on October 9, 2012
This is the best combination of features and image quality I have found. I gave the camera 5 stars because it is the best Super Zoom I have found so far and I don't mean to imply it is better than any other class of camera. It is not cheap but is well worth the $509 I paid for it. It is a real keeper. You can read a good professional review at [...][UPDATE 10/11/12 I guess they don't allow the link so simply Google ePhotoZine Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 Digital Camera Review and you should get to it.]I have taken a couple hundred photos with the FZ 200 in the last couple of weeks and found this to be the camera I have been looking for. It will be more than a couple of years before I feel the need to upgrade again.
I compared the FZ200 with the following cameras I have used:
1) Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ28
2) Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ100
3) Canon SX40
4) Canon Rebel T3i Not really a fair comparison but used it as a high water mark for the FZ200 to aim for.
Now for what I like about the FZ 200:
1) The 25 to 600mm f2.8 Leica lens: I find that the 24x lens enough reach for my needs. I found no aberrations from the lens. Maybe you could find some with instruments but I couldn't find any. Just as important is the f2.8 across the entire focal length. It allows you to go out to 600mm and take sharp subject and blurred background. It also helps with low light shots and keeping the iso lower.
2) Photo quality: Color saturation was very good as was sharpness so photos seemed natural. It is as good or better than the other digital cameras I have used. One reviewer said he saw a blue tint on outdoor pictures and a red tint in flash pictures. I saw none of that but I did have my camera set to scenery when taking outdoor pictures so maybe there was a white balance shift with that function. You can see photo examples in the review mentioned above.
3) Burst Speed: It's 12 frames per second burst is very fast but I make more use of the 5.5 fps. At 5.5 fps the specs say it goes to 200 pictures at one time but I haven't gone that far yet.
4) Low light performance: It has really improved. The photos I took in a dimly lit room turned out surprisingly well. It seems like it sees about as well as I do in low light. Naturally, noise gets worse as the iso goes up but even at iso 1600 the pics are kind of OK if you don't view over 8 x 10. I now take indoor pictures without flash most of the time with very good results.
5) Design: It feels really good in my hands. It has room for all of my fingers and not at all unstable.
6) Video: If you like video you will love this camera. It is so much better than cameras like the Canon SX40. Lots of options up to full 1080P 60 fps. Focus is quick and accurate. Zoom is smooth, quiet and the stabilization makes hand held scenes very steady. Unless you are a serious cinematographer you will have no need for a dedicated video camera. In MP4 it is limited to 30 minute scenes but you can go to 4 hours AVCHD. It even has a 3D mode but I haven't used it.
7) Viewfinder: The viewfinder resolution is excellent giving a very clear view for composition. I wear reading glasses so a good viewfinder is important.
8) Tons of cool features I haven't had a chance to use yet.
What I don't like:
1) I wish it cost less.
If your interested in my camera experience:
I am an amateur but have been interested in photography for many years. I bought my first SLR in the 60's and my first digital camera (1MP) in 1997 and have been purchasing a new digital about every other year since then. My first Panasonic was the Lumix DMC FZ28 which I found to be the best for its time and still use it today. I then purchased the Pansonic Lumix DMC - FZ100 because of the great experience with the FZ28 but picture quality was a disappointment. I decided I needed to get a better camera so I purchased the 12MP Canon SX40HS because of the longer lens but ended up returning it. It wasn't a bad camera but I found that the image stabilization broke down at maximum focal length unless I could keep the shutter speed very fast. The pictures were sharp but colors a little less saturated than I like and the body construction feeling less sturdy than the Panasonic. I checked out the Panasonic FZ 150 because of all the great reviews and decided to buy it but held off when I heard about a new Panasonic coming out in August. The FZ 200 cost a little more than FZ 150 but I think it is well worth it. My wife has a DSLR 18MP Canon Rebel T3i and we have taken the same shot and compared the photos. They are very similar with the T3i better in resolution as expected due to the much large sensor which also makes it much better in low light.
Why a Super Zoom:
If this is the first time you are considering a super zoom it may be useful to know why I bought one when we have a perfectly good DSLR. For quick snaps we have a pretty pocket camera or we use the 8 MP phone camera. They are OK but lack flexibility. DSLRs are high quality but to travel with them, even on a day trip we need to carry a significant camera bag to carry the camera and a couple of lenses. Forget a long telephoto, they are too expensive (Canon 600mm cost about $13K) and too heavy (unless you are a pro and then I don't think you are reading my review). There is a group of moderate zoom cameras that are a little too big to slip in a pocket but smaller and less zoom than the super zoom. My thinking is that if it doesn't fit in my pocket I want all the zoom I need. A super zoom like the FZ200 gives you the flexibility to take pictures of people grinning on couches to birds in a tree across a field. For travel, the zoom and choice from point and shoot to full manual in a compact package makes it the best travel camera possible.
I hope this review proves useful. I always read reviews before I buy and I wanted to give back.
UPDATE: July 8, 2013 I have been using the camera since October and I am just as happy as I was when I purchased it. There are very many reviews on the camera now so there is plenty advice to get. For those who read mine, I just wanted to point something out that would have made my decision easier had it been available. If you look through my comments you will find one written by Antonio M. Magalhaes referring to a series of YouTube tutorials on the FZ200 By Graham Houghton. Besides explaining how to use the camera it also goes over most of the features. This series is a real gold mine and Panasonic should buy them and include with each camera sold.
UPDATE: June 12, 2014 Panasonic just announced the FZ1000. In most respects it is a serious upgrade to the FZ200. Since no reviews have been done it is only on faith that is superior but noting that it has a 1 inch sensor (more than 4 times the area of the FZ200)it is sure to be a winner. It is way more expensive especially now that FZ200 prices have come down so do your due diligence before making a decision.
on August 28, 2012
I've only had it about 24 hours, but my first impressions are very favorable. I pre-ordered my Panasonic FZ200 from Amazon last week. Later I heard it was going to begin shipping on Monday, August 27th. To my pleasant surprise, the camera showed up yesterday, on Monday, August 27th. (Gotta love Amazon.) I played with the various controls and read the manual last night and spent a couple of hours shooting with it today.
Some background: Both my wife and I are long time Canon DSLR photographers. I am in the printing business and have been using Photoshop since version 2.5 almost 20 years ago. We are serious amateurs, not professional photographers, but we know our way around digital cameras and the digital darkroom. We compete in various photo competitions all over the world. Either with electronic images or prints. Our maximum print size is 12" x 18". Except for action shots, we shoot RAW exclusively.
We are both in our mid 70's and lugging around our Canon 40Ds with 28-300mm lens seem to get heavier every day. The specs on the FX200 are so spectacular that I wondered if it could be a replacement for our heavy, and somewhat obsolete, Canon gear. I frankly didn't expect the FZ200 to be as good as our Canon gear. Instead, my question was "is it good enough" for us to continue to be competitive in photo competitions. To my pleasant surprise, my initial reaction is yes.
We live in Florida a few miles from the Gulf of Mexico. We went to the beach today and took along one of our Canon 40Ds and the FZ200. We shot the same thing under similar conditions. The Canon shot only RAW and the FZ shot BOTH taw and jpeg. I haven't figured out how to use the Panasonic RAW software yet, so we ended up comparing Canon raw with FZ high quality jpegs.
