Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000

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At first glance, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 looks a lot like Sony’s Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 large sensor, long zoom camera, but there’s a precedent within the company’s own range. It’s been eight years since the FZ50 was introduced, so we can’t imagine too many people are still waiting, but in some respects it appears Panasonic has finally created a replacement for that much-missed model. Taken as a whole, the FZ1000 can almost be seen as a synthesis between the two cameras.

Like the RX10, the FZ1000 features a 20MP 1″-type MOS sensor (and the suspicion has to be that it’s a Sony chip), but, rather than the Sony’s 24-200mm equivalent zoom range, the Panasonic reaches from 25 to 400mm equivalent. To stop the whole thing becoming enormous, the FZ1000’s lens is slower than the Sony’s: its maximum aperture rapidly drops from F2.8 towards F4.0 as you zoom in, but there are plenty of people who’ll accept that decrease in return for the additional range.

In spirit, though, the large sensor, long zoom and articulated screen can’t help but recall the FZ50, which offered a similar zoom and aperture range, despite featuring a much smaller 1/1.8″-type sensor. The FZ1000 is a similarly sized camera but the eight years of technological development that underpin it mean it’s able to offer significantly higher resolution in terms of its viewfinder, rear screen, pixel count and video output. Panasonic has recently been pushing the superzoom sector with the likes of its constant F2.8 DMC-FZ200, but the return to a larger sensor format and a relatively bright lens is exciting.

When the RX10 was launched, it stood alone as a costly but hugely flexible camera that seemed equally intended for stills and video shooting: the ultimate travel camera, perhaps. The launch of the FZ1000 brings both cameras into focus, making clear that camera makers believe there is a niche for cameras that do a bit of everything in a single (albeit sizable) package. The big difference between the two cameras, though, is price: the FZ1000’s $899.99 / £749.99 launch price is around a third lower than the Sony’s was.

Since the FZ1000’s launch, Sony US has reduced the list price of the RX10 to $999 and, because it’s been on the market for a while, it’s available a long way below list price in Europe. This reduces but doesn’t abolish the gap in price between the two cameras, and it’ll be interesting to see what street price the Panasonic settles to, after a few months.


Its use of a fast readout sensor and the four-core Venus processor means the FZ1000 becomes one of the first sub-$1000 cameras to capture 4K video. Anyone wanting footage they can show immediately will have the choice of shooting 1080p movies at 60, 30 or 24 fps (50, 25 and 24 in PAL countries). The video capability is supported by the inclusion of focus peaking, zebra exposure warnings, center point marker and ‘Cinema-like’ gamma profiles.

Key Features:

  • 20.1 megapixel 1″-type MOS sensor
  • 25-400mm equiv. F2.8-4 Leica lens
  • 5-axis ‘Power OIS’ stabilization
  • XGA OLED electronic viewfinder with 2.36M dots
  • 3-inch fully-articulated LCD with 920K dots
  • 4K (3840×2160) video at 30p, 100Mbps MP4
  • 1080p at up to 60p, 28Mbps (MP4 or AVCHD)
  • 120fps quarter-speed 1080p
  • 3.5mm microphone socket
  • Clean HDMI output
  • Zebra pattern and focus peaking
  • Wi-Fi with NFC
  • 360 shots per charge (CIPA standard)

It’s not only the Venus processor that the FZ1000 shares with the GH4, it also features many of its customizable control points. These aren’t quite so numerous as on its interchangeable lens cousin, due to the lack of touchscreen, but they’re still pretty welcome on a ‘compact’ camera. The FZ1000 also offers the kind of hard-point controls, such as an AF drive mode switch and AEL button, that rarely make an appearance below the enthusiast interchangeable lens camera level.

The FZ1000 also gains the GH4’s ‘DFD focusing’ – a means of determining roughly how far it needs to refocus, based on an understanding of the characteristics of the lens in out-of-focus regions. This aims to play the same basic role of on-sensor phase detection: a way of assessing the distance the camera needs to focus on, so that it can rush the lens to near that point before using contrast-detection to establish perfect focus.

The camera also features an in-camera Raw conversion option, which is a very welcome addition, letting you tweak a range of image parameters after you’ve taken a shot, applying different noise reduction and Photo Styles or making adjustments to brightness or the highlight and shadow response.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 Comparison

The FZ1000’s only real competitor is Sony’s RX10, which also tries to offer a flexible zoom range plus high quality stills and video in a single package. We’re also including the current breadwinner in Panasonic’s superzoom lineup, the DMC-FZ200.

