Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2000 Review
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The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ2000 (also known as the Panasonic FZ2500) is a super-zoom camera featuring a 20x zoom lens equivalent to a focal range of 24-480mm, 20.1 megapixel 1-inch MOS sensor, 3-inch 1040K-pixel rotating LCD touchscreen, 2,359k OLED Live View Finder (LVF), DCI 4K (4096 x 2160) video recording at 30/25/24fps including the ability to extract 8 megapixel images from the 4K video, 120fps high speed video recording, 3.5mm microphone and headphone jacks and a built-in ND filter, ISO range of 80-25600, high speed burst shooting at 12fps with the mechanical shutter and 50fps with the electronic shutter, dual zoom and control rings, 3cm macro shooting with Post Focus and Post Focus Stacking functions, and integrated Wi-Fi connectivity. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2000 is available in black and retails for £1099.99 / $1199.99.
Ease of Use
The Panasonic FZ2000 has a one inch, 20.1 megapixel ‘Mos’ sensor – the same physical chip size found in Nikon’s ‘1’ system or Sony’s rival RX10 bridge model – plus a Leica branded lens comprised of 16 lenses in 11 groups with a nine aperture diaphragm. The latter provides a focal length the equivalent of an ultra wide angle 24-480mm in 35mm terms, translating as a 20x optical zoom, which features hybrid 5-axis image stabilisation to help prevent image blur from camera shake. It also features an inner zoom structure, which means that it doens't extend any further when you change the focal length, and uses a guide-pole mechanism and coreless DC motor which allows for smooth zooming. The FZ2000's lens can be set to zoom at variable speeds using the Fn1 and Fn2 buttons, from fast to very slow, with an extra option to start/end zooming more gradually.
The MOS sensor greatly increases the camera's burst shooting options, with a fastest setting of 12fps when using the mechanical shutter or an incredible 50 full-resolution images when using the electronic shutter for up to 100 (JPEG) / 30 (RAW) images (although both focus and exposure are fixed at the first frame). Slower modes of 7fps and 2fps complete with AF Tracking are also available.
Other notable features include a 2,359K dot OLED EVF and 1040K dot, 3-inch ‘free angle’ LCD screen. That lens reach, prominent electronic viewfinder, tilting screen and a decent sized handgrip have all resulted in a slightly chunky camera. While the chunkiness might dissuade some, others will be glad to at least feel they’re getting their money’s worth. There is also the point to be made that the FZ2000 weighs around a third of what a DSLR kit with an equivalent lens might , so portability here is still key. It’s also worth mentioning that the lens’ maximum f/2.8 aperture – running to up to a still respectable f/4.5 at extreme telephoto – in conjunction with the 1-inch sensor should give us DSLR-like ‘bokeh’ effects.
Providing the hands-on feel for those who want it, the FZ2000’s zoom lens can be controlled via the regular zoom lever surrounding the shutter release button, as on any point and shoot compact. Alternatively this can be done by turning the generously-wide ring on the lens barrel, with the focus automatically adjusted by turning the narrower lens control ring. Also found on the lens barrel are three configurable Function buttons, along with the ND Filter switch. The latter controls the three neutral density filters that are built into the lens, marked 1/4, 1/16 and 1/64, with each filter blocking out 2,4 and 6 stops of light respectively. There's also an Off setting and an Auto setting, which lets the camera take control. The lens even has a 67mm thread for use with filters.
|Front of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2000|
From all angles the Panasonic FZ2000 certainly looks like it means business, which is reassuring given the high price tag. The mottled finish and leather effect padding will cause most observers to suspect you’re wielding a DSLR from a distance, and as you’d imagine, it handles a lot like one too. The large-ish, bright and clear electronic viewfinder with a prominent eye relief means that we just about get away with avoiding our nose smearing up against the main monitor screen, though the larger and more flexible screen is what we most naturally found ourselves using when setting up or reviewing shots.
Unsurprisingly, that large Leica branded glass lens dominates proceedings here with its 24-480mm focal range and aperture range stretching from a bright/fast f/2.8 to a perfectly acceptable f/4.5 at the telephoto end. Interestingly on this camera, the default still image ratio is now 3:2, which gives us the full 20.1 effective megapixel image. If you want to opt for the 4:3 ratio usually provided as the standard on a digital camera, this results in a resolution squeeze down to 17.5 megapixels. Naturally there’s the ability to capture Raw files or Raw files and JPEGs in combination. Since the latter option barely affected writing speed in the slightest, we chose it as our own personal default setting for the Panasonic.
To help with the ability to hold the Panasonic FZ2000 nice and steady at maximum zoom, there's a comfortably moulded handgrip around which we were able to wrap three fingers, leaving our forefinger to hover expectantly over the shutter release button. The latter sits atop the handgrip, tilting forward at an ergonomic angle, encircled by a zoom lever. New to the FZ2000 is a finger-operated control dial, which again adds to the DSLR-like feel of the camera.
