Actively thinking about the camera I would like to buy next from Panasonic: It would be amazing and would restore the camera world to its previous stature.

Well, it seems to be a favorite thing for photo writers to dream about when none of the new cameras match their very, very particular tastes exactly. They start conjecturing about the camera they know X company should make right now. How it would see zillions of sales if only it had...blah, blah, blah. 

I rarely write this kind of stuff but I ran into a used copy of one of my all time favorite travel cameras and that sent me down memory lane and right smack into this writing subterfuge --- of imagining my own "ultimate" camera. The camera I re-visited, but just in passing, was the Mamiya 6. I had several of them. Along with the three dedicated lenses. It was such a fine camera. Google it. Salivate.

So here goes: It came to me clear as a bell. Panasonic announced (in my dreams) that they had just finished putting the finishing touches on a new variant for the S1 system. This camera, like the GX8 in their micro four thirds family, is set up in a rangefinder style. A viewfinder in the top left corner as you hold the camera for work. The eyepiece is big and generous. The screen is one of the latest 8 megapixel resolution OLED variants. 

The camera is a full frame model and features a new tri-color sensor that allows one to use the sensor as a bayer filtered machine with 60 megapixels or a blended filter which triples up on the pixels to create points that have all three colors but at 20 megapixels. I'll want to use it mostly in the 20 megapixel range where the bigger, combined pixel sites give me a different, and to my mind, better overall look. A look that seems to have greater acutance but at the expense of the currently fashionable higher res of its native 60 megapixels. 

The benefit, beyond the rendering, is also color that's halfway between that of a Sigma Foveon sensor and a conventional but miraculous sensor like the one in the Sigma fp camera. 

The camera is not small, nor is it overly angular. There is the now mandatory 3.2 inch 4 megapixel rear screen and it's worth using because Panasonic, in this new camera venture has drastically reduced menu complexity and made using the rear screen easy and fun for just about any control. That being written, the camera maintains all the major controls as physical buttons or knobs on the camera body. These include: Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO and white balance. 

In order to make the intended use of this particular model clearer to purchasers it is the one camera in the Panasonic line-up  that doesn't include any video capabilities. The idea being that this camera is for decisive moment photography, street photography and travel photography. It's not an all-in-one visual content buffet. 

Taking out the video stuff allows Panasonic to simplify the menu to make the whole camera much more responsive and intuitive for hard core photography buffs. The other side of the marketing coin is that if you love this camera and you love the L-mount lenses, but you absolutely require video, you are more than welcome; in fact, encouraged, to supplement the new rangefinder style body with a shiny, new S1H for all your video needs. 

The camera has the same basic mechanics of the S1 series cameras when it come to things like shutter life, rugged build quality and built-in image stabilization. Since the DFD focusing works well for me, and is at least as fast as the rangefinder in a Mamiya 6, I'm happy that they decided to keep the family focusing mechanisms the same. 

I'm thinking about naming conventions and Panasonic and I think we all agreed at the meeting where I forgot to sign my NDA that we'd call it the S1X. That's: S One X. But it can always be misinterpreted as "six" in order to pay homage to the well regarded and sadly discontinued Mamiya 6 film camera.

The camera will have a two position battery slot which will allow users to use either the S1 series battery or the GH series batteries thereby doing a favor to owners of either previous system or system used in tandem with the new 6. (S1-X, oh, that works). 

Since the finder in the top left is an EVF and not an actual, optical rangefinder there is no compromise when it comes to previewing shots. Nor did Panasonic consider pulling a "Fuji" and adding in a vestigial rangefinder since it represents too much of a compromise when using any lens longer or shorter than a normal lens. 

At the time of launch Panasonic also presented (fully ready to go along with the camera launch, NOT vaporware!) Three new L-series lenses made for the new S variant. Of course the new lenses will also be usable on existing S1 cameras as well as on Leicas but these were made with an eye to reduce lens size and bulk specifically for the very serious photography user the camera was designed and built for. 

