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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 review: This long-zoom camera may sway you from an entry-level dSLR

With a large 1-inch sensor, a versatile lens and a ton of shooting options including 4K video capture, the FZ1000 might just be the only camera you need for photos and video.

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman

Managing Editor / Advice

Josh Goldman helps people find the best laptop at the best price -- from simple Chromebooks to high-end gaming laptops. He's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software for more than two decades.

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7 min read

If you were on the fence between an entry-level digital SLR and a compact camera with a long zoom lens, the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 might be all the camera you need.

panasonic-lumix-fz1000-11.jpg
8.5

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000

The Good

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 produces excellent photos and video; it has an expansive feature set to satisfy snapshooters and enthusiasts; it offers a lot of direct access to important settings and has a fantastic electronic viewfinder.

The Bad

Its maximum f/2.8 aperture is only available at its widest focal length. The plastic body and large lens makes it feel a bit off-balance. Controls and shooting options might be intimidating for some.

The Bottom Line

With excellent photo and video quality and a deep feature set, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 is the perfect mix if you want dSLR-like controls and better than point-and-shoot performance with the convenience of a single fixed lens.

Digital SLRs deliver high-quality photos and HD video and fast performance, 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, features and control, and in most cases, aren't nearly as quick to focus and shoot.

The FZ1000 truly 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 long-zoom cameras like Panasonic's FZ200) and a 16x f2.8-4.0 25-400mm lens (and yes, it's a Leica).

Sarah Tew/CNET

Worthwhile trade-offs

The benefit to a larger image sensor is better image quality, but they also require larger lenses. While its zoom range might not seem impressive compared with the expansive 50x or longer zooms on other bridge cameras, the FZ1000 delivers superior image quality to those small-sensor compacts.

A dSLR or mirrorless interchangeable lens camera would get you better image quality still, but a zoom lens with similar specs for one of those would be large and heavy. It would also be more expensive than this camera alone, which is currently around $800 or £650 in the UK and AU$1,200 in Australia.

Because this is a variable aperture zoom lens, the aperture gets immediately smaller as you zoom out, letting less light reach the sensor. Giving the lens a constant f2.8 aperture through the zoom range, like Sony's RX10, would have been nice, but it also would have made the lens bigger. The FZ1000's variable aperture lens is a compromise, but for me, it's worth it.

The RX10 features a 1-inch sensor as well, but its telephoto end stops at 200mm. 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.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10
Sensor (effective resolution) 12.1MP MOS 1/2.3-inch20.9MP MOS CMOS 1-inch20.2MP Exmor R CMOS 1-inch
Sensitivity range ISO 100-3200/ISO 6400 (exp)ISO 80, 100, 25600 (exp)/ISO 125-12800ISO 100 (exp)/ISO 160-12800
Lens (35mm-equivalent) 24x f2.8 25-600mm16x f2.8-4.0 25-400mm8.3x f2.8 24-200mm
Closest focus 0.4-inch (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 coverage0.39-inch/2,359K dots,100 percent coverageN/A/1,440K dots, 100 percent coverage
Autofocus 23-area contrast AF49-area contrast AF25-area contrast AF
Shutter 60-1/4,000 sec60-1/4,000 sec; bulb30-1/3,200 sec; bulb
Flash YesYesYes
Hot shoe YesYesYes
LCD 3-inch free-angle 460K dots3-inch free-angle 921K dots3-inch tilting, 1,228K dots
Image stabilization OpticalOpticalOptical
Video(best quality) AVCHD 1080/60p/60i/30pMP4 4K/30p; AVCHD 1080/60p/60i/30pAVCHD 1080/60p/60i/24p
Audio Stereo, mic inputStereo, mic inputStereo, headphone jack, mic input
Optical zoom while recording YesYesYes
Wireless connectivity NoneWi-Fi, NFCWi-Fi, NFC
Battery life (CIPA rating) 540 shots360 shots420 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$899.99$ 999.99
Availability 8/1/20127/201411/1/2013

Video and photo quality

The FZ1000 was the first compact camera to record video at resolutions up to 4K (3,840x2,160) in MP4 at 30/25fps or 24fps ( Panasonic's LX100 does it, too). It's something you might shrug off as not necessary and it well might not be -- yet. The fact is this camera does 1080p at 60fps or 120fps in MP4 and 1080p at 60fps in AVCHD, too. And the video at those resolutions looks excellent.

