The Lumix Diaries: Adventures in the Pantanal (Continued)

Posted Aug. 20th, 2014 by Daniel J. Cox

The Lumix Diaries Adventures in the Pantanal (Continued) is an update to what I started writing a little over a week ago. I had high hopes of being able to keep up with photography, helping our Explorers, and writing the Blog during this time. Alas, I’m a bit behind on the Blog since Explorers come first, photography comes  second, and finally the Blog. That said, here’s the update.

Here’s a link to my Natural Exposures Explorers 25 Favorite Images from the Pantanal.

August 1, 2014 – Cuiabá, Brazil

Tanya and I arrived in Brazil two days early, and as usual, wanting to get to our destination before our guests arrive. Three of our Explorers also arrived early in Cuiabá and we all decided to do an exploratory trip to a place called Pousada Reino Encantado Springs. Pousada Reino Encantado is a natural spring that pours out of the beautiful sand in the middle of the Brazilian outback. Judy, Pam, Freddy, and I were hired a driver and set out to explore what we had heard was a wonderful clear water spring oasis.

It was almost a three hour drive from the city; the roads were mostly good and we passed through a lot of dry farm country on our way through the Cerrado region of Brazil. We saw mostly birds – the highlight a Burrowing Owl family living right alongside the highway. We stopped for a few photos which allowed me to test the new Lumix FZ1000 for the first time.

A burrowing owl sits on q fence post near it's new in the ground. Lumix ZF1000

A Burrowing Owl sits on a fence post near its nest in the ground. Lumix FZ1000

Around 9:00am we arrived at the little farm that Pousada Reino Encantado Springs bubbles up from. We’re all outfitted with a mask, snorkel, and a life jacket before we make our way down a lovely trail to the crystal clear waters of the freshwater spring.

Fresh water springs at the head of the Salobra River, Brazil

Freshwater springs at the head of the Salobra River, Brazil. GoPro Black

Our guide instructs us to keep our feet off the bottom as best we can since it stirs the water and restricts vision. We all walk down the wooden boardwalk that ends at the water’s edge and slowly dip beneath the surface to an experience that can only be described as swimming in an aquarium.

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Piraputanga, a beautiful fish species similar in size and build to a large trout. Lumix FZ1000

Fish were everywhere. Some were colorful, others were huge, all of them in great numbers. I was carrying a GoPro Black video camera with an underwater housing and wow, was I happy I had a way to record some of what we saw. The largest fish we encountered was in the Pacu family, big black creatures that looked as if they were somewhere around 10 to 15 pounds. They swam in groups and seemed to have no interest in our presence. We also had large groups of Piraputanga, a beautiful creature similar in size and build to a large trout. They were gorgeous.

After spending time in the main part of the spring, we began about an hour-long journey, drifting downstream in the gin clear waters of this amazing jungle tributary. We saw several other types of fish including a freshwater ray. Interestingly, many of the fish we saw looked as if they had come from the ocean, yet they were all freshwater creatures.

Freddy and Judy take a break from our swim down the Salobra River, Brazil

Freddy and Judy take a break from our swim down the Salobra River, Brazil. GoPro Black

A local guide once told me, and I hope this is accurate info, that there are many saltwater-like fish that actually live in the freshwater in Brazil. Apparently many tens of thousands, maybe even millions, of years ago, much of Brazil’s land was flooded by ocean water which deposited saltwater fish in the freshwater rivers and lakes. As the land rose over time, the fish adapted and many now thrive in a freshwater environment. If anyone out there has more info on this theory, I would love to have you share details on where I can find out more information. However they came to be, the fish were a magnificent experience and one I’ll never forget.

August 2, 2014 – Cuiabá, Brazil

On our first morning as a group, we gather in the hotel lobby to board the bus that will take us to our lodge on the Pixiam River. It’s a wonderful, small ranch that was purchased specifically for ecotourism. This particular land lodge is more of a birding and Giant River Otter kind of stopover. It’s not a place to expect to see jaguars, but they are there. We’ll be here for two nights, spending most of our time in boats patrolling the riverbanks for otters and the many different bird species. Here we saw a lot of different kingfishers, along with caiman galore, capybara, several pairs of Jabiru Storks, and a family of Giant River Otters. Lots and lots of wildlife.

