Hands-on Review: Panasonic Lumix FZ300

First Impression

The Panasonic DMC-FZ300 is a lightweight, superzoom point-and-shoot camera with an incredible 24x Optical Zoom. It has a body design similar to a DSLR without the added weight, and it records 4K Ultra HD Video.

For this review, I took out the FZ300 on my weekend excursions. Carrying around this camera all day was a breeze and the colors looked very life-like. I was able to zoom in on birds in the distance that I didn’t even see with the naked eye. There were some fun artistic effects that I applied to enhance the mood of the photograph. Whether I shot indoors or outdoors, the pictures were well-exposed and I didn’t need a tripod thanks to the sensitive ISO and 5-axis image stabilization. I was able to get some interesting angles by tilting the LCD screen, and I didn’t have to get into uncomfortable positions to take the shots. I also took some nice panoramas of a lake and a pumpkin patch, and they came out good whether I used a tripod or not. The high-speed shooting was very accurate and fast, and the subtleties in tones were recorded beautifully.

Comparison to DMC-FZ200:
The FZ300 is the updated version of the FZ200, and after three years it is definitely overdue. One noticeable difference is the 4K video capability included with the FZ300 which the FZ200 does not have. This includes a much larger max video resolution. The FZ300 has the new Venus Engine image processor that shoots high-quality images in low light at higher ISOs with beautiful colors. The viewfinder and monitor resolution are both significantly higher on the FZ300 which makes viewing pictures easier. You can use the touchscreen on the FZ300 to take a picture and share it instantly with built-in Wi-Fi — two features the FZ200 is missing. The FZ200 has a battery life that lasts for 540 shots, whereas the FZ300 lasts for 380 shots. A spare battery for a long day of shooting is a good idea. The FZ300 has a weather-resistant body and more features, resulting in a heavier and larger body than the FZ200.

Panasonic DMC-FZ200 Panasonic FZ300
4K Video: No Yes
Viewfinder Resolution: 1,312K-dot 1,440k-dot
Monitor Resolution: 460,000-dots 1,040k-dots
Internal Memory: None 70MB
Dimensions: 4.93 x 3.41 x 4.34 in.
(125.2 x 86.6 x 110.2mm)
5.18 x 3.6 x 4.61 in.
(131.6 x 91.5 x 117.1mm)
Weight: 18.8 oz. (535.2g) 22.5 oz. (640g)
Weather Resistant: No Yes
Wireless: No Yes, built-in
Touchscreen: No Yes
Max Shutter Speed: 1/4000 sec. 1/16000 sec.
Max Video Resolution: 1920 x 1080 3840 x 2160
Battery Life: 540 shots 380 shots

Key Features

4K Ultra HD Video:
4K video has four times as much resolution as 1080p, which can really be seen when zooming into details. (Remember YouTube normally displays in standard HD, so you’ll have to change your viewer settings to see it in 4K.)

4K Photo:
With 4K Photo mode, you can pull pictures from your video at a high enough resolution to print (about 8 megapixels), so you can shoot video and not worry about missing important stills that you would want to save and share. Below is an example of a photo I extracted from a video similar to the one above. For what is essentially a screen grab, it’s pretty impressive.

Click photo for full-size version

24x Optical Zoom:
The LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT lens, which has a 25-600mm equivalent, takes beautiful pictures thanks to the full-range f/2.8 aperture range. I shot the pictures below at a lake on a sunny day and set the Mode Dial to Program. This lens is great for shooting a wide landscape of a lake or zooming into geese in the far distance. Also, the Nano Surface coating helps to keep the images nice and clear.

Zoom Out
Zoom In

Vari-angle Touchscreen:
The large 3.0″ LCD screen came in handy when I was shooting the pumpkins from a low-angle and when I was shooting from above. I shot the picture below on a bright day, and I was still able to see the screen clearly.

5-Axis Image Stabilization:
I took the picture below inside of a store where there was very dim lighting. The 5-Axis Image Stabilization helped to keep the image sharp even though the lighting was pretty dark. Also, the sensor is sensitive enough for me to shoot handheld indoors and still maintain sharpness.

Creativity:
I turned the Mode Dial to Creative Control Mode and chose Monochrome. The tones are really beautiful, and the sensor picked up the subtle highlights and shadows under the train tracks really well.

Image Quality

12 fps Continuous Shooting:
For the picture below I set the drive mode to Burst shooting and fired away. While I held down the shutter button, the shutter fired. It was extremely fast, and although the subject wasn’t moving fast, I would assume that it would pick up fast-moving subjects with as much clarity.

Live View Finder:
The viewfinder is crystal clear and was helpful especially when shooting on a bright day at the pumpkin patch. I kept it set to automatically switch between the viewfinder and monitor.

