Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Panasonic Lumix S1 at the Photography Show

Panasonic Lumix S1 at the Photography Show

The arrival of the L-Mount Panasonics is both good and bad news for Leica

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The Panasonic L-Mount cameras, the S1 and S1R is now available in UK dealers and I was able to get my hands on both models yesterday at the Photography Show in Birmingham. The S1 models were writ large on the Panasonic stand, with a dedicated booth where visitors could try out both cameras and the initial crop of lenses.

I had a good play with the cameras, although I didn’t bother taking test shots. I was mainly concerned with handling and feel. As an ex SL user, I felt immediately at home with the S1 with the S Pro 50mm f/1.4 “Approved by Leica” fast prime attached. It feels about the same as the SL with an equivalent lens — but the heft is just right.

Weight

When you check the specifications, the SL with the 50mm Summilux turns the scales at 1,912g compared with the S1R and 50 S Pro at 1,965. The SL body is actually 175g lighter than the Lumix, but the lens is 110g heavier. Could this indicate some optical advantage to Leica? See my further comments below.

The S1 with the Lumix S Pro 50mm f/1.4, a hefty but handsome combination, promising professional standards

The grip of the S1/R feels slightly larger and more comfortable than that of the SL and, despite the flat front, reminiscent of the Leica, the rounded corners and contours of the S1 do give a more cuddly feeling. It’s a chunky beast, make no mistake, looking like an adult Lumix m4/3 body but with the bulk of a professional DSLR.

All three lenses appear to be extremely well built, especially the 50mm “Lumilux” which I spent the most time examining. It has exceptionally smooth aperture and focus rings, it is weather protected and, according to Panasonic staff, is built to the highest optical standards. If it performs as well as the Leica equivalent it will be a real bargain.

The 24-105mm zoom is slower than Leica’s 24-90mm but crams in a very useful extra reach which will attract buyers, especially at a price of £1,299

Comparisons

It will be interesting to see from forthcoming reviews how this lens compares with the Leica Summilux 50mm f/1.4 ASPH which costs a lot more — £3,876 compared with the Lumix at £2,300. I suspect this lens will acquit itself well and, without doubt, will be up for consideration by Leica users, as will the other lenses in the new Lumix S lineup.

There is a dilemma here for keen amateurs. Although they may lust after the S1/R and its excellent range of lenses, these cameras do take us backwards, moving away from the original raison d’etre of mirrorless cameras — small size and low weight. This is one of the main reasons many users, especially older photographers, decided to ditch their DSLR gear and move over to mirrorless in the first place. While they may be tempted, they are unlikely to go back.

The longest of the current crop of lenses, the 70-200mm f/4 which retails for £1,749

I believe there is still room for smaller full-frame alternatives, with the Sony a7 and Nikon Z6 offering a guiding light. I do hope that Panasonic (and Leica for that matter) are working on such a smaller design which would be ideal with compact manual lenses such as those in the M range.

New life

What is undeniable is that the L-Mount Alliance and Panasonic’s wholehearted support for the system has put new life into Leica’s SL (and TL/CL) ranges. With Sigma adding more goodies later this year, the system choice is set to become impressively wide.

Back to the DSLR, in size at least, but this is what the “pro” market is demanding — larger mirrorless cameras to match the size of professional, high-quality lenses

There is also Leica’s existing range of TL lenses to consider. Since they share the same mount as the Panasonic, I will be interested to see how these lenses perform on the large-sensor S1R and the forthcoming SL2 which, I predict, will carry the same sensor as the Panasonic.

While the cropped images from these lenses (when used on the current SL) is down to around 11 MP compared with the full-frame image of 24MP, the bigger sensor will offer greater opportunities. Despite the current crop image, the 23mm Summicron-TL and 35mm Summilux-TL do actually perform well on the SL. I did some test shots shortly after the launch of the SL.

Well, perhaps the DSLR world still has the edge when it comes to monster lenses

Compact

The TL lenses will perform even better on a 47MP sensor and will offer some very compact, high-performance optics for use with the Panasonics. The image size from a TL lens on the S1R will be approaching a full-side 24MP shot (it’s actually 20MB, but still pretty respectable). Already some owners are testing this out and I will bring you more soon.

While the new Panasonics are probably too big to attract a photographer such as me (I had my dalliances with the SL and the combination of body and high-quality glass can be daunting), I can see very interesting times ahead. For anyone who doesn’t mind the weight and bulk, the rewards are clear to see.

The S1 retails at £2,199 and the S1R is £3,399, including 20% VAT. The current Leica SL, still with a 24MP sensor and therefore directly comparable with the S1, costs £4,495 over twice the price. The SL2, when it arrives later this year, is sure to be priced over £6,000.

