Basic Specifications
Full model name: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2500
Resolution: 20.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1 inch
(13.2mm x 8.8mm)
Lens: 20.00x zoom
(24-480mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
Native ISO: 125 - 12,800
Extended ISO: 80 - 25,600
Shutter: 1/16000 - 60 seconds
Max Aperture: 2.8
Dimensions: 5.4 x 4.0 x 5.3 in.
(138 x 102 x 135 mm)
Weight: 34.1 oz (966 g)
includes batteries
Availability: 11/2016
Manufacturer: Panasonic
Full specs: Panasonic FZ2500 specifications
20.10
Megapixels
20.00x zoom 1 inch
size sensor
image of Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2500
Front side of Panasonic FZ2500 digital camera Front side of Panasonic FZ2500 digital camera Front side of Panasonic FZ2500 digital camera Front side of Panasonic FZ2500 digital camera Front side of Panasonic FZ2500 digital camera

Panasonic FZ2500 Review -- Now Shooting

Updates:
11/08/2016: First Shots posted
12/15/2016: Field Test posted
: Performance test results posted

Panasonic brought the heat up against Sony's premium RX10-series camera back in 2014 with the FZ1000, its own enthusiast-class long-zoom camera with a 20MP 1-inch-type sensor. Now, they're back with the FZ2500, sporting even more upgrades and features, including a longer 20x zoom lens and big improvements to its video recording features.

Photographer Jeremy Gray spent some time with this versatile long-zooming, 4K-shooting, all-in-one camera and walked away rather impressed. In his just-published Field Test, he gives a thorough examination of his shooting experience, going over the camera's ergonomics and design, the image quality across the ISO range, its performance as well as video shooting capabilities. It's a rather impressive camera that offers a lot of features for photos and video, and a lot of value. Read on for all the details!

For those looking for our complete rundown of the Panasonic FZ2500's features and specs, please see our Overview by clicking here.

Update: The Panasonic FZ2500 was named our Best Enthusiast Zoom of 2016 in our annual Camera of the Year Awards.

 

Panasonic FZ2500 Field Test

High-zoom camera is a great blend of performance and features

by Jeremy Gray | Posted 12/15/2016

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

The Panasonic FZ2500 is an all-in-one enthusiast zoom camera that offers a 20x optical zoom and a 20.1-megapixel 1-inch type sensor. While the still imaging features are strong, the FZ2500 also offers a lot for videographers, including 4K video recording and a smooth, camcorder-inspired zooming lens. Compared to its predecessor, the FZ1000, the FZ2500 makes several key improvements to the camera body, lens and overall performance. How good is this camera? Read on to find out.

Key Features and Info
  • 20.1-megapixel 1-inch type CMOS sensor
  • 20x zoom 24-480mm equivalent f/2.8-4.5 lens
  • 125-12800 native ISO range
  • DSLR-style camera body with tilt/swivel touchscreen
  • Full-resolution image capture at up to 12 frames per second
  • Can capture lower-resolution images up to 30fps
  • 4K video recording
  • 4K Photo
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • $1,200 price
Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
11.9mm (33mm equivalent), f/4.5, 1/200s, ISO 125.
Click for full-size image.

FZ2500 body is comfortable with excellent touchscreen display

Given its high-zoom capabilities, it's unsurprising that the FZ2500 is a large camera. It has a DSLR-style camera body, measuring up to 5.4 x 4.0 x 5.3 inches (138 x 102 x 135 millimeters) and weighing in at 34.1 ounces (966 grams) with battery and memory card. The body has a good, deep contoured grip that helps the FZ2500 feel nice in my hands.

Buttons are in convenient locations, including both control dials. The focal length control around the shutter release works well, but doesn't offer precise control. However, you can use the main control ring around the lens to control focal length as well, and that offers very fine control, allowing you to change the focal length by only a few millimeters at a time across the entire focal length range. By default, using the top two function buttons on the side of the lens allows you to move the focal length up and down by single millimeter increments.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Product Image Back

Redesigned internal-zooming lens keeps camera steady and balanced

Speaking of the lens, as soon as you power the camera on, the lens becomes fully extended. No matter the focal length, the physical length of the lens remains the same. I like this a lot as it keeps the body very balanced. In addition to the larger, main zoom ring on the lens, there's a second, narrower ring toward the end of the lens. The narrower ring controls focus, while in manual focus mode, but will serve to adjust aperture otherwise. The lens also has three programmable function buttons on the side, which is excellent. Next to the function buttons is a switch for the neutral density filter, set to auto, 1/64, 1/16, 1/4 and off.

