Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300
Ergonomics and workmanship
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 has become very mature. With a weight of almost 700 grams, a large lens, a distinctive handle and a striking viewfinder, it looks almost like a mirrorless system camera or DSLR. It lies at least as well in the hand. The handle is perfectly formed, offers the middle finger a grippy hollow and the thumb a good support on the back. Only the glued on rubber applications should be a little bit more handy and not so smooth. Although the case is completely made of plastic, it makes an absolutely robust and high-quality impression. The splash water and dust protection is to be particularly emphasized. In contrast to Sony with its “moisture protection”, Panasonic uses real gaskets, so that a robustness against splash water and dust is to be achieved as with appropriately equipped mirrorless system cameras. A little spray, a small shower of rain or dirt and dust whirled up during a rally no longer force the photographer to let the camera disappear into the photo bag for fear of his technique instead of taking the best photos at these moments.
But it’s not all perfect on the case, it’s quite possible to find a hair in the soup: The metal tripod thread is not in the optical axis. And its proximity to the battery and memory card compartment prevents it from opening when the tripod quick-release plate is mounted. After all, the lithium-ion battery provides juice for 380 shots according to the CIPA standard, a more than decent value. Thanks to SDXC compatibility, the memory card slot also swallows very large SD memory cards with space for many thousands of photos in raw and/or JPEG or one or two hours of video in 4K resolution. In order to use the latter, a U3 card should be used that guarantees a minimum write speed of 30 MByte per second, because videos can have up to 100 MBit per second (12.5 Megabyte per second). In addition to the micro HDMI connection, the combined USB AV socket and the remote release connection, the Lumix also has a 3.5 mm stereo jack socket for connecting an external microphone. The first three interfaces are on the handle side, the latter fortunately opposite, so that the Panasonic can also be easily held in the hand when equipped with an external microphone.
Ergonomically, the FZ300 not only convinces with its distinctive handle, but also with its numerous control elements. The 25-600mm zoom is controlled at two speeds either by the ring rocker on the shutter release or the zoom rocker on the left side of the lens. Praiseworthy: The lens hood is included and the 52mm front thread allows the use of optical filters. Panasonic also offers a teleconverter. The program selector wheel on the top panel allows you to quickly switch between intelligent auto, scene, pan mode, video mode and creative programs with semi-automatic or manual control. Even three individual presets can be stored and quickly recalled via the program selector.
The thumbwheel is located within easy reach, as is the focus selector switch, which allows the manual focus to be activated quickly. The FZ300 doesn’t have a lens adjustment ring, but instead offers a stepless small roller wheel on the left side, which can be used, for example, to adjust the focus very sensitively. Numerous other keys are scattered over the case, including four hardware function keys, which can be programmed differently from the default settings. There are also five virtual function keys on the touchscreen, which can of course also be programmed. Your advantage: They also indicate their function by means of a symbol. Other keys of the FZ300 can be influenced in their function, for example by turning the AF/AE lock button into the AF-On button. The Panasonic thus allows good adaptability to one’s own needs, which, however, carries the risk of making the operation confusing. This already applies to the main menu with its scroll lists of up to nine pages due to the many options. The Quick menu, on the other hand, allows quick and clear access to the most important basic settings.
Apropos overview: The electronic viewfinder is the hammer in this respect! He has nothing in common with the tiny peepholes of past superzoom cameras. The 0.7x viewfinder magnification in 35mm equivalent is at full frame level and eclipses most APS-C DSLRs. The resolution of the OLED is 1.44 million pixels. That’s not quite as fine as with current mirrorless system cameras, but enough for a detailed picture. Only the approximately small exit pupil becomes a problem for spectacle wearers: The corners shade off. Of course, the FZ300 also offers diopter correction. The electronic viewfinder offers all the ads that the screen can come up with. Like a live histogram, white balance preview. Magnifying puncture, auxiliary lines, electronic spirit level or zebra function and of course focus peaking. The rear monitor is also not to be scoffed at because of its universal mobility and the touch function. With a diagonal of 7.5 centimeters and a resolution of over a million pixels, it offers a picture that is in keeping with its status.
