Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 Review

 
Camera Reviews / Panasonic Lumix Cameras / Lumix Point & Shoot i First Shots
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000
Resolution: 20.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1-inch type
Lens: 16.00x zoom
(25-400mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
ISO: 80-25600
Shutter: 60-1/16000
Max Aperture: 2.8
Dimensions: 5.4 x 3.9 x 5.1 in.
(137 x 99 x 131 mm)
Weight: 29.3 oz (831 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $900
Availability: 07/2014
Manufacturer: Panasonic
Full specs: Panasonic FZ1000 specifications
20.10
Megapixels
16.00x zoom
1-inch type
size sensor
image of Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000
Front side of Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 digital camera Back side of Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 digital camera Top side of Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 digital camera Left side of Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 digital camera Right side of Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 digital camera

Panasonic FZ1000 Review -- Hands-on Preview

by and Dave Etchells
Preview posted

Updates:
06/12/2014: Image Quality Comparison with Sony RX10 and Technical Info

Panasonic FZ1000 Review -- beauty shot

Finally, the large-sensor, superzoom camera category has a battle on its hands! The 20.1-megapixel Panasonic FZ1000 is a camera whose competitor is clear: This is a challenger for the Sony RX10's crown, and it looks to be a mighty impressive one indeed.

At heart, both cameras are quite similar. The Panasonic FZ1000 and Sony RX10 are each based around 20-megapixel, 1.0-inch type CMOS image sensors. But the FZ1000 differs from -- and looks in some ways to better -- the RX10 in a number of key ways.

It's more affordable, yet has a significantly longer 16x zoom range, a noticeably-faster 12 frames-per-second burst capture rate and 4K video support. It also has a more versatile tilt/swivel LCD monitor, a much higher-resolution electronic viewfinder, and a wider shutter speed range.

On the flip side of the coin, it's rather bigger than its rival, especially in terms of depth. And perhaps not surprisingly, given the much greater zoom reach, it can't boast a constant aperture lens. Instead, its aperture lags that of the RX10 just slightly across most of the range where both lenses overlap. Nor does it provide quite the same wide-angle shooting opportunities, and battery life looks to be rather lower.

In most respects, though, the Panasonic FZ1000 looks to give you a similar feature-set to its incredibly popular rival, just with a more affordable price tag and a whole lot more zoom range in a slightly bigger package. It's early days yet, but we're already expecting this to be just as hot a camera as the RX10, if not more so.

Panasonic FZ1000 Review -- front view

Panasonic has set pricing for the FZ1000 at US$900, with availability expected from late July 2014. That makes the new model nearly one-third cheaper than what is, realistically, its only significant fixed-lens rival, and that's huge news if you're in the market for a large-sensor, long-zoom camera!

Place your pre-order for the Panasonic FZ1000 at one of Imaging Resource's trusted affiliates:

Let's take a closer look at the Panasonic FZ1000, complete with an in-hand comparison against the RX10.

 

Hands-on with the Panasonic FZ1000

By Dave Etchells

I've always been a fan of so-called "bridge" cameras, those long-zoom models with higher-end capabilities that substitute for an SLR for many people. At some point, though, their low-light/high-ISO limitations frustrated me. For a while I carried a DSLR everywhere; more recently it's been a compact mirrorless model of one sort or the other. Both solutions were pretty limited in terms of focal length, unless I wanted to lug some heavy glass with me. The mirrorless cameras were better in this regard, but I still missed the all-in-one efficiency of a good bridge camera.

Panasonic FZ1000 Review -- top view

In the fall of 2013, though, Sony shook up the camera world with the release of their RX10. Finally, here was a camera with a reasonably large sensor (a "1.0-inch type"), and a wide-ratio f/2.8 zoom lens on the front! And it shot really great HD video, too! I first got hands-on with it at a Sony press event where we were also shooting with their full-frame mirrorless models, the A7 and A7R.

As amazing as the full-frame cameras were, I found myself gravitating towards the RX10; it was just so much fun to shoot with. It wasn't by any means a compact, but was definitely smaller than a typical SLR, and it gave me a zoom range from 28-200mm equivalent. For an extended vacation, I might still pack a DSLR or Micro Four Thirds camera alongside the RX10, but chances are that I'd end up using the latter almost exclusively.

The biggest drawback with the RX10 is its price; at US$1,300, it's a serious investment.

Now comes the Panasonic FZ1000 to send another shockwave through the camera world -- including Sony. Compared to the RX10, the Panasonic FZ000 zooms 2x longer (all the way out to 400mm equivalent), while keeping nearly the same wide-angle focal length (25mm vs 24mm eq.) and shoots 4K video (also allowing "4K Photo" use -- more on this later).

And it shoots up to 12fps at full resolution, or at 50fps at a five-megapixel image size, vs the Sony's 10fps, with both cameras having focus locked from the first frame. The FZ1000 also has a full tilt-swivel LCD screen, vs the tilt-only one on the Sony. About the only significant shortcoming on the spec sheet is that the Panasonic FZ1000's maximum aperture goes from f/2.8 to f/4.0, while the RX10's is a constant f/2.8. All this for US$900 or thereabouts, a whopping $400 less than the RZ10.

