The Panasonic S1 Camera Review. The best I have seen this Year (2019).

The Panasonic S1 Camera Review. The best I have seen this Year (2019).

By Steve Huff

It’s now April of 2019. Mid April. So far, for me, there have not been any cameras that have been released this year that have been as exciting as the Panasonic S1. So far, this is my pick for Camera of the Year 2019, and unless something else come out that touches my heart more than this, it will remain in that spot. Yes my friends,  The Panasonic S1 has been released along with the higher resolution version, the S1R. This review however will focus only on the S1 as I bought my own, and feel the 24MP version is the one to get. Of course, I am biased here as I am a fan of 24 Megapixel sensors. They offer the best of all worlds in my opinion. Low light, dynamic range and enough resolution to print any size you will ever need.

Higher megapixel sensors in a 35mm sensor have their limited place, for example in a studio with controlled lighting, if you are a crop-a-holic or if you want the most detail from a landscape shot you intend to print large, very large, well the S1R may be the best bet. For everything else I feel the S1 is giving you more for your money, and it’s cheaper.

Video Review

The Panasonic S1 is a Leica SL Clone..an improved one..sort of…

It’s no secret I have adored the Leica SL for four years. It just clicked with me, and even now after four years it still speaks to me, and I enjoy it immensely. When I saw Panasonic was coming out with two cameras using the L mount (Leica SL) I was a little excited about it. I was curious to see what Panasonic could do with an SL styled body, but with a newer sensor and EVF as well as in body 5 Axis IS. “Will it replace my Leica”? I asked myself. “NO WAY”! I said back.

But my curiosity was aroused and after 2-3 weeks with this camera my voice that speaks back to me is now singing a different tune.

Two images below..the 1st one using the Canon 50 f/1.2 EF lens via an adapter. This is one of my fave 50’s ever and is amazing on the S1. The 2nd with the 24-105 Kit Zoom, which is also quite nice. Click them for larger! 

When I saw the news of this camera I immediately ordered one from Amazon HERE. After two weeks I canceled that pre order as I was telling myself there was no way it could beat my SL, and I did not want to waste money on a camera when I already have several cameras here. But I had started thinking…”what if” …as in, what if this camera could be “the one” I have been looking for. What I wanted was a pro level build camera that offered best in class low light High ISO, best in class Dynamic Range, was able to use a multitude of lenses, and had to do well with adapted lenses. Video must be decent and I wanted a nice EVF and shooting experience. It seemed the S1 would deliver on that, or at least could if I were to believe the specs and hype. So I re-ordered it on April 4th and it arrived on April 5th.

I received it along with the new 24-105 Kit Zoom lens from Panasonic. I almost ordered just the body but figured it could be good to have this new native lens. With the lens it was not crazy expensive, but priced just under a grand more than the body only. So I made the plunge and had high hopes.

My Plan for the S1…

One reason I enjoy the Leica SL so much is that it feels so good in the hand when using it with Leica M mount lenses. I do not mean JUST Leica branded lenses but also lenses from Voigtlander and Zeiss and even Leica TL lenses like the 35 1.4 T (though you will lose MegaPixels when using APS-C L mount lenses). But using that body with M mount glass or vintage glass (all via adapters) makes this camera so nice to use. The large EVF, the solid build and simple interface made it a long term winner for me. The areas where the SL could use some updates, well, we have them here in the S1 and the S1 comes in at $3500 LESS than a Leica SL that is four years older. Yes, the SL is still relevant but when you have a modern day version of the camera (internally) for $3500 less, it is something I had to take seriously. Leica lovers will pay the extra regardless, as I have but for most out there it is seen as ridiculous to do that when you have a camera that is just as capable, if not more so, for thousands less. But I wanted to see how the S1 would do with small M mount and Canon lenses, adapted to the camera.

All three with the 24-105 Kit zoom, which is actually quite a nice lens. Click for larger. 

Worlds Best…

With the S1 we are getting the worlds best EVF. Yes, of ANY camera made today the S1 has the highest resolution and largest EVF out there, beating the SL, any Sony and the Nikon Z series as well. Once you shoot through it, well, it’s game over. It makes it hard to go back to the smaller cameras. It has spoiled me for sure. Panasonic also put in 5 Axis IS which is amazing if you are shooting video as it will work with ANY lens you adapt. I have been able to get smooth video footage, hand-held, using even a Canon 50 1.2 EF lens, adapted using THIS cheap $35 adapter. I find 5 Axis to be more useful for video use than photo use but it works there as well. Panasonic has one of the best implementations of 5 Axis in their GH5 camera but unfortunately the GH5 lacks in Auto Focus capabilities (yes I tested the most recent firmware and it was still awful for video) where the S1 is much improved in this area.

Low Light and High DR

The new sensor in the S1 brings much improved low light capability and dynamic range, in the real world at least. I have been blown away by the dynamic range coming from the S1 and knocked to the ground by the low light capabilities. In fact, performance wise, THIS IS THE CAMERA I have been waiting 10 years for. A solidly built all weather body that is a joy to hold and handle, a joy to use, can be used with adapted lenses, brings 5 Axis that is well implemented (even to adapted lenses) and gives us a sensor that is a low light monster as well as bringing crazy DR to the table. Add the EVF and BAM! This is my perfect camera, for me. Adapted lenses or native lenses which can be used from Leica, Panasonic or the new Sigma lenses and we have a mirrorless camera that we have never really seen before. My plan for the S1 was to use it 90% of the time with adapted lenses from Voigtlander, Leica, Zeiss and even Canon. That’s just how I love to shoot and see the world.

Click images for larger. The 1st two shot with the Voigtlander 35 1.2II at ISO 6400 at night. The 3rd was (I believe) shot with the Canon 50 1.2 EF. 