Equipment and equipment
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 is equipped with pretty much everything you need for everyday photography. And also with the things you need less often – namely when it comes to special motifs. For example, the Lumix offers the carefree automatic “iA”, which works with a certain intelligence. It recognizes the motif on the basis of certain features and automatically sets the motif program. However, the FZ300 also distinguishes between subject movement and photographer movement and compensates for the latter with the Image Stabilizer to compensate for camera shake and/or selects a higher sensitivity to capture the subject with correspondingly short exposure times and avoid motion blur. If you like, you can also select the motif program manually. A panorama mode is of course not missing, the camera shoots a whole landscape with a simple pan. The FZ300 is also ideal for those who like to add effect filters to their pictures.
Creative photographers can dare to approach the program automatic, the semi-automatic or even the manual mode and set exposure parameters themselves. If you are unsure that creative photography is not possible with the small 1/2.3″ sensor, for example by means of free-standing effects, you are not completely wrong, but you are also not completely right. Thanks to the enormous focal length in the telephoto range, freestanding effects and a play with the depth of field can be achieved. After all, the lens zooms down to a real focal length of 108 millimeters with an aperture of F2.8. This allows a significantly lower depth of field than a DSLR with a set lens – only with a significantly longer focal length equivalent to a 35mm lens. Also the macro abilities are quite considerable. The close-up limit of only one centimetre from the front lens in wide-angle allows enormous magnifications, but causes problems when illuminating the subject. In the telephoto range, the close-up limit in macro mode is one meter, but in view of the long focal length, considerable magnifications are also possible here. But if you want to get into the macro world, a close-up lens or the original macro attachment from Panasonic is a good choice.
The Lumix takes three, five or seven shots with an exposure distance of 1/3, 2/3 or 1 EV. It thus covers a maximum range of +/-3 EV. It also covers this area with the built-in HDR function, which takes three pictures, aligns them automatically if desired, for example if you don’t use a tripod, and assembles them to a successful HDR photo. The HDR effect is visible, but not artificially exaggerated. With the continuous shooting function you can of course also create HDRs, then with adjustable effect, later on the PC. Speaking of post-processing on the PC: The FZ300 records either in raw data format or in JPEG or both simultaneously. So nothing stands in the way of a workflow with a digital darkroom.
The continuous shooting function is also very powerful and records up to twelve frames per second according to the data sheet. In practice, this value is even slightly outbid. In JPEG, the Lumix also lasts a respectably long time (over five seconds, in Raw it’s less than two seconds). However, if you want to see the live view instead of the last photo taken or even focus continuously, the continuous shooting rate drops to up to two frames per second. Such series can be recorded until the memory card is full. It also makes a difference whether you choose the electronic or the mechanical shutter. The electronic allows both shorter exposure times and faster image series. This is where you catch the rolling shutter effect, which can distort fast-moving motifs. The FZ300 also has the clever 4K continuous-advance function. This allows 30 frames per second to be recorded non-stop with a resolution reduced from twelve to eight megapixels and with AF-C and live images. The camera can record as long as the shutter-release button is held down, or the series can be started with the shutter-release button at the first press and stopped with the shutter-release button at the second. As a third option, the camera takes 60 pictures, half of them before and half after the shutter release – so the right moment is not missed. The post-focus function can also be counted to the continuous shooting function. It takes a whole series of pictures in 4K resolution, passing through the focus area of the subject. Later, the desired image can be conveniently extracted from the video sequence using the touch screen or a slider. Focus peaking and focus magnifying glass are also available.
Apropos 4K: Of course you can make video recordings in this resolution, but with a maximum of 25p. Switched back to Full HD, 50 frames per second are also possible. In addition, 720p and VGA resolution are available. It is stored in MP4 or as AVCHD, the latter only allowing Full HD recording. The FZ300 allows zooming during video recording, which is quite smooth, and the focus is also adjusted. Both are quiet, but not entirely silent. The zoom range depends on the selected resolution. In 4K the electronic image stabilizer is not active, the optical one works alone. Here the FZ300 zooms in from 27 to 648 millimeters. In Full HD with electronic image stabilizer, the image angle shifts to a 35mm equivalent of 30 to 720 millimeters. The sound enters the recording via the internal stereo microphone, but an external microphone can also be connected. In addition, the level can be controlled manually. The video recording button allows you to quickly start moving image recording at any time. However, advanced functions, such as setting the exposure time or aperture, are only available when the program dial is turned to video mode. The FZ300 is also suitable as a camcorder.