We'll see how the Panasonic FZ1000 holds up in our testing, but for now, let's take a bit of an extended walkaround of the camera.

Panasonic FZ1000 Review -- RX10 vs FZ1000, top view

In the hand. My first impression of the Panasonic FZ1000 is that it's big, easily as bulky as a mid-sized consumer SLR. Interestingly, though, while it looks a lot bigger than the RX10, it's actually within a third-inch or so in width and height, the main difference being in its length. The FZ1000's eyepiece projects further back, and the lens a little further forwards, making it about 1.2 inches deeper. (The FZ1000 has a depth of 5.2 inches, versus 4.0 inches for the RX10.)

But while it's a fair bit bigger overall, the FZ1000 is almost indistinguishable from its competitor in terms of weight, at 831 grams (1.8 pounds) versus 813 grams, loaded and ready to go. So, while it looks a good bit bigger, the difference is such that it wouldn't affect my decision on which to carry.

Panasonic FZ1000 Review -- front right side view

Nice grip! What you do get from the Panasonic FZ1000 in exchange for its size (beyond the longer lens, of course), is a considerably more comfortable grip. The FZ1000 feels great in the hand. I actually quite liked the grip on the RX10, but I guess this is a case of not knowing what you're missing 'til you've tried it.

The FZ1000's grip is a whole lot more comfortable, and the camera as a whole is better-balanced than the Sony. It's really hard to say enough about this; it's just an entirely different experience holding the FZ1000. Go to a brick-and-mortar store and hold one in your hand -- once they're available, of course -- and you'll see what I'm talking about. Or just take my word for it, and get your preorder in now. ;-)

One place where the RX10 does win, though, is in how solid it feels. Being both smaller and yet almost as heavy as the FZ1000, it just feels solid. Some of the difference in feel is down to materials choices made on the FZ1000. Both cameras have a textured, rubbery coating covering their grip areas, but more plastic is left exposed in various places on the FZ1000's body. Its rubber coating stops short of the camera's base, doesn't extend quite as close to the lens on the left side, and doesn't cover the connector port door and surrounding area on the camera's right.

None of this has any impact on the FZ1000's "grip-ability", but it does mean that your fingernails are more likely to come in contact with the plastic body shell. When that happens, you get the usual higher-pitched, plasticky resonance, which makes the camera seem less solid than it probably is.

When it comes to shooting with the FZ1000, I find that the larger grip and slightly wider body make a noticeable difference in ease of operation. With the RX10, I'd complained about having to pull my index finger back so sharply to hit the shutter button. On the FZ1000, the shutter button is positioned further away from the right edge of the camera, and that combined with the thicker grip makes it much more comfortable to trip the shutter. My fingers aren't as scrunched on the grip, so the FZ1000 feels much more balanced and pleasant to shoot with.

The other top-panel controls are also much easier to operate, and I really like having the movie button on the top deck, versus the rear panel as in the RX10. Positioned as it is, the FZ1000's movie-record button is just a quick slide back from the shutter button, and impossible to miss. It might be a personal preference thing, but I really like the way the designers positioned the FZ1000's shutter and movie buttons.

Panasonic FZ1000 Review -- left view

Zoom and focus control. The FZ1000's aperture is electronically controlled, unlike the mechanically-coupled one on the RX10, so there's only one control ring on the FZ1000's lens barrel. A switch on the side of the lens lets you choose to control either focus or zoom with it. The only other control on the lens is the IS on/off selector.

Focus and zoom via the control ring are typical for fly-by-wire systems -- that is, not nearly as responsive as purely mechanical couplings. I have the same complaint about the FZ1000 here as I did about the RX10: Why not make the control ring velocity-sensitive, so it would make large adjustments when turned quickly, and smaller ones when rotated slowly.

I guess it's possible that the zoom motor just can't rack the lens any faster than it does currently, but I'd sure like the ability to zoom a little quicker, and with less movement of the ring to accomplish it when I'm making large changes.

Panasonic FZ1000 Review -- left view

Manual focusing. When focusing manually, you can choose to have either a magnified display or focus peaking enabled, or to have both at once. Initially, I was a little disappointed with the enlarged view, as I found it only zoomed up to 6x; not enough for precise focus adjustment, at least not in my book. Checking the manual, though, I discovered that pressing in on the control wheel at the top of the camera's rear panel toggled between a picture-in-picture magnified display, and one covering the entire screen.

In full-screen mode, the MF-assist zoom goes all the way to 10x, a much more useful level of magnification. (I have to wonder, though, why not allow it to zoom that much in the partial-frame display? If it's too hard to hold the camera on the subject, users could always just drop back to a lower magnification factor.)