Pick a Lens…Any Lens…

This is a body you can mount nearly ANY lens to, which is the beauty of mirrorless. You can not do this with ANY DSLR. Not possible. But with a camera like the S1, Nikon Z, Canon EOS-R, Sony A series…you can. But not all cameras are created equal in this regard. Some cameras just do not do well with adapted lenses and there are scientific reasons for that (which I will not get into) but all that matters is which bodies do good with these kind of lenses and which ones do not.

Two using the 15mm Voigtlander M Mount Lens. It has some vignetting as it does on nearly all bodies. Looks good to me for having no built in lens corrections. 

I have tested the Canon EOS-R that I own with M glass, and was not a fan. I love the EOS-R but it’s just not a good choice for adapting M mount lenses. Same with the Z series by Nikon. The Sony’s do fairly well with M lenses to some extent, and have always been good enough for me but if you are a pixel peeper and zoom to 300% on the corner of an image to look for softness (when it doesn’t even matter if the photo is good) then these bodies will never be good enough for you, even the S1. Some will say that if you want to shoot M lenses, buy an M. Sure, one could do that and many do but I have said for years that for me, shooting these lenses on the SL was a better experience for my style. No rangefinder to drift (when this happens, and it always does, your manual focus will never hit and then a six week wait for service) and with an EVF I can see exactly what I will get in my finished image. I just have come to love a fantastic EVF as it heightens the shooting experience.

A 100% crop from a full frame image using the 24-105 – click it to see it. 

I have been a long time Leica M camera lover but I feel it is time for Leica to finally ditch the RF and put in an EVF into the next M, much like the EVF in the S1. THAT camera would be a game changer. I would buy one as long as it had a great 24MP sensor (not a 47MP sensor which would hold it back in what an M is supposed to do best) and did well in low light and had the same DR traits as the S1 does here. Heck I would even buy one with the “old” Leica SL sensor ; )

But back on topic.

The Leica SL and now the S1 do pretty damn good with M mount lenses, even wide angle lenses like the Voigtlander 15 f/4.5. Even when shooting at ISO 51,200 in almost complete darkness…

It was so dark in this Drive in Theater parking lot I could not see his face. I guessed at the focus as it was too dark to see with my own eyes. Set the camera to SIO 51,200 and shot the Voigtlander 15mm M mount lens. For a shot taken in darkness, at 51,200 ISO this looks pretty good. Yes there is noise, but this is 51,200! When doing ISO tests it is always best to test in VERY low light, as that is when you will need High ISO. Many test it with studio lights or lighting and that is not a good test for ISO performance. When you use light it will create less noise. The darker it is, the more noise. Most cameras in this situation would look like a total mess at this ISO and this shows how good the S1 is at shooting in these conditions. Click it for larger. 

Now one at 51,200 with some ambient (but still very low) light. More light, less noise. But look how the color is retained at this crazy High ISO.

For me, I think this does better than even the Sony A7SII did for me in low light as it may just have better DR at these ISO’s (though I am going from memory, I do not own an A7SII) and retains the color nicely as well. So, I believe this is the best low light digital camera made as of April 2019, or at least up there with the very best. BTW, no noise reduction was used in either of the images above, or below.

ISO 25,600 with a crop – Click It! Using a Voigtlander 35 f/2 Ultron M Mount.

HIGH ISO TESTS

A few test snaps at higher ISO. You can see these compared to the Leica SL HERE.

Looking GOOD at all high ISO’s. The next shot was taken indoors at ISO 51,200. Even at this High ISO, again, it keeps color and detail. This for what I do, is amazing as it is giving me a pro level body with these capabilities in it. It beats the Canon 1dxII for low light and feels just about as solid in the hand while being smaller and giving us that brilliant EVF experience.

ISO 51,200, no noise reduction, Voigtlander 50 1.2 M mount lens. 

The S1 Body

While the S1 has a nice shape and style, for my tastes it does not even come close to the body of the Leica SL. The Leica has clean lines, no buttons, and is super intuitive to use. It’s thin but taller and just has all you need via the dials up top. The SL reminds me of my favorite body design ever, the Hasselblad X1D. On the other hand, the Panasonic S1 is loaded with buttons, dials and controls which most of you will enjoy. The buttons even light up on the back if you are in the dark and need to see them. Just push the light button on top and bam, instant see in the dark controls.

There is a button or dial or knob for anything you can imagine or program to it. Size wise it seems a smidgen larger than the SL but just by a hair. Overall it is basically an SL styled body but with a deeper grip (which many will applaud) and more controls. IT’s more “busy” I should say and doesn’t have the “less is more” approach of the Leica. Even so, it has grown on me over the last couple of weeks. It feels amazing in the hand, and now that I have learned where all the buttons are and what they do I am much more comfy with shooting the body.

I even set up the manual focus control to match that of the SL. When using an M lens or any other adapted manual focus lens you can push the joystick on the back and get an immediate exploded view for critical focus. You can choose to keep this in a small frame or have the entire image in the EVF blow up, which is what I prefer. Using the frame is too small and makes it harder, at least for me. The good thing is that this is all customizable. You can set this up any way you like to make it personal to you.

The battery uses a variant of the medium format Leica S body, and it’s large and powers the SL for a long while. I have charged my battery twice since getting the camera, but I am not a spray and pray shooter. Rather a slow going kind of guy. This S1 has two card slots, and IMO, it is done right. One card is for an SD card, of which I own a ton. The second is for an XQD card much like the one card slot in the Nikon Z cameras (Which I disliked as it is the ONLY option). So dual card slots here in the S1, which is always better than one. I normally do not have issues with one slot but having two is always better.

The body is weather resistant and is pretty responsive when shooting. What amazes me is how well Panasonic did here for their first entry into full frame. They managed to not only compete with the German made Leica  but also managed to surpass it in many ways, beating them at their own game. I do know an SL2 is coming but I do not know how they will compete with Panasonic now that the S1 and S1R are out. When the SL was launched there was nothing like it in the mirrorless world. Now there is, and for much less than the cost of a Leica. We will see soon enough as I hear sometime in 2019 the SL2 will be announced. I expect it to house the 47MP sensor.

