Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 digital camera with 4K video shooting
If a digital SLR isn't your thing, grab the next best thing, which is this thing
- Big zoom
- Fast focusing
- 4K video and plenty of other features
- SD card is in the battery compartment
- Switching to 4K video takes a few steps
- EVF is a little small
This is a camera for those of you who want a shooter than can perform well for both still shots and video recordings. It has a long zoom, plenty of speed, and can capture pictures with great clarity. It's a great alternative to a digital SLR, and a good option if you want an affordable camera that can shoot 4K video.
Panasonic is making sure that its new high-end cameras have the ability to capture ultra-high definition (or 4K) video. We first saw this with the Lumix DMC-GH4, and it now continues with the release of the more mainstream Lumix DMC-FZ1000. It makes sense since the company also has a foot in the big-screen TV market, and it’s a good way to enable people to get the absolute most out of those TVs at this infant stage of the 4K roll out.
The Lumix DMC-FZ1000 sits at the top of Panasonic’s fixed-lens range of Lumix cameras, and is a super-zoom model with a reach from 24-400mm. That big Leica lens sits in front of a sensor with 20 megapixels. In many ways, it’s a perfect all-round camera: great for close-ups, landscapes, macro photography, zoomed shots, and also for Full HD and 4K video recording. It can be used either in auto, semi-manual or full manual modes, depending on your skill level and needs, and its body has all the stuff you need built into it, including an electronic viewfinder, flash, and a hinged LCD screen.
So many settings, so much you can do
When using the DMC-FZ1000 for the first time, it is a bit daunting. There are lots of settings to check, and plenty of menu items to navigate. You need to spend a good couple of days (at least) training with it before setting out for some serious shooting, but once you’ve got the hang of it, it’s a great tool with which to capture a large range of scenes.
Because the body is large, there is plenty of space for the menu buttons, shortcut buttons, and control and mode dials. The hand grip is almost as large as that of a mid-level digital SLR, which makes it a comfortable camera to hold, but for the most part it’s not too much like a digital SLR. Zooming can be undertaken by the electronic rocker that sits around the shutter button, or you can use the electronic ring around the lens; both methods offer smooth operation and an on-screen number tells you the zoom level you are currently using. Only one control dial is present for changing settings in manual mode, and you simply have to press on it to alternate between aperture and shutter values.
For all intents and purposes, all of the settings that you need to affect the exposure are at your fingertips, including ISO, and there are also white balance, focus mode, and drive mode settings to play with right there in front of you. If that’s not enough, there are five function buttons that can be set as shortcuts to other settings that you might want to use on a regular basis. For example, we set the ‘F1’ button to be a shortcut for accessing the manual focus area setting. Even the ring around the lens can serve two purposes: focusing or zooming, and a physical switch on the barrel can toggle between the two functions.
You can do so much with this camera in terms of tweaking settings, and we recommend you give its user manual a good glance at the very least. There are plenty of things regarding focusing, colours, on-screen indicators, and the video modes that you need to know about. Panasonic has included some tips in the menu system, with text scrolling across the screen for each menu item, but more thorough explanations might be needed for many of the things that the camera can do. If there are any things that you think the camera can’t do, a trip to the menu might actually find a setting to fix that.
For example, after setting the exposure in manual mode, the LCD screen (or EVF) won’t immediately show you what your shot will look like. By default, you will need to hold down the shutter button halfway for a couple of seconds before a preview of your scene is given. We were disappointed by this as we are used to other modern cameras giving a live preview. However, this setting can be changed in the menu. By switching on the ‘constant preview’ option, you will be able to see every change in exposure immediately.
That particular setting can make shooting more fun, and is also a good aid if you’re still learning how to use manual exposure settings. There is a light meter on the display, too, so that you can see if your shot is over- or under-exposed at a glance.
In terms of performance, the DMC-FZ1000 showed us that it’s of a high standard. Shot-to-shot speed was fast, and auto-focus operations were practically instantaneous for the majority of our shots. In fact, the focus performance from this camera is among the best we’ve used, and especially when using its macro zoom mode (which we actually managed to forget it in on a few times by mistake because we didn’t check all the settings). You can do things with this camera such as focus on a spider’s web from a good few metres away. We did just that in our tests and were blown away at how quickly the lens picked up the faint outline of a web among a backdrop of leaves and twigs.
We used the camera primarily in manual mode since it is quite simple to do so, and are happy with the results we captured. Images turned out to be crisp, even when scrutinised at the pixel level, we didn’t notice any chromatic aberration, and colours were captured with a good richness in JPEG mode. You can capture in RAW mode, too. When shooting on a bright day, though, we missed not being able to set the aperture value smaller than f/8.0 (though we could use a shutter speed up to 1/4000 of a second). On the other end of the scale, we enjoyed using f/2.8, especially for close-ups, and blurring out backgrounds with the shallow depth-of-field.
Ultra-high definition (4K) video samples
When shooting video, we noticed that the auto-focus performance was a little too sensitive, with the picture coming and in out of focus quickly, and quite often. But the results the camera can capture in 4K mode (at a resolution of 3840x2160 pixels) are impressive — and they can be even more impressive if you have some experience shooting video. We don’t, so our test videos are very basic, and handheld. But if you have a 4K monitor or TV (and if your Internet connection is fast enough), you can change the YouTube quality to 4K (2160p) for the clips below in order to get an idea of what this camera can do.
You can’t just start shooting 4K video by pressing the ‘record’ button while in one of the photographic modes. That method of recording is limited to Full HD. If you want to record at 4K, you have to set the mode dial to video mode and then change the video quality through the menu settings. A fast SD card is required for shooting at 4K, and we used a SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC UHS-II for our tests, which has a speed rating of 250 megabytes per second (MBps) for writing, and 280MBps for reading.
Here are our overall thoughts on this camera: we think it’s excellent for what it is, which is a camera that can let you do a bit of everything while capturing images at a very high quality. It’s a useful tool for travelling, or even if you’re a hobbyist photographer who likes the convenience of an all-in-one unit rather than a detachable lens camera or digital SLR.
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