Panasonic S1 and S1R Full-Frame Mirrorless Cameras: Everything you need to know
Full-frame camera competition has become so fierce it almost makes the Royal Rumble look tame – as if a ‘big three’ face-off between Sony, Canon and Nikon wasn’t explosive enough, we now have the Panasonic-Leica-Sigma alliance hurtling towards the ring.
That’s right, Panasonic has announced that it’s licensing the existing L Mount from Leica, seen in cameras like the Leica SL, to effectively make two full-frame versions of the Panasonic Lumix G9, called the Lumix S1 and S1R.
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As if that wasn’t enough, ‘L mount’ partner Sigma will be lobbing optics into the ring in the form of high desirable (and hopefully, affordable) lenses for the new system, to go alongside the more premium existing Leica TL and SL offerings.
Of course, there’s only one winner in these full-frame camera wars, and that’s photographers and camera fans. So who are the Panasonic Lumix S1 and S1R aimed at, and why might you want to save up for them over rivals like the Canon EOS R, Nikon Z Series and Sony A7 III?
Here’s everything we know so far…
Read more: Panasonic S1R First Look review
What are full-frame cameras?
Full-frame cameras, whose sensors are the size of old fashioned 35mm film, aren’t necessarily ‘better’ than other cameras, just different.
Aside from Medium Format, full-frame cameras have larger sensors than other camera systems like APS-C and Micro Four Thirds. This gives them some inherent advantages for professionals: they’re traditionally better in low light, have lower noise when you shoot at higher ISOs, and offer greater dynamic range.
The flip-side is that they’re also generally much larger, more expensive (for both the body and lenses) and not as fast as smaller sensor cameras when it comes to rattling off frames in burst mode.
Recently, cameras have started to blur these traditional strengths and weaknesses (for example, Micro Four Thirds camera like the Olympus Pen F offer much improved performance at high ISOs). But broadly speaking, those are the main differences. So, where do Panasonic’s new full-frame cameras sit in all of this? Let’s find out…
Panasonic S1 and S1R Price and Release Date: When do they come out, and how much will they cost?
Both the Panasonic S1 and S1R are scheduled for release in “early 2019”. Right now, we don’t have any pricing for either camera.
It’s possible to speculate about ballpark prices, though, when looking at their likely rivals. The Panasonic S1 is a 24-megapixel full-frame camera that will take on the likes of Sony’s A7 III and Nikon’s Z6. This means we can expect a price tag somewhere between £1,500 and £2,000 (body only).
With its 47-megapixel sensor, the Panasonic S1R will be in the same heavyweight class as the Sony A9 and Nikon Z7, which means it’s expected to be available for around £3,000. These are only rough guesses at price tags, though – we’ll update this page as soon as we hear anything more concrete.
Panasonic S1 and S1R Design: What do they look like?
While the S1 and S1R are only a “development announcement” (that is, far from final in terms of specs and design), we did get to see an early prototype of the body design that both cameras share.
As expected, it’s much like a beefed up Panasonic Lumix G9, with a weather-sealed, DSLR-esque frame and chunky handgrip that’ll go down well with the pro snappers it’s targeting.
This means it’s pretty hefty compared to slimmed down rivals like the Nikon Z series and Sony A7 family, but one benefit of this size is that it allows for plenty of heat dissipation for demanding 4K video, something that the S1 and S1R can both manage at 60fps. That’s a first for full-frame mirrorless cameras.
On the top plate is a centralised viewfinder (another tick for the ‘pro’ box) which we’ve been told is higher-res than the 3.69-million dot OLED ones seen in the Nikon Z Series and Canon EOS R. According to Panasonic, it’s “close to human vision”, which would go down well with anyone switching from a DSLR’s optical viewfinder.
Panasonic S1 and S1R Features: What are their specs?
Beyond their physical designs, not too much is know about the S1 and S1R’s spec sheets. This is only a “development announcement” for now, of course.
Panasonic was willing to share a few more appetite-whetting details about each camera though. Beyond being able to shoot 4K at 60fps (which has never been seen on a full-frame mirrorless camera so far), both cameras will have in-body image stabilisation (IBIS) and dual memory card slots.
Considering both Canon and Nikon came under some serious fire for only including one memory card slot in the EOS R and Z series respectively, this is a mini win for Panasonic. One of these slots will take XQD cards too, which support extra-fast shooting speeds, with the other slot for standard SD cards.
The autofocus system will be contrast AF with Panasonic’s DFD technology, while the body will be 100% weather-sealed and ‘resistant against low temperatures’.
We’ll update this page as soon as we hear any more details on the two cameras’ burst shooting powers, battery lives and other features.
Panasonic S1 and S1R: What about lenses?
One of the big benefits of using both an existing lens mount (Leica’s L mount) and teaming up with Sigma is that the Panasonic S series will be very well stocked for lens options, for a new system at least.
Panasonic is making three native S lenses itself for the launch of the S1 and S1R. These will be a 24-105mm, 70-200mm and a 50mm f/1.4. We don’t yet know the aperture ratings for the two zoom lenses. Panasonic has also promised ten native lenses within the next year.
Sigma will be adding to this list of launch lenses with some of its own glass – we’re not yet sure which lenses yet, but they’re likely to be more affordable than the other existing options that you can buy from Leica’s SL and TL range.
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Panasonic S1 and S1R: What does this mean for Micro Four Thirds cameras?
Well, fear not – Micro Four Thirds will continue in parallel with Panasonic’s Lumix S series, which makes sense: the former will continue to be for amateurs who prize portability, affordability and speed, while the S series will be a new option to further confuse professionals who were already having a tough time deciding which full-frame system to go for.
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