Panasonic's FZ200 is the sequel to one of the best bridge cameras we have ever played with: the FZ150. It features a whopping 24x zoom which even more impressively manages to stay at a constant f2.8 aperture throughout. This alone makes it a tempting enough package, add in some other top-end Lumix features and you've got the bridge camera to beat.
In the hand the FZ200 is light, despite having a beast of a lens stuck on the front. Being a bridge camera it doesn't exactly fit into the compact scheme of things, but switched off with the lens retracted, it certainly is portable. Build quality doesn't match the levels of the new flagship G5, but it doesn't feel cheap either.
We also like that the same or similar button layout has come from top-end Lumix cameras. It means you get a near DSLR experience using the FZ200, with full manual control and properly customisable function buttons. It is easy to use and perfectly suited to those looking to take a step up from a compact but not wanting to invest in a DSLR or mirrorless body and lenses.
The lens on the FZ200 is fairly unbelievable. It runs from a wide 4.5mm all the way to 105mm at F2.8 all the way. The aspherical Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens is also more reminiscent of the high-quality glass found on more expensive prosumer cameras. Sharp and balanced, it is more than enough quality to justify the one-lens-fits-all approach of a bridge camera. Power O.I.S keeps shots wobble free enough.
The FZ200 sports a decent 12 megapixel MOS sensor backed up with Pana's Venus Engine. It can shoot up to 6400 ISO, which is impressive for a bridge camera. Unfortunately we didn't have any time to shoot with the FZ200 in low light, so can't be sure just how it copes with noise yet.
You also get a 12fps burst shot mode with the FZ200, which we did get to test out. It works just like you would expect, capturing 12 megapixel JPEGs quickly. A quick auto focus system also helps, although it isn't quite matched up to the light speed that the G5 manages.
The fold-out 3-inch LCD is a nice touch and is particularly useful for getting to grips with the wealth of control options on the FZ200. It can be slightly overloading options-wise, but there is plenty to play with for a bridge camera, making it a useful piece of kit for those a bit more confident with their photography.
A lot of new kit from Panasonic then, the majority of which impresses. For those interested, take a peek at our first look at both the G5 and the new LX7. The FZ200 should be on sale at the end of August/early September.
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