Panasonic S1R

Kyle Jones

Moderator
Introduction

I had noted in a couple of other threads that I've started expanding outside of my long-time use of Canon gear, so here is an explanation. I'll start with a little bit of history. My first SLR was a Minolta X-700. I enjoyed that camera and the few lenses that I had, but I moved to a Canon SLR in the late 90's when my Minolta body failed and I couldn't get it repaired. I bought my first digital SLR in 2006, a Canon Rebel XT. It was a natural fit for me as it was compatible with the lenses and other gear that I had collected. From there I transitioned to the Rebel T1i, the 6D, and then the 5DS R. I've also been using some of Canon's mirrorless offerings including the compact M6 as a walk-around camera and the larger EOS R for night and travel photography. My primary passion in photography is landscapes and my 5DS R has been my camera of choice since it was released. The 50MP sensor provided great detail and I was able to take advantage of Canon's professional quality lenses. Recently, though, I've been getting more frustrated with that body. Its low light performance is poor and its dynamic range lags well behind the competition. I was ready to start looking at something else, but I didn't want to lose the ability to use some of the specialty lenses I had acquired. Earlier this month I was introduced to the Panasonic S1R and found a deal on a used body that was just too good to pass up.

Features that Matter to Me

For my landscape images I have generally been much more interested in the sensor quality than in other camera features. That is one reason why I bought a Canon 6D over the more powerful 5D MkIII - it had a better sensor. The Panasonic S1R has an excellent high resolution sensor. As much as I take review sites and ratings with a grain of salt, DXOMARK rates the S1R sensor as its third best sensor overall, trailing only medium format systems by Hasselblad and Pentax. With its 47MP full frame sensor the Panasonic S1R essentially gives me the same resolution I had grown accustomed to while also giving me much better HIgh-ISO performance and dynamic range. The Panasonic is part of the L-mount alliance, along with Leica and Sigma. As a result, Sigma provides a lens adapter that allows me to use my Canon EF mount lenses on the Panasonic. I also have the ability, if I ever win the lottery, to use Leica lenses natively on the body.

The sensor difference alone wouldn't have gotten me to switch - but the S1R has several other features not available in the Canon that I am happy to take advantage of:
  • In body image stabilization (IBIS) to help remove camera shake in both photos and videos for any lens that I use
  • A high-resolution mode using the IBIS mechanism to combine 8 images into a massive 187MP RAW image
  • A maximum exposure time before having to switch to bulb mode of 60 seconds (vs 30 for any other camera I've owned)
  • Focus stacking - either automatically capturing a series of RAW images for processing on my computer or creating a focus-stacked image in camera
  • 4K 60 FPS video at the full sensor size
  • The rear LCD tilts up, down, and sideways for easy visibilty
  • A lot of buttons and switches that can all be customized to work the way I want
  • Dual card slots with one for XQD and one for SD formats
  • An SLR-sized body - this may be funny to some, but I like having a full-sized body with some heft to it. I am a big guy after all...
I don't do much automated exposure bracketing. For landscapes I usually exposure as much as I can without blowing out my highlights, watching the histogram carefully. For a very contrasty scene I may take another couple of shots with a longer shutter speed to get a little more light in the dark areas for blending when I get home. I use that feature rarely enough that when I actually want to set the camera to bracket exposures I can never remember how. The S1R has a mode dial near the lens mount. I've set that up so if I switch from Mode 1 (normal) to Mode 2 the camera is immediately ready to take 5 bracketed exposures each one stop apart (and you can change the number and spacing of exposures to your liking).

So what do I lose with the Panasonic?
  • My Canon flashes and other peripherals
  • Continuous autofocus does not work when using the Sigma MC-21 adapter to mount a Canon lens on the body.
  • Smaller selection of native lenses (although Sigma is releasing L-mount versions of many of their ART lenses).
  • My years of familiarity with Canon gear and menus
  • I also have some concern about light leakage when using the lens adapter. More on that below
The S1R in Use

I made my first photo trip with the S1R to Yosemite soon after the park re-opened in Mid-June. This gave me the chance to try it out for both landscapes and some night photography. In addition to the camera body, I purchased two native lenses, the LUMIX 24-70 f/2.8 and the LUMIX 16-35 f/4. I also brought the Sigma lens adapter along with my Tamron 15-30 f/2.8 lens (in Canon mount) for night photography. The camera was a joy to use. The EVF is as nice as any I've seen and I like that I can set it up to automatically zoom into the focus point when I manually focus. It will take me a while to fully adapt to this camera, but the fact that it is so customizable definitely helps. The lenses are well built and very sharp. Of course, well built often means big and heavy and in the case of the 24-70 in particular that is absolutely true.

