128 of 129 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome camera priced at cost of a DSLR lens !!
After doing loads of research on the web I decided to take the plunge in November 2012 and I am so happy I did. The major selling points were the 2.8 fixed aperture throughout the zoom range and the brilliant EVF (eye viewfinder).
The reviews are quite mixed.. some give it a 5 star rating whilst others are very critical. So I was expecting a decent camera...
Published 7 months ago by A. Camilleri
21 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but still a "bridge" camera
The camera has plenty of features to explore. Its image quality is (as expected) very good under adequate light levels; yet, low-light performance still needs to be improved considerably. Camera relies on (unless you set a max limit) high ISO values for low light situations same as other cameras and this causes more than expected noise in the picture because high ISO...
Published 11 months ago by Rob
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128 of 129 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome camera priced at cost of a DSLR lens !!,
This review is from: Panasonic Lumix FZ200 Bridge Camera - Black (12MP, 24x Optical Zoom) 3.0 inch LCD (Electronics)After doing loads of research on the web I decided to take the plunge in November 2012 and I am so happy I did. The major selling points were the 2.8 fixed aperture throughout the zoom range and the brilliant EVF (eye viewfinder).
The reviews are quite mixed.. some give it a 5 star rating whilst others are very critical. So I was expecting a decent camera which gets the job done without excelling. Fired off a few shots after waiting a couple of hours for a full battery charge and I could not believe the outstanding photo quality. Now I do have a Canon 7D (with an f 2,8 70-200) plus half a dozen other cameras, so I am not new to digital photography.
Considering such a small sensor, it is hard to see how Panasonic managed to come up with a camera which sets a new benchmark. Most possibly they did strike the right balance with sensor and pixels. Having the Leica V Lux 2 aka Panny FZ 100, this camera shines in comparison.
It is not a first (as many claim) that Panasonic have made a 2.8 fixed aperture bridge camera. I have the DMC FZ-20 for nearly a decade and it is 2.8 throughout its 12X zoom.
Now back to the FZ-200.... Once you have a peep through the EVF there's no turning back. I think that it is one of the best on the market, and you could shoot a whole day using it to compose your pics... and yes a whole day, considering the long battery life on this camera. I am not here to speak about the specs of this camera, as the fact you are reading this means you are familiar with what this camera can do. What I can say is that the FZ 200 takes awesome photos.
After all what's the use of having a camera which can even do a cappuccino yet lacks the photo quality !! (aka GPS tagging and wifi, which this camera does not have)
If I had to go on holiday I would carry this camera instead of the 7d with 4 different lenses to make up for the 25-600mm, not to mention 2.8 aperture!!. Add a video camera to that...
Is it a worthy upgrade to the FZ100 - Definitely
Is it a worthy upgrade to the FZ150 - It depends whether you really want slow motion capture. IQ is on par IMHO
Noise levels and smearing - I have seen no smearing (as one review site suggests). Noise levels are much less than most reviews suggest. If you're pixel peeping than you can see them even on top end DSLRs. Yet don't get me wrong this is no DSLR, yet its not that far off either. I still carry the 7D for airshows as nothing beats a DSLR for super-fast focusing accuracy.
I hope that this review can help you in choosing your next camera.
Update 26th November 2013
After more than a year of owning this camera, I still think that this is the best model bridge camera out there. I have since bought/tried other bridge cameras yet no matter the higher pixel count, the Lumix FZ200 is still the winner in all departments.
45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Expensive but worth every penny,
This review is from: Panasonic Lumix FZ200 Bridge Camera - Black (12MP, 24x Optical Zoom) 3.0 inch LCD (Electronics)There is no point in pretending that the FZ200 is capable of high quality images straight out of the box, especially in low light conditions. It cannot compete with DSLRs or even Micro 4/3 sensors. You have to face up to that fact, and if you do you will then wonder why the FZ200 is as expensive as it is. For me the answer is weight and functionality plus excellent quality for those with a patient and intelligent approach. Do not buy this camera if you are excpecting instant results in Automatic mode in less than optimum lighting conditions.
BUT....if you take the trouble to master this camera's potential, learn its foibles, and rehearse its exemplary controls and flexibility like the back of your hand, you will be rewarded with great pictures, pretty good to very good video and a light, transportable, convenient machine with some quite excellent features, the best of which include:
* Very reliable and high standard auto-focus in nearly all lighting conditions
* Manual focus and focus assist, assignable to a flexible range of buttons and controls
* Superb optics. The 2.8 lens is the star of the show without doubt, as is the superb stabilized zoom.
* Excellent white balance and exposure controls, coupled with very reliable auto-exposure/balance.
* A full range of camera effects, TASTEFUL Hdr, and all the usual modes including full manual.
If there is one secret to getting the best out of this camera, then this is it: All other things equal, go for the lowest possible ISO setting, even if you have to take lots of shots or use burst mode to get the one shot you need at lower shutter speeds. Of course this sounds obvious but with the FZ200 it has never been more true. ISO noise at 100 or 200 is minimal. 400 ISO is useable and 800 ISO shows some noise. From 1600 ISO up, things get very noisy. Avoid if at all possible. Use shutter and aperture instead, unless you just have to have higher ISO in emergencies. If you observe that rule, the FZ200 can deliver really lovely images.
You can also eliminate noise by adjusting contrast, NR, sharpness and other basic settings. As I said, spending a little time with this camera's quirks can reap vast rewards. For this reason it is not a recommended camera for absolute novices who want a plain point and shoot.
