Background: see Panasonic S1R Multi-Shot High-Res Mode: the Largest Advance in Image Quality in a Decade and It Works with Motion = OMG and Panasonic S1R Multi-Shot High-Res Mode: the Largest Advance in Image Quality in a Decade?.
For the best possible results with Panasonic S1R Multi-Shot High-Res Mode, see Panasonic S1R: Best Shooting Practices for Multi-Shot High-Res Mode.
Reader Roy P writes about Panasonic S1R Multi-Shot High-Res mode:
I downloaded an RMA from B&H to return the Panasonic S1R and almost shipped it back on Friday, but my gut said I should play with it some more over the weekend, and especially check out the multi shot high res mode.
I’m glad I did. I took a bunch of test shots of the same scenes with both my PhaseONE IQ4 150MP + Schneider 80mm f/2.8 (~55mm equivalent) and the S1R with my Leica 50mm f/2 APO-Summicron-M ASPH, the only HQ lens I have that could work well with the S1R without introducing significant complications of its own. I tested both Mode 1 and 2 on the S1R. All my P1 shots were at f/11 (~f/6.8) and the S1R were at f/6.3.
While I’m not ready to declare medium format is dead, I think the high res mode in the S1R is for real and must be taken very seriously. For static scenes, it looks nothing less than spectacular, and at least on my iMac 5K 27” monitor, the images look every bit as good as my PhaseOne IQ140 images, but with even more pixels. The HR images from the S1R look slightly darker and more saturated than my P1 images, but it’s not a problem.
I have tried pushing the exposure up by 4 stops (the max that Capture One will allow), and maxing out the shadows, and nothing is breaking down: the S1R files appear to be holding up just as well as the P1 files. I don’t know if there might be a noticeable difference in print quality, but at least on my monitor, I see no issues at all.
Extremely precise focus is a problem with both cameras, so if you have an uneven surface with some features in the scene a little closer to the camera and some a little farther away, you can see the differences between the two cameras – different parts of the image are at the sharpest focus on the two images. From a distance of about 10 feet, a difference of ±2 inches proximity to camera seems enough to make a difference.
You almost need another merge that could combine the S1R and IQ4 images that could produce the perfect image! Of course, that would be impossible with two different lenses.
It looks like the S1R HR mode works best when you can contain all of the subject to within a fairly narrow DOF. It looks ideal for flat subjects, the flatter the better. In scenes with a lot of depth, the fall off from best focus is much more rapid in the HR composite image than either individual S1R images or P1 images. So if you have a lot of depth to a scene, maybe focus stacking HR images would be the ultimate! I am going to try this next.
So far, in Mode 2, I haven’t had the success you did, with features like leaves swaying with the wind even sharper in the composite image – the best result I’ve got is that there are no motion blurs, but without the sharpest focus either. The worst results I’ve seen are HR images with a bizarre patch that is badly OOF. [diglloyd: moving things will be blurred more or less depending on circumstances].
This maybe a premature guess, but I suspect the two best focal lengths to use with the HR mode maybe very wide (so movements are less perceptible, and the focal length buys you a great deal more DoF), and long (so the field is small enough that you can dodge movements, and the DoF is compressed to a relatively narrow range). A more normal focal length range (say 35mm to 70mm) is probably the most challenging to work with the HR mode.
[diglloyd: focal length is mainly about magnification, focal length applying mostly at close distance: a 70mm lens makes CoC blurs twice as large at the same aperture and distance to subject, but at twice the distance (which it must be for the same FoV), the CoC will be the same size as a 35mm lens at half the distance]
Net-net, I agree with your assessment, the HR mode has got to be considered as a breakthrough technology. Considering this is the very first generation of this technology, the results are already very impressive and highly usable, albeit with the proper selection of subject matter and careful technique (many opportunities to create new best practices using the HR mode!). It can only get better over time, with more compute power in cameras and other camera makers trying to one up Panasonic.
It makes it a bit messy for me personally, since I am already neck deep-committed to Sony and P1, and I expect I will have a hard time resisting a Sigma Foveon FF camera, and possibly a Leica M11 camera if it comes out with a high quality EVF. So the last thing I need is one more camera, and other than the HR mode, I have no use case for the S1R, and I don’t want to invest in L mount glass, if I can help it. So I need to figure out what I’m going to do with the S1R.
I can’t see how every other camera maker can afford to not provide it as a standard feature. All prior innovations from one camera maker have been copied by others in time (e.g., Live View, PDAF, AF points embedded in a sensor, focus peaking, IBIS, etc.) So unless Panasonic has some kind of a death grip IP ownership on this, I would expect the other camera makers to be working overtime to introduce their own versions in their next cameras. (Besides, the Japanese have a way of sorting out their IP issues). A Sony A7R IV with similar HR mode would make all my headaches go away! No speculations from any of the rumor sites yet. I suspect most of the photography world hasn’t quite woken up to the potential of the HR mode in the S1R.
DIGLLOYD: depth of field is critically important in HighRes mode. And yet Panasonic has made critical focus with manual focus impossible, or I should say it this way: I am not able to nail focus even a third of the time using magnified Live View. Never has any digital camera delivered a magnified Live View feature that is so destructive to need. So the #1 issue with the Panasonic S1R is its magnified Live View implementation—see Panasonic S1R: Magnified Live View is Fundamentally Flawed. Yet the flaw is fixable with a firmware update, so there is some hope that Panasonic will wake up.
See Panasonic S1R: Best Shooting Practices for Multi-Shot High-Res Mode.