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Reader Comment: First Impressions of Panasonic S1R

I hope to have one of the first Panasonic S1R bodies on April 5.

I expect to spend a great deal of time on the S1R, since I wish to cover all the native-mount lenses, as well as various Sigma DG HSM Art lenses as well as Leica SL lenses and Leica M lenses*.

I also need to look at its focus stacking, pixel shift and sensor quality, on top of everything else a new full-frame platform deserves; see Is L-Mount in Your Photography Future? for thoughts on the significance of the various camera like the Panasonic S1R.

* Leica M lens coverage on any platform goes into diglloyd Leica.

Reader Roy P writes:

I got a chance to see and play with the Panasonic S1R today. There were two Panasonic reps on hand, with a couple of S1 and S1R bodies and some lenses, including the Panasonic 24-105/4 and 70-200/4, and I think they also had an Leica 50/1.4.

Panasonic S1R

I went over to specifically check how the S1R worked with my M-mount lenses via the Leica M to L adapter. Specifically, I brought my Leica 21mm f/1.4 Summilux, Leica 28mm f/1.4 Summilux and Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux, and Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon. I figured if these lenses worked reasonably well, pretty much all M mount lenses would likely work well, too. Bottom line: the S1R impresses. I can’t recall seeing this level of performance from my M mount lenses from any M camera, let alone Sony bodies. One of the reps told me they (Panasonic working with Leica) built a completely new micro lens array for the S1R that delivers a far superior IQ than the M or SL cameras. They even had big posters illustrating this new design – it shows a thinner glass plate and also taller micro lenses that look more like LEDs than lenses.

Whatever, the darned thing seems to work very well for my use case, which is to use this as a camera for my M lenses. The live view and loupe zoom works exactly as I was hoping, and focus peaking works very well, too. In fact, the focus peaking is so good that live view is almost (but not entirely) unnecessary.

The S1R is physically quite big, about the size of the Leica SL. So with the M lenses, it looks even bigger compared to Sony A7x cameras + M lens, and the battery grip makes it even bigger. But it is comfortable to hold, if you have bigger hands as I do.

The EVF is excellent and the rear LCD is also pretty darned good. There are also a bunch of other interesting features. One in particular that I think you will like is the pixel shifting, which is done with a capture of 8 shots, four to essentially offset the Bayer filtering and the other four to boost resolution. The claim is, they can crank out 180+ MP images that are near-medium-format. You might like this feature, since you had experimented with this with the Pentax K1.

They also have an automated focus stacking that can start from a specified location in the frame and take a specified number of steps in a specified step size. So you could combine pixel shifting + focus stacking to get very high res and very sharp images. The firmware has some motion sensing algorithm that is supposed to compensate for detected movements. The Panasonic rep also bragged that their AF lenses have almost no focus breathing, which makes the focus stacking even more effective. It looks like there are a lot of other feature / function innovations. E.g., image review steps through some 4-5 different views that includes RGB and overall histograms.

FWIW, I’m sending you a few test shots, in a separate email, so you can decide if you want to download them now (only ~5 MB, not super huge). I can’t look at the RAW files yet in either LR or Capture One, but I also saved JPEGs, which is what I’ve seen so far. These are 100% views in Capture One saved as screen captures. So they show you exactly where they came from in the frame. All these were quick-and-dirty shots, so I know with just a little more time, I can squeeze out better IQ. My guess is, processing the RAW files will also improve the IQ. But I’m pretty satisfied with what I could grab given the brief time, busy environment, sub-optimal lighting, etc. I didn’t get to test the sensor for high ISO and dynamic range. It is what it is. The colors look accurate.

Net-net, I’m pretty excited that I now have a camera that I can really use with my Leica M lenses, and I’m planning to get the S1R. The Panasonic rep says the freebie battery and grip was as a promotion, and not because Panasonic realized they overpriced the camera, and he denied this was a face-saving method of lowering the price. He swears the price will remain the same once the promotion is over next week. I don’t fully trust that, but the S1R does boast a lot of new features and functions that one up the Sony A7R III. So at least for a while, until Sony comes out with the A7R IV, maybe it’s true that they will try to hang on to the price.

More profoundly, after a decade of sleep walking by Canon and Nikon, the leadership in photography is now firmly in the grip of Sony and Panasonic, I think. From the D100/D1X through the Nikon D850/D5, (and similar progression of model numbers from Canon), apart from resolution and faster processing (both of which came from Moore’s Law), there has been very little innovation in cameras in the past nearly 20 years. In the past ten years, we have seen one dramatic new paradigm after another from the mirrorless guys that the DSLR users had no idea about.

I look at what Sony has done with its A7R III and A9, and now Panasonic with the S1R, and inevitably, what Sony will have to and will likely do in the A7R IV and A9 II, and with Sigma likely jumping in with a FF Foveon L-mount camera, there’s going to be a lot of excitement. Maybe this will be the golden age of photography.

Nikon and Canon are simply not culturally set up to innovate like this, and I wonder how they’re going to play this. The DSLR parade they were leading is rolling over a cliff, and the new parade is led by Sony, Panasonic, Fuji, Olympus, and even Leica and Sigma after the L mount alliance, not to forget the medium format guys.

DIGLLOYD: sounds promising! The competition should get intense in the next year, which is great news for photographers.

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