Panasonic’s latest and greatest cameras will have a much better chance of success.
A few years ago, I wrote about what Panasonic would need to win the full frame fight. Their flagship S1H had killer features, but lacked any reliable way to adapt lenses to L mount. I felt that they didn’t understand their core audience.
When Sony revolutionized full frame shooting with their a7 series, nobody was forced to buy Sony’s glass. Most video-focused users came from the Canon-dominated DSLR arena and simply used their EF mount lenses. This held true for Panasonic’s GH5, which would often get paired with a Metabones Speedbooster adapter.
Unfortunately, the S1 and S1H would only work alongside Sigma’s MC-21 adaptor. It couldn’t work with continuous autofocus and only officially supported Sigma glass. There were also issues with image stabilization. Panasonic essentially said that if you wanted to use the cameras properly, you’d have to invest in expensive L mount lenses.
Soon after, Sony released the a7S III, and Panasonic’s S1H sat in its shadow. Panasonic had the head start, but lacked the ability to convert users to its platform. Now, things might be changing.
Glancing over at Sigma’s website, the MC-21 doesn’t seem to have received specific updates that would help it work better. Nothing about third-party glass or updated autofocus capabilities. So, it came as a surprise this week when S5 II users reported that the MC-21 was working great.
Continuous autofocus is working and just a little bit slower than with native lenses. Canon lenses also don’t seem to cause IBIS issues anymore. This is amazing news, especially since the S5 II’s IBIS seems particularly adept.
Don’t believe me? Check out Kaiman Wong’s test with Canon’s EF lenses. It’s an impressive turnaround from the S1H days.
Can Panasonic Claim Back the Ground They Lost?
The Panasonic S5 wasn’t as groundbreaking as the S1 and S1H. However, the S5II and S5IIX are turning heads with phase detection autofocus. Panasonic is finally cooking with oil, and they’ve opened the door to so many adaptable lenses along the way.
When the S1 was released, Sony’s a7S III was likely around the corner. Panasonic essentially wanted users to spend a few thousand dollars on new glass. The L-Mount Alliance was new to users, and there was no certainty it would last, whereas Sony had a solid lineup of their own lenses, affordable third-party lenses, and adapters. It made more financial sense to pick up a few a7S III bodies than a few S1H bodies.
It will be interesting to see if Panasonic can undo the wrongs from their first full frame launch. Hybrid cameras are a hot market for mid-range consumers, and I’m sure the S5 II is going to get the attention it deserves.