I had lunch with a fellow photographer today so I brought along the Lumix S1 and the 50mm f1.4 S Pro. My friend brought a handful of cameras as well.

I saw a film about W. Eugene Smith, the incredible Life Magazine/Magnum photographer who was at the top of the game in the late 1940s through the 1950s. The documentary movie is called, "Jazz Loft" and is available on Amazon Prime Video. The two things that were most striking to me were, 1. The almost insane level of commitment of Smith to his craft and his photographs. The man worked nonstop; constantly shooting, developing and printing his work. One peer who was interviewed told the story of Smith going through a box of 250 sheets of photographic paper to get one perfect print with which he was satisfied. 

He would work on projects for months, sometimes for years, shooting tens of thousands of rolls of black and white film. Ultimately, he abandoned his family to concentrate 100% of his time on his work. The movie also incorporates the story of the Jazz improvisations and jam sessions that took place in the NYC building he lived and worked in, and talks about his passion for making audio recordings of.....everything.

The second most striking point to me, in looking at the large number of images done by Smith that the filmmakers present to the audience, is the superb technical and aesthetic qualities of the images. He was routinely working under dim lighting conditions; shooting jazz sessions that lasted all through the night. Looking at the edge print of the film he was using shows a mix of Plus-X and Try-X black and white film. The former had an ISO of 125 while the later was 400. Given the quality of the lenses available in the 1950's and the fact that for many of the images he almost certainly had to be working wide open I found myself thinking that even with the best of the modern gear we have available I have yet to see work that surpasses his technical shooting abilities. 

And remember, this is way before auto focus, saving stuff in PhotoShop, or even having auto exposure. And yet the work is uniformly great. No zoom lenses either. He is often shown with three cameras with three different focal length lenses on them, hanging off his shoulder and his neck, positioned for quick access --- the old school way of "zooming." (Maybe this is why "old school" photographers still feel a phantom need to use multiple camera bodies....). 

Here we are, surrounded by the latest technologies in cameras, able to make up for massive problems in post processing, gifted with cameras that shoot at 6400 ISO and above, and yet only a tiny handful of people seem to be able to make anything decent, photographically, with all that implied progress. Sad, in a way...

While I won't be leaving my family and dedicating all working hours to shooting and printing I was moved by Smith's laser-like focus and walked away from the film recommitting to the original passion I had for shooting my own work as well and as often as I can. 

To that end I brought my camera to lunch today. My lunch companion trumped me by bringing three cameras! We spoke about the state of photography for a good while. It was interesting to go back to such an important "mile marker" in the history of photography and to make it a current topic of discussion. I highly recommend setting aside one hour and twenty six minutes to broaden your perception of what could be accomplished so well in our field already nearly 70 years ago....

One thing my lunch mate pointed out, and which I believe to be very true, is that there were so many fewer distractions in Smith's time. No social media, no continuous and instantly breaking news, in fact, no television at all. A person's immersion into any field then could go on uninterrupted for periods of time that would seem impossible today. And mostly to our loss. 

Ah well. Here are a couple more images from lunch at El Mercado on S. First St. All shot at f1.4.

A mystery camera makes an appearance. 


There's a powerful argument to be made that the most effective, minimal system would consist of just on Lumix S1 body and the 24-105mm f4.0 Lumix lens... It's pretty self-contained.

The buying philosophy I seem to adhere to...

Not really an oppressive package to haul around. The kit lens is lighter than it looks. 

Love being able to go from wide (above) to tight (below) without a lens change. 

Nothing really amazing but when I blow stuff up and become a pixel peeper in Photoshop I am impressed by the sharpness and resolution of the 24-105mm lens. Maybe I should have just stopped there?

Some samples from the Sigma 20mm f1.4 Art lens when used on the Panasonic Lumix S1. Nothing very formal. No tripod required.

I've been photographing as a career for decades, have written a number of books about technical aspects of photography and also do it as a hobby. But I'm still trying to learn how to use ultra-wide angle lenses better. I know, we're supposed to put stuff in the foreground, etc. but my brain just doesn't see the logical answers to the visual puzzle with so much going on in the frame. But I bought one of those lenses wide angle lenses anyway. And now I'm trying to learn enough tricks to rationalize working with one. It's by no means my first wide angle but regardless of pedigree or specs the wide view still leaves me cold. Tips always welcome. 

