Panasonic FZ1000 Hands-On Field Test

  By Jordan Drake

When Panasonic told us they wanted us to check out their FZ200 replacement, my reaction was muted. We’re not generally big fans of superzooms, though the FZ200 is certainly one of the best on the market. Then we saw the specs of the FZ1000! With a 1” type sensor, 4K Video, a long, but still very fast lens, and a reasonable price, it was a lot of camera.

Freshly excited, we realized our schedule didn’t have a shooting day in it, but we had a free evening. While we wouldn’t get the video online at the moment of the Panasonic announcement, we’d still have it out the day after the press release, not too shabby!

Since we were reviewing a 4K capable camera and planned to include 4K video samples with the FZ1000, I shot the video in 4K using a Panasonic GH4. Due to the shoot coming up unexpectedly, I din’t have my usual Sony UWP-V130s mics, instead using a Sennheiser G3 kit with a Rode Lavalier Mic. This combo led to the odd pop in the audio, which I haven’t been able to find the cause of. Lesson learned though, I’m keeping my mic monitoring to ‘Preview’ instead of ‘Realtime’ on future GH4 shoots to keep these kind of issues at bay. Audio issues aside,what I enjoyed most during this shoot was using two very nice new optics, the Voigtlander 17mm F.95 and SLR Magic 12mm T1.6 Cine. I’ve been having a lot of trouble with the ‘focus by wire’ system on the otherwise excellent Panasonic G X 12-35mm (you can see an example of this early in the video when Chris is talking about the burst rate, I totally flubbed focus). Using these great manual focus optics was a treat and made nailing focus (and keeping focus from drifting) incredibly simple.Problems came when I started editing. The initial edit was slow, and it became apparent that I was going to miss the Friday goal I’d set for myself. Then I wound up with a surprise medical issue that put me in the hospital. Here’s where I have to give Chris and TCSTV’s new wunderkind Levi Holwell credit. They finished the edit and export, even though Levi had no Final Cut X experience, and Chris‘ input on the edit usually consists of saying “I don’t think I’m in this enough”. They are the ones who made it possible to get this video online while the information is still fresh and relevant. Huge thanks to both of them!

So what did I think of the FZ1000? For stills, it’s a spectacular wildlife and travel camera. Even looking outside of the superb image quality, where superzooms have historically always let us down is in focus speed and accuracy. Point to point, the FZ1000 is as good as a high end DSLR. I would trust this camera to take good shots of kids in play and sports. Where it let us down a bit was in continuous AF, but while the FZ1000 may not be as good as a GH4 with a 35-100 F2.8, it’s worlds better than every other superzoom in its class.

As far as the video, I was a bit less impressed than I expected to be. The crop factor is a real pain as one of my favourite tricks for 4K is shooting a wide master and having the ability to crop in for my close-ups. The 4K wide isn’t all that wide. As far as the competition, one reason I love the RX10 is that it is a complete video package in one box. If you’re not shooting 4K and buy the FZ1000, you’ll still want to get an ND filter, and an external recorder so you can monitor audio. And then the price difference isn’t that great. I do love the FZ1000‘s 120 fps slow motion though, and the 1080P quality is actually quite good for AVCHD. I guess I’m just a tough guy to please.

One thing Chris and I can say without reservation is that Panasonic is upping its game in a huge way right now. Between the GH4, new 42.5mm F1.2 Nocticron, and the FZ1000, they’re putting out incredibly capable products for less money than you’d expect. Now, let’s see if that inspires some of their competitors to play catch-up.

Order the Panasonic FZ1000 From The Camera Store Here.
Shot by Jordan Drake
Edited by Jordan Drake, Levi Holwell, and Chris Niccolls
Filmed on The Panasonic GH4 

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