Panasonic FZ1000 Review -- rear view with LCD swung out

EVF and LCD. The Panasonic FZ1000's image displays are just amazingly sharp and crisp. I suspect that the rear-panel LCD is the same 921K-dot one that everybody else seems to be using these days, but it seemed unusually sharp to my eye. Because it's a WhiteMagic RGBW panel, the RX10's display has more dots (1,229K), but both FZ1000 and RX10 have the same number of actual pixels (307K).

Despite the extra white dots on the RX10's panel, which are intended to increase brightness or reduce power consumption, details on the FZ1000 seemed sharper, at least to my eyes. I think that subtle gradations on the FZ1000's LCD were also rendered more smoothly. But having said that, the RX10's screen was noticeably brighter outdoors. I've not had a chance to try both cameras side-by-side under full noon sunlight, but at least in late afternoon sun, the difference between both was very clear.

Be that as it may, though, the Panasonic FZ1000 has a gorgeous screen -- and its electronic viewfinder is even more of a treat. I'd say that it's the best-looking EVF I've seen to date, except that I've also seen the EVF in the Panasonic GH4, and the same OLED screen and optics are used in both.

It has a fairly wide field of view, but the downside to that is that eyeglass wearers like me do need to press their lenses tight against the viewfinder bezel to be able to see everything. Once you manage to look through it, though, the view is unbelievably smooth and sharp. (Well, OK, maybe it's believably smooth and sharp, but it is pretty amazing.) I'm not generally one for counting either dots or megapixels, but the OLED screen in the FZ1000 has 2,359K dots, to the Sony's 1,440K. The difference isn't subtle at all: It's immediately and pretty dramatically visible when looking through first one, then the other.

Panasonic FZ1000 Review -- front view, flash deployed

While not directly related to the EVF or LCD, this seems like as good a place as any to mention the FZ1000's HDMI output capability. Of course, it supports standard 1080 output (both progressive and interlaced), but it can also output still images at 4K resolution if you're lucky enough to have a HDMI 1.4a-compliant TV or monitor capable of displaying that. We have a 28" 4K monitor here at IRHQ, and I have to admit that there's maybe something to this 4K thing after all, unlike the 3D TV fiasco. Looking at high-res still images on a 4K monitor is really an entirely different experience than viewing at standard 1,920 x 1,080.

User interface. The Panasonic FZ1000's user interface is a pretty rich one, given all the configurable buttons, and there's a fair bit of depth to it. I can usually pick up a camera and find my way around pretty easily, but it's been a while since I've really exercised the user interface on a Panasonic camera, so it took me a little bit to sort out the FZ1000's UI. It's not that there's anything particularly obtuse about it, it's just that there's a lot there, and there's always the question of initially figuring out where to look for everything.

One of the things I really liked about the RX10 (and a number of other high-end cameras from Sony) was the extent to which the UI is configurable. There are a number of buttons or controls you can assign functions to, and a very broad range of functions that you can assign.

Panasonic FZ1000 Review -- rear view

I think the two cameras come out pretty close to even in this regard, although the FZ1000 ends up with more available buttons: There are five separate Fn buttons, plus separate, dedicated buttons for AF/AE lock, focus mode, display options, ISO, white balance, Macro AF, and Focus Area Mode. Four of the Fn buttons (1, 2, 3, and 5) can also have different function assignments in Playback vs Record mode. Both cameras have 12 settings available in their Quick Menu displays. The functions of the rear 5-way control pad are predefined and fixed on the FZ1000, while on the Sony, all but the up-arrow (which is dedicated to display mode cycling) are configurable. I found this oddly liberating with the RX10 and other similarly-configured Sony cameras, in that the lack of labeling on the 5-way controller encouraged me to assign my own functions to them. (And out of the box, several of the configurable buttons have no function assigned to them at all.)

While the RX10 wins in the number of configurable buttons (seven vs five on the FZ1000), the fact many of the predefined buttons have functions I'd want to assign to configurable ones (ISO, white balance, and AF area mode in particular) means that I ultimately end up with more control on the FZ1000. One positive point in Sony's favor, though, is the presence of a dedicated exposure-compensation dial, a function I use a lot, and that I suspect is very frequently used by other photographers as well. It occupies space that could be used for another function button, but I'd always have one button somewhere assigned to exposure compensation, so the fact that it takes up a potential button position is moot, and I really like the fact that exposure compensation is always available, without having to call it up on the display screen.

Overall, the Panasonic FZ1000 has a highly configurable and very powerful user interface, but also one that could be a little confusing to the neophyte. On the other hand, this isn't a camera aimed at the neophyte, and the RX10 forces you to configure a number of the controls for them to have any utility at all. As much as I like the RX10's UI, and despite what I perceive as a steeper learning curve with the FZ1000, I think I have to give Panasonic the nod when it comes to user interface.

