The Panasonic S1 is the first full-frame mirrorless camera in the Panasonic Lumix camera line. It joins a crowded field of other full-frame mirrorless heavy hitters, like the Canon EOS R, Nikon Z7, and Sony a7R III. There are two different versions of the camera in the Panasonic S1 and Panasonic S1R, with the Panasonic S1 specializing in low-light performance while the Panasonic S1R doubles the image resolution at 47 megapixels. Our review focuses on just the Panasonic S1, and why it’s one of our top picks for shooters that want to split their time equally between shooting stills and video. Panasonic,LUMIX,S1,S1R,S1H,DC-S1,Underwater,Camera,Photo,Video,Housing,Review

Panasonic LUMIX S1 Underwater Camera Review

WATCH OUR REVIEW VIDEO:Watch our comprehensive video review of the Panasonic S1 and see why we’re calling it the Best Dual-Purpose Full Frame Mirrorless Camera of the YearWATCH OUR 4K TEST FOOTAGE:We got a chance to shoot the Panasonic S1 in Little Cayman at the 2019 Digital Shootout. Take a look at the stunning color, sharp detail, and low-light performance in our 4K 60p underwater test footage. The color, contrast, and clarity produced by the Panasonic S1 full frame sensor is great for both still photos and video. Panasonic S1 | Canon 8-15mm Lens | 1/1200 | ISO 400 | ƒ8 The Panasonic S1 is the first full-frame mirrorless camera in the Panasonic Lumix camera line. It joins a crowded field of other full-frame mirrorless heavy hitters, like the Canon EOS R, Nikon Z7, and Sony a7R III. There are two different versions of the camera in the Panasonic S1 and Panasonic S1R, with the Panasonic S1 specializing in low-light performance while the Panasonic S1R doubles the image resolution at 47 megapixels. Our review focuses on just the Panasonic S1, and why it’s one of our top picks for shooters that want to split their time equally between shooting stills and video. Read on to see why we’re calling this one of the best dual-purpose full-frame mirrorless cameras of the year, and how it stacks up to other full-frame mirrorless systems. BEAUTIFUL 24 MEGAPIXEL STILLS The Panasonic S1 produces a 24 megapixel still image that packs a ton of sharp detail and excellent dynamic range. While it is about half the resolution of its twin, the 47 megapixel Panasonic S1R, the tradeoff in the low light performance of the Panasonic S1 is well worth it. The high-ISO, low-noise, low-light environment performance of the Panasonic S1 was top-notch, offering up low-noise results even at higher ISO values. The dynamic range of the Panasonic S1 preserves detail in both the darkest shadows and brightest highlights. Panasonic S1 | Canon 8-15mm Lens | 1/160 | ISO 400 | ƒ8 The 24 megapixel Panasonic S1 isn’t the leader of the pack when it comes to image resolution, coming in just behind the Canon EOS R at 30 megapixels. Given that the Nikon Z7 and Sony a7R III are both about double the resolution of the Panasonic S1, it would be more appropriate to compare those side by side to the Panasonic S1R and its 47 megapixel sensor. Even though best in class resolution might not be an appropriate headline or feature to tout on the Panasonic S1, the image quality should not be discounted. Photos look fantastic and exceeded our expectations in terms of detail, color, contrast, and clarity. The old tradeoff of high resolution vs. low light performance is relevant here, and what the Panasonic S1 lacks in megapixels it makes up for in high-ISO low-noise ambient light shots. 24 megapixels is more than enough to work with when your sensor captures this level of sharpness and image detail.Panasonic S1 | Canon 8-15mm Lens | 1/125 | ISO 400 | ƒ16 GORGEOUS 4K 60P VIDEO WITH EASY MANUAL WHITE BALANCE The most unique aspect of the Panasonic S1 among other full-frame cameras is the ability to capture stunningly beautiful 4K video at 60 frames per second. The only other current full-frame camera capable of matching this video spec is the Canon 1DX II, and it carries a price tag about double that of the Panasonic S1. The video produced by the Panasonic S1 has super sharp detail and colors so vivid that they can hold their own against the results of even the most pro video systems, Canon 1DX II included. The Panasonic S1 can record 8-bit 4K video at a maximum of 60 frames per second. 4K 60p recording is limited to 30 minutes at a time, whereas 4K 30p recording is limited only by media storage (not a time limit). Video is captured in 4:2:0 color space at 150mbps for a copious amount of color data to work with in post. This can even be expanded to 4:2:2 color with optional upgrade software and the use of an external recorder. 