Panasonic S1H vs Panasonic S1: Which is the Better Investment for Video?

If you like the Panasonic ecosystem you might be wondering which of these three cameras are the right choice for video:

  1. Panasonic S1H (AmazonB&H)
  2. Panasonic S1 (AmazonB&H)
  3. Panasonic GH5 (Amazon, B&H)

Why isn’t there a GH5S in this comparison?

The GH5S was never attractive to me. For just low light performance I miss out on all the other goodies the Panasonic GH5 (Amazon, B&H) has. I really don’t see the value when I can get the job done with the GH5.

Quick menu

From my recent test

Every camera performs best at its native ISO. These are, for V-Log:

Click here to learn why the native ISO is so important.

Results:

Here’s a video comparing the color of the BMPCC 4K to the Panasonic GH5 and an Arri Alexa XT:

What do you think? Here are all the images with a standard official LUT applied (except for the Z6):

The Panasonics have amazing texture and tonal response over a multitude of tests. Feel free to do your own on the footage and see for yourself.

Comparison of sensors and video features

Here’s how the camera sensors compare:

CameraResolutionISO Range for V-LogSensor Size
Panasonic GH54992 x 3744400-1280017.3 x 13 mm
Panasonic S14096 x 2160640-5120036 x 24 mm
Panasonic S1H5952×3968640-5120036 x 24 mm
CameraNative ISO
Panasonic GH5400
Panasonic S1H640 and 4000
Panasonic S1640

The S1 and S1H have better low light performance by a mile. The S1H has dual native ISO at 640 and 4000, so it is the best, in theory.

With the GH5, you can almost shoot in 5K in 4:3 mode, which is a great advantage. However, that is only in H.265. The S1H can do even more, all the way to 6K, but still only in H.265.

Just on these specs alone it is interesting to see how the S1H combines the advantages of both the GH5 and the S1 into one package.

What about frame rates?

CameraMax fps at 4KSensor Crop at 60 fpsMax fps at 1080p
Panasonic GH560 fps17.3 x 13 mm (no crop)180 fps
Panasonic S160 fps24.5 x 16.38 (1.45x crop)120 fps
Panasonic S1H60 fps24.5 x 16.38 (1.45x crop)180 fps

There is a crop on both the S1 and S1H at 4K 60 fps. You only get full frame till 30 fps.

As far as slow motion at 1080p is concerned, you get up to 180 fps with the S1H. Overall, the S1H continues to combine both the advantages of the GH5 and S1.

Next, the codecs and color information:

CameraBest codec InternallyColor Information
Panasonic GH5H.264/H.265 ALL-I10:bit 4:2:2
Panasonic S1H.264/H.265 ALL-I10:bit 4:2:2^
Panasonic S1HH.264/H.265 ALL-I10:bit 4:2:2*

*At 6K you only get 10-bit 4:2:0.

^With the optional V-log upgrade. Otherwise 8-bit 4:2:0. More info here.

But, if you want the best quality, you need HDMI externally:

CameraBest external resolution and fpsColor Information
Panasonic GH54096 x 216010:bit 4:2:2
Panasonic S14096 x 216010:bit 4:2:2^
Panasonic S1H4096 x 216010-bit 4:2:2/RAW*

^With the optional V-log upgrade. Otherwise 8-bit 4:2:2. More info here.

*Atomos have announced a RAW update coming to the Panasonic S1H. We don’t know at this point whether it will be free or cost money (like the Nikon Z6), and we don’t know if it will be ProresRAW.

Regarding audio features, all of them have okay-ish audio.

Usability, focus and exposure aids, and ergonomics

The little things make all the difference:

  • Weight and ergonomics
  • Viewfinder and monitor
  • Focus and Exposure tools

Here’s how these cameras compare on ergonomics:

CameraErgonomics
Panasonic GH5As perfect as I have ever seen.
Panasonic S1Grip is painful, not the most pleasurable to hold. This is a DSLR-sized camera.
Panasonic S1HIt has a fan and it is audible, grip is painful, not the most pleasurable to hold. This is a heavy camera.

The S1H is definitely DSLR territory. Pair it with a large lens and it will be tough to handhold for long periods. Thankfully it has IBIS, but that’s not a magic pill.

The GH5 fits like a glove in my hand, and the buttons are all in the perfect place. I’m sure if your hands are larger/smaller you might feel differently. No way to tell without actually working with these cameras for a while, but based on my limited experience with the S1 and GH5, I prefer the GH5.

CameraEVFMonitorHDMI
Panasonic GH5YesTouch, partial tilt and swivelType A
Panasonic S1YesTouch, Slight tilt and weird swivel to the non-operator sideType A
Panasonic S1HYesTouch, Full tilt and swivelType A

The GH5 has a full swivel screen. I can’t begin to tell you how important that is. And it amazes me to see how the S1H still continues to marry the features of the Gh5 and S1H with its tilt+swivel screen. This is extremely important, because it gets the screen out of the way of HDMI and microphone cables.

