Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 Review
Originally Posted: October 25, 2012
Last Updated: November 15, 2012
The Lumix DMC-FZ200 ($599) is Panasonic's flagship super zoom digital camera. While recent models have been relatively minor upgrades, the FZ200 returns to its roots by featuring a lens with an F2.8 maximum aperture across its entire zoom range. The early models in the FZ series (FZ1 - FZ20) had lenses like this, but that went bye-bye on the FZ30. Last year's DMC-FZ150 had an F2.8 - F5.2 lens, so the lens on the FZ200 is a huge improvement, especially for action and low light photography.
Several other things have changed as well between the FZ150 and FZ200. There's a new 12.1 Megapixel MOS sensor, a sharper electronic viewfinder, an HDR feature (plus more special effects), in-camera panorama stitching, and high speed movie recording. The FZ200 has the same 25 - 600 mm zoom range, rotating LCD, manual controls, 1080/60p movie mode, and expandability as its predecessor.
The chart below summarizes the differences between the FZ150 and FZ200:
As you can see, the DMC-FZ200 has some nice improvements over its predecessor, with the new lens and improved battery life being the biggest differences.
Is the Lumix DMC-FZ200 the ultimate super zoom camera? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
Despite being one of the most expensive super zooms on the market, the FZ200's bundle is rather pedestrian. Here's what you'll find when you open the box:
- The 12.1 effective Megapixel Lumix DMC-FZ200 digital camera
- DMW-BLC12 lithium-ion battery
- Battery charger
- Lens cap w/retaining strap
- Lens hood
- Shoulder strap
- USB cable
- CD-ROM featuring PhotoFunStudio 8.3 PE and SilkyPix Developer Studio 3.1 SE
- 39 page basic manual (printed) + full manual (on CD-ROM)
Panasonic has built 70MB of memory into the DMC-FZ200. That'll hold four RAW or thirteen JPEGs at the highest quality setting -- enough for emergencies, but not daily use. Therefore, you'll want to buy a memory card right away. The FZ200, like all Panasonic cameras, supports SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards, and I'd recommend a 4GB card if you're mostly taking stills, and a 16GB card if you'll be taking a lot of Full HD movies. A high speed (Class 6 or faster) card is highly recommended for best camera performance.
The FZ200 accepts the same DMW-BLC12 lithium-ion battery that was used by the DMC-GH2 mirrorless cameras. This battery packs 8.6 Wh of energy into its plastic shell, which is pretty good for a super zoom camera. Here's how that translates into battery life:
If it wasn't for that darn Fuji camera, the DMC-FZ200 would have the best battery life of any super zoom camera. Alas, it will have to settle for second place. Super zooms are really the only cameras out there that support AA batteries, though the FZ200 isn't one of them. An extra DMW-BLC12 will set you back around $48.
When it's time to charge the battery, just pop it into the included charger. This charger, which plugs directly into the wall (in the U.S., at least), charges the BLC12 in 140 minutes.
The above photo also shows the lens hood that comes in the box with the FZ200.
As with the FZ150 that came before it, the DMC-FZ200 has a large selection of accessories available. They include:
That's an enormous list for a fixed lens camera! One thing's for sure: Panasonic definitely has all their bases covered.
Panasonic includes their PhotoFunStudio 8.3 PE software with the Lumix FZ200. This Windows-only software handles basic tasks fairly well, though the whole "wizard" system gets tiring quickly. On the main screen you'll see the usual thumbnail view, and you can view photos by folders, date, or by things as specific as scene mode. The software can learn to recognize faces (much like the camera itself), which offers you another way to browse through your pictures. Available editing features give you the ability to crop, rotate, or change the aspect ratio of your photos, as well as adjusting color, brightness, saturation, and more. You can apply special effects to photos, overlay text, or remove redeye. PhotoFunStudio can also be used to create panoramic images that you've taken on the camera.
Something PhotoFunStudio cannot do is edit RAW images. For that, Panasonic provides SilkyPix Developer Studio 3.1 SE, for both Mac and Windows. SilkyPix isn't going to win any awards for its user interface or poorly translated menus, but it's still a very capable editing tool. If you'd like to use Photoshop instead, just make sure that you're using the latest version of the Camera Raw plug-in.
While PhotoFunStudio doesn't do RAW, it can work with the movies produced by the FZ200. You can edit your video and then burn the results to a Blu-ray (or DVD) disc. You can also save the edited movie in MPEG-2 format. If you want to use something else to edit your videos, most modern Windows video editing suites can work with the AVCHD files produced by the FZ200. However, some of them may not support the AVCHD Progressive format, so check with your software manufacturer first. Mac users can edit 1080/60p videos without issue using the latest versions of Final Cut Pro X or iMovie '11.
The FZ200's documentation is split up into two parts, which I'm never a fan of. Inside the box is a thin "basic manual" to get you up and running. If you want more details, you'll need to load up the full manual, which is PDF format on an included CD-ROM. The manuals aren't exactly user-friendly, either, though they should answer any question you'll have about the camera. Instructions for using the bundled software is installed onto your Mac or PC.