The first lens is a 30mm f3.5 which though small is an advanced formula based on a Leica M lens but with optical corrections made to ensure it works most effectively with the sensor stacks in the Lumix S cameras. Sharp and diffraction limited even wide open it will quickly become the defacto standard street shooters paradise lens. No one will ever even think to ask for a 35mm or 28mm or even a faster version since the lens will be that spectacular. If you need a faster lens then look to the Sigma Art Series or browse through the Leica SL catalogs. 

The second lens is the 60mm f2.8 which will also define the state of the art for sharpness and three D quality. "Stunning yet small." I think I saw that tagline at the product meeting last year... It's longer than the regular 50mm or 45mm but it gives a new choice to people who prefer the longer focal lengths over the shorter ones. If you fall into the "shorter is better" camp there is always the current Sigma 45mm, the Sigma 40mm f1.4 Art lens and the Sigma 35mm f1.2 Art lens. All of which are superb. But some of us want a small, sharp, discrete long normal and since this is my fantasy I conjecture that those optical engineers at the Panasonic headquarters took my quirky request seriously. 

The final new lens is, of course, the 90mm f3.5 which, like the other two will bring shivers of fear to the backs of Nikon, Canon and Sony. The lens will be such a stellar performer that all the competitors will abandon their races for fast, fat and plump lenses and reconsider owning lenses that are truly optimized for radically good performance. 

The S1-X camera will be big enough so that none of these three lenses are ever sticking below the bottom of the camera so they will never foul tripods or baseplates. 

The S1-X will be cast and machined from a block of very special aluminum alloy that is structurally rigid and impervious to corrosion of any type. The camera skeleton will act as a one giant heat sink and the camera will be the first of its kind rated to excellent performance at ambient temperatures of up to 115°. 

Of course it will be effectively weather sealed and, when used with one of the three new lenses, can even be immersed in water for up to 60 minutes. (Legal sez: No guarantees). 

The camera will only come in black and will use a highly scratch resistant paint as did the Fuji XH-1. 

Finally, the marketing folks decided that since the whole camera is crafted and assembled by hand from the finest materials that the cost to purchase would be commensurate with the quality. The purchase price is just a hair under $4,000 USD. Or, in a special kit with all three lenses for only $8,000. 

There are no other attachments or accessories to worry about. Just get the camera and a few batteries and get on with it. 

And that's my camera wish for the rest of the year. 

And with that, here are some samples of the kinds of work I'd do with the camera. All these were done with a wild range of cameras from Nikon, Sony, Fuji and Panasonic for Zach Theatre. But that's only because the S1-X did not yet exist. Once it comes out it will be the still camera of the decade....



Russ Goddard said...

YES! I hope your direct line to Panasonic is open and functioning - in 5G, yet! Stunning pics, btw.

Joe said...

Rather than strip out the video from firmware, you could simplify menus and setup by having a stills-only menu come up when the mode selection dial is on still photo modes like A, S and P and a video-only menu come up when the mode dial is set to video. Of course, if you push to v video record button while the mode dial is on still photo mode settings, pushing the video record button automatically shifts the camera to the video mode and uses your previously-set video mode menu choices.

Len said...

Funny, as I have just been looking at the Maymia six. Because it shoots square. I’d love a multi aspect sensor that shoots square. And would also love a monochromatic sensor too. Great reads recently Kirk. Really enjoyed the last few. Thanks.

Marcio K said...