I’d like to mention, before leaving Cuiabá, we stop at a Mr. Roberto’s place, which he has set aside as his own mini wildlife reserve. Unfortunately, it’s an island of wild forest that used to be on the edge of the city but is now being encroached on all sides by civilization. Cuiabá has a population of over 500,000 people, and the city seems to be booming with new condos, strip malls, and all things related to big cities.

Our group makes its way down the forest trail as our host Mr. sits the gate behind us. Lumix FZ1000

Our group of Explorers make their way down the forest trail as our host Mr. Roberto shuts the gate behind us. Lumix FZ1000

Mr. Roberto works for the Brazil forestry service as a ranger and with all his heart wants to keep his small island of forest in tact for the animals that live there. Most exciting is the Black-tailed Marmoset, a wonderful small new-world primate that lives in two family groups on his property. He calls them down for us to see and photograph.

A beautiful Black-tailed Marmoset makes it's way down a tree in to position for a good photo. Lumix FZ1000

A beautiful Black-tailed Marmoset makes its way down a tree into position for a good photo. Lumix FZ1000

Mr. Roberto wants to keep his land wild, but the amount of money he can get for selling along with the taxes he is now having to pay due to the increase in value of his land, are two things pushing him to think about selling out. He would rather not, but his tax bill is now enormous and he has no way to pay. The ecotourism operation we work with trying to establish consistent ecotrouism that will help him pay his taxes and protect the land for the Black-tailed Marmosets and other animals. It’s the same old story wherever you go around the world. Too many people and too few places for the animals that humans displace.

Our group points their cameras to the trees where a group of habituated Black-taild Marmosets come down to feed on bananas. Lumix ZF1000

Our group points their cameras to the trees where a group of habituated Black-taild Marmosets come down to feed on bananas. Lumix FZ1000

We take as many photos as possible and then make our way back to the bus. On the road outside the reserve, the obvious is impossible to miss. All around this miniature reserve are tractors dozing, new buildings already half built, new roads being scraped from the landscape. It won’t be long before the Black-tailed Marmosets are homeless it seems. I’m hopeful tourism will save their home.

Construction at the edges of a small blact-taild marmoset reserve in the middle of Cuiaba, Brazil.

Construction at the edges of a small of a private preserve in the middle of Cuiaba, Brazil. Lumix FZ1000

 

Apartment buildings being built on the edge of a private black-tailed marmoset reserve in Cuiaba, Brazil

Apartment buildings being built on the edge of a private Black-tailed Marmoset reserve in Cuiaba, Brazil. Lumix FZ1000

The following entry for Augusts 2nd was originally run in an earlier Blog post. I’ve decided to include it in this final entry about the overall trip. The entry below was our second part of the day after we arrived at the land lodge. Some of the beginning is a little redundant, but I’ve left the entry as it so as not to have to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. 

It’s our first full day at the lodge in the Pantanal of Brazil. I’m here with a group of enthusiastic photographers who are part of our Brazil Pantanal Jaguar Wildlife Photo Expedition Invitational Photo Tour. Before I left home I was fortunate to have Panasonic send me one of their hotly anticipated and currently available so-called “Bridge Camera”, the Lumix FZ1000. What is a “Bridge Camera”? It’s a poorly named group of cameras that are supposed to be targeted to folks who are upgrading from point and shoots and iPhones to a more sophisticated, serious, picture-taking machine. A Bridge Camera, also known as an all-in-one compact, comes with a built-in lens that can’t be changed. The lens typically goes from fairly wide to substantial telephoto. The Lumix FZ1000 has a lens that reaches from a very acceptable wide angle of 25mm to a respectable long end of 400mm. Even more impressive is the fact this all-in-one lens is an F/2.8 at 25mm and  to F/4 at 400mm. Hard to believe but true.

