Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200


    Photo Review 8.8
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    Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200

      In Summary

      Buy this camera if:
       - You want an all-in-one camera with P, A, S and M shooting modes plus a useful range of functions.
       - You require effective image stabilisation.
       - You like shooting close-ups of flowers and other small objects.
       - You'd like good performance for shooting both still pictures and HD video clips.
       
      Don't buy this camera if:
       - You're looking for a pocketable camera.
       - You do a lot of low-light shooting and need noise-free images at high ISO settings.Image sensor: 6.17 x 4.55 mm sensor with 12.8 million photosites (12.1 megapixels effective)

      Full review

      The DMC-FZ200 replaces the FZ150 at the top of Panasonic's fixed-lens, ultra-zoom line-up, introducing a new zoom lens and image sensor. The Leica-branded 24x zoom lens is the first of its type to support a maximum aperture of f/2.8 across its entire zoom range, which is revolutionary for this type of camera and places the FZ200 in a class of its own.

      Angled front view of the DMC-FZ200 with the zoom lens retracted and the pop-up flash raised. (Source: Panasonic.)

      Faster lenses always require more glass, making them larger, heavier and more costly to produce. Accordingly, the lens in the FZ200 has a relatively complex design, with 14 elements in 11 groups. Included are five aspherical lenses with nine aspherical surfaces, three ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements and one UHR (ultra high refractive) element. Panasonic’s Black Box Nano Surface Coatings have been applied to minimise ghosting and flare.

      Released concurrently with the FZ200 is a lower-featured model, the DMC-FZ60 (RRP AU$599). Both cameras have 24x zoom lenses but the FZ60's lens is the same as the FZ150's with a maximum aperture that contracts from f/2.8 at the wide position to f/5.2 at full optical zoom. The table below compares other features of the new cameras with the FZ150, which we reviewed in October, 2011.

       

      FZ200

      FZ60

      FZ150

      Sensor size

      6.08 x 4.56 mm

      6.17 x 4.55 mm

      Effective resolution

      12.1MP

      16.1MP

      12.1MP

      Lens

      Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 4.5-108mm zoom

      35mm focal length equiv.

      25-600mm

      Maximum apertures

      f/2.8

      f/2.8-5.2

      Raw file support

      Yes

      No

      Yes

      Movie options

      1920 x 1080 50p

      1920 x 1080 50i

       

      Shutter speeds

      60-1/4000 second

      15-1/2000 second

      ISO range

      100-3200 (1600-6400 in High Sensitivity mode)

      Electronic Viewfinder

      0.2-inch, 1,312,000 dots

      0.2-inch, 202,000 dots

      LCD monitor

      Free-Angle

      Fixed

      Free-Angle

      Internal memory

      70MB

      Continuous shooting Max. resolution
       Buffer capacity

      12 fps
       60 fps at 2.5MP

      10 fps
       3 images

      12  fps
       60 fps at 3.5MP

      Microphone jack

      Yes

      No

      Yes

      Remote control socket

      Yes

      No

      Yes

      Social network connectivity

      Yes

      Yes

      Dimensions (wxhxd)

      125.2 x 86.6 x 110.2 mm

      120.3 x 80.8 x 91.9 mm

      124.3 x 81.7 x 95.2 mm

      Weight (without battery & card)

      537 grams

      449 grams

      468 grams

      Build and Ergonomics
       Panasonic continues with SLR-like styling in the new camera, which is slightly larger and heavier than its predecessor, partly owing to its faster lens. The lens still dominates the front panel and has the same power zoom lever, focus selector switch and focus button as the FZ150.

      The zoom lever has been redesigned, with a ribbed surface that makes it easier to change the focal length with your left hand. The focus can also be changed with this lever, a convenient feature for recording movies.
       
       

      Front views of the Lumix FZ200 (left) and FZ150 (right). (Source: Panasonic.)

