"It looks like a still camera, but the S1H is a camouflaged cinema camera – and a very good one."
4K and 6K full screen video
5.9K RAW output
Image stabilization in the body
Continuous AF often slow, imprecise
4K / 60 is cropped
One year in its life, the Panasonic Lumix S1H is no longer alone when it comes to professional mirrorless video cameras. Recently, the 8K shots Canon EOS R5 and 4K / 120p Sony A7S III stole headlines, but the world of pro video isn't all about high resolutions and frame rates. The Lumix S1H remains unique in its role as a true workhorse video camera.
In some ways, the S1H is even more noticeable today thanks to the presence of younger competitors from Sony and Canon. The comparatively modest performance – 6K / 24p or 4K / 30p in full screen format, 4K / 60p in full screen mode – is a signal of Panasonic’s focus on reliability. Sure, there are things the S1H can't, but for the filmmaker who just needs detailed, clean 24p footage, this camera is the obvious choice. Both in physical design and in software functionality, it is designed to meet the requirements of real production.
In fact, I'd argue that the S1H is less of a mirrorless hybrid camera than it is a small movie camera, despite having the form factor of the former. As such, it's definitely not for everyone – but the $ 4,000 price tag probably made that clear.
Designed for real life, not a datasheet
The S1H is based on the same platform as Panasonic's other S1 cameras such as the Lumix S1 and S1R and has a bulky, albeit ergonomic, design. Physically, it differs from the S1 in a key area with an additional fan between the back and the LCD screen. This fan is what makes the S1H so special. Where other mirrorless cameras can quickly overheat when recording high-resolution videos or videos with a high frame rate, the S1H can continue to tick indefinitely.
Also unique is the LCD screen, which rests in a double hinge mechanism with which it can be tilted directly up and down or folded to the side. The added flexibility makes it easy to maneuver around microphone and HDMI cables or anything else connected to the camera. The top LCD is also larger and shows more information than its counterpart on the S1 and S1R.
All of this makes the S1H even bigger and heavier than its cousin, the Lumix S1. At 2.56 pounds, it's not exactly in the same league as the 1.35 pound Sony A7S III. The S1H is a camera that you can best operate on a sturdy tripod. Again, it is better to think of a miniature cinema camera than a mirrorless hybrid camera. Yes, you can take great photos with it – but you probably won't want to.
Otherwise, the S1H carries over pretty much all of the design features of the S1, including weather protection, abundant physical controls, and the beautiful 5.7 million dot electronic viewfinder. There is an additional difference: if the S1 and S1R have an SD card slot and an XQD / CFexpress slot, the S1H uses two SD cards. High-speed V90 SD cards are perfectly fine for 6K videos too. However, this means that if you transfer footage to a computer, you are missing out on the insanely fast transfer speeds of CFexpress.
A mixture of resolutions and frame rates
Panasonic has provided the Lumix S1H with a plethora of resolution and frame rate options, many of which are sub-standard and all come with unique limitations. It's a bit of a mess, but I'll do my best to explain how it's used.
Let's start with 6K. The highest resolution that the S1H can offer with its 24 megapixel sensor, 6K, is recorded at 5952 x 3968 pixels, an aspect ratio of 3: 2 that uses the entire sensor area, a recording mode known as "open gate" becomes. That means you'll have to crop the footage in the post to achieve the standard 16: 9 aspect ratio. However, you have some space to customize the frame. If you're outputting to 4K, you can also crop flexibly.
Despite these freedoms, 6K is not the automatic choice. It is limited to 24 frames per second (24p) and uses the h.265 codec with 10-bit 4: 2: 2 colors and a data rate of 200 megabits per second (Mbit / s).
Next up is 5.9 KB (5888 x 3312). This corresponds to 6 KB with an aspect ratio of 16: 9. This uses the same codec as 6K, but the slightly lower resolution allows frame rates of up to 30 fps. If you're shooting a 24p project, you may want the added flexibility of the 3: 2 6K footage. However, on 30p projects, 5.9K is your limit.
Then there is 5.4K (5376 x 3584), another 3: 2 option. In contrast to 6K, this records a cropped area of the sensor and enables frame rates of up to 30p.
Two flavors of full-width 4K are available: Standard Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) and DCI (4096 x 2160). Both can be recorded at 24 or 30 fps with 10-bit 4: 2: 2 colors at 400 Mbit / s. You can also capture cropped 4K images at up to 60 frames per second from an APS-C or Super 35 area of the sensor. This reaches a maximum speed of 200 Mbit / s. There are also 4: 3-4K anamorphic modes (3328 x 2496) that can be reduced to cinematic aspect ratios when using anamorphic lenses. All of this makes 4K the sweet spot resolution for the S1H.