Situated just behind this are two further buttons on the top plate. To the right we find a dedicated video button and on the left the fourth function button, marked ‘Fn4’. By default this accesses the comprehensive Exposure Compensation settings, but drill into the menu screens and it’s possible to manually attribute a wide variety of functions to such buttons, of which there are no less than 7 in total, including the ability to call up Panasonic’s Photo Style settings (the default factory option, seemingly), a level gauge – also summoned up by a press of the ‘display’ button – or alter the aspect ratio, just for starters. In fact, on this model there are 11 screens’ worth of user-attributable options, with four options presented on each, so the customization of said controls certainly feels almost limitless.
The other notable control nestling nearby on the top plate is for the camera’s shooting modes, of which 10 are offered – including the usual fully automatic, manual and custom settings – with the dial ergonomically encircled by the on/off switch. Give this a flick with the thumb, and, as soon as said thumb comes to rest, the camera is powered up; which is as quick as anyone could hope for. This responsiveness extends to the use of the lens, which travels through its optical zoom range from wide-angle to maximum telephoto setting in 4-5 seconds when in stills shooting mode. Even at maximum telephoto setting a squeeze of the shutter release button and the camera determines focus in a blink of an eye.
|Rear of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2000|
On the FZ2000 the selectable shooting modes include the expected intelligent Auto setting and palette-like icon indicating creative controls. The Panasonic has eight screens’ worth of digital effects on board selectable in this mode. The next shooting option discovered with a further turn of the mode dial is the scene settings, of which there are 25 here, and finally, a panorama option. Moving around the shooting mode wheel we find a Custom setting, followed by a dedicated mode for video. There's the choice of 30, 25 or 24 frames per second capture speed in QFHD 4K quality (3840x2160 pixels) in the MP4 format, and a cinematic 4096x2160 pixel / 24fps option in the MOV format. Bit rate is an impressive 200Mbps (ALL-Intra) or 100Mbps (IPB) with 4:2:0 8-bit colour, there is no time limit on the recording duration, and you can output to an external monitor or recorder via an optional micro HDMI cable simultaneously while recording video. There's even an optional paid software upgrade for the FZ2000 for V-Log L video recording, just like on the preofessional DMC-GH4 camera. You can also extract a still image from a 4K sequence via the dedicated 4K button on the rear of the camera, ending up with the equivalent of an 8 megapixel photo at 30fps.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2000 is an intriguing prospect for would-be videographers, providing access as it does to the same creative exposure P,A,S,M modes selectable when shooting stills. You also get access to all the Photo Style and Creative Control modes when shooting video. ISO settings, white balance and AF tracking are also all accessible when shooting movies, while the normal bugbear of exterior location shoots is also dealt with thanks to a wind cut option. Happily, the full extent of the smooth and steady optical zoom can be accessed when shooting video, its mechanical operation quiet and minimally intrusive. Continuing around the dial, the final four shooting setting options are for the regular creative quartet of manual, shutter priority, aperture priority and program modes.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2000 has a time lapse function in which you can set the time interval and the number of images to take, plus a multi-exposure option that lets you combine up to four exposures in a single frame, while the Stop Motion Animation mode allows you to create unique stop motion videos. FZ2000 has wi-fi connectivity built-in, but not NFC or GPS. You can use your smartphone to change the camera settings (focus setting, exposure compensation, ISO, WB and Photo Styles) and even fire the shutter button remotely (including interval video recordings), while the auto transfer function automatically backs up your photos onto a tablet. You can also use GPS data from your smartphone to record the shooting location onto your images.
Jumping across the ‘hump’ in the middle of the top plate, housing the electronic viewfinder, vacant hotshoe, stereo microphone and pop-up flash, we come to a second, smaller dial with a ridged edge. Here we get access to the camera’s drive modes, which range from single shot capture through high speed burst, to bracketing (now including aperture and focus) and self timer and interval shooting modes. Post Focus is a new function that enables users to select the in-focus area after shooting simply by touching it on the LCD screen. The new Post Focus Stacking function enables users to take multiple images of the same frame with different areas in focus, then combine all or selected focus areas into one image.
Moving our attention to the backplate, this is obviously dominated not only by the tilt, swivel and flip LCD screen, but also by the aforementioned EVF that juts out above it. The malleability of the screen is such that it can be turned to face the subject for that inevitable ‘selfie’, or flipped screen inwards affording added protection when in transit. It’s worth saying that we were very impressed with the clarity of screen, which comes into its own when focusing manually. Select this option and a central portion of the image is magnified, making focusing even easier.
|Tilting LCD Screen|
The Panasonic FZ2000's LCD screen is touch sensitive, something that is still lacking on the Sony Cyber-shot series. All of the menu options can be changed via the touchscreen interface. You can also control image playback by touching the screen, with the ability to tap a thumbnail to see the full-size version, scroll through your images by dragging them from side to side, and magnifying them up to 16x.
