played with a camera yesterday that really captured my attention. I want it just for the finder....

I bought the Sony RX10 last winter and loved it. A really great concept, well executed by Sony and capable of handling a wide array of professional work. That camera has a "one inch" sensor, a Zeiss 24-200mm f2.8 lens and a fairly robust set of video features. And for a long time it had zero competitors. With no one to challenge the category it sold for the princely (but worth it) sum of $1299. 

Then along came Panasonic with a pretty compelling answer: the fz1000. It gets a lot of stuff right. But the truth is that neither camera is perfect and if someone could meld the features of both product together they'd have an amazing product to sell. 

Here are the basics of the fz1000: 

On the plus side: 

1. One of the best, clearest and most enjoyable EVFs I have ever looked though. Almost twice the resolution of the Sony RX10 (or Olympus OMD) finder and it shows.

2. Sony has a Carl Zeiss designed lens. Tit for tat, the Panasonic has Leica designed lens. Sony chose to keep the aperture constant by limiting the long end of the zoom to 200mm (equiv.) while Panasonic chose to use a lens that goes all the way out to 400mm (equiv.) but sacrifices the constant aperture. In reality, most of its range settles for f4.

4. The Panasonic camera features consumer 4K video while Sony settles for 2K but with, perhaps, a better (via a firmware update) codec in that space. (I'd call it a draw except that you can grab 8 megapixel still frames from the Panasonic...)

5. While both cameras are designed to be formidable video machines the Panasonic's one flaw is the lack of a headphone jack that would allow you to monitor audio. One clear + for the Sony RX10.

6. While the Panasonic looks and feels bigger than the Sony it's mostly mirage. Both are as large as any of the m4:3 pro-ish cameras on the market and the long, fast lenses make them appear even bigger. But when you hold each in your hands the Panasonic feels best and the extra real estate makes the control interface feel less cramped.

On the negative side: 

1. The Panasonic feels....cheaper. That shouldn't bother any of us because experience indicates that most buyers will use the camera for two seasons and then move on to a new, flashy model afterwards. The camera is probably equally resistant to wear and tear as compared to the Sony, it just feels plasticky. 

2. The lack of a headphone jack riles me because it was intuitive to include one and it seems like a cynical upsell ploy not to include it. The overt message is: "You want a pro machine?  Buy our GH4..."

3. The camera uses the same battery as the G5, G6 and GH2 and while it's not a bad battery it has a shorter useful life in the 1000. It's rated to provide about 350 shots. The bigger battery in the GH4 gets me closer to 1,000 shots. And the camera is big enough so that engineering in the larger battery should not have been an issue. 

But putting all that aside let me tell you about my half hour experience playing with the camera at Precision Camera. I was handed one at the counter and spent half an hour walking around their very well lit store, sitting on one of the big, leather couches going through the menus and controls (so close to the GH4 as to be nearly interchangeable) and shooting. 

The camera sits so well in my hands it's as though it was made for me. I switched on the five axis image stabilization and did multiple test shots. The camera was amazingly stable. If I stayed in the middle focal lengths or shorter I could (with trial and error) get exposures all the way down to 1/10th of second that were reasonably sharp. The lens is obviously being corrected in camera software because it made all the straight lines I aimed the camera at stay straight. 

In Jpeg the camera can shoot up to 15 frames per second. Yes, it locks focus and exposure but it also provides a nice, long burst. Set the camera to a smaller jpegs size and switch on the electronic shutter and the frame rate can be more than doubled. 

In all I liked the camera and I thought the lens was cool and well done. But for me the high point of the experience was to meet such an incredible finder (EVF) in a relatively inexpensive camera. It gives me hope that successive generations of finders from all the camera companies that are smart enough to implement EVFs in their cameras will use screens of this quality and better. It will go a long way toward laying to rest the debate between the EVFers and the OVFittes. 