The Leica 35 1.4 TL Lens (Native L Mount but an APS-C Lens) is gorgeous on the S1. Sharp wide open, Leica color and bokeh and gives a 50mm equivalent focal length with an f/1.4 aperture. Lens is only one of two TL APS-C lenses made in Germany. Only negative is that you will be in crop mode, so you will get about 10-11MP or so out of that 24MP sensor. This is a lens that would be smarter on the S1R.

DYNAMIC RANGE

The Dynamic Range of the Panasonic S1 is impressing me every day. I will share some images below to show you what I mean. Dynamic Range is something that has been improving slowly but steadily in digital camera sensors over time. If you do not know why this is important, have you ever taken an image with your digital camera and the highlights were blown out? As in, the whites or brightest parts of your image are just blown and not able to be recovered. On the other side of the spectrum, how about shooting with deep shadows and what you wanted to show in a shadow in now invisible in your image? In cameras with low Dynamic Range, Or “DR”, you will blow highlights and lose details in the shadows. With newer sensors that have really good DR, you can save these highlights and details when shooting RAW.

For example, the newer Canon EOS-R does not have top tier DR. The Sony A9 does. When it comes to cameras today it seems Canon has the least impressive DR while Sony and Fuji has some of the best. Well we can now add the S1 to the list of cameras with truly amazing dynamic range. Below are some examples:

Two images below. The 1st one was the JPEG out of the camera. See the door in the background? The lights outside are blown out. The 2nd image is from the RAW where I simply swiped the highlight slider to the left and presto, detail is now seen. We can now see there was indeed something outside of the window, and was it was. This is amazing Dynamic Range in a real world scenario. 


So yes, the DR of the S1 is fantastic. You can save highlights that are pretty blown out or recover shadow detail if you so desire. This is up there with the Sony A7III and A9 series cameras judging from my eyeballs and memory. Again, I do not do scientific tests just real world tests, and it is how I have done my reviews for 11 years now. Using the cameras to see what they can do is the best way to see just what is capable. 

One more example… before up top, after below

The sensor in the S1 has been impressing me every time I use the camera because no matter if the sun is harsh or the sun has set, the results are pleasing. No more worrying about blowing highlights so easily.

The S1 Specs

Funny enough I have already written close to 3000 words and have not posted the official Spec List. I assume most of you reading already know the specs of this camera but if not, below is the list:

  • 24.2MP Full-Frame MOS Sensor
  • Venus Engine Image Processor
  • 5.76m-Dot 0.78x-Magnification OLED LVF
  • 3.2″ 2.1m-Dot Triaxial Tilt Touchscreen
  • UHD 4K60 Video; HDR and 10-Bit Recording
  • ISO 100-51200, Up to 9 fps Shooting
  • Contrast-Detect 225-Area DFD AF System
  • Sensor-Shift Image Stabilization
  • Weather-Sealed Construction

So there they are and I have spoken or touched on all of these points so far, besides the AF performance when using a Native lens. So let’s talk about that now in the simplest way I know how…

Auto Focus Performance

In the past I have tried to love Panasonic Mirrorless Micro 4/3 cameras like the GH5 and GH5s, I even tried the GH5s twice for it’s amazing video quality in low light. My problem with those cameras has been the AF, or lack of it. While I applaud Panasonic for improving this feature with many firmware updates I feel the hardware is flawed here and it is as good as it will ever get in this area. So this alone has turned me off of the GH5 and GH5s and I am well aware many use these cameras every day to create stunning content. I just need AF with my video at times. Note I said “video” as with photos the GH5 series is plenty fast enough as long as you are not shooting action of high speed sports. But when shooting video, which is what those two cameras excel at, the AF is a bummer.

The S1 changes that, and the focus performance of the S1 when using the 24-105 or even the Leica 35 1.4 TL lens is pretty impressive when compared against the older GH5 series. Now, a Sony A9 it is not and no, it does not compete with Canon’s dual pixel AF but the face tracking, eye tracking and even continuous Af work very well indeed. It even has Animal AF, lol.

I was able to shoot video and it held focus on my face every time when testing it in a self shooting scenario. I shot others and it held focus without problem so finally it seems Panasonic has a decent AF camera for shooting video! When shooting photos it is VERY quick indeed, and I have no complaints. Again, if I were to shoot sports it would be with a Sony A9 or Canon 1dXII. If I wanted the best AF performance I could get for moving subjects, quick moving subjects it would be Sony or Canon again.

With that said, the S1 surprised me again in this area and even in low light the AF worked reliably and always locked on. Using their DFD autofocus with Panasonic lenses which is a contrast based AF (no phase detect here) it does a great job.

1st image iso 25k with the Canon 50 EF 1.2, 2nd mage with a Voigtlander 35 1.2II and third with the same lens. 

 

My Conclusion on the Panasonic S1

Quick Conclusion: If you want a full frame mirrorless it doesn’t get much better than this. From build, style, versatility, video, handling, control, EVF, sensor quality, low light abilities or challenging light this is a 100% winner through and through. So far my pick for camera of the year 2019.

All images below shot with Voigtlander M mount lenses…one with the Canon 50 EF 1.2


Long Conclusion: This is a camera that I have found no faults with for what I shoot and use a camera for. It does everything well, which is not easy to find in any camera, even in 2019. First, it has an amazing build and feel. While on the larger side, when using it with small adapted lenses it handles like a dream, and shoots like a dream. The high res giant EVF assures you nail focus easily, even without focus aides, if need be. It’s fast to use, easy to control and offers creative comforts such as dual card slots, 5 Axis IS and the sweet spot 24 Megapixel sensor size. It offers long battery life, and even if using native AF lenses they are not as large as the Leica SL lenses, and come in for much less cash outlay. This is a modern day copy of the $6000 Leica SL but includes a better sensor, better EVF, better battery, adds 5 Axis IS, and a better sensor for $3,500 less. 

Hmmm.

