2018 January 31    Digital   Camera Reviews

Introduction


By now, you probably know that most bridge cameras have 1/2.3" sensors.  They're good for daylight photography, and they're on the more affordable end of the price spectrum. 

For years, many of us wanted a bridge camera that performs better in low light:  a bridge, as it were, between bridge cameras and DSLR's.

That brings us to the realm of "large-sensor long-zooms", including the Panasonic DMC-FZ1000. 

The FZ1000 has been on the market since 2014.  Could it still be worth getting?  Are there better choices now that it's 2018?

Let's find out.




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In This Article


Some Specifications


Auto Modes

Autofocus

Basic Controls

Battery

Bokeh and Depth of Field

Custom Modes

Electronic Viewfinder

Field Flatness / Corner Sharpness

Flash

Image Quality

LCD & Rear Panel

Low-Light / High ISO Performance

Macro and Close Focusing

Microphone Jack

Miscellaneous

Power-Up

Video

Zoom



FZ1000 vs. FZ2500



FZ1000 vs. Sony RX10 Mk III and IV



FZ1000 vs. All The Rest



Conclusion




Some Specifications


I'm filling these in as I use this camera.  Skip ahead to Battery, Power Up & Basic Use, etc.

35mm Zoom Equivalent:  25-400mm
Apertures Available:   f/2.8-f/4.0 (widest) through f/8
Auto Bracketing:  Yes
Batteries:  7.2 V  1200 mAh  8.7 Wh (Li-ion) (see below)
Battery Life:  up to 540 shots per charge (this can vary downward, depending on what you're doing)
Connectors:  USB multi;  Mini-HDMI out;  remote jack
Crop Factor:  2.7
Continuous Shooting: 
Exposure Compensation:  +/-3 EV in 1/3-stop increments
Exposure Control:   Auto, Programmed Auto (P), Aperture Priority (Av), Shutter Priority (Tv), Manual (M), & Smart Auto scene modes
Flash:  Built-in, plus a hotshoe to accept an external flash
Focus:  Auto;  Auto Macro;  Manual Focus also available
HDR:  Yes (in-camera)
Image Formats:  JPG and 12-bit RAW
Image Processor:  LSI Venus Engine
Image Stabilization:  5-axis
ISO settings:  ISO 125 through 12800, with Auto ISO and Extended ISO available.
LCD:  3" free-angle TFT ( )
Lens:  non-interchangeable zoom lens, Leica DC Vario-Elmarit, 9.1 to 146mm, f/2.8-f/4.0
Macro Focus Distance (minimum working):  3 cm
Memory (Built-In)
Metering: 
Panoramic Modes: 
Resolution:  20 megapixels
Sensor:  1 inch CMOS (15.86 mm diagonal)
Shutter lag: 
Shutter speeds:   60" through 1/4000th
Video:  up through 4K
Viewfinder:   Electronic, 2.36M dot
Weight (no batteries):  a little under 2 pounds
Zoom magnification:  16x (optical) (25-400mm equivalent)




Battery



The standard battery for this camera is the DMW-BLC12PP.  This is same battery that fits in the Panasonic FZ200.  There is no difference in size, amp-hours, watt-hours, or voltage between the DMW-BLC12E and the DMW-BLC12PP.  I think the latter is just a newer version of the battery.

The removable battery means it can be charged externally.  It also means you can buy a spare battery and carry it on your outdoor adventure.  I would highly recommend this, since the FZ1000 is going to use up battery power faster than the FZ200.

I wouldn't bother with aftermarket brands;  get the real Panasonic.   They last longer, usually.


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Power-Up


As with the other Lumix bridge cameras, the power switch is convenient.  It's a flip switch that's easy to operate with one hand;  with some other bridge cameras (including the Canon SX50), you have to press a button. 

You can easily turn the FZ1000 on without even looking.  Great for wildlife photography;  you won't waste any time fumbling for the power switch.

Power up time is a fast 1.2 seconds.  The FZ2500 and RX10 Mk IV take twice as long.


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Electronic Viewfinder


The EVF has an incredible 2.36M-dot resolution;  compare this to the already-good 1440K-dot resolution on the FZ300.  If you've never used an EVF of such high resolution, you're in for a pleasant surprise.  It's amazing.  Same with the flip-out LCD screen.

I thought the FZ200's EVF was good;  this one is so much better that it seems almost "fake".  How could it really be this sharp??

Compare with the Canon SX60's 922K dots.  Even the FZ300, a great unit, still has only 1440K dots. 