12.1-megapixel High Quality Sensor:
The 12.1-megapixel sensor captured the picture below with detail throughout the entire image. I turned the Mode Dial to Creative Control Mode and chose Sepia, this adds a nice timeless feel to the image.

Close-up Macro Shooting:
The 12.1MP MOS sensor captured the details in the leaves and the butterfly beautifully. The FZ300 has a minimum focusing distance of 1cm and has a constant f/2.8 aperture to capture as much light as possible.

Panorama:
To capture panoramas, I turned the Mode Dial to Panorama Shot Mode and slowly panned to the right. At first, I was panning way too fast and the camera stopped capturing the image. Panorama was a great option for the pumpkin patch because it shows the whole expanse of the landscape.

Usability

Top Right:
Rotate the Mode Dial slowly to select the desired mode. iA (Intelligent Auto Mode) takes pictures with automatic settings. iA+ (Intelligent Auto Plus Mode) allows you to adjust the brightness (exposure) and color hue as desired. P (Program AE Mode) takes pictures with automatic shutter speed and aperture value settings. A (Aperture-Priority AE Mode) determines aperture, then records pictures. S (Shutter-Priority AE Mode) determines shutter speed, then records pictures. M (Manual Exposure Mode) lets you determine aperture and shutter speed then records pictures. Movie (Creative Video Mode) determines aperture and shutter speed, then records motion pictures. C (Custom Mode) records pictures using pre-registered settings. Panorama Shot Mode records panoramas by panning slowly to the right. SCN (Scene Guide Mode) takes pictures using up to 24 scenes modes. Creative Control Mode take pictures by selecting your preferred picture effect from 8 selections.

Hold down the shutter to focus and press all the way to take a picture. Press the Exposure Compensation button to manually lighten or darken the exposure than what is recommended by the camera. Press the red Motion Picture Button to record movies. Assign a frequently used item to the Fn2 button. Set aperture value, shutter speed and other settings with the Rear Dial. Turn the camera on or off with the ON/OFF switch.

Back Right:
Press the AF/AE Lock button to lock exposure settings such as aperture and shutter speed. Use the Focus Mode Lever to choose between different focusing modes. AFS (Auto Focus) fixes focus while the shutter is pressed halfway. AFF (Auto Focus) is helpful when the subject moves while the shutter button is pressed halfway because the focus is corrected to match the movement automatically. AFC (Auto Focus) focuses constantly to match the movement of the subject while the shutter button is pressed halfway. MF (Manual Focus) lets you manually focus which is convenient when you want to lock the focus to take pictures or when it is difficult to adjust focus using Auto Focus.

Press the Playback button to review pictures or videos. Use the DISP button to change the display. Change ISO sensitivity, white balance, Drive Mode, or AF Mode on the Cursor Button. Press the MENU/SET button to choose a certain menu option. Press the Delete/Cancel button to erase images or video.

Back Left and Viewfinder:
Press the LVF button to switch between the monitor and viewfinder. The viewfinder’s high-resolution 1,440k-dot screen is sharp and has a 0.7x magnification to clearly see your subject.

Left Side of Lens:
Use the Zoom Lever/Side Lever to enlarge the subject (T) or capture a wider area (W). Rotate the Side Dial to adjust focus. Press the Side Button to call the function for supporting the focus operation or switch the operation of the side dial.

Battery and Memory Card Compartment:
Easily access the memory card and battery through the battery compartment.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Panasonic FZ300 is a perfect lightweight camera for a long day of shooting. The body style is similar to an SLR, but it is much lighter. The grip felt comfortable to hold and the 24x Optical Zoom lens was able to zoom into minute details. I shot pictures inside and outside with great quality thanks to the large f/2.8 aperture opening. The 3.0″ tiltable LCD monitor made it easy to get unique angles. I used the built-in Wi-Fi to transfer pictures from the camera to my phone, then I uploaded them onto Facebook to show my friends and family. Recording 4K video was easy and the details were very pronounced. The only thing I wasn’t able to fully test out is the high-speed shooting, but at 12 frames per second, I would assume that it would capture some nice actions shots. The FZ300 has a lot of high-end features and it’s hard to believe that it’s a point and shoot camera.

If you are interested in this camera, here are others with similar specifications:
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100 4K Wi-Fi Digital Camera, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 Digital Camera, Canon PowerShot G3 X Wi-Fi Digital Camera, Nikon Coolpix L840 Wi-Fi Digital Camera, Fujifilm FinePix S9900W Wi-Fi Digital Camera, Fujifilm FinePix S1 Weather Resistant Full HD Digital Camera, Kodak PixPro AZ651 Astro Zoom Wi-Fi Digital Camera, Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX10 II 4K Wi-Fi Digital Camera.

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