Panasonic Lumix FZ200 review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent

Average User Rating

4.5 stars 5 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Bright lens; Long zoom; Excellent movie soundtracks; Good button layout.

The Bad Noise at high sensitivities; Some fudging of fine detail in very complex shots.

The Bottom Line The lens in the extremely well designed Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 is tempting and its asking price is fair. If you're looking to trade up from a compact, don't discount this entirely in favour of a dSLR. Performance is on a par with a consumer dSLR, and you needn't invest in a bag full of expensive lenses to go with it.

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With the ability to shoot raw files plus a long zoom and a bright lens, this larger-than-average superzoom has a lot to offer.

It's positively brimming with controls, has a sharp eyepiece viewfinder to back up the 3-inch display, and if you're an ambitious photography enthusiast, it could be well enough specced to dissuade you from upgrading to a dSLR.

You can pick up the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 from around £470 online.

Superzoom

It's not a small camera by any means, on account of the mammoth 24x zoom, which is equivalent to 25-600mm on a conventional 35mm camera. That's only half the story though. The zoom may explain the length of the body, front to back, but the width of that barrel is accounted for by the constant f/2.8 aperture throughout the range. The minimum aperture at any zoom level is f/8.

At the furthest end of the zoom, that's a pretty impressive achievement, and buying an equivalent lens for a conventional dSLR would cost several thousand pounds. You can't compare removable lenses directly with this model, but to give you some idea of what you'd pay for similar apertures or zooms when not fixed to the body, Canon's 400mm f/2.8 costs on average £7,000, while Sigma's 200-600mm f/2.8 costs in excess of £16,000.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 test photo
The 24x zoom is impressive in its own right, but the fact that the FZ200 maintains a maximum aperture of f/2.8 throughout that range is appealing.

The sensor sports a fairly conservative resolution of 12.1 megapixels. This exceeds the amount you'd need to print an A2 poster (commercial printers like Photobox recommend a 'preferred resolution' of 4 megapixels and above for printing at this size), so you can't criticise it on that front.

But with fewer pixels you have fewer options when it comes to cropping and recomposing your work in post-production. However, with a 24x zoom, that's unlikely to be an issue here. At 600mm, you could fill the frame with a house cat from 40 feet, as pictured above.

Sensitivity

By squeezing fewer pixels onto the sensor, it's usually possible to improve low-light performance, and here the FZ200 does well, although its results aren't as sharp as those achieved by either the Nikon 1 J2 or the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 .

Maximum sensitivity in regular use is ISO 3,200, a level at which colours remain accurate and true to the originals, but the level of noise within the image is heightened. It's not so detrimental that fine detail is lost when zoomed out to fit, but zooming to 100 per cent reveals artefacts within my test results.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 test photo
The interior of this church was shot at ISO 3,200, and there's an increased level of noise in the result that becomes more obvious as you zoom to 100 per cent (click image to enlarge).

Controls and build

It's got dual zoom rockers -- one on the side of the barrel and one surrounding the shutter release -- alongside a set of very well-thought-out physical controls. There's a button beside the barrel-mounted zoom that unlocks the focus point so you can move it around the frame using the regular four-way controller.

There's a multi-function wheel above the thumb mount on the back of the body. In regular use this alternates between setting exposure compensation (+/-3EV in 1/3 stop increments), and whatever the lead metric of the selected priority mode happens to be -- so, aperture or shutter speed.

It really comes into its own in manual mode, switching between shutter and aperture setting each time you press it, while you'll trim the lens with focus set to manual. It's a slow and tedious process adjusting the focus this way, particularly at the closer end of the scale, but the display magnifies the selected focal point to help out, so it's not difficult to get a sharp result.

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Where to Buy

Panasonic Lumix FZ200

Part Number: CNETPanasonic Lumix FZ200

Typical Price: £470.00

See manufacturer website for availability.