Low light quality video is also perfectly possible with this camera, again with careful settings. The very good image stabilization and deliberately subtle auto-focus in video mode is just right. Very rarely does auto-focus go too far then come back. It just gently and reliably, elegantly even, gives you perfect focus in all but the most challenging conditions, and in any case you can half press the shutter button or press the "force" focus button at anytime to over-ride the auto setting.
With patience and work, this camera can be a joy to use.
Edit. I forgot to add something about the better manual controls which set the FZ200 apart from comparable bridge/super zoom cameras. You can very finely control all aspects of the FZ200's lens, zoom and exposure, not only in stills but also in Video mode. Most cameras of this specification and price have fully automatic video with no possibility of changing anything other than zoom. Not so with the FZ200, where in dedicated video mode (on the programme dial) you can choose ISO, exposure compensation, shutter speed and of course quality. This makes for a very much more powerful flexibility for the experienced photographer. Add to this the excellent electronic viewfinder and the user has very good, almost DLSR-standard control over almost every aspect of both photographs and video. The only downside is the small sensor size which make low light photography a challenge. If the FZ200 was upgraded with a larger 4/3 or A-C type sensor the image quality would be up there with mid range dlsr cameras, or for example the Olympus OM-E. At the expensive price of the FZ200 it is a pity that Panasonic did not see fit to use a larger sensor to match the stella performance of its excellent constant f2.8 lens.
142 of 146 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly Best in Class.,
This review is from: Panasonic Lumix FZ200 Bridge Camera - Black (12MP, 24x Optical Zoom) 3.0 inch LCD (Electronics)Initially, I wasn't going to do a review of this camera, deciding instead to leave what I thought would be some useful, but specific, comments appended to another review.
However, the camera has been "growing" on me, so I've decided to expand on my initial observations and to avoid re-inventing the wheel I have imported those comments into a fuller review.
Since 2005 I've always had a super zoom bridge camera to supplement my APS-C sensor cameras, firstly the FZ7, then FZ8, FZ38 and now the FZ200, which is by far the best overall. I've had the 200 for nearly a week now and have put it through its paces and especially to see how the lens performs throughout its zoom range and towards maximum zoom where with earlier models I've experienced image degradation due to chromatic aberration. I set the zoom to 5x, 10x, 15x, 20x and 24x and examined the images at 100% on my monitor where I found virtually no visible difference in image quality at any of the zoom positions. The lens performed very well indeed with colour and contrast being maintained right out to maximum and with little discernible chromatic aberration. I'm sure it will be there in some image situations, but one will have to go specifically looking for it. Impressive stuff, especially for my non-scientific testing procedure.
The price of this camera puts it into entry-level dslr territory and if one's primary concern is image quality, then there's no competition, the dslr wins hands down. With acceptable image quality at base ISO, the tiny sensor in the FZ200 is fine, but image degradation as the ISO is increased above 400 ISO is very noticeable. Where it scores, though, is that lens. No dslr can cover the 25mm to 600mm range with one lens and being able to maintain f2.8 throughout its range is a magnificent feat on the part of the lens designers, especially offering the equivalent of f2.8 at 600mm. In dslr terms read f5.6 or f6.3 unless one has many thousands to spend on one lens and which doesn't even cover the wide angle settings.
There are a number of aspects relating to its handling that I find make this a very pleasant camera to use. Overall the body has increased slightly in size and weight, but not too much here, and I find it fits comfortably in my hands with the main controls falling easily to hand. The zoom lever sits around the shutter release and which is quite often a layout used on many digital cameras. However, in the FZ200 the zoom can also be operated via a second sliding button which is located on the left hand side of the lens and which falls naturally to hand for the left thumb which rests on it and a simple push/pull action is all that is needed. Then, zooming and taking pictures becomes a natural procedure. Zoom with the thumb and take a picture just when you want. In the more traditional arrangement, the forefinger first sets the zoom position and then has to be moved to the shutter release to take the picture, and inevitably leads to a delay. The difference in operation may not appear to be that great, but believe me, once one has tried the alternative arrangement on the FZ200 one wonders why no one has thought of it before with power zooms. (It may have been, but I can only review cameras I'v owned.)
Whilst on the subject of the shutter release, the video record button has been conveniently placed adjacent to the main shutter release and this ensures steady start/stop of video with zooming controlled by the lens sliding switch. Again, it all seems so natural in use. Video is at full HD, but I'm not a video photographer and so this feature is very unlikely to get much use by me. Unfortunately, it also means I'm not competent to comment on the quality of the video it produces, save to say on the built-in screen it looks very impressive.
The next improvement is the 1.3 million dot EVF with dioptre adjustment. This is still quite physically small compared to a dslr but it is a huge advance on the earlier models which sported only around 207,000. In daylight use it is bright and almost crystal clear. The large 3" LCD which can be swivelled to many viewing positions, has had a resolution increase from 230,000 to 460,000 and this is very welcome, albeit not to the higher resolutions of some other screens. It is more than adequate for its intended purpose, though.
Having such a large zoom range, although there are competing cameras with even longer zoom lenses, this would be negated if the image stabilisation wasn't up to scratch to prevent image blur. I can happily report that Panasonic's latest version of its Power Optical image stabilisation is the best to date. It really is possible to hand hold at 24x and 1/125 sec for most of the time. Others with steadier hands may even manage 1/60 sec.
It is quite clear that a lot of thought has been given to the handling, design and control layout of this latest FZ making it, for me, a more pleasant camera to use. Obviously, it won't suit everyone whose priorities will vary and won't necessarily appreciate the user features/interface I find most useful.
Image quality has to be rated very good for such a small sensor with Panasonic getting a lot from it. Any deficiencies will, for the most part, be suffered by its peers using the same sized tiny 1/2.33 sensor, so I suspect the FZ200 will acquit itself very well indeed in such company.
