Panasonic Lumix S1H in 2021
Two years on, is the Panasonic S1H still a good buy for amateurs/pros?
June 2021: With a steady flow of new camera releases, updates and announcements, is "old tech" from 2 years ago still relevant? What should you buy today if you are looking for a high quality, truly hybrid mirrorless camera? Is the Panasonic Lumix S1H still worth buying?
The Panasonic Lumix S1H is a big camera. Weighing in at just under 3kg with 70-200mm lens attached it may be too big for some. However, when you consider that the S1H is the first mirrorless camera to be accepted by Netflix, you'll understand why.
Sample S1H Video Clips With Netflix Settings
Settings: C4K, 4096 x 2160, 10-bit, All-i 400Mb/s
The video clips used in the overview above and below in the S1H Video Quality section, were mostly filmed with the recommended Netflix camera settings. Despite the compression that YouTube adds, hopefully you will see just how good the video quality is from the Panasonic S1H.
The features in this camera are useful, exciting and endless. Since having one on loan from Panasonic for 10 days, I immediately went out and bought my own brand new S1H. The features aren't just useful, they make me want to spend more time out and about photographing and filming stuff. It is a pleasure and fun to use...I feel 13 again!
Features I Like on the Panasonic Lumix S1H
I have been looking and waiting for that perfect hybrid camera. Something that would not only shoot stunning 4K video, but would also take crisp, clean, high resolution stills. Especially in low light. The idea was to have a camera that could (and the S1H does) shoot:
*when paired with the Atomos Ninja V external recorder
Not much to ask huh? The GH5 series came relatively close but the stills quality was poor, or at least not up to the standard I was after. 4K video quality on the GH5? At 400Mbps, sublime.
Other cameras I looked at had some amazing features but sadly lacked in other areas. Upon studying the Panasonic Lumix S1H for a while, it seemed to tick all my boxes...so I managed to get hold of a loan/review copy from the Panasonic Lumix Loan scheme.
Panasonic S1H Video
Undoubtedly the average filmmaker will never use all the video features on this camera. However, it is nice to know they are there.
From 1080p, 120fps, 4:2:2 10-bit All-I, 150Mbps bit rate to 5.9K RAW 30fps, 200Mbps, 4:2:0 and 6K, full area, 24p, 200Mbps 4:2:0 10-bit and everything in between, the S1H has it all! Really, you are being spoiled!
Panasonic S1H Stills
My expectations were more than met with the S1H still image quality . Low light and high ISO photography really impressed me as you will see below and the review video above.
The stills I was seeing in general shooting, long exposures at night and high ISO are impressive. This could be the perfect wedding camera for many.
Panasonic S1H Overall
The S1H is one of the most feature-rich cameras I have seen. I honestly cannot think of anything I would add to make my life easier.
However, there are one or two things that may put some off from buying this camera. Firstly, weight. It is heavy. Heavier than the 5D Mark IV by 300g. Secondly, autofocus...it's not the best but I got it working.
Key Features of the Panasonic Lumix S1H
Panasonic Lumix S1H Video Quality
Note: Now it's on YouTube the White Balance looks a little off. Arse! Oh well, too late now but I will be doing a lot more filming/grading in VLOG soon so do pop back : )
Take it from me, you will have more than enough choices of video settings with the Lumix S1H and will be blown away by the image quality. If it is good enough for Netflix, it is good enough for me! Check out my overview and sample video clips above.
S1H Vs GH5 Video
I have been a fan of the Panasonic GH5 since I first bought it on release. The 4K 4:2:2 10bit 400Mbps image quality is superb. In fact, you will see in the video above that the quality is very close to that of the Panasonic S1H with the same settings. The S1H simply adds to the quality with 5.9K RAW and 6K 30p and a ton of other options.
The main difference is the bokeh you get from a full frame sensor. Check out the screen grab from VLOG-L footage below to see the difference in the background blur amount.
Both lenses were set to the same aperture and focal length. Click for larger image.
Panasonic Lumix S1H Stills Quality
Click for larger copy. Images reduced for web use and strictly copyright to Nick Stubbs
Coming from the Panasonic GH5, the S1H is a "grown up" version of that camera. As the stills from the GH5 are good but not, in my opinion, professional quality, I was concerned about the S1H stills. After spending a few days with the camera and seeing the results, I was more than impressed. This camera is good enough for commercial and wedding photography so a winner for me.
100% Image Crop Example
Hover cursor over image (or tap screen on Smartphone/tablet) to see 100% crop. Image taken with Panasonic S1H, Sigma lens converter and Canon EF16-35mm f2.8L @ 16mm. Settings 250th/sec, f8, ISO 100.
S1H Vs 5D Mark IV Stills
The 24mp stills from the Panasonic Lumix S1H easily suit my needs for weddings, commercial shoots and stock. I stopped chasing megapixels for stills a few years ago.
Compared with the 5D Mark IV, I think I prefer the Panasonic S1H stills. Obviously the S1H has newer tech but even so, they just seem nicer.
The easiest way for me to show the difference is to show 100% crops from each camera. All images were shot from the same spot using the same settings. Hover over each image below, or tap on each if on mobile/tablet, to see the difference.
All images were simply converted from RAW to JPEG with no edit whatsoever. I also had the S1H set with a slightly warmer white balance but it's the image quality I am looking at.
