A Review of the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ300K 4K, Point and Shoot Camera with Leica DC Lens 24X Zoom
Panasonic has come out with some excellent mirrorless and DSLR point-and-shoot cameras over the last few years and the Lumix DMC-FZ300 is looking to be no exception to this trend. This camera is the direct successor to 2012’s superb superzoom, the DMC-FZ200 and while it keeps to some of the design specs and the same sensor as its predecessor, a pile of new augmentations and additions have turned this particular camera into a device that’s distinctly its own.
Furthermore, a very affordable price tag only makes the FZ300K look all the more attractive, especially considering all of the video, photo capture and zoom capacity the camera comes packed with.
We should also note that the DMC-FZ300K is still in pre-release so the following is more of a preview of what you can expect for this compact but powerful little camera. We’ll be adding more features and impressions of our own after the release date.
Panasonic has packed more than a few goodies into this tight little superzoom camera and they combine to make it quite versatile for consumer market shooting of a definitely high caliber in a range of situations involving both photo and video capture situations.
For starters, there is the obviously interesting 4K video shooting capacity of the FZ300K. This is to us one of the more interesting features of this camera and given its highly affordable price tag, definitely something we’re happy to see in such a well-rounded piece of photography hardware. Video can be shot at a respectable 30 frames per second in an ultra HD resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels while a cool new addition of three different 4K Photo Modes lets a user capture a dense sequence of high resolution 8 megapixel still shots from different sequences of captured UHD video. This feature is perfect for capturing a huge quantity of detailed photos during fast action sequences for the sake of getting that one perfect shot.
Next up, the FZ300K offers a powerful superzoom functionality that proceeds from the design of its FZ200 predecessor. In this case, users are offered a 24x (25-600mm) full-range F2.8 aperture Leica lens for capturing shots at a large number of distances and settings. Combined with the ability to use 4K Photo burst shooting, the superzoom capacity of the FZ300K is ideal for some superb images of normally hard to capture scenes which involve an object, animal or person in quick motion.
Finally, because stability and a lack of blur are crucial aspects of a finely capture 4K photo shot or one of the camera’s 12.1 megapixel high resolution still images, the 5 axis Hybrid Optical Image Stabilization system of the FZ300K is on hand to minimize the level of shake in any given photo, even under lower light conditions thanks to help from the FZ300K’s high sensitivity MOS sensor.
We also like the wonderfully durable, splash proof body of the FZ300K. This makes for a camera that’s ideal for field use without too much worry about inclement weather conditions.
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For its price tag and range, the DMC-FZ300K offers very little in the way of notably weak specs or characteristics. We’ll have to gain more field testing information once the camera becomes available to give a firmer opinion here but at least at a preview glance, the main weaknesses seem to lie in a 12MP sensor that could have been expanded still further. 12MP is great but 16 or even 20 wouldn’t have been a bad idea, even if it means a slight increase in price.
Additionally, the FZ300K is a bulkier, heavier-bodied camera than its FZ200 predecessor, so while some users might enjoy the feel of this more robust model, those used to a slimmer even more portable camera could be a bit disappointed.
One other design feature of the FZ300 that definitely leaves something to be desired is the lack of a zoom ring around the powerful lens itself. This is more than a bit of a letdown and though Panasonic has provided a much smaller and in our opinion less precisely usable zoom slider along the left side of the main camera body. You can also use an adjoining focus dial to adjust shutter speed and aperture –not bad but also a bit clumsy.
Finally, and this too is annoying as far as connectivity, remote control and photo transfer usability goes is the lack of NFC on the FZ300K. There is of course WiFi connectivity, which is by now pretty standard in most higher-end digital cameras but NFC is also becoming more of a common feature and the fact that Panasonic didn’t include it here slightly ruins expanded options for photo pairing and transfer.
Despite some of its minor to moderate design flaws, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 looks at least on initial previous to be a superb little 4K video and photo camera for its very much affordable price tag. This is certainly no GH4 we’re looking at here but for users who want their feet wet in 4K video shooting and high-resolution photography (such as with drones) with an array of more sophisticated zoom and lighting-sensitive features, the FZ300K looks like a great choice.
Camera Type: 4K DSLR zoom camera
Video Resolution: 3840 x 2160 pixels
Sensor Type: 12 megapixel BSI-CMOS sensor
Recording Formats: Still Images: RAW, JPEG Video: MPEG-4, AVCHD
Recording media: SD, SDHC, SDXC
Display: TFT LCD 3” Touchscreen, fully articulated
ISO: 100 – 6,400
Zoom: 24x (optical) and 4x (digital)
Connectivity: USB 2.0, mini-HDMI, microphone port, Headphone port, built-in WiFi, remote control capability via smartphone or wire
Video resolutions/Frame Rates: 3840 x 2160 (30p, 24p), 1920 x 1080 (60p, 60i, 30p, 24p), 1280 x 720 (30p), 640 x 480 (30p)
Shutter Speeds: 1/16000 sec (max)/ 60 sec (minimum)
Continuous Drive: 12 fps
The Lumix DMC-FZ300 comes with your standard package of basic accessories included. These consist of a rechargeable lithium ion battery, accompanying charger for said batter, a USB cable, a lens hood, lens cap, a lens cap string, a shoulder strap, a software DVD-ROM and the standard one year warranty. Since this camera also comes with its own excellent built-in 24x superzoom lens, the FZ300 at least saves its buyers a fair bit of money by eliminating the need for a lens attachment right from the get-go, as is the case with a number of other mirrorless and DSLR models we’ve reviewed to date.