The 4K video looks noticeably sharper and more detailed on a 4K-resolution TV and even if you don't have one now, you might eventually. The extra resolution also allows you to crop in and still have a full HD video. Basically you're getting a powerful video camera with some future-proofing.

To go with those high resolutions, you'll find a full manual video mode as well as shutter-priority, aperture-priority and program auto modes; a mic jack (but no headphone jack); optical image stabilization; and a five-step speed control for the zoom for smooth movement while recording. The Micro-HDMI port on the right side supports clean HDMI output, so you can record to an external drive without text or graphics or view on a larger display while recording to the internal SD card (camera-testing site Imaging Resource has a thorough explanation if you want more details).

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A 4K photo captured with the FZ1000. Joshua Goldman/CNET

Another reason not to discount its 4K video is for stills. There are some things you're just not going to be able to capture when shooting photos. With the FZ1000, you can instead shoot some 4K video at 30 frames per second, then in playback go frame by frame until you find the moment you want. Select the frame and the camera saves it as a single 8-megapixel photo.

Of course, if you just want regular photos, those are pretty great, too. The 1-inch, 20-megapixel MOS sensor paired with a Panasonic Venus Engine processor with multiple noise reduction systems produce excellent results, even at high ISOs.

Enlarge Image
Joshua Goldman/CNET
Enlarge Image
Joshua Goldman/CNET

The images above are 100 percent crops from the center of our test scene. Fine detail remains intact right up through ISO 800. It starts to soften some at that point, but it isn't until you get up to ISO 3200 that you notice at smaller sizes.

Noise levels are quite good, too. Panasonic does an excellent job of keeping a balance between detail and noise reduction keeping things from getting too smeary until ISO 1600. And color quality doesn't start to suffer until above ISO 1600 either.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 photo samples

See all photos

If you want to shoot in raw, you can do a little better at higher ISOs than the JPEGs straight from the camera. You'll also be able to rescue some detail from blown-out highlights or shadows. You might also find yourself occasionally correcting for purple fringing in high-contrast areas, but its not nearly as bad as other megazoom cameras.

It's just so fast

I have small children, and while I've grabbed many good shots of them over my years of testing point-and-shoots, many of those shots I chalk up to some good timing and a lot of luck. If I know I'm going to need reliable speedy performance, I use a dSLR.

The FZ1000's performance, on the other hand, is so fast that it never made me regret leaving the dSLR at home. 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.

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Joshua Goldman/CNET

In my lab tests, the camera's time to focus and capture averaged 0.1-second with a high-contrast target and was just barely longer than that with a low-contrast target. The time between shots was about 0.5-second; turning on the flash drove the time up to 0.9-second.

Fast autofocus is great, but a fast startup time is important, too. It's typically a stumbling block for compacts, especially those with long lenses that need to extend before they're ready to shoot. Panasonic managed to keep this under 1 second, coming in at 0.8-second in my tests.

Burst shooting is also excellent with the camera capable of reaching speeds of 12 frames per second at full resolution with focus and exposure set with the first shot. In my tests, recording to a SanDisk Extreme Pro 95MB/s UHS-I/U3 SDXC card, it delivered speeds just below this at 10fps for 20 frames capturing JPEGs and was negligibly slower with raw capture. With continuous autofocus, the FZ1000 hit 5.5fps with JPEGs and 4fps with raw.