Anyway, here are the wide images I shot on my walk around the lake and through downtown today. Maybe we can salvage something?  It is sharp and I don't see any real issues.... but.....

Not sure why but Studio Dog sure hates bath time!

I try to get her all dried off after a bath but she prefers to run to this chair and sink into 
the rear cushion for a while. Such a look. All over a twice monthly bath....

I have no idea why she's so averse to a bath. She's generally rolled around in something suspect nearly everyday but I resist the urge to clean her up unless she smells badly or the CFO or Junior creative director suggest that "now would be a good time."  Why this chore/privilege never falls to one of them continues to mystify me, even after 11 years of tenure with America's smartest and best canine (although I am certain that yours is very, very close behind...). 

We use the finest dog shampoo. Her bath water is precisely regulated for temperature, alkalinity and softness. Her Turkish bath towels are ultimately absorbent yet soft as a puppy's tongue. I turn up the heat in the house to 74 degrees. I try to schedule baths on warm afternoons, and yet, nothing seems to mollify her. She hides before the bath and then rampages up and down the long hallway for a while afterwards until finally settling down, grudgingly accepting a treat, and then spending the rest of the day vacillating between looking haughty and outraged or waif-ish and victimized. 

Doesn't matter. If the CFO says, "bathe the dog!" the dog gets bathed. I wonder who handles this when I'm out of town on a job?

So, What ended up in the camera bag (metaphorically speaking) when the dust settled?

Engagement scene from "Christmas Carol" at Zach Theatre.

If you've read the last two blog posts you've discovered that I capriciously purged all of my cameras and lenses, accumulated over the years, and replaced them with the new Lumix S system from Panasonic. By way of disclosure: I don't know anyone at Panasonic. I am not being paid or entertained or junketed by them, their agents or affiliates. I paid for the new gear in the most old fashioned way possible, at retail, at a local, bricks-and-mortar camera store, and for the full asking price. I did ask for a discount but was gently rebuffed.

I am not an Ambassador, a Visionary (although I reserve the right to think of myself as a visionary) Explorer of the Light or a professional hanger on of any sort. Nor am I enough of an influencer to qualify for open ended equipment "loans." Just a lone, professional photographer trying to hammer out a meek and meager existence taking photographs... That's enough legal mumbo-jumbo, now on to the fun stuff...

What's spread across the office desk in the aftermath of the cathartic gear recharge? (I already know the floor is cluttered with boxes and manuals, I've been "instructed" by the CFO to "neaten up the space...).

There are two Lumix S1 cameras, both upgraded with the V-Log firmware. I bought these as a pair because twenty years of shooting theater and event photos informs me that the most productive way to shoot time sensitive events is with a wide to standard zoom lens on one body and a standard to telephoto zoom on the other. Match the bodies for less post production color grading, and less operational resistance caused by having to know the different procedures and different menus in two different models or system cameras. 

There is one S1R camera (the 47 megapixel model) to satisfy my current idea of returning to the avid making of portraits in a cropped, square format. Mostly in black and white. The rampant, extra pixels give me the leeway to crop and still end up with a big, juicy file to play with. I'm currently trying to get my black and white look locked down just right but that's going to take some time and experimenting (which is part of the fun, not a "con.").

That's it for camera bodies. I did buy one battery grip for those times when you end up shooting all day and don't want to stop to change batteries. I also bought four extra batteries for... you know... just in case. 

Both the "video" bodies have a big V90 SD card in the top slot and a big XQD card in the bottom slot. They are fully ready for our first new video project!

The "big" camera (they are all the same camera body, I mean the one with the extra pixels...) just has two 128 Gb V90 SD cards in its slots. 

That's it for "real" cameras in the studio. It's the lowest number of cameras I have owned since starting in photography over forty five years ago. I'm cheating though; I still have a Canon G10 camera that I use when I need something small, light and retro but can't find my phone....

I've kept the lenses pretty simple as well. I have the three original Panasonic Lumix S lenses: the 24-105mm f4.0 (which I think every owner should have = it's pretty great) as well as the 70-200mm f4.0 Pro S lens (yes, it says, "Leica Certified" on the bottom of the lens barrel) and the ponderous but beautiful 50mm f1.4 Pro S.  I have supplemented these lenses with a few more lenses from Sigma's L-mount Art line. Just two. The 20mm f1.4 (for those times when I still imagine myself to be a generalist who will need to document the inside of someone's new office building or water treatment plant) and the 85mm f1.4 because it's probably the best portrait lens in the world and, according to ALL reviews, is better and higher performing than the Zeiss Otus 85mm, at about one quarter the price. I've already used it for several portraits and it delivers as advertised. ( it is the gateway lens for Sigma; if one is willing to take up a power lifting regimen to prepare for using the lens off tripod...). 