Panasonic FZ1000 Review -- controls

Scene modes. Just a very brief mention here, but the Panasonic FZ1000 has quite a rich collection of scene modes, including a couple of my personal favorites that were first introduced by Sony, namely Handheld Night Shot and Panorama (called Sweep Panorama by Sony). Handheld Night Shot captures a rapid sequence of shorter exposures, then micro-aligns them and combines them into a single image. This cuts blur from camera motion, but also gives much cleaner images than simply using a higher ISO would. Panorama mode lets you pan the camera in front of you, while holding down the shutter button. The camera will capture a large number of shots, then align and splice them together into a panorama. Various camera companies have emulated these modes with varying degrees of success, but Sony's always had the best implementations. I'll reserve final judgment until we can test these modes in a production model, but in my little bit of playing with them, they seemed to work pretty well. In Handheld Night Shot mode, the camera is pretty much in full auto mode so you in particular have very limited control over white balance. You can make the two-axis adjustments you can do in any white balance mode, but settings like incandescent or Kelvin white balance aren't available. Why, oh why is this? It seems like this would be a very easy option to add, and would make these modes much more appealing to enthusiast users.

Overall, there are no fewer than 25 different scene modes. I personally rarely use a scene mode, but looking over the assortment the FZ1000 offers, I could see myself getting into playing with them a little.

Video. The Panasonic FZ1000 and the Sony RX10 are both designed to be video machines, as much as they're excellent still cameras. The RX10's video quality is unusually high, thanks to full sensor-width readout and firmware downsampling for its Full HD video. At its maximum 4K resolution, the FZ1000 records using pixels from an eight-megapixel area at the center of the sensor, increasing the focal length crop by 1.48x, for a rather tight 35mm-equivalent focal range of 37-592mm -- good news if you shoot at telephoto, but not if you're a fan of wide-angle video. At Full HD resolution, however, the FZ1000 uses the full sensor width and then bins pixels on-sensor, potentially achieving a similar result to that of the RX10. Stay tuned for our eventual video tests to see which camera wins, but it's nice to see cameras doing something other than simple line-skipping, which can introduce a lot of aliasing and moiré artifacts.

Panasonic FZ1000 Review -- 4K video

A standout feature of the FZ1000 is its ability to shoot 4K video completely in-camera, providing that capability of the GH4, but at a much lower price point. We suspect few of our readers will care a whole lot about shooting 4K video in and of itself, but there's perhaps a different way to think about it for still shooters. Consider this: Each frame of a 4K video clip is an 8 megapixel image. Rather than thinking in terms of recording and playing back video, consider the prospect of an 8-megapixel camera with a 30fps continuous shooting mode and no buffer limits. Panasonic calls this use case "4K Photo", and we think they may actually be onto something.

The FZ1000 makes it relatively easy to shoot 4K video and then extract 8 megapixel images from it. Just play back the video, pause it where you want to grab a frame, and press the center button of the 5-way controller. The current interface isn't perfect, as you'd ideally like to be able to step through the video frame by frame to choose your shot, but when we were briefed on the camera, Panasonic told us that they'll have an improved interface for this coming via a firmware update in the near future.

This could really be a game-changer, and it feels to me like a stronger justification for 4K video than any of the video things you can do with it. (Like using the 4K to sample down for super high-quality FHD, or being able to pan an FHD window around within the scene in post production.) It's not video, it's a super-duper motor drive! I'm sure that a lot of video buffs will be all over 4K, purely for its video-related advantages, but I really think it could open a whole new world for still shooters as well. And not just sports shooters, but also ordinary Moms and Dads. What a great way to shoot the kids, especially the babies and toddlers. You can shoot video, and keep that for posterity, but at the same time, you'll be able to pick exactly the right moment for that perfect expression or pose. People tend to think of continuous-mode shooting only in the context of sports, but it can be every bit as important for family photos, too. By combining video and adequate-resolution still images, 4K could really open a whole new realm of capability for everyday still shooters. (Eight megapixels is more than enough to make a sharp 8x10 print with.)

The FZ1000 sample we have now is on firmware version 0.3. While Panasonic tells us that image quality is fine for sharing with our readers, we're reluctant to dive in too deep with it, in the event that things could be different in the final production versions. Accordingly, we may shoot a little 4K video with it, but aren't treating it as a high priority, given all the other things on our collective platter. On the other hand, our readers are our customers: Let us know if you feel it would be important to see some video from even the currently rather beta version of the FZ1000. (Let us know in the comments at the bottom of this review.)

Panasonic FZ1000 Review -- front left with hood

Hands-on summary. I've spent only a little time with the FZ1000 so far, but have come away very impressed. I did encounter a few bobbles here and there that I haven't talked about, simply because it wouldn't be fair or appropriate to call out issues in a firmware version 0.3. We'll obviously report fully and fairly on the final production version, but I can't imagine most of what I encountered not being worked out in the final firmware. Minor bobbles aside, the rest of the camera's operation, features, and image quality were mighty impressive. I've often said that Panasonic's cameras are among the best-kept secrets in the camera industry, as I don't think they've generally gotten the attention their capabilities and quality have deserved. Hopefully the FZ1000 will be able to break through that (as the GH4 apparently already has). If what we've seen so far pans out in the production models and the word gets out on this camera, I think Panasonic is going to sell a lot of them.