4K 60p video is captured from an APS-C (1.5x crop) portion of the sensor, while 4K 30p is oversampled from the entire sensor. The Panasonic S1 produces outstanding video results that rival those of much larger (and more expensive) video systems. Screenshot from our 4K video test footage. Ambient light custom white balance video color results look good on the Panasonic S1, but they aren’t quite perfect. The Panasonic S1 doesn’t quite match the signature natural color produced by the Canon EOS R, but it will capture a white balance that is close enough and holds enough information to easily obtain nearly perfect color in post with just one click. The difference between the color captured in-camera and the final corrected result was often not that noticeable, as the Panasonic S1 gets the results very close to perfection. Our testing yielded the most optimal results when balanced correctly down to depths of about 50 feet. In our opinion the color results after obtaining a white balance appeared to be shallower than the actual capture depth. This is actually an alright problem to have, as it is always easier to correct color that is a little too blue instead of a little too magenta. More advanced video shooters who are comfortable working with color wheels and advanced color grading will find there is plenty of room to edit and create the desired look for your final clip. The image on the left is an example of the ambient light custom white balance video color as captured and recorded in-camera, while the image on the right is the same shot after a one-click white balance correction. The difference in color is most notable on the sand. The image from in-camera has a slightly cyan/green color cast. One click in post restores the sand to white. Screenshot from our 4K test footage. Executing a custom white balance is extremely simple, and only requires 3 button activations. This is quite the opposite of the convoluted white balance process on the Canon EOS R, so even though it may produce better in-camera color than the Panasonic S1, the tradeoff for simplified execution may just be worth it to the ambient light video shooter. The Panasonic S1 also offers 4 separate custom white balance banks, so you can store different colors for different depths or lighting situations. Video tools like Focus Peaking make shooting video a lot easier, especially when shooting super macro with an extremely thin depth of field, as demonstrated in this screenshot from our test video. Helpful video tools like Focus Peaking and Highlight Warnings can be utilized in both the OLED viewfinder and LCD screen to assist with determining critical focus and avoiding blown-out highlights. The Panasonic S1 has 5.5-stop In-Body Image Stabilization to help provide smoothness and cinematic grace to your video clips. As of July 2019 Panasonic has released a firmware update (version 1.1) which improves the stabilization by an additional half-stop (6-stops total). These additional video tools and features are not found available on even the most high-end optical SLR cameras, so mirrorless shooters have several additional tools to use to their advantage when shooting video. The Panasonic S1s video capabilities were most impressive, producing 4K 60p footage that had richly saturated colors and a tack-sharp level of detail. It's also worth noting the distinction between the highly efficient H.264 compression format that the Panasonic S1 uses as compared to Motion JPEG (MPEG) used by Canon SLRs (like the Canon 1DX II). While the Canon 1DX II captures video at 800mbps, because of the low-efficiency compression of the MPEG format the resulting file sizes are very large. The H.264 codec that the Panasonic S1 uses yields about a 5:1 more efficient compression ratio than motion JPEG. When taking the 800mbps motion jpeg files from the Canon 1DX II and comparing with the more efficient H.264 compression of the Panasonic S1, the net bit rate quality is about the same. While this more highly compressed video can be more taxing on your computer and processor when working in post, it also results in media files that are much smaller than MPEG format and will take up less space on your hard drives. Even though both the Canon 1DX II and Panasonic S1 both have 8-bit color depth, the Canon 1DX II does have an advantage by sampling colors at 4:2:2 instead of 4:2:0 like the Panasonic S1. Testing has shown that the Panasonic S1 sensor is capable of about an additional stop of dynamic range of the sensor of the Canon 1DX II.The low-light sensitivity of the Panasonic S1 creates rich blacks and detailed shadows with very low noise, even at higher ISO values. This is great for wreck divers, cave & cenote explorers, and shooters that want to create a dark, moody, and mysterious look to their clips. Screenshot from our 4K test footage. Video shooters seeking maximum performance and the most in-camera options to make time spent shooting