Not everyone wants an interchangeable lens camera, but plenty of people want a bit more flexibility than the average phone or even compact camera can muster. For these people, bridge cameras are ideal, provided that they’re not looking for a camera to slip in a pocket. The FZ82, known as the FZ80 in some regions is the latest bridge camera from Panasonic and it replaces the FZ72. Our Panasonic FZ82/FZ80 review has all the information you need to decide if this is perfect camera for your photography.
Inside the FZ82 is a 1/2.3-inch sensor with 18.8 million effective pixels. This is paired with the same processing engine as Panasonic’s former flagship interchangeable lens camera, the GH4. Together this combo enables a standard sensitivity range of ISO 80-3200, and an expansion setting taking it up to ISO 6400.
The big draw for the FZ82 remains the same as for the FZ72, its 60X zoom lens which has a focal length range equivalent to 20-1200mm. There’s also a minimum shooting distance of 1cm from the front element.
The wide-angle end of the lens is wider than most other bridge cameras, making it a good choice for shooting cramped interiors or wide landscapes. Meanwhile the telephoto end is useful for shooting very distant objects.
Helpfully, the new camera has a Lens Position Resume option, which returns it to the last focal length that was used when it was turned off.
Further good news is that POWER O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer) is built-in to reduce the chance of hand-shake spoiling photos or videos.
The new additions to the feature set in comparison with the FZ72 include 4K Photo mode, Post Focus and Focus Stacking mode. 4K Photo mode enables 8Mp images to be captured at a rate of 30 frames per second, while Post Focus mode allows you to shoot a sequence of images with different focus points so you can select the perfect shot. Focus Stacking mode builds on Post Focus mode by merging shots to create an image with wider depth of field (the sharp zone) than would otherwise be possible.
A new Light Composition mode promises to make it easier to shoot subjects such as fireworks by enabling you to use 4K Photo mode to record a short clip of video and then select a section in review mode to composite together to make a still image. A ‘Lighten’ blend mode is used so that only the brighter parts of subsequent frames are used in addition to the image in the first frame.
As you’d expect from a new Panasonic camera, it’s also possible to shoot 4K video.
Panasonic has given the FZ82 its DFD (Depth from Defocus) autofocus technology, helps speed focusing. This system looks at data from two images with different focus distances to enable it to calculate the distance to the subject – it all happens very quickly. Panasonic claims that this enables an AF response time of approximately 0.09 sec. My experience with a pre-production sample of the FZ82 saw no reason to doubt this claim as it focused quickly on the targets I directed it towards.
Panasonic FZ82/FZ80 Build and handling
At 616g with a memory card (SD/SDHC/SDXC) and battery installed the FZ82 is10g heavier than the FZ72. In comparison to a high-end camera like the Panasonic GH5, it feels pretty lightweight, but its plastic body feels well put together for a model with such a modest launch price (£329.99).
The large front grip and textured thumb-rest also make it comfortable to hold and use.
Panasonic has dramatically improved upon the FZ72’s viewfinder for the FZ82 and the new camera has a 0.2-inch device with 1,170,000 dots (up from 200,000 dots). It’s still quite small, but it provides a good view that will be especially appreciated in bright sunny conditions when it can be hard to compose images on a screen.
That said, Panasonic has also improved upon the screen and the FZ82 has a 3-inch 1,040,000-dot device that is touch-sensitive. In addition, there’s Panasonic’s Touchpad AF which enables you to set the AF point with your finger or thumb in the screen while you’re looking through the viewfinder – it’s very useful.
One disappointment is that there’s no sensor to detect when the camera is held to your eye so you have to keep pressing the button to switch between the two devices. After a while you get into the habit of pressing the button as you lower the camera from your eye, but a sensor would be nice.
It would also be nice to have a vari-angle screen to make it easier to shoot from high or low angles, but this and the eye-sensor would add to the cost of the camera.
While there are lots of creative options available with the FZ82, it as an uncluttered control arrangement and the menu isn’t excessively long. It doesn’t take long to find all the main features.
Panasonic FZ82/FZ80 Performance
On the whole the FZ82 produces bright, attractive images with little intervention required from the photographer.
Most images shot at ISO 1600 and below look great on-screen at around 220x170mm (9×6-inches). Step-up to ISO 3200 and luminance noise starts to become visible along with softening of detail in jpeg files. Those images taken at ISO 6400 have reduced colour saturation and a slightly diffused appearance, making the setting best avoided. High sensitivity (ISO) raw files have more luminance noise visible, but it’s a fine texture and evenly distributed and I find them preferably to the more smooth, plastic look of simultaneously captured jpegs.
If you zoom into 100%, even images taken at ISO 80 and 100 have a slight texture and the jpegs had what looks like compression artefacts in some areas. However at normal printing and viewing sizes the results generally look good – especially if you’re shooting outdoors in sunshine.
In the default settings the FZ82 tends to replicate the drab colours of an overcast winter’s day a little too well, but when the sun comes out images come to life, looking much more vibrant and attractive. I found that the auto white balance setting sometimes produced slightly warmer, more attractive images than the daylight setting in overcast conditions.
While it’s not the ideal camera for shooting sport, the FZ82’s AF system coped reasonably well with a few moving subjects. The Tracking AF was able to keep up with quite a few wildfowl as they swam around, only loosing them when they or the camera made a very sudden movement. In Single Point and Continuous AF mode the camera is able to get subjects sharp pretty quickly and generally keeps them sharp if there’s some contrast under the selected AF point.
With a 60x zoom range and a maximum focal length equivalent to 1200mm some form of stabilisation is essential. I found that I was able to get sharp images at 1/125sec, more than 3 stops less than is normally recommended.
While the long reach of the lens allows you to photograph distant objects, some times giving tight framing of objects that are barely noticeable in images captured at the 20mm end, this often means that there’s haze or fog between the camera and the subject. This can soften images and reduce the contrast of shots taken at the longest focal length. However, when the telephoto setting used to capture smaller objects that are some distance away, such as wildlife, there’s less haze and you get a better view of the optic’s capabilities. Naturally it can’t compete with a long lens on a camera with a much bigger sensor, but it’s capable of producing very attractive results that are ideal for sharing on Facebook and on the mantlepiece.
Images are sharp enough to make nice small prints and for sharing on the usual social platforms and chromatic aberration distortion are controlled well.
It’s worth noting that at the 20mm point the lens aperture range spans f/2.8 to f/8 in 1/3EV while at the 1200mm end it is reduced to f/5.9-f/8.
Panasonic FZ82/FZ80 Verdict
Few enthusiast or pro photographers have a lens with a focal length that matches the 1200mm equivalence of the FZ82 at it’s longest point. It opens up a wealth of opportunities from photographing wildlife and landmarks to getting tightly framed portraits of the kids playing undisturbed.
The FZ82 combines this huge telephoto reach with a wider-than-average lens, which is useful for shooting landscapes or indoors, making it extremely versatile and fun to use. It’s a great focal length range for day trips and holidays if you don’t want the hassle of interchangeable lenses.
Add in features such as 4K video recording, 4K Photo Mode and Touchpad AF and it’s an enticing package.