My first stop was at the Dana Gibbs view along Tioga road. I captured a few images and then decided to try out the high-resolution mode. As a feature I expect to take advantage of regularly, I set one of the buttons on the camera front to turn it on. When in this mode, the camera takes eight frames in quick succession using the electronic shutter, shifting the sensor slightly between frames to provide the extra resolution. There are some limitations to this mode: the shutter speed can't exceed 1 second and the ISO can't exceed 3200. This limits the usefulness in low-light situations. Because the camera takes eight frames, any subject movement can create a challenge. A tripod is definitely necessary. There are two setup options for handling a moving subject. The default simply stitches the frames together and a moving subject will show some ghosting. The second mode attempts to remove that ghosting by interpolating between images. That is the mode I am using.

The image below was captured in high-resolution mode. The first thing I observed when I loaded it into Lightroom at home was that my computer can just barely handle a file of this size. The resolution is 16,736 pixels by 10,766 pixels. I ended up reducing the size in Photoshop to make it more manageable, but still kept it at an impressive 78MP.

1) Dana Gibbs Afternoon in High-Resolution Mode
0432 Dana Gibbs Afternoon_1200.jpg


I tried out the high resolution mode again at Tenaya Lake during sunset. It is worth noting that when using the high resolution mode the camera outputs both the 187MP high resolution image as well as a normal 47MP image. You can compare the two below (although at web sizes you won't see much of a difference). You can, though, see some of the difference in how it rendered the ripples in the lake - the largest area of movement in the scene. I don't see anything particularly objectionable in how it blended the high-resolution images.

2) Tenaya Lake High Resolution
0439 Tenaya Sunset High Res_1200.jpg


3) Tenaya Lake Normal Resolution
0440 Tenaya Sunset Normal_1200.jpg


So what do you get for the extra effort? Below are some 100% crops. The first image shows a 100% crop at the 187MP high resolution. The image on the left is the normal resolution image upscaled to 187MP and the image on the right is from the high resolution file at its native resolution. The high resolution image defintely retains more detail than the upscaled version. The second image below repeats this exercise, except at the 47MP normal resolution. In this case the high-resolution image has been downsampled to 47MP. This result surprised me as I can see a significant difference in sharpness in favor of the downsampled image - although there does appear to be a blending artifact below the rock on the right. Comparing Image 4 and Image 5 below gives a good indication of the overall resolution difference.

4) 100% Detail at 187MP Resolution
High Resolution Detail.jpg


5) 100% Detail at 47MP Resolution
Normal Resolution Detail.jpg


Next up was some night photography. This was a moonless night so the foreground was really dark. Overall the camera performed better than my 5DS R at night, although I am not convinced it is better than my EOS R. There is quite a bit of noise in the dark parts of the image, although the stars look good and any areas with light look good even at ISO 6400. The below image is an example, captured at ISO 6400.

6) Night Sky and Light Painting
0498 Juniper and Milky Way_1200.jpg


One issue that I did observe is a purple bloom along the sides of the night images in the black areas of the ground. In the image above I added a vignette and adjusted the saturation to hide it. You can see it better in the image below, which is taken straight from Lightroom. Note that the lighting in this image is from passing cars - I tried to hide a bright red area from taillights on the right to avoid it being too much of a distraction. Look in the bottom corners for the bloom.

7) Night Image with Purple Bloom
0509 Rock and Stars Testing_1200.jpg


So far, I have only seen this purple bloom in images with essentially no light on the foreground. The image below was taken before the sky became fully dark, but still required a 20 second exposure at f/4 and ISO 1600. I don't see any purple here even at full resolution.

