Panasonic S1 vs Sony a7 III: Which is the Best Camera for Video?

If you’re interested in understanding the differences in video capabilities of the Panasonic S1 (Amazon, B&H) and the Sony a7 III (Amazon, B&H), you’ve come to the right place.

In this article we’ll look at all the important specifications relevant to video and see which camera is the best value for money.

Click here to stay updated about new information, workflows and tips about the Panasonic S1.

The basics

CameraPrice of Camera bodyLens Mount
Panasonic S1$2,198 + $199*L
Sony a7 III$1,998E

They are really similar in terms of the value package, aren’t they? This is why we’re comparing them.

*However, there’s one catch:

Introducing the DMW-SFU2 Upgrade

By paying for the SFu2 upgrade ($199), you get the following for the Panasonic S1:

  1. 14+ stops of dynamic range with V-Log
  2. 10-bit 4:2:2 internal recording in 4K up to 30 fps
  3. 10-bit 4:2:2 external recording for all modes up to 4K 60fps
  4. In-camera LUTs
  5. Waveform monitor
  6. 24-bit 96 KHz audio using the DMW-XLR1 adapter

Let’s go!

Ergonomics

Both cameras get decent protection if you use weather sealed lenses (and adapters if you are using other lenses).

They both have the relevant connections – HDMI for the best quality video, USB ports for charging, microphone port for audio and headphone jack for monitoring audio.

They both have new lens mounts, and each company touts their lens mount is best. Sony has been around longer, so you’ll find more lenses for it.

To learn more about the available lenses for each system, check out these articles:

I hate the LCDs of both cameras. The tilt is okay-ish, but no swivel is a headache. The S1 has a sort-of horizontal swivel, but it swivels away from the operator’s side!

Panasonic S1 (Amazon, B&H) and the Sony a7 III (Amazon, B&H)

On the whole though, the Sony lenses have better AF performance, and the tracking is excellent. The S1 isn’t good at face tracking, even with simple moves. Here’s a test:

Comparison of video features

Now let’s get into the camera, specifically for video details.

Camera4K ResolutionISO RangeNative ISO
Panasonic S14096 x 2160100-12800400 in V-Log
Sony a7 III3840 x 2160100-51200800 in S-Log3

The Sony a7 III (Amazon, B&H) is definitely the low light champion, and the Panasonic S1 (Amazon, B&H) just can’t match it in that regard.

What about frame rates?

CameraMax fps at 4KMax fps at 1080p
Panasonic S160 fps120 fps
Sony a7 III30 fps120 fps

The S1 pulls ahead here.

When it comes to color science, it’s a different story:

CameraColor Information (Internal)Best Data Rates, CodecColor Information (External)
Panasonic S18-bit 4:2:0400 Mbps ALL-I8-bit 4:2:2
Panasonic S1 with V-Log10-bit 4:2:2400 Mbps ALL-I10-bit 4:2:2
Sony a7 III8-bit 4:2:0100 Mbps IPB8-bit 4:2:2

The Panasonic S1 (Amazon, B&H) does exceptionally well in its color science. It is one of the most accurate cameras in this price range. But you do need the V-log update to really make this camera shine.

Finally, let’s talk about image quality. Both cameras shoot log, and video is restricted to 12 stops of dynamic range. It’s a tough call, but personally, I prefer the Panasonic S1 for its color science.

Judge for yourself:

Here’s how these cameras compare on ergonomics:

CameraErgonomics
Panasonic S1Grip is painful, not the most pleasurable to hold. This is a DSLR-sized camera.
Sony a7 IIIExcellent ergonomics, worst menu.

The S1 is too heavy for its own good. I found the hand grip quite painful due to the weight, and I had only held it for an hour or so.

On the other hand, Sony menus really need to be improved. It’s painful.