The integrated flash of the DMC-FZ300 has to be unfolded manually and raises pleasantly to create a certain distance to the optical axis and reduce shadows caused by the voluminous lens. Only at wide-angle close-up and down to ten centimeters can a slight shadow of the lens be seen on the underside of the image. Focusing below ten centimetres is only possible without the use of a flash. In addition to flash exposure correction, there is a long-time sync function, an auto sync function (only when the flash is unfolded), an anti-red-eye pre-flash function, and even the second shutter curtain, which speaks at the end of the exposure, can be flashed, which allows creative effects. With a guide number of a good 6.5, the flash is not too strong, however, so you need to increase the ISO sensitivity to achieve longer flash ranges. There is one other thing to keep in mind: Due to the rolling shutter effect, the flash can only be used with a mechanical shutter and thus with exposure times that are short by up to 1/4,000 seconds, but not by up to 1/16,000 second. There are many more flash settings in the main menu. It can be controlled completely manually and even offers a wireless flash function. Three external flash groups can be controlled differently weighted on four channels, the internal flash contributes strongly to the exposure as the fourth selectable group. Thanks to the TTL flash shoe, an external flash can also be used directly on the FZ300.
Photos taken once can be edited with the Lumix in playback mode. This is especially true for raw images, which can be converted into a JPEG afterwards. Numerous conversion parameters can be set here, from white balance and noise reduction to contrast and sharpness. Even effect filters can be applied to raw images afterwards (which doesn’t work with a JPEG). In addition, images can be reduced in size, rotated or cropped, and it is also possible to insert text or a title directly into the image. Video editing primarily involves splitting videos, but you can also create time-lapse videos and stop motion animations.
The Panasonic also has WLAN, but doesn’t use NFC to quickly connect to Android devices. With the help of the appropriate app for Android and iOS, not only images can be transferred, but remote control of the camera is also possible. The FZ300 streams the live image to the smartphone screen via WLAN with almost no delay, and various recording parameters can also be controlled. The GPS of the smartphone can be used for geotagging. The time of the camera is synchronized with the app at the push of a button. After activation, the smartphone records the location at an adjustable interval. At the next connection to the camera, the protocol can be transferred to the camera, which in turn enters the shooting positions into the metadata of the photos.
Despite its large case, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 only has a 6.2 x 4.6 mm tiny 1/2.3″ sensor, which nevertheless has a moderately high resolution of twelve megapixels. Superzoom lenses are also typically not an indication of good image quality. After all, the FZ300 scores with a continuous light intensity of F2.8, which is particularly valuable and unique in the telephoto range. Panasonic had to prove in the digitalkamera.de test laboratory how well it performs in terms of image quality. As usual, the extensive laboratory results with all measurement diagrams and explanations can be viewed for a small fee via the link at the end of the test report. The following considerations on image quality are based on this very laboratory test.
First, for reassurance: The measurement of the drop in sharpness related to a 20 x 30 centimeter photo shows a good sharpness of the lens at all apertures and focal lengths from the center to the edge of the picture. Even the edge darkening is small, even if its course in the wide-angle shows a spontaneous increase in the outermost corner. The image circle of the lens fits exactly on the sensor. The distortion is also surprisingly low. At the latest here it becomes clear that this must be digitally corrected. Nevertheless, the result counts. And this certifies that the lens has a minimum distortion of less than 0.5 percent at 25 millimeters; at medium and long focal lengths there is even no distortion at all. Chromatic aberrations are also very small and always remain below one pixel. Due to the modest resolution of 12 megapixels, they can still be easily seen on 20 x 30 centimetre prints on closer inspection.
