Leica’s SL camera is a great camera. I’ve used it extensively for about two years, and really like it. Mainly, though, it is Leica M glass that is bolted to my SL, and love the combination of the two. I read somewhere that the SL was made for M lenses and I can’t dispute that.
When Panasonic came out with the Panasonic DC-S1 I was intrigued. I immediately purchased it and haven’t regretted the decision. Now I can reflect on the newcomer, I can evaluate the primary reasons that I switched to the Panasonic:
- Ability to use all my Leica glass with an image stabilized body
- The 5.76 million-dot OLED EVF that is a significant improvement over that in the Leica SL
- Low light performance and usable high ISO settings
- Tilting LCD with touch screen menu and playback capability
- Attractive price point
The 24MP sensor is fine by me and I expect the Leica upgrade to the SL2 will be far more expensive, probably using the Panasonic 47MP DC-S1R sensor that is overkill for me, and I believe it generally decreases low light performance
My rationale may or may not make sense to you, but the proof is in the quality of photos this camera takes when paired with Leica glass, so you can make up your own mind after you see the images.
For the record, the Leica lenses that I used for the accompanying photos:
- Summilux-M 75mm f/1.4
- APO-Summicron-M 50mm f/2.0 ASPH
- Super-Vario-Elmar-T 11-23mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH
- Summarit-M 35mm f/2.5
- Summilux-SL 50mm f/1.4 ASPH
- And, of course, the Leica M adapter L
All post processing was done with Capture One, generally following the workflow outlined by Thorsten Overgaard in his Capture One Survival Kit (see video at the foot of this article). I also sometimes used Mastin Labs presets for Capture
We should bear in mind that when TL lenses are used on any full-frame sensor they cover only the central part of the available real estate. Consequently, the pixel size of TL shots on the S1 is just under 11MP compared with the 24MP for a full-frame lens. On the S1R with its 47MP sensor, the crop-lens output is as much as 20MP, not far short of the native 24MP of the S1.
The Story Behind the Images
We have a home in the Western Sierra mountains, at Arnold, California, about 150 miles due east of San Francisco on Highway 4 at a 4,000 foot elevation. All the photos were shot in the general locale around Arnold, including Avery and Murphys, which are the two next named entities one encounters when heading down the mountain. Since I doubt that many Macfilos readers will be familiar with this area, with your permission I will inject a bit of the local history when I think it is relevant to an image.
This area was initially settled due to the California Gold Rush in the mid-1800s. The Avery Hotel was opened in 1853 to service travelers headed over the mountain at Ebbetts Pass, or who wanted to see the Giant Sequoias a few miles up the road at Big Trees, where the trees are up to 325 feet tall with a circumference at the base of over 94 feet.
After leaving the Avery Hotel, I encountered Mark and his dog Bentley. Mark told me he had had four-way heart bypass surgery, and his doctor recommended long walks – so he got Bentley and walks five miles every day. He provided some interesting color commentary on the old garage and the vehicles in it.
This Pontiac had been parked in this garage in 1970 and has never moved since. Numerous notes have been left on the windshield by passers-by, offering to buy the car. But the “crotchety” owner never responds to any of them. If you ever wondered what 50 years of accumulated dust looks like, now you know.
According to Mark, the tractor still runs, and periodically the owner will take it out to work on the grounds – but it looks like there is just as much oil on the ground as there may be in the crankcase. That it actually runs is nothing short of a miracle.
The area immediately surrounding the garage has a tin roofed barn with a wonderful meadow, including a small stream running through it, and wooden fencing. Sometimes cattle are grazing here, but not today.
I next went to Murphys at night to see how well the Panasonic Lumix S1 works in low light. All images were shot at ISO 6400, and they are all usable. From experience I know I could go to a higher ISO and still have very usable photos, but it was not necessary on this dark and rainy night. All the low-light images were shot with the Leica M 50mm f/2.0, or the SL 50mm f/1.4.
John and Daniel Murphy were part of the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Party, the first immigrant party to bring wagons across the Sierra Nevada to Sutter’s Fort in 1844. They became merchants selling supplies to gold miners and founded the city in 1848.
This entire slice of California is in Calaveras County. It was an area that Mark Twain frequented, and he wrote The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County in 1865. Around the county one will see frog statues, like the one in front of this store to commemorate that short story and the county’s relationship with it. Every year, the county fair holds a frog-jumping contest. The world record holder is “Rosie the Riveter” who, in 1986, jumped 21 feet 5 and ¾ inches (6.63 meters).
Murphys has also become a center for restaurants, wineries, and bars, with some quality local music included. This evening there was a jazz group playing at Murphys Irish Pub.
The Murphys Hotel bar scene was also quite active, albeit with no live music.
But on weeknights, the action is localized, and before long, most of the main street is abandoned to a few store night lights.
Some of my takeaways
The Panasonic Lumix S1 is a joy to shoot with, especially when coupled with smaller Leica M manual-focus lenses. It definitely makes me want to take more photos.
The S1 is roughly the equivalent weight of the Leica SL; in practice I could not discern a meaningful difference. The weight did not bother me with the smaller M glass, in fact it balances out nicely. But lugging the SL or S1 around with the Leica 50mm f/1.4-SL is not something I would want to do for long stretches of time.
I think that Leica has some algorithms in their cameras for lens correction that are not present in the Panasonic. For example, I found the 50mm Summicron f/2.0 had some vignetting that I never see with the Leica SL – all of which can be dealt with easily in Capture One processing; but be aware that any lens correction done in the Leica cameras is likely not present when shooting the lens with the S1.
There may be some lingering affects you are not used to seeing that will need attention. This probably needs more research. I am not sure that my statement is accurate, or whether the L-Mount Alliance will provide these in camera corrections for compatible lenses.
Another point to bear in mind that, unlike with the SL, the S1 doesn’t “recognise” M lenses and there is therefore no exif data to rely on in later cataloging. The S1 does allow you to choose the appropriate focal length for the attached lens and, in fact, prompts for this information every time it senses a manual lens has been attached. This is an improvement over some other mirrorless cameras.
Manual focusing on the Lumix S1 is very easy with the high resolution EVF. I did not use any magnification even at night. This is especially important for my “older” eyesight.
High ISO settings and low-light photography is light years better in the S1 than the Leica SL. It strikes me that the images coming from the Panasonic sensor are excellent.
Auto focus lenses sometimes get the shot, and sometimes miss – nothing new here between the Leica SL and the S1. The SL 50mm f/1.4 still hunts quite a bit to gain focus on the S1 in low light.
I have no regrets about purchasing the Lumix S1 and am very happy with the marriage of Leica lenses with this camera and the photos produced. I am equally certain that using some of the excellent Voigtländer VM lenses will also be rewarded with good images. I have the 35mm f/1.2 that I have used on this camera to obtain great result. I just did not have the time to include this lens on this occasion.