While there are cameras available with a much wider zoom range than 16x, a focal length equivalent of 25-400mm is a good working range that many SLR photographers would be happy with, although they would expect to carry several lenses to achieve it. Some cameras with small sensors offer more at the longer end of the focal length, but in many cases this is overkill and users can often achieve the same framing by moving closer to their subject.
Panasonic hasn't skimped at the wide-angle end and 25mm is a good starting point for many applications, including landscapes and documentary photography as well as shooting cramped interiors. The comparatively large maximum aperture is also attractive as it allows good control over depth of field as well as a greater range of shutter speeds in low light. Even though the largest aperture is only available at the 25mm point, a maximum aperture of f/4 at the equivalent of 400mm is not to be sniffed at, Canon's EF 400mm DO IS USM lens, for example, retails for around £5400/US$6,470 (around AU$9,770). Naturally part of this expense stems from the size of the image circle required from a lens designed for a full-frame camera, but the price gives an indication of the rarity of such a lens in the average photographers kitbag.
The ability to record 4K video may not seem especially enticing at the moment, but as 4K televisions become more widely available it will have greater value. One of the key benefits is that it turns the video mode into a high-speed continuous shooting mode, as 8Mp still images can be extracted. That will be attractive to parents wanting to photograph their children at play as well as keen nature, wildlife and sport lovers.
The FZ1000 marks the start of a new line for Panasonic and it could prove popular with those wanting a high quality, versatile camera, with a fixed lens.It has plenty of features to allow those who want to take control over their images to do so, while providing automatic options for less experienced users. It's also very capable, delivering well exposed images with plenty of detail and good, natural colour.
That zoom range is excellent, it gives plenty of scope for framing subjects in a wide range of situations. The camera also feels comfortable in the hand, with a nice chunky grip and responsive controls within easy reach.
Photographers are starting to see the benefits of electronic viewfinders now and the FZ1000 has an excellent device capable of showing plenty of detail with no flickering or banding. The Focus Peaking display is also a bonus when focusing manually.
A touchscreen would make this camera little slicker to use, allowing faster, more intuitive selection of AF point and easier settings adjustments. I'd also like to see greater control over exposure when using the Creative Control options and the ability to shoot raw files when using HDR mode. It would be nice if the Creative Control effects could be used when shooting in aperture or shutter priority mode like the Photo Style options.
The Panasonic FZ1000 is an excellent bridge camera, but it's also rather large and expensive for the genre. Some potential buyers may find that they are better off buying an SLR such as the Nikon D3300 and a superzoom lens with a focal length range of 18-200mm (27-300mm effective on APS-C format) or even 18-300mm (27-450mm) or perhaps a compact system camera like the Panasonic G6. These options bring the opportunity to invest in a range of lenses and accessories and hence offer more room for users to grow as a photographer.
However, the ability to change lenses is precisely what some want to avoid with a bridge camera and these users will not be disappointed by the FZ1000. It has shooting options that will suit both experienced and novice photographers, has lots of scope for customisation and a versatile lens. Furthermore, it produces high quality images with excellent exposure, pleasant colour and good detail.
Panasonic is clearly pitching the FZ1000 against the Sony RX10 and it certainly gives it a good run for its money. It may be a little larger and not have quite such a high-quality feel, but the lens is a 25-400mm equivalent rather than a 24-200mm optic, albeit with an f/2.8-4.0 maximum aperture rather than a fixed f/2.8. Our lab results also indicate that the Panasonic camera outperforms the Sony model, but there's not a huge amount in it and both models produce high quality images in the real world.