Taking a quick look at the top deck of the camera, the button and control layout is well organized and overall, resembles other modern Panasonic cameras. There's a drive mode dial to the left of the viewfinder and to the right is a mode dial, the two command dials, function button, shutter release and movie record button. The FZ2500 also includes a built-in flash, which offers an auto ISO range of 0.3 to 13.2 meters at wide focal lengths and 1.0 to 7.9 meters at telephoto.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Product Image Top

Moving to the rear of the camera, we come to one of the FZ2500's best features, its excellent articulating touchscreen display. The 3-inch rear display has 1,040,000 dots and can tilt and swivel. While the articulating mechanism is like that of its predecessor, the FZ1000, the FZ2500's touchscreen functionality is new. The articulation works very well as does the touchscreen itself. Besides the excellent display, there isn't much of note on the rear of the FZ2500. It has plenty of buttons, including a useful autofocus mode switch.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Product Image Top

The FZ2500's electronic viewfinder has a bit more magnification than the FZ1000's did, 0.74x compared to 0.70x (35mm equivalent), but has the same resolution, 2.36 million dots. The 0.39-inch XGA OLED viewfinder works very well, as does its eye sensor, and offers a sharp image. However, I would prefer more depth to the rubber cup around the viewfinder as it can be hard to keep all ambient light.

Overall, the FZ2500 has a great body design with ample controls and features. While I would certainly welcome weather-sealing on the camera body, I have no major issues with it otherwise. Its buttons are responsive, the display is great, its ports (particularly the memory card slot on the side) are easily accessible even when mounted to a tripod, and it's comfortable to hold and use.

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

Panasonic FZ2500's built-in 20x optical zoom lens offers good performance

Compared to its predecessor, the FZ2500's built-in lens is much improved. The FZ2500 has a 20x optical zoom lens compared to the 16x zoom lens of the FZ1000, for starters, but it also has an improved optical formula and a new aperture design.

With a 35mm equivalent focal length range of 24-480mm and an aperture range of f/2.8-4.5, the FZ2500 offers a lot of reach for the price. With this greater zoom range, the FZ2500 does weigh 12% more than the FZ1000, but that's a worthy trade-off for the clear majority of photographers. Across the entire focal length range, I found the FZ2500 to offer impressive performance.

Its good optical performance is likely due in part to its new optical design. The FZ2500 has one more element than the FZ1000 and includes a new ultra-high refractive index. It also includes an additional aspherical lens, although total aspherical surfaces remain unchanged at eight. In total, the lens has 16 elements in 11 groups.

Aperture: New mechanism leads to good bokeh, but be careful not to stop down too much

The new aperture mechanism features a 9-bladed diaphragm, compared to the 7-bladed one found in the FZ1000. The lens can create some very nice bokeh considering the sensor size; I was impressed. Out of focus areas are smooth and not distracting, especially when shooting at the telephoto end of the lens. You won't be able to create a super soft background as easily as you could with a larger sensor camera and same equivalent focal length, all else equal, but it still offers users very pleasing images in a wide variety of situations.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
176mm (480mm equivalent), f/4.5, 1/640s, ISO 125.
I like the pleasing bokeh that the FZ2500 creates; it's quite impressive considering the camera's sensor size and f/4.5 aperture at telephoto focal lengths.
Click for full-size image.

Regarding aperture, you will want to avoid stopping down much with the FZ2500 as diffraction rears its ugly head quickly. I found diffraction to become most noticeable around f/8.0 and then continues to degrade at f/11. When shooting wide open at 24mm, the lens is a bit soft but stopping down to f/4.0 improves sharpness considerably. On the other hand, at the telephoto end of the lens, it performs well wide open and gets slightly softer as you stop down. Generally, the lens is best between f/4-5.6 throughout its entire focal length range.

When shooting with the lens stopped down, there is a diffraction compensation option that applies to JPEG files, and it works quite well. It sharpens the images without introducing artifact issues. I recommend having it set to 'Auto' and letting the camera work its magic as it sees fit, particularly if you intend to use JPEG files.

Built-in neutral density filter works well

If you want to reduce your shutter speed, say for shooting video or creating stills with motion blur, rather than stopping down, you can utilize the FZ2500's built-in neutral density filter, another new feature compared to its predecessor. There are two built-in ND filters which offer varying strengths of 1/4 (3 stops), 1/16 (4 stops) and 1/64 (6 stops). The ND filter is controlled via a switch on the side of the lens barrel.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
12.4mm (34mm equivalent), f/5.0, 1.3s, ISO 125.
Built-in neutral density filter, set to 1/64
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image.

