Bridge cameras, also known as Prosumer cameras, are very popular with those who do not wish to lug around heavy, cumbersome and often very expensive equipment.
Panasonic, besides some other prominent manufacturers, offers a wide choice of such super zoom models. One such recent entrant from Panasonic is the Lumix FZ200 that boasts of constant f/2.8 aperture throughout its fantastic 24x zoom range. Not only that, it can fire bursts at 12 frames per second at full resolution! The FZ200 is a replacement for the FZ150. Let’s see how it scores on our test bench…
Design and Build Quality
Look closely and you’ll see something different – the lens barrel is large. This is because the 25-600mm equivalent zoom lens is f/2.8 throughout! The build quality is good, as long as you don’t compare it to that of D-SLRs.
The deep hand grip is perfect; the index finger falls directly on the shutter release button, while a thumb rest prevents chances of the camera slipping from your hand. The camera is well finished and is lightweight (approx. 588 g). It measures 125.2 ( W ) x 86.6 (H) x 110.2mm (D).
The Panasonic FZ200 is a D-SLR-like 12.1 megapixel ‘Bridge’ camera offering a Leica DC Vario-Elmarit (24x) 25-600mm equivalent zoom lens. It uses a 1/2.3-inch Type (6.13 x 4.6mm) High Sensitivity MOS imaging sensor, backed by a Venus Processing Engine. The lens is made with 14 elements in 11 groups (5 Aspherical elements, 9 Aspherical Surfaces, 3 ED elements, 1 Nano
Surface Coated element) and is backed by Panasonic’s Power Optical Image Stabilizer (Power O.I.S.). The minimum focussing distance for ‘Normal’ shooting is 30cm at the wide-angle end and 200cm at the telephoto end. In AF Macro, Manual focus, Intelligent Auto, and Motion Picture modes, the lens can focus from 1cm-infinity at the wide- angle end and 100cm-infinity at the telephoto end. Apertures offered by the FZ200 are from f/2.8-f/8 throughout the zoom range for still images and from f/2.8-f/11 for movies.
An Electronic Colour LCD Viewfinder (EVF) with 1,312,000-dot resolution offers almost 100% field of view and is provided with a diopter adjustment to suit individual eyesight. The monitor is a 3-inch TFT LCD with approximately 461,000-dot resolution.
The FZ200 offers various focus modes:Normal/AF Macro/MF/Quick AF On- Off (always remains ‘On’ in Intelligent Auto)/Continuous AF (only for motion picture). There’s a Focus Switch with 3 settings on the lens barrel: AF/AF Macro/Manual Focus (MF). If set to MF, you can power zoom the lens using
the T/W side lever and by pressing the Focus button, you can also autofocus, thus overriding the
The Mode dial on the top can be set to P, A, S, M, Movie, Custom 1 & 2, Scene, and Creative Control. The Scene modes are: Portrait, Soft Skin, Scenery, Panorama Shot, Sports, Panning, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Handheld Night Shot, HDR, Food, Baby 1 & 2, Pet, Sunset, High Sensitivity, Glass Through, and 3D Photo Mode. Creative Control lets you choose between different creative effects: High Key, Low key, Sepia, Dynamic Monochrome, Impressive Art, High Dynamic, Cross Process, Toy Effect, Miniature Effect, Soft Focus, Star Filter, One Point Colour, Expressive and Retro. Exposures can be compensated by +/- 3 EV in 1/3 EV step. Metering modes are Intelligent Multiple, Center-weighted and Spot.
The Burst Mode button is between the shutter release and Function 1 button. It offers the following
burst rates :12 fps for maximum 12 images at full resolution; with AF-Tracking: 5.5 fps/2 fps; High speed burst: approx. 60 fps (recorded at 2.5 MP); approx. 40 fps (recorded at 5 MP). Thankfully, the Burst Mode can be set to ‘Off ’ (i.e. you can take one frame with every press of the shutter release button!). Shutter speeds on the GH3 range from 60 seconds to 1/4000 sec for still images (Panasonic’s Basic Owner’s Manual says 15 seconds to 1/4000 sec) and from 1/30 sec. to 1/20,000 sec for video. Using Picture Adjustment control, the user can control contrast, sharpness, saturation and noise reduction. White Balance on the FZ200 can be set to Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Flash, Incandescent, White Set 1 & 2, and Kelvin temperature.
