In this article we’ll look at all the important specifications relevant to video and see which camera is the best value for money.
|Camera||Price of Camera body||Lens Mount|
|Panasonic S1||$2,198 + $199*||L|
|Sony a7 III||$1,998||E|
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:
- 14+ stops of dynamic range with V-Log
- 10-bit 4:2:2 internal recording in 4K up to 30 fps
- 10-bit 4:2:2 external recording for all modes up to 4K 60fps
- In-camera LUTs
- Waveform monitor
- 24-bit 96 KHz audio using the DMW-XLR1 adapter
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!
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.
|Camera||4K Resolution||ISO Range||Native ISO|
|Panasonic S1||4096 x 2160||100-12800||400 in V-Log|
|Sony a7 III||3840 x 2160||100-51200||800 in S-Log3|
What about frame rates?
|Camera||Max fps at 4K||Max fps at 1080p|
|Panasonic S1||60 fps||120 fps|
|Sony a7 III||30 fps||120 fps|
The S1 pulls ahead here.
When it comes to color science, it’s a different story:
|Camera||Color Information (Internal)||Best Data Rates, Codec||Color Information (External)|
|Panasonic S1||8-bit 4:2:0||400 Mbps ALL-I||8-bit 4:2:2|
|Panasonic S1 with V-Log||10-bit 4:2:2||400 Mbps ALL-I||10-bit 4:2:2|
|Sony a7 III||8-bit 4:2:0||100 Mbps IPB||8-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:
- Camera Shootout: BMPCC 4K vs Panasonic S1 vs Panasonic GH5 vs Sony a7 III vs Sony a7S II vs Nikon Z6
Here’s how these cameras compare on ergonomics:
|Panasonic S1||Grip is painful, not the most pleasurable to hold. This is a DSLR-sized camera.|
|Sony a7 III||Excellent 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.
|Camera||Focus Aids||Continuous Autofocus||Exposure|
|Panasonic S1||Peaking, Zoom||Yes||Histogram, 3D LUTs, Waveform, Vectorscope, Zebras^|
|Sony a7 III||Peaking, Zoom||Yes, best||Histogram, Zebras|
^With the optional V-log upgrade. More info here.
|Camera||Dual card slots||Price per hour of 4K*||Price per GB*|
|Panasonic S1||Yes, SDXC + XQD||$316 ($352)||$1.8/GB ($2/GB)|
|Sony a7 III||Yes, SDXC||$80||$1.8/GB|
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.
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.
Battery life and Power
|Camera||Battery life||Cost one one battery*||Cost of 6 hours of operation|
|Panasonic S1||45 minutes||$88||$704|
|Sony a7 III||60 minutes||$78||$468|
*As of this writing. Original batteries only, from B&H.
Which is the better camera for video?
Here’s a summary of each round, and the “winner”:
|Ergonomics||Sony a7 III|
|New lenses||Sony a7 III|
|Lens adapters||Sony a7 III|
|Video features||Panasonic S1|
|Image quality||Panasonic S1|
|AF for video||Sony a7 III|
|Image stabilization||Sony a7 III|
|Battery life||Sony a7 III|
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:
|Panasonic S1||10-bit 4:2:2, Color science||Heavy, more expensive, lack of native lenses|
|Sony a7 III||Low light monster, better AF||Focus-by-wire lenses, lack of important exposure tools|
What’s the bottom line?
- Better AF and MF, both.
- Smaller flange focal distance so you can adapt pretty much any lens you want.
- Lighter and cheaper overall.
- Image quality is good enough.
- Unbeatable low light performance.
- Amazing highlight performance.
- Better lenses and options.
What do you think?