Panasonic S1R for Rally Racing – Part 1

  By Jason Nugent


Rally is a motorsport like no other. The action is fast and frenetic, the fans passionate, and the logistics challenging. To cover a rally as a photographer you need a camera that can keep up with the pace of the event. Rallies happen in all weather conditions, so the camera needs to be able to get the shot every time.

Up to this point in my career I’ve used traditional DSLR cameras for rally. Over the past few years, though, I have been experimenting with the mirrorless offerings from Panasonic in other areas of my work, including the GH5 in Nepal, and the G9 in the Faroe Islands. I was greatly impressed with the image quality but found the sensor a bit noisy at high ISO. When Panasonic announced the full frame S1R, I decided to take the leap and bring one, along with some L-mount f/2.8 glass, to a winter rally in Quebec.

I had read reviews of the S1R and was worried that I was going to need a backpack full of batteries in order to cover my event but I am very pleased to say that this was not the case. For a large full-frame mirrorless camera battery life was excellent. Rallye Perce Neige is a long day out in the February cold, and a single battery was enough to cover four stages or about half the day.

I’ll briefly mention memory cards and the fact that you absolutely need to have fast cards in the S1R. The files are large, and using slow cards will result in a lot of waiting for the buffer to flush. If you’re shooting in continuous burst mode, a fast card will ensure that you’re ready to go when the next car comes through the stage. I can get away with UHS-1 or CF cards in my Nikon bodies, but not so in the S1R.

The RAW files, while large, are gorgeous. The wide dynamic range of the camera lets you pull out tons of detail from the shadow areas and at higher ISOs. When I was shooting motorsport in lowlight, I noticed very little noise. I completely understand why this camera is taking the studio world by storm. For motorsport, I especially appreciated the fact that the huge file gave me plenty of wiggle room with respect to composition. While getting it right ‘in-camera’ is usually the plan, having some room to crop and still print large is a very nice bonus.

In the next article, I’ll discuss how the camera performed from an autofocus perspective, and share some thoughts on the new L-mount lens offerings as well.

Featured in this blog:


Panasonic Lumix S1R Body

Panasonic Lumix S1R with S 24-105mm f4


Jason was born in New Brunswick and graduated from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia with an honours degree in Chemistry. After working as a chemist in Toronto he moved back to the Maritimes and switched careers to web and graphic design, which reignited his passion for the art of photography. He is a landscape, action sport and commercial photographer who has been pursuing the craft since 2007. It was around that time that he started to travel and hike in remote locations around the world. He has since photographed in more than ninety countries for many clients and in many capacities. Mountains, snow, intense cold and prolonged periods of hard effort provide ample motivation for his landscape work, and the incredible amount of logistics involved when shooting rally has completely consumed him. He loves it. Photography is a study of light, and who better to provide insight into light than the grandmasters? Jason draws inspiration from classical landscape photographers like Ansel Adams and Galen Rowell, expedition photographers including Jimmy Chin and Tim Kemple, and Josef Albers, a pioneer in the fields of shape and composition. The immediacy of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work also finds appeal. In recent years, he has had the privilege of working with outdoor great Lars Schneider and portrait maestro Peter Hurley. Jason currently lives in Fredericton, New Brunswick. He is an F-Stop Gear Staff pro photographer, a Lumix Storyteller, and a collaborator for Altitude Sports in Montreal. He has received financial support for his work from the New Brunswick Arts Board and is also a member of the Travel Media Association of Canada.