The final two lenses for the system are rather pedestrian but vital. The important one, at least for me, is the Sigma 45mm f2.8 "normal" lens which is one of the few L-mount lenses available that allows the S1 cameras to pose as "walk-around" cameras. The lens is small, light and more than sharp enough and it makes the whole package of camera and lens manageable for walks that last hours at a time. A perfect counterpoint to the 85mm f1.4 which might be the least "walk friendly" lens I've owned (outside of huge, fast lenses like the Nikon 300mm f2.8 I used to take to swim meets...). 

The final "arrow in the quiver" is the old (from the film days) 50mm f1.7 Contax lens that I use on the new cameras courtesy an L-mount to Contax Y/C adapter. It also makes the system package manageable for ambulation while delivering, at all rational apertures, a very nice image. Since I already owned the lens it's basically a free, normal back up for those times when I irrationally crave getting my hands all over the focusing ring and aperture ring.... Plus it's a reminder that even back in the film days much of the technology of imaging was already quite good. 

Finish off with a TTL proficient speedlight from Godox and that's the entirety of the system. Nothing wildly long, nothing too wide. Just a bunch of tried and true focal lengths backed up with some state of the art optical design work. And three bodies that work the way I like them to. 

We'll see how long I can keep the desire to add more lenses at bay. I give it about a month and a half. But I'll tell you right now, if a prosumer body with a lower price tag and lighter weight gets announced I reserve the right to pounce on it. 

So, when you add it all up it's not an outrageous amount of cameras and lenses. Just the right amount for work, and put together this time with more of an eye to some studio work and more thoughtful work from a big tripod. 

Just thought you'd want to know what's in-house. This is the first week of the new adventure. 

Also; re-launching the entire business. But that's another story. 

It's a beautiful day for a walk in Austin. I'm cancelling a meeting and putting on my walking shoes. Real life can wait.


A first portrait with the new system.

Lumix S1R camera
Sigma 85mm 1.4 Art lens
shot square.

the eye detect works so well... even with people wearing glasses.

Feeling chained to a system that's no longer working for you?

Roderick Sanford as "The Ghost of Marley" in the Zach Theatre Production of Christmas Carol. 

I've been having fun transitioning between a chaos of multiple brands of cameras and a clean, orderly drawer with just enough cameras in it to do what I want to do. Stuff changes all the time. If you don't have the budget to change it's certainly not mission critical to do so. The most important things in photography are creative vision and intention, everything else follows along.

But if you can swing it and you've got the right clients changing systems can give one the feeling that you are keeping up with technology and that the technology will better serve your vision; even if it's not the most important part of the business.

I have a twinge of regret moving on from any system. The Fuji equipment is really nice and the video in the X-T3 is wonderful. I like most of their lenses as well. Before that the Panasonic G9s I used, along with the Olympus Pro zoom lenses were just sublime. In fact, of all the cameras I've shot, the camera-ness of the G9 was head and shoulders above the rest for physical handling and things like focusing. The Pentax felt like the last of the traditional DSLR generation...

But I'm interested to see a few things with the S1 and S1R cameras. With the S1 I'm hoping for a more interesting look in video while with the S1R, with its bountiful resolution, I'm looking forward to shooting it in the same way I used to shoot medium format film. Nice and square! And the newest generation of high resolution sensors doesn't falter when cropped to 1:1. The files are still over 30 megapixels.

I made a portrait today and it was satisfying to use the 85mm f1.4 Sigma Art lens on an S1R in square mode. What I ended up with is beyond pleasing and feels to me as though we're circling back to the look I worked so hard to get in the film days. Now I just have to get the black and white adjustments elevated in PhotoShop.

Yes, we purged all other cameras to the walls. Yes, I bought a carefully selected little collection of Lumix S bodies and lenses (and batteries and fast memory cards) but no one will go without shoes here. I swear.


Saturday Swim Practice and Camera Sorting.

