Panasonic S1H Review – Is it the Best Full Frame Mirrorless Camera for Filmmakers yet?

October 24th, 2019

The Panasonic S1H is now finally available for purchasing and we took it for a spin in order to put it through its paces. If you are in a rush and have no time to continue reading, here is my conclusion first: Currently it is the best mirrorless camera that can shoot video in the market. Of course, no filming device is perfect, but any manufacturer who would like to produce something even better will have to work harder to achieve this. Ready to dive into details? Keep on reading. 

EDIT: Our Panasonic S1H Lab test is now available online. You can access it by clicking here.

Panasonic S1H (Image credit: cinema5D)

It was at the last day of May when the Panasonic S1H was first announced (looks like an eternity by now…) and since then we had several opportunities to play with the camera but now it was time to take a closer look into it and check how well Panasonic did with its flagship mirrorless full frame monster.

Panasonic S1H in a Nutshell

It is for some time now that Panasonic is moving in a parallel direction by bringing to the market a photo orientated camera first and a few months later, a video-oriented sibling (on the Micro Four Third front we could see this done with the Panasonic G9/GH5/GH5s). Now the same procedure is being repeated with the Panasonic S1 and S1H. This is why I was not surprised to see that some “filmmaking” key elements were missing from the S1 when it was intruded. It was just a question of time (and price) till a mirrorless “video orientated” camera, namely the S1H, would appear.

When I first had the chance to play with the S1H it was around the time when Blackmagic Design launched their BMPCC 6K so of course, my attention (and the attention of the audience too) went it to this direction. Then came the SIGMA fp. This camera is just about to be officially launched (see our full review by clicking here), but now it is time to put the Panasonic S1H into the spotlight and let me tell you, it deserves our full attention as the camera is so versatile and packed with features that one might be a bit confused when attempting to use it… So, here, in a nutshell, some of its highlights: a HUGE variety of resolutions, frame rates, and data rates to choose from (Up to 6K). 3:2 Full Frame sensor optimized for anamorphic work, dual SD cards recording, fabulous EVF, great 5 axis IBIS (In Body Stabilisation System), an internal fan to combat overheating issues, “unlimited” recording time, dual ISO and very capable lowlight recording and more. True, the camera is heavy to run with but extremely comfortable to hold – more on that later.

If you look carefully, you will notice that one feature is missing from my glorying list and this is ‘Auto Focus performance’. Like with other Panasonic mirrorless camera models, be it MFT or full frame sensor,  Panasonic choose to implement Contrast detection AF and the results are very noticeable especially when trying to follow moving objects. This is very unfortunate as the camera could do probably better if it was equipped with Phase Detection Auto Focus system. Now, some will argue that a “proper” filming camera does not rely on AF so why to bother, but my opinion is extremely solid. The Auto Focus technology is progressing fast. Up to the point when accuracy and reliability can be trusted, so this feature is becoming extremely important for the independent One Man Band (documentary) operator who is working solo in the field.

The joystick that is killing me – Much too sensitive (Image credit: cinema5D)

Panasonic S1H – Usability

As I wrote earlier, the camera is heavy but comfortable to work with. But actually on second thought what really makes it heavy is Panasonic own L-Mount zoom lenses… I was using the 24-105mm f4 for filming the above story and I felt that the lens is a bit limiting me. I really felt restricted by doing camera movements, and on top, f/4 leaves a lot to be desired (even on such lowlight king camera). In favor of Panasonic, I must write that they probably noticed that too and created the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens which will of course help when filming in lowlight situations. Unfortunately during the time of conducting this review, this new lens was not optically ready so I could not test it together with the camera. I would like to spend an extra minute and talk about L-Mount lenses. It is a bit of a “chicken/egg” thing: more L-mount camera users, more incentives to develop new lenses; not enough attractive modestly priced lenses, many will consider if to buy L-mount cameras. And while on the subject of buying a camera, when you buy one, usually the tendency will be to buy a lens with the same mount to go with it. I do feel that the current offerings from members of the L-Mount alliance like Panasonic, SIGMA and Leica are either limited or expensive. What I would love to see are smaller and faster lenses that can accommodate both the Panasonic S1H/S1 and SIGMA fp cameras. For now, I’m hooked on trying to use some old Canon FD lenses together with the excellent KIPON L-Mount to FD adapter.