To summarise, as an all-purpose extremely versatile piece of kit that doesn't break the bank, or your back on a day out shooting if you carry around additional lenses for an slr, then at the present time, it is difficult to see what can beat it. However, for higher image quality, but not with the FZ200's superb 24x zoom lens or versatility, you will need to look elsewhere. For those who understand the image limitations of such tiny sensors and are prepared to accept this compromise, then this camera should give a lot of pleasure and will enable you to get images impossible from most other cameras.
96 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here's why I chose the Panasonic FZ200 bridge camera rather than a DSLR,
A friend on the Cloud Watching group asked me why I chose the Panasonic FZ200 bridge camera, so I thought I'd share my reasons as a review for Amazon... after loads of research and really getting clear about my needs, I decided to get a bridge camera rather than a DSLR as I wanted it to be light in weight, very versatile and produce high quality pics! And oh my goodness, the 25-600 zoom at 2.8 aperture through the whole focal length really delivers!!! And, it only costs £389 from Jessops (including their £50 cashback offer) The Which Camera? reviews and customer reviews are giving it top marks. It's been out a couple of months, so there is plenty of feedback. It's HD video has exposure, colour and depth of field control, AND it has an jack point for an external microphone, as well as a built in STERO mic!!! For photos it has intelligent auto which gives perfect exposure 95% of the time, plus aperture priority, shutter priority, or full manual. It also has 18 pre set scene modes (SCN) including Sunset option! Plus it has 14 built in filter options called Creative Control modes including star-burst, and High Dynamic which will be excellent for some sky photos! Plus LOADS of additional features which I'm only just finding out about!! What's not to love!!!! To summarize; to have this lens for a DSLR would apparently cost thousands and you'd need the arms of a olympic shot putter!!!!
The FZ200 can be used as a point and shoot camera, or with the controls of a DSLR, without the hassle and expense of carrying lots of lenses! Obviously it doesn't have the full quality of a DSLR, but I never print my pics bigger than 11 x14, and it has a 16.9 picture option so the photos can be viewed full screen on a modern TV! As digital technology is changing so fast I figure I can upgrade in a few years if I need to! And finally.... there are brilliant online tutorials for this camera on youtube, so no worries about learning all the array of excellent features this camera has, as there is soooo much online support these days! With this camera you will get stunning photos straight out of the box and can explore the features at your own pace.
I tried out the camera in low light conditions, at an Argentine Tango social event, both with and without the flash and was very pleased with the initial results.
Though using the FZ200 I am really enjoying re-visiting all my old photographic knowledge and adding to it with the wonderful and ever expanding world of digital photography.
88 of 92 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent update to the FZ150,
UPDATE: Following some action photography in a dusty environment, I now have several motes of dust inside my lens. I'll contact Panasonic and update my review accordingly. It still seems to shoot okay, but obviously this is not a good situation.
Original review: The FZ series of bridge cameras is 10 years old this year. In 2002, the original FZ1 was a revolutionary 2MP camera with a Leica-developed zoom lens that was f2.8 across the zoom range. The 2012 FZ200 is a 12MP camera with a Leica-developed zoom lens that is f2.8 across the zoom range. Plus ca change...
It would seem that whilst other camera manufacturers are still engaged in mega-pixel and focal length machismo, Panasonic have simply continued to polish and perfect the FZ series. So although the FZ200 features a new lens to replace the highly respected 25-600mm f2.8 - f5.2 zoom used on the FZ100 and FZ150, Panasonic have not given it a longer reach, they've made it optically faster.
It's difficult to overstate the impact this lens will have. Certainly it's difficult to find a lens to compare it with. To put the FZ200's lens into context, Sigma make a 200 - 500mm f2.8 SLR lens for a little over £12,000, and whilst there are affordable f2.8 SLR lenses in the 70 - 200mm range (the Sigma one is £775 on Amazon), if you want a wide-angle to long telephoto f2.8, this is it. Fortunately it's a great lens, and has the bonus of excellent optical image stabilisation which means your pictures at full stretch will have the very best chance of being pin-sharp. (Stop it down to F/4 for sharpest results, though). Focussing is fast and reliable and there are plenty of focussing options to ensure that the camera meets your needs.
Additionally, the new viewfinder is now equally pin-sharp, having been upgraded from the old 0.2MP peephole to a 1.3+MP peephole. In my opinion it's like Kylie Minogue: gorgeous but a little too small to be perfect. It needs to be more like the fabulous ones from the G-series cameras. UPDATE: Having used the FZ on a bright sunny day, I found I spent most of the time with my eye glued to the EVF rather than looking at the rear screen. I still want a bigger EVF, but the new FZ200 one is pretty sweet.
Anyway, beyond the headlines, what else is new? Well the old 1/2000th second top shutter speed is now 1/4000th second, and the long 60 second exposure returns too. The rather pointless 320x240 high speed film mode has been upped to 640x480 which now makes high speed filming useful. Not to mention the ability to film HD movies (720) at 100FPS. Woo hoo!
As for other changes, well as an FZ150 owner (and FZ100 before that), exploring my FZ200 feels a little like when I go to my local supermarket find that many things are not where I expect to find them. Until I have a good look around, I'm not sure if anything's missing or has just been moved elsewhere.
So where the FZ150 top dial has 14 positions, the FZ200 dial has 9. Panasonic have ditched the advanced scene modes of the FZ150, so gone are the dial settings for portrait, scenery, sports, close-up and night-portrait mode. These (and others) are now menu options from within the Scene (SCN) setting.