 

Panasonic FZ1000 Review -- Technical Info

By Mike Tomkins

Sensor. At the core of the Panasonic FZ1000 is a 1.0-inch type CMOS image sensor, described by the company as a High Sensitivity MOS chip. It's approximately the same size as used by the Sony RX10, and with an effective resolution of 20.1 megapixels (20.9 megapixels total), it has roughly the same resolution as well.

In terms of surface area, a 1-inch chip is approximately four times the size of the 1/2.3-inch sensors used in most compact cameras, and about 7-10 times the size of a typical sensors used in camera phones. At the same time, though, it's only half the size of the sensors used in Micro Four Thirds mirrorless cameras, and 31-35% of the APS-C sensors used in many interchangeable-lens cameras.

Processor. Providing the power necessary to capture 4K video and shoot full-res stills at high speed, the FZ1000 pairs its sensor with a newly-developed, quad-core Venus Engine image processor. Developed specifically for the FZ1000, the processor includes various algorithms for handling noise in different ways, including Multi Process NR (variable according to component frequency), Random Filter (fights chroma noise), and Aperture Filter (controls sharpness based on frequency).

Sensitivity. The Panasonic FZ1000 provides a sensitivity range of ISO 125 to 12,800 equivalents ordinarily, which can be expanded to encompass everything from a low of ISO 80 to a maximum of ISO 25,600. By way of comparison, the Sony RX10's single-shot sensitivity range spans everything from ISO 80 to 12,800 equivalents.

Performance. The FZ1000 also bests the RX10 in terms of burst-shooting performance, at least according to manufacturer specifications.

The Sony will allow 10 frames per second with autofocus locked from the first frame, or 2.5 to 3.1 fps with focus adjustment (depending on file type). By contrast, Panasonic rates its challenger as capable of a whopping 12 frames per second at full resolution with AF locked, or seven frames per second with AF tracking. Using an electronic shutter, it's possible to increase the capture rate still further, to a jaw-dropping 50 fps, albeit with a reduced five-megapixel resolution.

Startup time is manufacturer-rated at around 0.66 seconds.

Lens. Perhaps the most significant single feature of the Panasonic FZ1000, though is its lens. (And it's the key feature with which Panasonic will do battle for the hearts and minds of photographers, too.)

In a package only a quarter deeper than that of the Sony RX10, Panasonic has managed to provide double the zoom range of that camera, while retaining almost the same wide-angle possibilities. Contrast the Sony RX10's 24-200mm equivalent, 8.3x zoom Zeiss optic against the 25-400mm-equivalent, 16x zoom Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens in the FZ1000, and it's clear that the latter is going to bring distant subjects a whole lot closer.

Yet despite all that extra reach, Panasonic hasn't had to make too much of a compromise in other areas, on paper at least. As we've mentioned, the FZ1000's body is only around 1.1 inches deeper, and some of that difference is down to a viewfinder eyepiece that projects further from the camera body. Weight of the two cameras is so close as to be indistinguishable in the hand. And while the Panasonic model doesn't sport the continuous maximum aperture of its rival, it remains reasonably bright across the entire zoom range.

Maximum aperture. At the 25mm-equivalent wide angle, the lens boasts an f/2.8 maximum aperture, the same as that of the RX10 across the zoom range. It does fall behind (if only slightly) quite soon, though, closing down to f/2.9 at 26mm, f/3.0 at 30mm, and f/3.5 by around 57-58mm. From there, it remains constant until 180mm, at which point it finally drops to f/4.0 for the remainder of the zoom range.

Interestingly, shutter speed is also tied to the lens' focal length, as we'll see in a minute -- and not in the way you might expect.

Optical formula. Like the RX10 before it, the Panasonic FZ1000's lens is extremely complex in terms of its optical design. There are 15 elements in 11 groups, including four ED lenses, and five aspherics, of which three are double-sided aspheres.

Power zoom. Also much like the RX10, the Panasonic FZ1000's lens zoom is controlled electronically. There's a five-step speed control, and the mechanism continues to work even during video capture.

Stabilization. Not surprisingly, optical stabilization is included, just as in the competing Sony camera. It's even more important here, though, given the much greater telephoto reach of the FZ1000. In all but 4K movie capture, it provides five-axis stabilization, and it also offers up an Active Mode for greater stabilization of sub-4K movies.

Focusing. The FZ1000 is Panasonic's second camera to use Depth From Defocus technology, the clever technique first introduced in the Lumix GH4. In a nutshell, what this does is to use a full understanding of the lens' bokeh characteristics to determine both how far the subject is from being in focus, and in which direction focus must be shifted. Two frames are captured with slightly variant focus, and the change in bokeh between the pair is analysed to calculate the actual focus position.

