Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 Review - Packing a 20.1-million-pixel 1in CMOS sensor and 4K-video recording, the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 pushes the bridge camera class in a new direction
Given its feature set there isn’t much in the way of direct competition from other manufacturers currently on the market, although the slightly pricier Sony Cyber-shot RX10 also features a 1in sensor with a focal range of 24-200mm that maintains a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture.
While the RX10 delivered some of the best in class performance and quality, it’s close to £900 price tag at launch and relatively limited focal range make it a tough sell, given that its just another bridge camera.
However the Lumix FZ1000 offers much more for the money, including a bright f/2.8-4.0 Leica DC lens with 16x Optical zoom, equivalent to 25-400mm, twice the range of Sony’s RX10.
Panasonic’s own 12.1-million-pixel FZ200 boasts a significantly greater reach of 25-600mm with a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture and at much more affordable price, however it does have a smaller 1.66in sensor and lacks the advanced technology packed into the FZ1000.
Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 Review – Features
The inclusion of a large high sensitivity 1in 20.1-million-pixel MOS sensor puts the FZ1000 a cut above in the point-and-shoot camera class. The larger sensor means it will have a great signal to noise ratio, making it better for low light shooting at high ISO sensitivity settings.
Panasonic’s proprietary depth from defocusing technology, also featured in the GH4, is included in this new camera, delivering impressive autofocus processing speed, making it as much as 275% faster than the FZ1000’s nearest relation, the FZ200 according to the Japanese firm’s in-house testing.
In keeping with its all-in-one ethos, the FZ1000 also features a reasonably comprehensive in-camera raw conversion tool that make it possible to adjust settings as you would on a computer and save the tweaked version as a new file.
It’s obviously not going to replace dedicated conversion software on a separate device with a large screen, particularly because there’s no magnification option or side-by-side comparisons during editing – only after – but for quick experimental edits, it’s a positive feature to see included.
Of course the headline feature of the FZ1000 is the inclusion of 4K-video and if you’re already beginning to switch off because you’re not interested in recording video, I implore you to stick with me. 4K-video recording is only half the story.
The FZ1000 features a fast readout quad-core Venus IV processor that enables smooth QFHD recording when a compatible UHS Speed Class 3 SD card is being used. The resulting video captured on the camera is four times the resolution of full HD and Panasonic has made it possible to scrub back through the footage in slow motion and grab 8-million-pixel 3840×2160 resolution at the touch of a button.
This opens up a great alternative way of taking pictures, particularly for unpredictable subjects such as wildlife and sports. However, the FZ1000 also features burst mode shooting up to 12 frames per second, if you want to capture full resolution stills of fast-moving targets.
Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 Review – Design
For a point-and-shoot, the FZ1000 feels as though it was designed to appeal to enthusiasts with professional aspirations, as well as non-photographers who will appreciate the speckled black finish. Despite being plastic and without weather sealing, the FZ1000 feels tough without being bulky and thanks to its substantial handgrip and functional ergonomic design, it’s a camera that delivers the kind of satisfying in-hand feel one might associate with a higher end DSLR.
It does look and feel more sizeable than its compact point-and-shoot designation would suggest at 137mm x 99mm x 131mm and weighing 831g, it is noticeably larger than Sony’s rival offering, the RX10. However, given that it has twice the telephoto zoom range of the RX10, it’s not a difference that counts against the FZ1000.
Surprisingly the Panasonic FZ1000 has no touchscreen, a feature we’re use to seeing included as standard with new camera releases. However, Panasonic has provided five customisable function buttons as well as a welcome number of dedicated physical controls for vital features including exposure modes, exposure compensation, movie record, AF/ISO/WB selection and an adjustment dial.
The lens ring has a smooth, premium feel to it and can be adjusted to operate the camera’s zoom or focus via a switch on the side. But when set to zoom, it doesn’t feel responsive enough and counter-intuitively seems to zoom more responsively the less and slower you move it.
I just set mine to focusing and stuck with the dedicated zoom switch positioned around the shutter button which functions perfectly well. It’s disappointing that there’s no option to assign other functions to the ring such as exposure compensation or aperture. I’d like to see these included in future firmware updates.
