Review: The Panasonic FZ1000 II combines versatility and value
1 Panasonic FZ1000 II review
All product photography by Dan Bracaglia
The Panasonic FZ1000 II is a 20-megapixel long-zoom bridge camera aimed at enthusiasts. With snappy performance and a bright, far-reaching 16x optical zoom lens, it offers a lot of versatility in a fairly compact, travel-friendly package. And for bonus points, it can also record 4K video.
- 20.1-megapixel, 1"-type BSI CMOS sensor
- ISO range of 125-12,800, expandable to 80-25,600
- Leica-branded 16x optical zoom lens, 25-400mm equivalent with a bright F2.8-4 maximum aperture
- Five-axis image stabilization
- 49-point autofocus with face/eye detection
- Shoots continuously at 12 frames per second without autofocus, 7 fps with continuous AF, or 30 fps in '4K Photo' mode
- High-resolution OLED electronic viewfinder and tilt/swivel touchscreen LCD
- Capable of UHD 4K/30p or Full HD 1080/60p video
- Battery rated for 440 shots per charge on LCD or 290 shots thru viewfinder (CIPA)
The Panasonic FZ1000 II is available at an MSRP of $899.99 USD. Street prices at the time of writing are in the region of $800 USD.
Having 400mm of reach on tap gives you plenty of opportunities to capture the details as well as the overall picture. Out-of-camera JPEG.
What is it?
The FZ1000 II aims to provide a one-size-fits-all solution yielding tons of versatility and excellent image quality, but without the bulk and hassle of an interchangeable-lens camera and lenses. And without a bulky camera bag full of extra lenses, the idea is that you'll be able to get the shot in almost any shooting situation.
As a good all-rounder, it's a solid option for the family documentarian
From a generous 25mm-equivalent wide-angle all the way to 400mm-equivalent telephoto – and whether shooting distant subjects or macros from as close as one inch or 2.5cm (at the widest end of the lens) – the FZ1000 II's bright F2.8-4 stabilized lens caters to all manner of subjects and shooting styles. And since it's paired to a swift and relatively large 1"-type image sensor, you can expect good burst performance and good image quality, even in low light.
The Panasonic FZ1000 II's combination of versatility and portability make it a great choice for travel, nature and casual sports photographers. As a good all-rounder, it's also a solid option for the family photographer or documentarian. It has relatively few rivals, with the nearest of these being its predecessors and Sony's popular RX10-series, although they differ in some important ways.
Panasonic FZ1000 II compared
|Panasonic FZ1000 II||Sony RX10 IV||Sony RX10 III||Panasonic FZ2500||Panasonic
|MSRP (at launch)||$899||$1699||$1499||$1199||$899|
|Sensor||20MP 1"-type BSI- CMOS||20MP 1"-type stacked CMOS||20MP 1"-type stacked CMOS||20MP 1"-type BSI-CMOS||20MP 1"-type BSI-CMOS|
|Lens (35mm equivalent)||25-400mm F2.8-4||24-600mm F2.4-4||24-600mm F2.4-4||24-480mm F2.8-4.5||25-400mm F2.8-4|
|Built-in ND filter||No||No||No||Yes||No|
|AF system||Contrast detect||Phase detect||Contrast detect||Contrast detect||Contrast detect|
|LCD||3" 1.24M-dot fully articulating||3" 1.23M-dot tilting||3" 1.23M-dot tilting||3" 1.04M-dot fully articulating||3" 921k-dot fully articulating|
|Burst rate (with AF)||7 fps||24 fps||5 fps||7 fps||7 fps|
|Video||4K/30p, cropped||4K/30p||4K/30p||4K/30p, cropped||4K/30p, cropped|
|Wi-Fi||Yes, with NFC and Bluetooth||Yes, with NFC and Bluetooth||Yes, with NFC||Yes||Yes|
|Battery life (CIPA)||440 shots||400 shots||420 shots||350 shots||360 shots|
|Dimensions||136 x 97 x 132 mm||133 x 94 x 145mm||133 x 94 x 127mm||138 x 102 x 135 mm||137 x 99 x 131mm|
|Weight||808 g||1095 g||1051 g||915 g||831 g|
Compared to its predecessor, the FZ1000 II is a largely similar camera with some worthwhile control and handling improvements, a more generous buffer and a much more attractive menu system.