      The rear panel has seen some minor button shuffling, with the flash pop-up button moved to the top panel and the EVF/LCD switch taking its place in the top left hand corner. The Playback button has been relocated right of the viewfinder and there are now three function (Fn) buttons instead of one, two of them on the rear panel itself.
       
       

      Rear views of the FZ200 (left) and FZ150 (right). (Source: Panasonic.)

      The display button has been pushed to the right to make way for the Fn3 button. The ISO button is now at the top of the arrow pad, followed in a clockwise direction by the white balance, self-timer and AF mode selector.

      The free-angle LCD is unchanged, with the same (relatively low) resolution of 460,000 dots. However, the resolution of the EVF has been dramatically increased to 1,312,000 dots to provide a clearer view. Increasing the frame rate from 30fps to a maximum 60fps makes it easier to capture fast-moving subjects in strong sunlight.
       
       

      Top views of the FZ200 (left) and FZ150 (right). (Source: Panasonic.)

      Comparing the top views of the FZ200 and its predecessor you can see the grip on the new model is broader, making space for the Fn1 button and allowing the drive and movie buttons to be positioned almost side-by-side, where they can be operated with the user's index finger. The power on/off switch has been relocated below the mode dial, where it's also easier to access.

      There's been some de-cluttering of the mode dial, with the Portrait, Landscape, Sports and Macro modes shuffled into the Scene mode to join 14 other pre-sets. The iA, Creative Auto and Movie modes remain but there are now two Custom modes instead of only one.

      The microphone grilles on the flash housing appear slightly larger on the new model but their spacing hasn't changed. Nor has the standard hot-shoe just behind them.  As in the FZ150, the rechargeable battery and memory card share a compartment in the grip of the camera, accessed via the base panel. Lift-up hatches cover ports for HDMI, USB, AV-out and Microphone/remote connections on the left side panel.

      Sensor and Image Processing
      Although its size and resolution are the same as the FZ150's, the sensor in the FZ200 is a new High Sensitivity MOS chip. It's linked to the latest LSI Venus Engine FHD VII image processor.

      The new chip supports the same range of sensitivity settings as the FZ150 and. as before, the FZ200 offers four aspect ratio settings. Because the  sensor has a 4:3 aspect ratio, these are achieved by cropping the image and only available for JPEGs.

      Improved response times have enabled the FZ20 to support high speed burst shooting at 12 frames/second (fps) with full resolution using the mechanical shutter and up to 5.5 fps with

      continuous AF. A fast start-up time of approximately 0.95 second is claimed.

      The capacity of the buffer memory is similar to the FZ150's for JPEGs, with a maximum of 12 frames at full resolution at 12 fps or 11 RW2.RAW images or RAW+JPEG pairs.  Using the electronic shutter, the FZ200 can offer JPEG-only burst rates of 40 fps at 5M or 60 fps at 2.5M size for a total recording time of one second. (These settings aren't supported in iAuto mode.)

      Typical file sizes for still images are shown in the table below.

