TL:DR They’re both great cameras, but for the average creator or like us, those looking for a B-Cam, then save yourself the best part of 2 grand and get the S1 as the results will blow you away.
When Panasonic announced the Vlog Firmware upgrade for the Lumix S1 at the start of April, I honestly could’ve laughed. It seemed that for a £180 upgrade they were willing to turn your S1 into a full filmmaking powerhouse, comparable only to the S1H. In fact it pretty much made the cameras identical, at least on face value.
I’ve been lucky enough to get hands on with Lumix S1H for a number of different projects since it’s release and every time I desperately wanted to keep it. It is such a perfect filmmaking tool, in every way, but for our own use I just struggled with the price tag for what would essentially be a B-Cam to our EVA1. But if you were to half the retail price and give me pretty much all of the features, then you’re talking my language and seemingly Panasonic have done just that. But what’s the difference with this new firmware installed and which should you buy, well now I own the S1 for keeps, I can show you.
THE COMMON GROUND
Firstly what’s in common, again the TL:DR version would say pretty much everything the average shooter wants. For certain this is now the obvious choice of camera for someone that would be looking for a new hybrid photo & video camera. The fact it’s missing the Anti-Aliasing filter means you likely to get a slightly sharper image and the general ergonomics seem to lend themselves more for photos than an out-and-out video camera.
Once that new firmware is installed you do get a lot of the same video features, sure we’re not talking the same boundary pushing, Netflix approved specs of the S1H, but it is very, very close and truth those bleeding edge parts are for the 0.1% of users. We get the 5.9K resolutions, Pro-Res RAW via HDMI, we have the gorgeous 4.2.2. 10bit 4k 50 (or 60 for you American types) which made me fall in love with the S1H. We have the Dual Native ISO system squeezing the maximum low light performance out of the full frame sensor and of course you get V-Log recording enabled. Honestly there’s so much now crammed into this camera, that even with the upgrade is under 2grand, that in its own right everyone should be talking about it. The value and quality scales are truly broken here, but I’m not here just to wax lyrical about the S1, I’ve already done that. We’re here to examine the differences, so lets jump in and look at what’s missing.
WHAT IS THE S1 MISSING?
Straight off the bat if you had these two side by side you would see that the S1H has been designed with video in mind, which for a hybrid mirrorless body is rare. It’s ergonomics and handling are just ever-so-slightly better suited. The missing elements from the S1 are glaring in comparison but thankfully silent in isolation. The rear screen is lacking the full front facing articulation, so vloggers beware, I don’t how many vloggers would be using a S1H but you know, rich vloggers beware!!
In all there’s just more extensive physical and ergonomic catering for video shooters with the S1H over the S1, things like that big red button are swapped for a, well small red button. The top screen is less detailed and the Dual UHS2 SD cards are replaced with 1 UHS2 and 1 XQD. But getting beyond the superficial and into the weeds of the comparison you’ll see that the S1 has no external cooling. As a consequence your record times a limited to 15 minute clips. For me this isn’t ever a consideration as I wouldn’t use a camera of this form for interviews or talking heads, but as a filmmaking tool it is a downside. Also the S1 can’t make use of the ALL-I compression seen in the S1H, instead you’re stuck with the more processor intensive Long-GOP. But in truth I’m really digging into those weeds to find real differences now.
I’m not going to pretend that these are identical cameras and that somehow Panasonic have missed something as glaring as this, but since the latest update the S1 range has pulled much tighter together in their functionality. In truth this has brought this mid priced body up much closer to the dizzy heights that the S1H reached at launch. So which should you buy? Well as always it depends on your intended use and if things like the record limit or the lack All-i will hinder you. For out and out professionals, just get the S1H it’s obviously the full formed filmmaking tool, but for the average creator or like us, those looking for a B-Cam, then save yourself the best part of 2 grand and get the S1 as the results will blow you away.
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