Panasonic FZ2500 Conclusion

Panasonic FZ2500 Review -- Gallery Image
176mm (480mm equivalent), f/4.5, 1/125s, ISO 800.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image.

The Panasonic FZ2500 is the company's newest enthusiast-grade all-in-one zoom camera, and it offers a wider and longer lens than its predecessor plus a bevy of attractive video features. The camera utilizes a 20.1-megapixel sensor paired to a 24-480mm equivalent lens that produces good overall imaging performance. The 4K-capable camera includes numerous advanced video features borrowed from the Panasonic GH4 and offers 4K Photo (8-megapixel JPEG images) recording at 30 frames per second.

Is the Panasonic FZ2500 a worthy follow-up to the FZ1000 and a great option for photographers looking for an all-in-one enthusiast zoom camera? Read on for our final word.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review -- Gallery Image
128.3mm (350mm equivalent), f/4.5, 1/400s, ISO 160.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image.

Typical image quality for a 1"-type sensor with solid all-around performance

The FZ2500 uses a 20.1-megapixel 1-inch type CMOS sensor, which is a similar sensor to that found in its predecessor and many other cameras these days. This sensor delivers good results for the FZ2500 and works well for its size. The camera produces detailed JPEG images at default settings with vibrant, saturated colors. The camera shoots RAW files as well, providing additional flexibility for exposure, sharpness and noise characteristics.

Exposure and white balance results for the FZ2500 were impressive, typically showing accurate color and exposure metering even in harsh lighting conditions, however auto white balance tended to be on the warm side. As for resolving power, the camera delivered around 2,500 lines of strong detail, which resulted in slightly soft images with good detail and some visible sharpening artifacts. You can bring out additional detail with good RAW processing, however.

Compared to its predecessor, the FZ1000, the FZ2500 offers similar image quality, which is to say that images are good, showing a clean, crisp image with pleasing contrast and colors. Compared to the Canon G3X and Sony RX10 III, the Panasonic compares very favorably, yielding better images than both competitors at higher ISOs. The difference at base ISO is less apparent, and the Sony does perform better with our lab's red-leaf fabric, which always poses a serious challenge to cameras.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review -- Gallery Image
176mm (480mm equivalent), f/4.5, 1/400s, ISO 2000.
This image has been cropped. Click for full-size image.

When considering the Panasonic FZ2500 in our print quality analysis, the FZ2500 performs as well as we would expect for a 1"-type sensor camera. A 24 x 36 inch print looks great at base ISO, and you could even get away with a 30 x 40 print if it were viewed from a distance, as this size does test the limits of the sensor. Up through ISO 1600, you can expect good print quality with acceptable detail at sizes as large as 11 x 14, and 8 x 10 prints work up to ISO 3200. At these higher ISOs, noise and softening become much more noticeable, and ISO 6400 and 12,800 will require reasonably small print sizes, while ISO 25,600 is not usable at all.

Built-in lens offers 20x optical zoom but comes up short in the corners

Compared to the FZ1000, the FZ2500 offers more zoom range. The Panasonic FZ2500 has a 24-480mm equivalent lens (8.8 - 176mm actual focal length) for a 20x optical zoom overall, compared to the 16x zoom of the FZ1000. The FZ2500's aperture range is f/2.8-4.5, which is quite fast at the wide end and not bad at the telephoto end.

The lens has a new optical design, including one more element than the FZ1000's lens, and there is also a new aperture mechanism that uses nine blades compared to the seven blades of its predecessor. The FZ2500 has been engineered with bokeh in mind and the camera produces a very pleasing out of focus area.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review -- Gallery Image
176mm (480mm equivalent), f/4.5, 1/320s, ISO 125.
100% crop of a JPEG image. The FZ2500 produces sharp, detailed JPEG images even at its 480mm equivalent focal length.
Click for full-size image.

The 20x zoom lens showed good far-field performance, although it does have very high geometric distortion when viewing uncorrected RAW images at wide angle. The camera applies a considerable amount of in-camera correction for distortion and chromatic aberration.

When considering sharpness, the lens is generally quite sharp in the center across the focal length range, but it exhibits significant corner softness, particularly at the two extremes focal lengths. Vignetting occurs at 24mm equivalent, but it's not a noticeable issue at longer focal lengths.

