Most helpful positive review
153 of 165 people found the following review helpful
Solid latest generation "point and shoot"
on May 25, 2011
I am an end user and not a photographer and have purchased half a dozen "point and shoot" digital cameras over the years.
Small and light, very portable
Excellent in IA (intelligent automatic) mode - ISO and shutter speed displayed
Easy to use without reading the manual (but read it anyway - eventually)
Nice, clear LCD display
HD video is OUTSTANDING (audio, not so much)
Very good macro (close up) camera with flash off (my preference)
Flash is only good to about 2 meters
Delay between pictures is "acceptable" but not excellent
Camera audio speaker close to worthless
"Burst" feature (constant shooting while holding shutter button) is poor
UPDATE 22 MAY 2012 (a year after acquisition): Durability is excellent. For the last year I've been constantly letting this rattle around in my pocket. Works just as good as when it was new over a year ago. It has some wear marks (what you'd expect) but has physically held up perfectly.
UPDATE 24 JUNE 2013 (2 years+ after acquisition): Still going strong. I still carry this constantly. At one point, some spots started appearing and I thought the sensor array had some dead pixels. Nope. Just used a can of air to blow on the lens and it's back to working as new. VERY durable product. I can't stress that I haven't babied this camera.
First thing I do with something like this is take it out of the box and start playing with it without reading the manual - not something I recommend, but working with a product starting in total ignorance tells you something about the overall device that gets spoiled once you learn how it is supposed to work. After playing with it in ignorance, I then read the enclosed printed manual from cover to cover. NOTE: The included CD-ROM includes a much more extensive, forty-two pages, manual that goes into greater technical detail about this camera.
It was trivial to charge the included battery and it took a little less than the two hours advertised to do so. The Panasonic DMC-S1 is a very small, palm sized "point and shoot" that nestled easily in my front shirt pocket which was full of other junk as well. The actual camera is very light.
I popped in the charged battery and a 4 GB Class 4 SD card (easy to do without reading the manual since both can only fit in the correct manner), pressed the power on, and started shooting everything in sight using the default IA (intelligent auto) mode. You will have to get an SD card since the on-board memory is only good for about 4 pictures at the highest (4000 x 3000 pixels) setting.
The first twenty pictures I took were pretty solid with one or two slightly washed out with the automatic flash. The delay between pictures was acceptable (2-3 seconds) but not exceptional by any means. In IA mode, holding down the shutter button half way displays the ISO and shutter speed on the LCD display, which with my limited photographic experience was still a nice feature.
Part of what I attempt to do is intentionally "stupid" things to see what happens (no, I do not immerse it in water). So, I turned the house lights out and started shooting people across the room. I didn't expect these low light photos to come out well, and they didn't - the camera detected the low light and that it needed the flash, but the range of the flash didn't do much to illuminate beyond the specified 2 meters or so, hence, the picture was blurry. Otherwise, walking around the house, outside the house, up to people real close, etc., I'd say 90 percent of the 150 or so pictures I took were very good to excellent (and a little post processing won't hurt a thing). The anti-jitter features seemed to be in top form with almost no blurriness in any but in the worst lighting conditions.
I took this on my train ride to work and shot inside and outside, and got some very nice pictures with the raindrops on the window in sharp focus, and the background scenery quite clear. The IA mode is a pretty good universal choice. I did have some issues shooting some macro shots (a couple of inches away) and experimented with turning the flash totally off. Macro shots seem to work best with no flash. All in all, this is the best "point and shoot" I've ever had for shooting macro type close-ups (e.g., I like to take close-up pictures of butterflies). Off the train and at work I was able to get some very nice shots of tiny screws and wood grain on the desk.
My next tests were with the video. The HD is EXCELLENT but it is, as expected, a memory pig. The camera indicated I could shoot a little less than 10 minutes of HD video for the maximum 2 GB file size, or about two separate 10 minute HD videos on the 4 GB chip. The lowest quality setting (320x240) gives over an hour per each 2 GB file. Playback of the video (and all pictures) was more than acceptable, and the quality of both looked the same on my PC's larger monitor. The speaker on the camera is practically worthless (not a deal breaker) but it does exist and if you put your ear real close you can hear the mono sound of your video. On my PC, the sound was loud and clear, but unexceptional. This would not be my first choice as a video camera, but can still be useful for creating short YouTube shoutouts.
There are lots of settings possible (having read the manual) but I get a "point and shoot" (like this camera) to avoid complex settings. I'm pretty much going to stick with the IA as my default, and will likely turn the flash completely off in most cases. BUT, if you want to control things, you do have some limited options (read the manual!).
I tried the "burst" feature (continual shooting while holding down the shutter button) which was pretty worthless. Since the delay between each shot seemed to be about 2-3 seconds, and there is little control, it's not like you're going be able to shoot supermodels or sporting events with any real clarity. Better to shoot HD video and extract individual frames.
Battery life appears to be good, I'm trying to run it down on purpose but it's a new battery so it's holding the initial charge nicely (and with the flash off I'm putting less stress on it). I'm only really comfortable after using a rechargeable battery for a year or so to see how it deteriorates, so I can't comment on this feature with any confidence. Anyway, after about 5 minutes of HD video and about 400 pictures (most without flash) I'm showing half a charge.
I didn't try out the included software, but would direct you, in any case, to look for separate reviews on that. I just wanted a "point and shoot" that gives little grief and good pictures (and maybe video) and this suits the bill perfectly.
NOTE ADDED (2 HOURS LATER) RE MACRO MODE: I had to wrestle with the whole concept of "macro mode" with this camera. The brief manual that comes with the camera definitely shows a macro mode icon, but that is in IA mode. I just verified that when I put it in IA mode, and place the lens a couple of inches from, say, a leaf, a little "macro mode" icon shows on the LCD display when I press a little down on the shutter button - the autofocus appears to trigger the macro mode in the IA setting. It's just you don't have that as a manual option for macro mode in all the different Scene Mode options - that confused me.