The evolution continues
THE LOW-DOWN: This 16 megapixel “bridge” camera has a 25–600mm Leica-branded lens with f2.8–5.2 aperture. It is fitted with an electronic viewfinder and a fixed position LCD. The lens is image stabilised, as it needs to be with such extreme telephoto extension. All controls for serious photography are on the body and easily accessible. There is the usual one-button start for video which can be recorded in either AVCHD or MP4. AVCHD files play back directly through Panasonic players and TVs. There is a range of manual controls available in video mode. Overall construction feels a little plasticky, but rigid enough.
LIKE: Picture quality is generally good, although resolution falls off slightly at extreme telephoto. Video quality is excellent with the Active Mode stabilisation smoothing out walking-with-camera sequences. Playback from the SD card through a Panasonic BluRay player onto an HD TV is very good.
DISLIKE: The electronic viewfinder is not up with the best of the breed in colour, contrast and resolution. It is handy for framing in bright light but does not give an accurate representation of the subject.
VERDICT: There was a time when we were scornful of these super zoom pseudo SLRs. The viewfinders were woeful. The shutter lag was so extreme that it was impossible to capture moving subjects. And on some models the EVF blacked out when the shutter button was pressed. Ten years of patient R and D has transformed bridge cameras into devices that are pleasant enough to use. We wouldn’t recommend one to a serious photographer but for the point and shooter who wants more control over camera functions they do a good job. And the Panasonic siblings, the FZ200 ($800) and FZ60, are nicely evolved examples of the type.