I tried to find something I did not like about this camera and I could find nothing. I would not want it to be mini sized like a Sony A9, and I would not want it to be anything other than what it is. These are some big words I am about to write but I feel this may be the best mirrorless digital camera on the market (not including crazy expensive medium format bodies) regardless of price, but I have to be careful here. This is not a high speed action camera. For that I recommend Sony, Canon and possibly even the Olympus EM1X if you are a Micro 4/3 shooter.

For everything else, this camera just excels at what it does. The IQ is lovely, the low light abilities stunning, the Dynamic Range is up there with the best, it adapts M glass in a way I usually do not see, and it’s a blast to shoot a lens like the Canon 50 1.2 EF on due to the amazing EVF where you can nail focus every time, even at f/1.2. Compared to the EOS-R (that I also own), the Panasonic is only $200 more to buy the body only, yet is a much better camera in nearly every way over the EOS-R. No need to rehash but the only area where the EOS-R wins is with its dual pixel AF and swivel out LCD. The S1 only has a swivel up LCD. Canon needs to release their Pro Level EOS-R but when they do, I expect it to come in at $5k at least. Making the S1 a bargain.

This camera is another nail in the DSLR coffin in my opinion. It’s the realization of what Mirrorless aimed to be. No, it is not “fun size”but it’s still thinner than those fat DSLR’s and offers much more when it comes to versatile and shooting experience. I say this with no brand allegiance, as I have none of that. I just shoot what I enjoy, and it has been a long long time since a camera came along that excited and motivated me like this one has. I guess the S1 has shown me that cameras and most importantly, sensor tech is still evolving.

Do not discount this camera because it is a Panasonic, trust me on this one! I’ve seen a few say “but it is a Panasonic”!! Well, yes, but they have created a fine photographic tool here in the S1.

If not shooting sports, and trying to decide on a mirrorless camera today I can say without hesitation I would recommend the Panasonic S1 without reservation. It is a true pro level camera in all ways yet can also be at home shooting family memories or street photography.

BTW, the shutter is rated to 400K actuations and sounds like a soft buttery swoosh when clicked.

As for video, Panasonic did not outfit the S1 with full pro video specs out of the gate but even so, the video here is impressive if you do not need the best of the best specs and bitrates (I will have a full video review soon, with samples). For YouTube or most content creation, the fact is even 1080P today is still more than good enough. The 4K video coming from this camera looks remarkable to me, and the 5AXIS IS improves it with a more cinematic flair. I still shoot 1080P and own a Canon C100II that I use 3-4X per week for web video creations that receive millions of views. So yes, 1080 is good enough for anything but feature films to be shown on the big screen. Even so, many demand full 4K pro specs, and the S1 doesn’t have them. Yet. Soon Panasonic will give the S1 an upgrade though through a paid firmware update that will add more video specs and Vlog as well. I feel this is wonderful for those who NEED and WANT it as they did not have to raise the price of the camera to include it for those who do not need this. There are less who want this than do, so smart move by Panasonic.

So there ya go, my thoughts on the S1 in a nutshell. I am sure I missed a thing or two as I normally do but if so, I will add to this review very soon. This camera rocks and the L mount alliance will be strong. I predict a bright future for this mount and this camera and lens line. I will have native lens reviews coming for the L mount soon.

All High ISO low light shots below from 6400 ISO to 51,200 ISO – All M mount Voigtlander lenses. 

WHERE TO BUY?

You can buy the Panasonic S1 at Amazon HERE. 

You can buy the Panasonic S1 at B&H Photo HERE.

This is a lens that rocks on the S1, and here is the adapter I use. 

The Leica 35 f/1.3 TL fits natively on this body, and it’s awesome. See my review HERE. 

A super cool lens for under $450 that you can shoot on the S1

See my review of an amazing L mount 50 1.4 

Panasonics 50 1.4 L mount lens


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77 Comments

  1. Considering that this sensor is in the Q2, it’d be awesome to see Panasonic release a full-frame rangefinder-like camera with the new EVF. I’d buy that in a heartbeat.

  2. Thanks for your interesting read. I have also recently purchased the S1 for work as a commercial photographer and was lucky to pick up 2ndH Leica 24-90mm & 90-280mm. Loving all 3 – awaiting the new Lumix 16-35mm vs Leica version to test $/performance.

    Having moved from Nikon after 15 years, I’ve kept all 3 of my Nikon tilt/shifts, micros, a couple of selected Ai primes and use them on the S1 via a Novoflex adapter. However, I want more small/discrete manual focus walk-around prime lenses for street, documentary, causal portraits etc.

    My question to you is do I get Voigtlander M Mount Lens new or 2ndH Leica R lenses? The R lenses can be reasonably priced if you don’t want crazy fast (by R-mount standards f2) and are happy with the Canadian made ones.

    What concerns me slightly is that whilst the M-mount has a short flange (28mm) it does have a narrow throat (40mm) vs the R-mount 47mm flange & throat, the same as the L-mount, at 49mm. What is your view or am I over thinking all this and if you are putting on lenses via adapters flange vs throat size doesn’t matter? Or should I wait and see if Voigtlander make L-mount primes?

  3. Great and very helpful review again, thank you so much, Steve. I’d be very interested in more info on how the S1 works with adapted Canon L glass – in particular with fast lenses such as my EF 50mm f/1.2 (older version recommended by you, love it as you predicted) and the EF 85mm f/1.2 II (only from my dead cold hands…). Despite this fundamental discussion here I prefer having a reliable AF because when I shoot such fast lenses wide open in concerts, in the street etc. because a good AF amends their useability much (I am quite skilled in manual focusing by frequent use of vintage rangefinders, but I know my limits). Do you think the S1 can compete with the EOS R in focusing fast and reliably Canon glass, even in dark environments? I still have not decided which first FF (digital) ML I should add to my DSLRs. Thank you very much in advance for a comment.