Other than that, you get a refined Panasonic camera menu (a la Varicam camera style) which for some might be simpler to navigate. Last but not least, the “joystick” at the back of the camera. Man, I tell you, this little knob and I are totally not good friends… Much to sensitive to my taste. The good thing is, I was told by Panasonic that its’ sensitivity can be adjusted. Now I should only find where is this option hiding in the menu…

A la Varicam style screen menu (Image credit: cinema5D)

Lab test summary

My colleague Gunther conducted our routine camera lab test and came up with some interesting findings. Here is a quick summary of his conclusion: “Spoiler alert. lab results are very impressive – the Panasonic S1H is the first camera in our tests, that shows nearly identical dynamic range results for the two ISO settings of the dual gain sensor!”  The dynamic results are impressive (the Rolling Shutter less), so please stay tuned for the full comprehensive lab test results coming soon.

Panasonic S1H, ISO 6400 at f/4 –  what the eye can see

Panasonic S1H, ISO 20,000 at f/4

Panasonic S1H,  ISO 51,200 at f/4

Panasonic S1H  – Picture Quality

When testing the camera I was debating with myself which of the two new highlighted features I should check, the 6K resolution or its anamorphic capabilities. For now, I opted for the 6K resolution, but I’m eager to shoot a short documentary with it together with an anamorphic lens or at least a suitable anamorphic adapter. In this regard, it is worth mentioning that filming in 6K can leave a bit to be desired as ALL Intra, 400 Mbps and 4:2:2 color sampling are not supported in this filming mode. Those high specs goodies are reserved for filming in 4K DCI and downwards. (Please head to Panasonic’s official link to explore the mind-blowing diverse resolution/frame/data rates the S1H can offer).

Now, when reviewing the Panasonic S1, we were saying that the picture quality is very nice but somehow it lacks “Mojo” (not easy to explain. Maybe the best way to describe it is by using the words  “identity/charm”). So how does the Panasonic S1H do in this regard? Well, in all honesty, the footage is clean, nice and have A LOT going for it, but to me personally, footage looks-wise, it is very similar to Panasonic S1. Call me crazy, but somehow it was not so easy to grade Panasonic’s S1H V-Log image. Just to be clear here, I’m NOT a colorist. I’m a cameraman who is painting his work and most of the time I find Panasonic’s skin tones tonality to be much too red (even after applying the official rec 709 LUT taken from here). And yes, DaVinci Resolve can of course help in fixing the issue, but I really want to know and understand if it is my eyesight which sees enhanced red or, this is the reality…

Panasonic S1H vs the Panasonic S1

Well, here is the one million dollar question, which one to prefer, the Panasonic S1H or S1? (The two million dollar question is if to wait for the imaginary Sony a7S III). See my answer in the question… (Please head to my Panasonic S1 review by clicking here). The images coming from those 2 cameras are very similar. I don’t have a definite favorite here, as much is depending on your budget and style of shooting. The S1H is DEFINITELY a better video orientated camera but at a price. If you are not after anamorphic work and much of your creation will end on the web anyway, then the Panasonic S1 is a perfect camera to work with. The S1H is more capable, but the price difference might be steep for many and hard to justify. On the other hand, if filming is what feeds your family and you are after a very capable and flexible filming tool,  the s1H is simply amazing! Actually, for what it is offering, the price is very fair.

Panasonic S1H – Best in class Full Frame Mirrorless camera (Image credit: cinema5D)

Conclusion

Panasonic worked hard in order to create the best available full frame mirrorless camera that can shoot video. Sure it is not perfect (what is?), and sure we will continue to ask for better internal codec recording formats and variable ND filters, but all in all, this is a serious tool for the working professional who intended to create high-quality content at a relatively manageable price. Last but not least, Netflix just approved the camera for its productions. Full information can be found by clicking here and here.