8) Late Twilight Scene
0482 Late Twilight_1200.jpg


One of my first thoughts was that the lens adapter might be contributing. These night images were taken with the Canon mount Tamron 15-30 lens and the Sigma MC-21 adapter. I did some experiments at home with the lens cap on to check this out. All of the exposures below were taken with the lens cap on, ISO 6400, f/4, and 30 seconds. In Lightoom I pushed the exposure to +1, shadows +100% and blacks to +100%. Noise reduction and sharpening are off. What I should be seeing is just sensor noise, since the lens cap is on. On the left side are images taken with the native LUMIX 16-35 and on the right are images with the adapted Tamron lens. I captured the images on the top row in a bright room while those on the bottom row were in a dark room. The first thing that jumps out is the light leakage in the top right image. For me this is concerning. The actual impact in real images, though, should be small since it generally isn't possible to have the camera in a bright room that is taking pictures of a subject with no light. As expected those areas go away in the dark room. It is clear, though, that while a purple bloom exists in all of the images, it is much more pronounced with the adapted lens. I may decide to pick up a fast native lens (like the Sigma 14mm f/1.8) for my night shots with this body. I do still need to try taking a long exposure (several minutes) for the foreground to see if that works better.

9) Lens cap tests
LensCapTests.jpg


Finally I did some ISO tests. My main goal was to see if I saw the purple fringing in low light conditions (vs. the no light conditions in Yosemite and with the lens cap). My second goal was to figure out what ISO I wanted to use for low light images. As an example, would I be better off with ISO 6400 or using ISO 1600 and pushing the exposure by 2 stops in Lightroom (keeping the shutter speed the same in all images). I used my backyard for this as shown below with 10 second exposures and f/4. You can ignore the lighting differences in the trees as those were from passing cars. Looking at the images in Figure 10, the ISO 800 image with the 2 stop push is definitely breaking down. Both the ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 images look really good with little noise and good contrast. The ISO 6400 noise is definitely noisier. There really aren't any signs of purple fringing in these images.

10) Backyard ISO Invariance Tests (LUMIX 16-35)
GnomeLumixShots.jpg


The image below shows a 100% crop in the center of the frame, so you can get a good idea of the noise as well as the sharpness and contrast. The top row were captured with the LUMIX 16-35 lens at 20mm and the bottom row with the Tamron 15-30 lens at 20mm. Note that while the LUMIX was wide open and the Tamron was stopped down to f/4, the Panasonic lens is significantly sharper. This is true throughout the image. The ISO of each column is shown at the bottom. To my eye, I'd be fine with either ISO 1600 or 3200 pushed as shown. The ISO 800 images are washed out and the ISO 6400 images are starting to lose contrast. At the same time, based on these results I'd have no issue using ISO 6400 if that was what I needed to get the shot.
100percentgnomearray.jpg


So that is where I have gotten with my experimentation so far. Let me know what you think or if there is anything you'd like to ask about or see.
 
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AlanLichty

Moderator
Nice honest eval of this camera and thanks for presenting your testing like this.

I suspect we are going to see a lot more of the in camera stacking software in new offerings since it's something that is making a strong showing on phone camera tech at this point. I won't be surprised if Panasonic offers some firmware updates that do more with that kind of tech since it appears they already have the underlying tech built into the unit. Your results with the high res shots are doing what I would expect out of averaging techniques so shots aiming to show still water will benefit. Not a good mode to try to capture hummingbirds in flight in its current incarnation.

Have you seen anything to suggest Panasonic is going to try to leverage the in camera stacking beyond high resolution? Is this part of how they accomplish the in camera stabilization? This is part of how Apple is doing in camera stabilization (along with a lot more) in what they call Deep Fusion in the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max cameras where they are actually capturing 8 or 9 frames for each image you shoot and then doing an in camera stack to compute the image you see. Apple is actually doing a lot more than stabilization and improving resolution with exposure and color balancing but if it works well at the resolution of a phone sized sensor it's fun to think about what could be done with a serious full sized sensor like the Panasonic 😁
 

Kyle Jones

Moderator
Nice honest eval of this camera and thanks for presenting your testing like this.