Macro capabilities are good, although corner softness is excessive

The FZ2500 can focus impressively close at wide-angle, as close as 1.2 inches (3 centimeters) when using the macro focus mode. The normal focus range is 11.8 inches (30 centimeters) to infinity.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Macro image taken at 8.8mm (24mm equivalent), f/5.6, 2s, ISO 125.
Click for full-size image.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
100% crop of the above image

Light falloff is handled well across the focal length range

Vignetting control across the lens's focal length and aperture ranges is handled nicely by the camera's processing for both JPEG, as well as RAW files, which do receive in-camera corrections. There was more falloff at 24mm than 480mm, but in neither case is the situation particularly bad.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Light falloff is handled quite well overall, but there is some falloff visible in this RAW image captured at 24mm equivalent with an aperture of f/2.8. This RAW image was processed using ACR default settings.
Click for full-size image.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
Light falloff is handled quite well overall, but there is minor falloff visible in this RAW image captured at 480mm equivalent with an aperture of f/4.5. This RAW image was processed using ACR default settings.
Click for full-size image.

Edges are soft at both extremes, but particularly at 24mm

At both extremes of the lens, there is some edge softness that doesn't go away by stopping down. What does improve when stopping down is chromatic aberration around fine details at the edge, although that occurs across the entire aperture range, especially at 24mm. For whatever reason, the left edge of the frame at 24mm was softer than the right edge, but that situation reversed at the telephoto end of the lens, with the right edge instead being slightly softer. This might be an issue with sample variation, and this exact behavior might not be present on other FZ2500 units.

24mm equivalent, f/2.8, 100% JPEG crops
Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
Top left corner
Top right corner

Overall: The 20x zoom lens provides very good performance considering its versatility

All in all, the built-in lens is very impressive both for its versatility and its performance. While it displays some optical weakness, particularly at the wide end of the lens, it is still a great performer overall given its focal length range and this class of camera.

20.1MP sensor helps the FZ2500 capture sharp, detailed images

The Panasonic FZ2500 uses a 20.1-megapixel 1-inch-type CMOS sensor with a native ISO range of 125 to 12,800, which can be extended down to ISO 80 and up to ISO 25,600. This same sensor was used in the FZ1000 and is found in many cameras and offers very good performance for the sensor size.

The FZ2500 produces sharp, vibrant JPEGs at default settings, and its RAW files are versatile, albeit dull and soft straight from the camera, as is par for the course with RAW files. Importantly, if you don't want to fiddle with camera settings, you'll be able to get nice images with the FZ2500 right out of the box. With that said, default sharpening is perhaps a bit excessive to my eye, but that isn't unusual for default JPEG settings and is easy to adjust in the camera.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
176mm (480mm equivalent), f/4.5, 1/320s, ISO 125.
100% crop of a JPEG image. You can see some artifacts in the feathers. Nonetheless, the FZ2500 produces sharp, detailed JPEG images even at its 480mm equivalent focal length.
Click for full-size image.

ISO performance: Both RAW and JPEG images fare well at higher ISO settings

When considering RAW images, I already mentioned that they're soft across the board, but they also perform quite well at higher ISOs and are amenable to fine-tuned noise reduction processing. Through ISO 1600, RAW images don't show all that much noise and maintain good sharpness. Noise distribution is smooth and easy to reduce using post-processing. However, at ISO 3200, noise is harder to deal with. Nonetheless, there is still decent detail (although fine detail will be lost after reducing that noise) and colors are generally accurate. At ISO 6400, 12800 and the extended setting of 25600, colors become washed out and there are a lot of hot pixels that appear in images. Noise is not as evenly distributed and there is banding. Further, dynamic range is severely limited as highlights become heavily banded and black areas become a charcoal gray.

Panasonic FZ2500 ISO Comparison (RAW)
100% center crops from RAW images processed with Adobe Camera RAW default settings
(Click for full-size images)
Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 125 Full Scene
Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 80 (extended)
ISO 100 (extended)
Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 125
ISO 200
Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 400
ISO 800
Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 1600
ISO 3200
Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 6400
ISO 12800
Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 25600 (extended)

Looking at JPEG images, they are very sharp at ISO 125, 200 and 400. At ISO 800, sharpness decreases a bit, and you lose some of the very fine detail due to the camera's noise reduction. At ISO 1600, not only is there a further loss of fine detail, but the noise reduction introduces artifacts around soft edges, giving them a blocky appearance. Colors are slightly washed out at ISO 3200, but there is still some decent detail. ISO 6400 is usable at small sizes, but the artifacts and overall fuzziness limits their usability for large prints or viewing. ISO 12800 and ISO 25600 are useless in my opinion due to their severe lack of saturation and detail.

Panasonic FZ2500 ISO Comparison (JPEG)
100% center crops from JPEG images captured using default settings and 'Standard' Picture Style
(Click for full-size images)
Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 125 Full Scene
Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 80 (extended)
ISO 100 (extended)
Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 125
ISO 200
Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 400
ISO 800
Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 1600
ISO 3200
Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 6400
ISO 12800
Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Noise Test Image
ISO 25600 (extended)

Overall: Image quality is very good

I am generally very pleased with the image quality performance of the Panasonic FZ2500. JPEG images are sharp, vibrant and look good across an impressive range of ISO settings, given the camera's sensor size.