I don't mean to get upset because someone's moved my cheese, but I quite liked having all the advanced modes on the top dial. Being able to set "Sports" or "Landscape" with a single dial twist and then grab the picture was very quick and convenient. That said, it did mean I got a little lazy and seldom delved into the menus to tweak my FZ150's settings as I had on my previous FZ100, so maybe this change is a good thing. After more use with the camera, I can confirm that for me at least, it is. FZ's really do benefit from being set up just as you like them, excellent iA mode notwithstanding. Personally I like to dial down the noise reduction and up the sharpness a little. Similarly, the option for on-screen grid has been removed as a toggle mode of the DISP button, and I had a moment of disappointment before I found it buried away in the menus. It's there, but it's not a change I would have chosen to make. That said, as there are now three user-definable function buttons, I've set the top one as my screen grid toggle.
The three "Fn" buttons deserve more of a mention as they are actually VERY useful, and once you get comfortable with chopping and changing them, they add greatly to the user-friendliness of the camera. For example, the top Fn1 button I have set to toggle the lens barrel slider between "zoom" and "focus", which has made manual focus much more convenient. I've replaced the AF/AE lock function with a selection of the autofocus style (Single, Flexible and Continuous). The focus "styles" are worth explaining: "Single" means the focus is set when you press the shutter halfway and it is thereafter fixed for the shutter cycle. "Flexible" is a very neat feature that means focus is set when the shutter is pressed halfway, but if the subject moves whilst the shutter button is held, the focus corrects for the movement automatically. "Continuous" focusses on a moving subject, and applies predictive focussing to the focussed subject based on it's existing movement. This is a VERY useful feature, but it's one of those things that you'll have to winkle out of the manual. (Or ask me on here, if you're lazy.).
The manual focus works well, with my preference being the zoom control on the lens to control focus, but the rear wheel or D-pad buttons also do the job and give finer control in discrete steps. Fortunately, the phase of finding myself pressing buttons almost at random, trying to get the feature I want, is now over and the camera has become more intuitive to use. My early experience has shown me it's not intuitive, I've just put the requisite time and effort into getting the basics clear in my head. To get the most out of the FZ200, you will need to put some practice in.
HDR makes a formal appearance on the FZ200 and works well, pulling out detail from shadows in high contrast pictures. There's also a nifty panorama mode that produces a large image as you sweep the camera along, rather like taking an old school photo, as well as a 3D mode that requires you to move the camera so it captures the right and left eye images. As I haven't got a 3D TV, I'll have to take their word for it.
As with the FZ100 and FZ150, there are loads of little tweaks that the FZ200 allows. Doubtless the ability to precisely set the white balance can be very useful in the right hands. Me? I just set it to match the sunny, cloudy, incandescent etc. conditions and just fire away, knowing the camera will give me great results. In truth, most people seem to leave their FZs on intelligent auto and get great results.
The FZ200 has gained a little size and weight, but that's a good thing in my opinion. The increased size and deeper grip are a definite plus for me and my large hands. As for weight, the FZ's have always been a bit like Oprah, swinging between light and heavy. At 588 grams including battery and card, the FZ200 is pretty much at its median weight. Yes it's bigger and heavier than the FZ150's 528g, but certainly a lot lighter than the earlier FZ30's 740g. However if it gets any heavier it will start to be a less welcome travelling companion.
Most FZ accessories will work on the FZ200, but you'll need to swap your DMW-LA5E for a DMW-LA7 to fit the tele-converter. The front of the lens is still 52mm, so filters, close-up lenses and wide-angle adaptors all fit just fine, as do remote shutters and flashguns. The FZ200 has dropped the 895mah DMW-BMB9E of the FZ100 and FZ150, and shares the 1200mah battery of the GH2, so battery life is greatly improved. Certainly a spare battery is no longer a necessary precaution on a day out.
For your convenience, here are a few of the better value accessories for the FZ200.
Polaroid PL144AZ Power-Zoom Shoe Mount Flashgun for Olympus and Panasonic
Pixel Pro Digital Camera 100M Wireless Shutter Remote Control Release for Panasonic DMC-FZ50 DMC-FZ100 50K 50S 30 30K 30S 20 20K 20S LC-1 L1 Leica Digilux 2 3, Lumix G1, GH1, GF1, G2, G3
Digital King DSW Pro 0.7x Wide Angle Lens Nikon/Pentax 52mm
52mm 4pc Close-Up Kit Macro Lenses For Nikon D60 & All Other 52mm Lenses
The downside? Well, despite being an unashamed FZ fanboy, I have to point out that the FZ200 is expensive for a small sensor camera. £400+ buys a lot of camera these days. Remember the FZ200 crams an AWFUL lot of pixels into every square millimetre of its sensor. In a pixel-peeping showdown with a budget SLR, like all bridge cameras, the FZ200 will be comprehensively trounced. A micro four-thirds camera will also comfortably out perform the FZ200, as will some other large sensor compacts. Even more so in low light when noise is more of an issue. My Nikon D5100 DSLR was cheaper and produces better results, but I rarely use it as it's such a pain to carry around and it doesn't give me anything like the flexibility of my FZ. And make no mistake about it, the FZ200 can have a steep learning curve if you intend to get the most out of it. In some ways, the FZ200 demands more input from the user than many SLR, it really IS very richly specified. Yes, you can leave it on iA and snap away, but in that case, you might be better off looking at one of Panasonic's excellent travel zooms (the TZ25 being my favourite) if you're not going to take advantage of the control the FZ200 gives you. If you're buying a bridge camera as a codpiece, and I'm not knocking that, then the Canon SX50 has the biggest bulge at the time of writing.
