If you’re wondering why someone who loves Sigma cameras and gets called the ‘Foveon Wizard’ by his peers is writing about the Panasonic Lumix S1R I need to take you back to 2007.
Back then my love for gadgets and tech related things eventually lead me to buying a Panasonic Lumix Fz8, a small bridge camera with 36-432mm f2.8-f3.2 zoom lens. That was my first entry in to the world of photography.
It was then I discovered I didn't just enjoy capturing moments in time but also crafting them by adding my own light. My first ever off camera flash photo was with the Fz8 using a long exposure and the Xeon flash from my old smart phone back when that was a thing.
Panasonic Lumix Fz8 with mobile phone flash.
From there I upgraded to a DSLR. This let me be much more creative and use a wireless flash but I wanted something smaller for everyday stuff and eventually bought my first mirrorless camera back in 2009 which was a Panasonic, the Lumix GF1
The Panasonic LUMIX GF1 that now belongs to my son.
Its clear that Panasonic cameras have always been a part of my photography as I grew so when Panasonic, Sigma and Leica announced the new L mount alliance I got excited and reached out to Panasonic UK to see if I could try their first Full Frame Mirrorless L mount camera the S1R.
Panasonic Lumix S1R with a range of Sigma ART lens.
The S1R wasn't my first Full Frame Mirrorless as that title went to my little Sony A7ii which has been a fantastic camera when I needed more speed or high ISO than my Sigma sdQ-H can give but that didn't stop the excitement I felt when the S1R arrived and its clear Panasonic have been busy!
The S1 and S1R are Panasonics high end entry into the L mount system and just holding the camera feels like a pro level DSLR instead of a mirrorless.
An image I created to showcase the weather sealed body plus Full Frame Sensor.
While It is bigger and heavier than my older Sony A7ii it feels much better built with its weather sealed body that offers more controls and features along with a 47mp sensor that can use the IBIS to generate impressive 187mp images but this is also reflected in the price at around £3,400.
The EVF is the highest resolution around currently more than doubling that of the Sony A7iii and really makes a difference when viewing the world through it. I understand EVF are not for everyone but they do offer many benefits over OVF like focus peaking, picture in picture zooming of the focus area and real time exposure preview if needed.
A look through the EVF, shot on my s9+
Another nice feature is the rear LED touch screen that can pull out, up, down and also to the right which is great for macro or if using the camera in portrait mode low down.
That lovely flippy out LCD.
The camera also supports remote control shooting over WIFI, or full tethering over USB-C and is supplied with this little screw in mount to secure both the USB-C and HMDI wires when in use. The camera can also be supplied power while in use via the USB-C power allowing you to use a power bank for extended shooting or simply topping up the battery on location.
There are just so many nice little thought out things about this camera that you appreciate the more time you spent with it, I have to say its possibly the best thought out cameras I have had the joy of using over the years.
Since I am a Sigma Ambassador I will be using the camera along with the Sigma MC-21 adaptor which does sadly limit some features of the camera, mostly AF-C. You can read more in-depth about that here on the Sigma UK Lounge but to cut a long story short using a proper L mount lens will open up what this camera can do.
Anyway using the Sigma SA lenses on the camera is simple and suits most of my photographic needs, just attach the MC-21, the lens and you're good to go.
I was able to test a variety of Sigma lens on the S1R, from the 12-24 f4 Art to the new 70-200 f2.8 with a few primes along the way. Using AF-S mode the lens focused accurately if a little slower than using them on the Sigma sdQ-H or Sony a7ii via the MC-11.
One of the features of the camera is the AI focus mode which can detect objects, animals, people and eyes. I was surprised the camera could even detect non human eyes and it has been a good mode to use often letting you concentrate on your composition although I did find at times that the camera would focus on the background even if it had a face highlighted. Upon experimenting it turned out that the camera was trying to find something in the original focus point even though I couldn't see it after it detected a face so its just something to watch out for.
The camera has many other focus modes like spot focus which will show a little picture in picture with a zoomed in view to show you if the focus has landed in the right place, also the focus peaking works well in manual focus and was actually a joy to use when shooting my cousins football team.
Footballer - LUMIX S1R with Sigma 50-100mm f1.8 ART in aspc mode.
As the S1R is the higher resolution version of the two cameras that share the same body, I feel that it will most likely be used by people looking to do landscapes or studio work with the S1 being more for events due to the smaller file size and better higher ISO, and Video too due having more options with the upgrade firmware and full sensor readout where as the S1R has a small 1.1x crop in 4k.
One of the main reasons I was interested in this camera was the High Resolution mode, I have been using the Super Fine Detail mode on my Sigma's for a while now and enjoy the extra clarity and dynamic range it brings so when I heard that the S1R could generate a 187mp raw file I knew it was something I wanted to try.
Using the High Resolution mode is fairly simple, press menu then in the first photo section scroll down to high resolution mode and then start as you can see in the short video here.
Here's the image from that shot using the Sigma 12-24mm f4 lens.
St Mary’s Parish Church, Kirkintilloch - LUMIX S1R with Sigma 12-24mm f4
I was rather impressed with how quick the camera created the image along with the detail it can capture although not all lenses will be able to resolve the full detail this mode provides. Movement in the images can cause artefacts although the camera does have two modes for the High Resolution mode and a longer shutter speed can help reduce them at the expense of motion blur.
Mode 1 attempts to blend movement to look like an longer exposure was used, it can work well and works best at longer exposures although the 1 second shutter speed limit of the High Resolution mode is annoying.
Mode 2 attempts to remove the movement to look like a shorter exposure was used, Both of these settings can be found in the High Resolution menu.
Another trick is to downscale the 187mp image back down to 47mp, You still end up with a file with more detail than a single 47mp shot even if the lens isn't capable to render the full 187mp. You can then use the single frame that the camera captures at the same time to blend over areas where the movement has been an issue, I particularly like doing this as the 47mp now looks more Foveon like than Bayer due to the increased density of detail.
To test this I took my trusty Sigma sdQ-H along with the Panasonic S1R with Sigma 12-24 f4 out at Carrbridge and took similar shots, Here is the shot from the S1R which I enjoyed more simple due to the sky.
Carrbridge - LUMIX S1R with Sigma 12-24mm f4
Here are the crops from both the Sigma sdQ-H (25.6mp) on the left shot in Super Fine Detail mode and Panasonic S1R shot in 187mp mode downscaled to 47mp.