I purchased this new bridge camera Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 around 45 days back. I had an extensive look at the features, benefits and pit falls of this highly capable bridge camera. After clicking over 3500 pictures, I have gained enough experience on this camera. As the web is full of extensive reviews of this little gem, I will not venture into yet another similar task. I will provide an extensive list of such reviews at the end of this article which you can refer if This is my experience with the camera and how I may use this camera in my photography.
The FZ200 has a 12.1 megapixel High Sensitivity MOS sensor. It also allows you to shoot full resolution pictures at 12 fps. The lens is 24x optical zoom, a 35mm equivalent of 25-600mm, with a constant maximum aperture of f/2.8, allowing faster shutter speeds. The lens has a Nano Surface Coating to minimize ghosting and flare. To aid the shooting of the sharpest pictures, the FZ200 is also armed with Power Optical Image Stabilization (OIS). To make shooting as easy as possible there is iA (Intelligent Auto) mode which changes the appropriate camera settings automatically for the scene. There is also full manual controls as well as a range of scene modes. Creative Control allows you to choose from 14 artistic effects when shooting, as well as HDR and panoramas. The FZ200 also as an approximate 0.95 sec quick start-up and Light Speed AF. As well as using the screen to frame your shots, there is a 0.21 inch Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) with a 1,312,000 dot equivalent resolution and 100% field of view.
Other important unique Features which I noticed are
- EVF/LCD button There is no automatic sensor for the FZ200’s EVF, so this button must be pressed to switch between the EVF and LCD
- Articulated screen The 3in, 451,000-dot screen is hinged onto the side of the camera, which should help when taking low and high-angle shots, or self-portraits
- Hotshoe As well as a pop-up flash, the FZ200 has a hotshoe that is fully compatible with the Panasonic flashguns for G-series CSCs
- Quick menu In playback mode, this button is used to delete images, but when shooting it acts as a quick menu button, displaying the most commonly used shooting and image settings
- Image styles As well as the standard color setting, vivid, natural, monochrome, scenery, portrait and custom settings can also be selected. The level of contrast, sharpness, colour saturation and noise reduction can be adjusted in any of these image styles. I found that by using a custom setting consisting of “vivid” setting as a starting point and then modifying it with -1 contrast, -2 noise reduction, -1 sharpness and -1 saturation produced a very natural looking and pleasant JPEG with vibrant color and fine details. All these photos were shot using that setting.
- Raw Fz-200 is one of the few compacts which supports Raw format. Even though I have not found a satisfactory raw conversion setting under Adobe Lightroom, I feel it is a better format than in camera JPEG. All the photos shown here were shot using JPEG setting in camera as I am yet to perfect the Raw conversion. I find too much color noise in Raw which I cannot correct satisfactorily.
- HDMI and video port On the side of the Panasonic FZ200 is an HDMI port. This allows an HDMI cable to be connected so that images can be viewed via a compatible television screen. There is also an AV socket that works with a compatible micro-USB-to-AV cable
- Battery Panasonic claims that 540 shots are possible with the FZ200’s battery. I found that I was able to take almost 350 raw and JPEG images, with heavy use of the screen and menus.
- UHS-1 memory As well as being compatible with SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards, the FZ200 is also compliant with the UHS-1 standard, which means that faster SD transfer speeds can be achieved with compatible cards. It also has 70MB of built-in memory
Designed by Leica, the DC Vario-Elmarit 4.5-108mm f/2.8 zoom lens is constructed of 14 elements in 11 groups, with a total of five aspherical lenses and nine aspherical surfaces. Three of the other elements are of extra-low dispersion (ED) glass, to help reduce chromatic aberration and retain contrast, while a single element has a Nano Surface coating that helps to reduce ghosting and reflections. However, the most impressive thing is not the focal length, but rather the constant f/2.8 aperture sported throughout its range. Previously on lenses such as this, the aperture would have been f/2.8-5.6, or even f/2.8-6.3. Although the difference may seem slight, it is significant when shooting a 600mm. Being able to shoot at 1/250sec rather than 1/125sec or even 1/60sec can make a big difference with regard to whether camera shake will affect the image. The combination of the large aperture and the excellent Power Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) means that it is possible to use the maximum focal length handheld. Of course, there will always be compromises with such an extreme lens. Image quality is at its best when the lens is set almost to its widest point. As the focal length increases there is a loss of contrast and sharpness, but results are still acceptable.
Panasonic’s speed of the contrast detection AF systems has found its way into the Lumix DMC-FZ200. it is certainly quick, especially given the range of the zoom lens. At short distances the lens snaps quickly into focus, although at 600mm switching between a subject at the minimum distance and infinity takes a second or two. It will also occasionally hunt bit more if focus is suddenly switched from infinity to something just a few meters away. I found 23 point auto focus covering the whole screen advantageous as well very quick as compared to slower 1 point focus. Having a dedicated AF button on the side of the camera makes it quick and easy to change the AF point: the left hand hits the button on the lens, and the right uses the directional controls on the rear of the camera. In manual focusing mode, this AF button acts as an auto focus override, which is useful considering that focusing the lens manually is slow and a little awkward to do accurately, despite an enlarged section of the image being shown on screen.
