Panasonic Lumix S1R vs. Sony A7R III: Which pixel-shift powerhouse is better?

We recently compared the new Panasonic Lumix S1R to the Nikon Z 7, but there’s another full-frame mirrorless camera in the 40-plus megapixel club that photographers should consider: the Sony A7R III. Despite being a couple of years old, the A7R III still holds it own against the Lumix S1R. These two models are quite different in design, but fairly similar in performance, and both offer pixel-shift modes that pull even more detail out of their already high-resolution sensors.

On paper, the Lumix S1R bests the Sony in some key areas, but it comes at a cost — a literal one. As the A7R III has gotten on in years, its price has dropped accordingly. You can now find it for about $2,800, $900 less than the S1R. So does the S1R earn its higher price? Here’s how these two cameras compare.

Panasonic Lumix S1R

panasonic lumix s1r vs nikon z7 when megapixels matter product comparison

Sony A7R III

panasonic lumix s1r vs sony a7r iii pixel shift powerhouse cameras compared product comparison

Sensor 47.3-megapixel full-frame sensor 42-megapixel full-frame sensor
Burst speed Up to 9 fps (6 with AF-C) up to 10 fps (8 with live view)
Shutter speed 1/8,000 to 60 sec. 1/8,000 to 30 sec.
ISO 100-25,600 (50-51,200 expanded) 100-32,000 (50-102,400 expanded)
Autofocus 225-point contrast-detection DFD AF 399-point hybrid phase/contrast-detection AF
Image stabilization 5-axis sensor-shift stabilization 5-axis sensor-shift stabilization
Video 4K at 30 fps, 8-bit, HLG 4K at 30 fps, 8-bit, S-Log
Viewfinder 0.78x magnification, 5.7m-dot OLED 0.78x magnification, 3.69m-dot OLED
LCD 3.2-inch, 2.1m-dot tilting touchscreen 3-inch, 1.44m-dot tilting touchscreen
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Battery Li-ion rated at 360 shots Li-ion rated at 650 shots
Dimensions (WxHxD) 5.87 x 4.33 x 3.82 inches 5 x 3.78 x 2.91 inches
Weight 35.8 ounces 23.2 ounces
Kit lens Available body only or with 24-105mm f/4 Available body only or with a 24-70mm f/4
Price $3,700 body-only $3,200 body-only
Read more Panasonic Lumix S1R review Sony A7R III hands-on review
Buy now B&H Photo Walmart

Sensor

Both cameras crest the 40-megapixel hill easily, but the Lumix S1R pushes well beyond it to just over 47MP, giving it a 5MP lead over the Sony A7R III. Is that a significant advantage? Not really, but it is something. The bigger difference comes in how the two cameras employ pixel-shift high-resolution modes, which use the sensor-shift stabilization systems to move the sensor by a pixels width in a box pattern, taking multiple exposures and combining them into one for a super-resolution photo.

The A7R III accomplishes this by taking just four images, enough to capture full RGB color data at every pixel location. This can dramatically reduce the chance of moiré, decrease noise, and bring out greater detail — especially in red and blue areas (read more about sensor color filters if you’re curious as to how this works). Unfortunately, the A7R III can’t combine those four exposures in-camera; you have to do it in post in Sony’s proprietary (and rather clunky) software (Tony Northrup has a nice video that walks you through the process).

The Lumix S1R takes pixel-shift a step further, by capturing eight exposures in total, enough to not only get full RGB data, but also to increase the pixel count to a staggering 187MP. You won’t find a full-frame camera that can capture more detail than that. What’s more, it combines the separate images in-camera into a single RAW file that you can open in Adobe Lightroom, Capture One, or any supported software.

High resolution mode isn’t everything, though. It requires a tripod and a non-moving subject, so the S1R doesn’t hold a big lead for handheld work, portraits, wildlife photos, etc. For landscape photographers, however, it really can’t be beat.

Both cameras perform admirably at high ISO, and while the Sony has the higher maximum ISO setting, real world performance is very similar. These are both excellent sensors, and you can’t go wrong either way, but the Lumix takes the win here for its higher quality and easier to use pixel-shift mode.

Winner: Lumix S1R

Speed

Both cameras are close in terms of burst rate, with the A7R III topping out at 10 frames per second and the Lumix S1R just 1 fps behind it. However, the A7R III loses live view at that speed, forcing you to 8 fps if you need it. The Lumix S1R has live view, but lacks continuous autofocus at 9 fps — you’ll need to drop to 6 fps if you require that. Keep in mind, neither of these cameras are advertised as sports photography machines in line with the Sony A9, but the Sony’s ability to continuously focus at 10 fps gives it the slight edge here.

