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Panasonic's f2.8 24x zoom Lumix FZ300 camera doesn't mind getting wet and dirty Along with a dust- and splashproof body, Panasonic brings 4K video and a number of other improvements to its constant-aperture megazoom.


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Three years ago -- almost to the day -- Panasonic announced the 12-megapixel Lumix FZ200 , a 24x zoom camera with a constant f2.8 aperture. For its successor, the new FZ300, those are the only things that remain unchanged.

The constant aperture made the FZ200 a standout, letting you use its 25-600mm lens indoors or in low-light without immediately resorting to noise-inducing high ISO settings or slow shutter speeds resulting in motion blur, among other things. The f2.8 25-600mm lens is an advantage the FZ200 has and now the FZ300 will have over all other cameras in this class for the moment.

What the FZ200 doesn't have is the FZ300's dust- and splashproof body. It's not made of magnesium alloy, like Sony's 8.3x zoom RX10, but frankly, 691 grams (1.5 pounds) is heavy enough. Currently Fujifilm's 50x zoom FinePix S1 is the only other option for a weather-resistant megazoom with a 1/2.3-inch sensor.

Panasonic Lumix FZ300: A megazoom for all types of weather (pictures)

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Adding to that, Panasonic dropped in a new image processor to bring 4K video (3,840x2,160 at 30 or 24 frames per second) in MP4 format in addition to 1080p at 60 frames per second in AVCHD Progressive or MP4 (MPEG-4/H.264) formats with full-time autofocus. Like the company's other 4K-capable cameras, the FZ300 has a 4K photo mode, which basically gets you 8-megapixel photos shot at 30 pictures per second so you never miss a shot.

To help keep your photos blur-free and movies steady, Panasonic's added its five-axis hybrid optical image stabilization. It combines electronic and mechanical stabilization to compensate for camera shake. The mix worked well for Panasonic's higher-end FZ1000 , so you should be able to shoot at slower shutter speeds handheld, even zoomed in.

The FZ200 was one of the fastest cameras in the category when it came out and Panasonic is promising this model will be considerably faster. The FZ300 uses Panasonic's DFD (depth from defocus) technology, also found in the FZ1000, which assists the camera's contrast-detection autofocus system by calculating the distance to a subject at a very high speed so that the focus accurately locks onto a target in approximately 0.09 second.

Mechanical shutter speeds can now reach 1/4,000 second at the wide end and 1/3,200 second fully zoomed in to 600mm and at 1/16,000 second using the electronic shutter.

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Panasonic also beefed up the electronic viewfinder with a 0.39-inch 1,440K-dot OLED display with a 100 percent field of view in 4:3 aspect, with a 0.7x magnification (35mm equivalent). And there's a proximity sensor to automatically switch between the 3-inch free-angle touchscreen and the EVF when you bring it to your eye.

Additional features include built-in Wi-Fi, improved noise reduction and color reproduction, increased sensitivity to ISO 6,400, and raw and raw plus JPEG image capture.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 will be in US stores in October for $600. Pricing and availability wasn't immediately available for the UK, but it will be available in Australia from September for AU$899.