      Aspect ratio

      Image Size

      Resolution

      Fine

      Standard

      4:3

      RAW

      4000 x 3000

      15.5MB

      L

      4000 x 3000

      7.3MB

      3.6MB

      RAW+JPEG

      4000 x 3000

      23.3MB

      19.7MB

      M

      2816 x 2112

      4.0MB

      2.0MB

      RAW+JPEG

      2816 x 2112

      19.7MB

      17.7MB

      S

      2048 x 1536

      1.7MB

      0.87MB

      RAW+JPEG

      2048 x 1536

      17.1MB

      16.5MB

      3:2

      RAW

      4000 x 2672

      14.6MB

      L

      4000 x 2672

      7.0MB

      3.5MB

      RAW+JPEG

      4000 x 2672

      22.3MB

      18.3MB

      M

      2816 x 1880

      4.0MB

      2.0MB

      RAW+JPEG

      2816 x 1880

      19.0MB

      16.5MB

      S

      2048 x 1360

      1.5MB

      0.8MB

      RAW+JPEG

      2048 x 1360

      16.0MB

      15.5MB

      16:9

      RAW

      4000 x 2248

      13.5MB

      L

      4000 x 2248

      6.8MB

      3.4MB

      RAW+JPEG

      4000 x 2248

      20.5MB

      17.1MB

      M

      2816 x 1584

      3.9MB

      2.0MB

      RAW+JPEG

      2816 x 1584

      17.7MB

      15.5MB

      S

      1920 x 1080

      1.1MB

      0.6MB

      RAW+JPEG

      1920 x 1080

      14.6MB

      14.2MB

      1:1

      RAW

      2992 x 2992

      12.2MB

      L

      2992 x 2992

      5.4MB

      2.7MB

      RAW+JPEG

      2992 x 2992

      17.7MB

      15.1MB

      M

      2112 x 2112

      2.4MB

      1.2MB

      RAW+JPEG

      2112 x 2112

      14.6MB

      13.5MB

      S

      1504 x 1504

      1.2MB

      0.6MB

      RAW+JPEG

      1504 x 1504

      13.5MB

      12.8MB

      Video capabilities have barely changed since the FZ150, with the same two recording modes supported: AVCHD and Motion-JPEG.  Top AVCHD quality is obtained with the PSH setting, which records 1920 x 1080 pixels at 50p using progressive scanning. Soundtracks are recorded in stereo.

      Dolby Digital Stereo Creator provides efficient coding technology for audio recordings. The stereo zoom microphone includes a zoom noise reduction system, and the Auto Wind Cut function suppresses noise in outdoor recording environments. The camera also provides a more powerful built-in Wind Cut filter.

      For the AVCHD format, ‘quality’ options are based on bit rate (the faster the bit rate, the higher the quality) and whether interlaced or progressive scanning is used.  In Motion JPEG mode, the frame rate is 30 frames/second and the ‘quality’ settings relate to the image size.  The table below shows the approximate recording times for an 16GB memory card.

      Video format

      Aspect ratio

      Quality

      Picture size
       (pixels)

      Bit rate

      Frames
       /second

      Approx. recording time/16GB card

      AVCHD

       

      16:9

      PSH

      1920 x 1080

      28 Mbps

      50p

      1 hour 15 min.

      FSH

      1920 x 1080

      17 Mbps

      50i

      2 hours 4 min.

      SH

      1280 x 720

      17 Mbps

      50p

      2 hours 4 min.

      Motion JPEG

      FHD

      1920 x 1080

      n.a.

      30

      1 hour 41 min.

      4:3

      HD

      1280 x 720

      n.a.

      3 hours 13 min.

      VGA

      640 x 480

      n.a.

      7 hours 5 min.

      Movies must be recorded to a memory card with all settings, save for the lowest resolution (MP4/VGA). ISO is set automatically at the beginning of each clip but you can use the zoom and re-focus quickly while recording by pressing the Focus button on the lens. The P, A,S  and M shooting modes can be used and some Scene pre-sets are available.

      As with the FZ150, if you press the shutter button halfway, the camera will refocus and a still shot can be recorded. (The refocusing movement will be recorded in the movie clip.) The maximum image size available is 3.5M with a 16:9 aspect ratio and you can record up to 20 shots per clip.

      Shooting in burst mode is possible during a movie recording with a top burst speed of 10 frames/second. Up to 40 still frames can be recorded with each movie clip.

      The High Speed Video setting in the Creative Video Mode lets you record a video clip at 240 frames/second with VGA resolution or 120 fps at 1280 x 720 pixels. These settings enable users to capture movement too fast to discern with the eye.  Photos taken with the burst modes are automatically organised and can be played back either in the camera or on a computer using the bundled PHOTOfunSTUDIO software. 

      Playback and Software
      Nothing significant has changed here. Playback settings for still pictures are essentially the same as in other Panasonic models and include the standard single-frame, index and slideshow options, the latter with selectable background music. Both 2D and 3D slideshow playback are supported, the latter requiring a 3D TV set.