When viewed "right out of the camera" on my 27" color calibrated iMac, the images look virtually identical. Needless to say, I am very impressed.
The FZ has a lot of special features and functions I haven't looked at yet, and maybe never will since I am so conversant in Photoshop I really don't need the camera to add saturation, convert to B&W, etc. I am totally unfamiliar with digital video, so it will be a while (if ever), before I get around to checking it out on the FZ.
The camera isn't perfect. Here are several things I'm not too fond of.
* The menu system is quite complex and various buttons and wheels access different parts of it. Tip: Put the camera in Manual (M) before going to the menu system. This is the only setting that shows ALL the possible menu settings according to Panasonic tech support.
* The user manual on the CD seems to be for a different camera than the FZ200. Either that or, the final version of the camera doesn't match an earlier version of the documentation.
* Worse of all, it takes 45 arrow and/or button clicks to perform the "Format card" function in the camera. (I counted them.) I talked to two different Panasonic tech support people to see if there was an easier way. They both confirmed that there wasn't. You won't find it in your user manual, so here is how to format your SD card.
* Set the mode to manual. Then click the "Menu/Set" button in the center of the arrow keys. Then hit the left arrow key to select the camera icon.
* The click the down arrow key two times to get the the settings (looks like a wrench.)
* Then click the right arrow key to go "Clock Set." Notice that the top right corner shows that you are on page one of 8 setting page. Format is on page 7. Unfortunately, you cannot access the page numbers and right click to advance to the next page.
Instead you have to click the down arrow and scroll, completely through each page to advance to the next page. It takes 43 down arrow clicks to get to format. (I counted them.) BE CAREFUL. Be sure to hit the right arrow key when you reach format. I hit the "menu/Set" button and had to start all over again.
Formatting an SD card is a real pain, but that is really the only fault I can find so far with this camera. Hopefully, Panasonic will fix this is an firmware upgrade-especially as they tell you in their manual not to format the card in your computer but instead do it in the camera. This is good advise, but a nuisance to do.
To end on a positive note, I'm going to continue to play around with this camera, but I feel I have already proven to myself that this camera is fully able to replace our Canon 40Ds for our intended use. Try it. I think you will like it too. (I don't work for Panasonic or Amazon.)
on September 4, 2012
I bought this camera with a little hesitation and skepticism. Could it really take decent pictures with that kind of zoom range and f-stop? Admittedly, I am a tough sell since I usually shoot Canon DSLRs with their L-series lenses, and was looking for a light backpacking/walk around camera for times when I didn't want to carry so much bulk and weight.
This weekend I shot hundreds of pics indoors and out, from bright sun to no-flash museum settings. All images were shot in camera RAW and in Program mode, but I let the camera makes its own choices about shutter speed and limited the ISO to a max of 400 (the ability to set a max ISO is a nice feature). I processed all of the images with the "Silkypix" software that comes with the camera (which is a surprisingly capable program).
The images were, in short, far better than just good. Some were truly remarkable. In the museum where no flash was allowed, I was able to shoot great macros in low light, then a full-room shot at wide angle, then immediately zoom to 600 mm and grab a shot of something sitting on a desk across the room, all handheld. Outdoors, in bright sun, I was blown away by the crispness of the images at full zoom. And having such a wide range of focal lengths gave me the equivalent of carrying a whole bag of "big" gear.
One question that has come up on this board is the camera's low light capability. I would give it a plus/minus here. Once you get past about ISO 400, noise does start being noticeable in the RAW files. By comparison to a more expensive DSLR (e.g. a Canon 7D) the noise becomes quite noticeable at ISO 800, but it is very smooth and could be dealt with via software, I have no doubt. This is an area where someone will have to judge for themselves what amount of noise is "too much" at a given ISO. For me, if I knew I was going to do a lot of shooting of moving subjects in low light, this camera might not be the best choice. (Note that if the low-light shooting is of still scenes, the camera performs beautifully.) Given the camera's other remarkable capabilities, I don't think it is much of an issue generally.
I haven't played with the video at all yet.
Yes, I have a few minor gripes, but they are minor indeed. There is only a little "basic function" printed manual -- the full manual comes on a CD as a PDF file. Having the PDF is great if you need to quickly find a reference, but a printed manual should also come with the camera. For mine, the manual does match the camera, at least as far as I have found. I did not format the memory card, just threw one in from another Canon camera, and the Lumix was perfectly happy. It created its own directory and there have been no issues whatsoever doing it that way. You can quickly get to the format function if you cursor up to page 8 from page 1, rather than going through all the other pages. The menu system is a little complex in some areas and I sometimes find it hard to remember where different functions are buried, but most of those are things you set once and forget about, at least the way I shoot. Build quality is a little plasticky, something you notice if you have mostly owned metal-bodied cameras and lenses, but hopefully the camera will be tough enough to survive some backpacking and such. A nice lens hood is included with the camera, and it will accept 52mm filters.
All in all, I am really amazed at this little camera with the huge lens. For my shooting needs - an easy five stars!
FOLLOWUP: Just returned from a week-long hiking trip into southern Utah canyonlands and wanted to report that this camera performed exactly as I had hoped. It was very light and far easier to deal with than my Canon DSLR with a couple of L-series lenses. Although I usually shoot RAW, I even shot some straight JPGs and the results were quite good. Still a two-thumbs up choice, from my perspective.
on December 20, 2013
Confused About Bridge Cameras? You Should Be!
Much of the entire camera review area is horribly redundant. By that, I mean you often have 1) a cut and paste of a Press Release followed by a "new article" 2) a "Hands on Preview" which once again regurgitates the press release, perhaps some add copy, and is a meaningless non-review. Finally, maybe, 6 - 8 months later you might have 3) a review, or not. Many cameras never make it to 3), for they are already discontinued and new models are announced, as in the case right now in several areas.
The bridge camera is supposed to bridge the divide between pocket cameras and system cameras, more or less. Yet, there is no consensus as to what that specifically means.
Right now, PC Magazine has the new $699 Olympus Stylus 1 camera as its Editor's Choice SuperZoom. It is called a SuperZoom, although it is only a 10.7x optical zoom camera. It replaced the Panasonic FZ-200 24x unit, that can now be had for $410 or even less. The Fujifilm X-S1 26x camera was beat out by the Panasonic. In October, 2012 (yes, way back then) the comment was "At close to $800 the X-S1 is prohibitively priced for many buyers, which prevents it from ousting the Nikon Coolpix P510 as our Editors' Choice superzoom camera." By the way, you can now pick up the Fujifilm XS-1 for $350 delivered, if not less.
This is one example of many sure to either bewilder people, or convince people that PC Magazine (and other sources) are completely bewildered. How can a 10.7x camera, in 2013, be a "SuperZoom" compared to a 24x, 26x, or 50x unit? How can a camera like the Fujifilm that retailed at $799 for a short while be overpriced, yet now the short-range Olympus is the best SuperZoom you can buy? As fast as you can change your socks, the best SuperZoom went from a 42x Nikon P510 to a 24x Panasonic FZ-200 to a 10.7x Olympus. A 10x zoom range camera is no super zoom: that range of non-versatility is handily exceeded by dozens of 20 - 24 x eight ounce pocket cameras.
WHAT IS A BRIDGE CAMERA?
