The end of the story about the Lumix S1R sent in for repair and returned with a big-ass fingerprint on the sensor...

This it the S1R that I bought in October and which failed completely in January.

I was excited to plow into the Lumix S1 Pro system in the last quarter of 2019, not the least reason was because I'd read over and over again, in Panasonic's marketing materials and in reviews, about the "fact" that the S1 series was built to a very, very high standard of quality, with superior materials and workmanship. The shutters are rated to deliver something like 400,000 actuations and the bodies are dust and splash resistant. They are stout and feel solid when you pick them up.

Added to this, my previous experiences with a long line of micro four thirds, Panasonic Lumix cameras convincingly led me to believe that my newest acquisitions would be ultimately reliable. And it's good, in this context, to remember that I am not a photojournalist with a collection of cameras swinging from my neck and shoulders as I run from disaster to disaster with multiple cameras dangling from straps, willy-nilly, while banging into each other with gusto and creating that "great" patina of brutal wear you often see on cameras owned by P.J.'s, or other people who mistakenly believe that cameras are designed to be more like bumper cars than precision instruments....

No, I mostly use cameras one at a time. I carry them to and from advertising and marketing shoots in padded, Think Tank cases or backpacks. I don't drop them, toss them or neglect them. In fact, when I trade in cameras the general comment I get from store clerks is, "This camera looks practically new." 

Imagine my chagrin when I was in the middle of a portrait shoot (in studio, camera on tripod) when the camera became sluggish and slow to respond. Then slower and slower. And then altogether dead. Later, after I finished the shoot with a back-up camera (yes, they do come in handy) I tried every trick in the book to bring the camera back into normal life. Batteries switched out with known good batteries. All manner of card changes. Reset tricks. Everything. What I had in my hands was a catastrophically crippled, brand new camera with fewer than 1,000 actuations on it. 

I sent it back to Panasonic for their official repair service. In less than two weeks the camera returned and I put it through its paces. Everything worked just as it should. The sensor and the main circuit board had both been replaced, the firmware updated and all functions checked. All good. Until I took off the body cap to put on a lens. And there is was... like a turd in a punch bowl... a big fingerprint right in the middle of the sensor. I was shocked at first and then just pissed. And I got in touch with both the local dealer and the Panasonic rep for our area. The store offered immediately to clean the sensor. 

I pulled out the Eclipse sensor cleaning fluid and a fresh Cinema Sensor Swab and did a good job of cleaning the sensor myself, but the carelessness of it all really irked me and I pressed the Panasonic rep to just replace the camera with a new one. One complete product failure followed by a clumsy repair failure seemed to add up to a jinx'd camera. 

Communication with repair was dicey and the rep told me several times that they would take better care of me if I paid a couple hundred bucks and registered for their pro services service. My feeling was that every customer who buys a top of the line camera model deserves the same kind of service. They can't possibly have enough pros signed up yet on a brand new, not so popular product line, to be overwhelmed by priority repairs. 

After several attempts to escalate I was finally contacted by someone at Panasonic service. Here was their offer: "We might consider replacing the camera but you need to send it back to us and we will investigate all your complaints and may or may not agree and may or may not make amends. In the meantime we'll send you a loaner if you give us a credit card number and agree to guarantee the cost of a camera in the meantime. 

I would essentially be sending multiple cameras back and forth with no guarantee of either a stated timeline or final resolution. I told them I would think about it. 

Then the Corona virus hit. Then the shelter in place hit. Then the world seemed to deliver me a much more compelling set of issues to deal with. 

One day I walked into the studio and made up my mind to let it all go. I'd shot non-stop with the repaired and personally cleaned (by me) camera and, after over 1,000 actuations in less than a month I figured the camera would probably be fine. I've been using the repaired camera instead of its twin brother just to put enough frames on it to help me trust it once more. 

I think we're just about there. It seems to be doing everything just right. And it's a perfect companion for the 35mm Art lens from Sigma.

I'm lucky to have three other bodies (one other S1R and two S1s) in case the camera acts up again. But my warm and fuzzy feelings for the company itself (Panasonic) are now less warm and much less fuzzy. They need to work harder to regenerate some good will. But for the moment it's all water under the bridge. Considering how much really tough stuff so many people now have on their plates it seems downright churlish of me to give this even a moment's worry. 

I thought I'd let you know what finally happened. What happened was my capitulation to the idea that the camera is fine, the pictures are great, and all the logistics of replacing it are too silly and burdensome to consider. 

But when the crisis is over and we're all flush with cash again it's probably Leica or Sigma that's getting more of my L-mount money. Panasonic is on a time out where my cash is concerned. 

Finally, the S1 and S1R are two of the finest cameras I've had the pleasure to shoot with. In almost every respect they are a perfect match for my idea of what a camera should be in 2020 and beyond. 

Another boring lens test. Another happy portrait.

B. In "stay at home mode."
Patiently standing still at the window while I fiddle with yet
another camera and lens...

I've been slowly training myself to use wider and wider lenses. It's been an exciting exercise. Since discovering the Sigma 45mm f2.8 I've embraced the fascinating world that exists just a little wider than 50mm. Today I felt oddly compelled to pull out the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art lens for the L-mount and give it more love. What have I found?

After using some of the bigger and heavier lenses like the Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art and the Panasonic 50mm S Pro I am now considering the 35mm Art to be compact and lightweight. Funny how much context matters. I like the way this lens feels and balances on the right-sized Lumix S1R bodies and I find it an interesting focal length to match with that camera's sensor. I can stand back a bit, frame wider than I do with my traditional (and well loved) 50mm lenses and then, if I find there's too much "air" or clutter around my subject I have ample left over pixels with which to crop. 

While the Sigma 35mm 1.4 is competently auto-focused by the S1R (center point, S-AF) I am much happier with this particular lens if I manually focus. The focusing ring is at the front of the lens and is wide and ample. Manual focusing doesn't seem to be "focus by wire" and if it is it does the world's best job at imitating a nearly perfect mechanical, manual focus. 

On the S1R, when I turn the focusing ring with the camera's AF switch set to "M" a window pops up in my finder with a magnified view of what's at the selected focusing point. The magnification of the image at the point of desired focus is the best implementation of manual focusing I've experienced since I've been buying cameras. The image comes into sharp focus with no messing around and, as you might expect, zero hunting. Hitting perfect focus is wonderful; especially if you are shooting with the lens at a wide open aperture where, in close up images, the plane of sharp focus is as thin as Calista Flockheart.

I was sitting around my office, which is twelve feet removed from our house, when I remembered that I had a somewhat willing model just on the other side of two doors. I took the camera and lens in and asked in my most pleasant voice. B. agreed and I asked her to stand next to one of the windows in our long hallway.  I set the camera to take a large Jpeg in a monochrome color profile and I added some tint to the image in post. What you see is pretty much right out of the camera at f1.4.

I've re-sized the file to 2198 pixels at its widest length so I don't have to pay a fortune to Google for extra storage but I can say that at 8000+ pixels in the original the sharpness and the fall off to out of focus are both pretty neato. 

Of all the lenses I've bought for the L-mount cameras the 35mm Art is far and away the best bargain; the best compromise between price and performance. I'm still happily amazed to think that I only paid $695 USD for a brand new one, late last year. 

Wide open the center two thirds of the frame are critically sharp and, when used four or five feet away from one's subject, while using the maximum aperture, you see that the focus drops off beautifully in the background. I'm happy. I'll keep this one!