The only thing that's not to like about it:  you'll get spoiled and never want to use a lesser one.  It's so good that there wasn't really any way they could improve it with current technology; the newer FZ2500 has about the same EVF resolution.


(Buy This Camera)

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Basic Controls


See also LCD & Rear Panel



The Thumb Wheel is this camera's go-to control feature.  It's a horizontal wheel that's also a button.  This gives it a number of different capabilities, but it's kind of an unusual design.  Unless you've used an FZ70, FZ200, etc., you may have to practice with it.

The Basic Interface is similar enough to other Lumix bridge cameras that you should have no problem acclimating.  It's not even all that dissimilar to a DSLR control set.  Give it a couple weeks and it'll be second nature.  The biggest change I've found from, say, a Canon is the location of the Record button.  With Canons and others, you press Record with your right thumb.  With the Lumix bridge cameras, you press it with your right index finger.  That's because the FZ's have the "Record" button next to the shutter button.

The FZ1000 has a thumb-operated "Control Wheel and Menu Button".  This looks very similar to what you'll find on a Canon DSLR, etc... except that the functions are in different positions, as you'd expect.  ISO is up, White Balance is to the right, etc.  This is not the Canon layout, but again it becomes familiar after a short while.

Up near the viewfinder is a switch that lets you activate Manual Focus quite easily.  The placement of everything is well thought-out.  Panasonic is one of the biggest players in the superzoom / bridge camera world, and it shows.  (I'm glad they have some competition to keep them on their toes, though.)


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Auto Modes


The FZ1000 has the usual "iA" (Intelligent Auto) and "P" (Program Auto) modes.  If you don't yet know how to use a bunch of different controls, just set the camera to one of these and you're pretty much good to go.  (I also have an article called "DSLR Bootstrap" that talks about using cameras without the aid of a manual.)

The Auto mode selects the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO appropriate to the scene. 


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Autofocus


The 49-point AF locks on and focuses almost instantly.  AF time is only 100 milliseconds, or 0.1 second.  Fast!

Some objects confuse it;  these will show it locking on, but the picture won't focus.  It seems to have the most difficulty with moving, thin branches and twigs.  This is a challenge for most any camera, but I don't remember any that would say the picture was in focus when it wasn't.  I did see this happen a few times with the FZ1000.

When it doesn't lock on, you pretty well know it because the blurring is usually obvious in the high-res LCD or EVF. 



With any AF system, you're better off taking multiple pictures in rapid succession when someone (or something) is moving.  The fast AF and fast follow-up shooting speed make this quite easy with the FZ1000.


(Buy This Camera)

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Bokeh and Depth-of-Field


If you've been using 1/2.3" bridge cameras, you'll be amazed at the difference with a 1" sensor.  It has very good background blurring compared to those.  The FZ1000's bokeh doesn't seem as wiry as the FZ200's, either.  Here I chose one of the most difficult "bokeh" subjects I could find:



Shot at -2/3EV to preserve highlights, then brightened on the computer.  I do this with basically all my digital.  (Some people use single-purpose programs or apps to do this.)

Full-size, no adjustments.


With the larger sensor, you can get shallower DOF at f/4 than you can with the FZ300's f/2.8.

Red Pail With Snow

Panasonic DMC-FZ1000
Auto ISO 125
f/3.9 @ 1/1300th sec.
Zoom: 38.5mm actual (35mm equivalent: 105 mm)
Slight "Curves" adjustments

This was not macro mode.  The rim of the plastic pail is in sharp focus, while the background has quite a bit of blurring.  I'm always amazed at how much easier this is to accomplish with a 1" sensor than a 1/2.3". 
Full-size, no adjustments.



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Custom Modes


Yes!!  It has a C1 and C2 slot (see picture), just like the Panasonic FZ200 and FZ300.  (The FZ70 / FZ80 has one Custom slot, but not two.) 



Whatever your settings are at the moment, you can save the whole raft of 'em to a Custom slot.  Then you can return to those settings later, simply by returning to the Custom mode on the dial.  This is a feature that many DSLR's don't even have, except the more expensive ones. 


(Buy This Camera)

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Video Modes


4K
Full HD 1080p
HD 720p
VGA 640x480

I still use VGA all the time;  glad it's here.  Let's say you just want to take a quick video of how to assemble your kid's wagon.  Or maybe you want to remember how much salt you added to that new recipe you're working on.  Why waste memory card space with 4K or Full HD?  I also like that VGA will play back on a slow, old computer (such as mine).  So, I want a camera that can still record in VGA and 720p HD. 

But this camera has 4K when you want it. 

