Panasonic FZ300 Conclusion

Panasonic FZ300 Field Test -- Gallery Image
600mm equivalent (108mm), f/2.8, 1/200s, ISO 100
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

After releasing the popular long-zoom FZ200 back in 2012, Panasonic has followed it up with the Lumix FZ300. While some aspects of the camera have stayed the same, including the 24x zoom lens with a constant f/2.8 aperture and the 12.1-megapixel sensor, the Panasonic FZ300 includes numerous improvements that help make it an appealing choice for photographers looking for a long-zoom bridge camera.

Panasonic FZ300's redesigned body a bit bulkier, but also much better

While the Panasonic FZ300 shares many of the same internals as the FZ200, the exterior is vastly different and we found it to be much-improved. Some controls have been added and the body has become more durable, as it now sports dust and splash-proofing, as well as being slightly larger than its FZ200 predecessor.

Panasonic FZ300 Review Conclusion -- Product Image Front Left

Both the electronic viewfinder and rear LCD displays have been upgraded as well. The electronic viewfinder is higher-resolution and has more magnification, and the articulating 3.0-inch touchscreen LCD monitor is both sharper and brighter. During our time with the Panasonic FZ300, the improved EVF worked very well and provided a crisp, clear image.

Panasonic FZ300 Review Conclusion -- Product Image Front Left

We found that the camera body, while a bit bulky for a camera with a 1/2.3-inch sensor, felt good in the hands and provided us with a lot of control and comfort in the field.

The built-in lens proved to be powerful and versatile, offering a constant f/2.8 max aperture from 25 to 600mm equivalent focal lengths. When using the lens wide open, corner sharpness suffered, particularly at the telephoto end of the lens. At the wide angle end of the lens, however, performance was quite good across the entire frame. Considering its generous zoom ratio and constant f/2.8 aperture, the Panasonic FZ300's built-in lens is certainly one of the camera's most impressive features.

Panasonic FZ300 Field Test -- Gallery Image
300mm equivalent (54.1mm), f/4.0, 1/400s, ISO 100
This image has been modified. Click for full-size image.

Panasonic FZ300 offers solid results despite smaller sensor

The 1/2.3-inch sensor size may be small, but it lets the Lumix FZ300 capture nice images overall while remaining reasonably compact. Its handling of color is pretty typical across the board, except for yellow, which are not rendered well. Yellows appear undersaturated and tend to lean a bit toward green.

Its 12.1-megapixel resolution captures reasonably sharp images, although the camera does have a tendency to over sharpen images slightly which creates some artifacts. Strong in-camera default noise reduction also robs images of very fine details, even at base ISO. When capturing RAW files, you are able to extract a lot more detail from images, but you also have a lot of noise to deal with.

High ISO performance keeps pace with its peers, bests FZ200

Low-light performance is not a strength nor weakness for the Panasonic FZ300; it performs about average for its class at high ISOs. However, even at its base ISO of 100 the FZ300 applies heavy default noise reduction to JPEG files. As you can imagine, noise reduction continues to increase as you increase ISO. By the time the FZ300 reaches ISO 1600, images appear very soft and tones become inconsistent and rough. The Panasonic FZ300 does however let you adjust noise reduction in +/- 5 steps, which is more flexibility that many cameras in this class provide.

Panasonic FZ300 Field Test -- Gallery Image
70mm equivalent (12.5mm), f/2.8, 1/80s, ISO 640.
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

The 12.1-megapixel Panasonic FZ300 produces good prints up to 16 x 20 inches when shooting at base ISO (you could safely print 20 x 30 inches if the print will not be viewed up close). Increasing ISO from 100 to 200 does lead to a slight decrease to 13 x 19 inches in what we would consider a "good" print. At ISO 1600, the small sensor size of the FZ300 becomes very noticeable, with a good print larger than 5 x 7 inches no longer being possible. While its high ISO performance might not sound impressive, the FZ300 actually performs noticeably better than its predecessor at higher ISOs despite using the same sensor and lens thanks to its updated processor, and fares well overall considering its sensor size.

