your FZ "sweet spot": from FZ28 to FZ1000

Started 3 months ago | Discussions thread
Stevie Boy Blue Senior Member • Posts: 1,519
Re: your FZ "sweet spot": from FZ28 to FZ1000

After many years spent shooting with film SLRs, my journey with this range of ‘digital’ bridge cameras began with the FZ20 back in 2004. What a fantastic lens that camera had, too. Alas, only 5mp on the sensor meant that rendering of fine fur an feather detail was already limited and the option to crop was almost nonexistent compared to what we can expect from more modern FZ incarnations that at least doubled the pixel count to 10 and later 12 million.

And to think in the days of the old FZ20, it was believed that 5mp was the absolute limit for the 1/2.3’’ sensor before overall image quality would be degraded by added noise and yet more smearing of fine detail than we saw from the 2004 model. Anywhere above ISO 200 and regardless of how ideal the light was or wasn’t at the time of shooting our photos, and the Venus Engine of the old 20 clearly struggled to cope as well as we see nowadays (awful results of the FZ80 at 1200mm aside, of course!)

I’d guess that anyone who ever used the 10mp FZ28 would find it hard not to appreciate how wrong those ‘experts’ were when they predicted anything above 5mp on the pinhead would be overkill. Compared even to the well regarded FZ20, IMO the 28 took FZ image quality to another level and arguably laid the foundations for much better things that followed.

Short of slow focussing compared to later models, the FZ28 rendered far more detail than I’d ever seen from the 20. It’s not that the 20 wasn’t impressive within its limits and in its day. But the 28 brought about a wake-up call in terms of what could be achieved through thought and development. All of a sudden, wildlife fans like me were able to crop our shots to levels that, to the same degrees, would have rendered FZ20 examples useful for nothing but thumbnail size website postings or comparatively poor to barely reasonable 6’’ x 4’’ prints. Half the sensor capacity of the 20 gave us 2.5mp. Half of the 28’s rendered 5mp, and the improvements in the processing engine were just as impressive to my eyes. Thank goodness that folks who work for the likes of DPR only write reviews and pass on their opinions of what may be good or bad ideas re products. Imagine if those guys who’d suggested that 5mp limit were actually camera designers and engineers rather than journalists merely interested in photography; progression of the pinhead sensor (and probably a whole lot more that’s come about since then) would have stalled way back in 2004. Persish that thought.

Anyway, I’d disagree that the later FZ38 wasn’t even better than the 28 in every way – including image quality. Admittedly in-camera default/factory-set IQ parameters were more aggressive re the 38 than the 28. But a tweak or and there brought about slight improvements that were well worth searching for in terms of added detail and slightly increased DR courtesy of the additional 2mp on the 38’s sensor. 12mp compared to 10mp in favour of the 38.

You’re certainly bang on re the focussing speed, though. The 38 saw real improvements in this area and which lasted through the 100, 150 and 200 before the introduction of the even speedier DFD tech seen in the 330. Luckily, burst rates and buffer/writing speeds progressed after the FZ38. In this regard, the 38 was just as slow as the 28 if memory serves me correctly and was my only real gripe with the camera. Slow bursts mean missed opportunities in the world of wildlife photography and, good though the 28’s and 38’s images were, both models were incapable of recording action beyond the odd frame here and there. Enter the much respected FZ150. Wow, what an improvement that brought to the game!

By the way, the 150’s lens went from F2.8 to F5.2 rather than the 2.8 to F4 you suggested. I got to know the 150 very well indeed and rated it very highly. Until the appearance of the FZ330, it was my favourite of all pinhead incarnations. Oh, those amazing images – such detail! Arguably the 150 represented the perfect marriage between sensor and processor in its time. It was a truly superb OOC Jpeg image renderer like no other beyond the current pinhead flagship FZ330 in my experience. Such a shame that the 150 didn’t receive the improved EVF that came with the FZ200, as arguably that would have made the older camera more appealing and user-friendly than it was in its day.

Moving on, I certainly agree that the FZ200 was the noisiest image renderer of all those models you mention. It didn’t matter how much I tweaked that camera, compared to the FZ150, the 200 was (is) a noise fest in every sense of the description. It does shoot relatively good and clean video though, so it’s not all bad. That said, the 200 did record more than a few images of which I’m very proud to have taken, albeit that OOC results always and annoyingly required some degree of PP. And in the absence of the quality to which I was accustomed to seeing from the FZ28, 38 and 150, I may have rated the FZ200 more highly than I do (or did).

All in all, including the FZ50 that I borrowed but did not rate enough to buy despite its slightly larger sensor, of the FZ20, 28, 38, 150, 200, 80 and 330 I have owned, the latter is my clear favourite. (For balance, the 80 is my least favourite. It's by far the worst bridge camera I have ever used in terms of OOC Jpeg results and especially at full 1200mm where it struggles the most to render 'MY' higher standards of fine detail retention.)

With no hint of exaggeration, I view the 330 as the pinnacle of the whole pinhead FZ series. I cannot imagine how Panasonic could ever improve upon its design, feature set, the wonderful way in which it handles and the comparatively fantastic images that the 330 renders straight from its Jpeg processor. If ever any FZ was destined to become a genuine classic camera from the moment it was designed, it is surely the FZ330.

For me, although not entirely perfect due mainly to DFD AF technology that hits and misses in some scenarios, the FZ330 offers the most complete and user-friendly package in any bridge camera available at or near its current RRP. Not bad for a model that’s already been in production for six whole years and shows no sign of being replaced or upgraded by its manufacturer. Ultimately, this is one fantastic camera for the money we pay for it.

And if the 330’s the last pinhead sensor flagship model of its kind that we ever get to see from its designers, Panasonic can and should be very proud that they manufactured the best bang for the buck bridge camera ever to hit the retail market for around £400. What a bargain buy it is!

Moving to the heavier and larger 1” sensor varieties, I rate the FZ2000 above the other two models in the current Panasonic range. Now that the 2000’s heavily discounted from its original RRP of £1099, it represents truly excellent value for money, with my only gripes being no weather sealing and its increased size and weight compared to the FZ330. In terms of output though, the FZ2000 is utterly superb, and the more I use it, the more I like and appreciate just how brilliant this camera really is. And it IS simply brilliant!

So, for me, the FZ330’s king of the Pinhead range and the FZ2000’s the most appealing of the 1inch models, so much so that I recently bought two of them over either the FZ1000 or 1000 2, which I tested side by side before choosing.

Bottom line, I could not rate the FZ330 or FZ2000 any higher than I do. They’re both utterly superb and outstanding in their own individual and different sectors of the market and thus represent a double ‘sweet-spot’ for all my current photography requirements from wildlife through other genres in which I occasonally dabble.

Happy shooting to ya.


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