Shooting Tethered with the Panasonic Lumix S1 & S1R
In this ongoing series chronicling my use of the Panasonic S1 and S1R, I wanted to do a dedicated post to tethered shooting. I’ve found the web has proven quite the unreliable source to find information oddly enough. Just Google Lumix S1/S1R tethering or tethering with any particular Lumix camera and the lack of results is interesting to say the least. Guess that reflects how the majority of Lumix users are actually using their cameras (my guess is for video). And also that a lot of professional studio shooters such as myself haven’t invested in the system just yet so feedback from a pro community is quite lacking at the moment. So, here I am providing you with all the info. You’re welcome! ;-)
Tethering with Lumix Tether
Currently, the only software program I’m aware of that works with tethering Lumix cameras natively is Panasonic’s own Lumix Tether. It’s a free program which you can download from Panasonic’s website here.
On the surface, it’s a pretty decent “manufacturer” tethered shooting program. It has a lot of features allowing you to control the camera right from your computer. Change your ISO, Color Profile, White Balance, etc all from the simple to use interface. Don’t need all that functionality? You can click a button and put it into a more simplified mode.
To get started with the program, you simply connect your S1/S1R to your computer. Power it on and select PC (Tether) on the camera body.
By default, the camera will give you three options for working with the USB connection when connected to your computer:
PC (Storage) - to access the memory card in your camera
PC (Tether) - which is what you need to operate with Lumix Tether
PictBridge (PTP) - to print directly from your camera to a local printer
You can also set in the options menu (Wrench Menu > In/Out > USB) how your USB connection natively interacts with your computer. Mine is set to automatically be switched to Tethered Shooting so I never have to make the selection every time I connect my camera. Save a step…er…save the planet.
Once Lumix Tether detects your camera, it will fully open giving you access to the aforementioned camera control options. The program doesn’t full launch until it detects a compatible Lumix camera.
There’s also a setting menu where you can configure how images are handled. You can set storage location (Memory + PC is an option which is awesome for redundancy), Import Folder, File Naming, and more.
If you’re someone who’s using Lumix Tether by itself and not alongside a RAW convertor like Capture One, you also have the option to “Automatically display review image”. This will give you a basic preview of the previously taken image each time you take a picture. I think it’s a decent option for viewing your pictures, but the downside is that you can’t browse through your previously captured images, only the one you just took. Useful but very limiting.
Since I need a browser of some sort, I have Lumix Tether set up alongside Capture One Pro. In Capture One, you can set a hot folder that the app will watch and when new images come in, it will automatically pull them into Capture One. My import folder for Lumix Tether is the folder that Capture One monitors while shooting.
A minor gripe about using Capture One in this manner is that the app won’t automatically apply previous image adjustments to new imports like it would when natively tethered into the app (e.g. tethering with the Nikon Z7). So if I want all my images to have the same adjustments I have to do a quick copy and paste every so often.
After you have your settings dialed it, just snap a picture on your camera and it’s automatically transferred to your computer. Great right? Not so fast.
The DOWNSIDE of Lumix Tether
Like many “manufacturer” tethering programs, Lumix Tether is ruined by missing some key features as well as what I think is the most damning about the software program, its instability.
Let’s start with what it’s missing before I get to my main gripe with the program.
If only there was a simple way to browse my previous captures that would be pretty sufficient for most use cases. That’s all that’s really needed. A simple image browser sort of like Lightroom’s “Library” module, and maybe with very basic developing controls (exposure, white balance, crop, curves adjustment). A large image with thumbnails below that I can cycle through. Although basic, that would improve its usefulness 1000 times over in my opinion.
Secondly, the program takes over some of the functionality and custom controls of your camera. Namely when it comes to focusing.
I like to use back-button focus where my shutter button only takes the picture, but isn’t used for acquiring focus; only the AF-ON button on the back of the camera is. When shooting untethered it works as it should. The minute you connect to Lumix tether, it resets the Shutter button setting and will cause it to acquire focus again. When you disconnect, your settings return to normal. Reconnect and the shutter button will focus again. I guess it needs to do this to enable controlling the camera from your computer.
A workaround is, if you flip the focusing switch on the camera body to “MF” for manual focusing, you can now use back-button focus as normal, but your focus point will be much larger because the camera assumes you’d like to use manual focus instead.
It’s annoying because I like to shoot fast and having the shutter button serving a single purpose allows me to snap to my heart’s content. With the shutter button set to both focus and snap the picture, it will attempt to acquire focus then take the shot. Annoying, but not a deal breaker. Just wanted to mention it.
Now to the worst of the worst.
Lumix Tether is so unstable sometimes that it’s almost unusable. And the issues seems to be intermittent. Sometimes it works just fine as I can shoot image after image without a hiccup. Then sometimes, I take 2-3 images then the program will freeze then close out. Since there’s no prompt that pops up like, “Lumix Tether was forced to quit”, you have no way of telling if the program shut down in the middle of your session.