High Definition Video can be recorded with stereo sound in AVCHD or MP4. The focal length available for video recording is 28-672 mm. Please check your Owner’s Manual for further details. Images can be stored on SD/ SDHC/SDXC memory card in JPEG or Raw format. Internal memory is about 70MB. Image quality can be set to Raw, Raw+Fine, Raw+Standard, Fine, Standard; in 3D mode, MPO+Fine, MPO+Standard.
A built-in pop-up flash offering the usual flash modes can be used between 0.3-13.5 m at ISO Auto at the wide- angle end; between 1-13.5 m at the telephoto end. The camera is powered by a lithium-ion battery (DMW- BLC12PP).
The Lumix FZ200, though not pocketable, is small enough to carry in a waist-pouch. It is easy to handle and use. In spite of its very effective Power O. I. S., we would recommend a tripod for telephoto shooting. The fast f/2.8 aperture allows you to use faster shutter speeds (as compared to slower lenses) and hence further aids in sharp images.
We had mixed reactions with the overall performance of the FZ200. JPEG images were somewhat on the ‘softer’ side (though could be easily sharpened in Photoshop) and were low in contrast; Raw files produced better images. Highlight burnout was at its minimal, and could have possibly been helped by the low-contrast. Colours were, when not shooting into the light, saturated. Though the Power O. I. S. performed as expected; for greater sharpness towards the longest end we would definitely suggest a good tripod (with stabilisation turned off ), failing which a monopod at least. The fast f/2.8 aperture allowed us to shoot in low light, where less modest cameras would have given up.
Flare was clearly visible in against-the- light shots, which required a contrast boost in Photoshop. Chromatic aberration (magenta fringing) was evident. Darkening of corners was very well controlled. There was, for all practical purposes, just a shade of corner darkening at the widest end (25mm equivalent). The lens exhibited some barrel distortion up to 65mm equivalent focal length. The EXIF data showed a maximum focal length of 610mm equivalent, which of course did not surprise us (measured focal length often vary with the stated focal length).
The native image size was 8.907 x 13.333” at 300ppi. At 12.5% screen size, there was no digital noise throughout the ISO range. At 25% screen size, the results were identical – no noise throughout the ISO range. At 50% screen size, some noise was visible at ISO 1600 and 3200. At 100%, noise was visible over a greater range of ISOs. Personally, using the ‘shoot to the right’ theory, I would not hesitate to use the camera up to ISO 1600, even for large prints. Having said that, just for record, for ultimate image quality with any camera one must try to use the lowest ISO sensitivity.
White Balance performance was good. AWB and Pre-set for Sunlight was perfect; very slight magenta/red cast was seen with AWB/Pre-set for Shade and Flash, which could be very easily handled in post-processing.
Auto focussing was quick and accurate and the Face Detection worked well. AF Tracking was better than in some other cameras that we have reviewed in the past. Exposure metering for ambient light was quite accurate with all the three meters – Multiple, Centre- weighted and Spot. Exposures with the built-in flash were spot on.
Value for Money
The Panasonic Lumix FZ200 is available at an MRP of Rs.34,990. At this price, we would consider it to be a fair value for money.
+ 24x, 25-600mm equivalent zoom
+ F/2.8 throughout the zoom range
+ Fully articulated LCD
– Low-contrast images
– Slightly softer JPEGs
|Design and Build Quality||16/20|
|Value for Money||7/10|
A very fast, f/2.8 aperture at 600mm was unheard of until now. If you are the kind of photographer who loves to shoot everything, even in low light, and without the bulk of a D-SLR, then the FZ200 is for you. But for the price you pay, you could opt for a beginner’s D-SLR with a kit lens. However, a 600mm lens on a D-SLR will send you packing to a gym and could put you in conflict with your