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Panasonic adds a full-frame mirrorless system, adopts Leica L mount with Lumix S1 models

Create: 02/18/2019 - 21:18
Panasonic Lumix S1/S1R system

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Two models share same body
  • New system to use L mount with support from Leica, Panasonic and Sigma
  • Panasonic promises 10 lenses by 2020

Panasonic has been a strong player in the Micro Four Thirds arena, providing a number of cameras for that format, including its GH4 and GH5, which have become very popular with video makers.

While Panasonic isn’t abandoning the consortium, it is embarking on a new journey by jumping into the full-frame mirrorless market.

The Panasonic Lumix S1 and S1R represent the company’s first full-frame offerings. That’s been a hot segment, making it the third company within the past year to debut such products. Canon and Nikon each announced full-frame mirrorless systems late last year.

To maintain brand identity, Panasonic is continuing to use the Lumix name for these cameras. It’s a name that Panasonic has used for its digital cameras since 2001.

Notable with this camera is Panasonic’s use of the Leica L mount. Panasonic already partners with Leica, using the German company’s lens designs for a number of optics for the Micro Four Thirds mount.

Using the L mount offers current owner of the Leica SL full-frame mirrorless camera a lower-cost option for lenses, while Lumix S1/S1R owners have the opportunity to purchase a premium Leica lens. The L mount agreement also includes Sigma, which will produce lenses.

Before getting to the initial three lenses, a quick look at the bodies.

SAME BODY, DIFFERENT SENSORS

Both cameras are built on the same body shell and offer mostly the same features. The bodies themselves are physically identical, aside from the model number that sits just beneath the flash-synch port.

The primary difference is the sensor:

  • The Lumix S1 has a 24.2-MP CMOS sensor with a maximum ISO of 51,200. There is a low-pass filter in front of the sensor.
  • The Lumix S1R has a 47.3-MP CMOS sensor with a maximum ISO of 25,600. There is no low-pass filter in front of the sensor.

Both cameras offer a special “high resolution mode” that allows each to record a single image of 96-MP for the S1 and 187-MP for the S1R after taking eight photos in rapid succession. Those photos are then merged in-camera to create the final image. This intended for landscapes, still photography and portraits.

The cameras have both and OLED electronic viewfinder and an LCD monitor. In this case, it’s a touch-enabled 3.2-inch monitor with tri-axial tilt. That is, the LCD monitor can tilt up and down and swing to the right. It does not flip upward for selfies. It’s not that kind of camera.

Both cameras are able to record 4K video and have some special features for the videographer. When shooting 4K 60p video, recording is limited to 15 minutes for the S1R and 29 minutes, 59 seconds for the S1. When shooting video at resolutions of 4K 30p or lower, that time limited is lifted for both models. However, heat build-up during extended shooting might cause the camera to turn itself off, Panasonic says.

The bodies uses five-axis dual image stabilizers and can work in conjunction with image-stabilized lenses.

OTHER FEATURES

The body is dust and and water resistant and is constructed on a magnesium alloy frame.

The camera’s many buttons are backlit, which can prove to be useful when shooting in low light. The “Operation Lock Lever” sits to the left of the viewfinder and disables most of the switches and dials and prevents the photographer from accidentally changing the settings.

The cameras have WiFi and Bluetooth, as well as the ability of one camera to transmit its settings to other nearby cameras, when needed. This could be a useful tool for the studio photographer when setting custom white balance.

Each can be tethered via USB 3.1 Type C and controlled remotely by a computer. The Lumix Sync app also allows for controlling the camera wirelessly with a smartphone or tablet. The app maintains a constant connection with a smartphone or tablet.

Ports include HDMI Type A, and there is a cable lock holder to prevent accidental unplugging. There also is a port for connecting an external microphone, while a headphone jacks allows the videographer to monitor and check audio.

It's not known whether the S1/S1R have both manual and electronic shutters.

Each body has two memory card slots: QXD and full-size SD. A QXD memory card could be useful for video work because of its promised capacity of faster write times and larger capacities than SD. The QXD slot also will accept CFexpress cards when they become available.

Optional accessories include a battery grip and remote control. The high-capacity 3,050 mAh lithium-ion battery can be charged in the camera via the USB cable, and the camera can be used during charging. The USB connection also is used for transferring images and video to a computer.

The S1/S1R lack built-in flashes, as do most top-of-the-line cameras. There is a hot shoe, as well as a flash-synch port.

These are larger cameras: 5.9 x 4.3 x 3.8 inches (148.9 x 110.0 x 96.7mm) and weigh 2.25 pounds (1,021 grams). The S1R weighs less by a negligible one gram.

THREE LENSES AT DEBUT

The S1 series launches with three lenses, and Panasonic says it’s committed to increasing this to 10 lenses by 2020. All of the lenses are dust- and splash-resistant.

Two of the lenses are “S Pro” and have been certified by Leica, while the third is a kit lens. All of the lenses accept 77mm filters.

Lumix S PRO 50mm f/1.4, US$2,299.99

A high-speed so-called standard lens with 13 elements in 11 groups and includes two aspherical elements and three extra-low-dispersion lenses. It uses 11 aperture blades.

Lumix S Pro 70-200mm f/4.0 O.I.S., US$1,699.99

This image-stabilized lens has 23 elements in 17 groups and includes one aspherical element and three extra-low-dispersion lenses. It has nine aperture blades.

Lumix S 24-105mm f/4.0 Macro O.I.S., US$1,299.99

This image-stabilized lens has 16 lenses in 13 groups and inlcudes includes two aspherical elements and two extra-low-dispersion lenses. Its aperture is formed by nine blades.

PURCHASE PACKAGES

Either body can be purchased alone or with the 24-105mm kit lens.

  • S1 body only – US$2,499.99
  • S1 with 24-105mm lens – US$3,399.99
  • S1R body only – $3,699.99
  • S1R with 24-105mm lens – US$4,599.99

The Panasonic Lumix S1/S1R systems are expected to be available in early April 2019.

About the Author

Mike Elek is a longtime journalist and was one of the original editors for The Wall Street Journal Online. He also has worked as a reporter and editor in Pittsburgh; Philadelphia; Vineland, N.J.; Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; New York City; and Hong Kong. He is a U.S. Air Force veteran. He shoots with film and digital cameras.