Panasonic FZ300 is a speedy camera with good AF performance

Considering its high-zoom capabilities, the FZ300's performance is generally very good. For its class, the Panasonic FZ300 is a very fast camera overall. Capable of capturing images at just over 12fps with locked autofocus, the Lumix FZ300 has very good burst shooting speeds. When recording RAW or RAW+JPEG files, buffer depth drops from 100 to 25 and 16 frames respectively, but its frame rate stayed above 12fps.

Panasonic FZ300 Field Test -- Gallery Image
500mm equivalent (90.1mm), f/5.0, 1/320s, ISO 100
This image has been modified. Click for original image.

While the FZ300's high-speed shooting speeds are impressive, when using continuous autofocus the frame rate drops down to a noticeably slower, but still decent 6fps. Unfortunately, the Panasonic FZ300's continuous autofocus and subject tracking performance is not great, but that's true of most cameras in this category.

With that said, we found autofocus performance overall to be impressive for a camera in this class. An area of weakness for its predecessor was slow autofocusing speeds at the telephoto end of the lens, which we're happy to see has been rectified with the FZ300. There is a slight decrease in AF speed as you increase focal length, but it is not dramatic.

We did uncover a weak point for Panasonic's sophisticated (and fast) DFD autofocus, namely sparkly objects. It shouldn't be too hard to avoid, as long as you know that things like bright lights reflected in jewelry can be problematic. Read our notes about the issue for full details.

4K abound: Both 4K video and 4K Photo modes impress

Panasonic is very big on 4K video and "4K Photo" features these days, and the FZ300 is no exception. With a bevy of video modes and 4K Photo features, the Panasonic FZ300 is definitely a multimedia camera. We found video performance to be good and the list of features and modes to be long. The addition of 4K video make it a big step up from the FZ200 in the video department.

After a firmware update in February 2016, the Lumix FZ300 has even more 4K Photo features than it did at launch. It is now possible to use Panasonic's Post-Focus feature, which allows you to capture 4K-resolution video at 30fps while shifting the plane of focus throughout the clip. You can then extract 4K-sized (8.3-megapixel) images with your preferred focus point after the fact.

Panasonic FZ300 is a meaningful upgrade over its predecessor

The FZ200 earned a "Dave's Pick" back in 2013 for its impressive zooming capabilities, strong performance, and good value. The Panasonic FZ300 continues in its footsteps, embracing a new body design and construction and many new features, while relying on the tried-and-true sensor and lens combination. Considering its substantial list of improvements and new features, including 4K video and 4K Photo features, we found the Panasonic FZ300 to be a strong camera in the high-zoom camera market and a definite Dave's Pick.

Panasonic FZ300 Field Test -- Gallery Image
89mm equivalent (16.1mm), f/5.6, 1/4s, ISO 100
Click for original image.

 

Pros & Cons

  • Fast, wide-angle 24x zoom provides good overall optical performance for its type
  • Constant f/2.8 max aperture
  • Very close macro mode
  • Generally good image quality for such a small sensor
  • Fast startup for a long zoom
  • Very fast autofocus
  • Very low prefocused shutter lag
  • RAW and RAW+JPEG file support
  • Fast single-shot cycle times
  • Fast 12+ fps burst mode
  • Good to excellent buffer depths
  • Super fast 60 fps mode (at 3 megapixels)
  • Good flash performance
  • Decent battery life
  • Weather-resistant camera body
  • Good 4K video performance
  • 4K Photo features are plentiful and impressive
  • Much larger, higher-resolution EVF than predecessor
  • Brighter, higher-resolution articulating LCD with touchscreen
  • Built-in Wi-Fi (unlike FZ200)
  • External microphone jack
  • Larger front grip improves comfort
  • Lots of external controls with four customizable function buttons
  • Limited dynamic range and poor high ISO performance compared to cameras with larger sensors
  • Soft corners at some focal lengths even stopped-down
  • Strong distortion correction at wide angle (typical)
  • Default noise reduction is a little heavy-handed (though NR can be adjusted)
  • Area-specific noise reduction can lead to rough edges and other artifacts
  • JPEG colors could be better
  • Clunky menu system
  • Rather bulky and not much to look at
  • Continuous autofocus performance is underwhelming
  • DFD autofocus can have problems with sparkly objects


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