Autofocus: DFD-powered contrast detect AF system offers mostly good results

Relying on a contrast-detect autofocus system, the FZ2500 is surprisingly quick to autofocus. The camera uses Panasonic's Depth from Defocus (DFD) technology, and it worked well in the field, especially when photographing still or slow-moving subjects. Autofocus speeds are very fast at wide angle and pretty quick at telephoto, although we did find that the FZ2500 had a slight tendency to hunt for focus at the long end of the lens. When shooting moving subjects, autofocus performance remained generally good, although the camera's subject tracking autofocus didn't lock on quickly with fast-moving subjects. The primary takeaway is that focus speeds are good across the entire focal length range. We also found that the camera's autofocus performed well in low light.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review -- Gallery Image
8.8mm (24mm equivalent), f/5.6, 1/5s, ISO 125.
I used +0.67 exposure compensation for this image. Besides shooting snowy scenes, I very rarely needed exposure compensation. Importantly, the FZ2500 was consistent with its metering. I could have even used a full stop of exposure compensation for this particular scene.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image.

It is worth pointing out how well the touchscreen works when autofocusing. You can tap on the subject when using subject tracking, but you can also easily move a single AF point around the frame, even when using the viewfinder. This is a great feature and it helps set the Panasonic FZ2500 apart from the stiff competition the Sony RX10 series presents.

Overall, the Panasonic FZ2500 offers fast, accurate autofocus performance in a wide array of situations across the entire focal length range. The contrast-detect system is surprisingly quick and worked very well during our testing.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review -- Gallery Image
176mm (480mm equivalent), f/4.5, 1/800s, ISO 125.
This image has been cropped. Click for full-size image.
Performance: Mostly great performance with only minor drawbacks

The Panasonic FZ2500 offers very good performance overall for its class. Both startup and autofocus times proved to be quick. Despite relying only on contrast-detect autofocus, as we noted above, the FZ2500 offers excellent single-shot autofocus speeds. Full-autofocus shutter lag was very impressive as well, being only 0.103 second at wide angle and 0.098 second at full telephoto, which is faster than many DSLR cameras.

For continuous shooting, the FZ2500 is a speedy camera. It cycles single shots quickly, but its continuous high shooting speed is particularly impressive. When recording large/fine JPEG images, the camera topped-out in our lab at 11.36 frames per second for 100 total frames. Shooting RAW images decreased speed only slightly to 10.63fps, but the buffer depth dipped dramatically to 35 total frames. Buffer clearing times were somewhat slow at 13 and 21 seconds for JPEG and RAW, respectively. Shooting RAW and JPEG maintains the RAW shooting speeds and nearly the same buffer, but buffer clearing time does increase to 32 seconds, which is slow.

It is worth noting that if you want to use continuous autofocus, the fastest possible continuous shooting speed is 7fps. While slower than the fastest shooting speed, that's still excellent for the camera's class.

Overall performance is very impressive. With the exception of buffer clearing times, which are sluggish, the camera is fast across the board and offers very good to excellent performance for its class.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review -- Gallery Image
168.8mm (460mm equivalent), f/4.5, 1/60s, ISO 1600.
This image has been cropped. Click for full-size image.

Panasonic FZ2500 video: 4K quality is excellent, offers lots of video features

Like many recent Panasonic cameras, the FZ2500 can record 4K video, but that's not all the tricks it has up its sleeve. In many ways, the FZ2500 is a similar to the Panasonic GH4 in terms of video features. Compared to its predecessor, the FZ2500 now includes a headphone jack, 30fps 4K UHD video recording (versus just 25fps), a DCI 4K (4096 x 2160) recording option, 10-bit 4:2:2 output via HDMI (compared to 8-bit), simultaneous 8-bit internal and external recording, unlimited video recording duration, 200MBps All-I capture and more.

Video quality itself is impressive. 4K video is sharp, especially at lower ISO settings. You can record video up to ISO 6400, which remains usable for many applications, but is noticeably softer and noisier than video recorded at lower ISOs.

On the topic of the zoom, the equivalent focal length range changes to 36-720mm when recording 4K UHD video due to the crop factor. The zooming action itself proved to be very smooth thanks to the unique camcorder-inspired design of the FZ2500's zoom lens. When zooming from wide to the maximum focal length, the image barely shifts and remains steady. In addition to smooth zooming, handheld video recording is feasible thanks to good image stabilization.

4K video doesn't provide all the fun, however, as Full HD video comes with its own set of interesting features. You can switch between slow or quick motion video during recording, utilize a digital dolly zoom, use 4K Live Cropping and more.