The idea of a bridge camera is to give you more versatility, features, and flexibility than available in a shirt-pocket camera with one lens array: with less bulk, weight, and cost than going the D-SLR or other system camera route. One lens array means the sensor and processor can be optimized for that one lens. One lens means the unit is sealed to a certain extent, so no dirt will cover your sensor when changing lenses for example. A bridge camera should also net you an electronic viewfinder, better battery life than a point and shoot, and should be a lot more fun to carry than a system camera.
THE BETTER BRIDGE CAMERAS, AND WHY
The Fujifilm X-S1 is better built than most all of them, with a larger sensor than the common 1/2.33 arena sensors, and better image quality, in general, than small-sensor cameras. Currently, it is a screaming deal at $350 street. You might wonder why I don't use one, currently? Its images can be quite excellent:[...] . The barrier, for me, is its 2.1 lb. or so weight, just more than I want to carry all day. But, that's what you get if you want a larger sensor, lens, and metal dials and a tougher build. If the weight is not an issue, and a manual zoom appeals: it may well be your camera. The EVF of the XS-1 is comparatively huge at 0.47-inch, approx. 1440,000 dots. Many other popular cameras have dinky .21 inch EVF's . . . and that includes the Canon SX-50 and Panasonic FZ-200. The X-S1 is a case of "be careful what you ask for, you just might get it." We say we want better build quality (more metal, less plastic) and we say we want larger sensors. The X-S1 provides both. The catch is, larger sensors require larger, heavier lens arrays, and better build quality means more weight as well. The XS-1 gives a lot of folks want they said they wanted, but it weighs about 75% more than some other bridge-class cameras . . . the additional weight and bulk being the main detriment, at least for my uses.
The Canon fills the frame when other cameras struggle. While the impressive 50x lens isn't the brightest, its sensor is spectacularly good for a small sensor: or at least the sensor / processor combination. Competitively priced currently at $329, its somewhat plasticy (also noisy and slippery) build makes the camera more fun to carry at about 1.3 pounds. The weight difference between this unit and the X-S1 is substantial, for the Fujifilm unit weighs over 60% more.
A great, bright, constant 2.8 lens and blazing fast shooting performance is why you'd want this camera (now down to $409 as of this writing). Its 24x zoom range (600mm max focal length in 35mm equivalent) is less than half of the Canon SX-50 and the bargain-priced Fujifilm SL1000 50x camera ($250 or so), but 24x handles a lot of shooting opportunities and the digital "Intelligent Zoom" gets you to 48x if needed while still capturing quite enjoyable images. It is one of those rare cameras that is very good for both still images and video. I'm asked if the FZ-200 is "okay for birding" and wildlife. Vickie has answered that for us on Flickr. The LCD has a 3:2 aspect ratio. If you shoot in the "7M EZ" mode you have an image size good up to an 11 x 14 or larger, but now you can enjoy about a 30x optical zoom (actually, 29.4x) or a whopping 58.8x "intelligent zoom." That's a 735mm (35mm eq.) focal length that covers a huge range of shooting scenarios, without resorting to the smart zoom / pure view / intelligent zoom versions of interpolation. For an SLR, a 600mm lens Nikon 600mm f/4.0G ED VR II AF-S SWM Super Telephoto Lens for Nikon FX and DX Format Digital SLR could set you back $9K or more. Not exactly an easy to carry, affordable option.
All three of these cameras (X-S1, SX-50, FZ-200) can be considered excellent. It isn't that one camera could be rationally picked as an easy winner, for all of them have the ability to do a fine job under many conditions. Price is invariably a factor, for you can always squander the extra cash on food, clothing, and shelter.
If value is your primary concern, presently the $250 or so street price Fujifilm SL1000 is hard to beat. Its huge zoom range is the same as the bit more expensive SX-50, although the Canon is a slightly better unit for still images) if you need to fill the frame with a 1200mm 35mm equivalent focal length. The Fujifilm FinePix SL1000 16.2MP Digital Camera with 3-Inch LCD (Black) offers the most for the least dollars. In bright sun, there is no such thing as a truly great LCD. They all wash out to a certain extent, and an electronic viewfinder can save the day in those conditions. Surprisingly, the most inexpensive camera in this field, the Fujifilm SL1000, offers a 920K dot EVF and a 920K dot hinged LCD.
The Fujifilm XS-1 has the best image quality in the field, and the best build quality as well. Now available at $350, it would be called a "no-brainer" by some. While I understand that, its roughly 2.2 pound weight is more than I want to carry all day and as I do take a lot of video, the manual zoom of the XS-1 is a negative for my purposes. It is the closest thing to a system camera replacement, unfortunately including weight and bulk.
There is no right or wrong or "correct" answer for everyone, for you can have a lot of fun with all of these cameras. Although I still use a Canon SX-50 for stationary stills, the camera that does the most for me most of the time is the FZ-200. Here's why I prefer it.
The FZ-200 is substantially lighter than the X-S1, it locks autofocus in extreme low-light situations (deer after sunset feeding in a field) where the SX-50 struggles. While its EVF is not as good as the X-S1, though small (.21 in.) it is far sharper than the SX-50 with 1.31 million pixels.
The Panasonic FZ-200 spanks the SX-50 in video performance, focus speed, overall shooting speed and boot-up time, and has a panorama mode that the SX-50 (and Canon in general) refuses to implement. Its excellent video performance is complimented by excellent battery life (540 still shots). Video is invariably a big drain on batteries, as is cold weather, and both video and cold weather are common situations for me. The 120 fps 720p (lower HD) high speed video mode is superb. It is a 1/4 speed, smooth as glass, high-resolution playback. The same goes for the VGA (640 x 480) HS mode that is 240 fps: more than sufficient quality to analyze a golf swing with no post-processing.
The constant F2.8 lens of the FZ-200 is no joke and it gives this camera the ability to function where other super-zooms cannot. Under well-lit conditions, there isn't much difference in image quality. Under ridiculously poor light, there is a huge difference.
To compare, I took several pictures of an igloo-shaped doghouse in the snow after midnight using three representative cameras, all hand-held. A Panasonic FZ-60 lost its mind, and could not begin to focus. The Canon SX-50 whirred, clicked, struggled and told me to "raise flash." It took an unrecognizable, muddy black image of nothing discernible. The FZ-200, however, locked focus instantly and grabbed an ISO 1600 image of the doghouse, zoomed in to fill the frame, with no issues. In this somewhat contrived example, it was the difference between an instant, usable image and no image at all.
Not surprisingly, the demise of the digital camera market has been under-reported by most review sites, if it has been reported at all. Reuters summed things up on December 30, 2013, noting that Panasonic's camera sales have plummeted 40 percent from April to September. IDC expects a further drop in the market for compact cameras in 2014 of 40 percent. Whether you are selling hot dogs or hockey pucks, drops of 40 percent are not sustainable. Industry analyst Yu Yoshida mentioned, ""Only those who have a strong brand and are competitive on price will last -- and only Canon, Nikon and Sony fulfill that criteria." Panasonic with its tiny three percent and change of the market, along with Olympus and Fujifilm, are all considered vulnerable.
While smartphone sales have sizzled, camera sales have fizzled. Unfortunately, the Micro 4/3 system cameras have not gained much traction, another ominous situation for Panasonic and Olympus. Canon and Nikon own the SLR market, and powerful brand names (rightly or wrongly, perhaps sadly) is why many people buy what they do.
