Less than a month after the Nikon Z and Canon R announcement, Panasonic, Leica, and Sigma are joining forces to propose a new full-frame mirrorless system based on the Leica L-mount. Unlike Canon and Nikon, the specifications seem superlative.
What Are the Specifications of the Cameras?
Due to the ongoing development, details are scarce at this time but Panasonic announced the design of two full-frame mirrorless cameras: the S1R (47mpx) and the S1 (24mpx). Here are the main specifications:
IBIS and Dual Image Stabilization
Like the GH5 or the G9, the new full frame cameras will come with the Dual IS feature. In-body image stabilization (IBIS) works in tandem with in-lens optical stabilization to maximize stabilization. In-body and in-lens stabilization can be used separately or activated together to minimize jitter more effectively.
Panasonic still stick to its AF contrast DFD technology (Depth from Defocus) while many people were expecting a switch to the PDAF or Dual Pixel AF system.
Video has always been a strength with Panasonic. The GH4 and GH5 cameras are packed with video features (high frame rate, video assist, 6k mode, extensive anamorphic support) and the new S1 et S1R will be capable of recording in 4K60. The presence of a log curve, 10 bits recording, and high frame rates at a lower resolution are unknown. As with the Nikon Z system, the lower resolution S1 camera should be more capable in video mode than the 47mpx S1R. Panasonic said the 24mpx S1 is expected to be used around 70% for stills and 30% for video while the S1R will be "purely for photographers."
Does It Shoot 8k?
No, but a slide from the conference shows that Panasonic plans to implement 8k video in the Lumix line for the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020.
Robust and High Speed Shutter
The company claims the cameras will have the “highest flash synchro speed.” The “robust” nature of the shutter might imply a high shutter actuation rating.
Large High Resolution EVF
According to Camera Jabber, the EVF has a higher resolution than the Canon-Nikon-Sony cameras: “As yet I don’t know the resolution of the screen or viewfinder. However, Panasonic has said that the resolution of the electronic viewfinder (EVF) will beat the competition. Canon, Sony, and Nikon all have EVFs with 3,690,000 dots, so that’s promising news for the S1R.”
Panasonic didn’t give any details about the EVF but the Leica SL camera developed by Panasonic came with a gigantic 4.4 million pixels EVF with 0.8x magnification and 100% coverage. Therefore, the S cameras might inherit from the experience of these companies.
Double Card Slot Based on XQD and SD Format
The lack of dual card slots on the Nikon Z and Canon R mirrorless camera created a lot of frustrations but Panasonic did not follow the same path and the S cameras will feature a dual card slot based on the high performance but expensive XQD card and the traditional SD format.
Three-Axis Tiltable Screen
Both cameras will be equipped with a “three-axis touchscreen LCD” similar to the screen found on the Fujifilm X-T3 (up and down, left to right). However, some may regret the regular articulating screen like the one on the Canon R or Lumix GH5.
Full Weather Sealing and Resistance to Low Temperature
The S system is oriented toward professionals. As such the bodies are fully weather resistant and designed to work in cold environments.
What About the Size and Ergonomics?
The cameras ergonomic seems close to the Panasonic G9 and it features a top panel LCD screen. There is no official information about the size of the new camera but a first hands-on impression by Photographyblog reveals that “The Panasonic S1R/S1 is a physically big camera, and the 50mm f/1.4 is a physically big lens. Panasonic’s new full-frame system is quite a lot bigger than Sony’s and Nikon’s, being more akin to Canon’s in size with regards to both the body and the lens.”
When Are They Going to Be Released?
The S1 and S1R cameras should be available in March 2019.
What Is the Mount and Which Companies Support This New Mirrorless System?
The Panasonic camera will use the L-mount from Leica. Initially introduced on Leica APS-C camera (TL mount) the L mount is being adopted by Panasonic and Sigma who are officially forming the L-mount alliance. Leica explains that “the mount will allow for a nearly limitless array of options by combining different interchangeable lenses with cameras featuring different sensor formats. This user-friendly solution pioneered by Leica in strategic collaboration with Panasonic and SIGMA, three key players in the camera space, will allow photographers to mix and match any of the three manufacturers’ full-frame and APS-C cameras with any lens from each other’s product portfolios, thereby opening an untold number of creative possibilities in any photographic situation.
In terms of mount size, the L-mount (51mm) sits between the narrow Sony E mount (46.1mm) and the large Canon R mount (54mm) and Nikon Z (55mm).
Essentially, the L-mount alliance is strengthening a long term partnership between Leica and Panasonic where Panasonic handles the electronic development while Leica brings its optical know-own to the mix. The addition of Sigma to this alliance is very promising for the future of the L-mount system since Sigma has become one of the best lens manufacturer since the company made a strategic shift a few years ago. The Sigma Art lenses are exceptionally good and well-priced.
Are Other Companies Going to Join the L-mount Alliance?
The extent of the L-mount alliance is unknown at this point but it may become a new standard in the future. Initially formed by Panasonic and Olympus in 2008, the Micro Four Thirds standard has been adopted by many companies since its inception. Camera bodies are available from Blackmagic, DJI, and Xiaomi and others. Furthermore, many manufactures also propose lenses for this system (Tamron, Samyang, Tokina, Veydra, DJI, Voigtländer, Kowa, SLR magic, etc.). Hopefully the L-mount alliance will meet the same success but surprisingly, Olympus didn't join the alliance.
Is the Micro Four Thirds Standard Dead?
No, Panasonic confirmed that it will continue to develop the MFT line. In fact, Panasonic and Leica announced a new MFT Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 zoom lens today.
What Are the L-Mount Lenses Available for This System?
Ten lenses will be available by 2020 and three lenses are going to be released at launch with the cameras:
- 50mm f/1.4
- 24-105mm (unspecified aperture but 24-105mm lenses are usually constant f/4)
- 70-200mm (unspecified aperture, probably constant f/2.8 or f/4)
Wealthy photographers can already purchase one of the six Leica SL lenses ranging from $4,700 to $6,400… If you are not a member of the Fortune club, Handevision proposes cheaper manual lenses alternatives.
In 2019, Sigma will release its first L-mount lenses. They will begin to adapt existing lenses to the L-mount of and then develop dedicated L-mount lenses.
What About the Price?
No prices were announced during the conference but we can reasonably expect that Panasonic is going to align its offering with the ones of Nikon and Sony. As such, the S1 camera should cost within $2,000-2500 to match the Nikon Z6 and Sony a7 III bodies while the high-end S1R should be available at $3,500 or $4000 like the Nikon Z7 and Sony a7R III. These are very rough estimates.