Until DFD technology was introduced with the GH4, you needed a phase-detection autofocus system (either with a dedicated sensor or on-chip PDAF pixels) to get this information. Now, contrast detection autofocus as in the Panasonic FZ1000 has access to much the same info as phase-detection autofocus, erasing the latter's advantages.

What this means in the real world is that focusing speed and accuracy of the FZ1000's autofocus should be noticeably improved over those of an equivalent camera using standard contrast detection alone. Panasonic is claiming a focus time of 0.09 seconds at wide angle to CIPA testing standards, and 0.17 seconds at telephoto to in-house standards, with a focus adjustment from infinity to two meters.

Macro. The Panasonic FZ1000's AF system relies on a linear motor, and allows focusing to as close as three centimeters at wide-angle, the same distance as in the Sony RX10. At telephoto, focusing is possible to as close as 100 centimeters. That's triple the distance of the RX10 at telephoto, but it's worth bearing in mind that the RX10's full telephoto position is only halfway thru the zoom range for the FZ1000.

Neither company specifies a maximum magnification for their cameras, so watch this space for our macro testing in the lab to see how the FZ1000 compares to its rival in this area. Other autofocus features include pinpoint AF and low-light AF. The latter, as you'd expect, allows focusing in more difficult ambient lighting.

If you prefer to focus manually, you'll be happy to see a focus peaking function on offer. Sadly, like Sony's RX10, there's no mechanical focus linkage, so you'll be using fly-by-wire AF.

Shutter speed. Another area in which the Panasonic bests the RX10 is in its selection of shutter speeds. While the Sony is limited to a shutter speed range of 1/1,600 to 30 seconds (or 1/3,200 when stopped down to f/8 or narrower), the Panasonic FZ1000 allows shutter speeds from 1/4,000 to 60 seconds wide-open and at wide-angle. A bulb position is also available, and limited to a maximum of 120 seconds. With an electronic shutter, the fastest shutter speed is 1/16,000 second.

Curiously, though, the available shutter speeds vary with focal length. That 1/4,000 shutter speed is only available from wide-angle to the 31mm position. From 32mm to full telephoto, the fastest shutter speed drops to 1/3,200, but that's still fast enough to match the best the RX10 is capable of.

We're not quite sure why shutter speeds behave like this as yet, but rest assured we'll endeavor to find out. It's not simply due to the narrower aperture as you zoom in -- shooting at wide-angle allows a 1/4,000 shutter speed, regardless of aperture.

Electronic viewfinder. Like the RX10, the Panasonic FZ1000 provides both an electronic viewfinder and an articulated LCD monitor. Starting with the EVF, this is actually quite a lot nicer than its equivalent in the Sony, and note here that we actually praised that camera's viewfinder as being among the top tier.

This one, though, is even more special, and essentially identical to the EVF in the Panasonic GH4. It has an extremely high resolution of 2,359K dots, double the total dot count of the EVF in the Sony. It's based around a 0.39-inch Organic LED panel, and has a magnification of 1.88x (35mm-equivalent: 0.7x), as well as a 4:3 aspect ratio. And of course, there's a 100% field of view as you'd expect in this class of camera.

Tilt/swivel display. And then there's the LCD monitor. We mentioned that it's articulated, as is the RX10's display, but the manner in which Panasonic achieves this is significantly more versatile. Sony uses a tilt-only design, and it's limited to an 84-degree upward tilt or a 45-degree downward tilt. By contrast, the Panasonic FZ1000 has a side-mounted tilt/swivel mechanism, complete with a 270-degree swivel.

Unlike Sony's design, this allows viewing from most angles -- even from in front of the camera, a handy feature for selfie fans. And it also means there's an added degree of protection for the LCD, as well as a way to avoid unsightly smudges. Simply swivel the monitor to face inwards towards the camera body when closed. This isn't possible on the Sony.

The display itself is based around a 3.0-inch RGB LCD panel with an anti-reflective coating and wide viewing angles. Total resolution is around 921K dots, or approximately a VGA (640 x 480 pixel) array with each pixel comprised of separate red, green and blue dots. That's about par for the course.

Note that while the dot count is lower than that of the RX10, pixel resolution is identical. Sony simply uses four dots per pixel, with the extra dot being a white one used to increase brightness, or to reduce power consumption for a given brightness.

Flash. Using Auto ISO sensitivity, the built-in, popup flash on the Panasonic F1000 has a working range of one to 44.3 feet (0.3 to 13.5m) at wide angle, or 3.3 to 31.2 feet (1.0 to 9.5m) at telephoto.

Courtesy of a standard flash hot shoe, you can also attach external strobes to the FZ1000. Alongside the camera, Panasonic has introduced a new strobe, the DMW-FL580L, with a guide number of 58 meters and a recharging time of 1.7 seconds. This strobe allows both wireless control and LED video light functions.