Well done Panasonic! 

The above video was shot in MOV 5.9K, 4:2:0, Long GOP, 25p. Picture Profile V-Log. Graded with FilmConvert. Lens: Panasonic 24-105mm f/4. Everything but the interview was shot handheld.

Music courtesy of MusicVine.com – Get 25% off any Pay-Per-Use license with code C5D25 (valid for one use per customer).

Many thanks for Brittany. Her courage and strength should be a torch for others!

What do you think about the Panasonic S1H? Are you considering purchasing it? Do you think it can be your main working tool? Please share with us your thoughts in the comment section below. 

48
Leave a reply

guest
1
1
- 3
Filter:
all
Sort by:
latest
Joseph
Joseph
Guest
January 12th, 2020

I will be honest with you. Didn’t read a single word of the review. As a Panasonic S1 owner. I was interested to learn more details about S1H (since I was on the fence about getting one). After watching the doc, I was too blown away to even invest into reading technical mumbo jumbo. It wasn’t how the doc was shot, it wasn’t the DR or anything technical. It was the doc itself, the subject and the story that captivated me. I’d say well done editing (if I have to choose something technical). Fantastic work directing the doc. Right questions were asked and Brittany felt really comfortable answering them. The tonality of her voice combined with her beautiful motivational speech was really well portrayed! 10/10 I wish all the best to Brittany in her endeavors! Very inspirational doc!

Member
November 12th, 2019

Thank you for the infos! I also enjoyed your separate article on the dynamic range. Can you confirm the S1H is able to output (via HDMI) 4k60p in 10bit 4:2:2 using the full frame size of the sensor, it’s not that specific looking at the specs? Thanks in advance.

 alek __
alek __
Member
November 1st, 2019

¿ 3:2 or 4:3 ? ….”Full Frame sensor optimized for anamorphic work”

is Atlas Orion Lens… capable FF anamorphic… 6048 x 4032 [sensor size 35mm x 24mm ] ?

ALEK
ALEK
Guest
November 1st, 2019

Thanks Johnnie !
“3:2 Full Frame sensor optimized for anamorphic work”
¿ anamorphic FF lens like cooke FF or like Atlas Orion ?

William
William
Guest
November 1st, 2019
Reply to  Johnnie Behiri

Thanks johnnie for tests and Gunther’s lab work.

What do you think about the 24-105 from LUMIX ?
I have it now on my S1H and think I finally would prefer my Canon 24-105 II + sigma MC21, mainly for the focus wheel. Maybe because that lens is so natural in my hands for years now… I don’t like so much the « electronic feeling » on the LUMIX focus wheel. But optically is it better ?
I will do tests… thanks. William

Nas
Nas
Guest
October 26th, 2019

But what about the sony a7III comparaison? in which way is this new Panasonic camera better than the Sony a7III?

 Wayne S
Wayne S
Member
October 26th, 2019

Johnnie. Nice Bokeh these fullframes give, but was the Sigma FP a nicer image?

Were you using the 16 stop dynamic range from the firmware update? What maximum dynamic range did Gunther find?

Thanks.

Geoffrey Reacher
Geoffrey Reacher
Guest
October 26th, 2019

Hi Johnnie.

You mention rolling shutter as being unimpressive, but never return to the topic. What happened?

Leon Verlaek
Guest
October 26th, 2019

Owning the S1H now for over one month. Shot various productions with it, handheld, tripod etc. It is a superb camera. I was very happy with the GH5, but missed the full frame look. Bought a Sony A7iii, although the picture quality was okay-ish, it missed a number of features that film makers need. Most of all, a variable shutter to sync with LED frequencies. It also had the most terrible way of operating I ever encountered (rec button next to your eye??? Rediculous)
S1H ticks all the boxes for us. Image quality is great, hardly any noise, to no noise when used in sufficient light. When used in low light conditions, there is some noise, but it looks more like grain, far more pleasant than other camera’s where the noise is really a noisy RGB noise.
We use Canon glass and with the Sigma converter this works flawlessly.
All in all: The S1H has all thegreat capabilities of the GH5, and many more and now with full frame. For me, a dream coming true!