      Two applications are provided on the software disk: PHOTOfunSTUDIO 8.3 PE Edition for Windows, which is used for acquiring and viewing images and AVCHD video clips, and Ichikawa Soft Laboratory's Silkypix Developer Studio 3.1 SE for Windows and Macintosh. There is also a web shortcut to a 30-day trial download of Super LoiLoScope, a video editor with a game-based user interface. We've covered these applications in previous reviews of Panasonic cameras.

      Performance
       The review camera lived up to our expectations for the Lumix Super-zoom series being both responsive to operate and a generally good performer, based on subjective assessments of test shots and movie clips. We noticed some additional slight improvements over the FZ150 in the dynamic ranges recorded in contrasty conditions and image noise at higher ISO settings.

      The powered zoom lens was easy to use and Panasonic hasn't forsaken the lever zoom surrounding the shutter button so you can swap between them as the need arises. We found the power zoom ideal for shooting video as it operates more smoothly and quietly than the lever zoom.

      Autofocusing was generally fast and accurate in all AF modes, with the fast lens undoubtedly making a contribution at longer focal length settings. Low light autofocusing was noticeably faster and more accurate than most digicams we've tested.

      Imatest showed the review camera to be as capable as its predecessor, the FZ150, with raw files exceeding expectations for the sensor's resolution at ISO 100 and JPEGs coming very close to expectations. As with the FZ150, we were able to use the latest release of Adobe Camera Raw (the 'release candidate' 7.2 version) for converting the camera's raw files instead of the inferior Silkyix-based bundled software.

      While raw files maintained a noticeably higher resolution across the camera's sensitivity range than JPEGs, both file types held up well for the sensor's size at high sensitivity settings. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.

       
       We weren't able to test the full zoom range of the camera's lens because of a lack of space in our testing set-up. However, our tests across a focal length range of 4.5-44mm showed the highest resolutions were recorded a stop or two down from maximum aperture.

      Slight edge softening was evident at all the focal lengths we tested and diffraction began to reduce resolution from about f/5 onwards, although the drop at the minimum aperture of f/8 was less than we found with the FZ150. The graph below shows the results of our tests.

       
       Lateral chromatic aberration was mostly negligible, ranging into the low band at the 44mm focal length with wider aperture settings. Not unexpectedly, we found little evidence of coloured fringing in test shots. In the graph below, which plots the results of our tests, the red line marks the border between ‘negligible' and ‘low' CA while the green line separates ‘low' from ‘moderate'.

       

      Long exposures at night were as good as those from the FZ150 except for shots taken with the High Sensitivity Scene mode, which records at ISO 6400 and produced shots with obvious noise and coloured blotches. The longest shutter speed for this setting is 1/4 second and we feel it should be used only when no alternatives are available.

      Otherwise, shots taken at settings between ISO 400 and ISO 3200 were usable, though noise became progressively more visible as sensitivity was increased. Close-up shots matched the FZ150's in quality, particularly with the AF switch on the lens set to Macro mode and the lens zoomed in on a subject more than a metre from the camera. Unlike the FZ150, no Close (or equivalent) setting is provided on the mode dial.

      Digital zoom shots were, if anything, sharper and more punchy than the shots we took when reviewing the FZ150. Two magnifications are available, 2x and 4x, and both produced usable shots, with the 2x zoom being marginally sharper. Panasonic's Power O.I.S. stabilisation system made a positive contribution towards delivering sharp images during close-up shooting and at high zoom magnifications.

      The built-in flash proved capable of illuminating an average-sized room at all ISO settings and flash shots showed little apparent noise right up to ISO 1600. Flash exposures were slightly over-exposed at ISO 100 but exposures were evenly balanced thereafter.

      Auto white balance performance was similar to the FZ150's. The warm cast produced by incandescent lighting was suppressed but not eliminated while shots taken under fluorescent lights had close to natural colours. Both pre-sets produced close-to-natural colours and manual measurement delivered neutral colours under both types of lighting.