The most immediately noticeable function is the ability to use the 1-area AF mode to focus on your main subject simply by touching it on the LCD. If the subject then moves, the DMC-FZ2000 cleverly follows it around the screen using the the AF tracking function. If the subject exits the frame entirely, simply recompose and tap it again to start focusing. Impressive stuff that makes focusing on off-center subjects fast and intuitive. It is a little too easy to accidentally press the screen and set the focus point to the wrong area for the current subject, but a simple tap in the middle of the LCD will center the AF point (or you can turn this feature off altogether).
If Multi-area AF rather than 1-area AF is enabled, then you can select a group of 6 AF points from 9 different areas, again providing some manual control over what is traditionally a rather hit and miss affair. If Face Detection is enabled, the 1-area AF point can be manually set to a person's eye to help ensure that the most important part of a portrait is in focus. One other great benefit of the touch-screen control system is that Touch Auto Focusing is available in movie recording, enabling pro-level rack-like focusing simply by pointing at the subject on the LCD screen.
When Intelligent Auto is switched on, the Panasonic FZ2000 changes the scene mode used when you touch the subject, for example selecting portrait mode if you touch a face and macro mode if you touch a close-up flower. If you prefer to manually focus rather than use the snappy AF, you can magnify any part of the subject by 1x, 5x or 10x by simply dragging a yellow box around the screen. The final touchscreen ability from an image composition point of view is the ability to release the shutter, with a small icon on the left hand of the screen enabling this functionality, and then a single on-screen tap all that's required to take the picture.
Focus Peaking graphically shows the peak of focus in the MF and AF+MF modes by displaying an outline around the subject. The detection level can be set to 'High' or ‘Low’ and a colour can be selected In ‘High’ these are light blue, yellow or green and in 'Low' blue, orange or white can be selected. Pinpoint AF mode is very useful for precisely focusing on a very small area, while, Manual Focus Assist automatically displays a 10x magnification to help you make sure that the subject is in focus in the MF mode.
|The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2000 In-hand|
The Panasonic FZ2000's eye-level electronic viewfinder provides the obvious benefit of a built-in eye sensor immediately below, thus automatically activating and by turn deactivating the larger LCD when it senses the proximity of an eyeball. The short sighted also get a dioptric adjustment wheel to the left of the EVF, as viewed straight on, and just up from this we find a manually activated sliding switch for raising the pop-up flash, which announces its presence with a reassuringly solid sounding ‘clunk’ when called into action. As well as the eye sensor, there is a button to the left of this marked ‘LVF’ for manual activation if desired, which feels a bit redundant given the camera’s responsiveness. Luckily this also doubles up as one of the customisable function buttons – ‘Fn7’ to be exact – should you wish to change its function. Attendant controls veer towards those of a DSLR – for example an auto focus/auto exposure lock, encircled by a lever for switching between single shot and continuous auto focus, or on to manual (focus).
The default setting of the ‘Fn5’ button to the right of the lock/drive mode buttons provides access to the usual Panasonic ‘Quick Menu’ bar. Selectable from this are the Photo Style settings, which here range from the default ‘Standard’ setting to Vivid, Natural, Mono(chrome), Scenery, Portrait, and Custom options. A top-of-screen toolbar further provides access to flash modes, which include forced flash, forced flash with red eye reduction, slow sync and slow sync with red eye. Image size and picture quality can also be adjusted in this manner, along with, again, AF modes. Such options can either be tabbed through using the camera’s four-way control pad or a thumb spin of a DSLR-like control dial top right of the camera back. Again there are a variety of options for arriving at your destination with the FZ2000, but this doesn’t make it a confusing camera to use or difficult to get to grips with.
Between this ‘Fn5’ and ‘Display’ button we find a standard playback control, with a press of the display button not only showing or hiding on-screen options but also, with subsequent presses, bringing up a level gauge – useful for photographers/ videographers shooting landscapes and cityscapes without the support of a tripod.
Bottom right of the FZ2000’s back plate is the aforementioned four-way/directional control pad. Selectable here are ISO sensitivity settings, which include both auto and ‘intelligent’ ISO options, along with manually selectable staggered increments from ISO125 to ISO12800 (expandable to 80-25600). White balance and macro mode implementation also happens via the same dial.
The very bottom of the Panasonic FZ2000 features a further user attributable ‘Fn6’ button which doubles up as a dedicated ‘Delete’ button in playback mode, with the base of the camera featuring a slightly off-centre screw thread for tripod attachment and a compartment housing the rechargeable battery, good for around a respectable 360 shots. The SD card is now inserted into a slot on the right-hand flank of the camera, above which is a port for a remote control. On the left-hand side, HDMI and USB output ports are provided along with two more ports for attaching an external microphone for sound recording and headphones for monitoring audio.