For me, the upgrade from my FZ100 to the FZ150 involved some soul-searching, trying to justify buying pretty much the same camera. But the improved sensor made it worth the purchase. However buying the FZ200 was an instinctive, almost visceral urge to get at that new lens. But in addition to the lens, Panasonic have made sure the FZ200 continues to build on the traditional strengths of the FZ-series: so the great performance, handling and functionality of the FZ150 are carried over to the FZ200. It's just that most of the little niggles I had with the FZ150 seem to have been eliminated. The only significant issue I have with the FZ200 is the screen, which really needs to be a 920K pixel one.
Other than that, the FZ200 is sublime. With use, the camera gets better and better. I suspect that many FZ enthusiasts, who've been holding onto the beloved FZ38 because the latest FZ wasn't quite good enough to replace it, will be reaching for their chequebooks.
P.S. I dropped my FZ200 this morning and it fell 3 feet onto a concrete slab. Other than scratching the lens hood, and a litle scuff to the grip shoulder, the camera was undamaged. It's just a pity there wasn't a camera trained on me to capture the expression on my face as my new FZ200 headed for the concrete lens-first! ;-)
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sure To Become A Classic,
Not only does the FZ200 fully meet these needs, it exceeds them too. In fact, the camera will act as a DSLR replacement in certain situations or in an emergency.
The stunning range of features combine to provide functionality only available from a number of different DSLR's combined.
I can assure anyone that any image quality issues are fundamentally caused by incorrect use through a lack of understanding of basic photographic techniques and/or failure to study the typically complex Panasonic user manual.
Although the FZ200 can be used by a complete beginner in fully automatic mode it is really for those who want to learn how to be a decent photographer before making the move to a DSLR. Or, as already mentioned, an alternative and/or back up to full DSLR equipment.
Of course, the small sensor has its limitations compared to its bigger DSLR brothers. But, to a large degree, even these can be managed in proficient hands.
For equipment like this, it is always worthwhile to obtain accessories like polariser, UV & graduated filters plus an independent flash gun & remote shutter release. That way, you can be sure of getting the very best out of the FZ200.
However, if there are any problems, customers can be sure that Panasonic's professional customer support will be ready, willing & able to provide a solution.
A great camera - Panasonic's best to date & sure to become a classic.
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Incremental but worthwhile improvement on previous model,
For those who, like myself, have or are thinking of upgrading from the excellent FZ150, my first impressions were of the much improved clarity of the EVF, and also that movie recording no longer blanks out the viewfinder picture for a second or so at start of recording, previously with the FZ150 causing a hasty re-framing when the picture reappeared.
I have given the FZ200 a thorough trial during a fortnight touring the mediterranean when I shot almost 1000 stills and an hour of video. I used Camera RAW to be as thorough as possible, and full HD AVCHD video, and used 2 Transcend 16GB class 10 SD memory cards.
Firstly stills - I was very impressed with the new f2.8 lens, which came into its own taking poorly lit church interiors. This is a gem of a lens, not just for its long zoom range but for its quality. I can honestly say that there are details from the church interiors that were barely visible to the naked eye at the time, but which the camera has managed to capture. After playing with camera RAW for a while I have decided to stick with the highest quality JPEG which for me is more than adequate. Sorry, you professionals out there, but I doubt you'll buy a bridge camera like this anyway. I did find it a little annoying at the time that I couldn't use RAW with intelligent auto.
Movie - this was slightly disappointing for me; the picture looks a little low in gamma and there are some visible compression artifacts. More annoying for me was the occasional jerk on panning, (which I at first blamed on myself but then realised it was the camera). I also found it very difficult to execute a steady slow zoom with either of the 2 zoom controls. I have been advised that the Transcend cards may not suit the FZ200, and have tried SanDisk, with no difference. After experimentation I have decided that the image stabilisation is the probable cause of the unwanted jerks and have now turned it off (not for intelligent auto, as the option is not available). As yet I have not had enough time to give it a thorough test.
In conclusion, an excellent stills camera, very flexible, with reasonable video performance.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent camera,
The camera is very well equipped and is easy to use. I found the upgraded viewfinder a vast improvement on my FZ45. The programmable function buttons save a lot of delving into the main menu. I cannot say much about the video ability as other than trying it to see if it worked I havent used it.
All in all I am extremely pleased with the camera; it is fairly light, reasonably compact, has everything you need from closeup to far away and takes good pictures.
61 of 65 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does the job very well,
The 24x zoom, equivalent to 600 mm, is not the most powerful in the field, but it is probably as much as is practical for quickly taken hand-held shots, helped by Panasonic's good image stabiliser for those inevitable times when your hand wobbles. An extra digital zoom doubling the power is offered which is, well, just a digital zoom. Its image is sharpened electronically to make it look slightly better in a dotty kind of way. Have tried this and am wondering whether it's worth keeping it switched on.
I moved to this camera from an FZ100, which simply couldn't cope with anything but strong light at full zoom, and I have never used the much praised FZ150. So the jump in quality of this new model was very striking. The new viewfinder is pretty good too, especially compared to the utterly inadequate thing on the FZ100. Obviously digital viewfinders have their limitations, but if you wanted a better viewfinder you would have to get a serious DSLR.
Obviously I could get better pictures with a DSLR, with a bigger sensor and an eye-wateringly expensive 600 mm telephoto lens, and an all-up weight of 15 lb or so. But I could neither afford it nor carry it around without wrecking myself -- I know several professional photographers who have back trouble from hauling these monsters. So, as a practical solution to my problems it is pretty near perfect.