The FZ-200, introduced over a year ago, is one of those rare cameras that won't go out of style anytime soon. The constant F/2.8 25mm-600mm lens is ground-breaking in a camera of this type, and remains so. Its 1,312,000 dot EVF is best of breed for a camera of this type and its video performance remains class-leading as well. Its 540 shot CIPA battery life is far best than most in this class, more than double of some. It is fast enough in focusing, fast enough in boot-up and shot-to-shot speed, with a fast enough lens to be able to capture images where most all bridge-type cameras cannot.
It is the only camera that satisfactorily bridges three types of imaging devices: the simpler point and shoot, the system camera with multiple lenses, and the camcorder. Given unlimited funds, size, and weight you can of course find technically better imaging. Not so most could notice on a web page or an 8 x 10, though, and certainly not on shareable video files, either. It makes the FZ-200 its own class of camera: a very good class, to say the least. Though under many conditions, you can get quite pleasing images with several cameras, for a 1-1/4 lb. audiovisual standalone media powerhouse unit, the FZ-200 is the one to beat.
Copyright 2013 by Randy Wakeman and Randy Wakeman Outdoors.
For sake of completeness: I've always found Panasonic-labeled Chinese batteries to be a spectacular rip-off. I've been using Halcyon 1600 mAH Lithium Ion Replacement Battery for Panasonic Lumix FZ200 Digital Camera and Panasonic DMW-BLC12 and they are better than OEM. I also added the Panasonic DMW-LMC52 52mm Protection Filter for Panasonic Digital Camera multicoated protective lens.
on December 15, 2012
Since I am obsessive about photography, I have tried the Olympus and Panasonics 4:3 cameras, the Nikon P510, and the Panasonic FZ200. Since I really don't want to be bothered with having to change lenses all the time, the super-zooms are attractive, and since I have been in love with my little Panasonic ZS5 for the past 3-4 years, I was hoping the Panasonic super-zoom would be an easy transition. I was not mistaken.
After two weeks of using the FZ200 and taking about 1000 photos, I can confirm that it is a superior camera. This camera is FAST - you should see the photos of the PSU women's basketball games I have taken. And the F2.8 widest aperature applies throughout the huge zoom range - a super-zoom first. The colors are fantastically realistic - you should see the Happy Valley sunsets and sunrises I have taken. The focus is nearly instantaneous and precise - you should see some of the macros I have taken. The manual focus is easy to use and spot on - you should see some of the difficult close-ups over water and ice I have taken (it's hard for AF to focus with an ice background). The stabilization is the best I have ever seen - you should see some of the maximum zoom hand-held photos I have taken.
It is light. It comes with a lens hood. The front of the lens if threaded so it will take filters and super macro add-ons. It allows you to store 4 custom settings. It had HDR. It feels solid and fits nicely into the hand. It has a 3" articulated, high resolution LCD. It has a large, high resolution view finder. It has 3 programmable function buttons. The battery seems to last forever. It has so many ways to correct or edit photos that you will be learning how each of these things works for years to come. It is quiet. It looks professional.
As you can see, I could go on and on...and I'm not a Panasonic or Amazon employee.
Now a few drawbacks; after all, nothings perfect.
I'm replacing the FZ200 I got with a new one because when I make a lot of setting changes quickly it gets overloaded, locks up, and needs to be restarted - not a huge problem but irritating sometimes. As a previous reviewer said, it is strange that Panasonic didn't put a more detailed Quick Menu on this camera like the ZS5 has. Perhaps that's because a lot of those functions are located in buttons on the camera body. It takes a little effort to remember that you set the AF,Macro, and Manual focus on the lens barrel instead of in the software - different from little point & shoots. So far I have not found a case like they used to make for the old film SLRs. I'd rather have a case instead of a "bag" as advertised on the webpage. And...if you're coming from a small P&S, it's an adjustment to learn where all the controls are on the camera body.
But it's worth it. This is a superior camera and Panasonic has set a very high bar in the super-zoom arena.
December 22-26, 2012 update:
Yes, I will upload some photos after Christmas sometime. Here's what I have learned after at least another thousand photos:
1. I continue to really like the camera. The 2.8 lens is terrific and this camera is VERY FAST - both the lens and the electronics.
2. The electronic manual focus is tricky and takes some patience and practice. I think I would prefer a manual focus ring, but I guess I can't have it all.
3. I still think the quick menu is helpful but hard to use. It improves with practice, but is not as good as the quick menu on my P&S SZ7.
4. I have had to learn a new way of thinking about macro with the 2.8 lens. The large lens opening that the 2.8 aperture provides means a faster shutter speed and lower ISO, but it also means a very small depth of field. I've found that it helps to actually shoot macro in aperture mode and increase the aperture in order to increase the depth of field. Also...use one-area metering and change the size and location of the focus to where you want it - as described on page 96 in the manual. Exposure bracket to cover all your bases, and support your camera well or use a tripod. And...as always...macros are better on a cloudy day when you don't have a lot of contrast and shadows.
5. The ISO quality is a great improvement over my P&S SZ7, but not as good as my wife's Nikon D5100. But then, I didn't want the hassle of a SLR. So that's that, I guess.
6. This camera feels good in the hand and seems to be very well built.
7. The "handheld night scene setting" is cool.
8. So far, I have not found that the HDR is all that great. I think I would rather bracket and use those photos with a computer-based HDR program.
9. If you shoot anything with action, or you like to do fast shooting, a Class 4 SD card isn't going to work for you. You are going to have to move up to a Class 8 or 10 speed to take advantage of this camera's speed. Class 4 will slow you down as you wait for the card to load.
10. The new, smooth panorama is absolutely fantastic.
11. I love being able to shoot both JPEG and RAW at the same time. I've always wanted to learn RAW, and now I can do so while having the familiar JPEG too. I use Photoshop Elements sometimes - typically just to crop, adjust the levels a little, occasionally adjust a color cast, sometimes clone to get rid of power lines and such, and then unsharp mask (very lightly).
12. The two custom white balance controls are very, very convenient and very easy to use. Thank you, Panasonic.
13. Having four - check that - four - custom setting is mind blowing. I'm in heaven.
14. I'm a little surprised that the scenes menu does not have a snow or beach setting. However, photographing on snow yesterday proved to me that the camera does not seem to need it. Using Program did great, and I suspect iA would do OK too. I forgot to try it. If there is a slight color cast, you can quickly use the color cast correction in any photo touch-up program. But the exposure on snow and sand, which are difficult for most cameras, is great.
15. I have found that the Case Logic DCB304 recommended here is too small if you want to carry anything more than the camera. I sent it back and bought the Lowepro Adventura 140 which works very well for me. It has room for the FZ200, my P&S ZS5, a little tripod, some filters and extra SD cards, and spare batteries for both cameras.It's still half the size and weight of the case my wife needs for her Nikon D5100 body and lenses.
16. Dec 3, 2012 - Took a lot of photos at First Night on New Year's eve with the Handheld Night Photograph setting in the Scenes menu. I love it. What a fantastic option for nighttime photos. I also took a number of hand-held photos of lights etc. using the Program setting and they did quite well, though the ISO has to be set higher than 400 to do so. Then took a lOT of photos of a musical group at one of the local coffee shops under incandescent lighting, using both burst shooting and normal program mode. This camera does very well. It is fast - the F2.8 lens is really a great thing. I agree with other reviewers who say that this camera does not do as well with higher ISOs as the Nikon 5100, say. My wife has the D5100 and I can see the difference. But then, I'm not carrying around three lenses and a camera nearly twice as heavy and big as the FZ200. It's always a trade off and it depends on one's priorities. Just try to keep your ISO setting at 400 or below. (But see my additional comments below.)