The S1 has the weirdest screen. The swivel to the right is not very useful. For video shooting, the operator usually stands on the left. I don’t know why this is so. If you know why, please let me know.

The EVF on the S1 and S1H are definitely better, though the GH5 is great as well and gets the job done.

CameraFocus AidsContinuous AutofocusExposure
Panasonic GH5Peaking, ZoomYesHistogram, 3D LUTs, Waveform, Vectorscope, Zebras
Panasonic S1Peaking, ZoomYesHistogram, 3D LUTs, Waveform, Vectorscope, Zebras^
Panasonic S1HPeaking, ZoomYesHistogram, 3D LUTs, Waveform, Vectorscope, Zebras

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

Where all three cameras fall behind is continuous autofocus. Here’s a test with the S1:

Bottom line? Ergonomics-wise, you can’t beat the S1H. Period.

It elegantly marries all the good things about the GH5 and S1. The only advantage the GH5 has is its size and weight, if that is important to you.

Batteries and media cards

CameraDual card slotsPrice per hour of 4K*Price per GB^
Panasonic GH5Yes, SDXC$316$1.8/GB
Panasonic S1Yes, SDXC + XQD$316$1.8/GB ($2/GB)
Panasonic S1HYes, SDXC$316$1.8/GB

*Best image quality, 25 fps, 400 Mbps ALL-I. This is the maximum you can record internally.

^Based on a Sandisk Extreme Pro SSD 240 GB. For the S1, the values in brackets are for XQD.

I think in the future we’ll see CFastExpress, which is a newer version (sort of) of XQD. But for now SD cards are still great.

All the features in the world are useless if you have to hire a donkey to carry your batteries:

CameraBattery life^Cost one one battery*Cost of 6 hours of operation
Panasonic GH550 minutes$60$432
Panasonic S170 minutes$88$453
Panasonic S1H60 minutes$88$528

^Actual recordable time, from Panasonic’s official specs for 4K 60 fps MP4.

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

Things are mostly even here. The major difference will be if and when RAW comes to the S1H. Then the rates will be higher.

The large sizes of the S1 and S1H have some positives, like it gives you more space for a larger battery.

Which is cheaper to own?

CameraPrice of bodyNotes
Panasonic GH5$1,498V-log and 10-bit 4:2:2 is a separate purchase (+$97).
Panasonic S1$2,498V-log and 10-bit 4:2:2 is a separate purchase (+$199).
Panasonic S1H$3,998All included*.

*If and when RAW arrives, we’ll need to factor in the cost of an Atomos Ninja V, media, batteries, etc.

Let’s just add up the costs:

CameraPrice of bodyMediaBatteriesTotal
Panasonic GH5$1,595$316$432$2,343
Panasonic S1$2,697$316$453$3,466
Panasonic S1H$3,998$316$528$4,842

There’s a price difference of $1,376 between the S1H and the S1. The big question you’ll be having is: Is that worth it?

Put a thought aside for the GH5. Its (tremendous) value is clear.

Verdict

First, a recap:

FeatureWinner
Sensor and ISOPanasonic S1H
Video featuresPanasonic S1H
Codecs and ColorPanasonic S1H
MediaPanasonic S1H, GH5
ErgonomicsPanasonic S1H, GH5
Ports and MonitoringTie
PowerPanasonic S1
Most value for moneyPanasonic GH5

Before we take our final decision, we’ll let the cameras tell us what they offer that the others don’t:

CameraUSPMajor Cons
Panasonic GH5Internal 10-bit, 5K, Swivel LCD, AnamorphicHighlight clipping
Panasonic S1Internal 10-bit, Colors, AnamorphicV-Log is an additional purchase
Panasonic S1HInternal 10-bit, 6K, Tilt+Swivel LCD, True anamorphic, RAWExpensive

The Panasonic S1H (AmazonB&H) clearly has the best tools and is more equipped for all kinds of production work:

  • Tilt+ Flip screen
  • Great Viewfinder and LCD, large OLED panel on top
  • True anamorphic mode and full frame
  • All the important exposure tools
  • Autofocus in video
  • 400 Mbps 10-bit 4:2:2 codec which can be graded
  • Great stills camera
  • RAW coming in a future update
  • 180 fps in 1080p
  • 14+ stops (V-Log)
  • Dual Native ISO

The Panasonic S1H (AmazonB&H) marries all the good things about the S1 and the GH5, and then some. It is the best camera for the professional filmmaker.

But…

Are you a professional?

If you’re not making much money with your gear, or if your are not looking at these cameras as a B-cam, but your only camera, then it’s hard for me to recommend the S1H.

The Panasonic S1 (AmazonB&H) has everything you could need in this price bracket:

  1. Amazing colors and dynamic range. Just watch this monster comparison test I did.
  2. 4K 60p in 10-bit 4:2:2
  3. V-Log
  4. Good enough low light performance.
  5. 120 fps in HD.
  6. Better battery life.
  7. The money you save can be used to buy a good lens.