If I have any criticism, manual focusing is a bit clumsy, even when the left zoom control is set to do the focusing. This only gives a coarse focus which you have to refine by pushing and twiddling a little wheel on the other side of the camera. Some people have said that they want a manual zoom control, but I am not sure about this: when you have a bird in your sights, there is a certain advantage in being able to change the zoom with a small movement of one finger.
The camera has lots of features which I shall never use, apart from the occasional bit of video perhaps. So I have nothing to say about these.
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Performance comparable to a DSLR. Best superzoom for action photography.,
However, DSLR's (even entry-level) still have superior image quality and optical viewfinders on their side. They always will. But the FZ200's image quality is respectable enough - if you don't "pixel-peep", print bigger than A4, and you're not a "pro" that needs to sell photos. The viewfinder remains a weak point for high-speed action photography, but the rear screen is usable in that situation, and there are other options too (see below). Indeed, I sold all my DSLR gear (Canon 350D and 600D bodies and lenses) after I got the FZ200's predecessor, the FZ150... and I still have no regrets - for me, the pro's easily outweigh the cons.
Instead of playing "the numbers game" (the race for higher megapixels and zoom multipliers), Panasonic seem to be differentiating themselves from the competition by concentrating on features that make their top-of-the-range FZ models progressively more capable, useful, and flexible for serious photography and video recording. Yet it still offers easy operation, most of the usual gimmicks, and outstanding results from full-auto "point and shoot".
The FZ200 kept everything I liked about the FZ150, and added a bunch of stuff that was good enough to convince me to upgrade. There's plenty of useful info given in the other customer reviews here, so I'll try to concentrate on aspects that perhaps haven't been covered much already.
My number one reason for upgrading from my FZ150 to the FZ200, was the wide f2.8 aperture available throughout the zoom range. On most lenses, the more you zoom, the more your maximum aperture is restricted. Not so with the FZ200, allowing you to use faster shutter speeds than other cameras to freeze action when using zoom, or use lower ISO sensitivity for less "noise" in your photos, or get better "bokeh" (blurred background behind your subject). This constant maximum aperture is a technological breakthrough that is currently not available in any other superzoom.
Bear that in mind, if you're comparing image quality with competing cameras: some other superzooms appear to offer better image quality or less noise than the FZ200... but only when the same settings are used on both. And in reality, there will be many photographic situations where the FZ200 is the winner instead - because when using zoom and/or in low light, it can use bigger apertures (faster shutter speeds), or lower ISO sensitivity (less noise) than other cameras under the same conditions.
Speaking of ISO sensitivity... the FZ200 allows finer control of manual ISO settings than many cameras. Select ISO increments of "1/3" instead of "1" in the setup menus, and instead of the "standard" selections of 100, 200, 400, 800, etc... you can choose from 100, 125, 160, 200, 250, 320, 400, 500, 640, 800 etc. On many cameras, these intermediate values may only be available indirectly (as an exposure compensation mechanism), but the FZ200 lets you pick them directly and get a more optimal noise/sensitivity balance for a given situation.
Autofocus is very fast, as is shot-to-shot speed. Shutter lag is minimal. Burst rates are very respectable - continuous 2fps and 5.5fps are available with autofocus for each shot. At 5.5fps you can take roughly 15 or more (JPG) shots in a burst before it starts to slow down due to buffers full and not able to write stuff to card fast enough - it still keeps shooting though, just at a much slower rate. You can also take 12 shots in a second with autofocus only on the first shot, or 40fps or 60fps at reduced resolutions. The FZ200 compares well with consumer DSLRs in all of these aspects. And compared to other superzooms, in my opinion the FZ200's high speed operation and responsiveness make it the best choice for high-speed action photography (airshows and sports in my case).
The in-lens optical image stabilisation is very good at reducing camera shake and keeping a moving subject steady. Essential when using high zoom hand-held. This is subjective, but I'd say it's at least as good as (or better than) the Canon DSLR lenses I've owned in the past.
Movie capabilities are very good. I think you'd have to spend quite a substantial amount on a dedicated camcorder to beat it. Full 1080p, so you can grab perfect individual frames from a movie. No "rolling shutter" effects that many DSLRs and competing superzooms suffer from, where fast moving objects "tear" or get distorted. Continuous autofocus works well, although I find it can sometimes "hunt" momentarily even when you think you're holding the camera still on a static scene. Image stabilisation when recording is very good. The zoom remains usable while recording video, with little/no motor noise audible, except in near-silent conditions. Another reviewer complained about motor noise in videos, but now I have my own FZ200 I don't understand why. There is a dedicated "movie" record button that you can use in most modes, and there is also a separate "creative" movie mode that gives you more control, and lets you select high-speed movies at USEFUL resolutions eg. 100fps in HD.
The FZ200 allows you to use external microphones for recording video, a feature absent from most other superzooms. The built-in stereo mics are adequate, but very prone to wind noise regardless of the anti-wind option in the setup menus. Consider buying a miniature stick-on windcutter (furry patch) - There's a company that specialises in this, they're cheap and very effective. As I write this, they don't have one specifically for the FZ200, but I ordered a "custom" one for the equivalent of less than 8 pounds and free delivery. Well worth it, and perhaps they will use the dimensions and photo I sent them, to make an off-the-shelf FZ200 windcutter available.
The lens has a "nano-coating" which is intended to reduce lens flare etc, but has the added benefit that the lens does not attract fingerprints nearly as much as a "normal" lens. You can frequently get away with accidentally touching the lens without having to clean off any marks.
