In March we reported our experiences with Panasonic’s first full frame cameras, the S-Series. Now it has followed up with the Lumix S1H, launched yesterday at a weirdly entrancing venue in Marrickville, Sydney. Another full frame camera, the Lumix S1H one is a significant re-design with the needs of cinematographers in mind.
Lumix S1H features
At this point I should be listing features. But there’s no way I’ll be doing that comprehensively. I suspect a five-thousand-word coverage would be too long. So, I’ll just touch the high points.
First, even though the Lumix S1H is heavily focused on high-end video work, it’s still a fine camera for stills. The 24.2 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor employs a low pass filter optimised for cinema. There’s something a little special about it: it has two native ISO ratings. ISO is kind of like the natural sensitivity of the sensor (or film in the old days). If you push a camera into a too-high ISO rating, there’s an increase in random noise in the picture – grain, if you like.
The Lumix S1H has two native ISO ratings. Apparently, this is achieved by having the sensor feed two different signal paths. I’m not sure how that affects it. Nonetheless, the various testimonials offered at the launch event made it clear that photographers would get the same low-noise performance from both native ISO settings: ISO 640 and ISO 4000.
Of course, the higher the ISO rating, the less light required. That allows smaller apertures and faster shutter speeds.
The first couple of Lumix S models abandoned the incredibly versatile fold-out rear monitor provided on the Panasonic GH cameras, substituting a more conventional tiltable monitor. The Lumix S1H returns to the fold-out model, but puts it on a hinged section so it also tilts out at the bottom. Almost the best of both worlds.
Meanwhile, the 5.76 megapixel live view finder is retained from the earlier Lumix S1 models. It provides a superbly sharp image. That makes it easier to focus.
Lumix S1H status – memory in pixels
There’s also a status display on the top right of the camera. A huge one, 1.8 inches in size. This can obviously provide a lot of information about camera’s settings. And it can do much of this when the camera is off, thanks to “Memory in Pixel” technology.
That was a new one on me, so I looked it up. It seems that these are LCD displays with integrated 1-bit storage for each pixel. They still require power, but far less than one per cent of the amount of a regular LCD display. Presumably you can switch this off if you need to eke out the battery contents.
There are two slots for SDXC cards, both supporting the super-fast UHS-II bus. For increased reliability and security, you can set your shots and video to record to both cards at the same time.
The Lumix S1H supports up to nine frames per second of burst shooting. The shutter is rated at 400,000 operations. And should 24-ish megapixels be insufficient, you can use the pixel-shifting 96-megapixel mode.
Lumix S1H cinema
So, now, let’s look at some of the cinema functions. First, there’s sheer capacity, by which I mean the amount of data that can be handled. In general, one can have more resolution with any imaging device, but at the expense of other data-consuming elements, such as the number of bits. The Lumix S1H has an extremely high in-camera capacity.
At the top end, it can record 6K video – that’s 5,952 by 3,968 pixels – in 10-bits at 24p with a standard 4:2:0 colour resolution. Or 5.4K at up to 25p/30p. There’s also a 5.9K mode.
Falling back to Cinema 4K – that’s 4,096 by 2,160 pixels – the camera can pull off 30p with 10 bits and the higher colour resolution of 4:2:2 using the full frame of the camera.
If you use a smaller crop to match the recording resolution, the camera can go all the way up to 60p at both Cinema 4K and UltraHD – again with 10 bits but at the lesser 4:2:0 colour resolution.