Panasonic FZ2500 user experience: Very good across the board

User experience is certainly subjective, but in my opinion, the FZ2500 is very user-friendly and enjoyable to shoot with. One of the biggest reasons for this is the wealth of physical controls on the camera and the impressively useful touchscreen display. Additionally, the camera offers good performance across the board with no major shortcomings.

Touchscreen work very well, and menus are decently organized

A good menu system is critical for minimizing frustrations when using a camera and fortunately Panasonic's is mostly good. Settings are in their expected sub-menus, although I would prefer even further separation of menu items because you sometimes must scroll through as many as ten pages of items. On the positive side, the menus work well with touch and traditional button controls. Further, there is a separate menu just for movie settings, which is nice.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Product Image Top

Another good usability feature of the FZ2500 is its "Q. Menu," accessed via the Fn5 button above the top right corner of the rear display. Within the Q. Menu, you can adjust, via touch or physical controls: picture style, flash, movie recording quality, picture size, image quality, focus drive mode, focus area mode, metering, aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation, ISO and white balance.

Autofocus: Reliable, accurate and fast

The Panasonic FZ2500 uses a contrast detect autofocus system but adds Panasonic's Depth from Defocus (DFD) technology, which boosts speed and performance. You can read more about DFD technology here. The FZ2500's 49-point AF system proved to work very well in the field. When considering single shot autofocus and stationary objects, autofocus is very quick and accurate, especially at shorter focal lengths. When shooting at the telephoto end of the lens, focus speeds are slightly slower, which is typical behavior for a camera in this class, but I was still impressed with how quick the focus remained, even when shooting at 480mm. Further, in low light, the FZ2500's AF performance remained quick.

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

AF performance remains mostly positive when considering moving subjects, although the FZ2500 can become sluggish when continually focusing at the telephoto end. The camera has a slight tendency to hunt and have focus come in and out very quickly, which can create a slight wobbling effect through the viewfinder or on the display -- which is characteristic of contrast-detect AF systems -- but it otherwise doesn't negatively impact shooting performance for photos.

I was impressed with the subject tracking autofocus mode, which lets you tap on the subject on the display and the camera will automatically follow it around. In my experience, the FZ2500 could successfully lock onto the subject even after it exited and then re-entered the frame again. It can't maintain a great lock with a fast subject, but it is nonetheless capable of shooting many moving subjects.

Of the FZ2500's various AF point configurations, I enjoyed the custom multi AF mode. It allows you to select from three pre-made AF areas: horizontal pattern, vertical pattern and central pattern, all of which you can move around the frame. The real magic is in the three custom area slots. You can tap any of the 49 AF area rectangles on the display, and the camera will then use those as its autofocus area. Say that you know you will want to shoot a subject that will always be placed in the rightmost third of the frame, you can select only those AF areas. Or perhaps you're shooting a subject with a distinct shape, like an 'X,' you can make that shape as well. It's a neat feature, albeit one that many users might not need.

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

The best part about autofocusing with the FZ2500, besides its reliable and quick performance, is its touchscreen. Being able to look through the viewfinder and then tap on the display where you want the camera to focus when using the 1-point AF mode is excellent. Rather than needing to move the point around using a directional pad, you can simply tap your subject on the display. This is something that neither the FZ1000 offered nor the FZ2500's steepest competition, the Sony RX10 series.

Metering: Consistent results with both exposure and white balance

The fact that I don't have much to say about the FZ2500's metering performance is very much a good thing. It offers intelligent multiple, center-weighted and spot metering modes, and they all work well. It is worth noting that the spot metering mode is tied to the autofocus area, meaning it is adjustable depending on where you place the AF point, which I find is an excellent feature. Exposure compensation is available via the Fn4 button on the top of the camera or through the Q. Menu, but I rarely needed to use it. The exception to that is when shooting scenes with snow, but that is normal behavior for shooting that type of subject. White balance metering was similarly impressive, and the camera didn't give me any issues in its auto white balance mode.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- 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.

Plenty of shooting modes, including panorama shooting

In addition to the standard assortment of shooting modes -- P, A, S and M -- the FZ2500 also offers a handful of special shooting modes such as panorama, scene modes and creative filters. There is not a lot to say about the creative modes, but there are a lot of filters and effects for users to choose from, which can, in some cases, vastly change the appearance of your images.

Performance: Fast capture and good buffer depth

The Panasonic FZ2500 offers good performance across the board with very few exceptions. Addressing the shutter first, the FZ2500 has a mechanical shutter and an electronic shutter. The mechanical shutter offers shutter speeds ranging from 60 seconds to 1/4000s, although there are some limits to this. For example, at f/2.8, the maximum mechanical shutter speed is 1/2000s. It isn't until f/4.5 that you can shoot at 1/4000s using the mechanical shutter. Regarding the electronic shutter, the slowest shutter speed available when using it is a full second. Shutter speed limits also affect the maximum flash sync speeds. At f/2.8-4.0, the max flash sync speed is 1/2000s because of the mechanical shutter constraints. At f/4.5 and higher, you can shoot with flash at up to 1/4000s. Further, you cannot use the flash with the electronic shutter. The FZ2500 includes a hot shoe as well.