more productive should take a hard look at the Panasonic S1. The Panasonic S1 produces video that is on par with the Canon 1DX II, and at half the price, the tradeoffs seem to be more than a fair compromise. SIGMA LENS ADAPTER TO USE CANON EF-MOUNT LENSES The Panasonic S1 uses an L-Mount lens system, but at this time there aren’t any L-Mount lenses that lend themselves well to the purposes of underwater photography. Fortunately for us underwater shooters, Sigma has created the Sigma MC-21 Mount Converter to enable the use of Canon EF-mount lenses on the Panasonic S1. The Sigma MC-21 Mount Converter is required to mount Canon EF lenses. There are a couple of factors to be aware of when using the adapter and Canon lenses. Our testing revealed an autofocus speed in both wide and macro that was still usable, but overall was the slowest of all current mirrorless and SLR cameras. It also restricts the camera to AF-S and Manual Focus modes only; AF-C is disabled while using the adapter, preventing the operation of features like Focus Tracking. This is a non-issue for video shooters who will likely spend most of their time in AF-S with focus locked, but it is worth noting as a limitation for still photographers. By comparison, the Sony a7R III, which also relies on a Sigma adapter to use Canon lenses, is among the best currently in wide angle autofocus speed, accuracy, and tracking responsiveness. The use of the Canon 8-15mm lens allowed for 180-degree circular images to be captured on the full frame sensor.Panasonic S1 | Canon 8-15mm Lens | 1/125 | ISO 800 | ƒ8 Overall even with the Sigma MC-21 Mount Converter, the autofocus performance was adequate and will meet the needs of all but the most purely-stills shooter. It’s a fair compromise considering that this one system packs both great still image quality and 4K 60p video. Until we have more native L-Mount lenses to test underwater, we will withhold final judgement of the full autofocus capabilities of the Panasonic S1. A BIG BODY AND TONS OF CUSTOMIZATION The Panasonic S1 is the chunkiest of the current full-frame mirrorless cameras, coming in at the largest overall body size and weight, so the conventional mirrorless size and weight savings over SLR are not really a factor here. Chunky does not equal clunky, however, because the ergonomics of the Panasonic S1 are well laid out and the controls are customizable to a ridiculous degree. In order from smallest to largest - Sony a7R III, Canon EOS R, Nikon Z7, and Panasonic S1 Just about every single button on the Panasonic S1 can be re-programmed to a ton of available functions. Given that most of the buttons are printed on the body with a dedicated role already, in reality, this does not serve much of a practical application. What is cool though are the assignable Fn1 and Fn2 buttons on the front of the camera body, as well as the fact that each direction on the multi-direction pad can be custom assigned as well. This opens up 6 new assignable function buttons to put whatever auxiliary controls you deem most necessary right at your fingertips. The Quick Menu, available from the ‘Q’ button, is also fully customizable down to each individual menu item and may be set separately for both Photo and Video modes. This makes it very easy to have the most essential quick-change settings always just a single control activation away. There are 3 Custom Modes available on the Mode Dial that can be programmed for go-to jump settings. The user can even create custom titles for these using a basic text entry menu on the camera. We found it useful to label these modes specifically for “Wide Video”, “Wide Photo”, etc. The Panasonic S1 does not retain separate settings when switching from Photo to Video modes via the Mode Dial, so using the Custom Modes as pre-defined by the user is a more streamlined way of quickly adapting to mode changes and requires less exposure control adjustments. There are both XQD and UHS-II SD card slots on the camera, so the user has a choice of what media to record to. Take note of the '1-2 Switch' on front and don't let it lock you out of essential settings. One special feature to note is the 1-2 Switch on the front of the camera body. This switch instantly activates what we (jokingly) refer to as “stealth mode” by putting the camera into a totally silent operation. The shutter is set to electronic mode, flash is disabled, and Silent Mode is enabled. While this is cool for topside sneaky wildlife encounters or shooting in sound-sensitive environments, it can be a potential trip-up spot when setting up the Panasonic S1 for underwater shooting. By activating the switch, certain menu options become 'greyed-out' and cannot be selected. The camera does not specify a reason for the lack of available options, so be