Panasonic Lumix S1R vs. Lumix S1: Which S-series camera should you choose?

Panasonic Lumix S1R Review
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

After years of focusing on the smaller Micro Four Thirds format, Panasonic’s entry into the full-frame market came as a surprise. Its first two full-frame cameras — the Lumix S1R and S1 — are professional machines ready to take on the best that Sony, Nikon, and Canon have to offer.

The S1 and S1R are more similar than they are different, with spec sheets that read as near carbon copies of each other, save for a couple key differences. While both can shoot 4K video at up to 60 frames per second, the 47-megapixel S1R is decidedly more focused on the still photographer, while the 24-megapixel S1 is a true hybrid still/video camera. There is also a large price difference: $3,700 for the S1R, $2,500 for the S1.

But even if money is no object, the S1R isn’t necessarily the better the camera. It all depends on what you need. Here’s how these twin cameras compare, and why one may be the better choice for you.

Panasonic Lumix S1R

panasonic lumix s1r vs nikon z7 when megapixels matter product comparison

Panasonic Lumix S1

panasonic lumix s1r vs s1 product comparison

Sensor 47.3-megapixel full-frame sensor 24-megapixel full-frame sensor
Burst speed Up to 9 fps (6 with AF-C) up to 9 fps (6 with AF-C)
Shutter speed 1/8,000 to 60 sec. 1/8,000 to 60 sec.
ISO 100-25,600 (50-51,200 expanded) 100-51,200 (50-204,800 expanded)
Autofocus 225-point contrast-detection DFD AF 225-point contrast-detection DFD AF
Image stabilization 5-axis sensor-shift stabilization 5-axis sensor-shift stabilization
Video 4K/30p and 60p with 1.09x crop, 8-bit 4K/30p, 4K/60p with 1.5x crop, HLG (V-Log via firmware update)
Viewfinder 0.78x magnification, 5.7m-dot OLED 0.78x magnification, 5.7m-dot OLED
LCD 3.2-inch, 2.1m-dot tilting touchscreen 3.2-inch, 2.1m-dot tilting touchscreen
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Battery Li-ion rated at 360 shots Li-ion rated at 380 shots
Dimensions (WxHxD) 5.87 x 4.33 x 3.82 inches 5.87 x 4.33 x 3.82 inches
Weight 35.8 ounces 35.8 ounces
Kit lens Available body only or with 24-105mm f/4 Available body only or with 24-105mm f/4
Price $3,700 body-only $2,500 body-only
Read more Panasonic Lumix S1R Review Panasonic Lumix S1 Review
Buy now B&H Photo Amazon

Sensor

If it’s resolution you need, the Lumix S1R has more than enough. Its 47-megapixel sensor is the highest-resolution full-frame sensor in any mirrorless camera, but it doesn’t stop there. In high-resolution mode, which composites eight images into one, it produces an almost ridiculous 187 megapixels. The resulting 300-megabyte RAW file is a force to be reckoned with.

But that much resolution is overkill for the vast majority of photographers, and the Lumix S1’s more modest 24MP sensor will handle most jobs with ease. It also boasts the better low-light performance, with a higher maximum ISO on paper and less noise in practice based on our testing. And if you do need oodles of resolution, the S1 also has a high-resolution mode; here, it’s good for 96MP — that’s not 187, but it’s still more than enough for all but the most specialized tasks.

Speed

Normally, a higher-resolution camera will be slower than a lower-resolution one, but Panasonic chose to give both S-series models the same continuous shooting speeds: 6 frames per second with continuous autofocus, 9 fps with focus locked. Where they differ is with the buffer depth. Since both cameras use the same image buffer, but the S1’s 24MP files take up less space than the S1R’s 47MP files, the S1 can shoot continuously for 75 RAW images while the S1R slows down after just 32.

Both cameras also benefit from fast XQD cards, with support coming in the future for even faster CFExpress cards. This allows the cameras to clear their buffers considerably faster than competing models that only use SD cards, for example.

Video

Other than the sensor, this is where the two cameras differ the most dramatically. Serious videographers will find more to like about the Lumix S1, which can record 4K/30p from the full width of the sensor or 4K/60p from an APS-C-sized crop. It also takes advantage of oversampling for better image quality. Currently, the S1 is limited to 8-bit 4:2:0, or 10-bit 4:2:0 in HLG mode. However, an upcoming firmware release will bring 10-bit 4:2:2 recording and V-Log to the S1.

The S1R records both 4K/30p and 4K/60p from a slightly cropped area of the sensor (with a crop factor of 1.09x), but it relies on pixel binning to scale its 47MP down to 4K resolution, resulting in a less sharp image. It lacks HLG and will not be getting the V-Log firmware update.

Autofocus

Both the S1R and S1 feature the same, 225-zone autofocus system that uses Depth from Defocus (DFD) contrast detection rather than the more standard phase detection employed by other modern mirrorless cameras. In practice, DFD works very well most of the time, but is less reliable for continuous autofocus and can cause focus “breathing” in video as it has to constantly make tiny back-and-forth adjustments. If you rely heavily on continuous autofocus performance — say, for sports — you may be better off with a Sony or a Nikon.