Panasonic makes a range of cameras that are geared toward professional-quality video.  This camera is what you'd probably want for the best cinema-quality work.  It has quite a following in those circles.  But if you want to make nice-looking videos with pretty decent low-light capability, and you want to use a handy little camera that never needs to change lenses.... and you don't want to spend $3,000.... then the FZ1000 is a very viable choice. 

Like the FZ200 (review here), it can shoot 720p video at 120 frames per second.  This allows for great slow-motion playback.  I don't think the newer FZ2500 has this feature.

Video AF on this camera is quite good.  Remember that most DSLR's don't even have video AF.  Unless you get into dual-pixel AF cameras such as the Canon 70D or 80D-- or at least a good, video-servo-AF camera such as the Rebel T6S-- I would say the FZ1000 is one of the best overall choices for video.  The only better one that comes to mind is the newer FZ2500; see below.

The FZ1000 also lets you choose AVCHD or MP4 video formats;  MP4 is better for computer playback, while AVCHD is better for TV screens.


(Buy This Camera)

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Field Flatness / Corner Sharpness


At the widest apertures, the corners are not perfectly sharp.  You would expect this, because it's true of almost every lens out there.  But it's not that noticeable with the FZ1000. 

By f/5.6 or f/6.3, the field is flat:  sharp at the corners.  I didn't test this throughout the whole zoom range yet, but since most of your photos will be "somewhere in the middle", that's what I tried:

Weathered Paint

Panasonic DMC-FZ1000
Auto ISO 125
f/6.3 @ 1/250th sec.
Zoom: 45.9mm actual (35mm equivalent: 126 mm)
Slight "Curves" adjustments

Check the full-size image (no adjustments);  the corners are as sharp as the middle.  Good lens.


With performance like this, I can't find anything not to like about the optics.  If there are conditions where it's not up to this level, there must not be many of them.

Wall

Panasonic DMC-FZ1000
Auto ISO 125
f/7.1 @ 1/320th sec.
Zoom: 26mm actual (35mm equivalent: 71 mm)
Slight "Curves" adjustments

Full-size, no adjustments.  Perfect corner sharpness.



(Buy This Camera)

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Flash


On-camera built in;  also accepts an external flash unit (not included).

For a camera this good, you may want to get an external flash unit immediately.  On-camera flash units produce inferior results, although they are definitely better than nothing.

If you're going to be using external TTL flashes, you have to pick the right brand and model of flash or it won't sync correctly with the camera's metering.  So, for the FZ1000 I'd probably get this flash unit, and then I'd know it will work properly. 


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Image Quality


Even as-shot, the photos look great.  Here's a scene that has very high dynamic range, because you've got brightly-sunlit snow in the same picture with shadowed areas.  The snow highlights are still mostly there;  adjust the Curves or Levels even a little bit, and they disappear. 

Rusty Bicycle


Shot at 0 EV, no adjustments. 


Full-size, no adjustments.


Don't just go by this picture;  browse the image gallery.  If I didn't know better, I might think these pictures were from a DSLR.  It's not a Four-Thirds sensor, but it's pretty good. 

Images overall are crisp and clear, without looking too "crunchy".  Even at f/4 (the widest when zoomed), the pictures have better sharpness than a lot of camera/lens combos that I've seen.  These are sharp enough that we're into that hyper-real, almost-lifelike quality that digital cameras are starting to produce.  When I compare with some of the pictures made with smaller-sensor cameras, I can really see the difference. 



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LCD and Rear Panel


LCD is 921K dots. 

Fully-articulating LCD panel;  can be turned so the LCD is facing out, or inward so it doesn't get scratched.  I would put a piece of screen protector over it anyway.

Rear control panel layout is similar to the Panasonic G7 and the FZ300;  main difference is the numbering of the Function buttons.  AF / Macro select is a downward press on the main control pad, which is different from the G7 and FZ300.  But it does have the AF/AE Lock switch and Manual Focus selector right where you'd expect these, if you've been using either of these cameras.

The rear-panel controls seem easy to learn.  There are several Function buttons you can map to your liking. 



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Low-Light / High ISO Performance


This is a key reason for buying an FZ1000 or FZ2500 over the typical bridge camera.  The '1000 and '2500 have nominally one-inch sensors, which equates to four times the sensor area of a 1/2.3" sensor.  This allows for larger, less-crowded pixels. 

The 1" sensor is about the biggest one that fits in a "superzoom" camera design.  Much bigger, and the lenses would become heavy, bulky, and very expensive.

So, how does it perform?  Well, if you're accustomed to a 1/2.3" sensor, the answer is "AWESOME".  And even if you're moving from a DSLR with its larger APS-C or DX sensor, the results should be quite acceptable. 