Even if the sharpness is sufficient for 20 x 30 centimeters, this does not mean that the lens offers full resolution from the center to the edge of the image. The measurement of the resolution at 50 percent contrast (MTF50) reveals more precise details. Here the FZ300 achieves a respectable maximum of 43 line pairs per millimeter (lp/mm) in 35mm equivalent for 12 megapixels. However, these are only present in the center of the image at medium focal length when the aperture is open. In the wide angle it is 38 lp/mm in the center of the picture. The resolution decreases continuously during dimming, at F5.6 it is still 31 lp/mm and at F8 only 24. With the small sensor or the high pixel density, diffraction strikes very early. The high luminous intensity is therefore a real plus point. At the edge of the picture, the resolution in wide-angle is a good 20 to 30 percent lower than in the center. 30 lp/mm for open orifice and only 17 lp/mm for F8. For more than 20 x 30 centimeters the photos are no longer suitable when the aperture is closed at the latest. At medium focal length the resolution is higher overall. It starts at 43 lp/mm in the centre, but only with open aperture. Up to F8 it also decreases to 25 lp/mm due to diffraction. The edge of the picture is a good 30 lp/mm, but also drops significantly from F5.6 to F8 to 24 lp/mm. In telescopic position the resolution is typically the lowest. Only 20 to 31 lp/mm are achieved in the center of the image, depending on the aperture, and 19-23 lp/mm at the edge of the image.
But with the small image sensor, not only the resolution is decisive, but also the noise and dynamic range. The CMOS sensor performs surprisingly well with the signal-to-noise ratio. At ISO 100 a good 40 dB is achieved, but even up to and including ISO 1,600 it remains at the limit of 35 dB. Only when this value is undershot does the image signal sink too much into the noise. In fact, the brightness noise becomes only slightly visible above ISO 1.600. The color noise is even lower and only becomes visible at the highest sensitivity of ISO 6,400. Such values can only be achieved with dominant noise reduction. The measurement of texture sharpness shows whether it also irons away fine image details. In fact, this decreases from ISO 100 starting with each ISO level. Up to ISO 200, however, the images are absolutely rich in detail and even up to and including ISO 800, sufficient image details are preserved. For such a small sensor this is quite astonishing. Above ISO 1.600, however, the images become visibly soft or muddy. But if you only need small pictures for the internet (e.g. in Full-HD resolution) or if you only want to print postcard-sized photos, even very high ISO sensitivities will give you considerable results.
Up to ISO 400, the input dynamics are at a very high level of over eleven, even almost twelve f-stops. Even at ISO 1.600, the Lumix can handle ten f-stops of dynamic range. Even the worst value of 9.5 f-stops at ISO 6,400 is more than good enough. The tonal value curve is steep and the sharpness artifacts are also clearly measurable. Both, however, primarily contribute to photos with crisp contrasts and good sharpness for 12 megapixels. If you want more restrained image processing, you can adjust the corresponding parameters in the cameras or use the raw data format right away. The output tonal range shows sufficiently fine brightness gradations up to ISO 1,600, the actual color depth is also good up to this ISO sensitivity. Above all, however, up to ISO 400, the best results can be achieved with both measured values: Over four million color gradations and over 192 of 256 possible brightness gradations. The colour accuracy is also good on average. However, there are somewhat larger deviations in individual colors, mostly in saturation, but also in cyan in the hue, which is clearly bluer. The yellow is slightly shifted towards green.
The FZ300 also performs quite well in the laboratory when it comes to autofocus measurement, despite the fact that the serial frame rate with AF-C collapses so much. Here the processor simply seems to reach its limits. Thanks to DFD technology, it only takes 0.15 seconds from pressing the shutter release button to the wide-angle image, including focusing from infinity to two meters, to get into the box. In telescopic position, the value rises to 0.4 seconds, but here two meters are already the close-up limit of the standard focus range. The pure release delay after focusing is only 0.03 to 0.04 seconds and is therefore very fast.
