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Customer Review

454 of 470 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I am very impressed with this camera., August 28, 2012
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This review is from: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 12.1 MP Digital Camera with CMOS Sensor and 24x Optical Zoom - Black (Electronics)
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.)
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Showing 1-10 of 76 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 28, 2012 5:34:07 PM PDT
otto0713 says:
Thank you for a real first "on hands" review. You're right about the memory card being formatted in the camera only-or it may loose the ability to be used in the camera. I think that this may be a great performer and am contemplating buying.
It's predecessor the FZ150 is highly rated and a gentleman from England reviewed it in great detail on You tube. His name is ghough12 and if you check out his videos, you will learn some of the greater secrets of the FZ series of cameras. It was his easy to understand videos that spiked my interest in the Panasonic "Bridge" series.
Again thank you and good luck with your new machine.

Posted on Aug 28, 2012 5:35:29 PM PDT
George Burke wrote: "You won't find it in your user manual, so here is how to format your SD card."

The instructions for formatting a memory card in the FZ200 appear on page 68 of the "Owner's Manual for advanced features." This document is available for download from the Panasonic Web site in pdf format. In every Panasonic camera I've ever owned, the menus can be scrolled in two opposite directions, both up as well as down. I'd be surprised if the FZ200 (which I don't own yet) is uniquely different and permits scrolling in one direction only. If bidirectional scrolling is available, you should be able to reach the FORMAT option a lot faster by scrolling upwards/backwards through the menu instead of downward/forward. Perhaps you can try that and let us know what you observe.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 28, 2012 5:45:59 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 28, 2012 6:06:41 PM PDT
George Burke says:
You are correct. By using the up arrow key I was able to start at the end of page 8 and get to the format function on page 7 much faster. Its a shame that neither Panasonic tech support person told me that. This is my first Panasonic camera, so I have no prior experience with them. Thanks for pointing this out to me.

After I sent you the above, I went to page 68 of the Advanced User's Guide. Below is all it says about formatting. It never really tells you how to find the format function as I explained in my review.

"* Use a battery with sufficient battery power or the AC adaptor (optional) when formatting. Do not turn
the camera off during formatting.
* If a card has been inserted, only the card is formatted. To format the built-in memory, remove the
card.
* If the card has been formatted on a PC or other equipment, format it on the camera again.
* It may take longer to format the built-in memory than the card.
* If you cannot format, contact the dealer or your nearest Service Centre."

Posted on Aug 28, 2012 5:51:20 PM PDT
George Burke says:
A reader just pointed out to me that it is possible to scroll in BOTH directions to get to the format function. He is correct. Instead of clicking the down arrow 43 times, I hit the up arrow and started at the bottom of page 8 and continued on to the format function on page 7. This time I did not count the clicks, but it was much less. I appreciate the tip from the experienced Panasonic camera user. The FZ200 is my first Panasonic digital camera..

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 28, 2012 5:54:36 PM PDT
George Burke says:
Thanks for info. I'll check him out in YouTube.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 28, 2012 8:07:25 PM PDT
Jednlb says:
I have both the FZ28 and more recently the FZ150. I haven't had to del with formatting SD cards with these cameras, so would hope there is a fix for this need soon. Are you posting any of your FZ200 shots on a photo sharing site? I'd love to see some as I am trying to decide if I want to do another upgrade or wait a year or so for the next generation.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 28, 2012 8:10:02 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 28, 2012 8:10:21 PM PDT
Capnblinski says:
Thanks George Burke for your helpful comments.

It's that Leica lens paired with Panasonic's almost wizardry in electronics that you're seeing!

Posted on Aug 29, 2012 5:46:30 AM PDT
George Burke says:
Yesterday, Adobe announced "Release Candidates" 7.2 for BOTH ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) and DNG (Digital Negative Converter.) Both of these items support the Panasonic FZ200 as well as the Panasonic DMC G5 and LX-7. You MUST have Photoshop CS6 to use the ACR, but DNG is a freestanding piece of software that allows you to convert Panason's .RW2 raw files to the .DNG public domain version of raw that any recent version of Photoshop can handle. Both pieces of software are FREE. I downloaded them both this morning and a very limited usage of them seem to work fine. IMHO, Adobe is really on the ball on this one. ACR and DNG to handle these new cameras at basically the same time as their availability. In the past you had to wait several months.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 29, 2012 9:04:19 AM PDT
George Burke says:
The photos I've taken so far were to test for noise, color , detail, saturation, etc. and not carefully composed photos I would care to put up on the web.

I'm going on an outdoor photo shoot this Friday and a model shoot in a studio this Saturday. I will post some of the best images on pbase and put the link in a later comment to this review.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 29, 2012 10:17:34 AM PDT
DNG is actually not open source or in the public domain (yet). It is the intellectual property of Adobe, which promotes its wide use without imposing any royalties.

There is both an upside and a downside to converting camera raw files to DNG. The downside may not be obvious, so let me explain. When you "develop" a camera raw image file during post-processing in software like Adobe Lightroom, all the changes you apply are recorded to sidecar files instead of the raw image file. These files have an xmp extension and are stored in the same directory/folder along side their corresponding image files. Sidecar files are much smaller in size than their associated image files. When you work on a DNG file in post-processing, the changes you make during post-processing are stored in the DNG file itself. While at first glance this seems like a great convenience, if you happen to be on a Mac computer using Time Machine to back up your files, every time you modify a DNG image file in Lightroom, TM will want to create a new full-sized backup copy of it. If you stay with the camera raw format, on the other hand, each time you reprocess your raw image file, Lightroom will write the changes into the xmp sidecar file. TM will then make a new backup copy not of the large image file (which is unaltered) but of the much smaller sidecar file. In other words, if you stick with the original camera raw format, TM uses much less space to create backups on your backup drive than if you convert all your raw camera image files to DNG.
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