Is Panasonic’s S1 Going to Flop?

Is Panasonic’s S1 Going to Flop?

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.

One locks you in, and the other doesn't always work.

Lens Compatibility

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.

This is the first cage available for the S1, adding to the bulk.

The Size

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.

To ditch the GH5's power is somewhat understandable, but missing menu items is an issue.

Incapability

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.

Conclusion

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.

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43 Comments

revo nevo's picture

Yeah for Landscape I think panasonic S1 and S1R will be the best mirrorless cameras since sensor does not have banding, it has nice LCD and EVF , pixel shift , illuminated buttons, rugged build...

michaeljin's picture

Pixel shift is useless for landscape.

I actually own the s1r... it is not useless at all

michaeljin's picture

Yeah? So all of those little leaves in the scene stay perfectly still and don't move even 1 pixel while you take your multiple exposures? I'm guessing you take your landscapes in outer space or somewhere where there is no atmosphere?

You sound a bit too aggressive for the situation. I'm not saying that your argument is right or wrong, but simply that there is no need to jump down his throat.

michaeljin's picture

You sound a bit too sensitive for the situation. I'm not saying that your argument is right or wrong, but simply that there's no need to defend someone who is clearly capable of responding himself/herself.

Ryan Luna's picture

Spoken like a man that has never photographed the desert southwest of the United States.

michaeljin's picture

I'm sorry. I wasn't aware that the desert southwest of the United States were complete vacuums where atmosphere, wind, and natural vibrations from the earth didn't exist. It's good to know that the desert southwest of the United States is a pristine place where absolutely nothing ever moves (including clouds in the sky). I'll keep that in mind if I ever head down there.

Ryan Luna's picture

You're clueless and must have never been to a desert environment where there are no leaves or scenery that is affected by wind such as Joshua Tree, Death Valley, a lot of the Eastern Sierra, Utah, Arizona...etc.... You're just another toxic person.

michaeljin's picture

I'm sorry. I didn't know clouds, sand, and branches weren't affected by wind. My bad.

Mind you, I never said that I'm not a toxic person. I just happen to believe that stupid comments are well deserving of toxicity. Take that as you will.

Ryan Luna's picture

I honestly get the feeling you don't have much experience photographing a desert scene. Yes, there are some scenarios in which not everything is perfect still for 1-2 seconds, but there are vast opportunities in which the scene is highly static. I cannot argue with you any longer because I don't think you have a lot of experience on the matter. Also, Pixel Shift is great for product photography in the studio.

michaeljin's picture

Or perhaps you just have a lot of experience photographing a particular desert scene. There are many different deserts in the world and they are not all the same.

The deserts that I've been to tended to have wind blowing sand quite a bit. I don't know what particular deserts you go to where wind seemingly doesn't exist, but I haven't been to those. Maybe Death Valley is one of them. I wouldn't know as I haven't been out there.

As for pixel shift technology I only said it was useless for landscape and that was specifically because of the natural motion present in nature. For studio work such as product photography or art reproduction, it's a fantastic tool.

All that being said, a lot of it does come down to personal tolerance. Some people don't care about tiny artifacts caused by grains of sand moving or even leaves blowing in the wind. In most cases, I wouldn't either except for the fact that artifacts caused by motion when using pixel shift occur all over the place and are not easily removed as seams in a traditionally stitched image where you know exactly where the problems will be. This also happens to be one of my gripes with exposure blending in natural scenes as well.

Ryan Luna's picture

I've lived in Southern California for 20+ years of which I've been photographing the deserts in the region the past 5ish years. I typically go out to one of the many surrounding desert regions 10+ times per year. I can assure you pixel shift would be great for many, many desert situations. You're referring to images in which you have prominent foreground objects when using a ultra wide angle lens. I agree, pixel shift may have a hard time dealing with moving shrubs, sand, and such that are relatively close to the lens. There are millions of other compositions that you don't need to have such prominent foreground objects, and for you to say "pixel shift is useless for landscape" is grossly wrong. Not everyone photographs in blue hour where you need 1+ second long exposures, (times 4 for pixel shift). You can utilize pixel shift in brighter more well lit scenes where the shutter speeds are much faster.

michaeljin's picture

I was born and raised in NYC so the only deserts I've been to have either been overseas or south of the border. I've not had the pleasure of heading out west or visiting any of our many national parks so I'll take your word for it as far as the conditions you describe.

Places like Death Valley are certainly on the bucket list. Mind you, that's assuming that I don't hang myself sometime before that. 🤣

So The motion reduction mode works extremely well. Here are links to images I took in High Res mode.
https://www.summitbidphoto.com/Image-Galleries/Colorado-Front-Range/i-6r...

https://www.summitbidphoto.com/Image-Galleries/Colorado-Front-Range/i-cX...

https://www.summitbidphoto.com/Image-Galleries/Rocky-Mountain-National-P...

The camera also takes a normal (47mp) image when you take a High Res photo and I closely examined both images and have yet to find an issue with the High res image. If anything, it has ruined the regular images because the High res images are incredible!

michaeljin's picture

Big question for me here is if you're depending on processing out motion anyway, why not just take a long lens, a gimbal, and stitch together a pano that will end up being a lot larger than 187MP anyway?

