The S1 has just started shipping, and the reviews are a little mixed. Will it work how you need it to?
I’m very excited to see where the S1 and S1R cameras will go, as I love Panasonic’s GH series. To me, brands like Panasonic has been at the front of trying to deliver a no-compromise system. The polar opposite to Canon and Nikon. While I think the S1R will find success in it’s own space, I’m concerned that S1 doesn’t compete as the videography sibling.
It suffers from issues that should have been fixed out of the gate. I fear the S1 is asking consumers to make a leap of faith, that they can’t necessarily back up. There’s three glaring issues.
Sony’s mirrorless lineup is probably where it is today, because customers could adapt their existing lenses to it without a hitch. Panasonic’s GH5 also relies on Metabones’ adaptors to bridge the gap between Micro Four Thirds and Canon’s glass. Investing in an adaptor instead of a suite of lenses is the make or break difference for a new camera system.
Picking the Leica L mount was a smart move from Panasonic, I thought. In the wake of Canon and Nikon announcing mirrorless lens lineups, this was the perfect time to steal customers. However, it looks like their lens adaptor situation is less than amazing. Also, Panasonic's new L mount lenses don't appear to work with Leica cameras, so investing in them seems ridiculous.
There are existing lens adaptors for the L mount system, and they all appear to suck. Even if they have electronic compatibility with the lens, they struggle to get the basics done and tend to have a narrow set of lenses that actually work. Granted, this is just from what I've read. That’s something that should have been fixed before the S1 and S1R launch, right?
Luckily, Sigma came to save the day. Or at least we hoped so. Unfortunately their MC-21 adaptor is severely limited. They only promise that it will work with certain Sigma EF mount lenses, and it appears that continuous autofocus will not work. Probably fine if you’re an S1R landscape photographer, but not good enough for the S1 video-gimbal crowd.
I imagine the S1 users will want to put a cage around it, for video work. This means that it’s going to be absolutely enormous. The S1R, being geared towards photographers less than videographers, probably won’t suffer the same issue.
Listen, I’ve no qualm with the ambition in cramming so much into these mirrorless bodies. However I wonder if a rigged up S1 is so huge, that users will simply opt for more dedicated video cameras. Could they could have mitigated this by building more mounting points onto the camera body? Blackmagic’s Pocket Cinema Camera 4K has a quarter twenty mount instead of a hot shoe, which helps with this issue. Either way, filmmakers are going to want to mount audio gear, and perhaps a monitor, onto this.
The GH5 and GH5s punch way above their weight. They benefit from a small sensor, and that the data readout isn’t too much as a result. Unfortunately the S1’s full frame sensor generates a whole lot of data, and it seems like Panasonic haven’t caught up.
The software in the camera as of now limits you to an APS-C crop when shooting in a high frame rate. Inexplicably, you can’t seem to control aperture or ISO when in these modes – not unless you use a work around. So it seems as though the software is a little half baked right now, and they haven’t really pushed the camera to its limits. Could this be because Panasonic wanted to join Canon and Nikon on the full frame mirrorless train? Either way this looks like a rushed job.
There’s also a lack of compatibility with their own accessories. The hot shoe mounted XLR audio adaptor for the GH5 is intended to work with the S1. Unfortunately, while the GH5’s menu can change the sample rate, the S1 can only turn the unit on and off. It’s almost as if they ran out of time on that one.
I’d wait, maybe until the end of this year, before buying an S1. Buying this camera now would be like committing to a significant other in the hopes of “changing them”. The other risk is that you get locked into the L mount system, when Canon’s EF is a lot more flexible.
In my eyes, Panasonic’s customers shouldn’t have to figure this out on their own. Panasonic should have helped other brands to create an adaptor as good as Metabones can make. They should have helped third party manufactures create rigs and cages for the camera (so far there’s only one available). Of course, they should have made sure obvious features from the GH5 and GH5s are carried over.
Ending on a positive note though, I do like that the camera’s focus peaking remains turned on whether you’re in AF mode or manual. A nice touch and I wish more cameras had this. Here’s to hoping the Panasonic S1 can keep its head above water this year and fight off Sony. I'm sure they have a few tricks up their sleeves, especially if CFexpress makes its way into the lineup.