDXC on one side, XQD on the other, an expensive and perhaps superfluous format on a similar model – which shoots massive bursts but which also has a buffer worthy of covering everything on normal Premium SD cards.
Furthermore, even if this “defect” will certainly be corrected with time as happened with the competition, the limited current optical fleet on which the S1 can now count – a park which among other things has costs of a certain type, with medium / high / very high-quality lenses that always ask for a bit of sacrifice at an economic level.
With the right equipment, however, this S1R will return excellent quality images, with portraits with super detail and delicate colours never aggressive. In the hope that Panasonic will soon give us a more compact generation, a little easier to use for less “bodied” users, which will, however, continue on the same qualitative path as this first S1. To see the images taken in high definition with the Lumix S1R, please refer to our dedicated gallery on Google Photos.