Home Features Leica lenses on the new Panasonic Lumix S1

Leica lenses on the new Panasonic Lumix S1

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Murphys Irish Pub

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.

Avery Hotel sign
Avery Hotel sign (Leica 75mm Summilux, f/1.4 at 1/80s

Housekeeping Items

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 One, when I wanted more of a film look to a particular image.

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.

Avery Hotel
Avery Hotel (Leica 11-23mm-TL at 18mm, f/4.2 at 1/200s)
Mark and Bentley (50mm Summicron at f/2, 1/125s)

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.

Once green Pontiac
Once green Pontiac (50mm Summicron at f/2, 1/160s, ISO 3200)

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.

Good runner - or is it?
Good runner – or is it? (35mm Summarit f/2,5 at 1.250s, ISO 3200)

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 barn
The barn (Leica 11-23mm-TL at 11mm f/4.5, 1/250s)
Stream and the barn
Stream and the barn (50mm Summicron, f/2 at 1/80s)

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.

Murphys storefront
Murphys storefront (50mm Summicron f/2, 1/250s, ISO 6400)

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.

Murphys Storefront Frog
Murphys Storefront Frog (50mm Summilux-SL at f/4.5, 1/25s, ISO 6400)

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).

Grounds Restaurant
Grounds Restaurant (50mm Summicron at f/2, 1/100s, ISO 6400)

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.

Murphys Irish Pub
Murphys Irish Pub (50mm Summicron at f/2, 1/160s, ISO 6400)
Bicycles not allowed
Bicycles not allowed (50mm Summilux-SL at f/4.5, 1/6s, ISO 6400)

The Murphys Hotel bar scene was also quite active, albeit with no live music.

Murphys Hotel Bar
Murphys Hotel Bar (50mm Summilux-SL at f/4.5, 1/13s, ISO 6400)

But on weeknights, the action is localized, and before long, most of the main street is abandoned to a few store night lights.

Good night Murphys
Good night Murphys 50mm Summilux-SL, f/4.5, 1/30s, ISO 6400)

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.

Thorsten’s Capture One workflow

14 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting article, Craig, and lovely photos. I’ve been thinking of picking up an SL but am also looking at the S1 because it is a newer design, has IBIS and is cheaper than a used Leica. Your article has almost convinced me.

  2. Hi Jason, thanks for your feedback. I think it is a no-lose decision either way. They are both great cameras. Mating either one with M lenses is a wining hand. As my dad was fond of saying, “you pays yer money and you takes yer choice.”

  3. Hi Craig, I forgot to welcome you to our merry band of contributing authors. Readers won’t realise but this article arose from a comment you left to an earlier story of the Lumix S1 and I invited you to let us have your expanded views. Anyway, a belated welcome and we hope to hear more from you in the future.

    • Thanks, Mike – it was a pleasure working with you to get this article published. This is my first article ever posted on photography, so it is a major milestone for me, and I appreciate the opportunity to share.

  4. Hi Craig,
    I very much enjoyed reading about your ‘neck of the woods’, being given an introduction to different parts of the world is a feature of Macfilos I particularly enjoy. I cannot comment about the camera or lenses but I liked the photos and the way they helped to tell the story. Thank you.

  5. Hi Craig
    Great article and an interesting place.
    I would only add a rider to working with M lenses – your group of lenses:
    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

    Might all be expected to be reasonably well behaved on the S1 – I’ve also done some testing, and whilst I found that they worked notably better than they do on the Sony A7 and much better than the Fuji X-T2 I did find some smearing at middle distance with (for instance) the 28 Summicron it was up to about 1/3 way in from the edges, even when stopped down a little, and some of the other wide angle lenses might be worse.

    Like you, I’ve found vignetting in some circumstances, and I’d expect to see colour variations across the frame with wider angles in drab skies (this is the sort of thing the Leica profiles correct).

    My personal conclusion is that all the other lens combinations I’ve tried (Panasonic 24-105, 70-210 and 50 f1.4 work beautifully on the SL and on the CL, and that all the SL lenses work beautifully on the S1 (together with the TL lenses, although they might be more fun on the S1r where the resolution is less limited).

    Years of using M lenses on cameras not designed for them has taught me that, just when you thought it was okay, you get a smeary landscape or a horrid colour cast on a gloomy sky. Whilst I think the S1 is less compromised I still think it is a compromise. Most people don’t realise that it’s at or near infinity where the problems are worst (where the sensor is closest to the rear element).

    The S1 is a great and versatile camera, with tangible advantages over the SL (except in terms of the interface!). But I’d rather use an SL with M lenses any day.

    All the best

    • Jonathan, Your comments and your expertise are admired and appreciated. Thanks for your feedback and especially your perspective on M lens performance and related issues.

  6. Craig,
    Did you get a chance to test the S1 for Long Exposures? Does it have similar LENR functionality to the SL, or can it be turned off?
    Thanks again for any insights.

    • I have not had a chance to do any long exposures, will get around to that in the future. It does have long exposure noise reduction that can be turned off.

    • I had a very brief play with the 24-90 and the S1. It is a great combination. That 24-90-SL perhaps the best zoom lens I have used and I would love to own it again. Only the cost outs me off. The 24-105 from Panasonic doesn’t pretend to be in the same class as the SL Zoom. But it performs very well and, for the price, will suit many users. It’s also more versatile.

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