With the Lumix DMC-FZ300, Panasonic has actually succeeded in significantly improving and perfecting its predecessor, the FZ200. The FZ300 offers a robust, cleanly manufactured housing with unusual splash water protection and a very nice ergonomics. The large viewfinder is a real joy to look at, but the moveable touchscreen monitor is not to be sneezed at either. The fact that the menu is somewhat confusing in view of the over-complete equipment is quite acceptable. Thanks to the automatic functions, it’s not only Foto-Nerds who succeed in taking good pictures with the FZ300, which delivers a surprisingly good image quality for its small sensor. The powerful lens and the relatively low-noise sensor make it possible to take good photos even under poor lighting conditions. 600 Euros is not a paperless price, but there is a full-blown superzoom bridge camera that gives a lot of pleasure when taking pictures and delivers good results.
Now with 4K video function and splash water protection
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 as successor model of the FZ200
Although the lens remains (it has an effective 5-axis image stabilizer), Panasonic has improved the housing of the compact camera, which now weighs around 100 grams with 690 grams. It is now protected against splash water and dust, making the FZ300 resistant to adverse shooting situations. In addition to the click/turn thumbwheel, there is now a second, restless adjustment wheel on the lens that can be used to focus manually, for example. Panasonic holds on to the two zoom levers, one on the lens and one on the shutter release button. Also a program selector wheel with intelligent automatic and the creative modes P, A, S and M for full manual control is still available. Inside, not only a more powerful Venus engine is used as the image processing processor, but also a revised 1/2.3″ sensor with twelve megapixels resolution. It supports an electronic shutter with shutter speeds of up to 1/16,000 second, the mechanical shutter reaches 1/4,000 second.
The FZ300 has now inherited the viewfinder from the Lumix-G series. Compared to 35mm, it offers an impressive 0.7x magnification – that’s more than some DSLRs have to offer. The resolution of the OLED viewfinder is 1.44 million pixels, the contrast is 10,000:1. While the predecessor model FZ200 still had to make do with a swivelling and rotatable 3″ LCD without touch function and with only 460,000 pixels, the FZ300 now has a touch screen with a resolution of 1.04 million pixels – Panasonic has retained the swivelling and rotatable capability. Thanks to the eye sensor on the viewfinder, the FZ300 automatically switches between monitor and viewfinder.
The FZ300 now uses the DFD autofocus technology of the Lumix-G models. Using two blurred reference images, the FZ300 calculates the focus distance in advance, similar to a phase autofocus, so that the focus plane can be jumped directly. The contrast autofocus does the fine tuning. The FZ300 should now focus within 0.09 seconds. The advantage of DFD technology is particularly noticeable with long focal lengths. The autofocus works optionally with 49 measuring fields, recognizes faces and focuses on the eyes, can be limited to a focus field or focused in pinpoint mode by fingertip on the touch screen on particularly small subject details, such as in a macro shot, which is possible from one centimeter in front of the front lens.
Even with low light of -3 EV, the FZ300 can still focus thanks to low-light AF, for example in moonlight. Manual focusing is supported by the focus magnifier and focus peaking. Tracking autofocus and video autofocus also benefit from DFD technology. Without AF tracking, the FZ300 can still take 12 continuous shots per second at a full 12 megapixels of resolution, but now achieves six instead of 5.5 frames per second with AF tracking. This focus is now even able to calculate the sharpness of moving subjects in advance, making it even more reliable.
The Lumix FZ300 now records videos in a maximum 4K resolution (approx. eight megapixels) at 24 or 25 frames per second. In Full HD it achieves 50 frames per second and in HD resolution even fast 100 frames per second for up to four times slow motion. And if the VGA resolution is enough for you, you can also record 240 frames per second. Thanks to the 3.5mm jack connection, an external stereo microphone can also be used instead of the internal one. Like the Lumix DMC-GX8 presented in parallel, the FZ300 also features a new 30 fps fast 4K continuous shooting function. Here, you can choose to record a long series (29 minutes and 59 seconds maximum as with videos) or 30 pictures before the shutter release button is pressed, or a series is started and stopped with the shutter release button. At the end of the year, the “Post Focus” function is to be retrofitted with a firmware update. At 30 frames per second, approximately 50 images with different focus are captured in 4K resolution. Similar to a light field camera, the focus point of the image can be determined afterwards.