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

Regarding continuous shooting speeds, I tested the FZ2500 with a Sony 32GB SDHC card, which we tested to have write speeds around 45 MB/s with occasional drops to 30 MB/s. The FZ2500 is not UHS-II compatible, by the way. When shooting RAW + JPEG frames, I could capture 32 frames at 12 frames per second. The buffer, while exhibiting good depth, did take around 35 seconds to clear. When shooting JPEG 'Fine'-quality images, the speeds were similar, but the buffer depth is essentially infinite; it's limited by battery life and memory card storage. If you want to use continuous autofocus and live view, the camera is limited to continuous shooting at 7fps, which is still quite fast. Overall, performance is quite good. The camera is fast, even when shooting RAW images, and buffer depth is good, particularly when shooting JPEG images.

Wireless: No more NFC, but Wi-Fi works well

Wireless features are the only area where the FZ2500 comes up short against its predecessor, but not in any particularly critical way. The FZ2500 includes built-in Wi-Fi, but not NFC, a feature the FZ1000 had. Nonetheless, the wireless functionality remains the same overall.

Using Panasonic's Image App on my iOS device, I could easily connect my phone to the camera. I had to turn on Wireless functionality on the camera itself, connect to the ad-hoc network generated by the camera through iOS's Settings and then open the application itself. When in the app, you can view and transfer images, remotely operate the camera, view a photo collage, geotag images and more.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Wireless Application
Screenshots from the Panasonic Image App iOS application.

Regarding remote operation, it works very well and offers a lot of functionality. You can change settings such as image quality, white balance, ISO, focus mode, drive mode, metering and more, as well as other exposure settings like aperture and shutter speed, depending on your shooting mode. You can also change settings on the camera itself on the fly as well, although sometimes the app takes a long time to refresh and allow you to continue remotely operating the camera after changing a setting on the camera. The live view on my phone looked good, and the connection was stable and reliable.

4K-capable FZ2500 is an excellent video camera

The Panasonic FZ2500 shares many video features with the Panasonic GH4, which means that the FZ2500 is an excellent multimedia camera with many videographer-friendly features. In addition to the built-in neutral density filters, the FZ2500 also includes a large variety of features aimed at videographers: A headphone jack, 30fps 4K UHD video recording, a new DCI 4K 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 (practically limited by battery life and storage space), 100Mbps IPB and 200MBps All-I capture, MOV file format option, photo style adjustments (including Cinelike), luminance level adjustments, output color bars and audio test tone, slow motion and high speed video, rack zoom and dolly zoom. Further, if you disconnect the HDMI port, a video recording won't pause. This is a very long list of video features, especially for an all-in-one enthusiast zoom camera.

Speaking of the zoom, when recording 4K video, the built-in lens offers 35mm equivalent focal lengths of 36-720mm due to the crop factor. When recording Full HD video, you get the full width of the frame, but the top and bottom is cut off for the 16:9 aspect ratio, giving an equivalent focal length of 25-500mm. You can see a comparison of the image area below.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Still frame
Still image frame at 24mm

Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Full HD video frame
Full HD video frame (25mm equivalent)

Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- 4K UHD video frame
4K UHD video frame (36mm equivalent)

I was particularly impressed with how smooth zooming is with the FZ2500. Panasonic has engineered the lens to be as smooth as possible by incorporating an inner-zooming design borrowed from their pro camcorders that uses rails and cams rather than just cams. The center of gravity is steadier and more balance as a result, too. The design pays large dividends as the zoom is very smooth, and the image barely shifts when zooming. It's quite impressive, especially given the amount of zoom range offered in the camera.

Panasonic FZ2500 4K UHD Video Sample: Zooming - 36mm to 720mm eq.
3840 x 2160, 30 frames per second (fps), ISO 400.
Download Original (177.1 MB .MP4 File)

Moving on to the video quality itself, it's quite good. 4K UHD video is sharp and detailed, even at higher ISOs. The ISO limit is 6400 when recording video, but I think that the entire range is mostly usable. Granted, video does get softer and noisier at the higher ISOs, but it isn't bad.

Panasonic FZ2500 4K UHD Video Sample
3840 x 2160, 30 frames per second (fps), ISO 125.
Download Original (170.8 MB .MP4 File)

Image stabilization works quite well and allows for smooth, stable panning and handheld video recording. Unlike the recent Panasonic G85, which had an issue with image stabilization and video recording (which has since been addressed via a firmware update), the FZ2500 works as expected.