Leon

Clayton Moore
Guest
October 26th, 2019

This is a good post as always, and it partly makes the point about image quality no longer being the differentiating factor between cameras like it once was. All the features cameras have, software, ergonomics (industrial design) all the buttons and knobs and ports are now more important than ever because image quality itself is so good across the board. So it comes down to how many hoops do you have to jump through to get what you want from the camera (image quality-wise).

Low light sensitivity and dynamic range performance notwithstanding, should we expect a jaw-dropping or fundamental difference in images from one camera over another generally to the degree we once did? Not likely, particularly when you consider the contribution made by a skilled colorist in post. So I’m not surprised at this stage that we see very little movement in image IQ from S1 to S1H.

I found this on the GH5 facebook page
This was shot using GH5’s.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lqf5vuJqQv0&feature=youtu.be

 Arya Irani
Member
October 25th, 2019

Hi Johnnie, thanks for this right to the point review. I was intrigued by looking to the list of Netflix approved video cameras. There are naturally mostly very high end and very out of price range ones. I was wondering for the proper TC sync / nice big counter for TC, tally light, etc. etc. that normally people need for typical film set video shooting scenario without gambling coming across low light noise, colours and details falling apart, and surprise to see how the quality becomes even worse during the colour correction or a simple LUT implementation, which of those in the Netflix list of approved cameras do you recommend starting from most affordable ones which I think would be Sony FS5/FS7/ Panasonic EVA-1 / Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro. I know although BMG has a nice colour science but URSA Mini Pro even for G2 still falls short in high iso / low light noise but of course the film look is another consideration. What would you do? Just relying on proper lighting and go for URSA or if there are inevitable low light situations in the production, would not risk it and go for EVA-1 or FS cameras? and if so which one is the best all rounder in the lowest price range of Netflix approved ones that has the highest flexibility (both for shoot and postproduction) plus image quality especially in low light, plus as film look as it can get.
Thank you!

Vlad Box Rojas
Guest
October 25th, 2019

I love the piece, but in this case I am going to be critical. It looked a lot like what the GH5 would crank, I dont believe you got the best of the camera, cant tell if it was the colorist or the file. I think that camera can and must do better.

Tjibbe
Tjibbe
Guest
October 25th, 2019

What you dont mention in the comparison, and what I think is of key importance, is that the S1 dos not have usuable high framerates. Because of the lack of manual exposure. THe S1H does do this.

 Sparky McLenscap
Sparky McLenscap
Member
October 25th, 2019

Meh.

antoine amanieux
antoine amanieux
Guest
October 25th, 2019

good to know it has “nearly identical dynamic range results for the two ISO settings of the dual gain sensor!” but what is the value of this DR i could not find it in this article ? thanks

 Dennis Schmitz
Dennis Schmitz
Member
October 25th, 2019
Reply to  Johnnie Behiri

I wonder how it would affect dynamic range of they lower temporal noise reduction or allow us to turn it off entirely like on the EVA-1.

Honestly expected the S1H to be on par with the S1. Both share the same sensor and 12 bit readout

Gerrit
Gerrit
Guest
October 25th, 2019

Johnnie, I like those documentaries of your’s and this one as well.

 roger nelson
roger nelson
Member
October 25th, 2019

oh well….panny wins world WAR CAMERA

antoine amanieux
antoine amanieux
Guest
October 25th, 2019
Reply to  roger nelson

not really a WIN as it still has crappy autofocus (i know real cinematographers can afford a focus puller in their film crew but the rest of us cannot so expect more AF in the future of cinema cameras)

 Dennis Schmitz
Dennis Schmitz
Member
October 25th, 2019

Just use the official Lut as a starting point, or do a REC2020 gamut to Rec709 gamut conversion and add contrast via curve or use ACES. The colors look stunning either way.