Very close to my ideal camera, indeed. But since I am an amateur, and weight / size is my priorities, mine is a m43 option:
- Rangefinder body too (better to shoot on streets - people are no "afraid" like they are seeing a DSLR body style / generally allowed in concerts / looks better). Could be between GX8 and GX85 in size, but with a good grip (original or attachable) ;
- A 12mp sensor variant of the GH5s (14 bits raw, very good low light performance);
- Good IBIS;
- Top LCD screen, but the smaller square ones, Fuji XH1 style;
- Good 4k vídeo, could be limited to 30 mins to avoid overheating;
- A good articulated EVF (godsend to manual focus on a tripod, or hold the camera kind of TLR style against your chest to improve handling);
- Back LCD with tilt AND flip capacity (like the Fuji XT100 or the Panasonic S1H);
- The amazing long exposure modes of the Olympus cameras, like Live Bulb.

Much easier to do than your camera, but will never be made as well...

Robert Roaldi said...

Do you remember that Monty Python vinyl LP that had two tracks on one of the sides, so that depending on which track entry point the needle fell on you'd hear different content. What about doing something similar with a camera? Every time you turned it on, you didn't know if it would boot up as a stills or video camera, so you might have to change your plans for the day, keep you on your toes. Maybe warn you if you had the wrong lens mounted.

And another thing. I remember photographers carrying around a large battery pack on their belt, Batman style, to power their strobes while walking around. Isn't it about time we had something similar for the cameras themselves? Why, in this day and age, are we still carrying around, and losing, those small little batteries that no one is ever happy with, especially since they keep changing their shapes and sizes.

That was a very timely post.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

But Joe, stripping out the video stuff is....symbolic.

Anonymous said...

As for the lenses, you can do your shopping by Pentax: 21mm f 3,2, 40mm f 2,8 and 70 mm f 2,4 exquisitely built APS-C Limited lenses, “stunning yet small” and for less than 1600 $ for all three. I am not a fangirl but sometimes, I have the feeling that you cannot work for Pentax without being a photographer yourself.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

No thanks. I want modern, sharp lenses that also autofocus and work with all the features of the only professional camera line left in the industry...

I liked Pentax but I've stopped living in the past.

Ray said...

Can we add some sort of flash trigger? Please.

Mike Marcus said...

Perhaps if many of us preorder this dream camera, they will build and we will come out using it ...

Kodachromeguy said...

Oh, oh, now you are in trouble. I think your idea is brilliant, but the fraud-tographers on the big D review site will do the "instant fail" or "total stop" thing. No video? You mean fewer features and buttons and things in the menu? 20 mpixels? Totally insufficient for the "professional" work that they all talk about. Fixed focal length lenses? Instead of some sort of kit zoom? You mean they are supposed to walk to do framing? Let's see where this concept goes.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Ray, you get a hot shoe. That's it. Noting else. But it will work with Oly/Pana flashes. And manual flashes.

Anonymous said...

If it's not made from unobtainium count me out.

Eric Rose said...

Love the idea about being able to use both m4/3 batteries and those for the S series. I have the following Panasonic cameras; GX1, GX7, G85 and GH5. All of them take different batteries! What a PITA!

I have been shooting my GH5 in square b&w mode quite a bit lately. Love it!!!


Steve Vansak said...

I’m a wedding shooter who uses the S1. I love it, but my vote for a sequel would be…

1. Integrated grip - out of fashion I know, but the external bolt on grip loosens up on me at times and a built in grip is more solid.

2. I don’t care what method of AF system it uses, but I’d like to see it perform better in backlit situations.

3. I’d like to be able to see the exposure live while using a flash. Right now it performs like a DSLR during these times.

4. The eye / body AF is good and useful during parts of the wedding day. I’d take an improvement in performance with this but not a deal breaker.

5. Since my stills oriented business may have to offer video more in the future, I’d like to keep that in this S1 II.

6. Style / size - The Olympus EM1 X is the most ergonomically sound camera I’ve used and I would not argue with Panasonic copping the design of the body.


Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Steve, all those improvements you mention may very well be in the S1 mk2 but NOT in the S1-X. It's a luxury still camera with a singular purpose. Panasonic recommends that pros buy one of each....🤣

Bob said...

Ah, the Fuji X-Pro in medium format? I'm in.