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Shooting 4K video with the Panasonic FZ1000

As 4K video is a key selling point on cameras from the 2014 crop, we take the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 for a spin to see how it performs.

Tempted by the prospect of 4K video on your next camera?

Joshua Goldman/CNET

The Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 is arguably the easiest way to jump into ultra high definition recording without needing to know the ins and outs of more expensive cameras. Sure, the GoPro Hero 3+ can take 4K video but it's at a reduced frame rate and not practical for most purposes like playing back seamlessly on a TV.

Here are some thoughts, impressions and results of shooting 4K video on the FZ1000, ahead of the full review.

Before you even think about getting started, you'll need to ensure that you have a memory card that can support 4K video. Panasonic states that a UHS Speed Class 3 card is needed. Always double-check that your card supports the minimum write speed for 4K otherwise you'll end up with stuttery video.

The specs

While I won't cover all the technical specifications (you can find these in the preview ) I'll focus on the ones most important to video and 4K recording.

The FZ1000 features a 20.9MP MOS CMOS 1-inch sensor and a 25-400mm lens which is equivalent to 16x optical zoom. The camera offers AVCHD and MP4 recording, with 4K recording in MP4 at 100Mbps. AVCHD is available for 1080p video at 60/30/24p, and there's a special slow-motion mode for 120p recording.

Other video-centric features that you get on the FZ100 include focus peaking and zebras. But I found that I relied on the continuous autofocus mode because it hit the mark every single time, keeping things in focus without any extra effort.

The articulating LCD is bright enough on the maximum setting for recording outdoors in bright sunlight, though you also get the option of a 2.35-million dot electronic viewfinder which is also crisp and clear.

Hands on experience

The first thing you'll want to do when shooting on the camera is to switch the picture profile -- by default it's set to a standard picture mode. This is fine for point and shoot purposes, but for better results, use the profiles inherited from the GH4, Cine-like D and Cine-like V.

Cine-like D is used to enhance dynamic range, and the second is optimised for contrast as it uses a gamma curve to create a more film-like image. All the samples included here were filmed with Cine-like D and come straight from the camera, no tweaking or grading.

Though the FZ1000 comes with image stabilisation, it's hefty enough that you'll want to use a tripod during recording. Shaky video and ultra high definition makes for a pretty unappealing experience.

Frustratingly, there are two versions of the FZ1000 -- one for PAL countries and the other for NTSC. While this might not seem like a deal breaker for the casual videographer, it is frustrating if you want to shoot at 30p and you live in a PAL region (the PAL cameras are capped at 25p for 4K video while NTSC cameras get 30p). Unlike other cameras, the FZ1000 doesn't let you switch between PAL and NTSC on the fly to access these other frame rates.

During recording you can change the exposure using the single dial at the back of the camera. Unlike some dSLRs and interchangeable lens cameras, there's only one dial which clicks in to switch between aperture and shutter speed control.

If you're not a videographer, there are other benefits from having 4K capture on a camera: namely being able to extract 8-megapixel still images from videos.

Pulling out a still image from 4K video produces an excellent result. Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

Footage produced from the FZ1000 is very impressive. The lens is incredibly sharp throughout most of the focal length, and only softens slightly at the extreme telephoto reach. On the Cine-Like D profile, the video image has plenty of detail and offers good scope for grading or colour correcting in post if you need to do so.

Because it's recorded as MP4, the workflow is reasonably simple for those who just want to do simple editing or playback straight from the camera on a 4K TV. Just make sure that your computer has enough grunt to process the files, otherwise you'll end up with stop-start playback if you want to watch back in real time.

Note that YouTube's compression algorithm doesn't show the best out of the 4K footage, but it's the easiest way to display it as Vimeo doesn't yet offer 4K playback. To watch the 4K version, click on the video to head to the YouTube page and set the playback cog to 2160p.

Stay tuned for the full review.