Panasonic Lumix S1 First Impressions Review

Panasonic Lumix S1 First Impressions Review

By: Josh Bellingham

If one word could sum up my time capturing events with the Lumix S1 it would be…exceptional!

The Panasonic Lumix S1 is the first of two Professional Full Frame Mirrorless cameras released by Lumix in 2019. From my experiences photographing at several jobs, I can say the Lumix S1 is a very responsive camera that is a designed for professional photographers. Coming from Lumix G series cameras, using the Lumix S1 has impressed me with outstanding image quality, and unlimited customization. The full frame sensor of the Lumix S1 works incredibly well in low light and is perfect for any low light situations.  Plus the 24 mega pixel sensor hits that sweet spot for sharpness and flexibility. I hope to share with you some of my experiences with the Panasonic Lumix S1 and how enjoyable a camera it is to use while photographing for weddings and events.

During the two weeks that Panasonic Lumix Canada lent me the Lumix S1, I had the opportunity to photograph 4 wedding ceremonies and an engagement session. I can say for the type of photography I shoot, the Lumix S1 performs admirably. It is the perfect workhorse camera for any wedding and portrait photographer. The Lumix S1 can also extend into other niche categories like product photography, architecture, macro, and all forms of photography can be enhanced by the high-resolution mode by creating raw images over 80 megapixels.

Build Quality and Handling:

The Panasonic Lumix S1 build quality is rock solid and durable. It feels like a serious camera that is perfect for professional use over many years. The camera body is fully weather sealed and freeze proof, which is fantastic in the variable Canadian climate. I had no trouble photographing in the rain, and from the few bumps and dings that happened through the wedding days, the Lumix S1 didn’t even flinch.

The dials and buttons feel very tactile and maneuvering around the camera without taking your eye from the viewfinder is easy, which is so helpful when shooting fast paced moments.

Lumix has done a really great job engineering the S1’s grip to feel secured in your hand. The rubberized grip feels very comfortable, with nice contours that hug the tips of your fingers. The addition of the battery grip makes it feel much more robust and doubles your battery life for long days of event photography.

I applaud how Lumix designs their cameras, especially their professional mirrorless camera bodies. The Lumix S1 shares the same three quick access buttons (WB, ISO, Exposure Comp) behind the shutter button like the GH series cameras. It also shares most of the Lumix G9 design, and literally looks and feels like it’s bigger brother. Having lots of experience with the GH5 and G9, the Lumix S1 felt right at home, and I was out photographing a small wedding the day it arrived.

The Lumix S1’s electronic viewfinder is the best I’ve ever used, only second to the Lumix G9. When you look into the EVF, everything looks so crisp and lifelike. Looking through the EVF you can really tell when something is in focus or not, and this really helps speed up the photography process when I’m not having to go back and check my photos for accuracy. There is no trace of lagging, even in low light, I had no issues with the viewfinder slowing down in dark wedding receptions.

One of my favorite classic Lumix Cameras has been the GX7 because of the tilting screen on the back. It’s fantastic how Lumix have really listened to photographers as they’ve taken the same flip screen design to allow quick and easy, low and high angle viewing on the Lumix S1. The screen feels very solid and features a 3-way tilting experience, and the touch interface is very smooth and easy to use. The Lumix S1’s rear LCD touch screen is super bright and crisp and makes viewing easy, even in bright sunny conditions.

They’ve made it very easy to customize the camera however you want. I almost found it to be overwhelming with the amount of custom function buttons and the number of features that can be assigned to each button. I was able to make lots of features easily accessible for quick changes on the fly. Some of the functions I assign to the physical buttons on the S1 for weddings are, silent mode off/on during a very quiet ceremony, touch screen off/on, Wi-Fi activation, high resolution shot, and bracketing. These are some of the important features I find very useful having quick access to during a wedding day.

Overall, I would have to say the build quality and handling of the Lumix S1 is outstanding, and even with the added size and weight over the Lumix GH5 or G9, it really feels comfortable for full day professional wedding and event photography. I really like the durability and reliability that the S1 has, and you can count on the shutter lasting for at least 400k actuations over its lifetime.

Image Quality:

I can say right away that the image quality is outstanding! I didn’t know what to expect, since the only camera’s I’ve ever owned are m4/3 cameras, but the Lumix S1 has shown me what is possible with a larger sensor.

I had the pleasure of capturing a few intimate wedding ceremonies that took place in low light and back lit situations, and if it weren’t for the outstanding image quality and high dynamic range of the S1, I would’ve been forced to use flash photography, which can be distracting at intimate weddings.

I mostly used the Lumix S Pro 50mm f1.4 during the weddings, and very rarely did I leave f1.4. The image quality of the 50mm wide open at f1.4, is probably some of the best, sharpest photos, I have ever seen. I won’t get into too much detail about the Lumix 50mm f1.4, but I do have to say the bokeh is super creamy, and I could honestly photograph an entire wedding with that lens alone.

The S1 certainly left a good impression on me while photographing in extremely low light conditions, being forced to shoot at 4000 ISO and above. I would very rarely push my Lumix G cameras past 3200 ISO while shooting in a professional situation, but with the Lumix S1, I can push it up to 12800 ISO and get very usable images with plenty of detail.

I was able to experiment with the high-resolution mode on the Lumix S1 and it resulted in some fantastic images. Lumix first introduced the high-resolution mode on the Lumix G9, but they have further improved it by adding a second option in the menu that compensates for subject movement. I was able to use the high-resolution mode with waterfalls and with human subjects, and the photos turned out sharp with minimal artifacts. Having the ability to photograph up to 80 mega pixels can be very handy for projects that demand the extra resolution. It is possible to create an 80-megapixel image with a human subject, as long as they stand very still, and the camera is on a tripod.

Auto Focus:

The auto focus speed on Lumix cameras is incredible and well up to the task for event and wedding photography. Like all modern Lumix cameras, the S1 uses the depth from defocus (DFD) contrast detection auto focus system. This allows for extremely fast and accurate single point auto focus. Going from a subject in the foreground to a subject far in the distance seems instantaneous. The accuracy of the DFD auto focus is very good, especially in single point auto focus.

In low light situations, the auto focus on the Lumix S1 worked great and caught focus very quickly. You do notice some hunting in extremely low light conditions, but that is to be expected with most cameras. In almost pitch-black darkness I was easily able to lock on the bride and groom during the first dance.

Overall Impression:

My time with the Lumix S1 was very short, but I thoroughly enjoyed working with it at weddings and events. Panasonic has embraced the idea of the ‘professional’s camera’ and made a tool capable of capturing any moment, whether in low light, back lit, or fastmoving subjects. I was very confident using the Lumix S1 in any weather condition and it accompanied my Lumix G series cameras very well.

The Lumix S1 paired perfectly with my compact Lumix GX8 camera body and the Lumix Leica DG Summilux 15mm f1.7 pancake lens for capturing wide angle shots. The S1 almost always had the new Lumix 50mm f1.4 lens attached, which was stellar for low light scenes, wedding details (flowers, cakes, decor), and bridal portraits. The combo made a great pair, and with the small size of the GX8, the entire kit felt very balanced.

I’m very excited to see how the new Panasonic Lumix Full Frame Mirrorless system will grow. For its first attempt, Lumix has created a professional, and confident camera system for any working photographer.

Thank you for reading! Please enjoy some extra images from my time with the Lumix S1: