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(Pocket-lint) - After months of teasing us with glimpses of its forthcoming full-frame mirrorless range, Panasonic has now fully lifted the lid on its S1 and S1R cameras.

It's a massive deal for the brand - which has been pushing its Micro Four Thirds system cameras, Lumix G, for over a decade - as the S series marks an entry into an entirely new and more pro-focused market.

So how does the Lumix S1 actually perform and can it hold off its mirrorless full-frame rivals - such as the Sony A7R III, Canon EOS R, and Nikon Z6 - despite being later to the game? We've been using the latest Lumix to find out.

Our quick take

The Panasonic Lumix S1 is a formidable full-frame offering that's packed with features and potential. Its only real problems? That lens mount makes for massive optics and there are minor hiccups with low-light autofocus being slow or hunting a little.

The window onto high-quality Leica lenses might be enough to entice in a whole new audience seeking top-notch quality for stills and video, but with the competition offering new mounts elsewhere - both Nikon and Canon have launched already - it means the S1 doesn't have anything truly extra special to offer in this regard. It's very good, but so is the competition.

All said, the Panasonic Lumix S1 is a full-frame feast. It's a system that's hard to criticise given its overall capabilities and wide-ranging feature set, with great image quality and performance that matches and sometimes betters its contemporaries. Whether that's enough to draw away from the Nikon and Sony establishment, however, is a whole other question...

Panasonic Lumix S1 review: A formidable full-framer

Panasonic Lumix S1

4.5 stars - Pocket-lint recommended
For
  • Full-frame image quality is excellent
  • Lots of potential quality and sharpness from Leica mount
  • Exceptional image stabilisation system
  • Eye AF works very well
  • Best-in-class OLED viewfinder
  • High-end video features will entice a whole new audience
Against
  • It's a big and chunky system to use
  • Being later to the game than the other major players may limit appeal
  • Leica mount means lenses are massive
  • Shutter and rear toggle control can be hypersensitive
  • Some low-light autofocus slowness/hunting

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Lens mount

  • Uses Leica L mount: Leica SL, TL, CL; Lumix S Pro; forthcoming Sigma lenses
  • Not compatible with Micro Four Thirds (MFT) lenses
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First up, the all important lens mount. Which is actually the Leica L mount. Yep, you read that correctly: Panasonic, along with Sigma, has forged a lens alliance with the German brand, so all three will produce lenses for this fitting.

Which is kind of exciting, as you could buy some great Leica glass for this Panasonic. At the same time, however, the design of this mount makes for a large lens design. If you've ever seen a Leica SL then you'll know what we mean.

Pocket-lint Panasonic Lumix S1 review image 3

So the Lumix S1 is a big camera with big lenses - which might sound like a problem, but for most pros in the know they'll be content knowing it's easy to grab with one or two hands, comfortably, and use for long periods of time. At first we thought it was all too big and chunky, but over time we've become used to using it.

As for Micro Four Thirds? Panasonic will continue to push this format, but it's entirely unrelated to the S. It won't ever be possible to use MFT lenses with the S series due to the physical mount's design and the inevitable difference in lens coverage.

Design and features

  • 5.76m-dot OLED viewfinder, 0.78x magnification, 120fps refresh
  • 3.2-inch, 2.1m-dot LCD touchscreen, tri-adjustment bracket
  • Top display panel with illuminator
  • 1-2 switch (for two-form setup)
  • Joystick toggle control
  • 100% weather sealed
  • SD & XQD card slots

So we've established that it's a big ol' beast, but that's not to say the S1 isn't well designed. It's easy to use and, in many senses, feels like an upsized Lumix G9. Only it's better in every way - not least because the S1's shutter feels 'proper' without the click-happy over-response of the G9.

Pocket-lint Panasonic Lumix S1 review image 2

For starters the joystick on the rear of the S1 makes it very easy to centralise the focus point or move it around (although it's hyper-sensitive in menu settings, which is annoying). Up top there's a light-up panel with all the settings in clear view as and when needed, ahead of which are dedicated exposure comp, ISO and white balance buttons - it's even easy enough to make adjustments to these settings without removing your eye from the viewfinder, if that's how you're shooting.

Like with the G9 there's also a '1-2 Switch' to the front, where it's possible to pre-assign settings in either mode, then quickly toggle between them with the flick of that switch. Those with established workflows will find this useful, especially in rapid pace environments where quickly changing up, say, the shutter speed along with the ISO sensitivity and other image quality settings all in one becomes an essential time-saver.

The Lumix S1 also has the highest resolution viewfinder that we've ever seen in a camera too. Its a large scale, with a comfortable and rounded eyecup, delivering a whopping 5.76 million dots of resolution. In a sense it's like strapping a Full HD telly to your eyeballs. There are three levels to the magnification if the 0.78x mag proves too large for you (we wear glasses, so the step-down option was useful for the most representative view for us) using the dedicated button just around from the eyecup. As electronic viewfinders go there's no better.

The 3.2-inch LCD screen takes a leaf out of Fujifilm's book and adopts a tri-adjustment bracket so that it can be moved for waist-level or overhead work in both portrait and landscape orientations. However, the finder's eyecup gets in the way of a clear view, which is a shame, while we don't find the lever-like release to get the portrait orientation especially practical. There's also no way to protect the screen without housing the camera in a proper bag - so we worried we'd scratch the screen compared with other vari-angle screen cameras we've used where the screen can be reversed back on itself.

Pocket-lint Panasonic Lumix S1 review image 9

To the side the twin card slot is hidden behind another lever-like release. This needs to be dragged down while pulling the card cover to access the two slots available: one for SD (up to UHS-II), the other for XQD. We don't really know why Panasonic has pushed for the latter, maybe it's to try and tempt over those Nikon users, eh? We'd rather just have two SD slots, or the option to pick which cards the camera uses at purchase instead.

Performance

  • Autofocus capable to -6EV, sensor output at 480fps for 0.08s focus acquisition
  • Eye AF, Animal AF, for automatic tracking of subjects

Big body, big lenses, big performance too, right? Panasonic makes some considerable claims about the S1, including its autofocus system's capability down to -6EV.

Pocket-lint Panasonic Lumix S1 review A formidable full-framer image 15

We've found the AF setup to be lightning quick in good light and largely successful in low-light - although certain scenes in a very dark bar did cause the system to hunt for focus, while the built-in illuminator lamp didn't always highlight a su