I suspect we are going to see a lot more of the in camera stacking software in new offerings since it's something that is making a strong showing on phone camera tech at this point. I won't be surprised if Panasonic offers some firmware updates that do more with that kind of tech since it appears they already have the underlying tech built into the unit. Your results with the high res shots are doing what I would expect out of averaging techniques so shots aiming to show still water will benefit. Not a good mode to try to capture hummingbirds in flight in its current incarnation.

Have you seen anything to suggest Panasonic is going to try to leverage the in camera stacking beyond high resolution? Is this part of how they accomplish the in camera stabilization? This is part of how Apple is doing in camera stabilization (along with a lot more) in what they call Deep Fusion in the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max cameras where they are actually capturing 8 or 9 frames for each image you shoot and then doing an in camera stack to compute the image you see. Apple is actually doing a lot more than stabilization and improving resolution with exposure and color balancing but if it works well at the resolution of a phone sized sensor it's fun to think about what could be done with a serious full sized sensor like the Panasonic 😁
The high-resolution mode isn't a smoothing or averaging technique. The IBIS system shifts the sensor fractions of a pixel pitch to gather data between pixels to create a higher resolution image. The nice thing about this is that the lens only needs to be able to resolve to the 47MP resolution. The processing comes into play when something moves during the captures (like the ripples in the water). I shot it in the mode that adds a de-ghosting algorithm. The other option is to allow the ghosting and clean it up yourself in Photoshop. Considering how slow it is to do anything on these files, I don't have the patience for that.

They really have, though, added a lot of in-camera computation similar to what you'd expect from a phone. Unfortunately, most of these features output lower resolution JPG files and I'm not generally willing to give up either control or data. Post-focus and HDR are two such examples. Post focus captures a "group" of images and you can go back and select which one gives you the exact focus you want, or you can give the camera a range and it will focus stack the selected images for you. It will do in-camera HDR as well and I believe you can select some of the processing parameters. I haven't looked too closely because like I said, I doubt I'll ever use them.
 

AlanLichty

Moderator
The high-resolution mode isn't a smoothing or averaging technique. The IBIS system shifts the sensor fractions of a pixel pitch to gather data between pixels to create a higher resolution image. The nice thing about this is that the lens only needs to be able to resolve to the 47MP resolution. The processing comes into play when something moves during the captures (like the ripples in the water). I shot it in the mode that adds a de-ghosting algorithm. The other option is to allow the ghosting and clean it up yourself in Photoshop. Considering how slow it is to do anything on these files, I don't have the patience for that.

They really have, though, added a lot of in-camera computation similar to what you'd expect from a phone. Unfortunately, most of these features output lower resolution JPG files and I'm not generally willing to give up either control or data. Post-focus and HDR are two such examples. Post focus captures a "group" of images and you can go back and select which one gives you the exact focus you want, or you can give the camera a range and it will focus stack the selected images for you. It will do in-camera HDR as well and I believe you can select some of the processing parameters. I haven't looked too closely because like I said, I doubt I'll ever use them.
I am with you on wanting to be able to have my RAW output instead of a jpg file. I almost got excited when I found that I could import the HEIC files from an iPhone into LR but now know that this is still a computer result and not RAW output at all. Still fun to think about where this could take us at some point however.

It is interesting to contemplate how much graphical number crunching can be accomplished in almost real time on these devices with dedicated hardware and well tuned applications. Our desktop computers are getting slammed to the floor trying to do this with general purpose off the shelf software.
 

Ben Egbert

Forum Helper
Staff member
Great write up Kyle. When I first saw that your were switching, I looked up the L mount system to see what you were getting, hard to tell because I did not see any specific resolution numbers, Now I know. I am getting too old to make any switches, maybe even to a new Canon. But I am still very interested in the new tech that is out there, You switch to Panasonic and Jeffrey switching to Fuji. My friend Rick Knepper also switched to Fuji.

I don't do enough night work to worry about the noise.
 

Jameel Hyder

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Nice write up Kyle. Interestingly my journey also went thru Minolta (x700) to canon (T90) before miving to digital (Nikon Coolpix 950) and a series of canon DSLRs to the current 5DsR.