October 21, 2013: I've now taken 100,000+ images with the FZ200 and still love the camera. Some pointers: use the speed setting for long zooms and adjust the speed to the amount of zoom you are using. I find that adjusting the speed to 1300+ when zoomed to 600mm handheld nearly guarantees a sharp photo at that focal length. I shoot a lot from a rocking canoe, so it's not unusual that I need to set an even faster speed. I also set the exposure compensation about a full stop low and then bracket 2/3 of a stop. This gives me choices on editing and brings out the colors and reduces the ISO, which is important since this camera is noisy above 400 ISO. However...and I love this...the free program NoiseWare does a fantastic job of correcting the noise with my computer. With this program I don't worry much about noise. And...along the same lines...reduce the noise correction and sharpness correction to -2 in the Photo Style menu to reduce the occasional artificial look that comes from the internal software in this camera. You can play with the four setting in these menus to reduce some of the camera's unneeded internal software corrections.
And listen up, Panasonic, if you monitor Amazon comments: You need to create a screen display item that reminds the user of the side lever setting. It's far too easy to set the focus for macro or manual and then leave it there when the camera is shut down. I've lost some good shots later because I didn't change the focus setting back to auto focus before shutting down and the lens was on the wrong setting. Another option is to reset the focus back to automatic upon shutdown as the default. It's easier to change the side lever than to remember the setting.
on November 19, 2012
I just picked this camera up off amazon for around $460.
My first impression when I opened up the box and took out the camera was , wow this feels very cheap. The body on this is plastic and boy it feels cheap. I wish they would have put a little more quality in the body of it. With that said, this camera takes amazing pictures. I read a lot of reviews and comments on this camera about the smaller sensor having noise at low ISO levels. Well, it might but the pictures i took looked fantastic on my pc and even better when i viewed them on my TV. Good enough for me, that's all i need. I also have to say the controls are real easy to use and navigate through and there are a bunch of fun creative stuff you can do with the pictures such as monochrome, toy effect, high dynamic etc.. The viewfinder is digital so it is not smooth when you're panning with the camera, has a jittery effect to it. I changed the picture setting to 16:9 and it was a lot better to view through. If you can get past the cheap feeling body and the viewfinder you will find this camera excellent. I took some pictures outside and utilized the f2.8 aperture and noticed that the pictures were too bright. Lowered it to 5.6 and perfect! I never thought I'd have to worry about getting too much light for the picture. I also zoomed in fully on a bunch of road signs and viewed them on my TV and they were perfect. I'm not gonna sit in front of my laptop and zoom in 100% and complain about noise and purple fringing etc... It does have some when you really look at it up close zoomed in but i'm not gonna point it out to people i show pictures to.
I will be doing more testing with this camera but so far 5 stars for execution and quality of pictures. I just can't give this camera 5 stars because of the body feel and the viewfinder. if those two things were better then 5 stars for sure.
** Update 11/20/2012
Been doing a lot of picture taking the last couple days and keeping the tag on the camera in case i need to return it. No need for that because every picture i take has been excellent. It's amazing and such a pleasure to take a picture of something in the distance and get great clarity and color.
My advice to anyone reading other reviews and getting discouraged by the image noise at high ISO levels needs to take a deep breath have a beer and stop pixel peeping. I mean every camera will have it at some point. Does this camera have more image noise when magnified then others? sure it does but it's not a high end dslr and for it's class it is one of the best. Thing is you really don't need high ISO levels with this camera because of the f2.8 aperture being wide open at any zoom range.
Digital cameras will always have image noise at some point. They are not the quality of what cameras used to be in my opinion but they're flexibility to edit and retake a shot gives the user much more control. I looked at some of my older photos taken with a 35mm camera and they were so much better. Just the nature of digital photos that meakes them inferior.
My only gripe is the feel of the camera, it really feels more like a toy because of the plastic body but if it takes good pics then i can deal with it.
I think the menu system is easy to use and I am gettig quicker at setting what i want. It really takes some time to get to know the camera because it has so many customized settings. I am still not sure of a few of them but getting there. I think the camera is well worth the money and i'm going to be using it more and more as a go to camera.
the pictures that Graham Loughton (that his name?) posted on YouTube were stunning and people download and magnify and still complain. Geez, come on get a grip. Again i'll say if it looks good on my 52" TV at 16:9 crop and on my laptop i am good to go here. Don't over analyze things too much, this camera gets great profesional reviews everywhere i have looked.
With so many choices out there it is so confusing on what to buy but with this camera you get a very unique thing with the f2.8 at 600mm zoom which distinguishes it from any other camera.
If you have to shoot in a darker area use a flash, that's what they are for but in most cases with this camera you can maintain a low ISO and get a fast shutter with the aperture at 2.8. There is no need to shoot at high ISO level with this camera anyway.
Good luck everyone.
** Update 11/23
Ok I'm over the viewfinder and the cheap feel to it. I'm moving this to 5 stars. I took a boatload of pics today at the park because the weather was beautiful and had great results.
Camera setting were Aperture Mode 4.0 - 5.6 (bright day) I set the scence mode to Scenery and bumped the saturation up +1 and noise reduction +1. I set the WB to Outdoor and results were fantastic.
Only downside to all this was a fre pics taken anywhere from 500mm - 600mm were a bit noisy but otherwise no issues. Getting more comfortable with the camera as I go.
** Update 12/23
Just a quick update on this camera as i have been using it as my go to camera. I also use a Canon 60D and a Lumic G5. I have gotten very used to this camera and I have to say it is the best camera I have ever owned. The quality of the pictures this camera takes is incredible. I haven't been in SilkyPix at all to edit because there is no need to. There have been some negative feedback on the noise level with high ISO's and while they are mainly true that you don't want to go higher then ISO 800 (some say 400) you can limit this setting in the config menu. Now, the camera has some limitations under low lighting but for the majority of your pics you will be ok. It has it's limitation as most cameras in this grouping do. I will leave some links below to my shutterfly account to view pictures if you want. I have taken shots of the moon, sunsets and local parks here in North Carolina.
I also want to mention that you can go to YouTube and view many tutorial videos by Graham Houghton to get more details on the camera. they are great and he does a great job.
Shutterfly acct: [...]
I stronlgy recommend getting this camera on Amazon, buy it if your on the fence and if you don't like it make sure the seller has a return policy so if you don't like it you can return it. I doubt you will.
It is well worth the money.
on February 12, 2013
The FZ200 is a great camera that takes beautiful images and amazing video. I've taken about 5000 images so far including images and videos at the zoo, botanical gardens, state fair, museum's and in Alaska's wilderness. The vast majority of images have come out sharp, and properly exposed. The camera is amazing in good light situations. I took many ISO 100 lower light images which came out sharp and properly exposed all made possible by the F2.8 lens and amazing image stabilization. Most of my images were hand held but looking at them on my 55 inch LCD screen; it looked as if a tripod was used on all the images. I used the default settings in P mode, but most shots were in A mode, Aperture at F2.8 for lower lighting. The F2.8 produced beautiful bokeh. (Sharp subject with blurred background). I raised the ISO in extra low light settings to keep exposure above 1/10 second, my limit for sharp hand held images. There is a limit to how high you can raise the ISO with a small sensor camera and I found that an ISO higher than 800 produced images with a little too much noise. The F2.8 Lens allows more light to the sensor so marginal images with other bridge cameras is possible with the FZ200.