Panasonic DMC-FZ1000Sony DSC-RX10Panasonic DMC-FZ200
Sensor20.1MP MOS20.2MP BSI-CMOS12.1MP MOS
Sensor Size (mm2)11611628
Equivalent zoom range25-400mm24-200mm25-600mm
Aperture rangeF2.8-4.0F2.8F2.8
Equivalent aperture rangeF7.6-10.8F7.6F15.5
Video recording formatsAVCHD, MP4AVCHD, MP4AVCHD, MP4
Maximum video resolution3840×21601920×10801920×1080
Highest bitrate (for 1080p footage)28Mbps (1080p60)28Mbps (1080p60)28Mbps (1080p60)
Battery life (Shots-per-charge, CIPA)360420540
Built-in ND filter?NoYesNo
Dimensions (WxHxD)137 x 99 x 131mm129 x 89 x 120mm125 x 87 x 107mm
Weight831g813g588g

The lens

What does this mean in the real world, though? Have a look at the equivalent aperture comparison chart below:

Just like ‘equivalent focal length,’ equivalent apertures allow you to compare lens behavior side-by-side across cameras with different sensor sizes, by taking sensor size into account. The equivalent aperture figure gives a clear idea of how two lenses compare in terms of depth-of-field. It also gives an idea of low-light performance, since it also describes how much light is available across the sensor’s area. However, differences in sensor performance mean this can only be used as a guide, rather than an absolute measure.

The FZ1000’s maximum aperture drops off very quickly, as soon as you start to zoom, and by around 150mm equivalent, it’s a whole stop slower than the Sony RX10. However, this still leaves it half a stop faster than the likes of the Olympus Stylus 1. On top of this, the FZ1000’s lens then continues on to a very impressive 400mm equivalent focal length.

The only other way of achieving this level of reach with an effectively brighter aperture would be an APS-C DSLR with a superzoom like the Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Macro OS HSM or Tamron 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD Macro (most closely represented by the Nikon 18-200mm shown here) – a combination that will be considerably larger, though can be had for similar amounts of money. Tags: reviewpanasonic

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 specifications

Price
MSRP$899 / £749
Body type
Body typeSLR-like (bridge)
Body materialMetal, composite
Sensor
Max resolution5472 x 3648
Other resolutions4864×3648, 5472×3080, 3648×3648, 3888×2592, 3456×2592, 3840×2160, 2592×2592, 2736×1824, 2736×1824, 2432×1824, 1824×1824, 1920×1080
Image ratio w:h1:1, 4:3, 3:2, 16:9
Effective pixels20 megapixels
Sensor photo detectors21 megapixels
Sensor size1″ (13.2 x 8.8 mm)
Sensor typeCMOS
ProcessorVenus Engine
Color spacesRGB
Color filter arrayPrimary color filter
Image
ISOAuto, 125-12800 (expands to 80-25600)
Boosted ISO (minimum)80
Boosted ISO (maximum)25600
White balance presets5
Custom white balanceYes (4 slots)
Image stabilizationOptical
Image stabilization notes5-axis
Uncompressed formatRAW
JPEG quality levelsFine, standard
File formatJPEG (DCF, Exif v2.3)RAW (ARW)
Optics & Focus
Focal length (equiv.)25–400 mm
Optical zoom16×
Maximum apertureF2.8–4
AutofocusContrast Detect (sensor)Multi-areaCenterSelective single-pointTrackingSingleContinuousFace DetectionLive View
Autofocus assist lampYes
Digital zoomYes (4x)
Manual focusYes
Normal focus range30 cm (11.81″)
Macro focus range3 cm (1.18″)
Number of focus points49
Screen / viewfinder
Articulated LCDFully articulated
Screen size3″
Screen dots921,000
Touch screenNo
Screen typeTFT-LCD
Live viewYes
Viewfinder typeElectronic
Viewfinder coverage100%
Viewfinder magnification0.7×
Viewfinder resolution2,359,000
Photography features
Minimum shutter speed60 sec
Maximum shutter speed1/4000 sec
Maximum shutter speed (electronic)1/16000 sec
Exposure modesProgramShutter priorityAperture priorityManual
Scene modesClear Portrait, Silky Skin, Backlit Softness, Clear in Backlight, Relaxing Tone, Sweet Child’s Face, Distinct Scenery, Bright Blue Sky, Romantic Sunset Glow, Vivid Sunset Glow, Glistening Water, Clear Nightscape, Cool Night Sky, Warm Glowing Nightscape, Artistic Nightscape, Glittering Illuminations, Handheld Night Shot, Clear Night Portrait, Soft Image of a Flower, Appetizing Food, Cute Dessert, Freeze Animal Motion, Clear Sports Shot, Monochrome, Panorama
Built-in flashYes
Flash range13.50 m (at Auto ISO)
External flashYes (via hotshoe)
Flash modesAuto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Forced On, Forced On/Red-eye Reduction, Slow Sync, Slow Sync/Red-eye Reduction, Forced Off
Drive modesSingle-shotContinuousAE bracketSelf-timerInterval
Continuous drive12.0 fps
Self-timerYes
Metering modesMultiCenter-weightedSpot
Exposure compensation±5 (at 1/3 EV steps)
AE Bracketing±3 (3, 5, 7 frames at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV, 1 EV steps)
WB BracketingNo
Videography features
Resolutions3840×2160 (30p), 1920 x 1080 (60p, 60i, 30p, 24p) 1280×720 (30p), 640 x 480 (30p)
FormatMPEG-4, AVCHD
Videography notes4K video uses MP4 (100Mbps), 1080p/720p use AVCHD (10-28Mbps)
MicrophoneStereo
SpeakerMono
Connectivity
USBUSB 2.0 (480 Mbit/sec)
HDMIYes (microHDMI)
Microphone portYes
Headphone portNo
WirelessBuilt-In
Wireless notes802.11b/g/n with NFC
Remote controlYes (wired)
Physical
Environmentally sealedNo
BatteryBattery Pack
Battery descriptionDMW-BLC12PP lithium-ion battery and charger
Battery Life (CIPA)360
Weight (inc. batteries)831 g (1.83 lb / 29.31 oz)
Dimensions137 x 99 x 131 mm (5.39 x 3.9 x 5.16″)
Other features
Orientation sensorYes
Timelapse recordingYes
GPSNone

