Until now, Panasonic’s premium cameras have used the Micro Four Thirds format. Come April, the Japanese giant is moving to the full-frame mirrorless format with the Lumix S Series.

There will be two Lumix S Series cameras and three new compatible lenses.

This is a big move. Professionals still love full-frame. Many decades of technique are based on cameras built around the 35mm film format. It’s the size of those frames that full-frame cameras replicate.

Full Frame Lumix S

The sensor in a Micro Four Thirds camera is 17.3mm wide by 13mm tall for a 4:3 aspect ratio. The current range have around 20.3 megapixels of resolution. The new Lumix S Series cameras’ full frame sensors are around 36mm wide by 24mm tall, for a 3:2 aspect ratio. So, they’re a lot larger and the frames are wider. That’s nearly four times the area of a Micro Four Thirds sensor, and more than twice the size of an APS-C sensor.

The Lumix S1 is the more “entry level” of the two cameras. It offers a resolution of 24.2 megapixels, or twenty per cent more than the highest resolution Lumix so far. But because of the larger sensor, each pixel is three times the size of that on a Panasonic Micro Four Thirds camera. That ought to translate to greater sensitivity and less noise in low-light photography.

Lumix S

The Lumix S1R goes for super resolution: 47.3 megapixels. That works out to 8,368 by 5,584 pixels. Even at that resolution, its pixels each have around 65% more surface area than those in a Micro Four Thirds model.

High Resolution Mode

Not enough? Both cameras include a “High Resolution Mode”. Assuming it works the same as the same-name mode in the Panasonic Lumix DC-G9, this moves the sensor to four slightly different positions during a shot. It then weaves these four images together to generate a result around four times the resolution of the sensor. Because the four images are taken in sequence, the camera must be tripod mounted and the scene must be still. So it’s no good for action photography, but for still lifes and portraits? Well, for the Lumix S1R, that takes resolution up to 187 megapixels.

I tested out the Lumix DC-G9 version of this last year. The amount of detail it rendered was seriously impressive. Check out the comparison photos here (scroll down to “High Resolution Mode”.)

Features

Both cameras have all the good stuff, including Panasonic’s 4K and 8K modes which allow capturing frames from before you press the shutter, focus selection and more. Both can shoot at 4K at up 30p. An optional (ie. paid) firmware upgrade to be made available later this year will bump that up to 50p/60p via the HDMI output, and will also allow 4K 10-bit 4:2:2 recording at up to 30p.

Panasonic’s Dual I.S.2 optical stabilisation works in five axes and is claimed to give up to 6 stops of stabilistation.

Lumix S

The OLED Live View Finder has an extraordinary 5.7 megapixels of resolution and runs at 120 frames per second. The latency is said to be less than five milliseconds. The rear monitor swings out in just about any direction, as with Panasonic’s G Series camera. That makes it very flexible when it comes to taking photos from odd directions.

Both cameras are splash and dust resistant. Both have both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. Both have two card slots. One uses SD, while the other uses the newer, higher speed XQD format. Panasonic says that it will provide an upgrade from this to CFexpress format, which is faster still.

Lenses

The cameras use the Leica L-Mount system. I see that a big US camera retailer has some 160 items listed under a search for Leica L-Mount lenses, so there’s no shortage. Panasonic is adding three of its own into the mix.

There’s a high speed, 50mm prime lens, the Lumix S PRO 50mm F1.4. And there’s a fairly fast telephoto zoom, the Lumix S PRO 70-200mm F4 O.I.S. Finally, there’s an everyday working zoom which runs from wide angle to a modest telephoto, the Lumix S 24-105mm F4 MACRO O.I.S.

Pricing and more information

The cameras and lenses are expected to be available for purchase from April 2019. Their pricing is: