The Panasonic Lumix S1 is a new 24.2MP full frame mirrorless camera featuring a dedicated timelapse mode.
Is the Lumix S1 timelapse photography king? Let's find out!
I'd like to note that this camera review only talks about the Lumix S1 from the eyes of a timelapse photographer. There are many other reviews out there that talk about this camera's video and photo functions, I've linked some of them throughout this post.
Panasonic Lumix S1 key specs for timelapse
- 24.2MP full-frame CMOS sensor
- Body weight 1021 grams (2,2 pounds)
- 5-axis in-body image stabilisation
- 5.76 million dot EVF (electronic viewfinder)
- Semi flippable 2.1 million dot LCD touchscreen
- One XQD and one SDXC UHS-II card slot
- 2.5mm TRS remote input
- Astro mode, where the display turns red
- Screen guides and digital level
- Timelapse and stop motion mode
- Sheer overlay
Here is a short London timelapse video I made with the Lumix S1.
As usual, let's talk about the things I like about this camera first.
The S1's 24.2MP full-frame CMOS sensor does not disappoint. My usual daily drivers are the Canon 1DXMkII and the 6DMkII and these sensors are simply not as good. From my experience there is much better highlight and shadow recovery on the Panasonic than on the older Canon sensors.
Regarding iso and noise DPReview says: “Compared to the EOS R, Z6 and A7III across the board the S1 is among the best performing low light cameras in its class.”
Regarding dynamic range Digital Camera World says: “The Lumix S1 retains its lead over the competition when it comes to dynamic range.”
The Lumix S1 is neither small or lightweight. It feels rugged and solid.
This is good news for timelapse photography as a light weight camera tends to move around more easily which means you’re going to have to stabilise your footage in post.
Both the lens and the camera feature weather sealing. It hasn’t rained when I went out to shoot so I can’t comment on that but I assume it’s good.
The touch screen seems like it might be fragile when you hit at a weird angle, there’s lots of intricate parts. But hey, at least it’s not a fixed screen!
This camera features a ton of different shooting modes and options. When talking specifically about timelapse it gives you a dedicated timelapse mode via the mode dial on the top left. You decide between timelapse mode and stop motion mode, let’s talk about timelapse mode first.
Lumix S1 Timelapse mode
These are the menu options you get when enabling timelapse mode.
Shooting interval On / Off – The camera either shoots at a fixed interval that you choose, or it shoots as fast as possible until it slows down when hitting the buffer limit. This will vary with the type of card you have in there.
Start time – ‘Now' or set a time for the camera to start by itself. A very useful feature to have when you need to shoot a timelapse from two different locations but don't have the means to run between both cameras. You choose the start time on a 24 hour clock, which of course is linked to the cameras internal clock.
Image count – You get a max count of 9999 and a minimum of 1. There is no option to shoot an infinite amount of photos, unless you use an external remote.
Shooting interval – There is a minimum shooting interval of 1 second and a maximum of 99 minutes and 59 seconds.
Exposure leveling On / Off – ‘Off' is for your standard static exposure sequence. Your settings will remain the same throughout the sequence unless you change them manually. ‘On' is holy grail mode, where the camera reads the changing light in the scene (sunrise or sunset for example) and adjusts the settings accordingly to create a flawless, flicker free sequence.
Cameras usually adjust their exposure by 1/3rd of a stop, resulting in big flickering jumps in exposure when playing back the sequence. The S1 gradually and minutely adjusts its shutter speed and iso (when shooting in Aperture Priority mode with iso on auto), resulting in a clean sequence straight out of camera. The EXIF values show 1/3rd of a stop changes but in reality the iso and shutter speed was changed ever so slightly to account for the change in light. I was very, very impressed by how well this worked.
Check out this comprehensive blog post about holy grail timelapse shooting and editing for cameras that don't have exposure levelling.
Check out this time slice animation I made out of the sunset sequence. Click here to download a tutorial on time slice editing.
The second mode is Stop Motion Animation, which is great for when you’re making… stop motion animations. What a surprise!
You can click the shutter manually (as is standard in stop motion) or let it shoot for you automatically with an interval from 1 to 60 seconds. The great thing about this mode is that it shows you an overlay of the previous two images. This is of course also amazing for shooting hyperlapses, where you need to keep your image as close to your previous shot as possible.
You can shoot part of a sequence, then go out and shoot something else, then reopen that sequence and add more photos to it in the same folder. The camera will adjust your aspect ratio and picture quality settings to the same as the previous sequence. Things like this show how much thought has gone into designing these modes, colour me very impressed, again.
Once you’re done shooting your timelapse or stop motion sequence you can either pause or end the sequence.
If you choose to end the sequence the camera will ask if you want to create a video file. You get a world of options with resolutions and frame rates ranging from 4K 30P all the way down to FHD 60 and 24P.
It also lets you decide the playback frame rate for the sequence, ranging from 50fps to 1fps.
Lastly it allows you to render it in normal or reverse playback.
This is an incredible amount of optimisation aimed directly at timelapse and stop motion photographers.
On paper the battery life is rated for only 400 photos, I found that to be blatantly false.
I kept track of my battery levels on my shoots and here’s what I found: Starting from 100% and 1821 photos later the camera had 33% battery remaining. The next day, starting at 100% and with 2039 photos remaining the camera had 42% remaining. The third day, when I shot the holy grail sequence the camera fired off 644 photos and used up 18% battery.
On that first day I was shooting a bunch of videos. I also went through all menu options and modes, so naturally I used more battery.
You can use a battery bank and a USB-C cable to charge the camera, even when it is shooting.
In 15 minutes my camera got 7% extra charge. Not a lot but this might depend on the battery you’re using.
Let’s talk about some other great features this camera has:
When shooting a timelapse it tells you at what exact time your sequence will end.
You can pause a timelapse sequence, this could be useful to change settings or review a previous photo.
You can activate a night mode on the display, this turns the display totally red, which is great for astro as red light does not reset your eye’s light sensitivity. Another great example of how much thought has gone into designing this camera.
You can bring up an image overlay (called sheer overlay in the menus), which is super useful when you are revisiting a spot days weeks or months after you shot it first. It allows you to line up your shot exactly as it was before. It’s not a feature you would use a lot but when you need it you’re gonna be stoked to have it.
You can flick out of the timelapse mode to shoot other stuff then flick back and the mode will have retained your settings. This saves you a lot of time setting up.
The semi flip screen is useful for setting up weird angles. I can’t tell you how much I wish my 1DXII has one.
The in body image stabilisation, paired with the lens stabilisation, paired with the digital level makes this camera amazing for handheld hyperlapse shots.
The stabilisation is so good that you could technically shoot long exposure hyperlapses handheld. Here’s a photo I shot at 1/6th of a second at 40mm focal length. The car is totally blurred where as the building are tack sharp.
On screen guides and an accurate digital level also help you when framing up your shot both for timelapse and hyperlapse photography.
The dual storage gives you lots of options, XQD is super fast but expensive, SD is slower but there are tons of cheap cards you can buy that will do the trick for timelapse.
The camera has a dedicated 2,5mm TRS jack remote input which is great for when you want to use a remote like the LRTimelapse Pro Timer or the Timelapse Plus View. I haven’t used a remote with this camera yet as I found the built in system to be ideal for run and gun shooting.
The EVF is adjustable in size and display frame rate. It’s hard to go back to an optical viewfinder after working with a display like this. A lot of the review websites call this the best EVF on the market right now.
The back buttons are illuminated which is great for when you’re setting up in the dark.
The shutter can be set to auto, mechanical, electronic first curtain, electronic, electronic + noise reduction. To have all these options is great, as sometimes you might not want the camera to make a peep at all, for example when you’re in a church shooting a wedding. (yes, I’ve shot wedding timelapses before) That being said, keep in mind that electronic shutter will have a rolling shutter effect at certain shutter speeds.
Check out this page explaining all shutter these different shutter modes.
There are many more things that I like about this camera that aren’t related to timelapse, for example the video resolutions, frame rates and codecs, the high resolution photo mode, the great EVF, the L mount alliance which will result in a huge amount of glass being available for this camera from Leica, Sigma and Panasonic, the price point (compared to a 1DXMkII), the 6K burst photo capture, the 180 fps full HD slow motion mode, the ergonomics and buttons, the USB-C charging, the 96 megapixel high resolution mode etc.
Now let’s have a look at some of the things that I don’t like about the S1.
Things I don't like about the Lumix S1
It’s bigger and heavier than I expected. I’ve been looking for a camera that is easier on the neck and shoulders than the 1DX, and even though the S1 is smaller and lighter than the 1DX with almost the same or better specs, it is definitely not the lightest or smallest camera around. The body weighs 1021 grams or 2.2 pounds.
There is no way to lock your aperture to prevent aperture flickering. If anyone has advice on this I’d love to hear it.
Dust will get to the sensor more easily than with a DSLR. I might have to learn how to clean my own sensor from now on!
The charger it comes with seems like it’s bigger than it should be, although I personally haven’t used it, I’ve just used other USB-C chargers.
The play button is on the left side of the camera. This is the only thing I would want to change as far as ergonomics goes.
I feel like I’ll scratch the screen and wish I could protect it by flipping it over like the 6DMkII.
These are minor things, far from deal breakers.
The Panasonic Lumix S1 is an amazing camera, and an even better timelapse camera. I will be using this camera on all of my future timelapse shoots. It is the best timelapse camera that I have shot with so far and I’m excited to see what else I’ll be making with it.
If you'd like to learn how to timelapse or get better or more efficient at this fun and addictive style of photography, I highly recommend my e-books below.