The bridge category is the specialty of Panasonic, both in the field of large 1 inch sensor with the FZ1000 and FZ2000, as in that of traditional sensors, where the FZ200 and FZ300 dominate without sharing. Cheaper, the FZ82 sets the benchmark for zoom power from the Osaka brand with a 60x zoom and wide angle that starts at 20mm. A great promise, but …
Power is not everything (far from it)
Let’s start by answering a legitimate question that could inspire any neophyte looking for information on bridges for less than 500 euros. How can a device that only zooms x24 like the FZ300 be more expensive than this FZ82 (x60) which also benefits from a wider wide angle?
This is simply because in photography, as in many areas (sound with watts, etc.), the value of a single indicator does not in any way presume the quality of the product. Yes, the FZ82 zooms a lot more than the FZ300 but the fact that it is cheaper must make you think.
First, the optics of the FZ82, which must make the gap between 20 and 1200 mm must make much more compromise than that of the FZ300. Then, the brightness of the FZ82 is not constant: it goes well at wide angle (f / 2.8) to quickly go to mediocre when zooming (f / 5.9). Ultimately, the optical quality is beyond measure: the FZ300’s objective lenses, a 24-720 mm lens, are of a much higher standard. All this to say that we expected much more limited performance than the FZ300, a feeling that turned out to be right.
From very wide to very far
The large optical range (20 to 1200 mm) is the flagship argument of this FZ82. Which is all the more attractive than the wide-angle value equivalent to 20 mm instead of a conventional 25 mm, amplifies the effect of space, of vastness. The optics are far from perfect in wide angle, with weaknesses on the edges of the image, especially when examining the pictures with a magnifying glass, but overall the result is very satisfactory for small prints .
The x60 zoom on the other side of the spectrum is less convincing: the pictures are too often blurred and cruelly lacking in finesse. In addition to the quality of the lenses, which are necessarily subject to strong cost constraints, the FZ82 lens must face very severe diffraction, very visible at the end of the zoom. In our opinion, the value of 700 mm (in 24×36 equivalent) is the optimum quality limit. Do you understand why we maintain that the 720 mm (at f / 2.8) of the FZ300 is sufficient compared to the 1200 mm of the FZ82?
Too many pixels
With optics subject to so many constraints, we are a little surprised that Panasonic opted for an 18 Mpix sensor when its FZ300, equipped with much better optics, is limited to 12 Mpix to maintain a good level of quality. This surplus of pixels, coupled with the low luminosity of the optics, explain the lack of punch and the somewhat hazy character of a majority of images when you start to zoom a little. The mediocre 18 Mpix sensors are undoubtedly less expensive than the good 12 Mpix sensors, but we would have appreciated that Panasonic made another choice, even if it meant charging 10 euros more…
In wide angle and with a lot of light we still manage to get quality shots, which is logical given the know-how of Panasonic. But that’s a lot of constraints to be respected to be truly satisfied with the service.
Good shoot experience
If the image quality is not stellar, the shoot experience is very good: there is no lag between the image that we frame and what we shoot like on some bridges of entry-level competition. The reason is that Panasonic’s mastery of its electronics and especially autofocus is excellent. Fortunately because it takes almost 3 seconds to get out of its torpor when it is turned on!
This responsiveness combined with the small electronic viewfinder which turns out to be very correct make the FZ82 a pleasant device to use, especially since it is not too heavy and its zoom responds quickly. If the absence of a dial on the front under the right index finger is not very serious, given the target audience, we deplore that of the adjustable screen, which is very practical for framing at ground level.
RAW, 4K and wireless connectivity
In line with its massive investment in video technology, Panasonic has equipped this entry-level bridge with 4K video, with good quality encoding – as long as you don’t zoom in too much and there is enough light. The 15-minute recording limit should not handicap users, especially since this limit increases to 30 minutes in Full HD (for legal reasons: above this value, a video recording fee applies to all devices). Wifi and remote control are also part of it, but it is quite likely that it is more to fill out the technical sheet than to meet the real needs of occasional users.
In terms of image enhancement, the RAW format is there. An interesting file format … from a certain level of component quality and a certain level of size. Too small, the FZ82’s sensor does not produce very interesting RAW files – the level of details recovered does not justify its use outside exceptional situations, such as scenes with difficult lights where one can recover a little bit of material in the clouds. Clearly: in 99.99% of cases, the FZ82’s internal Jpeg processing engine will do a much better job than you with your RAW processing software.
A default choice
Between this FZ82 at 349 euros and the FZ300 at 489 euros, there is a difference of 140 euros. A significant sum for certain budgets, we are aware of this. But in terms of the general performance of the FZ300, we can only encourage you to save the said amount and move up a gear. Because unless you really need a 20mm – a need that is perfectly understandable – the FZ300 is so much superior to its little brother that it is almost indecent: better image quality, better optics (brighter , sharper), better viewfinder, adjustable and touch screen, tropicalized design, 4K burst, etc.