Cathy Pemberton Reviews the FZ1000

Posted May. 19th, 2015 by Jill Mangum

Many of our Explorers have shown an interest in finding a camera system that is smaller and lighter than a traditional DSLR but also produces professional results. Cathy Pemberton gave the relatively new LUMIX FZ1000 a try in Costa Rica, so I invited her to share her experience for our blog audience. Take it away Cathy.

– Daniel J. Cox

Panasonic FZ1000 by Cathy Pemberton

My usual camera/lens combination for shooting wildlife is a Nikon D800 with an 80-400mm zoom lens. I knew that our upcoming trip to Costa Rica would involve a lot of walking on trails and hand-held shooting. I was concerned about the weight of the Nikon equipment and my ability to carry and shoot with it for an entire trip and began thinking about alternatives.

The first time I used a Panasonic FZ1000 was last year in Brazil when Dan let my husband and me borrow his camera. At the time, I was thinking the FZ1000 might be a good camera for my sister, who is a birder but not a serious photographer. We were very pleased with quality of the images and the fact that it was so lightweight and easy to use. The FZ1000 at 29 oz. is one third the weight of the D800/80-400mm combination (86 oz.). And it covers a wider range of focal lengths than the Nikon zoom. We ended up purchasing a FZ1000 shortly before our trip.

I used the FZ1000 almost exclusively on our trip to Costa Rica even though I brought the Nikon gear with me. I used the Nikon when I could set up on a tripod but for the first time I found it extremely difficult to try and hand-hold it. It was just too heavy. The FZ1000 was good because I was able to go from wide angle to a telephoto in one lightweight camera. This proved to be very helpful on our first day in Costa Rica. We visited Irazu Volcano National Park and toured the city of San Jose. During the tour we were able to photograph the volcano and the city utilizing both the wide angle and telephoto lens options. This was really nice because we normally would have taken two camera bodies to accommodate the wide range in focal lengths. Generally when touring a city in a foreign country we prefer to carry as small a camera as possible to avoid drawing attention to ourselves.

The bus driver carries a sloth off the road to safety.

The bus driver carries a sloth off the road to safety.

You know the saying; “The best camera is the one you have with you.” Since the weight of the FZ1000 was not an issue I almost always had it with me. Whether riding in the bus or walking from our cabin to the main dining area for a meal I took the camera with me because I’m always looking for photographic opportunities. I was glad that I had the camera in my lap on the bus during the trip because our driver spotted a sloth on the road and I was able to get some photos of him carrying the sloth to safety. Another time was on our last day in Costa Rica. We spotted a motmot while sitting on our balcony at Finca Rosa Blanca Coffee Plantation Resort. By the time I grabbed the camera it was gone. I was very disappointed that I missed my opportunity to photograph this beautiful bird. As we packed for the airport I decided to keep the camera with me instead of packing it into the camera bag. As we stepped out of the room the motmot flew into the trees directly across from us. With the FZ1000 in hand I got the shot.

Blue-crowned motmot, Finca Rosa Blanca, Costa Rica

Blue-crowned motmot, Finca Rosa Blanca, Costa Rica

One of the features I like most about the camera is the articulated screen which allows me to get low to the ground or to photograph subjects that are too high for me. I really like being able to get low to the ground and take photographs at the same level as an animal. This feature allowed me to capture some good photos of raccoons as they approached us in Manuel Antonio National Park as well as photographs of Agouti and Coati at Bosque del Cabo.

I don’t do very well adjusting to new cameras but the layout of the FZ1000 was easy to learn. One of the things I don’t like is the method for exposure compensation. The rear thumbwheel is used to both adjust and toggle between the shutter speed and exposure compensation and if you are not careful you may end up adjusting the wrong thing. Also, it is relatively easy to turn off the image stabilization by bumping the switch on the lens barrel.

One thing that I wish the FZ1000 had is a touch screen. I have used the Panasonic GH3 and like the touch screen because it is fast and easy to move the focus spot around and adjust the size of the spot. Dan showed me how to turn on the direct focus area option via the menu which allowed me to move my focusing square with the multi-selector switch, similar to the Nikon, instead of having to make multiple selections using a selector button on the back of the camera. However, making this change prevents the use of the back cursor buttons for directly selecting ISO, macro, and white balance adjustments. For me having the direct focus area selection on is better as I generally do not make adjustments to ISO, white balance, etc. very often. Also there are other ways of easily making these adjustments, and many more, on the back of the camera.

In conclusion I’m very happy that we purchased the FZ1000. The quality of the images I captured in Costa Rica has convinced me that I will be using this camera a lot in the future. Also the fact that it is relatively small and lightweight makes it easy to carry around with me all the time. This camera will not replace my Nikon but to me it is a very welcome addition.

Dragonfly, Bosque del Cabo

Dragonfly, Bosque del Cabo

Capuchin monkey, Manuel Antonio National Park

Capuchin monkey, Manuel Antonio National Park

Sloth in a tree.

Sloth in a tree.

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There are 3 comments on this post…
  1. Portrait of Jane Scott Norris

    Jane NorrisOn May. 24th, 2015

    Thanks for writing this thoughtful article Cathy. It’s a more meaningful appraisal knowing you are used to the “big” gear. I recently bought a GH-4 system and use it for touring cities because it is so lightweight and flexible. Your pictures are great and now I need to add Costa Rica to my list!

  2. glenn jampolOn May. 20th, 2015

    Beautiful picture Cathy of the Mot-Mot, a territorial bird whose nest is made on the ground. We have many at Finca Rosa Blanca as they love the dense foliage and our organic maintenance of our grounds. In all, we have spotted more than 120 species of birds here.
    We hope to see you again when you can go on a birdwatching tour with Maniolo our bird guide and expert.

  3. Portrait of Christine Crosby

    Christine CrosbyOn May. 19th, 2015

    it was cool to observe you using this Camera in action Kathy and see it’s applications while shooting side by side! I think we might “need” one of these too after watching you use it, seeing how light and easy to carry it is and the beautiful images you were able to capture with it!

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