aware that the switch may be the culprit if you find yourself in this situation. Fortunately, this control can be activated from within the housing via external control so it can be reset if accidentally left on or switched on while underwater. The Panasonic S1 produces superb blue tones, creating ideal wide angle backgrounds. Panasonic S1 | Canon 8-15mm Lens | 1/200 | ISO 400 | ƒ8 WHO SHOULD SHOOT THE PANASONIC S1? The Panasonic S1 is our pick for the best dual-purpose full-frame mirrorless camera. When the camera must be able to excel at both video and photo, the Panasonic S1 is an excellent and truly versatile choice. Still image shooters will be pleased with the super sharp detail, vibrant color, rich contrast, and crisp clarity the sensor produces. At “only” 24 megapixels (which is still great), it doesn’t pack the same amount of resolution as the Canon EOS R, Nikon Z7, or Sony a7R III. The only significant downside for still shooters is the autofocus speed when using the Sigma MC-21 Mount Converter and Canon lenses, but this could (and hopefully will be) negated by the use of native mount lenses that are practical for underwater. You wouldn’t make this camera your tool of choice for purely still shooting, but if shooting any video at all then it’s a compromise that you should be willing to consider. Video shooters can unlock the awesome power of 8-bit 4:2:0 4K 60p video with color that is both easy to set and easy to make the most of in post. This is really the thing that makes the Panasonic S1 a serious choice for full-frame shooters because this spec is just not currently attainable from any other full-frame camera in this price range. The Canon EOS R is the only other current full-frame mirrorless camera that produces better ambient light white balance color, but the time-consuming process to do so seems even longer when compared to the 3-button-press and multiple white balance banks of the Panasonic S1. Most clips that the Panasonic S1 captures will only require minor adjustments to color because it is often so close to the mark already. Even stacked up against the impressive Canon 1DX II, the video advantages of the Panasonic S1 start to outshine the now somewhat long-in-the-tooth Canon platform. The end video results are on par with each other, and for half the price, the same resolution and frame rate, more efficient video compression, and excellent in-camera color make the Panasonic S1 a serious contender against the Canon 1DX II for even the most demanding video shooter. The Panasonic S1 also packs a bunch of helpful video tools - such as 5.5-stop Image Stabilization, Focus Peaking, and Highlight Warnings - that no optical SLR can hope to match. You'd be hard pressed to find a comparable system that produces video results that look as good straight out of camera in the same budget range as the Panasonic S1. When you can only have one full-frame mirrorless camera that has to do it all, choose the Panasonic S1. ProsBest hybrid full-frame mirrorless camera for both photo and videoGreat 24mp still image color, contrast, and clarity8-bit 4K 60p video @ 150mbps, 4:2:0 color spaceExcellent low-light performanceSimple white balance execution & multiple banksVideo color looks nearly perfect after one-click white balance correction in postSigma adapter allows use of Canon EF lensesLots of customizable functions, menus, and modesCons24mp resolution is lowest among current full-frame mirrorless camerasNo AF-C functionality with lens adapterSlow autofocus with lens adapterPractically no weight or size savings compared to SLRWhy buy direct from Backscatter?Free lifetime tech support with every purchase. We will beat any advertised price. Free shipping to USA and Canada and low-cost international shipping. The Panasonic S1 Camera FamilyPanasonic S1 Camera $2,499.99BUY NOWPanasonic S1R Camera $3,699.99BUY NOWPanasonic S1H Camera $TBDORDER NOWAvailable HousingsIkelite S1 Housing $1,695.00BUY NOWNauticam NA-S1R Housing $3,800.00BUY NOWRelated PostsOlympus TG-6 Review: The Easiest Underwater Compact Camera We love the Olympus TG-6 for its extremely simple operation, outstanding macro ability, and the great image quality produced in both photo and video. It’s our pick for the Best All-Around Underwater C... Read More Panasonic LUMIX S1 Underwater Camera Review The Panasonic S1 is the first full-frame mirrorless camera in the Panasonic Lumix camera line. It joins a crowded field of other full-frame mirrorless heavy hitters, like the Canon EOS R, Nikon Z7, an... Read More Canon EOS R Underwater Camera Review The Canon EOS R is Canon’s debut in the full-frame mirrorless arena. It’s got outstanding image quality that’s so good, you can essentially consider it a mini-5D4. 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