I caught up with their Director Charlie Ray to ask him about his first impressions of the S1, how it performed, and what he liked and didn’t like about the camera.
What are your first impressions of the Panasonic S1?
Our very first impression was that it was larger than initially expected! While not uncomfortably big, it’s definitely more chunky than say an A7Sii but probably about average for what’s coming on the market at this point in time. When we first stuck a lens on it and played around in our office we could tell the image was going to be great – that said I still think we completely underestimated it at first.
Have you been a long term user of Panasonic cameras?
We love Panasonic and what they’ve been doing. We have owned the EVA1 since its release and are blown away by what we’re able to get out of it every time we use it. In our opinion, in the sub 10K camera market, nobody’s colour science is better than Panasonic’s. Getting that V-Log footage from our EVA1 and dropping it into DaVinci Resolve is always one of the best parts of the whole project. From the GH cameras all the way up to the Varicam line, it’s safe to say we are big fans of what Pana are doing – the Lumix S1 was no exception.
What if anything, makes the S1 stand out against other full frame mirrorless cameras?
It’s more like lots of little things that makes the Lumix S1 brilliant. It has the wonderful HLG profile which I’ll come on to a bit later. Pair it with the Atomos Ninja V (which is what we were doing) and you get beautiful clean 10bit 422 ProRes which is a joy to work with in post. Combine this with the Panasonic colour science and it’s even better, we could not have been happier with all the skin tones.
Panasonic have a good menu system and when you consider we hadn’t used this camera before and as it’s so new there’s not a lot of information online, we found it really easy to get where we needed to – nothing was complicated or convoluted.
It had a brilliant dynamic range for its size and price. We had pretty much no noise at all and we found that the shadows held really well when lifted in post, nothing fell apart.
What did you like about the camera and what didn’t you like?
Aside from all the above I think the thing we loved (and were surprised about) was how professional the footage looked. You could cut pretty much all of what we shot in with stuff from a compact cinema camera like the EVA1 and it wouldn’t look out of place – this will only be improved with the addition of V-Log later in the year.
Its size was awesome, we’re used to the EVA with the Shogun Inferno which while isn’t massive, it’s still pretty weighty once you add on your v-lock batteries, wireless system, follow focus etc. Having the Lumix S1 with the Ninja V was really nice because it was a lot easier to move around, set up and balance on the gimbal.
I wouldn’t go as far as saying I don’t like the lens mount because to be honest, there are plenty of adapters coming to market for but some shooters, especially those with EF lenses like us. The lack of native lenses right from launch may be frustrating for some but as I say, it wouldn’t put me off at all because I think adapters are expected to ship within a month or so.
Tell me a little bit about the concept behind the short film?
The concept is about a man struggling with dementia reconnecting with his wife through music. A particular song throws him back to when he first met his wife as a teenager. We needed something that was short, that showed off the camera range, colours etc and so a little montage sequence fit that. Hopefully we’ve given people thinking about buy the Lumix S1 and Ninja V a good idea of what that combination is capable of.
What lenses and other equipment did you use for the film?
We had the Lumix 24-105 lens that you can buy with the camera which was brilliant. We were also using some vintage Leica Summicron-R lenses too which had a beautiful fall off and a really dreamy quality that made them great for some of the flashback shots.
The Ninja V was incredible which isn’t a surprise having owned the Shogun Inferno for a number of years. It’s incredibly easy to navigate, it’s bright, it’s sharp, it’s portable. It’s pretty much exactly what you need from an on-camera monitor like that. We didn’t really think of it as ‘Wouldn’t this be a nice addition to the camera‘? In essence, we see the Ninja and the Lumix S1 has one unit, the monitor really brings out the best of the camera and anyone that records ProRes will know it’s just beautiful to work with and holds up so well in post.
In the Ninja was the Angelbird AtomX SSD minis which were also brilliant – we use Angelbird cards because they’re rugged, reliable and powerful and as anyone knows having media you can trust is really important. We had a few ambitious shots planned, so we had a jib with us, on it we had the Freefly MoVI M15 which had no problems with the set up. Lastly a motorised slider so we could match cut that penultimate shot to the start.
What are you thoughts on how the camera handled the conditions you were shooting in?
The camera was no problem, light, dark, whatever the situation. It’s a really solid and well-built camera so we were never really worried about it.
The issues we had were only with the outside stuff where the wind made it hard on the jib. We actually had to cut a scene because just as we started this project, Storm Gareth hit the UK – just our luck. This meant the park scene you see in the film was done in the twenty to thirty minute window we had when it wasn’t hammering down with rain and blowing an absolute gale. We had some more planned for this sequence and an evening sequence too which included sending the Lumic S1 up on the Alta 8 but we ran out of good weather and time.
As V-Log isn’t available for the S1, what picture profile did you shoot in?
So we shot it all on the Lumix S1’s Hybrid Log Gamma profile which is nothing short of amazing. We didn’t have to do much in post to get the look where we wanted it. HLG was new to us so we were curious and a little stressed at working it all out in such a short amount of time but we need not have been. It was super easy to turn on and gave incredible results straight off the bat. In our opinion, it’s the perfect profile to be using for beautiful colours and cracking dynamic range, particularly as the V-Log isn’t available yet – I think the results will surprise a lot of people.
What was brilliant about the Ninja V too was not just the ability to capture that HLG profile in 10bit 422 ProRes, but to be able to monitor that HLG on set too – it made exposing on the day much quicker and easier. Having that available means mistakes aren’t being made.
What is your favourite feature of the S1?
Probably that HLG profile to be honest. For the price of the Lumix S1 we weren’t expecting those colours, skin tones and dynamic range and coming from V-Log we weren’t expecting it to be anywhere near as flexible as it was.
This is going to sound silly as it’s such a small thing, but one feature I loved was that you can see how much juice you’ve got in the camera battery even when the camera is turned off. It’s little things like this that can save you a lot of time on set.
What could Panasonic do to improve the camera?
The addition of V-Log will improve the camera immensely, the HLG is incredible but there’s no doubt that a lot of shooters want LOG. That’s now coming in July so I know owners won’t have to wait long at all for that which is great.
I would like to see Panasonic release some more accessories and cages in the future too – the image from the Lumix S1 is so good that I can see a lot of people wanting to rig this like their cine cameras – making that as easy as possible would be a good start.
What are you final thoughts about the camera, were you happy with the results you obtained?
Couldn’t be happier. We only had two and a half days to shoot this and having the small but powerful combination of the Lumix S1/Ninja V meant we were able to do that. It’s a set-up that would make the perfect b-camera to our EVA1 but you know what, it’s brilliant in it’s own right too and I would gladly use it again on other shoots.
The footage certainly looks pretty good, but you do have to remember that any camera in the hands of a team that knows what they are doing is capable of producing good results.
Wise Guys certainly had access to a lot of toys to use on this shoot and it was interesting to see how the camera could be configured and used in different ways. I personally think that it sort of defeats the purpose of having a small camera such as the Panasonic S1 if you are just going to rig it up so that it becomes the same size as a larger camera.
I would have also liked to have seen how the camera performed without having to record externally. Would there have been much, if any, noticeable difference?
What do you think about the footage? Are you interested in the Panasonic S1? Let us know in the comments section below.