Clearly, pixel shift doesn't capture a singular moment in time and it requires processing to account for artifacts created by any scene where even a tiny amount of motion is present. Seems to me like you'd get far better results by stitching together separate shots with a longer lens. It's not like anything in the scene is moving anyway, right?

I have spent most of my career doing just that with panoramas and will continue to do so. Honestly, the high res files are very similar in quality to Panos I have taken. I think this might be a don't knock it until you've tried it situation. The user experience is very quick and straight forward, so much so I was able to shoot handheld high res mode with about a 90% effective rate with the 70-200. I'm sure there will be situations where the High Res mode will not be the best choice. As it stands right now, it is a very effective tool and I'm very excited about having it in my toolbox.

The serious French website I follow, that does a ton of measurements and tests, seems to think the S1 and S1R are actually better than Sony's, Canon's and Nikon's equivalent... They say Panasonic's autofocus is actually better than Sony's which really surprised me. What are the issues other reviewers mention ? Coz size and lens compatibiliy were problems known beforehand. The video one I can understand, but it's supposed to be a stills camera. So, in terms of photography, is there any issue ?

I think a company like Panasonic has made such a splash in video that when it puts out a more stills oriented product that tends to get ignored. These two bodies really are still cameras that happen to do amazing video. Will they have an S series camera dedicated more towards video. I think so. Of course, I have no inside knowledge.

In AF-S, it may be faster, but that's it. In AF-C, the Sonys will be faster, and easier on the eye. And it's no contest with adapted lenses, which are essentially native on Sony at this point. So if you're shooting sports or fast moving animals/kids, etc., Sony cameras are your best bet by far in mirrorless.

You guys still in Charleston? I live here and have an S1 if you want to do a real review and not this empty speculation. 😂... I shoot with a7iii, GH5 and now this S1 with F4 24-105 and I literally don’t want to pickup another camera at the moment. Mostly because this camera can see in the dark, the video quality is ridiculous and it’s quite literally the most ergonomic camera I’ve ever held...

Oliver Kmia's picture

Good feedback. Thanks.

Yeah, I feel the same. I’m not trying to justify my purchase either. I’m looking for faults and they are there and I will find more because every system has them. However, I’m VERY happy with the S1 and that 24-105 F4, a lens I thought I would scoff at. It’s an extremely capable lens and very sharp. The 2.8 lenses will be here soon enough. While that 50mm 1.4 is expensive, it is out of this world excellent as I tried it at a launch event. Their uphill battle is the fact that people are afraid of anything new and getting people to actually try your product is hard as well.

Oliver Kmia's picture

I have the same feeling: a huge camera which is more expensive than the competition. For what? The specs don't seem that impressive. We were waiting for a FF GH5 and it looks like a half-baked product. Plus Panasonic really needs to get rid of the contrast-detect autofocus.
That being said, I'll have to try this camera by myself. It's too early to tell at this point.

So glad to see you write that last line about trying it yourself. I think you are going to be pleasantly surprised. As far as price for the body, the superior IBIS, superior EVF, two card slots, 4K 60p (albeit cropped), great ergonomics, to name but a few things make the slightly higher price over the competition valid. Granted Sony has the lenses NOW and the price is cheaper, but something about the body doesn’t sit well with me. However, I know people who love the Sony ergonomics and more. So it really comes down to trying them out as you said.

Oliver Kmia's picture

Same here, I've shot with Sony cameras before. I love the image quality but hate the feel and ergonomics. Looking forward to try the S1 or S1R.

Apparently the autofocus is actually on par with Sony, even better in low light for some reviewers... But I haven't seen it tested in sport and fast wildlife like birds though. Waiting on the Northrups for that.

For photography the S1 has surprisingly good AF... NO WHERE near like an A9 of course with continuous autofocusing at burst shooting at freakin 20 FPS ... for videography the autofocus I have found to be no less reliable than the A7iii or A9 ... what I mean by no less reliable is that you have to watch where it's choosing to focus but this is an issue for me even on my a7iii with it's 693 focus points... cameras cannot predict what person you want to make sure is the one in focus, etc. Especially with gimbal work, you have to remember to set your focus areas and remember where they are. I have found that in this respect, the S1 handles the task just as good as my A7iii, if not better honestly... if anything I would say I experience smoother focus pulls from it than the Sony.

Respectfully, I really don't understand your comments ... I've said it before on here but I shoot with a GH5 with adapted sigma 1.4 18-35 and I also shoot with a Sony a7iii. I would say I am a GH5 fan like you and for sure it's my go to ... BUT having this camera is like having both of those in one camera. It can do low light better than the Sony and it can do the 60FPS 4K with YES.. a crop... but still no more crop than the adapted GH5... Yes the menus kind of suck at the moment to adjust ISO and other settings while in this 60P mode... BUT, adjust it ... set it to a memory preset and BOOM... you never have to go there again until a firmware update fixes that issue.

Oliver Kmia's picture

All good mate. I hear you. This is just my personal feeling based on specs but I'm glad that most S1/S1R users love this camera. Now I need to get one and see by myself.

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