Dramatic portrait of the FZ2500 taken with Sigma fp at 1/6th of a second...
I have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to video capable cameras with which to shoot; or so it would seem. There are two Panasonic S1's in easy reach. Each has been upgraded with the magic firmware that yields in-camera 10 bit, 4:2:2 capture and V-Log. On the desk in front of me is the Sigma fp which is capable of shooting raw video as well as a long list of high data rate, .Mov files in every configuration you might want. There are Sigma Art lenses and Lumix S Pro lenses littering every flat surface in the studio as well. So why would I want to buy another copy of a camera I owned three years ago, made mainly of plastic, and readily available, used, for around $500?
There is actually a very straightforward answer. It lies in the fact that all the cameras I mentioned previous to the FZ2500 are made to work as cinema cameras. Tools that are engineered to give the very best image quality possible and yet they require a lot of "add-ons" to make them more functional for ENG work (ENG= electronic news gathering, or, stated another way = documentary work without a crew).
If I want to shoot on the fly interviews on the streets in downtown with, say, a Lumix S1 I'll need to add an assortment of neutral density filters to put on the front of the lens. And I may need several different lenses depending on the subject matter I'm going after. The larger sensor in that camera means I'll need to be extra careful to make sure I've nailed focus because the depth of field can be quite small. And, even though that camera has very good image stabilization it's not in the same class as the FZ2500 because the smaller sensor camera has....a smaller and more controllable sensor. Bring a tripod or a monopod. And then bring a permit....
The Sigma might be an even higher image quality machine but to use it I'll need to carefully manually focus, I'll need an outboard SSD drive to keep up with the data rate of the raw files and, since the camera has neither image stabilization nor neutral density filters built in, we'll have to bring a big tripod and more filters.
If I want to go out as bare-naked, equipment-wise, as possible I want something that works like a good, old fashioned camcorder. That means I want a package that can be handled in the street by one person. It needs to have a wide ranging zoom lens. It should shoot very, very high quality 1080p in an All-Intra codec, as well as offering full UHD and even Cinema 4K. I'll need peaking and zebras. I want clean microphone inputs, and I very much want the camera to have flexible, built-in neutral density filters. Add to all that good face detect AF and a long run time and you've put together a street ready video camera that can handle a very wide range of subjects. All for (used) around $500.
Want to use it with a clean output to send less compressed video to an external video recorder/monitor, like an Atomos? No problem. The camera will output up to 4K in 10 bit 4:2:2. Want to shoot an interview in front of a computer monitor or in a situation lit by flickering light sources. Yeah. It's got variable frame rates galore.
The real question, if you often want to shoot seat of the pants video, on the fly, is....why would you not want to pick up one at a bargain basement price?
Does this mean I'll abandon the above mentioned, full frame cameras? Heavens no! The files out of them look so great and the ability to use a wide range of fast, best in the market lenses gives me so much more image control. The audio adapter for the S1 cameras sounds great. The full frame image is a whole different aesthetic. The 85mm f1.4, wide open, is magic on the S1 and the Sigma fp. But they work both best on a tripod or slider or jib. They work best when you can take your time and set them optimally, manually and repeatably.
No, the FZ2500 is for all the other times. The handheld stuff. The "Quick! Can you capture that?" And for those situations when nothing will beat being able to reach in with a 450mm lens and get the shot.
I mean, since you were asking.
Kudos to M.J. today. I never thought anyone could use over a thousand words to say, "Eat your broccoli. it's good for you." And I never imagined that, if someone did write that much to say so little, that I would have read every word. I wouldn't enlist him as my nutritionist but Man, can that guy write!!!