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

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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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.

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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 options Panasonic 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.

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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.


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.

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