Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80
Like its predecessor, the FZ80 is a ‘bridge’ camera that attempts to provide many of the handling and operational characteristics of an interchangeable-lens camera without the cost and lens changing hassles.
Many of the improvements featured in the FZ80 should appeal to casual snapshooters and movie recorders. Most significant among them are the inclusion of 4K video and Panasonic’s 4K Photo modes, for which you’ll need a UHS speed Class 3 SDHC or faster memory card to take advantage of them.
Although imaging performance results were a mixed bag, for a family snapshooter, young traveller or anyone who wants a simple, ‘go anywhere’ camera, the DC-FZ80 is light enough to be easily carried, compact enough to slip into a backpack and affordably priced for a 4K capable device.
Panasonic’s new Lumix DC-FZ80 is a welcome update to the popular FZ70, which was released in mid-June 2013 (and which we didn’t review). Like its predecessor, the FZ80 is an entry-level model that sits below the FZ300. Its sensor is still a 1/2.3-inch ‘type’ chip, but its resolution has increased from 16.1 to 18.1 megapixels and the new camera offers a formidable array of 4K Photo and movie modes.
Angled front views of the Lumix DC-FZ80 without and with the lens at full zoom extension. (Source: Panasonic.)
Physically, the FZ80 closely resembles its predecessor, although it’s not quite as tall, marginally wider and 10 grams heavier. The lens is the same DC Vario 3.58-215mm f/2.8-5.9, which covers a focal length range equivalent to 20-1200mm in 35mm format. Its optical design has 14 elements in 12 groups and includes six aspherical elements, nine aspherical surfaces and three ED elements. Panasonic’s Power O.I.S. stabilisation system is included.
Rear and top views of the Lumix DC-FZ80. (Source: Panasonic.)
Who’s it For?
Like its predecessor, the FZ80 is a ‘bridge’ camera that attempts to provide many of the handling and operational characteristics of an interchangeable-lens camera without the cost and lens changing hassles. It will therefore appeal to photographers who want a ‘do everything’ camera with minimal complications.
Many of the improvements featured in the FZ80 should appeal to casual snapshooters and movie recorders. Most significant among them are the inclusion of 4K video and Panasonic’s 4K Photo modes. However, you’ll need a UHS speed Class 3 SDHC or faster memory card to take advantage of them.
Other improvements to the camera’s capabilities and functionality that could make it appealing to purchasers are listed in the What’s New section below.
The main differences between the FZ80 and its predecessor, the FZ70 are laid out in the table below.
|Effective resolution||18.1 Megapixels||16.1 megapixels|
|Max resolution (stills)||4896 x 3672 pixels||4608 x 3456 pixels|
3.58 – 215mm f/2.8 – 5.9
|Zoom range (35mm equivalent)||
20 – 1200mm
|Digital zoom||Max. 4x||Max. 5x|
|Focusing range||30cm – infinity, macro to 1 cm|
|Shutter / speed range||Mechanical and electronic / 4 – 1/2,000 sec (M); 1 – 1/16,000 sec (E)||Mechanical / approx. 8 – 1/2,000 sec|
|Long exposures||Artistic Nightscape (Approx. 60 sec)||Starry Sky Mode: 15, 30, 60 sec|
|Continuous shooting (full resolution)||10 fps||9 fps|
|Buffer capacity||44 JPEG, 15 RAW||3 frames|
|Max video quality||4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) at 30p, 25p,||Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) at 50i /50p|
|ISO range||Auto, i.ISO, ISO 80-6400||Auto, i.ISO, ISO 100 – 3200, expansion to ISO 6400 available|
|Viewfinder||0.20-inch type EVF with 1,166,000 dots, 100% frame coverage||0.20-inch type EVF with 202,000 dots, approx. 100% frame coverage|
|Monitor||3-inch TFT LCD screen with 1,040,000 dots and static touch control||3-inch TFT LCD screen with 460,000 dots|
|Flash||Yes; 0.3 – 14.1m (Wide / ISO Auto), 1.5 – 6.1m (Tele / ISO Auto)||Yes; 0.3 – 13.5m (Wide / ISO Auto), 1.5 – 6.4m (Tele / ISO Auto)|
|Media||SD, SDHC, SDXC cards; UHS-1 UHS Speed Class 3 supported||SD, SDHC, SDXC cards|
|Built-in memory||No||Approx. 200MB|
|Power||7.2V, 895mAh, 6.5 W battery; CIPA rated for 330 shots/charge||7.2V, 895mAh, 6.5 W battery; CIPA rated for 400 shots/charge|
|Dimensions (w x h x d)||130.2 x 94.3 x 119.2 mm||130.2 x 97.0 x 118.2 mm|
|Shooting weight (with battery and card)||Approx. 616 grams||Approx. 606 grams|
The 4K video and 4K Photo modes are likely to present the main appeal to new buyers, although equally important improvements have been made to other features and functions. The FZ80 supports 4K UHD video recording using the MP4 format with frame rates of up to 30fps plus a 100Mbps bit rate. The frame is cropped both top-to-bottom and horizontally in 4K movie mode and autofocusing speeds are reduced.
