If you’ve been taking all your photos on your smartphone but have started to realise its limitations, then you need a bridge camera. As the name suggests, this bridges the gap between a compact camera (or smartphone) and a DSLR. Bridge cameras have no interchangeable lenses to worry about, but they still come with all the manual controls that enable you to experiment with things like long exposure or high-speed photography. And if you’re not ready for manual just yet, a legion of Auto modes enables you to get the best shot, no matter what conditions you’re shooting in. Best of all, these cameras are physically smaller and lighter than a DSLR, so you’re more likely to take yours with you wherever you go.
Plenty to shout about
What distinguishes the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 range from other bridge cameras is its sensor size. The size and quality of your shot is ultimately determined by the size of the camera’s sensor. While bridge cameras have traditionally offered slimmed-down sensors inferior to those you’d find in a DSLR, the FZ1000 makes no such compromises. In fact, it comes with a large 1-inch sensor that enables you to shoot images at over 20Mp – easily comparable to entry-level DSLRs. This is a big step up on the 1/2.3-inch sensor you’d usually expect to see in a bridge camera. Then there’s the Venus Engine. Coupled with the sensor, this enables dramatic improvements to the resolution, colour reproduction and noise control in comparison to other bridge cameras.
Another bonus is that you can save your images in RAW format as well as JPEG. RAW files are larger than JPEGs because they record much more information about your shot. With a RAW file, you can easily change your white balance and reveal extra detail in light and dark areas using post-production software such as Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. Even if this sounds beyond you at this stage, it gives you scope to explore extra features in the future.
Premium Leica glass
Without a doubt, the next stand-out feature is the lens. Because a bridge camera comes with a single, non-interchangeable lens, you want to know it can cope with whatever you want to shoot, both now and in the future. With a wide focal range, you can cover everything from close-up, wide angle shots all the way through to telephoto images taken from a long way away. With an effective range of 25-400mm, the lens on the Lumix FZ1000 II enables you to shoot everything from portraits to close-ups of the moon. But it doesn’t stop there, because what makes this lens particularly noteworthy is that it’s a high-quality Leica lens with an aperture ranging from f/2.8 to f/11 at the wide-angle end, and from f/4 to f/11 at the telephoto end. This beats its predecessor, the FZ1000, hands down.
It’s the aperture that affects depth of field in your shots. A wide aperture setting (low f/stop number) gives a creamy blur to your background, while at the opposite end a large f/stop number shows everything in focus from the front to the back of your shot. Such a wide aperture range is unusual for a bridge camera, which just goes to show how good Leica is when it comes to making quality glass. And because you can manipulate the aperture, you can use the same Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes that you’d find in a DSLR.
Another spec that will impress is the ISO range. Again, many bridge cameras support only a limited ISO range, but not so here. The FZ1000 II boasts a range from ISO 125 right up to 12800, and this is extendable to ISO 80, 100 and 25600. If you’re shooting on a tripod, this won’t matter much, but if you’re shooting handheld, then larger ISO values enable you to shoot in darker conditions without camera shake. If you’re trying to shoot indoors or as the sun goes down, you’ll appreciate this.
For burst shooting, you can keep your finger held on the shutter release and fire off images at a rate of 12fps (frames per second) or 7fps if you want to maintain continuous auto focus.
Like its predecessor, auto focusing is super-fast and can be made to focus on things like face and eye detection. A Zoom Compose Assist mode automatically magnifies the portion of the image that you want to focus on, while Focus Peaking highlights areas of high contrast around your focus point, so you can make sure the focusing is where you want it.
On the video front, you’re able to shoot 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) video footage at up to 25fps (PAL) in MP4 format. If you’re interested in slow motion, you’ll be pleased to hear that you can record Full HD at 120fps. It also comes with Panasonic’s 4K Photo mode, which enables you to extract a 4K still image from a video shot at 30fps.
As well as the improved aperture range in the lens, the FZ1000 II is smaller and lighter than the FZ1000. The LCD monitor has seen some improvements, too. Although still a 3-inch tilting screen, it’s now a much higher resolution and offers much-needed touch control, making it far easier to select your focus point. Battery life has similarly been improved. Panasonic now quotes that a full recharge is good for up to 440 shots. And when it comes to connectivity, you have the option of Bluetooth as well as wifi, which means controlling your camera wirelessly using Panasonic’s app has become even easier.
This is one of Panasonic's top-end bridge cameras, with the kind of features you might expect to find in a DSLR. When the FZ1000 was launched in 2014, it was already top of its class, and despite the passing of time, it has remained one of the best bridge cameras on the market. The FZ1000 II adds an improved lens and fixes a few bugbears like the lack of a touchscreen, bringing the model bang up to date.
If you’re considering taking your photography up a notch and you can afford the price tag, there’s no doubt that the FZ1000 II will open up many more creative opportunities than most bridge cameras. Yet while it has a wealth of features (and that Leica lens), thanks to its auto settings and a ton of software filters, it enables you to discover what’s possible at your own pace.
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