The sister model Panasonic FZ2500, meanwhile, is a better choice for movie shooters with an even longer-zooming, albeit slower lens with separate focus and zoom rings and, crucially, a two-stop neutral density filter built in. The FZ2500 also gains log shooting, better quality HDMI-out features and the option for wider Cinema 4K capture for higher-end users. However, its lens underperformed in our testing. For $100 less, the FZ1000 II has noticeably better battery life, is a touch lighter and has Bluetooth connectivity for faster pairing to download images to your smart device.
As for Sony's Cyber-shot RX10-series, both the RX10 III and RX10 IV are significantly more expensive than the Panasonic FZ1000 II but they have longer zooms which are brighter than the FZ1000 II at their wide ends. Optically, they're superior overall with sharper results on the wide and telephoto ends and generally more consistent across-the-frame quality (dig deeper with our bridge camera lens shootout on page 2). They're also smaller and offer better video quality with more video capture tools and features, too. Perhaps most significantly, the RX10 IV comes with on-sensor phase detection autofocus and far higher burst rates; the FZ1000 II's autofocus is great for general use, but its performance and modest burst speeds aren't a match for the Sony for sports and action.
If you're after something more compact and can live without the bright maximum aperture, you may also want to consider the even more compact Panasonic ZS200 / TZ200, ZS100 / TZ100 or Sony RX100 VI or VII instead. Lastly, if you're after the most zoom you can get, you might look at the likes of Nikon's P950 or P1000, which give you insane reach but utilize smaller sensors, and therefore outright image quality won't match what the FZ1000 II is capable of.
|While the FZ1000 II's lens isn't quite a match sharpness-wise for Sony's RX10 III and IV, it does get you a good amount of detail throughout the zoom range. Out-of-camera JPEG.
ISO 125 | 1/400 sec | F4 | 300mm equiv.
Although it sports a new, modestly-restyled body with several new or redesigned controls, the Panasonic FZ1000 II is largely the same camera as its predecessor in terms of its imaging pipeline. The sensor size and resolution are unchanged, and so too is the lens which sits afront that sensor, in all respects but one: its aperture iris can now stop down to F11 across the zoom range, where that in its predecessor was limited to F8.
Instead of being a brand new camera from the ground up, this is a honing of an already-impressive one. On the outside, Panasonic has added a new front control dial, as well as three new function buttons on the left of the lens, which replace the FZ1000's lens ring and stabilization switches.
The bottommost button defaults to a new 'zoom compose assist' function which racks the zoom towards wide-angle while the button is pressed to help you relocate your subject, then zooms back in as soon as you let go. This is handy, but would be even more so if the lens zoomed a little faster, as it takes about 3.5 seconds to traverse the full range in both directions.
Around back, the viewfinder now has slightly higher magnification, and the tilt/swivel display is the same resolution as before but uses a new panel that should be brighter and more efficient. But neither change is significant enough that you'd notice without comparing both cameras side-by-side.
What you will notice, however, is that the LCD is now a touch-screen, and the menu system is both better organized and more modern looking. And modern niceties like Bluetooth connectivity and in-camera USB charging have been added to the spec sheet.
ISO 125 | 1/60 sec | F8 | 400mm equiv.
The remaining changes are all on the software side. There are two new black and white photo styles we've seen on other recent Panasonic cameras – L.Monochrome and L.Monochrome D – and new focus and aperture bracketing functions as well.
Panasonic has also extended its '4K Photo' modes, which grab or generate photos from short video clips. In-camera 'post-focus' lets you pick where you want the plane of focus to be after the photo has been taken, and focus-stacking will work in-camera to stack multiple planes of focus so that, particularly with macro work, all is in accurate focus. There are also 30-frame pre-burst functions, as well as auto marking and sequence composition functions, the basics of which we cover here.
|The FZ1000 II's JPEG engine deals pretty well with high-dynamic-range scenes, but processing the Raw files is your best bet to really maximize image quality. Out-of-camera JPEG.
ISO 125 | 1/80 sec | F3.8 | 25mm equiv.
What stands out about the camera?
