Back in 2012 Panasonic changed the face of superzoom cameras with the Lumix FZ200, a camera offering a super-fast f/2.8 aperture throughout its far-reaching 24-600mm (equivalent) zoom range. That is important for letting in lots of light so the camera doesn't have to work processing as hard to create clean-looking images.
Its follow-up has been a long time coming, but we've now been treated to a glimpse of the Lumix FZ330 – as it's known in the UK; the far more sensible FZ300 name will appear in other territories – which adopts the same 24-600mm f/2.8 equivalent lens, but adds a bunch of new features to make the already super superzoom altogether more serious.
Shown off in Brighton, England, alongside the forthcoming Lumix GX8 compact system camera, we were only able to sample the pre-production FZ330 within the confines of the Grand Hotel to get a feel for what it's all about.
We don't mind that the lens hasn't been reengineered to offer greater reach, as the camera is already rather large given what is on offer. The control mechanism has been slightly adjusted, however, now featuring a rotational dial to the left of the lens for adjusting autofocus type, rather than the more cumbersome switch of its FZ200 predecessor.
Core to any digital camera experience is the quality of the screen, which in the FZ330 is now a 1,040k-dot LCD panel that, importantly, adds touch responsiveness. That means a press of the screen can acquire focus, rather than the more rigid button controls – although if that's not for you then the control can be switched off.
The built-in electronic viewfinder also sees a boost, opting for an OLED panel with 1,440k-dot resolution, eye-level sensor for auto-activation, and comfy eyecup. It's not the very best finder in the world on account of the size of view, but as cameras around the £500 price point go it's as good as they get. Particularly with a superzoom the presence of a viewfinder is important to aid stabilisation, it helps to have the camera pressed to face to keep things steady.
Adding a vari-angle bracket to the touchscreen has made for a slightly larger body than the previous FZ200, but not by a significant amount.
Besides, it's worth it for the bump in features, which also includes dust- and splash-proofing for the ultimate hardiness. Sounds perfect for shooting wildlife in the not-so-sunny winter climes (or in supposedly summertime Brighton, where it was chucking down bucket loads of the wet stuff).
Also on board is Panasonic's theme for 2015 and beyond: 4K Photo. Yep, the FZ330 can capture 4K movie clips and 8-megapixel stills can be extracted from them using the in-camera software. That'll make for a new way to capture 30fps bursts of fast-moving subjects to pull images from, which in a camera like this is perhaps the very best placement of the 4K Photo feature yet.
Elsewhere there's Wi-Fi for sharing pictures with a smart device, a hybrid optical image stabilisation system to help keep things steady, raw file capture with in-camera editing facilities, including shadow/highlight detail adjustment.
The sensor at the heart of it all doesn't see a giant leap forward from its 2012 equivalent though: the Lumix FZ330 utilises a 12-megapixel chip, but now pairs that with the latest Venus Engine (essential for 4K capture), which ought to mean marginally better image quality.
We won't have a definitive verdict until the camera launches later this year. But as superzoom cameras go, the Lumix FZ330 looks to have all the features and good stuff you could want.