Home L-Mount Alliance Panasonic S5: The mini version of the S1?

Panasonic S5: The mini version of the S1?

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It’s now eighteen months since Panasonic launched the S1 series of full-frame mirrorless cameras with L-Mount. Since then, the L world has been growing at a fast pace. This proliferation is mainly in the lens department, however.

When the L-Mount Alliance was announced in the autumn of 2018, few could have imagined the terrific growth of the lens catalogue over the next twenty months. The primary stimulus has come from Sigma, which was able to adapt existing lenses to the new mount quickly.

Yet more new lenses

Sigma’s impressive line-up of L lenses will grow on Thursday this week when more are introduced, including an 85 mm f/1.4 Art optic. The only area where we seem to be relatively poorly served is in smaller, slower lenses. The Sigma f/2.8 45 mm is an outstanding exception, but most of Sigma’s offerings tend to be faster – not in itself a bad thing, but a wider aperture does mean more weight. None of the three new Sigmas is what you might consider a pancake.

The beast: The admirable Panasonic S1 is even heavier than Leica’s SL2. Is it time for something a bit more wieldy? (Image Panasonic)
Sigma’s fp is a triumph of full-frame miniaturisation but it is a quirky camera aimed primarily at cinematographers. But, more worrying, it lacks the ability to mount an electronic viewfinder, thus limiting its appeal (image Sigma)

But not so many cameras

On the camera front, though, not a lot has happened since Panasonic joined the fray in early 2019. There has been some studious re-arranging of the chess pieces in the form of the SL2 and Panasonic’s additional S1H; and, of course, we mustn’t forget the oddball Sigma fp which, I know, has a faithful following among Macfilos readers.

The fp imperfectly meets the aspiration of many – for a smaller, full-frame camera that is easier to carry around than the S1 and SL. But it undoubtedly falls short, in the eyes of many potential buyers, with its lack of an EVF and the overt emphasis on video.

What we so desperately need in the LMA world is a smaller, full-featured camera, at least as compact as the Sony a7 or Nikon Z6. These cameras, weighing 650g and 675g respectively, are more muscle-friendly than the Panasonic (1021g) and Leica (928g) offerings. While the two latter are perfectly balanced for the heavy high-performance professional primes and zooms, we have at our disposal, and lighter lenses demand a smaller camera.

The Nikon Z6 and the Sony a7, below, are examples of the size and weight we can expect from a new Panasonic S5 – both are around 30 percent lighter than the L-Mount bodies from Panasonic and Leica (Image Mike Evans)
Image Sony

An S5 by any other name…

The good news is that we might not have to wait long for a competitive smaller L-Mount body. At the time of the S1 launch, Panasonic said it would not rule out the possibility of a smaller L-Mount camera and, since then, there have been persistent rumours of such a beast. Now, it could even have a name.

Panasonic S1 with Lumix 24-105 mm S zoom
Peas in a pod: The Panasonic S1, here with the Lumix 24-105 mm S zoom and, below, the Leica SL with Sigma’s 35mm f/1.4 Art. Both images Mike Evans
Leica SL2 with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art prime

Recently, a document leaked in Japan appears to name the new camera – the S5, which is no big surprise – and it is said to be a smaller version of the S1. I think we are probably getting nearer to seeing such a camera and it will indeed be a great addition to the range. I suspect many owners of the Leica SL and SL2 will be attracted by the small Penny, whatever it happens to be called, as a second body on which to use some of the new lightweight L primes.

And, who knows, given the beneath-the-skin similarities between the S1 and SL, it wouldn’t stretch the imagination far to find the Panasonic S5 transmogrified into a Leica SL5. Roll on the day.

At the moment, we have five high-resolution L-Mount cameras from Panasonic, Leica and Sigma. Also, we have just one 24MP camera in the form of the Panasonic S1.

Prospects grow

The prospects for the L-Mount Alliance continue to grow. It’s only on the APS-C front that things have been too quiet. Leica, the sole current exponent of the genre, has said nothing for a long time and there is absolutely no hint that a new model is on the way. It’s encouraging, however, that Sigma has had the confidence to announce three APS-C primes at a time when there is nothing other than Leica’s rather expensive bodies to complement them. Perhaps Sigma knows more than we do.

At the very least, the new lenses appear to indicate that Sigma, at least, has confidence in the future of the APS-C L-Mount market. We might, for instance, see a Sigma camera. A small, relatively inexpensive crop-frame offering, whether from Sigma or elsewhere, would complement the new fast primes and would put even more impetus into the Alliance as a whole.

The prospect of a Sigma camera is, however, pure speculation because I have seen not a word to indicate that it could be a possibility. Nevertheless, it would be exciting. I’d also like to see an updated CL, ideally with IBIS to put some new life into the current range of TL lenses.

What isn’t in doubt is that the L-Mount Alliance has got off to a cracking start.

What’s your view? Would you buy a smaller L-Mount Panasonic, perhaps to complement your SL or SL2?