But Panasonic didn't stop there. Almost a year after its announcement, the S1H received a firmware update that added 5.9KB RAW video output over HDMI (and yes, the S1H has a full-size HDMI port). Using an Atomos Ninja V or other compatible recorder, the footage is saved in Apple ProRes RAW format. RAW video is not for the faint of heart, but this feature has made the S1H even more valuable to professional customers.
Interestingly, the same 5.9K RAW output is also used for the newer and much cheaper Lumix S5.
Recording experience and video quality
I recorded a mix of 4K / 24 full screen and 4K / 60 full screen and was really impressed with the results of both. The S1H offers the "real" Panasonic V-Log profile, not the GH5 series V-Log-l, which means it should match a Panasonic VariCam cinema camera. The company claims to have 14 levels of dynamic range, which is just fantastic for internal non-RAW shooting. From skin tones to vivid details, I like the colors that come out of the S1H. Note: I couldn't get an Atomos recorder in time for this test, so I haven't tested the RAW output yet – although I'm not sure my 8 year old computer is even suitable for this task.
In fact, I don't think many people will need 6K mode. For most of us, it's an exaggeration. But I'm glad Panasonic picked it up. For one, some customers will love the 6K open-gate capture's crop and refresh capability. Also, by outputting 5.9 KB instead of 4 KB for RAW, Panasonic can avoid the line-skipping problems with the Nikon Z 6, another 24-megapixel camera with RAW output that has a Resolution is limited to 4 KB. When only 8 megapixels are needed and 4K is output from a 24MP sensor, many pixels are simply ignored, resulting in a softer image than 4K actually can.
Internally, the S1H uses the same codec as the GH5, but its larger sensor and use of the full V-Log profile allow you to get more out of it. Assuming you started with a reasonably decent exposure and white balance, you have no problem evaluating the footage to get the look you want.
I said the S1H is best used on a sturdy tripod, but I shot most of it with the handheld. Thanks to the stabilization in the body, the handheld footage is fluid and natural, but the weight of the camera – especially with the large Lumix S 24-70mm f / 2.8 lens provided by Lensrentals for this review – certainly will excite Limit the use of handhelds as much as possible.
The large top LCD and the placement of the controls make for a great user experience. Buttons can be easily reprogrammed by holding them down and selecting a new option from the menu that appears. The user interface is one of the smarter designs of any camera and makes navigating the S1H's many settings and submenus a breeze.
If there's a possible red flag, it's auto focus. Panasonic's unique focusing system, Depth from Defocus, simply cannot compete with the phase detection systems from Sony and Canon. An upcoming firmware update will bring the improvements to the Lumix S5, which is certainly to be welcomed, but I've still found this camera to lag behind the competition.
To be clear, I don't think the kind of fast, accurate, eye-tracking autofocus needed by one-person YouTube crews is in the world of professional video and cinema that Panasonic is using the S1H aims really is a must. There is something to be aware of, however, as it will limit the situations in which the S1H can be effective.
The Lumix S1H is a camera that only Panasonic would make. Like the Micro Four Thirds Lumix GH5S, the S1H has a narrowly defined target customer in the video professional and yet takes over the entire photo functionality of a high-end hybrid camera. That makes it a little strange, and some filmmakers will no doubt be wondering why they shouldn't just invest in a movie camera – but where can you find a 5.9K full-frame RAW camera with image stabilization for $ 4,000? You will not. Even after factoring in the cost of an external recorder, starting at around $ 600, the S1H is a steal for what you get.
There's a reason Panasonic hasn't cut the price of the S1H after a year in the market, even if the Sony A7S III is below that at $ 3,500. No other hybrid camera has placed such emphasis on reliability and practicality or mixed them with such a variety of standard and anamorphic frame sizes. I wish 4K / 60 could be shot without cropping, and Panasonic's autofocus leaves room for improvement, but that's not a problem in most of the production environments this camera is intended for.
If I were to start a YouTube channel, I'd reach for the A7S III – but if I were to produce a film, there wouldn't be a camera I'd rather have on set than the Lumix S1H.
Is there a better alternative?
Some developers may prefer the Sony A7S III if they need a higher frame rate 4K image or more reliable auto focus. The most fascinating alternative, however, comes from Panasonic's own warehouse. The Lumix S5 will get a RAW 5.9K output later this year, which should offer the same video quality as the S1H for those who don't mind using an external recorder. You'll have to settle for the pathetic micro-HDMI port, but at only $ 2,000, that's not bad business.
How long it will take?
The S1H is a professional machine that meets the needs of these customers. While 8K cameras are on the go – and no, you don't need one yet – 4K and 6K will continue to offer more than enough resolution for the foreseeable future. There's no reason the S1H won't be viable for many years to come.
Should you buy it?
Yes. Buy the Panasonic Lumix S1H when you need a video camera that offers not only excellent image quality, but also professional reliability and flexibility.