Panasonic FZ2500, Handheld, Stabilization ON
1920 x 1080, 60 frames per second (fps), ISO 6400, 98mm equivalent focal length.
Download Original (32.6 MB .MP4 File)

Panasonic FZ2500, Handheld, Stabilization OFF
1920 x 1080, 60 frames per second (fps), ISO 6400, 91mm equivalent focal length.
Download Original (34.5 MB .MP4 File)

One aspect of the camera's performance which does not work particularly well is its autofocus at telephoto focal lengths. Even in decent light, I found that the FZ2500 was quite slow to focus when zoomed in, sometimes failing to lock on to a subject at all. After acquiring focus, it still had a slight tendency to hunt. Autofocus performance was great when shooting at the wide end of the lens, but I was surprised, given how well autofocus worked at all focal lengths when shooting stills, that the camera struggled when recording video.

Panasonic FZ2500 4K UHD Video Sample, Autofocus Test
3840 x 2160, 30 frames per second (fps), ISO 125, 720mm equivalent focal length.
Download Original (260.7 MB .MP4 File)

When recording Full HD video, the FZ2500 offers a variety of neat creative video features. You can record using slow/quick (allows switching between slow or quick motion during recording), dolly zoom (allows the angle of view to change during recording and playback is at 2x speed), 4K live cropping (Full HD video frame that pans and zooms inside a 4K frame) and variable frame rate recording. There are a few restrictions, which can be viewed in the user manual, but basically you need to record in AVCHD, MP4(LPCM) or MOV file format with FHD recording quality at 30p or lower to be able to use these features, otherwise they are grayed out in the menu.

The FZ2500 records video in MOV, MP4 and AVCHD formats and offers HD video out via HDMI. Additional ports include microphone and headphone jacks. It is a full-featured and very capable video camera. If you're looking for an affordable all-in-one camera with great zoom capabilities to record 4K video, the FZ2500 looks to fit the bill.

4K Photo: Fast JPEG shooting at 8 megapixels and fun features

In addition to an excellent suite of 4K video features, the FZ2500 includes a variety of 4K Photo modes just like a number of recent Panasonic models. Here, you can capture 8-megapixel JPEG images at up to 30fps. In addition to the impressive burst capabilities, 4K Photo also offers Post Focus, which allows you to shoot a burst of images at different focal distances and then select the desired focus point after shooting. Similarly, you can also focus stack a series of images to create a final composite with a greater depth of field than you could achieve with a single frame.

Panasonic FZ2500 Field Test Summary
The Panasonic FZ2500 is an excellent enthusiast zoom camera

What I like:

  • Comfortable camera body with a good grip
  • Excellent tilt/swivel touchscreen display
  • Good autofocus performance overall, especially during stills recording
  • Good autofocus performance overall, especially during stills recording
  • Fast continuous shooting performance
  • Huge array of video features and very good video performance overall

What I dislike:

  • Camera body is a little bulky
  • Continuous autofocus can be sluggish at times
Panasonic FZ2500 Review: Field Test -- Gallery Image
25mm (68mm equivalent), f/4.0, 1/2000s, ISO 125.
This image has been cropped. Click for full-size image.

If you're looking for the ultimate all-in-one zoom camera, the Panasonic FZ2500 is it. Its 24-480mm equivalent lens proves to be a capable optic, and it is paired with a good 20.1-megapixel sensor. The camera body is highlighted by its excellent touchscreen display, good electronic viewfinder and a large amount of physical controls . In addition to its very good stills imaging features, the FZ2500 includes a lot of video performance, especially for the price. This hits on the general theme of the FZ2500, value. The Panasonic FZ2500 is an excellent mix of performance and usability. In a category where cameras often include lots of compromises, the FZ2500 makes very little.

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

 

 

Panasonic FZ2500 Review -- Overview

by
Preview posted: 09/19/2016

Panasonic FZ2500  Review -- Product Image

In mid-2014, Panasonic launched an impressive rival to Sony's popular RX10 large-sensor, long-zoom camera. The Panasonic FZ1000 might have lacked the RX10's constant-aperture zoom lens, but in many ways the longer-zoomed FZ1000 bested its rival, despite a far lower pricetag. An exceptionally versatile camera sold at an aggressive price, we don't doubt that Panasonic sold the FZ1000 at a spectacular rate. Now, the Panasonic FZ2500 follows in the footsteps of that camera, and while the basic concept is similar, it boasts a wide range of significant upgrades throughout.

(We should note here that if you're not in the North American market, you may know the FZ2500 by a different name. It's known as the Panasonic FZ2000 in Europe, and the Panasonic FZH1 in Asian markets. So if you're considering an FZ2000 or FZH1, well -- the information in this review is applicable to the variant of the FZ2500 sold in your market, too.)