Creative. The Panasonic FZ1000 offers a range of creative options, all the way from approachable automatic modes for beginners thru to more sophisticated, manual control for experienced shooters.

At the fully-automatic end of the scale is an Intelligent Auto mode capable of using functions such as intelligent scene selection, intelligent ISO control, autofocus tracking, face recognition, and even food recognition, all automatically as needed.

At the other end of the scale, there are Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and Manual modes, as well as 22 Creative Control filter effects, nine Photo Styles, a Creative Panorama function, and the ability to process raw files in-camera. You can also adjust highlight and shadow levels separately using the front and rear dials, with a preview shown in the live view feed.

Level gauge. Just as does the RX10, the FZ1000 features a dual-axis level display function, which helps you avoid tilted horizons and converging verticals. Since it also has an electronic viewfinder, the function is particularly helpful, letting you see and account for pitch and roll even when framing against your eye.

Movies. The Panasonic FZ1000 is the world's first compact digital camera to provide 4K video recording, according to its maker. As well as 4K (3,840 x 2,160) video capture at a rate of 30 progressive-scan frames per second in MP4 format, the FZ1000 can also shoot Full HD (1,920 x 1,080), HD (1,280 x 720), or VGA (640 x 480) video.

At Full HD resolution, you have a choice of 60p, 60i, 30p, or 24p frame rates. 60p and 30p video can be recorded with either AVCHD or MP4 compression. For HD or VGA video, the only available frame rate is 30p, and MP4 compression is used. Full HD bitrates vary from 17 to 28Mbps depending on frame rate and compression type, while 4K video has a set 100Mbps bitrate.

Maximum clip length is 29 minutes and 59 seconds, regardless of resolution and frame rate. In addition, all MP4 video has a file size limit of 4GB. And all of the above, of course, applies to US cameras. In other markets, 60p/60i rates may be replaced with 50p/50i, and 30p with 25p.

The optical zoom lens can be used during video capture, with a five-step speed control available. A five-axis stabilization system with Active mode also remains available for movies at sub-4K resolution.

The FZ1000 also provides a range of creative video functions. These include a High Speed video mode shot at Full HD resolution with a capture rate of 120fps, and a playback rate of 30fps. This yields a 4x slow-motion effect. There's also a time-lapse shot mode, and a stop-motion animation function.

Audio. Movies shot with the FZ1000 include stereo audio from a built-in microphone, or via a standard 3.5mm stereo audio jack for external mics. (Panasonic offers its own DMW-MS2 stereo / shotgun microphone with a switch to change between stereo and shotgun modes.) There's also an auto wind cut function, as well as a zoom noise canceller for the internal mic.

High-res movie stills. Even if you're not a movie shooter and don't own a 4K display, there's a very good reason to shoot 4K video with the Lumix FZ1000. Why? Because you can extract high-quality still images from the video, effectively turning your camera into an 8.3 megapixel model with a 30 frames-per-second drive mode and a 53,970-frame buffer depth. (That's the resolution of a single 4K frame, and the number of frames in 29 minutes, 59 seconds of 30p video.)

If you're shooting sports or other subjects where timing is key, the ability to shoot a video and then pull high-res, print-worthy frames could be a pretty big deal!

Movie crop. There is, however, a downside to this. 4K movie is captured using only the center of the image sensor at a 1:1 pixel resolution, and discarding everything beyond. That is to say that of the sensor's effective 5,472 x 3,648 pixel resolution, everything in an 816 pixel-wide column at frame left and right is discarded, as are the top and bottom 744 rows of sensor data. That means a fairly extreme 1.48x focal length crop, and a rather tight 35mm-equivalent focal range of 37-592mm -- good news if you shoot at telephoto, but not if you're a fan of wide-angle video.

Full HD video doesn't face this same limitation. Here, almost the entire sensor width is used, with only a very slight 1.04x focal length crop identical to that used for 16:9-aspect stills. A 2x pixel binning operation further reduces the amount of data to be read off the sensor, and then the pixel-binned video is downsampled further to get to the output resolution.

If you enable image stabilization or the level shot function, a 1.12x or 1.24x focal length crop are applied, providing the space necessary for digital stabilization and rotation of the window used to capture video from the sensor.

Wireless networking. To help get your photos onto your phone (and from there, social networks), the Panasonic DMC-FZ1000 includes built-in wireless data connectivity, as do many cameras these days. And it's not just the relatively commonplace Wi-Fi, either: The FZ1000 sports both 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Near-Field Communication support.

The latter allows communication over very short distances -- up to eight inches depending upon signal strength, although in practice it's typically in the region of an inch or less -- and at relatively low speed. This might not sound terribly conducive to photo sharing, but here's where it gets clever. The NFC connectivity isn't used for sharing photos directly; instead the camera and remote device (be it a smartphone, tablet, or other NFC-compliant device with Wi-Fi connectivity) communicate via NFC for long enough only to automatically set up a Wi-Fi connection, with the minimum of user intervention. Data is then transferred via the much faster Wi-Fi connection.