A pair of Jabiru storks at sunset, Pantanal, Brazil

A pair of Jabiru Storks at sunset, Pantanal, Brazil. Lumix FZ1000

When I first became aware of the Lumix FZ1000 I started thinking about how nice this particular device would be for people who travel and may not be hardcore photographers. On this trip, 50% of the folks who are with us consider themselves birders. All of them have a camera, but 50% don’t take their photography very seriously. The FZ1000 is perfect for this type of person. It requires no bag of interchangeable lenses, it’s a relatively small package, and it’s exceptionally easy to use and produces stunning photos. What more could you ask for?

Great Egret, Pantanal, Brazil.

Great Egret in flight. Pantanal, Brazil. Lumix FZ1000

So far the FZ1000 is working so well it’s actually outperforming my Lumix GH4. Let me explain. Quite simply, the telephoto lens on the FZ1000 is so fast and so accurate that it’s actually shooting better images than the GH4 when the GH4 is attached to the very under performing 100-300mm F/4-5.6 zoom that I use for wildlife. The is even more proof of how badly Panasonic needs to upgrade the 100-300m. The GH4 is a rocket with the professional grade 35-100mm F/2.8, but the 100-300mm just can’t keep up with a flying bird. The Lumix FZ1000 can, at least with the bird flying broadside to the camera. Straight at the camera is something to be determined in the future.

Jabaru stork in flight, Pantanal, Brazil. Lumix FZ1000

Jabaru Stork in flight, Pantanal, Brazil. Lumix FZ1000

August 3, 2014 – Pantanal, Brazil

After two nights at the land lodge, we pack our gear and head even deeper into the Pantanal. We’re staying on a flotel, or a floating hotel, for the next five nights. This will be the base for our daily excursions while searching for jaguars and other creatures along the riverbanks. The flotel is an interesting lodge. The suites are nothing short of luxurious, though it does have a series of much less fancy accommodations too. Tanya and I stayed in one of the suites this year and it was a wonderful experience.

One of the suites on the Jaguar Flotel/Lodge, Pantanal, Brazil

One of the suites on the flotel. Pantanal, Brazil

The Pantanal received record rainfall not seen in 20 years a week before we arrived. Even so, there were still many sand bars for the cats to hunt from, so I’m not so sure higher water levels contributed to a reduced the number of sightings compared to previous years. Another element which was different than previous years was an increase in cat lovers wanting to see jaguars. Not necessarily more boats than last year, but the boats were larger and they allowed for more people. Maybe the cats are becoming more shy due to viewing pressure. It’s one year, so I’m not ready to agree with this theory either.

A mother Jaguar comes down to the river to drink as one of her two cubs look on. Lumix ZF1000

A mother jaguar comes down to the river to drink as one of her two cubs look on. Lumix FZ1000, ISO 320

It was quite obviously a different year, and usually each year is unique. I’ll wait for several more seasons before coming to any unscientific conclusions. That said, Jaguar Land is becoming very popular and that suggests to me that we need to expand the area where people have access to see these amazing creatures.

Waiting for a view of a Jaguar is getting crowded. FZ1000 25-400mm zoom.

Waiting for a view of a jaguar is getting crowded. FZ1000 25-400mm zoom

For this trip, like Alaska, I had both Lumix and Nikon equipment. I had actually planned on using my Nikon gear much more than I actually did. Overall, I shot just short of 17,500 images, and of that number just 1,200 images were captured with my Nikon cameras. Why so few? It had a lot to do with me getting very comfortable with the Lumix 100-300mm lens I wasn’t so fond of in the past.

Tools of the multi-media trade. Nikon D800 & 600mm F/4, GoPro Black Edition, Lumix GH4 & 100-300mm, Lumix GM1 & 12-32mm, Lumix LZ 1000 with 25-400mm

Tools of the multi-media trade. Nikon D800 and 600mm F/4, GoPro Black Edition, Lumix GH4 and 100-300mm, Lumix GM1 and 12-32mm, Lumix FZ1000 with 25-400mm

Lumix GH4 with 100-300mm zoom

The Lumix Vario 100-300mm has a wonderfully useful range for wildlife and nature. Remember every lens for Micro Four Thirds systems needs to be multiplied by 2, so the 100-300mm is actually a 200-600mm zoom. That’s an amazing range for animal and nature photography. In the past I was never quite happy with the results I was seeing from this lens, but after a lot of additional use, I think I’ve finally figured out why I wasn’t getting what I’ve always wanted with this extremely powerful optic.