Same sensor resolution, but a lot of change in other areas

So what's new in the Panasonic FZ2500? Quite a bit; enough so that one could almost think of the new model as being a fixed-lens Panasonic GH4, but in a smaller body with a 1"-type sensor. We'll start off with one thing that's essentially unchanged, though. At the heart of the FZ2500 is a 20.1-megapixel, 1"-type CMOS image sensor which is much the same as that in the FZ1000, yielding the same resolution and ISO 125 to 12,800-equivalent range, expandable to encompass everything from ISO 80 to 25,600-equivalents.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review -- Product Image

A further-reaching lens is achieved with more exotic glass

But where the FZ1000 placed that sensor behind a 16x optical zoom lens, the Panasonic FZ2500 boasts a brand-new, significantly further-reaching 20x optical zoom. Offering everything from a very generous 24mm-equivalent wide angle to a powerful 480mm-equivalent telephoto, it's a rather more versatile optic than that in the FZ1000, although it does still trail the 25x optical zoom of the Sony RX10 III in terms of telephoto reach. Sony's lens is also a little brighter, with a maximum aperture of f/2.4 to f/4 across the zoom range, where the FZ2500 has an f/2.8-4.5 maximum aperture, and the FZ1000 was an f/2.8-4.0 lens.

In extending the reach of its new lens, Panasonic revised the optical formula significantly, adding one more element for a total of 16 elements in 11 groups. Of these, there is now one ultra-high refractive index lens element and a total of five aspheric lenses. That's one more than in the FZ1000, although the total number of aspheric surfaces remains unchanged at eight.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review -- Product Image

The FZ1000 lacked an ND filter; the FZ2500 makes up for that with two of them!

One of the few shortcomings of the original Panasonic FZ1000 compared to its rivals was the lack of a built-in neutral density filter, a point we raised in our review of the camera. Not so the FZ2500, which sports not one but two ND filters built-in -- and better still, these can be combined for an even stronger neutral density effect!

Between the duo of filters, you can opt for a two-stop, four-stop or a combined six-stop ND effect. For stills and videos alike, that means you can shoot wide-open for reduced depth of field in bright light, or opt for a slower shutter speed. The latter is particularly useful for video capture, where a shutter speed that's too fast can lead to choppy, unattractive-looking movies.

A brand-new aperture design for better bokeh and more versatile video capture

At the same time, Panasonic has also switched from a seven-bladed aperture to a nine-bladed one, a change that will help the FZ2500 capture more attractive, better-rounded bokeh in out-of-focus image areas. And not just that, either. Panasonic has simultaneously changed to a galvanometer type actuator as the drive mechanism for the lens' iris, a change which allows entirely stepless aperture control. That means the aperture can be varied during video capture without unsightly sudden shifts in the exposure level or depth of field.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review -- Product Image

Steadier, more attractive zooming during video capture, too

Once extended on powerup, the new lens also has an inner-zooming design. Coupled with a switch to moving the lens on rails and cams rather than cams alone, that change has allowed Panasonic to keep the camera's center of gravity steadier, and to reduce blur and image shifting while zooming.

And a new coreless zoom drive motor allows the lens to zoom smoothly even at a slow speed, a change which the Panasonic FZ2500 takes advantage of with a slow zoom function that will gradually and steadily zoom in or out for as long as 30 seconds while filming, lending a subtle sense of motion and more visual interest to your shots.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review -- Product Image
Illustration courtesy of Panasonic USA.

Only a little bit bigger, and still lighter than its Sony rival

Impressively, despite this laundry-list of changes in its new, further-reaching lens, the Panasonic FZ2500 has only grown just ever so fractionally compared to its sibling. Width and height have increased by just a few hundredths of an inch, and depth by about 0.15 inches. Compared to the Sony RX10 III, the FZ2500 is just a couple of tenths larger in all dimensions.

At the same time, weight has risen by around 12% since the FZ1000. The Panasonic FZ2500 weighs about 2.1 pounds, loaded and ready to shoot. And while, yes, its heavier than its sibling, the FZ2500 is still a good 12% lighter than the Sony RX10 III, so the increase in weight is certainly not unreasonable.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review -- Product Image

An updated, roomier viewfinder

Like the FZ1000 before it, the Panasonic FZ2500 features a built-in electronic viewfinder. Resolution is unchanged from the earlier camera, at a generous 2,360,000 dots. 35mm-equivalent magnification has increased from 0.7x to 0.74x, though, so the finder should feel a little roomier and more generously-proportioned.

The higher-res monitor now doubles as a touch-screen control device

On its rear deck, the Panasonic FZ2500 still sports a side-mounted, tilt/swivel LCD monitor, just as did its predecessor. We far prefer this articulation mechanism to the more commonplace tilt-only screens found on rival cameras, as it is more versatile, allowing framing from awkward angles not just for shots in landscape orientation, but also for portrait-orientation shots, as well.

