Over the last couple of days Panasonic treated a bunch of tech writers, photographers and videographers to a bunch of picturesque locations around Hobart. The purpose was to introduce us to the new Panasonic Lumix S full frame cameras.

We covered the details of the cameras when they were announced back in February. See here. But in brief, there are two models. As seems to be the industry standard with full frame mirrorless cameras, the two differ primarily in resolution.

The “hero” product is the Lumix S1R. This one’s 35mm-film-sized sensor packs 47.3 megapixels. That works out to 8,368 by 5,584 pixels in roughly 3:2 aspect. A bunch of lower resolution modes are available. It is being introduced at $5,299, body only.

Lumix S Series

A recap of the Lumix S Series cameras

The “entry” level model is the Lumix S1. The sensor is the same size, but the pixels are bigger for a resolution of 24.2 megapixels. The biggest images are 6,000 by 4,000 pixels. It’s priced at $3,599. As a kit with the Lumix S F4 24-105mm lens, they are priced respectively at $6,899 and $5,199. That saves purchasers about $300 on buying the lens separately.

Both have the full set of Panasonic features, including 6K modes. I was told that the S1 has a buffer big enough for 999 shots in a burst. I imagine fewer images would fit in the buffer with RAW mode selected, or with the higher resolution S1R images.

Both cameras are dust and splash resistant (it rained a bit during some of the shoots, but none of the cameras seemed to mind) and it can cope with cold down to -10 degrees C.

They both do UltraHD video recording, but the cheaper S1 is the capability winner here. It can use the full sensor for recording up to UltraHD 30p. Later in the year there will be a for-purchase software upgrade that will allow it to record the colour in higher 4:2:2 resolution (rather than the standard 4:2:0) at up to 30p internally, and up to 60p via the HDMI output to an external recorder.

There’s much, much more. Check out our earlier piece.

In the hand

Over a day and a half I was able to wield both cameras, taking just short of 1,300 photos with the two of them.

I ended up with a lot more than 1,300 files, because for the first 400-odd I had RAW mode also operating. That is photos were saved at the highest quality JPEG setting and RAW, both. But then I heard from the Panasonic people that these cameras use a new version of Panasonic’s flavour of RAW, and that it’s not yet supported by the various photo editing packages (I use Photoshop). That support should be appearing in the near future.

I’m going to refer to them both as Lumix S Series cameras because, until it comes to editing work, where the higher resolution of the S1R becomes apparent, they are identical in use.

The Lumix S Series cameras felt great in my hands. They certainly didn’t feel at all heavy in my paws, even though I was expecting them to. And even though they were mostly fitted with the Lumix S 24-105mm F4 lens, which is itself pretty large. You can leave everything on automatic (“iA” on the mode dial) and just point and shoot as well as the best compact. All you’ll need is more room in your luggage to carry the thing.

(Although, to be fair, when I got back to my office after the trip and picked up my GH4, it felt so very, very light).

Controls

When not in full auto mode, and even though I’m a long-time Panasonic GH4 user, there were a few things that I had to get used to in order to effectively use the camera. The first was my tendency to somehow lean on the joy stick. This sits to the upper right of the rear monitor, and even though it’s not in the way of anything, I still kept pushing it accidentally.

The main use of the joystick is to select the point of focus (it doesn’t change much if you’re using the focus-on-everything multi-point point mode. It kept ending up at bottom left, so auto focus would be trying to find something on the ground on which to focus, leaving my subjects fuzzy.