With that said, as it stands, the Lumix FZ1000 is already a very easy camera to pick up and use. Thanks to the number of controls and the intuitive placement of them, I was able to adjust settings on the fly without having to take my eye away from what I was shooting after only a short time with the FZ1000.
Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 Review – Performance
The FZ1000 uses Panasonic’s depth from defocusing contrast detection method and focuses reasonably fast in available light and very fast in bright light, consistently finding the right subject and areas when left to decide using its 49-area AF.
I found this to hold true as I moved throughout its impressive zoom range. During testing, which involved a wide range of conditions and subjects, I can’t recall an occasion that I was unable to get the shot because of focusing speed or accuracy which is particularly encouraging.
There are a number of AF options available, including selective single-area, the same custom multi-area featured in the GH4, precision pinpoint AF, position tracking and face detect.
All options worked as intended, but I particularly like the custom multi-area option which allows you to set and save three custom AF-area configurations, as well as choose vertical or horizontal lines. Set in macro mode, it’s possible to shoot fine subjects with a focusing distance as little as 3cm, which is fantastic for shooting insects and floral details for example.
LCD and Viewfinder
You will notice the outstanding quality of the FZ1000’s 2.36 million-dot OLED viewfinder instantly, it’s the same unit featured in the company’s latest flagship camera, the GH4. Images appear detailed and bright and thanks to features such as manual focus magnification, focus peaking and exposure preview, it’s extremely useful for composing my shots and provides a 100% field of view.
The eyecup is rubberised and thick and I found it comfortable to use for long periods of time. If I didn’t need to use the LCD for the purposes of writing this review I would have used the EVF exclusively. It’s simply fantastic.
That all being said, the FZ1000’s 3in TFT-LCD isn’t poor by any means, featuring a 921,000-dot screen, the screen can be fully articulated and was most useful for shooting video and subjects at extreme angles.
As mentioned above, there’s no touchscreen functionality which is my only real gripe with it. The screen is clearly visible in most lighting conditions, although on particularly sunny days, colour and contrast were harder to assess accurately.
There are also some external viewing and composing options as the FZ1000 features remote operation via Wi-Fi connection and also features a “clean” HDMI output which will please those keen on shooting video.
Having a clean HDMI output will allow external recording and streaming of both interlaced and progressive full HD footage, as well as display your high-quality images on a full HD or 4K display. I haven’t yet had a chance to test the possibility of recording 4K footage externally. However we will look into this further when possible.
Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 Review – Image Quality
Colour and white balance
As well as having a range of white balance presets, the FZ1000 features a custom white balance setting in which you can store four presets. There are also a range of different shooting modes should you wish to add a more creative colour finish on your images.
In terms of colour, the FZ1000 produces a good balance between the various hues, while colours also appear pleasingly natural. If you wish to add a bit more punch or saturation then the Photo Style Menu allows for fine tweaking.
There are a range of different metering modes present on the FZ1000, with the main ‘Intelligent Multiple Area’ metering setting delivering a pleasing balance between highlights and shadows.
Even in difficult conditions the FZ1000 works hard to retain detail in shadows, and the presence of an ‘i.Dynamic’ shooting mode ensures that you can get more detail in shadows and highlights should you require it.
The FZ1000 also delivers a pleasing dynamic range – at its base ISO setting it manages a level comparable to many APS-C DSLRs, and it maintains this higher up the range.
As you might expect for a bridge camera with a large sensor and a high megapixel count, the FZ1000 resolves an impressive amount of detail.
At the base ISO setting the camera resolves around 30 lines per mm (lpmm), and even when the ISO setting is higher, at around 1600, the model still manages to resolve around 24lpmm
The FZ1000 handles noise well, capturing clean and good quality images in both Raw and JPEG formats up to ISO 1600. Above this setting JPEG files begin to deteriorate due to noise reduction, while luminance noise remains present.
Although ISO 12800 and 25600 aren’t completely unusable, it’s sensible to reserve them only in the case of emergencies.
Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 Review – Verdict
The Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 is the latest innovative camera model from a company that refuses to sit back and rest on previous success and it represents yet another notch on the bar for what is possible in consumer image capturing devices.
This is most definitely not just another superzoom and to put it quite simply, it’s not only the best bridge camera I’ve ever used, it’s one of the most enjoyable models I’ve used in any camera class.
Of course, it has some minor drawbacks, such as the inability to scrub back through 4K footage by each and every single frame, as well as the limits on custom functions such as the lens ring, but all of the issues I have with the FZ1000 could all be fixed with firmware updates. Panasonic confirmed to AP when they announced the camera that they were already planning to improve the ‘4K Photo’ functionality.
Beginner and enthusiast image makers will be able to pick this camera up and will see great results in a short amount of time thanks to the ease of using the FZ1000. But I also believe that this camera will have a lot of appeal among hobbyists who simply use photography as a means to enjoy, explore and capture their passions.
The FZ1000 is a capable and versatile device that offers a currently unrivalled feature set at a good price. It’s definitely worth considering if a solid all-rounder is what you’re looking for.
Panasonic Lumix FX1000 – First Look
Approximately four times larger than the sensors found in most comparable cameras, the 20.1MP 1-inch High Sensitivity MOS sensor boasts larger pixels for more effective light gathering. This, Panasonic claims, should bolster the FZ1000’s low-light performance and defocus effects.
Panasonic’s association with Leica continues, with a DC Vario-Elmarit 16x optical zoom lens sitting on the front of the FZ1000 (minimum aperture f/2.8-f/4).
The lens carries an equivalent focal length of 25-400mm, and the FZ1000 is able to both suppress distortion at the wide end and minimise chromatic aberration at the telephoto end.
Under the bonnet sits the all-new enhanced Venus Engine, which features blending noise reduction, a new aperture filter for processing the finest details and 16-axis colour reproduction.
The FZ1000 sports a 3-inch 921K-dot LCD that flips out and can tilt 270º, as well as a 2,359k-dot OLED LVF.
Given that one of the big draws for the FZ1000 is 4K video, it’s not too surprising that this function owes a fair debt to the Lumix GH4, Panasonic’s first 4K-equipped camera.
Like the GH4, the FZ1000’s arsenal includes Panasonic’s Cinelike Gamma D and V presets, as well as 100fps smooth video recording, Zebra patterning and focus peaking.
What Panasonic is stressing though is that ultra high-definition 4K video is not just a tool for videographers. When playing back 4K video on the FZ1000, it’s possible to grab 8MP stills at a single touch of a button, allowing for capture of split-second moments with unprecedented precision.
Autofocus has been reworked an refined to speeds that Panasonic claims are 275% faster than those of the Lumix DMC-FZ200: 0.09seconds in wide mode and 0.17 seconds in tele mode.
The focus detect area has been expanded to 49 points, and Custom Multi AF mode allows the use to select any number of these 49 points.
The FZ1000 also comes with built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity for image transfer and remote shooting, as well as a range 22 different creative filters.
One thing that really strikes you straight away about the Panasonic FZ1000 is how light it is. Weighing in at around 0.8kg, the FZ1000 really is a small camera considering how much it offers. It’s a fraction of the weight of a zoom-equipped DSLR, and I suspect that this will be its main selling point.
The LCD and viewfinder of the camera are both crisp, sharp and responsive. I was especially impressed with the latter, which provides a great indication of exposure before releasing the shutter.
While this was a pre-production sample and not necessarily representative of the final product, the 49-zone customisable AF on the FZ1000 was snappy and responsive.
It’s hard to think of what to compare the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 to, because in truth there isn’t anything quite like it currently on the market. It certainly does offer a very complete package for a bridge camera, with some superlative video features to boot.
If 400mm doesn’t sound like quite enough zoom for your needs you may want to look into larger zoom lenses sported by other bridge cameras, such as even Panasonic’s own FZ200 and its 25-600mm lens.
The FZ1000 is expected mid-July, priced £749.99