In the middle of 2014 Panasonic dipped its oar into the premium superzoom market with the Lumix FZ1000. As a do-it-all DSLR alternative with a 1-inch sensor size it ticked a lot of boxes.
Its update for 2016, the Lumix FZ2000, is an even more standout product that, with a huge focus on 4K video capabilities, might be the kind of camera to spell the end of the camcorder as we know it. Here's why.
Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 review: New lens
Often updated cameras will tweak the sensor or add a new feature here and there, but the FZ2000 is a total rework over the original FZ1000. The FZ2000's new lens, for example, provides a 20x optical zoom, ranging from a wide-angle 24mm through to a 480mm equivalent. That's a notable amount of extra zoom, ensuring the FZ2000 keeps the "super" in "superzoom". Plus it can focus just 3cms from the lens front glass at its widest-angle, which is rather impressive.
But, crucially, the FZ2000's lens has internal focusing - so once the camera is switched on and the lens has extended into position it doesn't physically move, no matter how much you adjust the zoom toggle or other controls. It does make a little noise when zooming, though, which might be a nuisance for video capture - but, and having tried the FZ1000 side-by-side, it's not louder, precisely, just tonally different in its motor sounds.
A long focal length is one thing, but if there's not a great deal of aperture control then it limits the practicality. There are a couple interesting elements about the FZ2000's lens: first, its f/2.8-4.5 aperture ensures ample light can enter the camera (it's not quite as special as the FZ200's fixed f/2.8 aperture, but that camera has a smaller sensor); plus with nine aperture blades and an actuator for their control it means more rounded bokeh and no "stepping" for iris control during video capture.
However, the camera does rapidly arrive at f/4.0 by the 80mm equivalent, then to f/4.5 by the 250mm equivalent - so that f/2.8 maximum does fall off rather quickly beyond its 24mm wide-angle.
Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 review: A big deal
Some of those above points are a big deal, but then the FZ2000 is a big camera. It's effectively DSLR-sized, so perhaps not your casual carry-around. That doesn't affect its enthusiast target audience, though, and is unavoidable when pairing such a lens with a 1-inch sensor size.
Other big-deal features in the FZ2000 include its built-in optical viewfinder, which is the best we've yet seen in a superzoom, and a 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen LCD.
First to the viewfinder: its 0.74x equivalent magnification means it's huge to the eye, the kind of level top-end interchangeable lens cameras offer, while its OLED panel and 2360k-dot resolution ensure best quality. We've not used it in low-light yet, but even in daylight with maximum zoom extension the return image is great.
The LCD screen might be a more standard offering for cameras these days, but the ability to move it around as you please is useful - and we suspect this will be a standout point for videographers.
More to the point is the level of performance provided by the FZ2000. With many of its features pulled directly from the Lumix GH4 (which is Panasonic's current top-end interchangeable lens camera) and other Lumix G-series cameras, it has a highly impressive autofocus system with all the mod cons. Press-to-focus on the screen, make adjustments via the camera's rear controls, select between a huge array of focus types - including Pinpoint cross-hair type and 1-Area adjustment - and toggle the dedicated single/continuous/manual focus switch, there's little to nothing absent from this camera.
A new feature for many of Panasonic's cameras is a 5-axis image stabilisation system, to counter pitch, yaw and roll. And, yep, the FZ2000 takes benefit of this system, too, with that 20-megapixel sensor strapped into the cockpit to make the most of it (excluding during 4K capture).
Panasonic is also really going for the 4K market, with all its latest cameras offering 4K video capture, plus 4K still image modes which can be used in a number of different ways. Whether shooting a couple of seconds of footage both before and after pressing the shutter to avoid missing the moment, or merging a stack of images after shooting to combine the focus depth, it's a versatile set of options.
Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 review: 4K capture
We've already mentioned the internal focusing and smooth iris control, but there are stacks of additional controls that will appeal to videographers. To the side of the lens, for example, are slow zoom-in and zoom-out buttons (Fn1 and Fn2 respectively) for more precise control. The lens also features two control rings for zoom and focus, one larger than the other to segregate them.
To make the most of the wide aperture there are built-in neutral density (ND) filters, controlled via the switch to the side of the camera. Its placement of off at the base and auto at the top - sandwiched between are 1/64, 1/16 and 1/4 step-downs - seem like they should be side-by-side to us, but it's a nifty and easily accessible feature.
We mentioned the audible motor when zooming, but this can be bypassed by using an external microphone, which the camera offers via 3.5mm jack, in addition to an extra 3.5mm headphones monitoring jack.
A mini HDMI out can also be used for ATOMOS devices to monitor externally, including start/stop recording control. Or, if you want 4K 4:2:2 10-bit colour output then the HDMI out can be used to capture via an external recorder (it's 4:2:2 8-bit onto the SD card - of which, there's only one slot on the camera).
Leaving barely any stone unturned there's also time code, synchro scan, luminance level and colour bar control for those higher-end videographers. And if you want V-Log output it's available for an additional £79.
In addition to 4K capture in 30/25/24p, Full HD recording is available at up to 120fps in a special slow-mo option. As superzoom cameras go, the FZ2000 is without compare when it comes to video capture.
The Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 is a high-end superzoom camera with a hybrid focus on both stills and video. Really, though, this is one for the videographers out there, with its myriad controls, 4K options and internal focusing lens opening up a whole host of capture possibilities.
If you've been looking for a do-it-all body and aren't fearful of a DSLR scale, then as a stills camera there's plenty on offer too (such as 12fps burst). Its £1,099 price point might make you baulk, though, but given all that's available here it's not an unruly asking price by any means. And that's a snip compared to many larger-sensor interchangeable cameras or camcorders.
Which is why, in our view, the FZ2000 paints a red cross on the door of the enthusiast camcorder market. It's one thorough bit of kit.