I've been a big fan of large-sensor, long-zoom cameras ever since I reviewed the first in the category, the Sony Cyber-shot RX10, back in 2013. And when I followed that up with a review of the original FZ1000, I called it an 'exceptionally fun camera to shoot with', and said that while the then-flagship Sony RX10 had much to recommend it, including its superior lens and video quality and tools, I'd personally choose the Panasonic of the two if spending my own hard-earned cash.
After a long five-plus year wait, I'm thrilled to have finally gotten hands-on with the Panasonic FZ1000 II, and doubly so to report that it addresses a couple of key concerns I had with its predecessor. Raw buffer depth and battery life were both areas where I felt Panasonic needed to revisit its design, and it did just that.
Compared to its predecessor, the FZ1000 II doubles the burst depth when shooting in Raw format. And battery life has also improved, with a CIPA rating of 440 shots on a charge when using the rear screen, up from 360 shots on the FZ1000.
|While the contrast of this image evokes a certain mood, you might be surprised at just how much detail lurks in the shadows if you process out the Raw file. Out-of-camera JPEG
ISO 125 | 1/80 sec | F3.8 | 59mm equiv.
Sadly, you'll still pay a steep penalty if you favor the electronic viewfinder, as battery life plunges to just 290 frames, down just fractionally from the 300 frame life reported for the FZ1000. Basically, if you're mainly using the rear screen, you should be able to get through two-ish days of photo-focused endeavors. If you prefer the viewfinder, it's more around a day and a half. If you're a keen photographer, we'd recommend keeping an extra battery close at hand.
That said, I'm thrilled to see USB charging added to the FZ1000 II. It makes a lot of sense that a camera aimed at helping you to travel light should free you from the standalone charger, so you can pack even lighter and share chargers you're likely already carrying for other devices.
It's a bit of a shame that the arrival of USB charging is accompanied by the removal of the standalone charger from the product bundle, though. If you want to charge a second battery while shooting, you'll now need to budget an extra $30 for the Panasonic DE-A79B charger.
|The FZ1000 II does a decent job of balancing noise reduction with detail retention, but you may want to tweak the noise reduction settings or shoot Raw for best results. Out-of-camera JPEG.
ISO 1600 | 1/60 sec | F3.3 | 51mm equiv.
In-hand, this is a very comfortable camera, even with my larger-than-average hands. It's got a fair heft to it, about the same as an entry-level DSLR with kit lens attached, but it's well-balanced and doesn't feel unduly heavy, especially given the far-reaching, bright zoom lens.
The new front control dial is a welcome addition that makes exposure adjustments quicker. And the three new function buttons on the left of the lens, which replace the FZ1000's lens ring and stabilization switches, give a positive click when pressed, and are very easy to locate by touch so long as you're not wearing gloves. (But would be near-impossible to feel if you were.)
Really, my only complaint about the FZ1000 II's controls is that you can't zoom and autofocus at the same time. With fast-paced action like sports, I found this behavior sometimes cost me shots. Thankfully, in most other situations it's not a concern.
Another thing I'd like to see changed is the location of the metal tripod mount, which sits well to one side of the lens' optical axis. That's not the best location for shooting tripod-mounted panoramas, and it's also very close to the battery/storage compartment door, meaning that if you use a tripod plate you'll likely need to remove it every time you change the battery or memory card.
Lastly, the FZ1000 II comes with no claims of weather-sealing whatsoever. For such a versatile travel camera that you're likely to have with you in a variety of situations, it'd be a welcome feature. But beefed-up sealing would increase cost: the latest cameras in Sony's RX10-series do offer claims (but no rating) of weather-sealing, and they are more expensive.
|The FZ1000 II's lens has an effective image stabilizer built-in, but no neutral density filter. Good thing you can now stop-down to F11 for daylight pans. Out-of-camera JPEG.
ISO 125 | 1/60 sec | F11 | 65mm equiv.
As for the on-screen user interface, I'm a huge fan of the FZ1000 II's overhauled menu system. It's much cleaner, more modern and less disorienting than the original FZ1000, and now now fits eight items per page, instead of six, and you can tap on any individual item on each screen to adjust it directly. There's also a new My Menu feature where you can save your own favorites. Although its basic structure is broadly similar to before, it feels more like a night-and-day change from the old menu, and I love it!