Even a beginner who has never taken an image could use this camera with great success and would advance much faster than buying an entry level dSLR with kit lens. This camera is lighter, faster and just better. I also own and use a Canon 60D dSLR, Panasonic GH3 MFT as well as some great subcompact cameras. When given a choice, I now want the FZ200 for images and video. When the camera is set at F2.8, the bokeh is just wonderful and produced portraits that look almost professional. Great image stabilization is critical in a zoomed lens especially at the far end. It does require bracing the camera as well as you can. I will use fences, trees, or lean against anything not moving which helps a lot. In the IA or P setting, the camera usually defaults to F3.5 or F4 which is the sharper part of the lens. I used the A mode most of the time because most of my shots were portrait, no action, low light, or macro. If I were to take an action shot the S mode would be best.
I also own the Panasonic FZ150 camera which is a great camera too but does not have a F2.8 zoom lens. Here are some of the improvements I in saw in the FZ200. There are many improvements.
1. Improved grip, its larger and holding the camera steady is easier with better button placement. Extra weight adds balance with the larger lens. It still uses 52 mm filters which are readily purchased and install.
2. The on/off switch is in now a lever switch on the mode dial like you find on dSLR. It's much better than the recessed on/off button; it opens up a space for an additional buttons.
3. Addition of more function buttons, a great feature and easily programed for various functions.
4. The video button is more pronounced and was moved into a position where it is very easy to move your finger onto the video button without looking or moving the camera. It takes practice.
5. The flash switch is move pronounced, repositioned and much easier to switch on.
6. The mode dial is less cluttered with scenic mode in just one of the positions.
7. All the buttons are spaced further apart and have a positive feel (not so recessed)
8. Huge 24X F2.8 lens is F2.8 through 600 mm (35 film equiv) which is ground breaking for any camera. Once you get used to F2.8 in a lens it is very difficult to go back to a camera or lens without it.
9. Larger battery means more images before recharging, could last the entire day. I haven't run out yet. On one day I shot 18 minutes of video and 450 images and still had ½ power on the meter. This exceeds the specification. I never used the flash except early on to test the camera which might have made a difference. The flash does work well.
10. More custom settings allowed. Many more and they can be reset each time if you desire.
11. Improved EVF. It has many more pixels and with the F2.8 lens the image you see is very bright even in very low light. This is very helpful for image taking and video.
12. Very fast auto focusing. Can set focus start for zoom or macro on lens side. Not instantaneous focus but fast. Fully zoomed lens in low light will produce some slowness while seeking focus.
13. Great Video and Audio, the camera microphone is slightly angled which is different than FZ150.
14. All the good stuff from the FZ150 has been retained. Mike and remote jack, lens hood, etc
This camera is aimed at beginners , photo enthusiasts, but not professionals. Professional may buy it for the F2.8 lens and use it for fun photography.
Warning: This camera is not a professional camera for many reasons which include:
1. The camera is not moisture or rain proof
2. The camera is not dust proof
3. The F stop is limited from F2.8 to F8 which limits macro use and some landscape use.
4. The camera is polycarbonate and not meant to be dropped ever or banged around.
5. The total shutter lifetime is not known. Could last up to 10,000 clicks, who knows?
The camera is not a professional camera, so what else is not perfect with the camera?
1. Its ¼ pound heavier than previous model (from battery, grip and lens)
2. $100 higher price than previous model and competition.
3. Basic User Manual only a few pages and no full manual but full manual is on supplied disk.
4. Lens hood fits very tightly and it's a little hard to install, easier to remove.
5. Limited F stops on goes from F2.8 to F8 (limits macro work and some landscape images)
6. Manual Focus is very awkward. (You would want this to take pictures through windows and cages) and some macro pictures. DSLR lens are vastly superior for manual focus and better for macro work.
7. Macro images are good but not great. All super zooms have limited macro capabilities.
8. Not water proof, dust proof, and must be handled carefully (don't drop or impede lens)
9. Zoom does not extend to 50X like SX50is if you find that important.
10. Interchangeable lenses will produce sharper images especially with a larger sensor camera.
11. Small sensor limits low light capability and image sharpness. For a pro this matters.
12. On/Off button can be a little flaky.
13. Plastic Build allows lightness but not as durable as metal.
How does this camera compare to a dSLR's such as the Canon Rebel T4i or the Canon 60D? I own both of these cameras and believe the dSLR image quality is superior to the FZ200 which is not unexpected because of the larger sensor and high quality lens available. The camera will provide better low noise at higher ISO and is vastly superior in macro photography, a weak point with the FZ200. The T4i has a touch screen interface on the LCD which we might see in a future upgrade to the FZ series. The dSLR has a much smaller focusing point allowing great images at the Zoo right through the cage. It's possible to manually focus the FZ200 but it is not that easy or as fast. The dSLR will produce nice video but the video taken though the EVF on the FZ200 is much easier and produces better video at all zoom levels. For video the FZ200 is the superior camera, for images and macro is the dSLR is better.
How does the camera compare to Micro 4/3 cameras with an EVF like the FZ200? These include cameras the Panasonic GH3 or the Olympus OMD-EM5? These cameras have larger sensors than the FZ200 but smaller than dSLR's, the camera size and weight are very similar to the FZ200. I have used and own both of these cameras and they rival the dSLR in capabilities. The Olympus OMD has an EVF and in body image stabilization like the FZ200 but is smaller and has all metal body and weather sealing which make the camera a little heavier than the FZ200. This camera also produces outstanding images with great low light capability and better macro than the FZ200. The video is much less capable. This camera is 2X to 3X in price and is geared to the photo enthusiast and is much more complicated to setup and use. The Panasonic GH3 are also very capable cameras and excel at video and can produce camcorder quality or better. It is priced at 2X the price of the FZ200. Both camera use interchangeable lenses as well as use dSLR lenses with adapters. They take great images and are better at low light images than the FZ200. They are good alternatives to dSLR's with a good selection of lenses. You could easily spend over $2000 to get the range of zoom you get already included with the FZ200.
The Panasonic FZ200 seems to have taken the most important and critical features found in the dSLR and MFT (micro four thirds) cameras, including the in body image stabilization and EVF of the MFT, size and shape of small dSLR without the weight, many dslr like functions for customization and added a F2.8 super zoom lens at an affordable price. What was left out is expensive stuff like metal body, weather sealing, unlimited customization, and large sensor. These items while nice for the enthusiast or pro are overkill for the 95% of us that want to have fun taking good quality images and video and still have money left to pay the mortgage.
The bottom line is that the FZ200 is a significant upgrade over the FZ150. Read all the reviews and try the camera out if you can find it anywhere. The issues some people reported, which included noise even at ISO 100 could have been a defective camera or failure to set camera properly. I never saw the noise that was mentioned until the images were viewed at over 200%. Overall it is an easy and fun camera to use and considering all that's included is a good buy even at it's retail price. However the price does vary so be patient and you can save up to $100 at various times. If the camera has a weak point it is low light images and video because of the the very small sensor. The build quality is OK and typical for most bridge cameras. I've already taken several thousand images and video and the vast majority taken in good light are keepers.