Due to the size of the sensor, the camera’s macro mode isn’t truly 1:1, but with a 1cm minimum focusing distance from the end of the lens, it is close enough. Using the macro mode is also one of the few times when switching the FZ200 to manual focus may be advantageous, although even when as close as 1cm the AF still snaps into focus. I found ISO 400 is usable and beyond that it produces too much noise for comfort. With f/2.8 lens which is really sharp at f/2.8 (sweet spot is f/3.2) you often need not go beyond ISO 400. Low light fast subject situation like Kambala races will be difficult to shoot with this camera. Aperture of the Lens can go only from f/2.8 to f/8. Shallow depth of field can be induced using close focus and wide aperture trick and that is one advantage of the f/2.8 which produces nearly a DSLR like bokeh. Rapid burst speed of 12 frames per second in full resolution (whopping 60 frames/sec at 2.5 mega pixel resolution) if you have a speedy card like UHS-1 helps capture those great moments.
Videos are recorded at full 1080p HD in AVCHD and MP4 format with stereo sound. Even if you are a exclusive video shooter there is plenty of option for you in this nifty camera. The 24x optical zoom, Power OIS, iA (Intelligent Auto) mode and creative control are also available in video recording. There is also a zoom noise reduction system and auto wind cut function. High-speed videos can be recorded at 100 fps in 720p HD or 200 fps in VGA (640 x 480) format.
For wild life photography having an aperture of F/2.8 at 600mm results in far fewer blurred pictures, with the added benefit of producing more out-of-focus backgrounds, making the Lumix DMC-FZ200 even more appealing to sports and nature photographers. Street photographer will love the speed and compactness of the camera. If you keep the camera in wide setting (25mm) and use Manual focus along with hyper focal distance (Check this video – Panasonic Lumix FZ camera easier manual focus method ) you can take the photographs without using viewfinder at all (shooting from the hip).
Other key improvements include a class-leading electronic viewfinder, which has 1.31-million-dots and is subsequently more of a pleasure than a chore to use, and better noise performance, with a now usable ISO range of 100-800 and the added benefit of RAW format support for those who want to take full control of post-processing. The FZ200 also retains the fast auto-focus system, 12fps burst shooting, titling LCD screen and 1080p video of its predecessor, plus the battery life has been greatly improved to over 500 shots.
The biggest advantage that DSLRs have over these compact digital cameras is the sensor that’s more than thrice as large. This helps capture almost noise-free images at up to ISO 800 along with larger optics that yields excellent background blur; the quality of photos you get is outstanding. With a prosumer-class digital camera, the noise is handled quite well at up to ISO 400, after which you have to be careful not to boost the ISO too high. But the advantage is the single lens that can capture anything from super macros to distant scenes with great ease. And this is the forte of the FZ200; I’ve never seen such a great lens on a super-zoom camera. Thanks to the large aperture, it takes great-looking shots even in low light. Also, the handling is one of the best in its category.
Overall, the Panasonic FZ-200 is a pleasure to use, and the quality of images delivered by the camera leaves a generally good impression. Compared to other bridge cameras we’ve used, the raft of features, direct controls and manual control over your pictures make it stand out from most other popular models on the market. I am going to keep it as my light weight travel companion, a second backup camera which I can always pull out for a street/macro/wildlife/fun photography. When I need quality photos I always have DSLR to bank on which this camera is not going to replace.
Here are few negatives I noticed about the camera. With a metering system that is biased towards the mid-tone, pictures were sometimes a bit too flat. The Panasonic FZ200 also seems to struggle a bit with luminance noise, even at lower sensitivities. The Card slot is along with the camera and when the camera is on tripod it is difficult to access it. I would have loved a eye sensor for evf as I constantly use the fabulous EVF instead of the live view. I also would have loved built in GPS.
Here are the reviews of Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 I found useful. Don’t miss the Graham Houghton’s excellent FZ200 based videos where he illustrates and educates the intricacies of FZ-200 shooting. This is the best tutorial I found on FZ-200. These 30 odd videos are far better than the clumsy and basic manual that came along the camera.
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 Review: Digital Photography Review
- Trusted review Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ201
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 Review – Watch CNET’s Video Review
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 review | Expert Reviews
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 Review | PhotographyBLOG
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 Review | Compact Digital Cameras | CNET UK
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 Review & Rating | PCMag.com
- Panasonic Lumix FZ200 review | Compact cameras Reviews | TechRadar
- DxOMark – Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ200: Great specs for an all-in-one shooting solution
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 review | Amateur Photographer
- ephotozine Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 Digital Camera Review