Sarah Tew/CNET

For those who value control -- or don't

Shooting with a dSLR, you get used to having a certain amount of control at your fingertips that most compacts just don't have. The FZ1000, however, is covered with programmable buttons and other direct controls for your most important settings.

General shooting optionsPanasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, 12800
White balance Auto, daylight, cloudy, shade, incandescent, flash, white set 1, 2, 3 and 4, color temperature (2-axis adjustable)
Recording modes Intelligent Auto, P, A, S, M, Creative Video, C1 (Custom), C2 (Custom), Scene Guide, Creative Control
Scene modes Clear 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
Creative Control modes Expressive, Retro, Old Days, High Key, Low Key, Sepia, Monochrome, Dynamic Monochrome, Rough Monochrome, Silky Monochrome, Impressive Art, High Dynamic, Cross Process, Toy Effect, Toy Pop, Bleach Bypass, Miniature Effect, Soft Focus, Fantasy, Star Filter, One Point Color, Sunshine
Color effects Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, Scenery, Portrait, Custom
Focus modes Autofocus (single or flexible), AF continuous, manual (focus peaking available), AF area select, AF tracking, Eye-sensor AF
Autofocus metering Face/eye detection, tracking, 49-area, custom multi, 1-area (flexible/scalable), pinpoint
Macro 3cm to infinity (wide); 100cm to infinity (tele)
Metering modes Intelligent multiple, center-weighted, spot
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Unlimited continuous

Along with the mode dial, power switch and video record button on top, there are two function buttons with a third, fourth and fifth on back. They can all be programmed for just about anything you want fast access to -- from picture size and quality, to flash strength or mode, to turning on a zebra pattern or guide lines. There's also a ring around the lens that can be used for manual focus or fine zoom control.

While the camera overall is a pleasure to use, the body is mainly plastic, which keeps the body weight down but doesn't feel great and -- if we're judging against the RX10 -- it's not dust- or weather-resistant. Plus, because the lens assembly is glass and metal, the camera feels a little front heavy. Still, if you're supporting the camera properly with your left hand on the barrel, you likely won't notice.

Along with the direct controls, a big reason the FZ1000 is such a pleasure to shoot with is its electronic viewfinder, which is bright and sharp and big. The flip-out rotating LCD is nice to have for both video and stills, of course, but for shooting on bright days or just to stabilize yourself when using the zoom, the EVF is fantastic.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Given the amount of controls and options, though, the FZ1000 might be a little intimidating for some users, especially those coming from a simple point-and-shoot. You can, of course, leave the camera in full auto, and there are a ridiculous number of scene and creative modes, too.

The menus are easy enough to navigate, and highlighting a particular option will unobtrusively scroll a brief description at the top of the screen. However, I highly recommend downloading and thoroughly going over the instruction manual to help you uncover what this camera can and can't do under different conditions. For example, while the FZ1000 has a solid optical image stabilization system when shooting video in 4K, the camera's a hybrid 5-axis OIS isn't available. Even if you're just considering buying it, it's worth looking over the manual to see what's possible.

It's worth mentioning, too, that the FZ1000 does have built-in Wi-Fi. If you have an Android device with NFC, you can use that to initiate a connection between your device and the camera, or you can scan a QR code to do the same thing.

The Panasonic Image app lets you use your smartphone or tablet as a remote control and viewfinder and you can view and transfer your shots to your device for sharing. (If you shoot in raw, the FZ1000 can process them in camera for sharing.)

Lastly, there are a lot of accessory options for the camera including 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.

Conclusion

The Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 is a great alternative for anyone considering an entry-level digital SLR or as a secondary camera for when you want or need to travel light. The lens is better than what you'd get with any dSLR or ILC kit and thanks to excellent performance across the board, you're getting a very capable camera for stills and video at a reasonable price.

panasonic-lumix-fz1000-11.jpg
8.5

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 9Performance 9Image quality 8
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