    • I posted and wrote about using the S1 with the 50 1.2 EF but only in manual focus mode as my adapter does not AF. I can not pay the $600 for the AF adapter so no way for me to test but it is HIGHLY unlikely it will focus anywhere near what a dual pixel AF camera does from Canon. If you are looking for a first mirrorless, I own the S1, the SL, the EOS-R and have reviewed the Z6, and all of the Sony cameras (of which I used to own). The S1 is by far my fave digital camera this year or in the current crop but the Nikon is nice as well. The Canon, I own it for its 1080 video mode more than anything as I use it as a live stream camera. In regards to noise and DR it lags behind the others in those areas but it has fast AF and the Canon colors. It works well as my live stream camera as it focuses so well. That and the 24 L is what I use live.

      • Thank you again very much, Steve, for your help. I appreciate your opinions and insights since many years. So I followed your other reviews as well, and I noticed that the EOS R is your current 1080 video workhorse. Then I would have to invest in a higher prized adapter to get with the S1 maybe not the AF performance I’d like to have, using my Canon glass. With a simple adapter it would be like transforming the way I shoot my old manually focusing rangefinders (e.g. a New Mamiya 6) into digital age, with helpful features such as focus peaking, of course an option. Hm, still have to think about which ML approach would serve my current needs better. That said, it really looks like Panasonic made a brillant move with the S1.

  4. Steve – thanks very much for the review.
    Did you try the high resolution mode?
    I sometimes need to enlarge to 3 metres wide (about 10 feet) – mainly landscape/inanimate objects.
    Currently shooting on 5D3 for smaller (up to 1.5m (60″)) and a Pentax 67 camera and hi-res scans. Obviously the S1 will be a featherweight by comparison to the 67.
    I really like your results – really impressive and I like the camera form – perfect. It’s just the usability of the hi-res function. Thoughts?

  5. Nice review and it has defo peaked my interest after being with Sony since the first A7.
    How do you get aperture control on the Canon EF 50 1.2?

  6. Thanks for the review of the S1 and for clearly stating limitations as well as strengths. Different people have different needs and preference hierarchies so one camera does not fit all. I can see why you like the S1 but some of the attributes of this camera that appeal to you are irrelevant or do not appeal to me. I have no interest in adapting Leica or other lenses. I seldom shoot low light. I value the best silent shutter, small size and weight, and fast accurate autofocus so the A9 is a better fit for me. I do wish Sony would work on elegant design and ergonomics to go along with their great tech.

  7. Hi Steve! Is there anyway that you could test the S1 variable aspect ratios (65:24 and 2:1) and show them how they look on the camera screen and vf?

  8. DXO have concluded given the incredibly similar test results/scores that the S1 lens is very likely the same as the A7III. Being an owner of the latter it becomes (in my simple mind) a trade off between better handling and EVF in S1 or smaller size (in bag) and better AF in A7III. Probably not enough in it for me to jump ship to Panasonic as I tend to try and cram in a film camera plus lenses wherever I go so the extra size of the S1 will not help. Tempting to try it out though in any event. Good review as always..

  9. Cameras these days are all producing exceptional image quality. If you spend 1500 or more; you are pretty much guaranteed to be able to produce a great photo, less than 1500 in some cases. I haven’t been as excited about new stuff to the degree I was back in 2012 when Sony introduced us to full frame cameras in smallish bodies for the masses with both the Alphas and RX1 respectively. During that period, there was a high degree of enthusiasm and energy for new gear here at SHP. Today, I don’t feel it here, or anywhere for that matter, not like it was when Sony changed the game for us with the A7’s and RX1’s. I don’t blame the host, there’s just so much great gear these days that we’ve become spoiled to a degree and the wow factor is all but gone. As an example; the S1 is very obviously an outstanding piece of kit but not likely to cause too many heavily invested in Sony FF MILC’s to suddenly sell their bodies and lenses and jump on the Panasonic bandwagon for its low light capability. Rumor has it the soon to be announced A7S III will have some unexpected surprises and possibly supplant all others as the new heavy weight low light/high ISO champ and do video better than anything we’ve seen so far…I guess we’ll see later today.

  10. I had totally decided not to jump back into all frame, mainly because I just love my G9. But the pull of a full frame g9 might be hard to resist.

    I fear for my bank account.

  11. Steve,
    The two photos of Debby are phenomenal!! The bokeh is stunning in both. The first is with the Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2. Is the second one also with the 35mm or the 50mm? Since the bokeh is similar in both, I would assume the 35mm. Nice lenses!!
    Question: All I have shot my SL with is MF lenses. Did you ever shoot the SL with the S1 kit lens (24-105mm)? If so, your thoughts compared to the Leica zoom from an optical performance (rendering & bokeh) standpoint?

    • Both are with the 35 1.2 II, just moved in closer for the 2nd one. The Leica 24-90 is superior to the Panasonic 24-105 without question. In build and in IQ and color. It’s also heavier and bigger too.

      • The Voigtlander 35mm f/1.2 looks like a winner!! I tend to prefer 35mm these days over 50mm, so this 35mm is most likely my next M-mount purchase for the SL. Thank you for the excellent review and endorsement 🙂

  12. Great review as always. Just two things. I have never really liked the Panasonic colors preferring Olympus for Micro 4/3rds but somehow these seem more Leica like color wise. Can you comment on how you find the color from the S1 compared to other Panasonics’? My apologies if it is in the article I must have missed it. Also, everyone seems to comment on how Panasonic hit it out of the park on their first try and Nikon and Canon did not. I just want to comment that although this is Panasonic’s first try with a full frame mirrorless sensor they have had many many years of experience of hitting it out of the park with their micro 4/3rds mirrorless cameras. Meanwhile, Canon and Nikon’s mirrorless experience prior to full frame was minimal at best so to bash Nikon and Canon’s first real foray into mirrorless photography compared to Panasonic’s to me is unfair. Just my humble opinion. Anyway great article and as always enjoy reading others comments.