Although the articulation type hasn't changed, and the Panasonic FZ2500's LCD monitor still has the same 3.0-inch diagonal size, the display itself is a new one. Resolution has increased just slightly to 1,040,000 dots, and there's a new touch-screen overlay. That means the screen itself can serve as an input device, making light work of things like selecting a subject on which to autofocus.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review -- Product Image

Panasonic courts videographers with much more capable movie capture

With its Lumix GH4, Panasonic put a lot of effort into attracting videographers to its Micro Four Thirds interchangeable-lens camera system. Now, the company is doing the same with its 1"-sensored, fixed-lens cameras with the Panasonic FZ2500. There are a whole raft of changes in this area, and together they should make for a much more attractive proposition if video is a primary focus for you.

We've already mentioned the new lens, with its smoother-zooming design, stepless aperture and selection of neutral density options. On top of that, Panasonic has also added a new 3.5mm headphone jack on which to monitor audio levels, and upgraded the FZ2500 to allow 4K video capture at up to 30 frames per second, where its predecessor topped out at 25 fps capture in 4K resolution.

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ2500 Video Shooting Features

That's far from all, though. For one thing, you can now choose between UHD 4K (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) or DCI 4K (4,096 x 2,160 pixels) capture, although if you opt for the latter, your movies will be limited to the DCI 4K-prescribed capture rate of 24 frames per second.

Also, where the FZ1000 could only output eight-bit 4:2:2 video on its HDMI port for external recording, the FZ2500 now allows 10-bit 4:2:2 output via HDMI. And unlike the FZ1000, which didn't allow internal recording and 4:2:2 HDMI output at the same time, the FZ2500 will now allow eight-bit 4:2:2 output to an external recorder while simultaneously recording video to the camera's own memory card. Nor will disconnecting the HDMI port cause capture to cease, as it did in the FZ1000.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review -- Product Image

Additionally, the FZ2500 now allows unlimited video recording for as long as storage space and battery remain, where the FZ1000 was limited to just 29 minutes and 59 seconds of video per clip. At the Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) resolution, it also allows high-quality 100Mbps IPB or 200Mbps All-I capture. And you can opt for either an MP4 or MOV container for your videos, where the FZ1000 provided only MP4 output.

And there's plenty else besides. Rec Run / Free Run timecode are supported in the FZ2500, and as well as the FZ1000's zebra pattern and center marker functions, the new model can also allow you to adjust the photo style (Cinelike D / V, Hue and V LogL), select one of three luminance levels (16-255, 16-235 or 0-255), or output color bars and an audio test tone.

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ2500 (VFR / Quick & Slow / Dolly Zoom)

Throw in a wide range of quick- and slow-motion capture options, plus the aforementioned slow zoom function which can gradually rack the zoom for 10, 20 or 30-second periods, not to mention a dolly zoom function and more, and it's clear that there's plenty here to tempt the keen videographer.

And plenty of smaller changes, besides

Of course, we've only called out the key points here. You can expect much more in-depth coverage as our review progresses, and especially once we've run the Panasonic FZ2500 through our lab and some real-world shooting. But there are plenty of other changes besides, not least of which are the post-focus and focus stacking functions seen in other recent Panasonic cameras.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review -- Product Image

Often, new features come accompanied by those which have simultaneously vanished, but there's not too much evidence of that in the FZ2500. The most obvious feature omission from a perusal of the specifications was the subtraction of NFC from the feature list, a change that will only be noticed by Android users, since Apple has never allowed third-parties to make use of NFC in the first place. If you're using Android, initial pairing of your phone and camera may be slightly more complex, but the important bit -- the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi wireless networking connectivity -- remains intact.

Loads of performance, just like its predecessor

So too does the impressive performance of the earlier camera. Like the FZ1000 before it, the Panasonic FZ2500 is capable of shooting at seven frames per second with autofocus active between frames, or as fast as 12 fps with focus locked from the first frame.

Slightly reduced battery life

Perhaps not surprisingly, given that it uses the same battery type as its predecessor but sports a longer-zooming lens, battery life has reduced just slightly. (The standard CIPA battery life test requires frequent racking of the entire zoom range, and since the FZ2500 has a longer zoom lens, that means more time and power spent racking the lens between shots, after all.) The change isn't terribly significant, though, with the FZ2500 said to be good for 350 shots on its LCD panel, or 270 shots on the electronic viewfinder. That's just 10 frames less on the LCD monitor, or 30 fewer with the EVF.

Panasonic FZ2500 Review -- Product Image

Pricing and availability

The Panasonic FZ2500 is expected to ship in the US market from December 2016. Pricing is set at around US$1,200, which is about US$400 more than was the FZ1000, but is still some $300 more affordable than the competing Sony RX10 III.

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