As far as focus and exposure tools are concerned, the Panasonic S1 (Amazon, B&H) wins:

CameraFocus AidsContinuous AutofocusExposure
Panasonic S1Peaking, ZoomYesHistogram, 3D LUTs, Waveform, Vectorscope, Zebras^
Sony a7 IIIPeaking, ZoomYes, bestHistogram, Zebras

^With the optional V-log upgrade. More info here.

Media Cards

CameraDual card slotsPrice per hour of 4K*Price per GB*
Panasonic S1Yes, SDXC + XQD$316 ($352)$1.8/GB ($2/GB)
Sony a7 IIIYes, SDXC$80$1.8/GB

*XQD in brackets. Comparing Sony brands to keep it fair. XQD G vs SF-G Tough series. You need the better SD cards to write 4K.

The a7 III has the advantage here, because you can record backups to the same type of SD card. I have no idea why the S1 has XQD plus SD card. Now you’ll have to carry an XQD card reader just for that.

People say XQD is the better system, but millions of people use SD cards, and with SD cards like the Sandisk Extreme Pro series or Sony Tough series, you have all the robustness you really need.

Panasonic S1 (Amazon, B&H) and the Sony a7 III (Amazon, B&H)

The internal data rate with the Panasonic S1 is high, and it mitigates any cost advantage SD cards might bring, even if you use the cheaper ones.

However, it’s not really an apples vs apples comparison, because the codecs are different. If you’re happy with an IPB codec, the S1 has that as well.

Tie.

Battery life and Power

CameraBattery lifeCost one one battery*Cost of 6 hours of operation
Panasonic S145 minutes$88$704
Sony a7 III60 minutes$78$468

*As of this writing. Original batteries only, from B&H.

The Panasonic S1 (Amazon, B&H) is more power hungry than the Sony a7 III (Amazon, B&H). In the real-world though, the Sony a7 III batteries and chargers are smaller and lighter.

Which is the better camera for video?

Here’s a summary of each round, and the “winner”:

FeatureWinner
ErgonomicsSony a7 III
New lensesSony a7 III
Lens adaptersSony a7 III
Video featuresPanasonic S1
Image qualityPanasonic S1
AF for videoSony a7 III
Image stabilizationSony a7 III
Media cardsTie
Battery lifeSony a7 III

If I were forced to pick a winner just on specs alone, I’d pick the Panasonic S1 (Amazon, B&H) due to the better image quality.

However, in my great camera shootout poll, most people picked the Sony a7 III in a blind test, and most low budget filmmakers would prefer the amazing low light qualities of the a7 III (and its better AF) over the S1. It is also cheaper to own overall.

A final look at the pros and cons:

CameraUSPCons
Panasonic S110-bit 4:2:2, Color scienceHeavy, more expensive, lack of native lenses
Sony a7 IIILow light monster, better AFFocus-by-wire lenses, lack of important exposure tools

What’s the bottom line?

The Sony a7 III (Amazon, B&H) wins, for these reasons:

  1. Better AF and MF, both.
  2. Smaller flange focal distance so you can adapt pretty much any lens you want.
  3. Lighter and cheaper overall.
  4. Image quality is good enough.
  5. Unbeatable low light performance.
  6. Amazing highlight performance.
  7. Better lenses and options.

What do you think?

Click here to stay updated about new information, workflows and tips about the Panasonic S1.

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4 Comments

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  1. Sony is really killing it in so many areas. It seems their cameras are becoming the overall cameras in usability and functionality for the masses. Phenomenal af that can be used in many instances just like a great focus puller .
    I’m still leaning towards the Panasonic S1h system for my needs at the moment. Thanks for all you do !

  2. Does A7iii really have better low-light performance? Their ISO range is identical (100-51200, extended to 204800).
    Is the A7iii codec robust enough to withstand serious grading of s-log? That would seem like a dealbreaker to me.
    Also, do you happen to know if you can completely turn off the NR on the S1?
    Thanks for all the info and great reviews! Right now I am debating between S1, S1H, Z Cam E2-F6, Sigma fp, Canon C200 and the A7SIII if it ever shows up.