    • Wel, the color can be seen in the image below. Each camera brand has its own color style or as most call it today, “color science”. Leica, Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Hasselblad, Pentax, all have different color. None of these cameras will render color the same. I prefer Leica, then Canon and then Panasonic these days. Olympus is nice as well. Hasselblad is nice but that’s a different format altogether. I do not do color comparisons as this is something that is easy to see just by looking at images in reviews from each brand. Ive shot other Panasonic cameras and the S1 seems to sway a little from the M 4/3 versions in color to my eyes. Just like the Sony A7III swayed from the A7II (for the better).

      Also, I did not bash Nikon or Canon, at all. I own a Canon EOS-R and several lenses and love it for what it is, and what I use it for and gave it a quite favorable review a while back, as I did the Nikon.

      Thank you.

  13. Leica will soon regret to share the L-mount with Panasonic. After the release of S1/R, leica’s niche is going to get smaller.

  14. Setitng cost aside and considering only the user interface… buttons, dials, menu system, would you recommend the SL or the S1/R body?
    I am intrigued by the S1R. I have little use for the 47MP sensor; I tend to agree with you that 24 is probably a good compromise sensor density. I would like the higher MP sensor to use with my TL lenses. I’d get about the same image size I currently get with the Leica CL body but with a body with a little more heft.
    Thanks!

    • If you were ONLY going by User Interface, usability and Menu I would take the SL all day long over ANY digital camera made today in full frame format. Less is more for me.

    • Yea, doesn’t mean I will not review new cameras. This is the first camera in a long time that has really got me excited. It bests one of my fave cameras of all time that I have used for four years (SL) at less than half the cost. What’s not to like. I will only buy what I need these days, and this camera beats the pants off of two other cameras I own when it comes to shooting what I shoot, so was a no brainier. If I did not shoot low light so often I would not have purchased it as that is mostly what I will use it for. But yep, most of us buy cameras when we really do not need them, which I have done many times in life. But if it can improve what I do, make the experience even better and provide better results for much less cash than what I used previously, it’s a no brainer.

  15. I just wanted to say thank you Steve. I hadn’t planned on buying the S1 but after reading your enthusiastic reviews I decided to take the plunge. I got mine last week and I have to say it’s living up top the high praise that you gave it. The 24-105 kit lens is top quality and the camera is a joy to use. That viewfinder – wow. I preordered the Sigma L-EF adapter so I can use my Canon primes and I’ve got the Novoflex M to L adapter on the way. Can’t wait to try it with some quality Manual lenses. As for the weight, with the kit lens it’s so well balanced that it’s not an issue. Steep learning curve for all the buttons & options though. This is one serious camera and an easy candidate for camera of the year.

  16. So I am clear…your saying the S1 will accept Canon EF lenses without an adaptor ? I shoot mostly primes and the thought of paying 5k for a leica prime is just a deal breaker when I have a bunch of Canon EF Primes. Thanks for the great review.

    • No you need an adapter and I even list and link to the one I use here in this review. You can not use Canon glass without an adapter as this S1 uses the L mount, not the EF mount.

  17. To be fair, it should be allowed to say that at close inspection not all M lenses work so well on the S1/R. Serious testers have shown that (e.g. diglloyd). But in practical use the S1 work still better than many other mirrorless cameras. But not as well as the SL. So for serious M users the SL is probably still the better choice.

    • I can only state my findings not someone else’s. In my experience, the lenses I used had no issues, or anything I would call issues. I’m also not a pixel peeper as most of that stuff that some out there test has nothing to do with making an image. The S1 to me is an improved SL, though I still enjoy the SL. Thanks.

  18. Hi Steve. I enjoy your website immensely. Do you think that Zeiss or Voigtlander will ever develop small manual focus lenses for the SL mount as they do for the M mount?

  19. Such a shame that Panasonic cameras usually have a short shelf life. I wouldn’t be surprised to see an S2 or S1a released before Leica release an SL2. The value of older generation digital (in the UK) drops like a stone, so anyone contemplating buying the S1, be aware.

    • That comes with every camera, besides Leica ; ) Leica is in a 4 year refresh cycle, Sony now in a 2-3, Olympus in a 3-4, Panasonic is in a 2-3 year refresh from what it seems. So they are all quite similar. Even so, the S1 is 1/3 the cost of an SL. Even if they released one every year, which they will not, you could upgrade three times for the price of one SL. So that’s at least 6-7 years of new cameras for the price of one 4 year Leica. Actually works out better for the Panasonic.

  20. Steve thanks for the great “real world review”..the only kind worth reading and looking at for me and I’m sure many others

    The one thing I’d love to see if possible, would be more size comparisons. Example – s1 w kit lens next to a Sony A73 or an em1mk2 w 12-100

    I suspect you have those

    The only thing giving me pause w buying s1 is size concern

    But hey as ALWAYS thank you for sharing your s1 experience

    Really enjoyed it

  21. great review Steve
    Panasonic brought to us what I had expected from Canon and Nikon
    will you test the 50mm 1.4 Panasonic lens?

  22. Unfortunately with basically no native fast glass available at launch this camera is dead on arrival. I want fast autofocus lenses 35mm 50mm 85mm and a 24-70 2.8 zoom
    I don’t understand it. How to you launch a camera with one 50mm lens and a F4 zoom. Smh

    • I think you’re wrong there freind

      There are plenty of lens options here

      Aside from the awesome camera, the lens options are/will be a distinct strength

    • Autofocus is a stupid term. It implies something is magically focussing itself. It should always be “user” focus. My beef with AF is that I am always concerned that the camera is picking the wrong focus point that I am scared to compose carefully. With my M9p and my lux, I set my focus and then compose as I please, because I know my focus is already set. I enjoy the control over my images and am not sure if I want my camera to “direct” my pictures instead.