Some of the 5D IV images look way off which is strange. They were shot with the EF70-200mm L 2.8 IS so maybe it is my focussing technique? Not sure, but I used exactly the same shooting style with each camera. Most were shot on a tripod so I got the same framing...
EOS 5D Mark IV
S Pro 70-200 2.8 IS
EF 70-200L IS 2.8
No Filters or Processing
No Filters or Processing
Note: S1H image is showing, 5D IV shows on hover/tap
ISO 100, f8, 40th/sec, 200mm...
ISO 100, f6.3, 125th/sec, 200mm...
ISO 100, f6.3, 125th/sec, 200mm...
ISO 1600, f4.5, 125th/sec, 70mm...
ISO 1600, f4.5, 125th/sec, 200mm...
ISO 100, f8, 125th/sec, 200mm...
ISO 100, f8, 50th/sec, 185mm...
Regardless of any minor differences in focus points and techniques used in each comparison, I still think the S1H produces nicer, cleaner and sharper images. It also seems to have a more accurate exposure and more dynamic range IMO.
Contrast Autofocus on the S1H
Coming from the GH5 and its initial (and ongoing) issues with autofocus, I needed to get this working before I bought the Lumix S1H. After a couple of hours, using the Panasonic S Pro 24-70 f2.8 lens, I had some workable success.
It is worth noting that contrast autofocus on the S1H works best with Panasonic L-Mount lenses. In particular the S Pro series. Since buying the Panasonic S1H, I have been using my Canon glass:
Whilst the image quality is superb, the autofocus isn't so much. My lenses are all over 10 years old so the tech doesn't work so well with the later cameras. However, it does still focus well in stills, just slowly, but non-existent whilst filming. I can live with manual focusing for now...until I buy the Panasonic L 24-105 f4.
6K and Why You Need It
Chart of Video Resolutions from 1080P to 8K
In the chart below, you can clearly see the difference between 6K and 1080p HD. The Panasonic Lumix S1H's highest resolution is 6K at 24p so imagine the level of zoom you could achieve if outputting to 1080p.
Most people still use 1080p TV's and computer monitors so the usefulness of larger frame sizes is pretty strong for those who like to edit this way.
How Many 1080p Clips Can You Fit in a 6K Clip?
You can fit approximately 9 x 1080p clips into a 6K frame with room to spare as in the image below. So if you film 6K footage with the Panasonic S1H but output to 1080p for your client, you have a ton of panning, zooming and creative options during edit.
Hopefully you can now see the benefits of filming in a high resolution video frame size even if you only output to 1080p. The creative possibilities are huge. For example, if you filmed a wedding with two 6K video cameras, you could simply leave them running from two static locations for each part of the ceremony.
Then in post-production, you could zoom, pan and crop to your hearts content. This would give your clients the impression that you had people operating the cameras.
The Menu system
I love the menu system on the Panasonic GH5. It is intuitive, sensibly laid out and easy to navigate. Therefore, I was over the moon to see that the menu system on the Lumix S1H was practically the same. Just more in it!
What and Who Is The Lumix S1H Good For?
Price will only go down. Even in a year or two this camera will still be amazing. In fact it may even be so for 5+ years. Wedding photography, excellent. Landscapes, excellent. Corporate stills and video, excellent. Stock photography and video, excellent. Portrait photography, might be overkill but still superb. Walk around, maybe too heavy for some over long periods. Netflix...yep ; )
I love the fact I can charge and power the S1H via the USB Type-C port. This will be perfect for long, night-time time lapses where I can use the excellent PowerOak portable power station.
Coming from a camera like the Nikon or Canon mirrored flagships, the Panasonic Lumix S1H might well appeal for that leap to full frame mirrorless systems. For me, the S1H beats the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV in many ways. Enough for me to switch brands altogether.
If you are thinking of upgrading from a M43 (micro four thirds) system, you will love and really appreciate what a full frame sensor brings.
I bl**dy love this camera!
The Panasonic Lumix S1H is a beast. It is heavy, fairly pricey and the autofocus takes some tweaking to get working. However, after spending 10 days with it, that was enough. No sooner had I sent it back than I had one on order. It is now sitting beside me as I finish this review!
It is without doubt the most exciting camera I have owned to date. I can now go out for a full day shooting high resolution stock photos and 5.9k stock video with just one camera. Heaven! Even though the camera is 18 months old, it is going to be good for at least 5 years and beyond. As long as I look after it.
If you wanted to try one out and are seriously thinking of buying one, use the Lumix Loan scheme from Panasonic. Beware though, you may get hooked and buy one!
Price & Where to Buy the Panasonic Lumix S1H
I am normally an "early adopter" as in I buy cameras on release (5D IV, GH4, GH5, DJI FPV and so many more over the past 2 decades). On occasion, I get burned. The 5D IV was heavily overpriced on release IMHO at £3,600 body only but I bought it anyway.
Fantastic stills camera, video...not so much.
Anyway, if I had bought the Panasonic Lumix S1H on release, I would have been happy at £3,600. However, I waited 18 months and bagged a brand new S1H for £2,450.
If you shop around, maybe check out eBay (but be careful), you should be able to get a good deal. If you want to grab a copy on Amazon and help fund this website with a few £'s, feel free to use this link or the one below.