I'm a big fan of the FZ1000 II's output as well. Just as with its predecessor, I found white balance and metering to be accurate the majority of the time, and color was also a nice balance between accuracy and the punchier look consumers tend to favor. Out-of-the-box, JPEGs will look more detailed and have more pleasing color than the older model, though Raw performance is essentially unchanged. If you're pushing the highest ISO values the camera is capable of, consider switching to Raw instead of just shooting JPEG – we'll look at this in more depth with our studio scene on the following page.
JPEGs will look more detailed and have more pleasing color than the older model
For an in-depth look at the lens performance vs. its peers, jump to our lens shoot-out on page 2 here. Overall autofocus performance is more than adequate, with the FZ1000 II quick to lock focus accurately in all but the most difficult conditions, and not keeping me waiting as I rattled off burst of shots around my adopted home of Knoxville, Tennessee. The phase-detection autofocus system of Sony's RX10 IV is far more effective for action, but I found the fast contrast-detection autofocus on the FZ1000 to be fast enough for most subjects.
The FZ1000 II uses Panasonic's 'Depth-from-Defocus' contrast detection autofocus system. It's very quick and very accurate, especially in single AF (AFS), and works well for a variety of subjects. Eye and face detect generally work well, but they have to be manually enabled separately from the camera's subject tracking mode. Unfortunately, while you can expect a pretty good hit-rate in continuous AF (AFC), the image will wobble in and out of focus while doing so, and you might find this distracting.
|Aperture comparison: F8 vs. F11
ISO 125 | 1/5 sec @ F8 (left) vs. 0.4 sec @ F11 (right) | 400mm equiv.
I'm also glad to see the minimum aperture has been extended across the board, if only because it expands your options somewhat. (The FZ1000 had an unusually abbreviated lower limit of just F8, which has been extended to F11 for the FZ1000 II.)
As you can see in my attached samples, the difference in depth of field when you stop down that little extra isn't game-changing, though, and it comes at the expense of slight but noticeable softness across the entire image due to diffraction. (Diffraction limiting is already kicking in by around F4.5.)
|Photo Styles: Standard (top) vs. L-Monochrome (bottom left) and L-Monochrome D (bottom right)
ISO 125 | 1/2,500 sec @ F2.8 | 400mm equiv.
I found some of the new creative options – especially focus bracketing, and the 4K Photo post focus / focus stacking features – to be a lot of fun. There are definitely some limits to bear in mind with the latter beyond its lower eight-megapixel resolution, however.
Firstly, you're limited to fairly high shutter speeds when using 4K Photo, which means ample light is needed if the results aren't to become too noisy. And secondly, more than a little subject or camera motion will easily cause rendering issues when images are stacked in-camera. I found that loading the 4K Photo video frames and stacking them in Photoshop can frequently fix these concerns, though, so it isn't likely due to rolling shutter but is perhaps a limitation of the camera's processing.
As I said at the outset of this review, I was already a big fan of the original Panasonic FZ1000. And that's just as true of the FZ1000 II. I think it's quite remarkable what Panasonic has managed to pack in, at less than half the price of the Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV. Heck, even the four-year old RX10 III still costs a full $500 more than the FZ1000 II.
And in fairness to Sony, the FZ1000 II is definitely less camera in some respects, especially when it comes to high-speed burst capture, autofocus and movie recording capabilities. Its lens is also not as sharp or as consistent, albeit still great for most purposes. If you're aiming to photograph action with any regularity, Sony's RX10 IV is a better bet in spite of the extra cost due to its phase-detection AF system. If hardcore video is more your thing, you'll definitely want to consider the FZ2500 or RX10 III / IV thanks to more advanced video features and better quality.
But if you aren't a big video or peak-action shooter and want the most bang for the buck, the Panasonic FZ1000 II is absolutely worth a close look, just as its predecessor was some five years ago.
|Shadows recovered in Adobe Camera Raw 12.2.1. See out-of-camera JPEG here.
ISO 1250 | 1/80 sec @ F3.8 | 74mm equiv.
Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ1000 II
Category: Enthusiast Large Sensor Compact Camera
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
The FZ1000 II is a great all-around bridge camera with a good zoom lens, capable 1"-type sensor and excellent ergonomics. We appreciate the level of control and customization available, and the image quality is solid. It's not the most capable camera in its class, but it's also far from the most expensive, and is well worth a look.
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