The maximum clip length is 15 minutes and recording will cease when the file reaches 4GB in size. A special 4K Live Cropping mode enables users to move a Full HD frame around a 4K frame while recording to simulate pans and zooms while leaving the camera in a fixed position.
There are two settings ““ 20 sec. and 40 sec.”“ which define the length of the movie clip. Because the recording is at Full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution, the quality loss associated with digital zooming doesn’t apply.
Panasonic’s 4K Photo shooting modes make their way into this entry-level model, among them the 4K Burst mode which records 4K video while the shutter button is held down, the 4K Burst (S/S) mode, which starts recording when the shutter button is pressed stops when this button is pressed a second time, the 4K Pre-Burst mode which starts recording when it is selected and store the last 30 frames captured before the shutter button was pressed.
The various Post Focus functions give photographers the ability to select different points of focus within the same image. Integrated Focus Stacking allows users to program the focus shifting sequence in order to utilise the highest performing aperture while also increasing the depth of field in the final image.
Wi-Fi support is another important new feature that will appeal to some potential buyers, although some will regret the lack of NFC support. Panasonic’s Wi-Fi is basic, but effective, and requires users to pair the FZ80 with smartphones or tablets running the Panasonic Image App to enable wireless image transferring and remote camera control.
Although the 3-inch monitor screen and a 0.2-inch electronic viewfinder are the same sizes as in the FZ70, their resolutions have increased substantially and both displays offer improved functionality. The resolution of the monitor screen has increased from 460,000 dots in the FZ70 TO 1,040,000 dots, which more than doubles the detail that can be resolved.
The monitor also offers touch-screen controls that are in line with other recently-released Panasonic cameras although, unlike more up-market models, the screen isn’t articulated. Touch focus and touch shutter release enable users to focus quickly on subjects and record the shot, ensuring important areas are sharp
The EVF’s resolution has risen even more, from 20,000 dots in the FZ70 to 1,166,000 dots in the FZ80, which provides a much clearer, sharper view with a high 60-fps refresh rate. It offers 0.46x equivalent magnification and 100% frame coverage as well as dioptre adjustment but there’s no eye sensor so you must use the nearby button to switch between the two displays.
Autofocusing has also been enhanced with the number of sensors doubled and DFD (Depth From Defocus) technology added to further reduce focusing times. DFD calculates the distance to the subject by evaluating two images with different sharpness levels based upon a high 240-fps signal exchange speed. Panasonic claims focus can be achieved at approximately 0.09 seconds, particularly with longer focal length settings.
Two shutter options are now available: mechanical and electronic. The mechanical shutter covers much the same range as in the FZ70 but the electronic shutter supports speeds as fast as 1/16,000 second and covers a useful range for shooting movies. However, if you want to take long exposures, you’re still limited to one of the fully automated modes, which restricts which camera controls you can use.
There hasn’t been much of an increase in the maximum continuous shooting speed. However, the capacity of the buffer memory has been significantly expanded, probably by taking over the 200MB of built-in memory provided in the FZ70. This is definitely a good move.
