There are always going to be camera enthusiasts who don’t necessarily want to jump into the latest and greatest DSLR. Something a bit more rounded, which can do a bit of everything without breaking the bank. Commonly known as bridge cameras, the Panasonic LUMIX DC-FZ80 fits into this department.
By a bit of everything, we mean the camera sports a built-in zoom lens, which can go from very wide-angle to telephoto with features that will give you a taste of higher-end cameras. So, let’s check out the Panasonic LUMIX DC-FZ80 and see how well it performs in this section of the camera market.
The basic look of the Panasonic LUMIX DC-FZ80 is very DSLR-like, just with a built-in 60x optical zoom. This equates to 20-1200mm and is wrapped around a 18.1MP 1/2.3-inch High Sensitivity MOS sensor. In many ways the same size sensor you would find on an entry-level camera.
The ISO range isn’t phenomenal, but it’s a usable range of ISO 80-3200. There is built-in optical image stabilization, which should do some of the heavy lifting when you reach your ISO limit or need slower shutter speeds.
The Panasonic also sports features that you would find only on higher spec cameras such as 4K Photo which can shoot 4K at 30 frames per second and extract images. This feature also has a pre-burst mode, which starts and ends capture a second before and after releasing the shutter. Perfect for fast-moving subjects and sports photography.
There’s also the inclusion of 4K video at 30p, with Full HD at 60p, which also a slow-motion option. There’s a built-in microphone for stereo recording, but no way to attach an external mic.
Being very DSLR like, all the dials and buttons are arranged as you would expect on a high-level camera. This includes a chunky grip and viewing the top of the camera, the familiar mode dial and all the buttons are clearly labeled.
This means not much configuration on each button, but for the beginner, it does simplify all the workings of the camera. This includes the menu system which is clearly laid out and once all the major settings are put in place, you rarely need to visit.
The rear LCD screen can be used to touch a focus point but can be susceptible to being touched with your nose when you are using the electronic viewfinder. The EVF is quite usable, but it does have a low magnification, which means it’s easier to read the rear LCD screen for camera settings in general.
At this point, the Panasonic has a lot of functionality packed into the box. Lots of scope for creativity, so let’s see if it can deliver in the real world.
The Panasonic LUMIX DC-FZ80 in Use
The autofocus system on the Panasonic LUMIX DC-FZ80 works extremely fast with an impressive 1cm minimum focus distance when AF Macro mode is set and 1.5m at 1200mm. There’s a good bunch of AF modes to choose from depending on your subject. These include face and eye detection, 49-area auto-selection custom settings like 1-area single point and Pinpoint which can also be saved.
There’s no real manual focusing not per se, but you can autofocus, then lock in that focus setting to stay constantly on the subject. The easiest way to focus is to touch the rear LCD screen with one of the AF modes, which once you get the hang of the process, is very straightforward and easy to use. In this regard, you won’t be left feeling wanting in the autofocus system. It’s fast and accurate and can handle most situations, apart from very low light levels.
Although the ISO levels don’t have an astronomically high level, the Power O.I.S. Image stabilization system work extremely well. It does an extremely good job of getting low shutter speeds, even getting down as low as 1/5 of a second at its widest. There’s also the facility to transfer images via Wi-Fi to something like a smartphone or tablet.
As for the number of shots you can take per battery charge, this will depend on how much you use the rear LCD screen and zoom in and out. This works out to be around 330 shots with the rear LCD screen, which means it’s advisable to carry around a spare battery if you’re shooting all day long.
As for overall image quality, the short ISO range and small image sensor mean you always have to be mindful to keep the ISO as low as possible. Noise starts to creep in almost immediately after ISO 100 and ISO 800 and above can become really noisy.
Shooting in RAW will allow you to add in some noise reduction, although the camera is quite well adept at processing JPEGs with the noise taken out up to ISO 800. JPEGs can also have a range of effects added by the Creative Control mode, so you don’t have to worry about post-processing if that’s not your thing.
The lens itself is a good performer considering its overall zoom range. The aperture range of f/2.8-5.9 is very usable, but as expected when you are at the most telephoto end of the range, images will be affected by diffraction.
Overall, if you keep the ISO levels low, images can come out sharp and with good contrast. Also, if you’re not pixel peeping, the massive zoom range is lots of fun. If your end goal is personal images, then having the range of a good bunch of zoom lenses is very appealing. In this regard, lots of creative potential.
How Does It Compare?
Bridge cameras are not a new thing, being an ideal way for many people to take tentative steps into DSLR functionality. This means that there are quite a few cameras on the market to choose from. One of the big players comes from Canon in the form of the PowerShot SX60 HS. Just like the Panasonic, the Canon has a huge 65x optical zoom range, built-in image stabilization, and sports 4K video. Image quality is generally on a par with the Panasonic.
Then there’s the long-standing player of Sony with the Cyber-shot HX400V. 50x optical zoom and a 20.4MP sensor, with the added bonus of a Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T lens. Sony has been producing these types of cameras for many years, so you cannot fault their quality and feature set.
|Panasonic LUMIX DC-FZ80||Canon Powershot SX60 HS|
With all the facilities packed into the camera, the Panasonic LUMIX DC-FZ80 offers a lot for the money. Features like 4K stills and the overall ease-of-use, make the camera a good all-rounder for the enthusiasts. The 20-1200mm focal range has lots of potential, and as long as you keep the ISO levels to a minimum, you won’t be disappointed with the image quality.
The camera does have some caveats such as the EVF magnification and no way to switch off the live view when you’re using the EVF, but all things considered there’s a lot of functionality in this camera which should appeal to the amateur photographer who wants to experiment with a range of features before diving into a more bespoke offering.