Additionally, Panasonic gives you no way(that I’m aware) of setting your camera to not shoot when there’s no camera in the card. That could be an easy workaround. Just remove your memory cards when you want to shoot tethered. This way if you’re shooting and the program crashes, your camera will give you a “No Memory Card” error if you try to continue shooting.
Although not the intended purpose, this was a useful feature with both my Nikons and Canon cameras in the past. But this of course removes the ability to save to both your PC and memory card. I don’t mind that as when shooting into, say Capture One by default, because you don’t have the PC + Memory Card option anyway, just PC only.
To its credit, I’ve yet to actually lose any images while using Lumix Tether, but that’s because of the very useful PC + Memory Card saving option. If Lumix Tether crashes, I know I have them on my memory card. However, if it crashes while you’re actually taking an image, you need to remove the USB cable after it crashes and the camera will finishing transferring the image(s) over to the memory card. Maybe. Sometimes I’ve had to remove the battery from the camera because the prompt letting me know the camera’s still writing images wouldn’t go away even after 2-3 minutes. Annoying.
Then you have to set up the camera and software again. It really kills the flow of a shoot.
I’ve tried troubleshooting the issue and to give you an idea of my usage conditions, here’s how I have mine set up:
Lumix Tether for capturing to a designated Capture Folder
Capture One watches that folder then pulls in new images upon each capture
I initially thought it was a Capture One issue so I tried a similar setup with Lightroom. The same problem occurred. One minute it’s working just fine, capturing shot after shot, then it freezes and eventually crashes.
I thought maybe it was my computer since I have more crashes on my Macbook Pro for some reason. But when tethered to my much more powerful iMac, it crashes as well. I’ve never had any crashing issues on either computer when tethering say, my Nikon Z7, to Capture One or Lightroom in the past.
Because of all the crashing, I have my apps arranged on my computer in a certain way and always have my computer at an angle so I can view it while shooting. So if the app crashes, I’ll know. By default, apps like Capture One and Lightroom take up the entire screen, but simply reducing the window size to fit both them and Lumix Tether helps you keep an eye on any crashes.
Some additional annoyances using Lumix Tether:
While tethered if you try to review the image on the back of your camera, there’s a 5-7 second delay before it’s displayed on the screen
If Lumix Tether crashes, you need to quit your Capture One/Lightroom, power off the camera, and re-do your setup from scratch. Otherwise when you go to take a picture again, it may not automatically be pulled into the program
If shooting tethered with the Lumix S1R and you’re shooting in any of the cropped aspect ratios (I shoot 4:3 by default), Capture One may give you an error saying it’s unable to create proxies for the recently captured image. This is usually an error for corrupted files, but I’ve found the S1R files to be in perfect condition, they just import into Capture One at the default camera ratio of 3:2. If I import the RAW files into Lightroom later, it shows them to me in the 4:3 ratio I captured them in. I think it’s more a Capture One problem than the other way around, but one to note.
In Panasonic’s manual they recommend using only the supplied USB Cable for tethered shooting. I’ve used both their cable and one by TetherTools (that I’ve never had an issue with) and Lumix Tether still crashes. And their cable is about a foot long. C’mon, how is that going to be useful on a photo shoot?
I thought maybe the crashing was due to how USB 3.0 ports operate on Apple laptops so I purchased a Tethertools TetherBoost Pro cable which is meant to improve transfer stability. Didn’t help. Lumix Tether still crashes.
There’s a total lack of support from Panasonic. No number to call, no easy to use website for finding information. Their website and pro support at this time is just a mess.
So with all those gripes, you’d think I’d be ready to call it a day on the S1/S1R right? Not so fast.
I had a shoot recently with the S1R and was so annoyed with all the issues I was experiencing with tethering the camera. But once I looked at the final images and the quality of the files, I was so overjoyed with what the S1R can produce. I LOVE the files from these cameras. There’s a certain clarity to them that’s nothing like I’ve used before. And those beautiful, natural Panasonic colors, oh my god. It’s hard to overlook them on the image quality front.
The S1/S1R are now my favorite camera system.
I’m very annoyed with tethering using the system as it’s an integral part of my workflow. I expect stability from my equipment and like to work in the most efficient manner. A program crashing every so often doesn’t allow me to just do my job. I have to operate as IT and troubleshoot their program. It’s annoying. Did I say that already?
Panasonic, please get on this. Don’t just release cameras and lenses and think that’s enough to keep pros interested. We also require customer service and support.
If anything, work alongside Phase One to get native tethered shooting through Capture One instead of this god awful Lumix Tether program.
Maybe they’ll fix the issues I’ve outlined in this post, but how soon that will be, no one knows.
I’d like to wholeheartedly recommend the S1 and S1R cameras to more people, but if you’re a professional who often shoots tethered and needs a stable capture setup, proceed with caution. Untethered, it’s one of the best systems I’ve ever used.
If you have any tips or are running into similar issues, feel free to post in the comment section. More info we can gather on the topic the better!