      • I was recently at a friend’s wedding at a castle where the wedding photographer had brought 6 photographers with an army of pro DSLRs and even a drone with canon 5D. The problem is none of the pictures look natural and came out staged with both the guests and the couple. My discreet and sneaky M9P/Lux combo with some elmarit 21 shots thrown in, got some really nice candid shots because noone notices the leica guy with a tiny camera – fiddling with his focus. Even the slow shutter speed shots on the low light dance floor came out great. They just had such a beautiful sense of occasion that the relatively sterile protog shots failed to convey!

        • Hi ,
          Totaly agree with you for AF ,nevertheless super fast AF with eye détection allow us to focus a 85mm wide open without miss focus, you still have 1 second of lag for the candid shot compared to zone focus.
          About your wedding I guess you came closer with the small rangeginder and with a wider lens than the pro zooms, that makes great party photos , I do the same with a small GR .
          Regards
          Pierre

      • To emphasize this point, I was using a friend’s A7RII with the kit lens over the weekend. I cannot tell you how many times, the stupid camera missed focus because it picked a stupid focus point in the center – even after half-press. I think AF is not good focus and is giving up too much control to the camera.

        • The A7RII was and is not known as the best focusing camera. The Sony’s improved dramatically with the VIII versions and are better than this Panasonic and most other cameras made today. With that said, I still prefer manual focus. Just more satisfying to me and I know what will be in focus when I control it. When I do use AF in any camera I only use center point and have done the focus recompose thing all of my life. Mainly because I hate AF systems in all cameras as they try to guess what you want in focus.

          • I completely agree. Human controlled focus may be slower, but I prefer it to AI controlled focus. What is the rush anyway? Maybe that should be the correct terminology – Human focus or Camera focus. At least with my posts, I will refer to MF as human focus and all AF as camera focus.

  23. Having purchased the S1 recently with 24-105mm f/4.0 “kit lens.
    As Steve mentioned high ISO is much better compared to the SL. Low ISO has more latitude, I have the impression it is very difficult to blow the highlights. The 24-105 f/4.0 lens is good from the images I have taken. I have not make a comparison yet with the SL 24-90mm Vario Elmarit. Regarding S-AF speed I see no difference between the lenses and camera bodies. Leica released a firmware update for the SL and CL making the camera’s compatible with non Leica L glass.
    The high resolution EVF is great, although the SL EVF is still very good. I find the SL EVF more colour accurate, The Panasonic EVF is more blueish. I suppose this is related to the panel technology involved OLED?
    Regarding adapting foreign glass on the Panasonic:
    Canon glass using the Novoflex SL/EOS adaptor:
    – focal length and changing f stops works but no AF at all. With the SL S-AF performance was erratic.
    Leica glass with the Leica L adapter M:
    – No transmission of the 6 bit code to the Panasonic body. The S1 kindly asks you for the focal length so that it can include it in the EXIF and calibrate stabilisation. Unless implemented in a fw upgrade there is no need to purchase this adapter (350,00EUR) for the S1 a dummy adaptor will suffice.
    Nikon glass although I have the Novoflex passive LET/NIK adaptor I did not test it yet.
    From a preliminary first impression it looks like the Panasonic sensor/electronics handles foreign glass very well. I noticed less CA on most of the lenses wide open.
    Metering works a charm and the manual focus aids seems to be accurate.
    Leica (T)L APS-C glass on the S1: the Leica 18 and 23 mm lenses works fine but with a reduced resolution ca 10Mp as Steve mentioned in his review.
    Just for fun: The 24-105 Panasonic works on the Leica CL making it a 36-160 lens. IS works.
    Glitches:
    Still the occasional AF issue when focussing on less contrasty area’s (as with the SL)
    As this camera is very versatile a lot to configure complete different approach compared to the SL “das Wesentliche”
    Electronic shutter is limited to 1/8000s, if you plan to shoot wide open with your Noctilux you still need some ND filters. The SL has an electronic shutter up to 1/16000s, if my memory is correct. Although the electronic shutter has it limitations for moving subjects. I sincerely hope Panasonic will address this issue in a future firmware update.
    No integrated GPS module (the app is supposedly to transmit GPS data to the camera but I have not tested it so far)
    Flash:
    A quick test with the Godox TT350 (m43) the unit seems to work correctly. I use this flash just in case for my Olympus m43 system. I would advise a more pro system for this camera if you rely on flash photography.
    Video:
    I am a stills photographer so no comments on this topic!
    Battery life:
    From what I noticed this camera is power hungry (IBIS and IS?) so I would advise to invest in a second battery. I have not used/tested the “power savings” functions in the camera yet.
    Image quality:
    The latest Lightroom CC supports the S1 and I like the out of the box rendering of the raw files. Raw files seems to be very malleable. The JPG output is surprisingly good.
    Final words:
    For the style of photography I do, mostly (urban) landscape, portraits, receptions, events, artistic,… this is an excellent camera. Although I had not the opportunity to test the S1 with sports photography (I still rely on my old D4 and in some cases the 5DMKiv)
    The camera is large and heavy (as is the SL) but it handles very well. Lenses are large as Peter Karbe from Leica mentioned this is the no compromise approach! If you want a compact top notch FF system invest in the Leica M (lenses are much smaller as they have no AF or IS) system and learn to manual focus!
    Do I regret purchasing this camera, absolutely not, but I still consider it as an emerging system and in the meanwhile I am not planning to parting with my SL or M system
    It raises some questions regarding some other camera systems I have around. This is one of the best mirrorless systems I have used so far. It will be the moment to make some decisions regarding parting with some camera systems. I have to choose wisely…
    These are of course my own opinions. Following discretely Steve’s channel for years now, I think it is the time to comment on a “new” camera system so that prospective purchasers can make an opinion on this system.
    My sincere apologies for the lengthly post, I hope it is of some help to you.
    Greetings from Belgium

  24. Anamorphic x2 lens clamped onto fast classic glass GH5s, Blackmagic Pocket Cinema 4K was in my radar :
    Compromise m43.

    A7s2 not doing it for me; Eos R, Nikon Z not digging : too many missing bits.