The in-camera High Dynamic Range (HDR) scene mode is a welcome addition. This takes multiple images at different exposures - one normal exposure, one overexposed that reveals details hidden in shadow, and one underexposed that reveals details washed out in bright areas. It then aligns and combines all three into one image, to try and get the best amount of contrast/detail in shadows, mid-tones and highlights all at once. It works very well (even hand-held), bringing out detail that would normally be lost, and so far the results haven't looked freaky or "unreal" like a lot of software that emulates HDR in post-processing. Note that this is just a convenience - you can do the same thing (with more control) by taking three individual shots yourself (eg. using exposure bracketing) and combining them yourself using software later. I look forward to trying HDR with waterfall scenes, where (apparently) this method of combining multiple shots gives a similar "blurred water" result as a tripod + neutral density filter + very slow shutter speed.
There is a new "sweep" panorama mode which is extremely easy to use. Just press the shutter, pan the camera, and release the shutter when you've covered as much as you want (up to a maximum of about 270 degrees). The previous FZ150 only had an "assist" mode that helped you stitch full resolution photos into a panorama - which gave better quality results, but required manual editing, and you had less control over how much area you covered. Some people may miss that "assist" mode, but I prefer the convenience of the sweep panorama, and I can still manually stitch individual full-resolution images together if I ever want top quality.
There is a new "through glass" scene mode. I'm not really sure what this actually does, but after trying it out my guess is that it imposes a minimum focus distance so that you don't autofocus on window frames, or dirt, or your own reflection. It seems to work, and may be useful for shooting from inside a car, bus, train, house etc. I'm not convinced it will work for small objects in glass cabinets at a museum, but I haven't had a chance to try that. I can tell you that it does NOT remove reflections to let you see through glass better (you need a circular polarising filter for that).
There are some nice new "creative" filters eg. "soft focus" for that old "hollywood portrait" look, or "starburst" which looks good for night scenes. You can apply filters after taking a photo as normal, and save it to a new file - which is probably a good idea, since otherwise you've got nothing to work with if the effect didn't work right first time, and you also get the chance to try multiple different effects/settings on a single image. You can change some parameters for each effect but this was NOT obvious to me. I had to read the manual, and basically you need to press the rear dial, or in some cases press the Fn3 button to access the effect parameters.
You can use these filters while recording video too - but this may substantially reduce the recording frame rate due to each individual frame requiring effect processing. This in turn makes video appear speeded up when played back, sound recording will be disabled, and you need to record for longer than you might expect. Also, if you move the camera at all while recording, you need to do so VERY slowly and smoothly - because any movement will be greatly exaggerated. This can lead to some hilarious results though - try making a movie using the "miniature effect", cars and people look even more toy-like when they're whizzing around.
You can define up to 4 "custom" setups, and recall them quickly using the mode dial. You can start from any mode, change whatever settings you like, and then save everything to a custom setup. Custom1 has its own place "C1" on the mode dial for instant access. The others are under C2 on the mode dial, and you select which one you want from a menu. If there are any "scene" modes that you use a lot, you can save these to a custom setup too - this makes them faster to call up, than hunting through the large number of available scene modes. Unfortunately, there's no way to put meaningful labels on your custom setups.
The rear screen hasn't changed vs the previous FZ150 model. I see this as a good thing. I am pleased they resisted increasing its resolution - because it remains usable to track high-speed action. (Higher res typically reduces responsiveness, and battery life too). It does "judder" when taking rapid multishot bursts, but at least there are no blackouts while saving photos to the memory card (I had a Fuji superzoom that did that). They have improved what's displayed on the screen vs the FZ150 - status icons are smaller and neater, conveying the same information as before, but less intrusively.
The new high resolution Electronic ViewFinder (EVF) is excellent most of the time - very clear and detailed, and I think only Sony superzooms can currently match/beat it. Great for static subjects, but I find it inadequate for high-speed action photography at high zoom - the image can become a blur when panning very quickly. As with my FZ150, I will stick with the rear screen... and a Red Dot Sight, when targeting fast moving subjects (then I only have to glance at the rear screen to check zoom etc). I'll try to add some info about Red Dot Sights later as a "comment" to this review - They're worth considering for ANY superzoom used for action photography. All I'll say here is, you mount them in a flash hotshoe. The FZ200 actually HAS a flash hotshoe (many superzooms don't!), and this is a useful feature in its own right.
I've heard complaints about no built-in GPS, but this is a GOOD thing in my opinion. I think geo-tagging images is better done using data from a dedicated pocket GPS tracker: you get to choose your own compromises between price/performance/functionality etc, you're likely to get more accurate and reliable tracking from a dedicated device, you can use the same data for multiple cameras, it keeps camera size weight and cost down, and if you upgrade your camera you don't need to pay for GPS again in the new one. And most importantly: a separate GPS tracker can log entire journeys over several days on a single charge, without eating up your CAMERA'S batteries! After all, which is more important? Having your camera track GPS data, or still being able to use it to take photos after a couple of days in the field?!
I've also heard complaints that the built-in flash doesn't pop up automatically when needed - you always have to open it manually using a button. But I actually prefer this - it means I never have to worry about the flash popping up or firing, in places where such things are unwelcome, or when flash would be useless anyway. I also like being able to turn off all beeps and the fake shutter sounds - because once again, there are times and places where such things are intrusive and unwelcome. That's another victory for superzooms over DSLRs, albeit a small one (you can't disable the shutter sound on a DSLR!)
The FZ200's 25-600mm focal length range is nowhere near the biggest for a superzoom camera, but most of the time it's plenty, and it keeps the size/weight down. For occasions where you REALLY need more "reach" (or you're suffering from "zoom envy")... you have the option of adding a teleconvertor. This requires Panasonic's adapter tube which you must buy separately (you can't attach teleconvertors directly to the lens filter threads - they're heavy and they'll break the zoom motor).