Some accessories that are sold separately but definitely recommended include a 64 GB high Speed flash memory card, especially one with a high transfer speed that would make it more workable with compressed 4K video and a spare lithium ion battery.
• The most impressive, attention-grabbing highlight of the FZ300 is absolutely its superzoom lens. This addition to the camera not only puts it well ahead of a number of other competitors with otherwise similar sensors and video shooting capabilities, it’s also a fantastic money saver for someone who wants versatile shooting ability right out of the box. The25-600mm equivalent FX300 lens has an aperture of F2.8 for some excellent light gathering capacity and offers a maximal zoom capacity of 24x for decent long distance photo and video shots. Additionally, technology like the camera’s Lightspeed AF system with depth-of-defocus technology added to it in the FZ300 also makes for some superior focusing speeds and what Panasonic claims to be a 200% better subject tracking capability over that of the FZ200.
• On the rear end of all that lens performance, the FZ300 also offers its relatively powerful 12MP CMOS sensor that’s the same as that of the FZ200. A Venus Engine image processor also completes the picture with its ability to deliver a newly augmented native ISO of 6400 and some nicely enhanced noise reduction.
• The 3” articulated LCD screen is also an excellent highlight of the FZ300. In this camera, the screen has been improved with enhanced touchscreen features, a 1.04M dot resolution and the ability to easily flip out during shooting that’s not being done at eye-level, for some easy control of focus, playback and other features.
• The EVF of the FZ300 is another winning highlight of this camera, which incorporates an OLE display technology and a 2.36 million dot resolution for some excellent crispness. Furthermore, the new OLED EVF offers a 0.7x magnification, a bigger eyecup for better light-blocking and some customizable function buttons alongside a focus mode switch.
• Finally, we love the physical design of the FZ300K. This camera may be bulkier than some rival models and is certainly more robust than its FZ200 predecessor but it also feels very nicely solid, and comes with a better, more secure grip and an excellent level of weather protection against even heavily wet conditions. This last isn’t a very common feature among superzoom cameras like this one.
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4K video shooting is one of the main aspects of the FZ300 and obviously our focus point here on the site. This camera lets you capture 4K ultra HD 3840 x 2160 pixel video at 30p or 24p if you’re using the full-time AF feature of the lens. Furthermore, all of the video is captured at a bitrate of 100Mbps and for those who want to deal with something a little less storage intensive than 4K, there’s also of course 1080p HD video capture at 60p and a range of lower resolutions at different frame rates as well. Slow motion clips can also be produced due to a 120 fps mode that shoots at a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels.
We particularly love the FZ300’s superb Venus Engine photo processing technology due to the crisp, vibrant photos it delivers even under low lighting conditions. The 12.1 MP MOS sensor helps out a lot in this regard. Furthermore, the high-speed auto focus technology and DFD technology are remarkably good at calculating distances between foreground and background, resulting in some very sharp, quick focus even with fast movement in the frame. What helps this latter feature out even more is the inclusion of a 5-axis image stabilization system that compensates pretty effectively for five different types of movement.
This is a superzoom camera whose lens offers an above-average level of zoom power for more distant objects but it also has to be commended at least a bit for its level of built-in Macro-shooting functionality. While you’ll get better from some other, more macro oriented setups, the FZ300 does a decent native job of letting you capture photos through its 1cm minimum focusing distance.
Finally, we have to mention the FZ300’s interesting 4K Photo mode and the three different 4K Bust modes that come with it. This feature is particularly useful for photographers who want to capture a single perfect still image from a sequence of events that are moving along very quickly. For this, with 4K Photo mode you first get the ability to extract as many as 30 single frames of 8 megapixel still photos from any single run of 4K video, secondly, you get a a 4K Burst S/S mode that lets you record a 4K burst and pause at any point to extract a single 8 megapixel shot from a given sequence of video.
Finally, there is the cameras Pre-burst mode, which starts recording 30 frames one second before you press the shutter and another 30frame burst one second after the shutter is released, for a total of 60 possible still images. The 8 megapixel resolution of these photos is obviously not on par with the camera’s native 12.1 megapixel photo shooting capacity but the Venus Engine still does a very good job of delivering the greatest possible clarity from the native 4K source video.
As we’ve already covered in some detail, the DMC-FZ300 offers up some excellent photo resolution under a range of conditions. The 12 megapixel still photos produced by the camera usually come out very clear and even the 8 megapixel shots captured as stills from 4K video shooting are fine looking in terms of vibrancy and color realism. Noise levels under low light shooting conditions are also pretty decent for a camera with such a small sensor, though the FZ300 certainly won’t match the capabilities of more serious DSLRs and mirrorless cameras like the DMC GH8 or the GH4.
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ300K 4K camera will be going on sale as of September the 16th for a price tag of $597.99. This is a bit pricey for a superzoom of this caliber but we’d still have to say that the value delivered by the very robust built-in zoom lens does a lot to compensate for the higher cost.
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To summarize briefly, the FZ300 suffers from a few minor weaknesses in the form of a bulkier than normal body, a rather weak focus control that depends on a side-mounted zoom slider instead of a full-blown zoom ring around the lens itself, and a MOS sensor that could have come with a few more megapixels.
• Excellent built-in zoom lens
• 4K Photo mode great feature for difficult still images
• Great weather-resistant design
• Superb video quality
• Decent ISO
• Slightly on the pricey side
• Sensor could be more powerful
• No zoom ring around lens