The Camera Shelf

Panasonic DMC-FZ1000
ISO 1600
f/4 at 1/20th sec. hand-held
Zoom: 60mm   (35mm zoom equivalent = 164mm)

Slight "levels" adjustment on the computer. 

The lighting here was dimmer than it looks.  And yet once again, this looks almost like something from a DSLR rather than a point & shoot. 


Some Stuff I Didn't Happen To Be Carrying

Panasonic DMC-FZ1000
ISO 800
f/5 at 1/15th sec. hand-held
Zoom: 18.8mm   (35mm zoom equivalent = 51mm)

No adjustments. . 

Now, first let's look at a 100% crop from the FZ200.  It's what you'd see if the whole picture were enlarged to 40x30 inches. 


100% Crop: Panasonic DMC-FZ200
ISO 800, f/4 @ 1/15th


100% Crop: Panasonic DMC-FZ1000
ISO 800, f/5 @ 1/15th


These pictures were taken a couple years apart, so the objects don't line up perfectly and neither does the lighting.  But you get the basic idea here.  The FZ1000 has much shallower depth-of-field at wide apertures, but you can see the in-focus region has better detail, fewer artifacts and less noise than the FZ200 image.


(Buy The FZ1000)

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Macro and Close Focusing


This is one area where the FZ1000 greatly surpasses a basic DSLR kit.

The FZ1000 can macro-focus at a mere 3 centimeters from the lens.  (So, too, can the FZ2500, as well as the Sony RX10 III and IV... all 1"-sensor cameras.)

"Minimum working distance" (MWD) is how close you can get the front of the lens to a subject, while still having it in focus.  (This is not the same as "minimum focal distance", which as I understand it is measured a different way.) 

So, MWD in macro mode is 3 cm.  In normal focusing mode, it's supposed to be about 5 centimeters.  I wasn't able to find a zoom setting where that was true;  maybe 8 or 10 centimeters.  Will have to experiment a little more with this.  It still seems a lot closer-focusing than most DSLR lenses can offer.  For example, the Canon EF 24-105mm USM has a MWD over 30 centimeters.  (I run into this limitation very often while using a DSLR.)  Just for comparison, a DSLR macro lens might have a MWD of eight or ten centimeters. 

Is there a difference between MWD, close focus distance, etc?  Probably, and I'm not going to pretend to know all the technical fine points.  What I want to know is, "How close can this camera focus from the front of the lens?".  Anyone can see there's a big difference between 5 or 10 centimeters and 30 centimeters.  So, if you do a lot of close-up photography and you don't want to drop a lot of money on lenses, the FZ1000 starts to look like an especially great choice. 

The 1" sensor of the FZ1000 should yield good enough image quality, too.  In fact it can be a great advantage at macro distances.  The 1" sensor has longer depth-of-field than a DSLR sensor, which becomes very important in macro photography. 


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Microphone Jack


Yes, it has a standard 3.5mm.  So you can mic your videos professionally, but you can't monitor the audio as you record.  For that, get this camera instead.

At first I didn't see the mic jack;  it's off by itself, not near the HDMI port where I expected to find it.


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Miscellaneous


Camera includes an electronic level function, which many DSLR's don't even have. 

"Power O.I.S." is the image stabilization.  There's a switch on the side of the lens barrel that lets you turn it off, or on. 

The 1" sensor has enough resolution that you can actually make use of the "digital zoom".  This increases the apparent zoom range to 800 mm.


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Zoom


Maximum 400mm equivalent.  Yes, you can top this with a crop-sensor DSLR and a 55-300mm zoom.  That would give you about 450mm equivalent.  You can also top this with a Sony RX10 III or RX10 IV

However, you probably can't top this with another camera of the same size, convenience, and retail price as the FZ1000.  I don't think there's any meaningful competitor in this bracket.

The FZ1000 may well be the best balance of cost, size, image quality, features, and zoom power. 


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FZ1000 vs. FZ2500

The main differences:

FZ1000 costs less.  It can still shoot 4K video, it still has an external mic jack, and it still has a 1" sensor. 

FZ2500 has higher top-end zoom magnification (480 vs. 400mm).  For you wedding videographers, the FZ2500 also has a headphone jack to go along with its mic jack (FZ1000 lacks the headphone jack).  This combo lets you professionally mic your video productions... and monitor the audio while you're making them. 

