With its Lumix S system, Panasonic will start competing with Sony, Canon, Nikon and fellow L Mount Alliance member, Leica, in the full-35mm mirrorless camera category. Thanks to the alliance, L mount lenses are already available from Leica (at a price, of course) with more promised soon from the third member, Sigma.

The Lumix S bodies are designated the S1 and S1R, with Panasonic following Nikon’s policy of offering two identically styled and featured models, but with different resolution sensors and associated specs. The more photo-orientated S1R is the flagship with a 47.3 megapixels (effective) CMOS which has a sensitivity range equivalent to ISO 100 to 25,600 (extendable to ISO 50 and 51,200). The S1 has a 24.2 megapixels (effective) sensor with a sensitivity range equivalent to ISO 100 to 51,200 (and extensions to ISO 50 and 204,800). Neither sensor has an optical low-pass filter in order to optimise their resolutions. Both the S1 and S1R have a maximum continuous shooting speed of 9.0 fps with the AF/AE locked to the first frame and up to 6.0 fps with continuous autofocusing. The Lumix S cameras inherit the ‘6K/4K Photo’ modes from the Lumix G9 and GH5 models, with 6K Photo capturing 18 MP stills at 30 fps and 4K Photo capturing 8.3 megapixels stills at either 30 or 60 fps.

Photo: Panasonic

Both models incorporate ‘Dual I.S. 2’ five-axis in-body image stabilisation which gives up to six stops of correction for camera shake, and also is available when shooting video. ‘Dual I.S. 2’ employs a combination of a gyro sensor, accelerometer and data from the image sensor to more accurately determine the direction of movement. It’s also the basis of a pixel-shift ‘High Resolution’ eight-shot capture mode which delivers a RAW file with up to 187 megapixels with the S1R and 96 megapixels with the S1. Dual memory card slots support the SD (UHS-II speed) and faster XQD formats, the latter upgradable to the even faster CFexpress format in the near future. The EVF is an OLED panel with a resolution of 5.7 megadots (the highest seen so far), a refresh rate of 120 fps and a magnification of 0.78x, but this can also be switched to either 0.74x or 0.7x to accommodate spectacles-wearers.

The monitor screen is an 8.1 cm LCD panel with three-way tilt adjustments (similar to the Fujifilm X-T3), a resolution of 2.1 megadots and extensive touch controls, including ‘Touch Pad AF’ operation for AF point selection when using the EVF.

The Lumix S cameras also have a large LCD info panel on their top decks which is claimed to be the biggest in the class. Also borrowed from the G9 is a ‘Night Mode’ which puts a red ‘filter’ over the EVF and monitor displays to help preserve a photographer’s night vision.

Photo: Panasonic

Autofocusing is via Panasonic’s DFD (Depth From Defocus) contrast-detection system using 225 measuring points and which now operates at 480 fps to give an autofocusing speed of just 0.08 seconds. Low light sensitivity extends down to -6.0 EV (at f1.4 and ISO 100) in the ‘Low Light AF’ mode. Panasonic is also introducing ‘deep learning’ AI-based subject recognition technology to assist with the more accurate tracking of specific objects with the Lumix S cameras having dedicated modes for the human body and animals (chiefly pets such as cats and dogs). This is obviously very similar to Olympus’s ‘Intelligent Subject AF’.

The bodyshells are magnesium alloy with full weather sealing and insulation to enable shooting in subzero temperatures down to -10 degrees Celsius. As with the new Olympus OM-D E-M1X, the focal plane shutter has been tested to 400,000 cycles. The sensor shutter delivers a top speed of 1/16,000 second.

On the video side, the Lumix S1R records 4K UHD video at 50, 25 or 24 fps (PAL) with a small 1.09x crop (and with pixel binning), and Full HD at up to 150 fps (PAL) for super slow-mo effects. UHD clips are limited to 15 minutes duration. In comparison, the Lumix S1 uses a full-width sensor read-out (which preserves the lens focal length) and no pixel binning for 4K UHD recording at 25 fps (PAL) or 24 fps. There’s no recording time limit at these speeds. However, 4K UHD at 50 fps is recorded with a 1.5x crop. A software upgrade key will be available later in 2019 (pricing to be announced) which will enable the S1 to support 10-bit 4:2:2 colour 4K 25 fps recording internally and a 4K 50 fps HDMI output as well as the V-Log colour profile. However, as standard, the S1 can record 10-bit video internally in its HDR mode with an HLG (Hybrid Log Gamma) profile for a simpler workflow when using an HDR display. Incidentally, there’s also an ‘HLG Photo’ mode which captures an 8K image designed to give an expanded dynamic range when displayed on an 4K TV (which is HLG compliant, of course).

The cameras’ HDMI output (8-bit 4:2:0 colour) is via a Type A terminal with a cable lock holder to prevent accidental disconnection. Both cameras are compatible with the DMW-XLR1E XLR balanced microphone adapter, but have 3.5 mm stereo audio inputs (which also serves as a line input for audio dubbing) and outputs as well as built-in stereo microphones.

Other notable features include in-camera battery charging via USB-C, flicker detection and correction, flash sync speeds up to 1/320 second (a world first), both WiFi (with 2.4 and 5.0 GHz support) and Bluetooth LE connectivity, a new highlight-weighted metering mode, 14-bit RGB RAW capture, tethered shooting via USB and back-lit buttons. An optional vertical grip – the DMW-BGGS1 – fits both cameras.

The new S series lenses are the Lumix S PRO 50mm f1.4, Lumix S PRO 70-200mm f4.0 OIS and the Lumix S 24-105mm f4.0 Macro OIS. All three models are also fully weather-proofed and the optical image stabilisation in the zooms works in conjunction with the ‘Dual I.S. 2’ in the Lumix S bodies. Panasonic says the Lumix S PRO models have been certified by Leica as passing the German camera-maker’s standards for optical performance. A further “ten or more” Lumix S lenses are promised by 2020 with a focus on PRO level models.

The Lumix S1 is priced at $3599 body only or $5199 when packaged with the Lumix S 24-105mm f4.0 Macro OIS zoom. The S1R is priced at $5299 body only and $6899 with the 24-105mm f4.0 zoom. For more information visit http://www.panasonic.com.au