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.
Most of the resolutions use 100Mbps or higher streams. A
couple go as high as 400Mbps.
And there are variable frame rates and high frame rates of up
to 120fps for 1080p. The former allows some pretty impressive high-resolution
slow motion. With high frame rate recording, sound capture still works.
And all that stuff is for recording to an inserted SD card. No need to add an external HDMI recorder.
After a while, video devices have to stop to cool down. But
the Lumix S1H includes a cooling fan so it can keep going indefinitely if fed
by external power, and up to two hours on its own battery. Despite the active
cooling the unit is still weather resistant.
Of equal use for both still and video work, the Lumix S1H
features Dual Image Stabilisation in five axes allows up to 6.5 stops of more
freedom from shake.
And it has modes. The first time I came across image
stabilisation was in a smart phone and it was a real problem. As I tried to record
video, panning across a scene, it became a stop/start mess. The stabilisation
(which couldn’t be defeated) resisted movement of the scene until it got too
much, then the image would snap across to the next position, whereupon the
resistance would resume.
Of course, you can switch off stabilisation in the Lumix
S1H. But it also has a regular mode which allows for smooth panning, and a
locking mode in which the stabilisation tries to stop all movement.
And it has several modes for anamorphic lenses.
Okay, anamorphic lenses are things that were frequently used
with the advent of widescreen films in the 1950s. They squeeze the optical
image into a narrower shape. That allowed the full resolution of a film to be
used, instead of a mere band across the middle of the frame. In the cinema a
reverse-anamorphic lens would be used to widen the image, restoring the correct
With image stabilisation the use of an anamorphic lens would
result in a seemingly different amount of stabilisation in the horizontal and
vertical directions. The various anamorphic modes align them for different
Are you ever likely to use such a thing? I think I can say
with confidence: almost certainly no. But this kind of attention to detail
shows how much Panasonic consulted with professional cinematographers.
Seemingly, if they wanted it, they got it.
Of course, the camera has a highly competent autofocus
system. But it also has stuff that appeals to the video maker. One that was
particularly impressive was the ability to “memorise” two or three focus points,
and then have the camera smoothly slide from one to the other. Several speeds
were provided. That’s a cool feature that would, until now, have required a
cinematographer with enormous experience to pull off.
What else is there? V-Log/V-Gamut recording allows more than
14 stops of dynamic range. Custom Look Up Tables convert this to a desired end
The launch event was conducted in the weirdly hypnotic premises
of the Sydney Prop Specialist (“Prop” being movie props – there were Game of
Thrones thrones, phone boxes, Elvises, Spocks, swords and TV sets from all eras).
Cinematographer Clinton Harn showed us what the Lumix S1H could do. There was a
carefully lit drama scene, and a wild, brightly lit dance scene, and a very
darkly lit rock group.
He slow-moed, and hand-held in the low light, and zoomed
point of focus and did it all quite effortlessly.
And he raved about how easy it was to do it all with
a light-weight device such as the Lumix S1H.
Pricing and availability
Panasonic is pushing hard to complete the Lumix S-series
ecosystem, and plans to have 46 lenses available for it by the end of the first
quarter next year. Along with the S1H, it announced a new Lumix S Pro 24-70mm f/2.8
As for the Lumix S1H, it will become available in October
for $5,999 for the body, or $7,599 with the Lumix S 24-105mm f/4 Macro
OIS lens. That’s a $300 saving on the bundle.