    Dang S1 ….. making me nod my head.

  25. I can’t wait until Panasonic releases these specs in a L-mount, full frame rangefinder body!

  26. Could you elaborate on the M lens performance on the S1. Is it as good as using M lenses on the SL? I need a backup camera to my M10 and making this purchase decision is very difficult as exact information is not available.

    • 90% of the photos here were shot with M lenses. In my previous post that was dedicated to M lens use, along with the video, I spoke of how this is my fave body, even over the SL, to shoot M mount glass. BUT, I am using only Voigtlander and Zeiss M mount glass. If using Leica branded glass, the SL will win as it will recognize the 6 bit code and correct problems with the lenses within the camera. The S1 will not.

    • Leica glass will work fine on the S1, so far I did a quick test with the Noctilux 50mm .95, Summicron 35mm, Summicron 50, Summicron 90mm and the results are surprisingly good. Steve has tested the CV 15mm and it looks fine (wider M lenses are a problem with digital sensors as the angle of incidence is greater compared to DSLR lenses) The flange distance of the M mount is one of the smallest in the industry for FF camera’s. In the film days it was more forgiving, not in the digital age hence the trouble Leica had for implementing a digital sensor into the M system. I have a CV 21mm asph f/1.8 with has little use -as I am more a 35-50mm photographer – still have to check it out.
      When using the proper adapter original Leica glass will have the embedded correction profiles into the DNG, when using the SL. In the case of the S1 you can manually select a correction profile in Lightroom.

  27. Great review Steve! I have handled the SL and loved the EVF! I currently own an M10 and have the Zeiss ZM 18mm, ZM 35mm 1.4, Noctilux f1.0 classic amoung other lenses. I appreciate you going out there and test this new Panasonic camera so we can make informed decisions on future purchases, thank you! My question is two fold: sharpness in corners and glow / color signature of lenses like the Noctilux and Zeiss ZM series. I have noticed how much my M10 files look like clsssic Kodachrome, will the new Panasonic deliver as tthe M10 does or will it have a colder color signature with my lenses? Would be great if you can test some ZM lenses and the old M Noctilux if you can.

    • No not really, that is the M10 sensor and color signature. Each camera/brand has their own color science. But the SL is much different from the M10 as Leica has changed their color with almost every camera it seems. The S1 has a Panasonic color style, and it’s as you see here. You can see my Leica post from the other day to see a slew of SL samples and the color to me is different from here. The M10 has a unique color signature and the way it exposes brings out these colors. It’s unique.

      • Thanks for the info here Steve! How correct you are in each camera and sensor being a different animal! I have gone through quite a few cameras as you have (never quite liked the Fuji or sony colors or tones, been a Leica man since 1990) ! For me I am very happy with the M10 and the unique signature of its sensor (on shoots, clients have told me I have brought them color and action where there was none!), but being 54 and wearing bifocals, like you, my eyes are not spring chickens anymore! What I would really love is a better EVF for the M10, and after handling the SL and popping a few shots, to me the SL comes close, but ouch, the price and appeal of the Panasonic at a lesser price. I think my best option is to wait and see what Leica may have up its sleeve , and test the Panasonic with my M lenses and see how close I can get with post processing. I would also anticipate the Sl coming down in price when the SL2 hits the market, and that could be attractive at a price hard to resist. In the end, as I approach my mid 50’s, waiting around for new cameras is becoming less appealing, and shooting more the priority. Life is short and for me, getting out is more important than ANY camera!!

  28. Steve, perhaps I read over your thoughts on this, but how does the color compare between the SL and the S1? The ISO tests are somewhat telling here but I’m curious about your overall impressions. Would you have reservations about using one of each to photograph (in RAW) the same event, for example?

    Thank you in advance and thank you for the great review!

  29. I don’t really understand why potentially expressing a negative opinion of some aspect of this – or any other – camera is pre-classified as “hate”. I thought you were better than that, Steve.

    Personally while this camera seems very well designed it would not suit me for general purposes as the weight, and cost, of the range of focal lengths I like to use would completely rule it out. If that makes me a “hater”, whatever.

    • I never said you were a hater, nor anyone who doesn’t like the camera a hater. I was more specifically talking about how many hate on cameras they never touch or use. The Leica SL was one of them. So many jumped on the hate bandwagon trashing it yet they never even saw one in the flesh or even tried to understand what it was about. I see it every day, people just bashing brands due to some sort of strange brand loyalty that have to whatever they own. It’s also funny how so many bashed the Leica SL, and some of those same people praise this S1 ; ) It’s almost the same camera in so many ways. It seems these days people love to hate in general, and that was what I was taking about. It is why I have avoided photo forums since 2008. Bunch of drama.

  30. I agree Steve, unlike Canon and Nikon both got cute with their first FF MILC’s (presumably to leave some life in their DSLR’s), Panasonic knocked it out of the park with the S!..hard to believe it’s a first gen camera. The FE native lens ecosystem will keep me in my Alphas for a while longer but when Siggy comes on line and starts to deliver native L-Mounts, who knows I may yet be a convert 😉 Very nice review and photos.

    • Well, do you want a better sensor, better low light, better EVF, better battery and to spend $3500 less or do you want a better body and simplistic control with less performance (though really only in low low light) for $3500 more? I will be honest, I still love the SL but the S1 is a technically better camera on paper, and in use but the SL has charm and is plenty good enough for anyone. If you can not get great images from an SL it’s not the fault of the camera. I always ay go with what speaks to you. The SL is more charming for sure. I love the design and control.

      • Thank you for reply.
        I have bought an used SL kit right now.
        I prefer SL body, too.
        I am sure I will love SL.

  31. Did you get a chance to test the Panasonic kit lens on the SL? Curious about AF performance of non-Leica L-Mount lenses on the Leica body. It could be an indicator of how the new alliance is functioning.

    • I had to update the firmware on the SL as before I did that the lens would not focus at all. After it focused seemingly just as quick as it did on the S1.

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