Other relatively minor changes include support for in-camera battery charging via the supplied USB cable and a wide variety of in-camera special effects, contained within the Create Control, Photo Style and Picture Adjustment settings plus the 24 pre-programmed Scene Guide modes. The battery capacity has fallen from 400 shots/charge to 330 shots/charge (CIPA rated) or 240 shots/charge with the electronic viewfinder.
Sensor and Image Processing
It’s a pity Panasonic chose to stick with the 1/2.3-inch MOS sensor, when so many other manufacturers are moving to 1-inch chips for their compact digicams. The difference is significant: the former measures roughly 6.7 x 4.55 mm, while the latter is 12.8 x 9.6 mm. That can result in a huge difference in image quality and the camera’s sensitivity range.
Panasonic is never very forthcoming about the details of its image processors, although we assume the Venus Engine chip in the FZ80 is relatively recent and equipped with up-to-date processing algorithms. The sensitivity range in the new camera has been expanded downwards to ISO 80 but the upper limit remains at ISO 6400. It’s safe to assume the new processor is also able to handle the 4K processing speeds.
Like most Panasonic digicams, the FZ80 provides four aspect ratio settings: 4:3, 3:2, 16:9 and 1:1. Typical file sizes for the sensor’s native 4:3 aspect ratio are shown in the table below.
|RAW||4896 x 3672|
|JPEG||4896 x 3672||4896 x 3264||4896 x 2752||3664×3664|
|3456 x 2592||3456 x 2304||3840 x 2160||2592 x 2592|
|2400 x 1800||2400 x 1600||1920 x 1080||1824 x 1824|
Like other Panasonic cameras, the FZ80 offers two recording formats: MP4 and AVCHD. 4K movies can only be recorded in the MP4 format, which also supports the two high-speed recording modes (with reduced resolution). The table below shows the settings available in PAL format countries like Australia.
|Video format||Aspect ratio||Picture size
|Frame rate||Bit rate|
|MP4||16:9||3840 x 2160||25 fps||100Mbps|
|3840 x 2160||24 fps||100Mbps|
|1920 x 1080||50 fps||28Mbps|
|1920 x 1080||25 fps||20Mbps|
|1280 x 720||25 fps||10Mbps|
|1280 x 720||100 fps||Not specified|
|640 x 480||200 fps|
|AVCHD||1920 x 1080 / 50i||50 fps||28 Mbps|
|1920 x 1080 / 50p|
Time-lapse and Stop Motion Animation are also available. The maximum file size for any movie clip is 4GB, although a 4K recording is restricted to 15 minutes when using SDHC cards; not with SDXC cards. As far as we’ve been able to determine, you can’t capture a still picture while recording a movie clip.
Playback and Software
Nothing much has changed in the playback functions and Panasonic continues to offer Silkypix software as its raw file converter. We have repeatedly shown Silkypix produces TIFF files with lower resolution than the JPEGs directly from the camera so we’ve given up trying to use it. So, since this camera will be mostly used for shooting JPEGs, we’ve only presented the results of our Imatest tests on JPEG files from the review camera in this review.
Image quality was quite good, given the small sensor in the review camera and the very long zoom range of the lens, both of which can compromise resolution and gamma. Subjective assessment of JPEG shots straight out of the camera showed them to be a little soft, although amenable to unsharp masking. Colour accuracy was generally very good.
Imatest showed the review camera to be not quite capable of meeting expectations for an 18-megapixel sensor, although it came very close with the best resolution we measured for JPEG files. As mentioned above, we chose not to report on the results we obtained from RW2.RAW files because the Silkypix converter delivered much lower resolution than we obtained from the JPEGs recorded at the same time.
Overall imaging performance was varied. We found the expected decline in resolution as ISO sensitivity was increased. The results are shown in the graph below.
The performance of the lens was linked to both focal length and aperture, with the highest resolution achieved at the 9mm focal length with an aperture of f/4. With a minimum aperture of f/8 and a maximum of f/5.9 at full optical zoom, you quickly run out of apertures as you zoom in.
Edge softening was quite pronounced at wider apertures and diffraction took effect from about f/5 on. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.