First of all, at the 300mm (600mm equivalent), it’s an extremely powerful telephoto lens. In the world of photography, 600mm is considered a Super Telephoto. Because of this, I believe part of the reason the photographs from this lens seem less than stellar, is due to the difficulty of handholding a lens so powerful. The 100-300mm is extremely light, and it’s easy to forget how much magnification you’re actually working with. When I shot it on tripod or concentrated on holding exceptionally still when shooting handheld, the results were impressive. Much, much better than I’ve expected from this lens.

Southern Carcara in late evening light shot with has superb detail in the feathers and the head. Shot hand held with Lumix GH4 with 100-300mm lens.

Southern Caracara in late evening light, showing superb detail in the feathers and the head. Shot handheld with Lumix GH4 using 100-300mm lens. Click on the image to be taken to a full-sized high resolution file that you can enlarge on your screen to see the detail. Lumix GH4 with 100-300mm zoom

Another tool that helped was a recent purchase, the Rosch 100-300mm Tripod Collar. It fits the lens as if it came from the Panasonic factory directly. The materials are superb, the fit and finish are first class, and it’s a relative deal at 75 Euros or about $129. The one downside is the gentleman who sells this collar has a less than user-friendly website for placing orders. It’s best to contact Mr. Rosch via the “Kontact” button on the all German web page and send him a note. That’s how I finally was able to get one ordered. The collar was sent via US mail from Germany worked quite well, and I was impressed with being able to track the package all the way from Germany. The experience made me appreiacate our postal service more than I have in the past.

Here I'm hand holding the GH4 with the 100-300mm zoom. The Rosch tripod collar is turned upside down for easier hand holding.

Here I’m handholding the GH4 with the 100-300mm zoom. The Rosch tripod collar is turned upside down for easier handholding.

Of the nearly 17,500 images, around 8,000 were shot with the Lumix Vario 100-300mm zoom. I think that’s a good number to get a feel for how this lens actually performs. In the past I was trying this lens only now and again, but after deciding I really wanted to like this lens, I made a commitment to give it a serious try. I’m glad I did since the results were much, much better than I’ve seen in the past.

Based on all of the images I’ve looked at, I’ve come up with two major issues with the 100-300mm which I hope Panasonic will correct in an updated model. First, the glass is very, very good but not quite up to the standards of my Nikkor 600mm F/4. Keep in mind, however, the Nikkor is a $10,000 lens; the Lumix Vario 100-300mm is currently $599 on the Hunt’s Photo website. Obviously there is a big difference in price. I would pay substantially more than the $599 to have better glass, better AF, and a more professional fit and finish. As I’ve mentioned in the past, give us the glass, AF capabilities, and the build and feel of the Lumix Vario 35-100mm F/2.8 in a redesigned 100-300mm, and I will be very, very happy.

The Canon 600mm F/4 with photographer attached is on the left. On the right is me shooting the Lumix GH3 with a 100-300mm F/4-5.6 lens. In the Micro Four thirds world all lenses are multiplied 2x so the Lumix 100-300 is actually equivalent to a 200-600mm lens. The same long magnification as the massive Canon lens.

The Canon 600mm F/4 with photographer attached is on the left. On the right is me shooting the Lumix GH3 with a 100-300mm F/4-5.6 lens. In the Micro Four Thirds world, all lenses are multiplied by 2 so the Lumix 100-300 is actually equivalent to a 200-600mm lens – the same long magnification as the massive Canon lens. This photo was originally taken in Kenya, two years ago.