It was one of those weird days at swim practice. I showed up for the 7:30 a.m. workout today at 7:20 and got ready. When we got out on the pool deck everyone was looking around for the coach. Somebody dropped the ball with the schedule and we had 30+ people ready to swim and no coach. Someone noticed that Friday's workout was still up on the white boards so we all just decided to duplicate that workout. We had enough coaches with water safety certification in the swim group to not worry about liability and we're all disciplined enough to follow a written workout without supervision. It was still a bit disconcerting not to have someone standing up on the deck yelling at us to go faster or to streamline off the walls better....

Matt, Brett and I pounded through  couple miles worth of sets and then relinquished our lane to a new crop of swimmers at 8:30 a.m. Today I was working on correcting arm angles for the underwater portion part of the freestyle stroke. Not too much bend inward, and hand further away from my torso. There's more leverage that way which translates into more speed.

I'm finding as I get older that I need to lean on technique as much as I can to keep up with people who are younger. Good habits pay off.

After practice I made my typical breakfast: one cup of 2% Greek Yogurt with half a cup of muesli, a quarter cup of organic blueberries and a couple ounces of organic walnuts. I don't actually measure stuff; I mostly do it by sight. It's a delicious breakfast and it won't weigh you down.

Now I'm sitting in the office reveling in my giant purge of equipment yesterday. All that's left in the studio are a couple of lonely tripods, some lights+lightstands and an older Canon inkjet printer. Still mulling over what to do next. Replace everything with more Lumix stuff? Just get an iPhone 11 Pro (leaning in that direction) or download a new scriptwriting application for my laptop and give up imaging altogether?

I still have a few film cameras in the bottom of a filing cabinet as well as a Canon G10 but.....

It's one of those post-equipment-purge days when I just wish I could figure out how to get paid for swimming. 

Added shortly afterwards: Okay, so, full disclosure. I still have the Lumix S1s and a very, very small sampling of Lumix lenses. It's not much but I think I can use them to muddle through. 


A few thoughts about the new Lumix system after using several S1s and four lenses over the course of a month+

This camera, with a battery grip and one of the big, native lenses, is a heavyweight.

I've got to get one thing out of the way right up front; if you are physically frail, averse to carrying weighty objects, in thrall to the pixie-fication of cameras, trying to cram an entire system into a shoebox, or just lazy, you will not be happy as the owner of a fully decked out S1 or it's nearly identical sibling, the S1R. These are heavy cameras that are built to take the knocks and tumbles of professional life or adventure life without falling apart. I handed an S1 with a Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art lens and battery grip to Belinda and she was shocked at just how heavy and dense that package was. Shocked.

So, why inflict this burden on one's self? Why carry around such a massive package? There is really only one answer and that would be the potential image quality of the camera and lens system for both traditional photography and videography. A secondary reason might be the desire to do on the job weight training.

I was interested in using an S1 from the moment I saw the initial announcements of Panasonic's full frame Lumix system because I had gotten stellar results from their micro four thirds format G9 and figured that, scaled up to full frame the results had the potential to be class leading. I'm also a big fan of Panasonic's menu structure and their button layout. As a former Leica M and Leica R shooter I also have an attraction to both the Leica S Pro lenses and a dangerous interest in several of the Leica L mount lenses. 

There are currently two cameras in the system. One is the S1R which features a 47+ megapixel imaging sensor. This falls into my category of: would be nice to have sometime in the future. The other camera is the S1 which uses a lower resolution sensor of 24 megapixels. The second model is the one that makes the most sense for the kinds of work I do which include everyday photography that's destined for computer screens and magazine print, and also high quality video projects. In this regard the S1 is, to my mind, the perfect hybrid camera tool for the working content provider. The base camera gets an "A" in every category while the higher res model gets an "A+" for resolution but only a "B-" for video.

While most buyers will write of as "marketing" the idea of Leica certification for the Pro series Lumix lenses I've tossed myself into the camp of true believers after using the 70-200mm f4.0 for a spell. Over the course of the last week I've shot nearly 4,000 images with the system and of those 4,000 about half were done with this zoom. Nearly all of them were shot with the lens at its widest aperture of f4. The resulting photos are wonderfully sharp and almost completely bereft of distortions, artifacts and optical glitches. This lens reminds me of the revelation I had back in the 1990's when I first started using longer Leica Apo glass on my R8's after having used Canon and Nikon's lenses. The difference was obvious to not only me and my fellow photographers but also to art directors who had rarely commented previously about any technical aspect of submitted images. The 70-200mm Lumix lens is superb. If this was the only lens I needed I would say that the cost of entry to the system is worth it just for this tool. 