Lateral chromatic aberration is probably corrected automatically in the camera, although we found no evidence of coloured fringing in the test shots we took. The graph below shows all measurements fell well within the negligible zone (to the left of the red line).
Autofocusing was nice and fast in bright lighting and the camera was able to lock onto and track moving subjects in these conditions. However, some hunting occurred in low light levels, particularly with low-contrast subjects.
The lens was also quite flare prone and produced numerous artefacts when a bright light source strayed into the frame. Contrast tended to fall off at the longest focal lengths, although some of the loss was recoverable with post-capture processing. The 4K Photo modes and other in-camera processing effects performed as expected.
Although we expected the 4K video to be as good as we’ve obtained from previous Panasonic cameras we’ve reviewed, it fell short. We think this was partly because the lens wasn’t as sharp as the interchangeable lenses we’ve used previously but also because the camera was unable to keep pace with subject movement because the same blurring affected the Full HD movie recordings.
Even the 50 fps FHD settings contained areas of blurring that would normally be expected to appear sharp. Recordings at 25 fps showed definite blurring in areas of reasonably fast motion. Clips recorded at 720 50 fps were a little less blurred.
As expected, the slower of the two High-Speed recording modes (1280 x 720 pixels at 200 fps), delivered clips in which most frames were nicely sharp. We tried recording with the VGA at 400 fps mode but all the frames recorded were blurred. Presumably this setting requires careful pre-focusing.
Audio quality was good enough for amateur use but nothing to write home about. We had few issues with wind noise and the camera’s microphone didn’t seem to pick up the operational noises when the lens was focusing or being zoomed.
We carried out our timing tests with a 32GB Panasonic SDHC UHS-1 U3 card which has a maximum write speed of 90 MB/second and is fast enough to support 4K movie recording. The camera powered up in approximately one second. We measured an average capture lag of less than 0.1 seconds, which was eliminated with pre-focusing. Shot-to-shot times averaged 0.4 seconds without flash and 2.5 seconds with flash.
Going by the indicator icon on the monitor it took roughly 1.8 seconds for the Live View display to reappear after recording each JPEG file, 2.1 seconds for each RW2.RAW file and 2.2 seconds for each RAW+JPEG pair.
In the continuous high-speed shooting mode, the review camera recorded 44 high-resolution JPEGs in 7.3 seconds before slowing, which equates to a rate of 10 frames/second. It took 11.9 seconds to process this burst.
With the 4K Burst mode, the review camera recorded 76 high-resolution JPEGs at a resolution of 3328 x 2496 pixels in 7.6 seconds without stopping. Processing of this burst was completed within 2.4 seconds of the movie being captured.
The buffer memory filled after 15 RW2.RAW files, which were recorded in 1.5 seconds in the continuous high mode, maintaining the 10 fps continuous shooting speed. Processing time for this burst was 11.3 seconds. The buffer was limited to 13 RAW+JPEG frames, which were also captured in 1.4 seconds. It took 15.4 seconds to process this burst.
The DC-FZ80 is an average performer that will suit photographers who mainly view their images and movies on a screen because such displays will make the issues associated with the small image sensor and extended-range lens less obvious. Built-in Wi-Fi enables users to post their shots on social networks, display them on TV sets and download them to a computer with minimal hassles, so it’s a suitable choice for an undemanding socially-active shooter.
Serious enthusiasts would normally never buy this type of camera, even though it supports raw file capture (any those who want to use the FZ80’s raw files should wait until the format is supported by decent file conversion software). But for a family snapshooter, young traveller or anyone who wants a simple, ‘go anywhere’ camera, it’s light enough to be easily carried, compact enough to slip into a backpack and affordably priced for a 4K capable device.
Panasonic lists the FZ80 on its website at AU$599 but so far most of online resellers who have it listed are requesting ‘pre-orders’ and asking for a deposit of $200. The situation’s much the same with off-shore resellers, although some have it listed for around US$400, which works out at just under AU$520 with current exchange rates. Add in shipping and insurance costs and you’re bound to find it cheaper at an Australian retailer.
