Taking a break this morning to unwrap my Holiday Gifts from Panasonic. Santa came early with updates!


One of the many things I like about buying and using Panasonic cameras is the company's amazing generosity when it comes to firmware updates and the "gifting" to older cameras with the latest features. 

I was pretty impressed a while back when, out of the blue, Panasonic did an upgrade to the G9 that improved focus and, more important to me, added a bunch of higher end video capabilities to the camera even though those new additions would potentially reduce the market for their own GH5 camera when it comes to video use. Impressed again when Panasonic introduced a free firmware update to the GH5 this Summer improving continuous AF in video, along with lots of other tweaks. Not a paltry move when you consider that the G9 is already two years old and the GH5 is a three year old camera. In a couple of free updates Panasonic increased the useful life of two of their most popular cameras by a number of years!

When the newest addition to Panasonic's Lumix S series cameras came out the S5 included the newest and fastest AF software in the line up. Other camera makers might have waited to see how to leverage sales of the new camera but Panasonic announced, almost immediately, that all of their S1x cameras would be getting the same high performance AF algorithms in short order. They even gave us a date; the 24th of November!

Back to the studio. When I got back to the studio and fired up the computing machine I went straight to Panasonic's site to look for firmware updates. There were FOUR camera updates for four of the cameras that I regularly use. Those included the G9 (improved I.S.), the S1, S1H and the S1R. 

All of the S1 cameras got the same AF improvements which should bring them to par with the S5. We'll see it most in continuous AF and then most noticeably in video. I can't wait to see how it affects the S1H as I'm getting more and more video use from that camera. 

I won't go through everything but I will go through some of my favorite updates by model.

The S1R and the S1 both get the red frame line around the edges of the rear monitor when video recording is active. This is a feature that was already on the S1H and also on the Atomos line of external monitors. It's a very quick and obvious way to tell whether you are actively recording or if you didn't push the right button to get things started. It's a great "user" update. 

The S1R now shoots in 5K (4992x3744) video in both 24 and 30 fps. In .Mov you can shoot in 5K internally at 4:2:0 but with 10 bits. You can now shoot 4K in 10 bit, 4:2:2 to an external monitor up to 60 fps. I can't wait to try out the 5K performance and hope that downsampling to 4K makes for a more detailed 4K file, even if I can't shoot in 4:2:2. But speaking of 4K the camera can now be using at up to 60P with 10 bits and 4:2:2  when you output over HDMI to an external monitor/recorder. That's pretty spiffy. 

In the S1R the tracking and recognition of AF have been improved by way of a head recognition feature. My hope for this is that when using face detect AF I won't lose contact with the subject when they turn their face away from camera. We'll be testing that right away.

The S1R can now do high resolution audio recording using the XLR microphone adapter. You gotta use .Mov to get this.

We can now set shutter angle in the video menu. This is great for productions when we want to match cameras and we're working quickly. It's more control and gives more accurate video settings. 

The S1 had a major update earlier in the year which improved the range of video options in the cameras by a great deal. It's also slated to get a big update in the first quarter of 2021 which will add 6K ProRes Raw to the mix. But for right now the big improvements, in addition to the AF improvements which all of the S1x cameras share, are more about usability and minor functions.

The camera adds shutter angle to the video menu and it's AF performance has also been improved in V-Log mode. You can also now using the {AF+MF} when recording video. A few of the improvements are less important to me such as the ability to play back vertical videos vertically or being able to transfer 4K video files to a smartphone via wi-fi. But as soon as I talk down a feature I end up having a use for it so I'm glad they are there. 

The S1H got a huge update in July with Raw video being able to be output over HDMI to the Atomos Ninja V monitor/recorder. That's actual 12 bit Raw video data. That's really cool. So, on this firmware update we got the basic improvements in AF and the lesser upgrades like being able to transfer 4K to smartphones. They also mention some operational improvements in the way of bug fixes. 

All the improvements are most welcome and they go a long way towards solidifying Panasonic's video forward reputation in the hybrid camera market. With the S1H as the flagship video model the rest of the line closes the gap by a quite a bit which means better file matching across "B" and "C" cameras. For users who only occasionally dip into video it means that the S1R and base S1 become more than "good enough" to do 95% of the video work most of us will ever need. While having traditional photography cameras that are among the highest rated for overall image quality at sites like DXOMark. 

It's like an early Christmas present but without having to go out shopping or even spend more money. 

It's one of the less advertised features that makes me appreciate the Panasonic camera line. 

If you are shooting with Lumix/Panasonic cameras go here to see what kinds of updates they've got for your cameras: https://av.jpn.support.panasonic.com/support/global/cs/dsc/download/index4.html

A break for swimming. Swim practice left me with mixed feelings today. We've done so well as a group at practicing pandemic safety at the masters swim workouts. We're supposed to be masked any time we're not in the pool swimming. But it seems like "pandemic fatigue" has set in with a number of our swimmers who are starting to act like the rules don't apply to them. That attitude really put me off today since we're in the midst of rising case numbers and hospital beds filling up. 

I talked to our coach and let him know we needed to honor the contract we make each week as we sign up for our choice of swims during the upcoming week. I hope he follows through and gets people back on track. I would hate to have to escalate to the club's B.O.D. (I served as V.P. of the board for 10 years and I'm sure they'd hate to have to deal with this...) and get everyone twisted up. 

Otherwise it was a good swim. Lots of medium distance repeats for a change. I'm still working hard at extending my reach in my freestyle stroke. You always need a target for improvement. 

Keep masking up till we get those vaccines out to the public. It might save someone you know from a world of pain.