 Dennis Schmitz
Dennis Schmitz
Member
October 25th, 2019
Reply to  Dennis Schmitz

The lack of mojo is something hard to describe. For me the footage despite its fantastic color science (after the right steps, skipping premiere) and good dynamic range is artificially clean and sometimes even shows smearing or even ghosting – all caused by temporal noise reduction.

 Dennis Schmitz
Dennis Schmitz
Member
October 25th, 2019
Reply to  Johnnie Behiri

We can only hope for either a fix like the GH5 had with firmware 2.0 or even an OFF switch like on the EVA1.

 Dennis Schmitz
Dennis Schmitz
Member
October 25th, 2019
Reply to  Johnnie Behiri

Me neither, even ambassadors are asking for it and nothing happened yet

 Dennis Schmitz
Dennis Schmitz
Member
October 25th, 2019
Reply to  Johnnie Behiri

It honestly think the tint is a bit off on this camera, usually pushing to A1:G3 and Kelvin adjusted till it looks natural. After that color is fantastic with the provided lut but too green when used in ACES colorspace.

 Arya Irani
Member
October 25th, 2019
Reply to  Johnnie Behiri

I always have to adjust the curves independently for each of the RGB. Of course the focus will be the mid-tone and it is hard to nail-down. Yet to see a sensor that does it all right. There is always a “behaviour” which some people may have a tendency to settle in one or the other and swallow the frequent effort to fix what they don’t like about those colours. I wish there was a way to connect the camera to a computer and through a software we could tweak those tendencies ourselves (i.e. some sort of user defined sensor firmware).

defiverr
defiverr
Guest
October 24th, 2019
George Angeludis
Guest
October 24th, 2019

Still GH5 is a workhorse with amazing image quality. 4:2:2 10bit 200I is exceptional. I don’t see any professional working on more than 3200 ISO and this is already too much. From the other side even if my GH5 had PDAF I would never use it. Manual focus always.

George Angeludis
Guest
October 24th, 2019

Still GH5 is a workhorse with amazing image quality. 4:2:2 10bit 200I is exceptional. I don’t see any professional working on more than 3200 ISO and this is already too much. From the other side even if my GH5 had PDAF I would never use it. Manual focus always.

OliverM
OliverM
Guest
October 24th, 2019

Sensible people don’t shoot high ISO footage because there is a ton of noise and, even more important, the colors are awful. Unless you have dual native ISO, which the S1H does. Varicams are used with high ISO on Netflix series and movies all the time. There’s nothing unprofessional about using your gear to the best of its abilities. The GH5 is nice, I use one as my daily workhorse until my Varicam LT arrives, but lacks a bit of dynamic range.

Abe Halpert
Guest
October 24th, 2019
Reply to  OliverM

I just got an S1 to complement my GH5. The boost in dynamic range and usable ISO is wonderful. I get to keep all my cloud detail even when exposing for someone in shade. I can shoot slow-motion with 180-degree shutter on dark dance floors with usable noise levels. The camera lacks a lot and isn’t right for everything, but I’m in love.

Member
October 25th, 2019

The GH5/s don’t have the same color science as found in the S1H. The skin tones are very, very similar to Alexa’s and film’s in the new camera. Here’s an amazing tonal example that is not possible with the GH5: https://vimeo.com/362025778 Unless the MFT cameras are updated with the full Vlog/color-science, the GH5/s are a no-go for me.

Michael
Michael
Guest
October 31st, 2019
Reply to  Eugenia L

Wtf are you talking about? The GH5 has been matched to ARRI for years now. After watching your video! the S1H looks nothing like ARRI. Way too green. Gamut and color adjustment comes from color grading and lighting. https://nofilmschool.com/GH5-GH5s-ALEXA-LUT

Also film has such a wide gamut of colors… what kind of statement is this?
Do some research next time,

Stu
Stu
Guest
November 9th, 2019
Reply to  Michael

The GH5 colours while nice are not very accurate and the dynamic range is limited compared to the EVA1 which I replaced it with and the S1H which is similar.

1
1
- 3
Filter:
all
Sort by:
latest

Take part in the CineD community experience