One of the few downsides we found with the FZ2500 and recording video was slow autofocus performance at telephoto focal lengths. Panasonic's DFD autofocus technology worked mostly well for still images, but the camera tends to hunt at longer focal lengths, which can be distracting during video recording.

The FZ2500 is a very capable multimedia camera. The FZ2500's exhaustive list of video features and overall video performance is impressive, if not more so when considering the FZ2500's price and its in-class competition.

Build Quality: A bit bulky, but the FZ2500 handles well

The Panasonic FZ2500 is by no means a small camera, which makes perfect sense considering its zoom capabilities and DSLR-style body. In total, the camera weighs 34.1 ounces (966 grams) with the battery and a memory card inserted. This is fairly heavy, but the deep grip helps make the FZ2500 easy and comfortable to hold nonetheless. The camera is also well-balanced with the lens, partially because when you power the camera on, the lens becomes fully extended and doesn't change length while zooming.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review:  -- Product Image

The large 3-inch touchscreen display on the rear of the FZ2500 is one of its best features. We were very impressed with its tilt swivel mechanism and the touchscreen functionality. The earlier FZ1000 doesn't employ a touchscreen nor does the FZ2500's primary competitor, the newest Sony RX10, so this feature helps set the camera apart in the user experience department. The FZ2500's electronic viewfinder offers a bit more magnification than the FZ1000's EVF, 0.74x versus 0.70x 35mm equivalent. The resolution remains the same at 2.36 million dots, which helps the FZ2500's EVF offer a nice, sharp image. The 0.39-inch XGA OLED EVF worked well in the field, but the rubber cup around the viewfinder didn't do a great job keeping ambient light out when looking through the viewfinder.

There are lots of buttons on the FZ2500, including three function buttons on the lens barrel itself. There are also two command dials as well as more function buttons, a dedicated movie record button and more. Overall, it's a nice camera body that feels comfortable to hold and is easy to operate, with all the physical controls you need for adjusting important settings on the fly.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review:  -- Product Image

Review Summary: The FZ2500 offers something for everyone with great imaging and video performance

The Panasonic FZ2500 is an excellent enthusiast long-zoom camera that offers great performance across the board and a good, versatile zoom lens. Image quality from the 20-megapixel sensor is impressive, and the camera offers very good 4K video plus a number of advanced video recording features. This all-in-one camera is a powerful multimedia camera for users seeking out a high-zoom camera. It's no wonder, then, that it earned the top spot as our pick for Best Enthusiast Zoom of 2016 in our annual Camera of the Year Awards as well as a solid Dave's Pick.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review -- Gallery Image
8.8mm (24mm equivalent), f/5.0, 1/100s, ISO 125.
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image.

Pros & Cons

  • Versatile 24-480mm eq. f/2.8-4.5 20x zoom with good though not great optical performance
  • Balance, smooth zooming mechanism
  • Stepless 9-bladed aperture
  • Two built-in ND filters
  • Generally excellent image quality and high ISO performance for its class; much better than typical long-zooms
  • Fast power-up for a long-zoom
  • Very fast single-shot autofocus speeds
  • Very low shutter lag
  • Excellent single-shot cycle times
  • Fast full-res burst mode (10.6-11.4 fps) with generous buffers
  • Excellent image stabilization
  • 4K video quality is very good
  • DCI 4K video capture at 24p and UHD 4K at 30p
  • No time limit for video recording
  • 10-bit 4:2:2 output via HDMI (8-bit 4:2:2 when recording internally)
  • Many advanced video recording (Cinelike D/V photo styles, luminance level adjust, timecode, zebras)
  • V-Log L Photo Style is available, though it's a paid upgrade
  • Useful 4K Photo modes, including Post Focus and Focus Stacking features
  • External mic and headphone jacks
  • Excellent viewfinder coverage accuracy
  • Tilt/swivel touchscreen display works very well
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Good physical controls
  • Lens produces soft corners at most focal lengths, even stopped down
  • Maximum aperture falls off to f/4.5 already at about 250mm eq.
  • Chromatic aberration can be an issue
  • High uncorrected distortion at wide angle (not uncommon)
  • Sluggish buffer clearing, with no UHS-II support
  • Some competitors offer better zoom range and/or faster apertures
  • Continuous AF can be sluggish, especially at full telephoto and on fast-moving subjects
  • NFC connectivity is absent


 



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