I’ve always been impressed with Lumix as a camera brand, ever since my dad purchased a compact camera for his overseas travel.  Not only that, I heard great stories of their famous cameras for video, like the GH5.  Lumix have also been a big sponsor in the prestigious New Zealand Geographic Photographer of The Year competition. For two years running, I was fortunate to win the ‘time-lapse’ category which Lumix attached their brand to. Sadly though, that category has been withdrawn.

I really wanted to try the Lumix range of cameras for time-lapse and that opportunity availed itself with the Panasonic Lumix S1R.  I’ve found it a great camera to use and it will be difficult for me to surrender it back.  Am I a convert ? Overall, yes I am !  Not only that, I’ve since discovered other renown time-lapse photographers are also using the S1R. They include Matt Vandeputte (Matjoez) and more recently, Morten Rustad.  In one of his latest Instagram posts, Moretn says “I’ve used the S1R for the past months, and I’m looking forward to using this tank of a camera in the future!”

Having come from using a Nikon system, I struggled a bit to get familiar with the Lumix menu. Like Nikon, I was pleased to have a favourites menu where I could store my more frequent settings. When it comes to a new camera, there’s a lot to get used to.  One of those has been the electronic view finder.  I’ve been so used to an optical view finder that I almost always raise the camera to my eye.  With the S1R, I didn’t need to so much.  I really got to appreciate the swivel rear screen.  Getting low to the ground for those upward shots is harder for me these days.  The benefit of the swivel screen was awesome for setting up this shot to the right.

Initially, I had issues trying to get the camera to work with my existing time-lapse gear, i.e., motion gear and a ramping device. How do they all connect ?  I was so used to my Nikon.  While I really love this camera, I only had a few challenges when it came to using it for time-lapse. With a bit of perseverance and help from the awesome people at Lumix NZ, I managed to overcome these issues. If I took more time to figure some things out or seek further guidance, I am sure they’d be overcome. Here are my thoughts:

 

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  • As a mirrorless camera, the S1R was a bit heavy, something that’s important when lugging gear into the back country.  As a mirrorless, I was hoping it would be lighter. However, I’ve always liked the weight of a camera in my hands. For me, the S1R kept the camera steady while on my rig, especially in situations with wind;
  • I had conflicts particularly when it came to demands on the USB-C port. I’d needed to connect my Timelapse+View ramper along with the need to power the camera for a long and cold night. That meant using a power bank. Maybe there’s a double adapter out there that would split the port for these two inputs ?;
  • When using the inbuilt time-lapse function on aperture priority with the ‘auto-leveling’ feature, the camera seemed to max out on a 5 second exposure. I’m not sure why this occurred, but I could not find a fix.  It was great that the PC cable triggered my motion gear;
  • On the post processing side, I often had issues importing a raw file sequence into Adobe After Effects.  This resulted in an error almost every time with a message saying: ‘After Effects error: Photoshop file format error’.  I suspect this had something to do with the file naming conventions which was resolved (sometimes) by using software to rename all the files. My other fix was a simple export to a tiff sequence which was a slightly longer way to get around it.

The S1R came to me with the L-mount 24-105 f/4.  That’s a great lens but for time-lapse, I generally use something with a much wider f-stop, particularly when it comes to low light or astro.  Something a bit wider than 24mm would also have been great.  That wish came true when the good folk at Lumix NZ put me in touch with CR Kennedy, the New Zealand distributors for Sigma.  The new Sigma 14-24mm f2.8 DG DN Art lens with the L-mount had not long landed in New Zealand (late 2020) and were selling well.  It makes an ideal alternative to other branded lenses and was designed specifically for mirrorless cameras.  Coupled with the S1R, it was nicely balanced and a thing of beauty. I loved the aesthetics and the tight fitting lens cap that has a felt lining providing a snug fit to keep dust out.  Unfortunately, the lens does not have a filter thread but that does not bother me so much as much of the same can be applied in post production.

The lens is much smaller than my Nikon 14-24 and my time-lapses and did not display any signs of distortion or curvature.  Every time-lapse has was pin sharp by the way.  Having just got Adobe CC for Lightroom, the lens profile popped up instantly but I felt that I didn’t really need it.  There was little correction to be applied.  What was a bit off putting however was that the profile ended up brightening the corners, opposite to a vignette effect. In the end, I did not apply the profile – I really didn’t think it was needed.  While it was the height of summer at the time I trialed the lens, the Milky Way had gone for a month or two. I did however put the lens through it paces in some low light conditions and it performed very well.

Central Otago is my home and renown for its tussock and the big wide open.  Capturing the skies really needed me to go wide and the Sigma 14-24mm was perfect.  These 6 time-lapse scenes below were captured using the Sigma Art lens.

 

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There are times when a time-lapse photographer just has to grab a camera and capture the scene without too much setup.  The S1R is great camera in this situation. A quick grab-and-go was the case for the lenticular cloud scene (to the right) taken out the front of my yard, processed straight out of the camera and posted up on Instagram within minutes of me completing the time-lapse.

In summary, I found the Lumix S1R and the Sigma 14-24mm Art lens to be the perfect partner for each other. They also worked well with my motion gear and the Timelapse+VIEW.  I’m sure there’s a solution out there to power the camera independently from the USB-C port.  Maybe there’s a third party ‘dummy battery’ for this camera that I can connect a separate battery to for long night shoots.

I am very grateful to the team at Panasonic New Zealand for the loan of the Lumix S1R. It is an awesome camera in so many ways.  My thanks too, to the team at CR Kennedy NZ Ltd. who allowed me to use the Sigma lens.

 

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