Is this the best bridge camera you can buy? The answer is definitely no with the introduction of the Sony RX10 and Panasonic's FZ1000. These bridge cameras use a much larger 1 inch sensor which allows better images and video in low light up to 3200 ISO something not possible with the FZ200. I would research these cameras if you have the budget. The Sony RX10 adds high quality build, excellent lens, and superb images and video. Panasonic's FZ1000 adds 4K video, breath taking images and video and high speed operation not seen in any other bridge camera. The larger sensor means a larger, heavier camera than the FZ200 but lighter than most dSLR's and there are still no lenses to change. If your budget is closer to $300, consider the Panasonic FZ70 which has a spectacular long zoom, excellent image and video quality but missing some of the extra features found in the FZ200.
After 20 month of use, the on/off switch on top started to fail. The camera would turn on and then shutdown within a second or two. The camera was sent in for camera repair (not Panasonic). The problem: The top operation unit assembly had failed and apparently there were a number of FZ200's that experienced this failure. My camera was purchased about 6-9 months after initial release. Since then, Panasonic has redesigned this assembly and it has a new part number so newer units should hopefully not have this failure. if you purchased an older used unit, be aware that a certain number will have this switch problem. The repair cost for this repair was about $200. I have many cameras to replace this one but I decided I like the camera enough to have it repaired. Because this happened under 2 years, I may receive reimbursement from CC insurance. No one wants to have a broken camera but this one is well worth fixing. I'll keep my fingers crossed I will no further problems. I'm not taking any stars away because any product even the best will sometimes fail and need repair. It's still a great camera, it's just not perfect!
The FZ200 has a nice blend of features, performance and price and is a very easy to use camera. I've enjoyed using the camera and it is still a good camera to consider if you wish to buy an inexpensive big zoom bridge camera with a constant F2.8 lens. If you can afford to spend a little more, you might consider the new FZ300. Spending even more you might consider the FZ1000 which is an outstanding one inch sensor camera. The Sony RX10 and RX10 ii should also be considered although it is priced well beyond most budgets.
The newly released FZ300 uses the same F2.8 lens and the same high sensitivity MOS sensor and adds five major improvements to the FZ200. These include a much larger and easier to view EVF, an improved LCD touchscreen, much faster processor, 4K video and images, dust and moisture resistant camera, slightly better image and video quality because of the better processor, better 5 axis image stabilization and a camera with slight better handling. The big downside is reduced battery life, slightly heavier camera and additional cost. If you have the $200 to $250 extra to invest in this camera, it could be a better choice. You really can't go wrong with either camera.
on September 10, 2012
The title of this review says it all. If a 25-600mm zoom with a constant f2.8 aperture was to be released by Nikon, Canon or Fuji with an excellent electronic viewfinder, terrific handling and weighing in about 27 ounces -- and it sold for $1600 -- it would be crowned as the Camera Of The Year and would be on allocation everywhere. Instead "reviewers" who have probably never used it for even a hundred shots are coming up with all those answers for why it can't be as good as it seems.
Unlike most of the reviewers, I've used it for demanding work over the past two weeks; and it's yielded more than 1,000 photos without more than a dozen that represented a failure of the camera to do what I told it to do. For proof, go to my website, and to the gallery entitled: "12-8-31 CYC Race Start - Steve Frankel's Shots". It contains 189 photos I took last week from the committee boat at the start of the Wednesday Night Races sponsored by the California Yacht Club in Marina del Rey, CA. Some shots are wide-angle but more were done at 200-600mm and most are razor-sharp. This is despite all being shot from a rolling deck of a 38' boat and all being handheld. To give you a reference for the quality, the gallery entitled "12-8-31 CYC Race Start - Glenn Daley's Shots"were taken by a friend alongside me in the cockpit who was shooting with a Nikon D5100 with an 18-105mm f3.5-5.6 lens. Since the photos were taken at the same time and with the same light, you can see that the Lumix doesn't give anything away to the Nikon on the shots which were taken at about the same focal lengths. Of course, the really close telephoto shots that were taken by the Lumix could not be matched by the Nikon.
Interestingly the third galley of yacht racing photos (2012 Yacht Race Photos) were taken about 2 months ago on a really rough evening, and these were all taken by my Olympus OM-D with the splash proof 12-50mm lens. At twice the price of the Lumix, one would expect that the shots taken at similar focal lengths would have been sharper with the OM-D; but that was really not the case even when I blew up the best shots taken by each of the cameras up to 13"x19" enlargements.
The only thing the Lumix doesn't have going for it are its size and a really wide aperture of indoor shooting. I'm using my third camera, a Sony RX100, to fill this void. Come to think of it, a FZ200 and a RX100 make an almost ideal combination and yet it costs less than the OM-D with the 12-50 zoom. It's only when you equip the OM-D with 3 fixed focal length lenses ( I use the 14mm f2.5, the 25mm f1.4, and the 75mm f1.8 along with the 12-50mm zoom) ) that you can do even better than the FZ200/RX100 combo, but at that point you're comparing the $1250 combo to one which costs about $3000.
In short, if you have want to have a cameral that will be close to ideal about 80% of the time, you can't go wrong with the Lumix. Don't be taken in by the criticism of the small sensor size. I don't know how Panasonic did it, but the photos at my website don't lie: This camera has a terrific lens and body; if I were not afraid of accused of being sexist, I would say it's close to being a perfect "10"!
on September 4, 2012
My conclusion so far is that the FZ200 images are clearly sharper than those from the FZ150. It's also much better in low light conditions. I have a great picture of a magnolia blossom from about 8 feet away and you can see the individual hairs on the stem. The FZ200 does weigh more than the FZ150. By sharp I mean when a. Viewed in review mode on the camera LCD using zoom, b. Viewed on a 27inch Dell HD monitor at about 12inches, and c. When printed on a Canon iP100 which has a decent resolution.
Other things I like:
-The higher resolution EVF which I use when shooting makes composition easier (I only use the LCD for menu changing/reviewing pictures). It works quite well actually, because when the LCD is closed up face in, the EVF comes on.
-Same 52mm filter size.
-Same camera case fits although the FZ200 is a little larger than the FZ150.
-Larger capacity battery.
-The new FZ200 body is slightly taller than that of the FZ150 so there is more thumb room on the right side of the LCD, especially useful when holding the FZ200 in one hand while standing in a pop top safari van.
-The FZ150 was great as a safari camera, and this one is even better.
-iZOOM now gives an additional 2X magnification. If you are concerned about the potential reduction in image quality (after all there is no free lunch), you can either stay out of the iZOOM area using the ZOOM bar at the bottom of the screen or if using P mode simply turn iZOOM off. I tried a few repeat tests (handheld) shots using iZOOM and they looked great at 48X. Useful on safari for rare shots (maybe 1 in 400) where 24X just isn't enough.
-I don't use flash and it's not allowed in many galleries and museums, so it's nice that it has to be mechanically switched on, and not on by default at power on. Not much new here versus the FZ150.