      Video quality was as good as we found with the FZ150, if not a little better. Both contrast and saturation appear to be boosted in movie mode and using the continuous AF setting reduced re-focusing times when zooming or moving between subjects.

      Clips shot with the HD modes in AVCHD format were slightly sharper looking than MP4 clips, which is to be expected. But even VGA recordings were relatively artefact-free when viewed at the appropriate size. The quality of the soundtracks was similar to the FZ150 movies.

      Our timing tests were conducted with a SanDisk 32GB Extreme Pro SDHC U1 memory card, which we also used in our FZ150 review. The review camera powered-up in just over a second, which is slightly faster than its predecessor. Shut down time was also marginally faster at just under one second.

      Shot-to-shot times averaged 0.91 seconds without flash and 2.34 seconds with. We measured an average capture lag of 0.2 seconds, which reduced to less than 0.1 seconds with pre-focusing.

      JPEG images took 2.1 seconds to process, while RW2.RAW files took 2.3 seconds and RAW+JPEG pairs 2.4 seconds. Recording high-resolution images with the high-speed burst mode, the camera matched specifications, capturing 12 frames in one seconds. It 4.7 seconds to process the burst.

      For raw file bursts, the buffer limit of 11 frames was reached in one second. It took 13.4 seconds to process this burst. The same 11-frame limit applied to RAW+JPEG capture and the 12 fps capture rate was maintained. Processing was completed within 18.3 seconds of the final frame.
       
      Buy this camera if:
       - You want an all-in-one camera with P, A, S and M shooting modes plus a useful range of functions.
       - You require effective image stabilisation.
       - You like shooting close-ups of flowers and other small objects.
       - You'd like good performance for shooting both still pictures and HD video clips.
       
      Don't buy this camera if:
       - You're looking for a pocketable camera.
       - You do a lot of low-light shooting and need noise-free images at high ISO settings.Image sensor: 6.17 x 4.55 mm sensor with 12.8 million photosites (12.1 megapixels effective)

      SPECS

      Image processor: LSI Venus Engine FHD VII
       Lens: Leica DC Vario-Elmarit  4.5-108mm f/2.8-2 zoom lens (25-600mm in 35 mm format)
       Zoom ratio: 24x optical, up to 4x digital
       Image formats: Stills - JPEG  (DCF / Exif 2.3), RW2.RAW, RAW+JPEG; Movies - AVCHD, MP4, QuickTime Motion JPEG (on High-speed Video); 3D - MPO
       Image Sizes: Stills - [4:3] 4000 x 3000, 3264 x 2448, 2560 x 1920, 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, 640 x 480;  [3:2] 4000 x 2672, 3264 x 2176, 2560 x 1712, 2048 x 1360,640 x 424; [16:9] 4000 x 2248, 3264 x 1840, 2560 x 1440, 1920 x 1080, 640 x 360; [1:1] 2992 x 2992, 2448 x 2448, 1920 x 1920, 1536 x 1536, 480 x 480; Movies - [AVCHD] [1920 x 1080 50p (PSH: 28Mbps); 1920 x 1080 50i (FSH: 17Mbps); 1280 x 720 50p (SH: 17Mbps); [MP4] 1920 x 1080 at 25 fps (FHD: 20Mbps), 1280 x 720 at 30, 25 fps (HD: 10Mbps)
       Shutter speed range: 60 to 1/4000 seconds
       Self-timer: 2 or 10 seconds delay plus 3 shots with 10 secs delay
       Image Stabilisation: Power O.I.S. (On with Active Mode(only for Video) / Off)
       Exposure Compensation:
       Focus system/range: Contrast-detection AF with 23 focus points; Normal, Macro, MF, Quick AF ON/OFF(On in Intelligent Auto), Continuous AF (only for motion picture) modes; range: 30 cm - infinity; macro to 1 cm at wide position
       Exposure metering/control: Multiple, Centre-weighted and Spot patterns available
       Shooting modes: Intelligent Auto, Program AE, Aperture Priority AE, Shutter Priority AE, Manual, Movie, C1, C2, Scene (Portrait, Soft Skin, Scenery, Panorama Shot, Sports, Panning, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Handheld Night Shot, HDR, Food, Baby1, Baby2, Pet, Sunset, High Sensitivity, Through Glass, 3D photo), Creative Control
       Picture Styles: Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, Scenery, Portrait, Custom
       ISO range: Auto, i.ISO, ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200; ISO 6400  available in High Sensitivity Mode
       White balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Flash, Incandescent, White Set1, White Set2, Colour Temperature (2-axis adjustable)
       Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, On, Off, Red-eye, Slow Sync;
       Sequence shooting: Max. 12 frames/second for up to  shots
       Storage Media: Approx. 70MB internal memory plus SD/SDHC/SDXC expansion slot
       Viewfinder: 0.21-inch Colour EVF  with 1,312K dots, approx. 100% Field of View
       LCD monitor: 3-inch  Free-Angle TFT Screen LCD Display with 460,000 dots, AR Coating
       Power supply: DMW-BLC12E 7.2V, Minimum: 1,200mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery; CIPA rated for approx. 540 shots/charge
       Dimensions (wxhxd): 125.2 x 86.6 x 110.2 mm 
      Weight: Approx. 537 grams (without battery and memory card)

