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Today, Panasonic has released the full specifications of their new flagship full frame cameras, the S1 & S1R. We have had the chance to spend some time getting to know the S1, and so far we are very impressed indeed. So let's go through the headline features from Panasonic's press release, and go into more detail.
Two new full frame cameras
The S1 has a 24.2MP sensor and the S1R is a whopping 47.3MP. Both cameras are based around a newly designed Venus processor, enabling powerful stills performance, alongside 10 bit, full frame video. Panasonic has put a lot of work into this new processor engine and new heat dissipation designs, which I’m sure is very needed with this amount of features in a small mirrorless body. The S1, in particular, is shaping up to be the most powerful mirrorless camera yet for hybrid video/stills users.
Powerful photography workhorses
As with most mirrorless cameras, the primary function of the S1 and S1r is as a workhorse professional tool for stills photographers. The 6 stop IS system helps you work at slower shutter speeds, and a maximum of 1/8000 second shutter and 1/320 second flash sync helps you work with faster shutter speeds. The cameras feel incredibly responsive and intuitive to use for photography, the larger grip size makes it feel much more reminiscent of a traditional DSLR rather than a small mirrorless camera, the S1 and S1r will absolutely feel familiar for experienced photographers.
Full frame 4K 10-bit video
The headline feature for us video users though is 10-bit 4K video recording, using the full width of the full frame image sensor. This is a first for full frame mirrorless cameras and is a fantastic development. 10-bit recording really helps create a much more robust video file which can stand up to post-production requirements. We have already seen Panasonic bring 10-bit recording to their popular GH5 and GH5s M4/3s mirrorless cameras, so its no surprise to see them also pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the full frame market.
Unfortunately, though we do lose some of the codecs of the GH5. Due to the increased processing demands on the S1 from its larger sensor, we aren’t able to use the 400Mbps All-I codec used in the GH5 and EVA1. Instead, we get the 150Mbps Long-GOP codec. It is worth remembering that this is still a fantastic quality codec, and far better than some recording formats on competitors cameras. But it is a disappointment to not see the higher end All-I codec implemented on their higher end full frame camera. Internal 10-bit & V-log won't be available at launch unfortunately and will be an upgrade which is available later on this year.
One feature that has made it over from the GH5 though is 4K 50p recording. This does need to use 8 bit and enable a crop into the sensor to get up to 50p though. You shift from full frame to about a super35mm sensor size, which is certainly not the end of the world. In my opinion, this is a worthwhile compromise to get some higher frame rates. 50p is incredibly useful for anyone shooting weddings, B-Roll segments etc. It's also worth pointing out that you can get 4K 50p in 10 bit over the HDMI, so pair this with an Atomos Ninja V and you will get much higher quality slow motion. We have not been able to confirm if this still requires the super35mm crop or if it uses the full width of the sensor though, so we might not be able to tell that until we get our own model and can do some tests of our own.
All of this is recorded onto two cards slots, one SDXC and one XQD.
OLED & LCD
One of my favourite features of the S1 and S1r is that OLED viewfinder. With its 5.7 million dot resolution, it really is one of the best on the market. It has minimal lag, Panasonic claim 0.005 seconds, and 0.78x magnification while being 21mm away from your eye. This is such a useful asset when filming outside, an EVF is one of the largest reasons to move to a mirrorless camera from a DSLR, especially when they are this good.
The LCD screen has been the topic of much conversation, as many were hoping Panasonic would continue using the flip out screen design of the GH5. Instead, however, they have chosen to prioritize other aspects of the camera like weather sealing and use the tilting LCD design which we are all used to from cameras like Sony’s A7 lineup. They have enabled a third axis of movement through which is a nice touch, it will be great for portrait photos from floor level, or seeing the camera if your standing to the right of it in a hard to access location.
The actual LCD screen itself is a 3.2 inch 2.1 million dot LCD RGBW LCD panel. It feels very sharp and accurate, easy to focus with and reasonably bright. The RGBW technology is an interesting one, this means it is assigning some pixels to pure white, rather than displaying red, green or blue. Panasonic claim this increases brightness significantly, making the LCD much easier to use outside. Combine this with that fantastic EVF, and using the S1 outside should be no trouble at all.
The GH5 and GH5s always impressed on the ergonomics side, Panasonic clearly values having a more substantial grip, even on a small camera, and the exact same is true with the S1 and S1r. Despite still being small mirrorless cameras, these are some of the larger options in the full frame mirrorless market. Now whether or not this is a good thing, is of course subjective. But in our experience, the majority of our customers value the larger more substantial camera body. The S1 strikes a perfect balance between being small enough to be a convenient and practical tool for every situation, while being big enough to feel comfortable in your hands and familiar to established photographers.
The grip is very comfortable to hold, and the camera feels balanced in your hands. Holding it up to your eye to use that fantastic EVF feels very natural. With all the controls at your fingertips in a logical and sensible layout.
Now another feature which has been carried over from the GH5 is the stabilised sensor. This is a completely redesigned system, but still boasts the same 5.5 stops of image stabilisation natively, and up to 6 stops when paired with one of Panasonic's lenses with image stabilisation, which is just fantastic to see, and really quite impressive when you consider just how much larger the S1's full-frame sensor is.