Tags: reviewpanasonic


Performance

Despite having a lot of glass to move around, the Lumix DMC-FZ1000 impressed with both startup and focus speeds. As mentioned earlier, the FZ1000 is noticeably faster than its closest competitor (the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10), as well as compact cameras as a whole.

The FZ1000’s performance goes beyond just startup and focus speeds. The interface is very responsive, allowing you to quickly find the menu option you’re looking for. Refresh rates on the LCD and EVF are 60 fps (though you can switch to 30 fps to reduce battery consumption), though they’ll drop off in low light. Battery life is reasonable, though not as good as on Sony’s RX10.

Operational Speed

Considering all the glass it has to move, the FZ1000 is able to start up in well under a second. As mentioned above, the interface is blazing fast, whether you’re navigating through menus, switching shooting modes, or flipping through photos in playback mode. There’s almost no delay between shots either, regardless of the image quality setting.

AF System & Performance

The FZ1000 has very impressive autofocus performance in all lightning conditions. One reason for that may be its ‘Depth from Defocus’ technology. The moment that you halfway-press the shutter release the FZ1000 quickly takes two exposures and determines the distance to the subject by comparing sharpness. That leads to less of the ‘hunting’ that can be an issue with contrast detect AF systems, according to Panasonic.

While the AF tracking feature doesn’t work well, the FZ1000 is still able to re-focus on moving subjects using the AF-C or AF-F focus modes. ISO 250, 1/800 sec, f/3.8, 94mm equiv.

With a fast AF system and burst rate, one would expect the camera to be able to keep subjects in-focus as they move toward the camera. While the FZ1000 can do that, it works best when using AF-C or AF-F focus modes. The AF Tracking feature seemed useless, as it rarely locked onto a subject to track, instead giving the red box of failure.

Continuous Shooting

There are a whopping four different burst modes on the FZ1000: super high, high, middle, and low speeds.

The super high option can shoot at 50fps (according to Panasonic) but with restrictions. The resolution is fixed at 5MP, you must use the electronic suhtter (which can cause issues with fast-moving subjects due to rolling shutter), Raw is not available, and there’s no live view during shooting.

The high speed setting uses the mechanical shutter and supports Raw, and can fire away at 12 fps with single AF, and 7 fps with continuous AF. As with the SH mode, what you’re seeing on the LCD or EVF is not real-time.

For live view during continuous shooting you need to use the middle speed setting, which fires away at 7 fps, regardless of the focus mode. The low speed mode does the same, but at 2 fps.

Now let’s look at the high and middle speeds to see if the FZ1000 performs as well as Panasonic claims. These tests were conducted using a Transcent UHS-I Speed Class 3 card, which offers write speeds of 85MB/sec. The focus mode was set to AF-S for these tests.