In essence, you get the best of both worlds -- the ease of NFC, which uses its short range as a security boon, coupled with the speed of Wi-Fi. But sadly, you'll get it only with Android devices. That's not Panasonic's fault, though -- Apple still stubbornly refuses to adopt the otherwise-commonplace standard in its own hardware. If you're an iOS user or have an older Android phone without NFC, your choices will be to pair manually, or using a QR code displayed on the camera's monitor, which you "scan" using your phone's camera.

Panasonic supplies a free application -- Panasonic Image App -- for both Apple iOS and Google Android devices, and once paired this is used to transfer images. It also allows a remote live view feed, and remote control of shutter, zoom, focus, shutter speed, aperture, and exposure compensation.

Wired connectivity. The FZ1000 supplements its wireless connectivity with USB 2.0 High Speed, Type-D Micro HDMI, and standard-definition monaural audio/video outputs. The latter is NTSC-only in the US; NTSC/PAL connectivity may be provided elsewhere.

Storage. The Panasonic FZ1000 stores images and movies on Secure Digital cards, and supports both the higher-capacity SDHC / SDXC types, as well as the higher-speed UHS-I cards.

For shooting 100Mbps 4K video, Panasonic recommends use of a UHS-I Speed Class 3-badged card with a minimum write speed of 30MB/second.

Battery. Power comes courtesy of a proprietary 7.2V, 1,200mAh, 8.7Wh lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack, part number DMW-BLC12. The Panasonic FZ1000's battery life is rated at 360 shots on a charge to CIPA testing standards when using the LCD monitor.

That trails the 420-shot rating of the Sony RX10 by quite some distance, and indeed is barely any higher than the 340-shot life of the RX10 when using its electronic viewfinder. It seems counterintuitive, but EVFs almost always use more power in operation than do much larger LCD monitors. Panasonic doesn't state battery life when using the EVF, but expect it to be correspondingly lower.

 

Panasonic FZ1000 -- Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing the Panasonic FZ1000 against the Sony RX10 at base ISO as well as at ISO 1600 and 3200. Although we were told we could share full-res images from our pre-production FZ1000, it has early 0.3 firmware, so we decided to just do a brief comparison at this time in case image quality is tweaked for the full production firmware.

NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings).

Panasonic FZ1000 versus Sony RX10 at Base ISO

Panasonic FZ1000 at ISO 125
Sony RX10 at ISO 125

The battle of the 1-inch-sensor long-zoom cameras! Both cameras show an impressive amount of fine detail at base ISO, with both the Panasonic and Sony displaying excellent, crisp detail in the mosaic crop. Even at base ISO (these images are shot with default noise reduction enabled), you can still make out some noise reduction processing ever-so-slightly in the shadow areas. The biggest difference is in the difficult fabric swatches, with the edge leaning to the Panasonic FZ1000. The Sony pops the contrast more, but if you look very closely, you can see some of the very fine, diagonal thread detail in the FZ1000's rendering of the red swatch, that the RX10 doesn't pick up. The contrast of that swatch in real life is probably somewhere between what the two cameras are showing us here. Both cameras, again, do great here, but the Panasonic displays just a bit more fabric detail compared to the Sony. The pink fabric is also a very close comparison, but the Panasonic looks a little more natural.

 

Panasonic FZ1000 versus Sony RX10 at ISO 1600

Panasonic FZ1000 at ISO 1600
Sony RX10 at ISO 1600

At ISO 1600, both do very well here for this class of camera, with relatively low noise and a fair amount of fine detail. While both show signs of noise reduction processing, the Panasonic's is a bit more aggressive, but does a great job at removing noise and grain, especially in the shadows. Both cameras, again, do well with fine detail, as seen in the mosaic crop. Once again, the Sony's contrast pops the image more, but the Panasonic doesn't thicken the lens in the mosaic pattern the way the RX10 does. The big difference at ISO 1600 is in the fabric swatches, with the Sony taking the prize there. The Sony RX10 show at least some of the leaf pattern in the red fabric, while the Panasonic FZ1000 looks quite smeary and smudged.



Panasonic FZ1000 versus Sony RX10 at ISO 3200

Panasonic FZ1000 at ISO 3200
Sony RX10 at ISO 3200

At ISO 3200, both cameras struggle with the balance between fine detail and noise. The Sony shows more luminance noise in the background shadows than the Panasonic, though you can see some odd darker specs and splotchiness in the Panasonic's image as well. Both cameras can still produce decent fine detail at this ISO, however, as seen in the mosaic crops, the Panasonic just edges out the Sony. Finally, unlike at ISO 1600, both cameras now struggle significantly to produce detail in the fabric swatches, particularly the red-leaf fabric. Different from the background, the Sony's rendering of the red swatch shows less luminance noise than the FZ1000, despit the latter's heavy noise-reduction processing.

 

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