The second issue I feel might be contributing to fewer professional grade images is the less than optimal Optical Image Stabilization. I believe this is one of the first Panasonic lenses that was released with OIS built in. I might be wrong, but it just seems my Nikkors and other Lumix lenses have the ability to give me more stability at slower shutter speeds than the 100-300mm. I have to say that once I started shooting this lens on a tripod with a proper tripod collar and concentrating on being more steady when shooting handheld, the images have improved dramatically. However, I regularly shoot my Nikkor 600mm F/4 handheld and I seem to be able to shoot at slower shutter speeds than I can with the Lumix. I will say, the weight of the Nikkor, right around ten pounds, may actually be beneficial for sharper pictures. When you heft a lens of that weight into place, nothing short of a hurricane can blow it around. Not the case for the Lumix 100-300mm zoom. It’s so small and light that you have a tendency to wave it around like an optical wand. Not good for sharp photos. If Panasonic updates this lens to a 100-300mm with a consistent aperture of F/4 throughout the entire zoom range, the weight will increase, but I actually think that would benefit a lens this powerful. I’m hoping an updated 100-300mm is coming sooner rather than later.

Another option I added for more stability was the external battery grip for the Lumix GH4. The added grip not only gives you another battery to draw from, but it increases the size of the body for better handling with a bigger optics. Alright, so those of you who follow this blog regularly are  going to call me on the idea of bigger is better since I’ve always gone on and on about the virtues of the smaller Lumix cameras, however, even with the external battery pack, the GH4 itself, and the 100-300mm lens attached, the entire package is proabley 1/10th. the size and weight of a Canon EOS 1Dx with the 600mm F/4, so I’m still getting lighter and smaller with the Lumix. The extra battery grip allows you to hold the camera and lens more solidly but it also replicates the buttons for WB, +/- EV and the AF Start when holding the camera in vertical position. All worth while options when shooting with the added grip.

As much as I’ve started to like this lens, it still has several issues and it’s biggest one is extremely slow focusing. The 100-300mm is just not capable of following even the slowest flying birds. It’s focus is almost always very accurate on stationary objects but it can’t keep up with any subject coming straight at the camera. I tried all the settings including the GH4’s AF Tracking option. Nothing gave me anything even close to in focus if it was flying at or away from me. This is the 100-300mm’s biggest Achilles heel and thus it is NOT an action lens of any sort. On this last trip, if I was expecting action and I needed the reach of a telephoto, I would pick up my D4 with my 80-400 or 600mm F/4 attached. The Nikon’s are the cameras and lenses that Panasonic has to match or beat when it comes to Predictive AF and currently the 100-300mm isn’t even in the same game. The 35-100mm F/2.8 is however, and it’s that lens Panasonic needs to emulate in a 100-300mm version to give us what we need.

Additionally, the zoom mechanism is somewhat sticky and the manual focus ring is even worse. This lens is almost impossible to manually focus which isn’t a huge issue since the AF on static subjects is so good I never manually focus, however, there are times it’s necessary and they come with situations where I’m generally shooting on water. The AF for the GH4 is very accurate but I’ve run into several instances where nothing I could do allowed the camera to focus properly. All the situations were with the 100-300mm lens, and I’m unsure if it would’ve been an issue with something smaller. I didn’t have the time to test a different lens in the heat of the moment. During one situation on the Alaska whale trip, the GH4 and 100-300mm lens refused to focus. I put the camera down and picked up my Nikon D4 with the 80-400mm. I pointed the Nikon at the exact same distant hill and the camera focused instantly. No issues at all of any kind. I brought the GH4 back up and into position and nothing I did could make it grab the focus on the distant hillside. Not sure what is going on, but I had this same problem now and again with the GH3. NE Explorer, Mark Pemberton, who also shoots the Lumix GH3 cameras, has confirmed he too has had issues with his GH3’s not being able to focus on certain objects.  We’re both scratching our herds over this issue but haven’t come to any conclusions. Thankfully it happens very, very rarely. Even so I’m hopeful Panasonic will get this sorted out shortly.

The New Lumix FZ1000

Just before I left for Brazil, Panasonic was kind enough to send me their all new, so-called “bridge camera”, the Lumix FZ1000. This category of camera is referred to as “bridge”, meaning a camera between point and shoot and something more sophisticated like a traditional DSLR. They’re also referred to as “all-in-one compacts”, and I’ve briefly mentioned them in the past. Up until this trip, I had never really tried one but that changed with the new FZ1000. I requested this camera from Panasonic since many of our Explorers don’t want to carry big cameras with a lot of additional lenses. It seemed to me the new Lumix FZ1000 could be a superb option for many of the folks who travel with us.

