I’ve been a bit of a snob about ‘bridge’ cameras of late.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate their flexibility or their appeal as pick-up-and-go travel cameras. It’s just that many have small sensors that result in limited quality.
However, there are a couple of exceptions. Sony’s RX10 and Panasonic’s FZ1000 lines have been a real step up in quality on what you normally see in the genre. So if you’re looking for a really good, advanced all-in-one superzoom model, Panasonic’s brand new Lumix FZ2000 is well worth a look.
I’ve had it on trial for a couple of weeks, now. Overall, I’ve been very happy with it.
It packs a massive 20x zoom into a camera that’s around the same size and weight as the smallest DSLR.
This focal flexibility takes it from the equivalent of 24mm (which is quite wide, for landscapes and detailed indoor shots) to 480mm (which can turn a speck on the horizon into a recognisable feature). And that’s what makes the FZ2000 an awfully versatile and capable travel camera. I had forgotten how handy it is to have a big zoom on hand without having to carry a backpack with a giant separate lens.
An aside: long zooms are very underrated for landscape photography. As the photos of Baldoyle and Burrow Beach (inset) show, you can get angles that bring you a totally different perspective on your typically wider (zoomed out) shots.
But a zoom is no use unless the camera has something to stop blurry photos happening from the naturally-occurring small wobbles in your hand. This camera has an incredibly impressive five-axis stabilisation feature on it that lets you zoom all the way out and still take a steady shot with clear details resulting.
As for the relative quality of those shots, I found them to be good. This camera has a 1-inch sensor, which is considerably smaller than a professional ‘full frame’ sensor but not that far off what you get in some DSLR cameras and much bigger than other ‘superzoom’ bridge cameras. As long as the lighting level is reasonable, you’ll get nice clarity and really good shots out of it. At lower levels of lights, the camera’s tech compensates a lot but you won’t get quite the detail of a bigger-sensor camera, such as Panasonic’s G-series, Fuji’s X-series, Canon’s M-series or Sony’s A-series.
Then again, none of those larger-sensor cameras have anything like the zoom range of this FZ2000 model in a single lens. And if you’re a casual shooter looking for flexibility, the slight compromise on low-light detail (and some depth-of-field tradeoff) is probably a price well worth paying for the considerable benefits on offer here.
This is not really a compact camera, mind you. It’s almost as big as some DSLR models. You can get much smaller, pocketable versions of this kind of 1-inch sensor camera (such as Sony’s RX100 or Panasonic’s LX15) but you’ll lose most of the zoom.
Other things of note with this camera include its flip-out, articulating touchscreen. This is a brilliant feature for flexibility, particularly if you want to use the video-recording features.
Speaking of this, the FZ2000 captures video in full 4K (‘ultra-HD’) resolution. As well as being the clearest, best grade you can get, this also allows you to take 8-megapixel still images from your 4K recordings. It’s a really good backup photo option if you didn’t get to snap something at the right moment but video’d it instead.
There are other fairly advanced features on board, such as manual control over the camera’s ND filter and burst modes of up to 12 frames per second. I found the autofocus to be excellent for a camera of this type. I really didn’t miss any shots at all.
The bottom line is that this is an easy-to-use, do-everything camera that you can bring anywhere knowing you’ll always get some kind of shot. It’s not a specialist portrait device, but a capable all-rounder.
Is €1,300 a steep price to pay for such a camera? I can’t really decide. But I know you won’t really get the same quality from any ‘superzoom’ camera for under €1,000.
The other think to bear in mind is that cameras are no longer cheap. Phones have knocked out the budget (and even part of the mid-range) end of the market. What we have left is higher-performing dedicated snappers with the requisitely higher prices
For example, Fuji’s new X100F, which is a standalone, fixed-lens compact camera with one focal length (35mm) costs about the same. But that camera is bought by advanced enthusiasts who want slightly higher quality and are willing to sacrifice any possibility of even the slightest zoom capability.
So if you’re going on safari or on honeymoon, or if you want close-up shots of the bride and groom from the back of the church, and you don’t want a full bag of kit to bring around, the Lumix FZ2000 is a very reasonable choice.