Things I didn't like:
-My unit makes a slight random buzzing noise when just sitting there, not sure what that is yet. Seems to be in present in record mode only. Since it might show up on the sound track and also shorten the battery life I am going to return it and get a replacement. Update: I found that the second unit behaved the same, and since I have to crank the volume up to the max to hear it on the audio track (where I can also hear my breathing) I decided it isn't a problem. The second unit is virtually the same as the first one as far as IQ, so that's encouraging.
-There is less room between the grip and the lens barrel, so I can no longer have the lenshood
stored backwards without scrunching my fingers. I found this useful for hiding the chrome and other flashy stuff around the lens. Plan to NOT carry a lens hood now as I seldom if ever use one.
I suggest the photo review au FZ200 review for assessing performance, and comparing with other cameras i.e. G1X, FZ150, RX100, etc. I set up 2 reviews in windows next to each other, for comparing each section.
(My FZ200 equipment list is much the same as before-no tripod, no lens hood, Nikon 52mm clear filter for lens protection, Crumpler The Noose wrist strap, Rip Off's Belt Pouch, and one spare battery in pants pocket).
To say that I am an amateur photographer is an under statement. A point and shoot guy for over 40 years, half of which I never knew which side of the camera to look through.
As I am being dragged into the 21st century I decided it was time to invest in a decent camera. Plus I was at the point where if I researched one more camera my brains were going to pour out of my ears.
I've had my eye on the FZ200 since it's pre-release. Yet I kept putting the purchase off and instead bought the under-rated Fujifilm X-S1 which is an excellent camera however the feature set, Image Stabilization and dazzling low light performance of the FZ200 beats the Fuji hands down - as it does with any other Bridge camera in this price range.
I had also considered the following:
1) An entry level DSLR the Nikon D3100 or the Canon T3i 2
2) Out of the Bridge cameras I had narrowed it down to a few but the Panasonic FZ200 was always my first choice. Not only is it insanely popular it won Cnet's coveted Editors Choice award. The review by senior editor Josh Goldman is well worth watching if you're considering this camera or even if you already own it, the review has value.
I have great admiration for Panasonic products, aside from our televisions I have a Panny Professional AG - HMC40 Video camera. I mention this because the Tech support from Panasonic has been so stellar. For me, this is a key issue, if there's a problem these folks will take all the time needed to help you out - a rarity these days.
During a trouble shooting session with the video cam (which is a different department) I made it a point to talk with the Panny Tech about the FZ200 luck was in my favor as the Tech in the Pro department not only had a soft spot for the FZ200 he was happy to answer any questions I had. At one point during our conversation he told me - "Look, you won't learn this camera in a few days or even weeks - period. that's just not going to happen. Use the manual as a reference and most of all, start shooting in IA mode and see how you do"
It was great advice.
I have spent hours taking pictures of our Bulldogs romping outside- over 200 photographs. The photos with exception of a just a few are spectacular. Crystal clear, wonderfully rich and sparkling with vibrant true to life colors - I was dazzled.
Normally I would be in Corels Paintshop Pro or Adobe Lightroom for hours just trying to reduce the noise and blur but these images were pristine. Harley our oldest bulldog was born to play soccer. That said, because the recovery time between shots and focusing is so lightening fast the "action" shots of him playing, running, moving his gargantuan orange ball around were perfect, so perfect even caught in mid air. The images are blur free - it was hard to believe I had taken them.
This camera is blazing fast.
Low light conditions is where the FZ200 really shines. Pictures in dim lighting come out rich and clear. I've never had a camera perform so well in near dark conditions and that's without using the flash. The Feature set is sensational. The camera has so many intriguing built in filters and modes such as Miniaturize, old movie. Sepia and other creative modes it's a bit overwhelming. On most other cameras I tend to think most of these are gimmicky as there's nothing you can't do in Photoshop if you're so inclined. However, the feature set is so rich and really does provide options you'll want to actually use. The camera is free of what is the equivalent of novelty bloatware.
As I was really comfortabe with the Manual Zoom on my Fuji X-S1 I wasn't sure how I would like the auto Zoom but it's terrific. Smooth as silk, accurtae and completely silent. The view finder is excellent as well and surprisingly I found myself preferring this over the LCD screen. As for the LCD The articulation is great. Plus there's very little wash out in direct sunlight so it's always easy to read - it's nice and bright.
Some First Impressions:
* Built like a Tank. Although it's plastic whereas the before mentioned Fuji is an all metal body with a rubberized coating - it's still a solid machine. Nice weight and fits in the hand beautifully.
* The lens is one beautiful piece of glass. The auto zoom is surprisingly accurate.
* Lot's of ports. Including one for an external Mic, and an HDMI cable.
* Full HD video at 1080 dpi plus built in stereo mic/speakers.
* Intuitive menu for easy set up - but still LOT'S to learn, especially for a novice as myself.
* Pop up flash which according to Panasonic is more than adequate up to a range of 6-10 feet indoors and out. If you're further away say, sitting up in bleachers, you'll need an external flash.
* Speaking of external flashes the camera has a Hot Shoe
The entire package arrives beautifully presented. The glossy black box includes the camera of course, The battery (which takes a first 4 hour charge) a charger and power cord, a quality neck and shoulder strap, Spring loaded lens cap which fits good and tight, USB transfer cable, Manual which is surprisingly easy to understand and follow, a CD ROM with a PDF version of the both an extended manual and Silky-Pics editing software (my copy wouldn't install on any computer) registration card and some additional paper work mostly safety and care related.
As for the Image Stabilization it's nothing short of a technological marvel.
At the heart of Panny's patented system is a "floating" lens which responds immediately to any movement of the camera or hand shake. It's response time is lightening fast and does a flawless job eliminatating blur. Even at full zoom without a tripod the images are wonderful. The FZ200 is as impressive looking as the photo's it's taking are beautiful.
In hind sight a DSLR would have driven me crazy lugging around all those lenses that cost more than the camera itself the FZ200 is just a superb alternative.
** Back to low light performance for one moment.
A blinking message on the LCD will warn you if you need to use the flash. I was totally un-aware of this feature. We had some friends over the other evening and everyone was out in the sun room which was only lit by a cluster of candles.
I played around with the setting modes and while leaving the camera on IA I chose "steady hand held nigh shot" and used the flash with red eye reduction. The images knocked me out. I did brighten some a little in Paint Shop but this was a matter of personal taste. The flash provides superb fill light and you don't get that stark, harsh light I've experienced with other past and present cameras.
**** IMPORTANT TIP*******
If you're considering this camera or already own it. I urge you to log onto youtube and search out many of the excellent reviews and tutorials. I highly reccomend a gentleman out of the U.K named Graham Houghton. Graham has an entire series of videos dedicated to the FZ200. It's a superb soup nuts insight into each feature with lessons ranging from the basics to using and learning full manual settings.
He doesn't work for Panasonic - he just adores this camera! It's in every way a labor of love and a huge beneft for FZ200 owners. It's virtually a free in depth course in photography put in laymen's terms and frankly was yet one more compelling reason I purchased the camera. He has educational videos on virtually everything this camera can do and puts it in easy to understand steps.
This camera continues to blow me away, the build quality, the intuitive menus and most of all the incredibly vivid photographs. Folks far more advanced than I have written reviews that explain the aspects of both photography and the FZ200 far better than I am able to do. However I can offer this to you. The FZ200 is making me a better photographer and I've just begun to scratch the surface - if it can do this for me, without question it can do the same for you.