Will I buy one? Hmmm. That's a bit tougher. I've heard recent rumors that Sony will leapfrog the Panasonic in late October (PhotoPlus East announcement?) with an RX20. It's reported (rumored) to have 4K video and a much improved finder as well. The headphone thing is the crux of my hesitation since I'd only want to own one of the two. With several Panasonic GH's in inventory I'm not in a rush to adopt more wayward cameras (especially those with yet another battery type) so I guess I'll wait and see what Sony launches. 

In all though, for a person who wants a good video camera with a lot of reach, good codecs for 1080p and a pretty darn good still feature set the fz1000 is an interesting camera to look at. 

I've always liked the idea of a single "Swiss Army Knife" of a camera that you could pack for an extended road trip or adventure instead of dragging around a couple of bodies and a small collection of lenses. If I were a "telephoto" guy and wanted a single product package for my work this would be a useful choice. 

I've used the Sony RX10 on magazine assignments and in commercial video projects and, with the exception of the headphone jack, the fz1000 would be totally interchangeable. 

I was glad to finally be able to handle one in the flesh. It's always different when you read the product reviews. It's hard to ever really know if the camera will fit your hand or if the interface will mesh with your personality. If meteors destroyed all of my cameras tomorrow I'd probably rush out and buy one of these as a stopgap while I come up with a brand new road map....

Update to original article: I bought on in Fall of 2015 and like it very, very much.


Nigel said...

Samsung's new evf has a 5ms lag, and does 50+ frames/sec...
No reviews yet, but the specs are seriously impressive.

Within 18 months or so it will probably migrate to the lower end models.

Mr said...

hows the evf compared to the xt1? now i feel like i need to run down to precision just to look at the evf! GAH! thanks a lot ;D

Dennis Elam said...


I read the reviews for the FZ1000 on Amazon but I am still attracted to the upcoming Fuji X 30. No headphone jack but an audio jack, but F 2.-F 2.8 in a 28-112 range, which is what most all of us shoot anyway.

The preview comments on this camera are good, it has a 2/3 sensor rather than on inch but that makes for a much smaller sized camera.

I would be interested in your take on this one when it becomes available next month.

Please pet studio dog for me, woof

Henry Richardson said...

I have played with the FZ1000 at stores here in Japan several times. I am sort of tempted to get one, but since Panasonic and Sony cameras sold here have special firmware that does not allow the menu language to be changed (unlike Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, Fuji, Ricoh, Casio) I will hold off. Maybe the next time I am in the States I will think about it again.

I am sort of tempted to get an FZ1000 + LX100 (for low light and for carrying around in the evenings) and try them for travel. No UWA though. Nothing below fov 24mm for the LX100 and fov 25mm for the FZ1000.

I don't care much about video so the missing headphone jack isn't an impediment to me.

Anonymous said...

"I've used the Sony RX10 on magazine assignments and in commercial video projects and, with the exception of the headphone jack, the fz1000 would be totally interchangeable."

So have I, and I'd say maybe almost interchangeable, but not quite. One big plus the RX10 has is not only the headphone jack, but the built in ND filters. That's a killer feature. I believe the lens is also better, and 200mm (equiv.) is quite sufficient.

On the other hand, the FZ1000 has one big plus, too, namely the MF/Zoom switch on the lens barrel. The EVF also looks a bit better, or at least slightly different. Thanks to those and the way the MF focus assist works, manual focusing is a bit nicer in video mode.

But all in all I'd say the RX10 might still be a better choice for serious video overall, and who knows what the next firmware update will bring.
The only downside of this kind of competition seem to be the shortened 'lifespan' of each model.

santo said...

Hi Kirk, I shoot with the GH2. For good audio, I use a Zoom H1 and sync the audio in Post. One benefit is that I can place the mic near the speaker vs on the camera, which is often placed in the back of the room. This video was taken a couple years ago when I just got the H1: https://vimeo.com/41233223 . In several instances, I mistakenly plugged in the lapel mic into the earphone jack and got horrible audio. I have gotten much better since. Live and learn.