Winner: Sony A7R III

Autofocus

The A7R III uses a 399-point phase-detection system that is both fast and accurate, including in continuous mode. The S1R uses a contrast-detection system, split into 225 zones.

Normally, contrast detection is much slower than phase detection, but Panasonic takes a different approach to it with its proprietary Depth from Defocus (DFD) technology. This dramatically improves performance, and in our experience, it was usually as fast as phase-detection systems. It doesn’t always work, however, and we did have occasional issues with focus hunting. Continuous autofocus is also not quite up to par with phase detection systems, although face and eye-detection worked very well. It’s also impressively good in low light, with sensitivity down to -6 EV.

For static subjects in still photography, the S1R is nearly perfect. For moving subjects and video, the A7R III has the more reliable autofocus

Winner: Sony A7R III

Design

The Lumix S1R is by far the heavier and larger of the two, weighing in at over 2 pounds with the battery loaded. But if you can get over the weight, it offers the most functional and complete control layout of any mirrorless camera we’ve ever tested; the A7R III looks sparse by comparison.

While both cameras claim environmental sealing, the S1R certainly feels like the more durable of the two. It also boasts the highest-resolution electronic viewfinder on the market, with 5.7 million pixels — 2 million more than the A7R III. The 3.2-inch, 2.1-million-dot screen is also larger and higher resolution than the Sony’s 3-inch, 1.44-million-dot screen.

Both cameras offer dual memory card slots, but where the A7R III uses SD cards for both, the S1R gives you one SD and one XQD. Not only are XQD cards faster than SD, but they are physically identical to even higher-speed CFexpress cards, support for which is coming to the S1R in a future firmware update.

Winner: Lumix S1R

Stabilization

Both cameras use 5-axis sensor-shift stabilization to counter camera motion when handholding, and both do a very good job in still and video modes. The A7R III’s stabilization is rated for 5.5 stops of shake reduction, where the S1R’s is good for 6 — or 6.5 when combined with an optically stabilized lens. It’s not a huge difference, but the Lumix takes another win here.

Winner: Lumix S1R

Video

Both Sony and Panasonic are well known as video companies. Sony was one of the first to put 4K into a mirrorless camera, and Panasonic’s GH series (built on the smaller Micro Four Thirds format) continues to present us with some of the best video cameras you can buy. But the Lumix S1R isn’t really targeting that same audience. In fact, even within the S series, the S1R falls behind the less-expensive Lumix S1 when it comes to video.

That’s not to say it isn’t capable; it can shoot 4K resolution at up to 60 fps, where the A7R III maxes out at 30. However, that’s really its only advantage, and all 4K video is recorded from a slightly cropped region of the sensor and without oversampling, so quality won’t stack up to some other cameras.

The A7R III can shoot both full-width 4K and oversampled Super 35 4K (which crops from an APS-C-sized area), giving you a choice between a wider perspective or maximum detail. It also incorporates Sony’s various picture profiles, including S-Log, a logarithmic tone curve that preserves greater dynamic range. Internal recording is still limited to 8-bit 4:2:0, so the A7R III isn’t the best video camera out there, but if you’re a still photographer who occasionally dabbles in video, it will deliver what you need.

Winner: Sony A7R III

Battery life

When it comes to battery life, mirrorless cameras suffer compared to their DSLR counterparts. Even with its huge, 3,050mAh battery, the Lumix S1R manages a paltry 360 shots per charge based on CIPA ratings. Keep in mind, it has to power a 5.7-million-pixel EVF, which likely draws a lot of power, so this may be a fair tradeoff. But the Sony will take you through some 650 photos before exhausting its battery, again based on CIPA ratings (real world performance may be much better for both cameras).

However, perhaps because its engineers realized how much power the S1R was going to consume, Panasonic built in a special Power Save Live View Finder (LVF) Shooting mode, which somewhat mimics how a DSLR manages power. In this mode, the camera will go to sleep after a short time, but will leave some functions active, like the EVF eye sensor and shutter button. Battery life is stated as over 1,000 exposures in this mode. We’re still calling this one in Sony’s favor, but whichever camera you choose, we recommend picking up a spare battery or two.