High speed

TimingFine JPEGRawRaw+Fine JPEG
Frame rate12.1 fps11.8 fps11.8 fps
Number of frames41 shots12 shots12 shots
Buffer full rate4.8 fps1.6 fps0.7 fps
Write complete~ 1 sec~ 11 secs~ 13 secs

The FZ1000 hit its advertised burst rate at high speed, and shoot for a decent amount of time before slowing down. When using Raw the camera will fire bursts of two shots once the buffer is full. There’s a bit of a delay before you can enter the menu or playback mode, but you can still take photos as the buffer is cleared, albeit at a slower frame rate.

Middle speed

TimingFine JPEGRawRaw+Fine JPEG
Frame rate7.5 fps5.6 fps5.8 fps
Number of frames9 shots14 shots13 shots
Buffer full rate4.4 fps1.2 fps0.5 fps
Write completeNone~ 10 secs~ 13 secs

At middle speed – at which point live view becomes available – results start to get a bit funny. The camera hits exceeds the 7fps number advertised by Panasonic, yet only lasts for 9 shots before slowing down. When using Raw, the FZ1000 can take more shots, but at a lower frame rate. The camera tends to shoot in a ‘staccato’ pattern in middle speed mode.

Battery Life

The Lumix DMC-FZ1000 uses the DMW-BLC12 lithium-ion battery, which contains 8.6Wh of energy. This translates to 360 shots per charge using the CIPA standard. That’s lower than the Sony RX10, but still respectable.

The battery is charged using an included external charger. It takes approximately 140 minutes for a full charge.

Image Quality

One of the main selling points of the Lumix DMC-FZ1000 is its 1″-type, 20MP MOS sensor. Its sensor has an area three times as large as your typical premium superzoom, with the exception of its arch rival, the Sony RX10. Larger sensors capture more light which, in theory, reduces the amount of noise in photos (especially in low light).

JPEG image quality

Image quality at lower ISOs is impressive, which is illustrated both in real-world photos and our studio test scene. While our dynamic range graph shows that highlights clip abruptly, that was normally not a problem in the real world. Colors are vivid, without being over-the-top.

This shot illustrates the saturated colors produced by the FZ1000, as well as pleasing skin tones and good detail.

ISO 125, 1/640 sec, f5.6, 250mm equiv.

Sharpness-wise, the FZ1000 is a tad soft at wide-angle, but improves as you zoom in. See the example below or check out the Space Needle comparison photo for examples. Corner sharpness is good even at the wide end of the lens.

The FZ1000’s lens remains sharp at its full telephoto end (400mm equiv.) 
ISO 125, 1/2000 sec, f/5.6

In terms of noise, the FZ1000 produces clean images up to ISO 800. You start to see some detail loss at ISO 1600 and 3200, but you’ll only notice when viewing photos at or near 100% magnification.

Here at ISO 3200 you can see fine detail loss when viewing at 100%. When downsized, odds are that you won’t notice.

ISO 3200, 1/80 sec, f/3.5, 57mm equiv.

As you hit the top end of the sensitivity range (ISO 12800 and 25600) JPEGs really go downhill, to the point where switching to Raw is a smart idea.

As you might imagine, photo quality on interchangeable lens cameras will be superior to that of the FZ1000 – have a play with our image comparison widget to see for yourself. That said, no ILC will offer the combination of (relative) compactness, video, and price of the FZ1000.

Raw advantages

There are several potential advantages to shooting Raw: access to more dynamic range than is included in the JPEG, greater control over color, retrospective control over white balance and the ability to fine-tune noise reduction and sharpening to suit the individual image.

First, let’s see how much of an improvement in fine detail can be obtained in the sample image by converting the Raw image using of Adobe Camera Raw 8.6 RC. Again, this photo was taken at ISO 3200.

JPEGRaw
100% crops100% crops

As you can see, we’ve managed to get rid of some of the ‘mush’ and bring back some fine detail. The catch is that noise is more visible. This nice thing about Raw is that you can tweak the noise reduction settings to your liking.

Another thing Raw allows is pulling up detail in the shadows. For example, a photographer may ‘expose for the highlights’ to prevent clipping. On some cameras there’s enough information left in the Raw file to return detail in the dark areas of the scene, which you can get back by editing the Raw file. Here’s an example:

Original JPEG100% crop
Raw conversion, +1.2EV100% crop

In the above example we were able to pull over a stop’s worth of tonal information, bringing out the forest in front of Mt. Rainier. You can brighten the shadows by another 2/3 stop or so, at which point you’re only increasing noise. If you’d like to try adjusting this image to your liking, it’s available for download here.

Raw Files for Download

We don’t expect you to just take our word for it – take a look at the Raw files for yourself, and run them through your preferred software and conversion settings. Here, we provide you with a selection of raw files of ‘real world’ scenes, and if you want to take a closer look at the studio scene shots you can download original raw files from our ‘Studio Comparison page.