Why would I buy the Lumix S1 over its competitors? Understand that my motivations are probably different from yours. I had no collection of lenses from any other full frame system so, in the time period in which I made my purchase I also considered the Nikon Z6 and 7, the Sony A7iii, and, even glancingly, the Canon 5Dmk3 (dismissed out of hand because it lacks the 21st century "must have" super-feature; an EVF).  I also bought a couple of used Pentax K-1s but can't use them as serious work cameras in most situations because their video is not a good match for my client's needs and, to be painfully truthful, the autofocus I've experienced is about two generations behind just about everyone else's. 

While the Nikons have their merits they lack a good selection of native lenses, have some banding issues (which isn't that big of an issue) and seem to be stop gap products meant to wave the Nikon flag while they desperately work to get some sort of professional version ready to go out the door. 

I've owned and used a number of iterations of the Sony system and while the image quality is good and the focusing is not problematic the design of the camera seems to be at odds with the idea that human hands would willing hold them for any period of time. While the cameras have state of the art photo specs they are woefully underpowered as video cameras. Fine for family vacation documentation but nothing you'd want to shoot with for clients who demand things like 10 bit color and 4:2:2 files. Also, while you have to pay extra for it the Log profile that Panasonic makes available for this camera is world class and provides real benefits in editing and color grading. Using the S-Log on the Sony cameras is a bit of a smoke and mirrors thing. You can get real Log encoding but you are doing it (always) on 8 bit files which means banding in final images with sky, etc. is almost a given. 

Add to this Sony's legendary overheating issues with video and you have a handful of reasons to run in the opposite direction from their cameras. If you are truly interested in Sony and video it makes sense to just buy one of their dedicated video cameras like the FS5 or FS7 and keep separate inventories for each type of job. At least the lenses will work across both platforms. 

So I ended up investigating the Lumix cameras. I went through the check boxes that matter most to me. Yours will almost undoubtably be different. First up was imaging quality from a sensor perspective. Having had great performance from the G9 I knew I'd like the way Panasonic tweaked the color from the sensor while DXO numbers informed me that the overall sensor performance in raw would make the S1(rated 95) pretty much equal to the best performances of the Sony and Nikon rivals and far ahead of the Canon offerings. The S1's excellent low light score makes it a good match for the theater photography I routinely do....

After having shot theater and portraits with the S1 I find myself well pleased with the choices Panasonic has made in color treatment in both raw and Jpeg files. The images are easy to work with in post. My one complaint, which is easily remedied with a one time dive into the Jpeg menus is that the default sharpening is a little high. Interesting that on the Pentax K-1 files I find I need to boost the sharpness of the Jpegs to match.

So, image color, noise and sharpness are all satisfactory; in line with my preferences.


Moving on to the video performance. Even in the "out of the box" configuration the camera does a nice job with 4K video files. The on-the-body microphone pre-amps are very low noise and sound nice. The full size HDMI plug should be standard on any camera that wants to be considered as a "professional" tool and, of course, it is on the S1. This camera is transformed with the addition of the V-Log unlock code and the addition of the microphone accessory that fits in the hot shoe. The V-Log unlock code gives us full-on 4K files at up to 30 fps with no crop while delivering 10 bit, 4:2:2 files straight into the camera's memory cards. No external recorder needed for this performance. I'd say it was "class leading" but none of the other cameras in this full frame class can provide this level of performance. Add an external recorder and you can get 60 fps with the same basic specs, but with a 1.5x crop. 

The microphone accessory, the DMW-XLR1 is well worth cost. I provides two XLR inputs to the camera along with phantom power, filters, line level input adjustments, and hard dials for level controls.  While many productions have the budget to do separate sound, where a sound engineer records from the microphone into a dedicated recorder from Sound Devices, Tascam or Zoom and then syncs up the sound in post production, the DMW-XLR1 allows a single operator to pull in very competent audio that's already sync'ed to the video files and does so in a package that is unobtrusive enough to make single operator work doable. 