Weddings and gatherings tend to be noisy.  If you've got the mic ten or twenty feet away, it's even more important to be able to monitor that with headphones.  Otherwise you'll just hear the noisy crowd next to you, and you'll have no idea if your audio will be any good.  If you do event videography, get the FZ2500

The 2500 has another major video feature:  the ability to do touchscreen-focusing in live view.  This is not present with the FZ1000.  If you've gotten accustomed to that on one of the newer DSLR's, it's going to seem strange not being able to tap on your FZ1000's screen and make the camera select different focus areas. 

By the way, the FZ2500 starts up slower than the FZ1000.  For incidental wildlife sightings, this could be a factor in your choice.  I think the extra 80mm of zoom equivalent favors the FZ2500 overall, but it depends on where you expect to see the wildlife and how fast they move.


(Buy This Camera or Get an FZ2500)

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FZ1000 vs. Sony RX10 III and IV

The Sonys are said to be more consistent in optical quality across the zoom range.  I haven't tested the optics side-by-side, but I have a feeling it's not a huge difference.

Comparing the sensors, you'll also find there's not a lot of difference.  What you'll see with the Sonys, mostly, is "crunchier" images that have more local contrast, more processing... and more noise.  There are things to like about the Sony image quality, but mostly it's a zero-sum game unless you move to a larger sensor. 

The FZ1000 has almost double the AF points compared to the RX10 III: 49 vs. 25.  The RX10 IV has an incredible 315 of them.  (There can be advantages to huge numbers of AF points, but I find with scenery and still-lifes that I'd still rather use one-point AF anyway.)

Straight from the box, the FZ1000 impresses me a lot.  The AF is very fast.  Not that the RX10 III and IV aren't, but the Panasonic is nice.

Another thing I look for in a digital camera is fast startup.  As bridge cameras go, the FZ1000 is pretty fast at 1.2 seconds.  Almost twice as fast as the Sony RX10 III and the Panasonic FZ2500.

The Panasonics have 5-axis optical stabilization, too.  Not many cameras offer this. 

The only solid advantage I can see in the RX10 III and RX10 IV is their weather-sealing.  If you do a lot of extended hikes, get one of those.  The RX10 III and IV also zoom to 600mm equivalent.  The price is significantly higher, but weather sealing is not optional for some environments. 


(Buy an FZ1000 or Get the FZ2500)

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FZ1000 vs. The Rest

Compared to any of the 1/2.3" bridge cameras, it's nearly an across-the-board win for the FZ1000.  The only places where a 1/2.3" sensor camera would be advantageous, in my opinion, would be cost and battery life. 

What if you're considering a "travel zoom" camera?  Based on my experience, I would strongly suggest an FZ1000 over that.  Much as I wanted to like the ZS50 and its compact brethren, the combination of fragility and not-quite-right color palette steered me away from them for the foreseeable future.  A travel zoom is great if your other camera is a phone, and you don't mind the possibility of the camera going all "System Error" while you're in the middle of your once-in-a-lifetime vacation... but for me, I'd be looking at buying an FZ1000.  At the very least, an FZ300 or FZ80.

I won't say these cameras could never have "Lens Error", but I think it's less apt to occur. 


(Buy This Camera or Get You An FZ2500)

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Conclusion

The FZ1000 was introduced in 2014;  is it a reasonable choice in 2018?  I think so, and here's why.

The original Sony RX10 has only half the zoom power (and still costs as much or more).  The later RX10 models are much more expensive.  The FZ1000 is the lowest-priced bridge camera with 1" sensor.

If you need weather sealing, then look to the RX10 III or RX10 IV.  But there's plenty of outdoor photography you can do with an FZ1000;  just don't stand in the pouring rain or a snowstorm with it.  And I probably wouldn't take it to the beach.

What about a DSLR?  The FZ1000 offers image quality that's almost as good, and it doesn't require changing any lenses. 

It's one of the closest approximations I've seen to a "does it all" camera.  Great image quality, fantastic EVF, fast autofocus, 4K video, and acceptably-powerful zoom.  In 2018 there's no other long-zoom camera that really competes with the FZ1000 at this price point. 

Where I'd get the FZ2500 over the FZ1000 would be for the added zoom power and the headphone jack.  But the FZ1000 still has the same basic image quality and most of the other features.  As of 2018, it also costs about $200 less than the FZ2500. 


I hope you found this article informative.  Please help me keep this website going by using the sponsored links to purchase your gear;  it's the only income I get for the work I do to bring you these reviews.  

(Camera companies don't pay me or give me free stuff;  in fact, most run the other way when they see a genuine, independent review site.)


Right now you can get the FZ1000 through this link, and often there are some used ones for sale there, too.

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