Lens Note

At launch, the Lumix S range consists of three lenses, but the road map shows that by 2020 there will be ten lenses to choose from — plus offerings from Sigma and, of course, Leica.

Prices of the initial lenses are attractive, especially compared with Leica. While the 23-105 Lumix S is slower than the f/2.8-f/4 Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90mm, it offers a longer range and is £2,200 cheaper. I have no doubt that the Leica will turn out to be the better lens, it will be interesting to see if even Leica SL owners will be attracted by the savings.

  • Lumix S 24-105mm f/4 Macro OIS, £1,299
  • Lumix S PRO 50mm f/1.4, £2,299
  • Lumix S PRO 70-200mm f/4 OIS, £1,749

What do you think? Will Panasonic’s entry into the L-Mount take sales from Leica? Or will the widening of the range actually benefit Leica?

10 COMMENTS

  1. At risk of repetition on my part, in fact at no risk at all, it is a fact, I am repeating myself, must be the kippers I had for breakfast.

    There is room for a set of M lenses, with an L mount.

    Much weight will be saved, much bulk will be saved, and many old togs will be amazed at what a decent EVF can do compared with a 1930’s OVF.

    The Leica…. Reborn. Or the digital Leica as it should be.

      • I have both Bryan, I love my M4, I also have an M to L converter and a number of carefully chosen M or LTM lenses. I have the CL too (old and new).

        A camera with a digital sensor is “electronic”, there is no getting around that, so a mini OLED TV screen for the eye that doesn’t flare and works at night, and frames perfectly is quite an asset.

        The reason for L versions of the M lenses, is simply size, they do not protrude as far as they do with a converter. I have recently bought the 40mm Summicron and the 28mm Rokkor, in fact they are both re-purchases, and in both cases it is about size. I still have to use the M to L converter on the CL which bulks it out, everything does.

        The reason for the reacquisition the Rokkor is the CL’s crop factor, 28 gives me roughly 42 on the CL, which is just about right for me.

        I was hoping that the Panny would be the solution to the problem that is inherent in the SL (I have fondled and played on many occasions) which is weight and awkward handling. Mike seems to suggest that handling is less awkward with the Panasonic, but the weight and size are still there, and this is because of auto focus, and it is that service which is determining that there is now, little advantage to mirrorless.

        Of course the alternative to the above, would be what Mike says (below) won’t happen… An M(D)EVF, then there would be less use for the above mentioned range of L/M lenses.

        And besides if I don’t have a particular issue with size on a given day, I can load up the Texas Leica with 120 and blaze away.

    • There has been a lot of talk about an M camera with EVF. But I think it is unlikely. The best M users can hope for is a mini SL or Maxi CL with L Mount and adapter. Sony already make such a camera and the Nikon Z6 is also a contender. But M lens owners would hope that a smaller Leica SL would be designed to handle most M lenses perfectly.

  2. I think this is going to breathe all kinds of life and success into the Leica L-mount. It will be like M4/3 where one can pick and choose between the various supplier options. Once they expand to smaller camera body options, there will be attractive choices for all user types and m-mount usage will be more attractive. Leica is always much slower on glass expansion so this will certainly help camera sales. It certainly gives the consumer lots of choice.

    • I agree in this, Brian. I posed the question but I am sure that the outcome will be positive for Leica. Before the L-Mount Alliance was announced the future of the L lenses from Leica could have been problematic. If Leica had lost heart people would have been stuck with expensive glass paperweights. Now there is a future and I think it will increase Leica’s sales

  3. What a beast sizewise. However if they keep the menu simple I am quite tempted if you can mount M lenses with the M adapter and keep the communication between body and lenses. By the way I was wondering if anyone at macfilos has tried the M Mount 7 artisans lenses. I will be dreaming of a SR1 with a 50 noctilux attached to it in my sleep…

    • I haven’t tried the 7 Artisans lenses but a friend did buy one and seemed pleased. Since sold it, though. I don’t know which particular model. Voigtländer also offer some excellent fast VM lenses at bargain prices.

  4. It does look a very handsome beast, but I am reading those weight figures and getting neck ache at the thought of it. I will stick to my Df for now, as it is significantly lighter. If I do buy another camera in the coming years it will most likely be an M, with a 35mm cron.

    • .
      Huh? Why bother squinting through a manual-focus M viewfinder, when you have autofocus on your Df, Dave? ..And the longer the lens you put on an M, the less accurate, or easy, the focusing is.

      W-w-why would you do it? (..Here’s some superglue: stick with the Df..!)

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