While Sony has a competent version of this audio interface available for their cameras Nikon and Canon lag far, far behind when it comes to audio recording as part of videography. Whether they will or want to catch up is not clear. Both systems are well capable of creating great video products but in the case of Canon one gets the impression that so much video prowess is missing from their still cameras in order to protect sales of their video lines. Nikon, on the other hand, has mastered the art of nice looking video files but seems not to have the bandwidth to add tackling audio to the list of things they need to get done right away --- like introducing more Z lenses....

Moving on to how the S1 camera performs I have to mention that the EVF is the absolute best I have ever used and sometimes, when I am switching between the S1 and the Pentax K-1 (which has an exemplary optical finder) I forget that one of the two finders is an EVF!!! That's a huge deal to me. I've been championing the concept of EVFs for over ten years and this is the point at which I can say we've finally surpassed "good enough." The finder is big and bright and can be configured into one of three different magnifications so eyeglass wearers can be accommodated as well as people who need to see information around the edges. Purists can call up a magnification that files the eyepiece. It's just beautiful. And stand off is good as well.


Another feature that most will see as required is Panasonic's class leading image stabilization. The system is great while using the in body image stabilization but is superb when lenses with stabilizers are used in conjunction with body stabilization. They call it "dual I.S." and it leverages the benefits of each kind of system to give photographers up to 7 stops (cited in conjunction with the new 70-200mm f2.8 lens). Both of the Lumix lenses I use work in dual I.S. and I've found the system nearly as good as that on the G9 camera when using the Panasonic/Leica 12-60mm. 

The in-body image stabilization makes possible the high resolution feature in which the camera takes multiple shots while moving the sensor a tiny bit between each shot in order to capture more color information more accurately. It works. Not on moving subjects but on any still subject, it works. 

One of my friends was discussing camera choice with me and posited that the S1R (high res model) would be more useful to him as an architectural photographer. Since most architecture doesn't move I argued that the 96 megapixel files that come from the hi-res mode would seem to be more than enough for nearly any application...  We'll test this theory some time soon. He's still shooting with a Nikon D850 so we can do a side by side test to evaluate. Will we see a difference? Hmmmmm.

Build quality

I'm going to take a minute to talk about something that shouldn't really make a difference in the age of ever-obsoleting digital cameras but seems to make a difference to me, and that is the build quality and implied reliability. I've seen the dedicated site that Panasonic put up showing how much metal lies just under the fake leatherette and also how well sealed the S1 series cameras are and it is impressive. Also impressive is the specification that the mechanical shutter is rated as being good for about 400,000 exposures. What all this points to is a camera that won't let one down, mechanically.

Will any of this make a difference in three to five years when 60 megapixels is baseline and 100 megapixels seems to be the new, exciting metric? Will I care if the camera is impervious to full on meteor strikes if the next generation features 8K video and all sorts of computation imaging tools that make my stuff look better? Probably not but....if I see myself as an artist/hobbyist instead of a mercenary photographer I would imagine that we're in a sweet spot that's going to last for a while and having a camera that can take a lot of use and abuse without bricking makes me feel more....comfortable. Less antsy about taking fewer units along for the ride.

This is a camera which, along with the S Pro lenses, that I can be comfortable with if there's sudden rain shower at Eeyore's Birthday party and the camera and lens get sprayed with rain (or beer). I've already dropped one of the two I own on to concrete and gotten nothing more than a ding on the metal shade of my Sigma 45mm lens. 


Coming from the Panasonic G9 there are a lot a operating interfaces, both on screen and via external buttons, that seem familiar to me and make operating the camera more assured and less hesitant. For instance, there are three buttons just behind the shutter button. One is for WB, one is for ISO and the one on the far right (as you operate the camera) is for exposure compensation. The ISO button in the center has two small but pronounced bumps on it so you can identify it immediately with one touch. The left side WB button is a bit taller than the exposure comp button. Small features but useful to one who works with the camera in near dark situations.

The hand grip is just right. It's even got a little "shelf" indentation on the lens side that helps fingers find a nicer purchase. It's nice. The camera, when used without the battery grip, is pretty much perfect for me to handhold. Even more so when equipped with a small, lightweight lens like the Sigma 45mm or my adapted Carl Zeiss 50mm f1.7. The grip and the larger lenses together take some getting used to. They have made no compromise for size and weight and you'll feel it. The trade off is, hopefully, robust reliability.