Image sensor: 6.17 x 4.55 mm High Sensitivity MOS sensor with 18.9 million photosites (18.1 megapixels effective)
Image processor: Venus Engine
Lens: Lumix DC Vario 3.58-215mm f/2.8-5.9 (20 – 1200mm in 35mm format)
Zoom ratio: 60x optical, 84x Extra Optical Zoom (EZ), 120x digital zoom
Image formats: Stills – JPEG (DCF/Exif 2.3), RW2.RAW, RAW+JPEG; Movies – AVCHD, MP4
Image Sizes: Stills – 4:3 aspect: 4896 x 3672, 3456 x 2592, 2400 x 1800; 3:2 aspect:4896 x 3264, 3456 x 2304, 2400 x 1600; 16:9 aspect: 4896 x 2752, 3840 x 2160, 1920 x 1080; 1:1 aspect: 3664 x 3664, 2592 x 2592, 1824 x 1824; Movies – 3840 x 2160 at 30p, 25p, 1920 x 1080 at 50p, 50i, 25p, 1280 x 720 at 50p, plus 2 High-Speed modes: 1280 x 720 at 200 fps and 640 x 480 at 400 fps
Shutter speed range: 4 to 1/2000 second (Mechanical Shutter), 1 – 1/16,000 second (Electronic Shutter); approx. 60 sec. available in Artistic Nightscape mode
Self-timer: 2 or 10 seconds delay plus 10 sec / 3 images
Image Stabilisation: POWER O.I.S. with Active Mode (only for motion pictures)
Exposure Compensation: +/-5 EV (in 1/3 EV steps), +/-3EV (in 1/3 EV steps) for movies
Bracketing: AE Bracket of 3, 5, 7 images in 1/3, 2/3 or 1 EV step, Max. +/-3 EV; White Balance Bracket of 3 exposures in blue/amber axis or in magenta/green axis
Focus system/range: 49-area Contrast AF with Quick AF, Continuous AF (during motion picture recording), Touch AF/AE Function, Touch Pad AF, Touch Shutter, MF Assist, Touch MF Assist, AF+MF, Focus Peaking, One Shot AF (Set the Fn button in custom menu to AF-ON), Low Light AF modes; range: 30 cm to infinity; macro to 1 cm
Other focus modes: Post Focus, Focus Stacking, Face/Eye Detection
Exposure metering/control: Intelligent Multiple, Centre Weighted and Spot modes
Shooting modes: Intelligent Auto, P, A, S, M, Creative Video, C (Custom), Panorama Shot, Scene Guide, Creative Control
Creative Control modes: Expressive, Retro, Old Days, High Key, Low Key, Sepia, Monochrome, Dynamic Monochrome, Rough Monochrome, Silky Monochrome, Impressive Art, High Dynamic, Cross Process, Toy Effect, Toy Pop, Bleach Bypass, Miniature Effect, Soft Focus, Fantasy, Star Filter, One Point Colour, Sunshine (22 filters)
Scene Presets: Clear Portrait, Silky Skin, Backlit Softness, Clear in Backlight, Relaxing Tone, Sweet Child’s Face, Distinct Scenery, Bright Blue Sky, Romantic Sunset Glow, Vivid Sunset Glow, Glistening Water, Clear Nightscape, Cool Night Sky, Warm Glowing Nightscape, Artistic Nightscape, Glittering Illuminations, Handheld Night Shot, Clear Night Portrait, Soft Image of a Flower, Appetising Food, Cute Dessert, Freeze Animal Motion, Clear Sports Shot, Monochrome
Photo Style modes: Standard, Vivid, Natural, Monochrome, Scenery, Portrait, Custom
Picture Adjustment settings: Contrast, Sharpness, Noise Reduction, Saturation, Colour Tone, Filter Effect
ISO range: Auto, i.ISO, ISO 80-6400 selectable in 1/3 EV steps; ISO 80 to ISO 3200 for movies
White balance: Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent, Flash, White Set (x4), Colour Temperature; 2-axis WB adjustments: G to M, A to B
Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto*, Auto/Red-eye Reduction*, Forced On, Forced On/Red-eye Reduction, Slow Sync., Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction, Forced Off * For iA, iA+ mode only. Range – 0.3 – 14.1m (Wide / ISO Auto), 1.5 – 6.1m (Tele / ISO Auto)
Sequence shooting: Max. 10 frames/second; (4K Photo Mode – 30 frames/sec, max. 15 min.)