Design

Panasonic Lumix S1
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

The cameras look virtually identical, sharing the same physical design, build quality, and control layout. Both share a 5.7-million-dot electronic viewfinder, which is the best we’ve ever seen. Both also have SD and XQD card slots and 3-inch tilting LCD screens. Overall, this is the most professional mirrorless design we’ve tested, but it is also very large and heavy — over 2 pounds with the battery and memory cards loaded. The high-resolution EVF also draws a lot of power, giving the S1 a battery rating of 380 exposures and the S1R a bit less at 360 (a power-saving mode can extend this to over 1,000).

While both cameras are equal in the design department, we have to draw attention here to S1’s lower price. It costs $1,200 less than the S1R, but comes with zero sacrifices on handling or operation.

Value

If we had to pick a winner between these two cameras, we’d choose the Lumix S1. The S1R is the more impressive model from a numbers perspective, but the S1 is simply the better buy for the majority of users. You get the same control and build quality, better video specifications, better low-light performance, and a good balance between speed and resolution, with options for either 24MP standard photos or 96MP multi-shot composites. Outside of the S series, the S1 doesn’t really have a true competitor — but at $2,500, it costs about $500 more than Sony’s and Nikon’s 24MP mirrorless cameras, the A7 II and Z 6, respectively

Product Review

With more power and more tech, the 2019 GTI is still the VW you should buy

Year in and year out, the Volkswagen Golf GTI sits atop the list of the best cars you can buy. The 2019 GTI is no different, and like its predecessors is a blast to drive. An additional 8 hp and new tech even in the base S model makes it a…
Emerging Tech

Self-assembling microrobots can be programmed to form a tiny steerable car

A new type of self-assembling mobile micromachine can be programmed to assemble into different formations -- ranging from a tiny car to a miniature rocket. Here's why that's so exciting.
Smart Home

Amazon Echo vs. Dot: Which smart speaker is best for you?

Having Alexa answer your questions is nothing short of futuristic, but which device should you get, Amazon's Echo or Echo Dot? There are some big differences between the two, especially in size, sound, and cost.
Computing

OLED laptops have returned, but read this before buying one

OLED laptops have returned, but they are only available in certain laptops such as the new Alienware m15. I took it for a spin to see if OLED screens make a big enough difference to be worth the cost.
Computing

The best webcams you can buy are mostly made by Logitech

Webcams are a bundled feature in most laptops, but if yours doesn't have one or you're video conferencing on a desktop, you might need a standalone webcam. These are the best webcams you can buy.
Photography

Hasselblad X1D II 50C is a faster, cheaper, more refined medium-format camera

The sequel to the world's first medium-format mirrorless camera, the Hasselblad X1D II 50C is all about performance improvements and a refined shooting experience. It gains a new processor, OLED EVF, and 3.6-inch LCD screen.
Product Review

The Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S redefines sharp -- but is it worth the cost?

Nikon’s new mirrorless cameras now have a bright, versatile workhorse zoom that can be used without an adapter. Here's how the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S stacks up -- and whether it's worth $2,300.
Deals

The Canon PowerShot SX420 bundle gets a massive price cut from Walmart

Looking for a feature-packed and lightweight camera? You may want to check out the Canon PowerShot SX420. Right now, Walmart is offering this model at a huge discount. Normally $611, it is available for only $189.
Deals

The best budget-friendly GoPro alternatives that won’t leave you broke

Cold weather is here, and a good action camera is the perfect way to record all your adventures. You don't need to shell out the big bucks for a GoPro: Check out these great GoPro alternatives, including some 4K cameras, that won’t leave…
Photography

Hasselblad’s CFV II and 907X are a modern take on a photography classic

The CFV II 50C digital back is compatible with V system cameras from nearly the middle of last century, while the new 907X camera body turns it into an ultra-compact medium format machine using X system lenses.
Apple

Good news for Mac photographers — Lightroom now available from Mac App Store

Getting your hands on a copy of Adobe Lightroom CC just got a bit simpler for Mac users. The popular photo-editing app launched on the Mac App Store today, allowing photo editors to skip ordering from Adobe and go right to the App Store.
Photography

Take control of your photographic lighting with the best camera flashes for 2019

A good external flash makes your camera more capable and opens up new creative lighting options for you. Here are the best camera flashes you can buy for Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fujifilm, Olympus, and Panasonic cameras.
Photography

Sandmarc crams cinematic video flare into a tiny iPhone anamorphic lens

Looking for some unique flare for your iPhone videos? The Sandmarc iPhone Anamorphic lens captures a wider aspect ratio, oval bokeh, and horizontal flare. The new iPhone lens, designed for video, uses a clip or case-style attachment.
Photography

The 2019 class of camera phones is great, and we tested them to find the best

It's the middle of the year, which means it's time for a mid-year camera shootout to find the best among our top phones of 2019. We pit six phones against each other, including the OnePlus 7 Pro, Pixel 3a, and Galaxy S10 Plus.