When I shoot the camera bare, without the battery grip and with a smaller lens (like the 45mm f2.8 Sigma) it's actually a small enough package (not much bigger than a Fuji X-T3) and it feels comfortable but dense.

The finder is BETTER than an optical finder. It also makes handling more fun. And commercial shooting more productive.

What are the perceived drawbacks (cons)?

To my mind there are really only two dings on the cameras (both the S1 and S1R): One is the autofocus and the other one is battery life.

I tend to use S-AF almost all the time, and to simplify even more I find myself using a single focusing square, moving it with the rear joy stick to the right point if I have time, otherwise I use a center focusing point, lock in focus and then recompose. I am resolutely old school in this regard. I find continuous focusing to be in opposition to my work flow with cameras. Too much to keep track of. Too many things to re-learn. But I had heard so much about "focus wobble" when using AF-C that I had to try it out just to see what the deal was. And it's true, there is a very disconcerting wobbling in the EVF during C-AF that would make the camera less desirable to me if that was my routine manner of working. If you routinely use C-AF or focus tracking AF with your cameras and this is an important way of operating for you I strongly advise you to head to a bricks-and-mortar camera store to check out the camera yourself. You might be able to get used to the frenetic action in the finder but...... you might not.

Will Panasonic improve this with a series of firmware updates? I have no idea but I buy cameras in order to use them right now; not some vague date in the future after home improvement firmware upgrades. If you are a heavy duty sports shooter I'm going to conjecture that these cameras were never on your short list to begin with.

The cameras focus quickly and accurately in S-AF, as good as anything out there, but if you want the camera to track stuff moving around the frame I think you need to spend an afternoon with an S1 and see what you get.

Battery Life

The battery that comes with the camera is big, beefy and rated at over 3,000 mAh. That would lead us to believe that it will power a conventional camera for hours and hours; even days.... But, alas, Panasonic rates the battery at about 390 exposures and I'd venture that with reviews and longer timeouts  you might even get less out of them. As I buy more of the cameras I cajole my sales person to give me an extra battery in lieu of a discount on the main product, knowing that I'm a nervous user when it comes to running out of power and I'll charge and take all the batteries I have on a shoot so I can avoid ever having to tell a client that we've run out of juice.

The batteries are $90 a pop and I'm beginning to think that Panasonic is taking "pricing lessons" from their good friends at Leica. Going on location for a day's worth of shooting I'd be comfortable with two batteries but even happier with three batteries total per camera. So, to be safe you end up carrying around an extra $180 dollars worth of little black objects with type on them.

Alternately, you could go with one battery and take along an external Lithium battery pack/device such as the ones that are sold to charge iPhones and tablets in the field. The camera has a USB-C 3.1 port and it allows in camera battery charging as well as powering of the camera. With a set up like this you sacrifice a bit of mobility but you gain some piece of mind. Not such a great trade off for a wandering tourist but probably just fine for a working pro on a fixed location with the camera welded to a tripod.

Bottom Line

Cameras should feel good to operate, from a strictly machine/human interface point of view; that should be a given. Next up in importance are two things in equal measure: The performance of available lenses and the quality of the sensor in the camera.

It seems that Panasonic, and in fact all members of the L-mount Alliance are focused on making lenses that are exemplary and high performing regardless of their cost to consumers or the cost of the resultant size and weight. Several of the Panasonic S Pro lenses are designed by Leica and carry an inscription claiming: Leica Certified. According to Panasonic this means that those lenses have passed the rigorous optical standards and build quality standards of the world's most prestigious consumer lens designer. From what I've seen so far I think I'd say that the lenses rock.

On my wish list is the 50mm f1.4 Lumix S Pro lens. It's being touted as their "reference standard" and the lens all others in the system will be judged against.

Another reason to consider the Lumix cameras is, in fact, the range of lenses that are already available for the system. There are numerous Sigma Art lenses now provided in the mount and on the other end of the price spectrum you have access to the Leica SL lenses which are excellent.

While you won't find a $200 kit zoom or a $149 "nifty-fifty" you might find some really great lenses that mesh well with the very clean and well reviewed sensors in both the 24 and 47 megapixel cameras. This isn't a system for those who want a mix of economy and convenience lenses along with a few premium lenses; at this juncture it seems like this system is aimed at people who are tired of the middle way and ready to just buy premium.

Does it work for me? Yes. It does.