Unlike DSLR-style teleconvertors that fit between the camera and lens, you do not lose any of your aperture range or autofocus ability with this type of teleconvertor (although you will inevitably lose a tiny amount of light, simply because it's passing through more glass). HOWEVER... If you select Teleconvertor "Conversion" in the setup menu, it artificially imposes an aperture limit of f4 maximum. I have no idea why - there don't seem to be any ill effects from leaving "Conversion" disabled and then using apertures right up to f2.8 with a teleconvertor. Unless its a bug, my guess is the Panasonic teleconvertor lens is optimally sharp between f4 and f8, and they're trying to ensure the best results.
Panasonic's 1.7x teleconvertor (I have one of these) takes you up to 40x zoom ie. 1020mm maximum focal length equivalent. Selecting teleconverter "Conversion" in the camera setup (in addition to restricting aperture range, see above) will artificially prevent you zooming out any wider than about 14x. This time there's a good reason though - it prevents vignetting and/or seeing the adapter tube in your photo. The result is a focal length range of about 595-1020mm (NOT the 42-1020mm you might have expected!)
This is roughly similar to the FZ150 but seems a bit overkill for the FZ200 in my opinion. If you DON'T select "Conversion" you can actually go down to about 8x zoom before vignetting becomes a serious problem (ie. 340-1020mm range). So personally, I'd leave "Conversion" disabled in the setup, and just manually avoid zooming out too far. Then you get a wider zoom range, AND no aperture restriction.
You don't have to use Panasonic's teleconvertor. Nikon's TC-E15ED/TC-E17ED are popular choices for better image quality, but when used with a FZ150 (I'm assuming FZ200 too) they suffer from vignetting and a consequent zoom restriction that's even worse than the Panasonic teleconvertor (unless you're prepared to shorten them with a hacksaw, and re-thread the ends! I'm not joking, people actually do this)
Personally, I favour Canon's 1.5x TC-DC58A teleconvertor - which is discontinued, but you can still buy them on eBay. The DC-TC58A gives noticeably better image quality than the Panasonic model, and the usable zoom range is a lot wider. On the FZ200 you get a usable focal length range of about 150mm-900mm without seeing vignetting or the adapter tube, and I find that a lot more "practical". It just needs a 55mm->58mm step-up ring, no DIY or hacksaws needed! Once again - leave "Conversion" disabled in the camera setup, and "manually" avoid zooming out too far.
One thing to be aware of - the teleconvertor adapter tube does not lock in place. Care must therefore be taken that you do not unscrew or overtighten the tube (strip the threads) while you are supporting the camera using the tube. Personally, I bought a cheap plastic copy of a Canon "ring D" tripod mounting ring to put on the adapter tube (lined it with self-adhesive furry Velcro, since it was slightly too big). I can attach a pistol-grip to it for a nice sturdy handle right under the balance point when the teleconvertor is fitted... but it also lets me connect the ring/tube to the camera's built-in tripod mount, via an aluminium plate that I made myself. This prevents the ring (and tube) moving relative to the camera... so the tube can no longer unscrew or overtighten when in use.
There are several autofocus modes - the usual "single" and "continuous", but also a new "Flexible" mode, which is intended to track subjects that move unpredictably eg. children, or sports. I haven't had a chance to test this yet though. You have several choices of autofocus area (face-detection, tracking, 23-area and 1-area). There is no true "spot" mode - the closest you get is the "1-area" mode. You can change the size of the 1-area, but you can't shrink it down to the size of a dot, like in a typical DSLR. It also won't remember the size of that area after power-off or changing to full-auto mode.
The smallest available aperture on the FZ200 is just f8. Not a problem most of the time, but if you need a slow shutter-speed in bright sunlight (eg. for That Pleasing Effect on waterfalls or fountains, or deliberate motion-blur), you will need a Neutral Density (ND) filter to avoid overexposure.
Some extra notes for anyone considering buying the FZ200 as an upgrade to the FZ150:
a) They changed the battery type. So if you need to carry spares, you'll have to buy new ones. You get quite a few more photos out of them though.
b) You can re-use any teleconvertor or close-up lens you were using on the FZ150, but you'll need a new adapter tube (LA7). This is slightly wider than the FZ150 tube, so if you also used a tripod mounting ring, you'll need a new one of those too
c) FZ200 takes the same size filters as the FZ150, no need to buy new ones.
d) The FZ200 is slightly bigger, so if you have a tight-fitting camera bag for your FZ150, you may need to buy a new one.
e) They removed some stuff from the mode dial - I like this, they only took off things I rarely/never used, but perhaps others found them useful and will be inconvenienced having to use the menus instead
f) There are more user-assignable function buttons. Nice, IF you want instant access to the one of available functions that are assignable to them (choices are limited).
g) The hand grip is slightly chunkier, making it more comfortable and stable in my opinion.
h) If you had a Windcutter on your FZ150, you can't use the same one on the FZ200 - the mic holes are a different size (bigger).
i) If you had a remote shutter release for your FZ150, you can re-use it (mine works OK with both)
j) The rear dial seems to turn a little easier. On my FZ150 it didn't turn easily enough, so I often accidentally activated the push-click... so when I thought I was eg. changing shutter speed, I was actually changing exposure compensation. It seems better on the FZ200.
The FZ200 is obviously not perfect - I have listed many criticisms above. But don't be misled - this camera is incredibly good! As far as I'm concerned there is simply no alternative superzoom, that offers this level of performance, or is as capable for high-speed action photography. Only the Panasonic superzooms could convince me to ditch my DSLRs. Good value for money in my opinion, and worthy of 5 stars.
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