Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 puts first 4K video capture in a compact camera

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Joshua Goldman/CNET

If you were on the fence between a digital SLR and a compact camera with a long zoom lens, Panasonic's Lumix FZ1000 might just turn out to be all the camera you need.

Digital SLRs deliver high-quality photos and HD video, but a dSLR might be too much camera for you in price, size, and weight -- and that's without adding a long zoom lens to the equation. You can get smaller, lighter, long-zoom compact cameras at lower prices, but they come with a loss in image quality.

The FZ1000 bridges the two using a 1-inch 20-megapixel MOS sensor (four times larger than the 1/2.3-inch sensors you find in most longzoom cameras like Panasonic's FZ200) and a 16x f2.8-4.0 25-400mm lens (and yes, it's branded Leica).

Larger sensors require larger lenses, so while its zoom range might not seem impressive compared with the whopping 50x or longer zooms on other bridge cameras, the FZ1000 will deliver better image quality. Also, a zoom lens with similar specs for a dSLR would be large and heavy, not to mention expensive.

Giving the lens a constant f2.8 aperture through the zoom range, like Sony's RX10, would have also made the lens bigger. That camera features a 1-inch sensor as well, but its telephoto end stops at 200mm.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10
Sensor (effective resolution) 12.1MP MOS 1/2.3-inch 20.9MP MOS CMOS 1-inch 20.2MP Exmor R CMOS 1-inch
Sensitivity range ISO 100-3200/ISO 6400 (exp) ISO 80,100, 25600 (exp)/ISO 125-12800 ISO 100 (exp)/ISO 160-12800
Lens (35mm-equivalent) 24x f2.8 25-600mm 16x f2.8-4.0 25-400mm 8.3x f2.8 24-200mm
Closest focus 0.4 inches (1cm) 1.2 (3cm) 1.2 (3cm)
Continuous shooting 5.5fps (12fps with fixed focus) 7fps (12fps with fixed exposure) 10fps
Electronic viewfinder 0.21-inch/1,312K dots,100 percent coverage 0.39-inch/2,359K dots,100 percent coverage N/A/1,440K dots, 100 percent coverage
Autofocus 23-area contrast AF 49-area contrast AF 25-area contrast AF
Shutter 60-1/4,000 sec 60-1/4,000 sec; bulb 30-1/3,200 sec; bulb
Flash Yes Yes Yes
Hot shoe Yes Yes Yes
LCD 3-inch free-angle 460K dots 3-inch free-angle 921K dots 3-inch tilting, 1,228K dots
Image stabilization Optical Optical Optical
Video(best quality) AVCHD 1080/60p/60i/30p MP4 4K/30p; AVCHD 1080/60p/60i/30p AVCHD 1080/60p/60i/24p
Audio Stereo, mic input Stereo, mic input Stereo, headphone jack, mic input
Optical zoom while recording Yes Yes Yes
Wireless connectivity None Wi-Fi, NFC Wi-Fi, NFC
Battery life (CIPA rating) 540 shots 360 shots 420 shots
Dimensions (WHD) 4.9 x 3.4 x 4.3 inches (124.5 x 86.4 x 109.2mm) 5.4 x 3.9 x 5.2 inches (136.8 x 98.5 x 130.7mm) 5.1 x 3.5 x 4.1 inches (129 x 88.1 x 102.2mm)
Weight 1 pound (468g) 1.83 pounds (830g) 1.79 pounds (814g)
Mfr. price $599.99 $899.99 $1,299.99
Availability 8/1/2012 7/2014 11/1/2013

The two cameras are roughly the same size and weight, too, so really it comes down to what you value more, the Sony's constant f2.8 aperture or more zoom range.

Or maybe it'll come down to features for you. The FZ1000 is the first compact camera to record video at resolutions up to 4K (3,840x2,160) in MP4 at 30fps, but it also does 1080p at 60fps or 120fps. You can do 1080p at 60fps in AVCHD, too.

To go with those high resolutions, you'll find a full manual video mode, a mic jack (but no headphone jack), five-axis optical image stabilization, and a five-step speed control for the zoom for smooth movement while recording. Also, after recording video in 4K, you can grab a single 8-megapixel frame for a still photo.

To get things in focus fast, Panasonic borrowed its DFD (depth from defocus) technology from its mirrorless compact system cameras, enabling the FZ1000's contrast autofocus system to accurately lock on to a target in approximately 0.09 second. Panasonic says its startup time is approximately 0.66 second. (I briefly used a preproduction model of the camera and it did indeed focus quickly, even with the lens zoomed in.)

While Panasonic talked up the video the most, the 1-inch, 20-megapixel MOS sensor seems to be good for photos, too. Paired with a new Venus Engine processor with multiple noise reduction systems, you should expect to get some pretty nice images out of it, even at high ISOs.

In sample prints I was shown, it matched up very well against Sony's RX10 and, unsurprisingly, did much better than the FZ200 with color and fine detail at high ISOs. What was also noticeable was the lack of chromatic aberration in high contrast areas, something Panasonic attributed to the new lens design.

It captures in raw format, too, so you can always process images yourself. And you can shoot in raw and process it in camera into a JPEG so you can send it off to your phone or tablet via Wi-Fi and NFC for sharing when you're out and about.

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Joshua Goldman/CNET

From a design standpoint, the FZ1000 is definitely geared for those who value control. The thing is covered with programmable buttons, knobs, and dials. The flip-out rotating LCD is nice to have for both video and stills and the EVF is bright and sharp and big. About the only thing not to like is the plastic chassis, which makes it feel a bit cheap (though I'm sure it helped keep the weight and cost down).

Accessory options for the camera include a GN58 external flash (DMW-FL580L) with wireless control and LED video light; a stereo/shotgun microphone (DMW-MS2); and 62mm ND and PL filters.

All in all it looks like it'll be a sweet camera either as a dSLR/mirrorless sidekick or for someone who wants better photos and video in a compact camera. We'll have a full review up as soon as possible.

When the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 arrives in late July it will be priced at $900 (£750), putting it well below the Sony RX10's near $1,300 price tag.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000

Part Number: DMC-FZ1000K
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