Winner: Sony A7R III

Lenses

Sony’s E-mount is part of a much more mature system than the Panasonic S series, and thus has quite a few more native lenses available at this time. However, the S1R is built around the Leica L mount, which already has a collection of lenses that are fully compatible (if expensive — they’re made by Leica, after all). Additionally, Sigma has also signed on to develop L-mount lenses, with 11 of their acclaimed Art-series lenses currently on the way. As of this moment, Sony is ahead — but things will look a lot different over the next twelve months. This one is too close to call, but it’s a good idea to check if a system has any particular lenses you want before buying into it.

Winner: Tie

Picking an overall winner

You may have noticed the R in both theses cameras’ product names; that means resolution. And when it comes to resolution, there’s simply no beating the Lumix S1R. Its 47MP sensor outclasses the Sony slightly for normal photography, but takes a giant leap forward in high resolution mode, offering 187MP, about four times the normal resolution. It is also the more durable and more professional of the two, with an absolutely gorgeous EVF and fantastic control layout.

But the Sony still comes out ahead in some areas, such as continuous shooting speed and video features. It also is significantly cheaper (especially with current instant rebates at the time of writing), meaning you can save some money to put toward a nice lens. If money is no object, we might lean slightly to the S1R, but it’s hard to argue that the A7R III doesn’t give you more value for your dollar.

Product Review

Nikon's Coolpix B600 is long on zoom and short on price, but you should skip it

The Nikon Coolpix B600 has two big things going for it -- a 60x zoom lens and a $330 price. But the camera cuts too many features and doesn't deliver the quality you'd expect.
Home Theater

The best TVs you can buy right now, from budget to big screen

Looking for a new television? In an oversaturated market, buying power is at an all-time high, but you'll need to cut through the rough to find a diamond. We're here to help with our picks for the best TVs of 2019.
Photography

The Fujifilm GFX100 is a 102-megapixel, stabilized beast of a mirrorless camera

Double-digit megapixels just not enough? The Fujifilm GFX100 boasts the highest resolution yet for a mirrorless camera. But along with those 102 megapixels, the medium format camera offers in-body stabilization, 4K video, and enhanced…
Mobile

Motorola One Vision vs. Nokia 7.1: Which is the best budget phone for you?

If you're trying to decide whether the Motorola One Vision or the Nokia 7.1 would be a better buy, then we've got you covered with this comparison. Find out exactly what sets these Android phones apart and which is best for you.
Photography

The best Nikon cameras, from DSLRs to superzooms

After reviewing dozens of Nikon cameras, we've rounded up the top models from the mighty D850 to the 125x-zoom P1000. These are the best Nikons you can buy right now.
Social Media

Be the master of your own Insta-verse with multiple Instagram accounts

Whether you own a small business or have separate Instagram accounts for your five cats, we'll walk you through the process of switching between your multiple accounts on your Apple or Android devices.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Insect drones and kinetic sculpture robots

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!
Mobile

Treat your selfie with one of these 13 apps made to beautify your pics

Selfies might be a phenomenon second only to karaoke, but they're not the easiest thing in the world to create. Thankfully, these awesome selfie apps for Android and iOS will make beautifying your self-portraits easier than capturing them.
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

Peak Design’s Travel Tripod is must-have gear for photographers on the go

Peak Design has returned to Kickstarter to launch its latest product, the Travel Tripod. The company's first tripod, it uses a unique design with a triangular center column to minimize the volume it takes up in your bag.
Photography

What are mirrorless cameras and are they better than DSLR cameras?

What exactly is a mirrorless camera, and what makes them so special? In this article, we break down the specifics of mirrorless cameras, including how they differ from the likes of a DSLR camera, and what kind of pros and cons are.
Photography

What is ISO? A camera's sensitivity to light -- and how to use it -- explained

Curious what ISO is and how it affects your photos? Here's everything you need to know about the fundamental camera setting, including how it impacts exposure and how to properly adjust it for certain scenarios.
Photography

Olympus launches Tough TG-6 waterproof compact, and we’re not entirely sure why

With a spec sheet nearly identical to that of its predecessor, we're having a hard time figuring out what's new about the Olympus Tough TG-6. A new flash diffuser and fisheye adapter were also announced.
Photography

Adobe Premiere Rush now allows Android users to edit video without the laptop

After launching on desktop and iOS, Adobe Premiere Rush, a streamlined video editor, is now available on Android. Premiere Rush is designed for social media projects and non-professional editors.