Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 Review
Panasonic FZ1000 Technical Info
by Mike Tomkins | Posted: 06/12/2014
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.