Buffer memory depth (based on tests): JPEGs, raw files, RAW+JPEG
Storage Media: SD, SDHC, SDXC cards; UHS-1 UHS Speed Class 3 supported
Viewfinder: 0.20-inch type EVF with 1,166,000 dots, 100% frame coverage, 2/59x magnification
LCD monitor: 3-inch TFT Screen LCD with 1,040,000 dots and static touch control
Interface terminals: micro HDMI type D, USB 2.0 Micro-B
Wi-Fi communications: IEEE 802.11b/g/n, 2412 MHz – 2462 MHz (1-11 ch), WPA / WPA2, Infrastructure Mode / WPS
Power supply: 7.2V, 895mAh, 6.5 Wh Li-ion Battery Pack with USB Power Charging; CIPA rated for approx. 330 images/charge (rear monitor), 240 images/charge (EVF)
Dimensions (wxhxd): 130.2 x 94.3 x 119.2 mm
Weight: 572 grams (without battery and memory card)
Distributor: Panasonic Australia, Ph. 132 600; www.panasonic.com.au.
Based on JPEG files:
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
Auto white balance with LED lighting.
Auto white balance with flash lighting.
3.6mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/4.
9mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/400 second at f/4.
18mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/320 second at f/5.
36mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/160 second at f/5.5.
54mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/80 second at f/5.5.
74mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/5.6.
92mm focal length, ISO 160, 1/100 second at f/5.6.
126mm focal length, ISO 160, 1/100 second at f/5.6.
215mm focal length, ISO 250, 1/125 second at f/5.9.
2x digital zoom, 215mm focal length, ISO 250, 1/125 second at f/5.9.
4-second exposure at ISO 80, 10mm focal length, f/4.5.
4-second exposure at ISO 100, 10mm focal length, f/5.
1.6-second exposure at ISO 800, 10mm focal length, f/5.
0.62-second exposure at ISO 1600, 10mm focal length, f/5.6.
1/3-second exposure at ISO 3200, 10mm focal length, f/7.1.
1/6-second exposure at ISO 6400, 10mm focal length, f/8.
Flash exposure at ISO 80, 34mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.5.
Flash exposure at ISO 100, 34mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.5.
Flash exposure at ISO 800, 34mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.5.
Flash exposure at ISO 1600, 34mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.5.
Flash exposure at ISO 3200, 34mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.5
Flash exposure at ISO 6400, 34mm focal length, 1/60 second at f/5.5.
Close-up; 128mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/320 second at f/5.6.
Strong backlighting causing flare; 3.6mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/1600 second at f/8.
Contre-jour lighting; 14mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/320 second at f/5.
Moving subject; 42mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/100 second at f/5.5.
6mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/500 second at f/5.
Crop from the above image enlarged to 100% showing slight softening but no coloured fringing.
20mm focal length, ISO 250, 1/100 second at f/5.
23mm focal length, ISO 80, 1/800 second at f/8.
18mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/60 second at f/4.8.
59mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/5.6.
215mm focal length plus 2x digital zoom; ISO 250, 1/125 second at f/5.9.
Still frame from a 4K video clip recorded at 25p.
Still frame from a 4K video clip recorded at 24p.
Still frame from FHD MP4 video clip recorded at 50p.
Still frame from FHD MP4 video clip recorded at 25p.
Still frame from HD 720p MP4 video clip recorded at 25p.
Still frame from HD 720p MP4 video clip recorded at 200 fps.
Still frame from a FHD AVCHD video clip recorded at 50i.
Still frame from a FHD AVCHD video clip recorded at 50p.
RRP: AU$599; US$400
- Build: 8.5
- Ease of use: 8.5
- Autofocusing: 8.5
- Image quality: 8.5
- Video quality: 8.5