      RRP: AU$799, US$600
      Distributor: Panasonic Australia, Ph. 132 600; www.panasonic.com.au

      TESTS

      JPEG image files

       

       

       

       

       

      Raw image files converted into 16-bit TIFF format with Adobe Camera Raw.

       

       

       

      SAMPLES

       Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.

       Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.

      4.5mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/1600 second at f/4.
       
       

      108mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/640 second at f/4.
       
       

      2x digital zoom; 108mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/400 second at f/4.
       
       

      4x digital zoom; 108mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/800 second at f/4.
       
       

      Close-up with macro zoom; 4.5mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/4.
       
       

      8 second exposure at ISO 100; f/2.8; 6mm focal length.
       
       

      8 second exposure at ISO 800; f/4.5; 6mm focal length.
       
       

      6 second exposure at ISO 1600; f/4.5; 6mm focal length.
       
       

      2.5 second exposure at ISO 3200; f/4.5; 6mm focal length.
       
       

      Flash exposure at ISO 100; 30mm focal length, 1/40 second at f/2.8.
       
       

      Flash exposure at ISO 800; 30mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/2.8.
       
       

      Flash exposure at ISO 800; 30mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/2.8.
       
       

      Flash exposure at ISO 3200; 30mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/2.8.
       
       

      Backlighting; 108mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/320 second at f/4.
       
       

      108mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/1600 second at f/4.
       
       

      108mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/60 second at f/2.8.
       
       

      iDynamic mode on Standard; 41mm focal length, P mode, ISO 100, 1/640 second at f/4.
       
       

      6mm focal length, ISO 3200, 1/125 second at f/2.8.
       
       

      24mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/80 second at f/2.8.
       
       

      Stabilisation test; 108mm focal length plus 4x digital zoom, ISO 400, 1/25 second at f/2.8.

      Still frame from AVCHD video clip shot in the PSH mode.

       Still frame from AVCHD video clip shot in the FSH mode.
       
       

      Still frame from AVCHD video clip shot in the SH mode.
       
       

      Still frame from MP4 video clip shot in the FHD mode.

      Still frame from MP4 video clip shot in the HD mode.

       

       Still frame from MP4 video clip shot in the VGA mode.

       Rating

       RRP: AU$799, US$600

      • Build: 8.5
      • Ease of use: 8.5
      • Autofocusing: 9.0
      • Image quality JPEG: 8.5
      • Image quality Raw: 8.8
      • Video quality: 9.0

      BUY