Sunday, June 15, 2014

Panasonic FZ1000 Is Genuinely Surprising

Bravo Panasonic. You've done Sony one better, and aside from the video-oriented GH series, that is a first.

The Panasonic FZ1000 is Panasonic's response to the phenomenal success that Sony has had with their 1-Inch sensor cameras, the RX100 and the RX10. It sports a 400mm lens, a rugged body, and all the doodads one would expect.

Before I go into all that, though, I want to again stress how shockingly dumb camera companies are. It was apparent to everyone that point-&-shoot cameras with small sensors were dead the moment that the iPhone came out. In 2007, camera phones weren't terribly good, but Nokia's line of N phones were already showing that they could be. I should know. I had the N93, N95, and an N86. I rarely wanted for a P&S when I had them.

As such, everyone with half a brain knew full well that to continue sales of P&S cameras, companies would have to start offering upgrades in the form of increased sensors, features, and capabilities. So, from the release of the Nokia N91 in 2005, it took Sony eight years to release the RX100. And that was worthy of praise!!!

I don't want to bash Sony too much, because at the very least they released the damned thing. The rest of the companies were doing less than shit. They were doing negative shit. That's a mathematical term. Its symbol is -S. Canon = -S. If Sony had not released the RX100, the FZ1000 would absolutely not exist.

But now that it does, it is a very good thing.

The FZ1000 is very different from the Sony. The sensors are the same size, but the Panasonic is noticeably larger. It's zoom range also extends to 400mm eqv while maintaining an F/4.0 at that length. For such a compact size, that's quite good. Obviously, we have lenses out there for APS-C and m4/3 that reach 400mm eqv, but their quality at that range is rather shite. If this camera can stay sharp, I think that Panasonic deserves a booyah. This is especially true considering the price: $900. That's precisely where newer, better P&S cameras should be. Pricey, but of course they're pricey; these are an upgrade from your iPhone.

Even if the camera softens up a bit on the far end, that extra range is a big differentiator from Sony. My biggest interest, though, is video. Panasonic admittedly has developed a good reputation for high-quality video in its camera offerings. The RX10 is already Sony's best video camera, so if Panasonic can bring something special, then it will be impressive indeed.

Noise performance on the sensor seems competitive, but that's unsurprising. Very few cameras are noticeably behind the curve when it comes to noise performance. I wrote a little while ago that ISO is no longer important, and with every new camera release, that is confirmed. Are there slight differences? Yes, but rarely large enough to be seen in actual situations.

That said, the 1" sensor still looks a point-&-shooty. I don't think that will ever change. That is, of course, only a concern for pro-sumer photogs. For anyone else, this will be so vastly superior to your old P&S or your cell phone as to be a breath of fresh air after living in Shanghai. And again, the price can't be beat.

This is progress. I really look forward to video from this camera. If they can produce something special, I know many a videographer who may pick one up.

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