Who really needs 6K in the low end video production space. It has its advantages, but low budget filmmakers and video producers don’t really need it.

Then comes ProresRAW, if that is the RAW format Panasonic decides to use with Atomos recorders. Except for FCP X, no other NLE currently supports it. I expect Premiere Pro to in the future, but I’m not so sure about Resolve. Will you have the time to play around with RAW, and manage the storage space? Will your clients pay for it?

Heed this:

No client will pay you extra for the features the S1H has, if they are not paying you enough already.

This is the dose of reality. We would all like more and more features if we can get it, but not if you put your financials at risk. It might be very dangerous to spend that extra $1,300 or so for the S1H when you can’t afford it yet.

I pick the Panasonic S1 (AmazonB&H) in this comparison for most video shooters, looking at the market today. If you are a professional making decent money, or if you are looking for a great B-cam, then the Panasonic S1H (AmazonB&H) will amaze you.

What do you think?

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

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19 Comments

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  1. In regard to buying, I think I would rent and wait (a few months?) until the RAW feature is ready.
    The 1400,- + extra investment should not be the deciding factor, just save a few months longer and forgo the desire to be the first one to have it.

    I would love to see how close this gets to the expensive ‘real’ cinema cameras, and how does it compare to 35/70mm film just to see how fare technology has advanced.

    Sareesh I love your reviews, your cinematography analysis and all the other work because it’s detailed and clearly demonstrates the sometimes small differences. What I mostly love is your comprehensiveness, you truly take the whole process into account, not just a few highlights. I hope Panasonic will hire you to help with the design of the GH6. What features and improvements would you like to see in the GH6?
    Thank you!

  2. Nice writeup! What is your opinion on the S1H bit rates for 6k? I remember your video back on the 4k 10bit bitrate for the Gh5 and how 200mb/sec is not ideal and not enough for 10bit 4:2:2 footage. Do you think 200mb/sec is enough for 6k without being too compressed? Do you think they went with 4:2:0 color space for 6k specifically because of that 200mb/sec limit? Thanks!

    1. I think the 200 Mbps bit rate is too low. The 10-bit 4:2:0 spec is more due to HLG, because HDR has to be 10-bit. 10-bit 4:2:0 is the worst 10-bit possible!

  3. Hi Sareesh,
    You are the first person who has said that the S1H fan is audible. I’ve watched over a dozen hands on reviews, including longer ones from the 5 film-makers that shot short films with the S1H and you are the only person who has said that the fan is audible. In a few interviews the people testing the camera stated specifically that the fan was NOT audible. Maybe the unit you were testing was defective ?

    – Guy

  4. Hi

    You list as a “major con” on the S1:

    no IBIS

    The S1 does have IBIS. Am I missing something here.

    Thanks

  5. Thanks for that great comparison! At the moment I am using a BMPCC4K as Bcam for my productions…but as you know…new cameras are coming in every month!!! At the moment I am thinking about upgrading to the BMPCC6K or the SH1…but even here the SH1 is more expensive! I love the BM colours but my Acam is a VaricamLT….what do you think??? What do you think about announced SigmaFP?
    Would love to exchange some thoughts…all the best.
    Tobi Corts
    http://www.tobiascorts.de

  6. The grip holding feeling maybe it’s very personal preference depending of individual palm size.
    I’m big fan of smaller-than-DSLR cameras, but I surprisingly feel very comfortable holding S1 all day long in my hand and gimbal. Of cause, after long shooting with GH5 I’m less tired.

  7. Always great review. You are one of my favorite reviewers. Just one comment, my S1 has higher than 120p rates: 125/25, 150/25, 180/30. So, the highest is 180p at highspeed mode. Unfortunately S1 don’t have yet 100/25 and 96/24, so important in PAL countries to shoot high speed rapid video in 50 hertz lighting. Second thing I miss so much, it’s 2fps VFR for shooting timelapses and hyperlapses in video mode, 2pfs is better than photo 1 picture per second timelapse mode, and video mode dealing better with A autoexposure, it makes exposure changes more gentle way.

    1. S1 definitely has very good IBIS.
      Shooting with 24-105 kit lens on S1 I’m getting smoother footage than GH5 with native primes in same situations. I don’t like 12-35 2.8 OIS zoom, feels boring.

  8. I agree with your analysis. The S1 is already very heavy for hand held shooting–especially with full frame lenses–or full frame adapted lenses. And personally, I much prefer the XQD card—even though there’s only one. The only thing I wish the S1 had is a cinema 4k mode. I miss that aspect ratio I loved so much on my Fuji X-H1. But, for most shooting, I prefer the S1–image and color are great, HLG and V-log are both fantastic, and IBIS is, practically speaking as good as the GH5. MUCH less noise than the GH5…and the simplicity of the menus is wonderful. Just wish I had that C4k aspect ratio.
    These cameras make me never want to see another Sony again—ever!