I have thought about a move to Sony (A7R4) as well as the Fuji GFX. Have too much Canon glass so waiting to see what the R5 revies are like. I know i can adapt the canon glass to Sony easily however thats another variable.
 

Kyle Jones

Moderator
Great write up Kyle. When I first saw that your were switching, I looked up the L mount system to see what you were getting, hard to tell because I did not see any specific resolution numbers, Now I know. I am getting too old to make any switches, maybe even to a new Canon. But I am still very interested in the new tech that is out there, You switch to Panasonic and Jeffrey switching to Fuji. My friend Rick Knepper also switched to Fuji.

I don't do enough night work to worry about the noise.
Thanks Ben. I still work in technology and the engineer in me loves playing with new things. I'm enjoying it and the image quality really is nice.

Nice write up Kyle. Interestingly my journey also went thru Minolta (x700) to canon (T90) before miving to digital (Nikon Coolpix 950) and a series of canon DSLRs to the current 5DsR.

I have thought about a move to Sony (A7R4) as well as the Fuji GFX. Have too much Canon glass so waiting to see what the R5 revies are like. I know i can adapt the canon glass to Sony easily however thats another variable.
I had thought about Sony a few times, but they've never quite hit it on all cylinders for me. The amount of Canon glass I have played a role there. I felt better about adapting for the Panasonic since Sigma makes the adapter, they have a huge experience base with the EF lenses, and they are part of the L-mount alliance so they should be able to get the camera side of the adapter to be perfect. It turns out that the Panasonic lenses are really, really nice. I don't doubt that Leica's involvement is a factor there. I thought about the GFX but that is an awful lot of cost for what seemed to be limited benefit vs. the 5DS R.

I will stay invested in Canon. I'm keeping the R, I may buy the R5 at some point, and I'll need something fast for my trip to Botswana next year. I sold my EF 24-70 since I buy a native lens in that range for each camera system I'm using, but my other EF glass stays.
 

JimFox

Moderator
Staff member
Hey Kyle,

What a great write up you have made. Very well done, and super informative.

I really like that high resolution stacking mode. It's a bit hard to think clearly here with all of the grandkids, but it sounds similar to a tech one of the other manufacturers were using some years back to take a 12mp sensor and create a 36mp image. The high resolution mode certainly is showing an amazing amount of detail. That alone I think would be a very tempting reason to get this.

Forgive me for not knowing, I didn't see it stated in the article and probably the only thing I think you could add for clarification. Is the sensor in this a Full Frame sensor? If you mention it, I missed it, though that could be the result of the 7 month old crying and the 3 oldest kids playing dolls literally next to me on the floor so I am having trouble thinking in longer then 2 word thoughts at this moment.... :rolleyes:
 

JimFox

Moderator
Staff member
Oh, and I found it funny how I too had been shooting with Minolta camera's, the XG7 and XG9 when they finally broke down for the final time. I looked at Canon but chose Nikon to be my replacement.
 

Kyle Jones

Moderator
Hey Kyle,

What a great write up you have made. Very well done, and super informative.

I really like that high resolution stacking mode. It's a bit hard to think clearly here with all of the grandkids, but it sounds similar to a tech one of the other manufacturers were using some years back to take a 12mp sensor and create a 36mp image. The high resolution mode certainly is showing an amazing amount of detail. That alone I think would be a very tempting reason to get this.

Forgive me for not knowing, I didn't see it stated in the article and probably the only thing I think you could add for clarification. Is the sensor in this a Full Frame sensor? If you mention it, I missed it, though that could be the result of the 7 month old crying and the 3 oldest kids playing dolls literally next to me on the floor so I am having trouble thinking in longer then 2 word thoughts at this moment.... :rolleyes:
Absolutely full frame. I'll go ahead and make that clear.
 

Kyle Jones

Moderator
Thanks Kyle.

Another thought just came to mind, what's the current pricing difference between this Panasonic and the Canon you were using?
The price is essentially the same as the 5DS R. Currently the body is $3697 at B&H. The body and lens prices are pretty much in line with what you'd see from Canon, Nikon and Sony. I bought mine used with less than 2000 clicks and it came with the RRS L-Plate, 2 extra batteries, and a remote release - pretty much everything I needed to get going.
 
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