The panorama mode now records not only 120-degree panoramas, but also 360-degree panoramas. This works with a simple pan of the camera. Instead of JPEG, the FZ300 can also save photos in raw data format. An integrated raw converter allows raw images to be processed in the camera. Thanks to WLAN, the Lumix makes contact with smartphones, tablets, televisions or even printers in order to transmit pictures. Equipped with the appropriate app for iOS or Android, the Lumix can also be remote controlled from a smartphone or tablet, including live image transmission. All the new, powerful functions, however, also cost a lot of energy, and so the lithium-ion battery is only sufficient for 380 instead of the 540 pictures that the FZ200 still achieved with one battery charge.
Thanks to the flash shoe, a system flash can be operated on the FZ300, its internal flash even allows wireless control of external system flashes. Panasonic also offers the close-up lens DMW-LC55 and the tele-converter DMW-LT55 as additional accessories.
|Sensor||CMOS 1/2.3″ 6.2 x 4.6 mm (crop factor 5.6
)12.8 megapixels (physical)
12.1 megapixels (effective)
|Crop factor effective||5,6-fold|
|Pixel pitch||1.5 µm|
|Resolution (max.)||4.000 x 3.000 (4:3)|
|Video (max.)||3.840 x 2.160 25p|
|Filter threads||52 mm built-in|
|Video viewfinder||EVF, 100 % field coverage, 1,440,000 pixels resolution, 3.88x magnification (sensor-related), 0.70x magnification (KB equivalent), diopter compensation|
|Monitor||3.0″ (7.5 cm)|
|AV connector||device-specific, HDMI output Micro (type D)|
|Automatic motif control||yes|
|Bulb long time exposure||yes|
|Panorama function||yes, Sweep panorama|
|Exposure metering||Multi-field, Centre-weighted Integral, Spot|
|fastest shutter speed||1/16.000 s|
|Synchronous time||1/4.000 s|
|Flash connection||Olympus/Panasonic (also Leica compact camera), standard center contact flash shoe|
|Remote release||yes, cable release, remote control via Smartphone/Tablet|
SD (SDHC, SDXC, UHS I)
|Number of measuring fields||49 Contrast sensors|
|Speed||0.15 to 0.40 s|
|AF auxiliary light||LED|
|Dimensions (WxHxD)||132 x 92 x 117 mm|
|Weight (ready for operation)||689 g|
|Tripod socket||outside the optical axis|
|Zoom adjustment||Ring rocker (motorized), Zoom rocker (motorized)|
|Battery life||380 images according to CIPA standard|
|– = “not applicable” or “not available”|
This test of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 was created with DxO Analyzer from DxO Labs.
- Continuously fast lens with large focal length coverage
- Well made, very ergonomic, splash-proof housing
- Large scope of equipment
- Good 4K video quality and smart 4K continuous shooting function
- Amazingly good image quality even at ISO 800
- Tripod thread is not in the optical axis
- Somewhat weak resolution in the telephoto range
- Partially confusing (because long) menus
Firmware updates 2.0 for Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300, GX8 and G70
The 4K continuous shooting function resolves 3,840 x 2,160 pixels (about 8.3 megapixels) and operates at a fast 30 frames per second. The post-focus function controls up to 49 focus positions in succession during such continuous shooting. The 4K continuous-advance function does not produce single images, but a video. When playing back in the camera, the desired focus point can be selected with a fingertip (touch focus) and the image can be saved as JPEG. Focus peaking and a focus magnifier can also be used as aids. But it is also possible to edit the image afterwards on a PC, where the image can simply be extracted as a still image with the correct sharpness level. Panasonic, on the other hand, does not provide a stacking function. If you extract all single frames of the video, you could also do that with the appropriate software.
The firmware update 2.0 for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 brings only this new post-focus function, while the firmware update 2.0 for the Lumix DMC-GX8 improves the compatibility of the remote release. The update 2.0 for the Lumix DMC-G70 contains besides the post focus function an improved performance when connecting a device to HDMI and an improved performance during burst shooting. The updates can be downloaded from the Panasonic website