12 Jun 2014

Shock new 4K camera from Panasonic: The FZ1000 is well under 1,000 USD

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FZ1000 FZ1000 Panasonic/RedShark


This is a camera that changes everything in its market sector: 4K for less than 1,000 USD

We had to take a deep breath when we saw this. It is, to say the least, a step-change in the 4K camera market.  To put that more precisely: the cat is well and truly amongst the pidgins.

The Panasonic FZ1000 is a still camera, with a non-interchangeable lens, a 1", 20.1 Mpixel sensor, and it comes in well under $1000 dollars.

Now, before anyone dismisses this because it doesn't have interchangeable lenses, just consider what this means. If the lens is a good one, and the chances are that it is, then you can buy this camera and go out shooting in 4K for under $1000. That's it. You don't need an expensive bag of dust-attracting lenses, and you'll have the benefit of the lens optimisation that fixed lens cameras are able to do because they have such a close relationship with their own optics. All you'll need is the usual assortment of mechanical parts to turn this into something that you can hold like a video camera.

Aimed at the Sony RX10

I'm writing this as a Sony RX10 owner. This is clearly the camera that the FZ1000 is aimed at. There are striking similarities: the sensor specifications, and the fact that the new Panasonic and the Sony RX10 are the only cameras to occupy a slot that doesn't have a name yet. You can only really refer to it as "fixed-lens cameras with high specification that seem a bit expensive until you realise how good they are"!

There are differences. The Sony isn't 4K and the Panasonic is. And while the Panasonic is actually potentially cheaper (on the street), it doesn't share the Sony's metal body, nor its extremely sharp lens with a fixed F2.8 apperture. It's not weather sealed, either. It's the lens that makes the Sony truly outstanding and we'll have to see how close the Panasonic comes to this if it's to be seen as a true competitor, although for anyone that hasn't experienced the RX10, this will be a moot point.

Any of these features are enough to account for more than the cost difference, but none of them invalidate any claim that the Panasonic should be a superb camera for the price.

What FZ1000 users can certainly expect is a measure of video sophistication in facilities and the way it's handled, many of which will have trickeled down from the GH4, which seemed to us more like a professional video camera in a still camera body. One example is the autofocus, which, if it really is the same as the GH4, is very fast and accurate.

The Venus Engine

There's a new processor "The Venus Engine" that is designed with 4K video in mind. We don't know whether this means that 4K and HD are downsampled from the entire sensor or if the less sophisticated line-skipping and decimation common to DSLRs is used, but it seems likely that the former will be the case, so you should expect some very smooth images.

There's a clean HDMI out as well so you'll be able to use HDMI recorders including - one assumes - Atomos' 4K Shogun when it hits the shelves, hopefully later this year.

There's a slew of other details in the press release after the break. Meanwhile, here's a second opinion on the launch of the FZ1000 from a long time Panasonic user

Read our review of the Sony RX10 here

Read RedShark's further coverage of the FZ1000 here: A bridge (camera) too far?

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David Shapton

David is the Editor In Chief of RedShark Publications. He's been a professional columnist and author since 1998, when he started writing for the European Music Technology magazine Sound on Sound. David has worked with professional digital audio and video for the last 25 years.

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