Good News! Autofocus on the Panasonic S1R Doesn’t Suck Anymore

The Panasonic S1R’s autofocus has really improved thanks to new firmware, but it’s still not class-leading.

With all the latest and more affordable entries in the L mount alliance similar to the Panasonic S1R, the system is starting to look more attractive. The photographers who still like mammoth DSLR-like cameras are going to be very happy with the Panasonic S1R’s latest firmware update. The update is best done on a PC vs a Mac, and when you’re done you’ll be rewarded with autofocus that’s going to astound you. This is in comparison to the previous autofocus performance. The Panasonic S1R wasn’t going to win any awards when it came to autofocus performance; it’s still not going to if we’re being completely honest. But the performance improvement is synonymous to the way Fujifilm X Pro 1 and Canon EOS R users felt after a few critical firmware updates improved their cameras. In good lighting and low lighting, the autofocus performance is faster, but it’s still not perfect.

In our review we state:

“After the latest firmware update for the Panasonic S1R the autofocus performance has very much improved. It still, however, isn’t better than Sony, Canon, or Fujifilm’s autofocusing abilities. Is it faster? Yes. Is it accurate? Well, not always. We got some weird errors when using the Panasonic 24-105mm f4 S Pro with its latest firmware update. Using the single fine point autofocus method, we were able to acquire focus on a subject. However, it wasn’t actually in focus. This is something we sometimes see with Sony and it happened at macro ranges. Otherwise, the camera and lens surely tracked faster. It’s much more usable than it was before, but I’m not convinced it can hold its own with the other brands. If anything, it’s about on par with Nikon.”

So, to be fair, the Panasonic S1R is most likely going to be bought by the photographers who need the dynamic range and the resolution. To that end, they probably don’t care as much about autofocus performance. However, they’ll be happy to know that the face and eye detection autofocus algorithms have very much improved. In addition to that, the single spot AF has also gotten a lot faster, however, it’s still not perfect. During our testing, we found it’s not always 100% accurate in focusing on what you’re telling it to focus on. This test produced results that also confirmed our beliefs of the image stabilization not being as strong as what Canon and Sony produce with similar lenses. In this case, we tested the Panasonic S1R with the 24-105mm f4. Thus, you probably don’t need the best autofocus if you’re purchasing this camera. But, if you want arguably some of the cleanest ISO 6400 results we’ve ever seen, then the Panasonic S1R becomes very attractive.

The Panasonic S1R is available at Adorama, and it’s still pretty pricey.