It’s now the last day of May 2020, deep into coronavirus lockdown. I have to apologise for being so tardy in finishing my series on the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000. I have no excuse, but better late than never.
For anyone seeing this series for the first time, the idea of the series was to explore whether the 1″ sensor and non-interchangeable lens FZ1000 bridge camera would make a suitable primary camera for a wildlife photographic safari. Traditionally, you would use a DSLR for such a trip. But DSLRs are big and bulky when combined with a bag of lenses.
Previous articles in the series covered testing done ahead of the trip and were used to decide whether the bridge camera idea was viable. The initial tests were quite promising (you can read all about these in the earlier posts) and we decided to chance it.
My partner has now completed her safari in Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. How did it go? Is the FZ1000 a suitable alternative to a DSLR? The answer is… maybe, sort of, sometimes.
- Compact all-in-one bridge camera needs no accessories or additional lenses
- Easy to carry
- Nice to hold, solid, good grip
- Decent EVF viewfinder
- Convenient DSLR-style controls
- Great 25-400mm equivalent fast lens, useful zoom range for animals close and far away
- Image quality good- even low light, higher ISO shots better than you might expect
- Great for landscapes, portraits, travel shots, general photography
The weaknesses of this bridge camera were not found in the expected places – it performed well, generally. Instead, the problems were specific to the safari situation and quite serious. These are not the kind of things that are obvious in “normal” use but which turned out to very frustrating in practice.
- When the lens is extended and ready to shoot, it is quite sensitive to being knocked. Once the lens is knocked against an elbow, a knee, a bag or car bodywork, the camera would freeze with an error message and require a restart before it was usable again. Unfortunately, this happened a lot out in the bush. Rutted dirt roads and off road in a packed, cramped Land Rover inevitably leads to being bounced and shaken around. We never saw this happen once back in the UK during testing. But we looked after the camera, you can’t always do that
- Camera too slow to switch on and off for the safari situation. Given how nervous my partner became about knocking the lens, keeping it switched off became the only alternative. But then it was just too slow to start up again…
- Lens too slow to zoom. It’s a wide ranging lens, takes a while to travel between the extremes of the range. It’s far more sluggish than a manual zoom. For general photography around the city, it’s fine, but on safari it proved a problem
- Buttons difficult to operate in the dark by feel – the camera has a number of controls that require the use of fiddly small buttons combined with the command wheel and this is difficult to do in the dark of pre-dawn with buttons seemingly sprinkled randomly over the body. This is true of many cameras and sometimes you just have to take the time to memorise the settings into muscle memory. But my partner found this much harder to do with the FZ1000 than with her old DSLR
Out in the bush, photo opportunities appear suddenly, without warning and very fleetingly. Animals are often fast moving in near darkness for the dawn runs. These are challenging conditions for cameras and photographers alike. Photographers need to prepared and ready to shoot instantly. Speed of thought and action is essential, the animals are rarely prepared to sit and pose, especially in the early morning dawn period. Potentially great shots were missed as a result
The Ugly (or at least, the Slightly Unfortunate)
Every time the camera was switched on, it went to a default exposure setting that was wrong (badly underexposed) and required resetting before the camera was usable. Given the problems with the lens’ susceptibility to being knocked and freezing the camera, keeping it switched off until needed was the only alternative. My partner found the time taken repeatedly resetting it, infuriating and very frustrating. It meant that while she was messing around the animals slipped away, time and time again.
This appears (with hindsight) to be a setup problem. She was using the C custom setting on the PASM dial. This remembers the settings at the point they are saved to the custom memory. It seems likely that an unfortunate setting was saved to the custom memory position that caused the camera to be in a non useful state every time it was switched on. Sitting quietly at home, that could easily have been fixed with recourse to the manual or a bit of googling. But not by my partner in the heat of a safari, she ended up having to live with this for the whole trip. Not specifically a camera flaw, more user error, but related to overall usability. In an ideal world, it would have been an obvious fix in the field, in reality, not the case, even with the attempted help of fellow travellers.
Index to FZ1000 articles
- Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 diary: Image quality @400mm wide open vs Fuji X-E1 (APS-C)
- Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 diary: Image quality @400mm wide open vs G7
- Taking the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 for a walk in the park (Beckenham Place Park)
- Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 handling part 2: shooting at 300mm (equivalent) vs G7 plus 45-150mm
- Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 handling test
- Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 set up – Part 2
- Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 – first stab at set up
- Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 Day 1 – First impressions
- Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 1″ type sensor superzoom bridge camera now £428