More about the L-Mount Alliance

More about the Panasonic S1

More about the Sigma fp

More about Sigma lenses

11 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Mike… I understand people want a smaller L mount that has at least an evf on top of what the FP offers. However, all except a few full frame L lenses are monstrous in size and will not do well on a smaller body. The whole existence of the L mount is based on exceptional lenses with autofocus with no size constraints.
    As such asking for a smaller L mount seems more contradiction to me than asking Leica to produce an M with an evf (which I really really want, so much that I’ve bought and sold 2 M cameras…but still keeping an eye on them).
    The only small L lenses I see are 45mm and then new 20-60 zoom. I’m ignoring sigma L trio (16,. 30, 56) as that is not full frame.

    • The 20-60 zoom is a useful focal range, I agree. I also agree on the Sigma APS-C trio – unnecessarily fast, hence big, and odd selection of focal lengths. You make a good point on the L system and it’s pro lenses.

    • Hi, the following lenses, in addition to others mentioned such as 45/2.8, are compact: the lovely Panasonic S Pro 16-35/4, the great Panasonic S 24-105/4, and the sharp Sigma 70/2.8 Art Macro. I own all except for the Sigma 70. We can use more but I am happy for now.

  2. Panasonic has promised a lower end L – mount camera for awhile so with their release of smaller lenses recently I think we have more hope from them than Sigma for more compact glass. Sigma seems to be in general grinding out amazing fast glass but who can carry more than one or two of these. I would prefer to have more F2/2.8/4 lenses as we are already saturated with fast canons that are killer to carry all day. I wish Panasonic would bring out some pro f2/2.8 primes especially since Leica f/2 primes are still largely in their dreams and not on the shelves – even years after announcing.

    Also, there is a typo in the text where the Sigma fp is included in the high resolution cameras when it should be with the S1.

    I also do not consider the Sigma fp to be video centric any more than the Panasonic S1 or Leica SL2. I actually own one do not see that emphasis. It is marketed as a flexible camera for video as you can screw just about anything to the tiny body. I named my fp Flex as it can be configured into any form of camera from Ricoh GR to larger camera. I also disagee that it does not have an optional evf. It has a breathtaking evf when you attach the light as a feather optional viewfinder that uses the LCD. This blows the socks off the SL2 evf and allows one to comfortably wear any hat and use either eyeball.
    I also do not consider this a quirky camera but then I have owned and loved. The sensor renders colours that are second to no one.

    • Thanks for pointing out that the fp shouldn’t be in the hi-res list. I’d better rewrite that tomorrow when I get to my desk.

  3. I think I would go for it, especially if it does OK with M lenses. IBIS would be wonderful. I think I need an EVF, not sure if a back LCD would do it- the viewing in sunlight problem. At least, I think it’s a problem.

  4. Smaller camera is always welcomed, but the main issue with the s line is not the lack of cameras, but the lack of lenses… Panasonic has not come yet with any new lens… only huge zooms, no primes. Only the 50mm 1.4, but what about other focal, smaller and perhaps only 1.8 or 2.0 for a lower price and weight than the 50mm 1.4?

    Sigma DG DN lenses tend to be great but they still dont focus as good as Panasonic native lenses, so for a focusing system that is not as good as the competition using lenses that are not native doesnt really help.

    Panasonic needs to focus fast on smaller primes, from 28mm to 85mm range, and in improving the focus capabilities of the camera, if no they will really loose a lot of customers.

    I have the sigma 1424mm and 45mm dg dn and the panasonic 2470mm and there is no comparison.

    • Thanks. Interesting. I agree that there is a lack of smaller lenses for the L-Mount system. The Sigma 45 is a step in the right direction, of course, but we do need more. The Sigma Art lenses, for instance, are huge. Even the APS-C lenses they’ve just announced are too big. I’d have felt happier with f/2 and a smaller body.

      In your last sentence, you say there is “no comparison” but I’m not clear what you are referring to. Are you saying the Panasonic 24-70 is better than the Sigmas or vice versa?

  5. Subsequent info has emerged that the S5 may be more or less identical in size and weight to the Micro Four Thirds Panasonic Gh5/G9 series. Complete with dual card slots and Ibis. That would certainly change the L-mount field of choice, which can only be a good thing. It doesn’t, of course, change the reality of big glass for “full frame”. But it’s worth noting that alongside the Sigma 45/2.8 and the Panasonic 20-60mm zoom – both lenses that seem to prioritise compactness – the just released Sigma 85mm/1.4 DN is substantially lighter, smaller (and cheaper) than the preceding 85mm EX Art lens (and Sony equivalent). No doubt Sigma will have more on the way, as would Panasonic if they are to flesh out lens options for smaller cameras. But even if not, an S5 with the 20-60 and the 45/85 primes would already make a tempting kit. At least for me.

    • Thanks, Jason. I picked up for full spec also and I’m going to write a little piece tomorrow and provide some size/weight comparisons. I agree that the 20-60 will be the kit lens, odd as the range is.

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