 A jaguar walks the sand bars of the Cuiaba River after the sun had set and in near dark conditions. This image was shot with the Lumix FZ1000 at ISO 3200. Click on the image to see a larger, full size sample.

A jaguar walks the sand bars of the Cuiaba River after the sun had set, in near dark conditions. This image was shot with the Lumix FZ1000 at ISO 3200. Click on the image to see a larger, full size sample.

The new Lumix FZ1000 is something quite different than any of the other bridge cameras currently being offered other than Sony’s relatively new RX10. The FZ1000 and the RX10 differentiate themselves from other point and shoot, all-in-one compacts by way of their much larger one-inch sensor. Traditionally, other bridge cameras of this type use a much smaller sensor than the new Lumix and Sony. As I’ve discussed in the past, the larger the sensor, the better the image quality. With the new larger one-inch sensor, the FZ1000 produces stunning images approaching the quality of a traditional DSLR.

Additionally, the FZ1000 has an all-in-one zoom with a range of 25-400mm based on a 35mm lens equivalent. This is a superb range from very wide angle to super telephoto and everything in between. Equally as exciting is the speed of this one lens. It ranges from an F/2.8 on the wide side to an F/4 on the telephoto end. These are amazing numbers for an all-in-one compact camera that often has lenses as slow as F/8. This extremely fast zoom on the FZ1000 will be a tremendous plus when shooting widlife and animals in low light dawn and dusk, the times most animals are active.

Along with this camera’s low light gathering lens, its Auto Focus speed is extremely fast.. It may even be faster than any of my Lumix Micro Four Thirds lenses. When you touch the AF button it literally snaps into perfect clarity like nothing I’ve ever seen. The all-in-one design has the possibility of allowing Panasonic to optimize the lens elements, the weight, the size, and AF speed to a point that it actually may perform better than their interchangeable lenses for their other more professional cameras.  I’ll have to shoot this camera a bit more to really see if it works as well as my GH4’s, but my initial impression is very, very positive. Speed of focus and Predictive AF are two different things, however, so we’ll be checking that in the near future. I’m hoping to do the Speeding Pooch Test with the FZ1000 some time soon, probably in September. That should give me a better idea of how the AF really works.

To keep the price down, the FZ1000 has a suggested retail price of $899. Panasonic removed several features that I really, really miss when moving from my GH4’s to the FZ1000. The biggest disappointment is the lack of Touch Screen options on the LCD. Once you get used to setting your focus with a touch screen, you will never want to do it any other way. The GH4’s touch screen AF system is by far the fastest way to change your AF spot of ANY camera on the market. Nobody has incorporated Touch Screen technology like Panasonic, and using the GH4 has spoiled me. Both Olympus and now Canon have implemented some touch screen technology, but nobody has come even close to Panasonic for ease of use and overall usability and consistency. Take a look at the video below to see how well Panasonic has incorporated this fabulously useful technology into their GH cameras.

There are other pro-like features I find hard to believe are part of this camera. One of the most important options I need on a serious camera is the AF Back Button. The FZ1000 has the ability to set the AF/AE Lock button to AF only. The idea behind AF Back Button is to remove the AF from the shutter release and use the AF/AE Lock button to initiate AF. This is a custom function nearly all Nikon’s and Canon’s have, and it’s the way virtually all professional photographers shoot.  This is a serious, professional feature and it’s on an $899 camera.

There’s also the ability to shoot at an astonishing 12 frames per second in RAW! You need to have the camera either on manual focus or in Single AF, which locks the focus, to get the full 12 FPS, so your action needs to be stationary, like a gymnast on a balance beam. If that’s the case this camera can capture astonishing action. The Nikon D4s shoots 11 FPS and the Canon EOS1 Dx shoots 14 FPS, both five times more expensive than the FZ1000.

One downside to a bridge camera with a one-inch sensor is the issue of shooting at higher ISO settings. The FZ1000 is not as good as my GH4’s in low light, but most people could shoot this camera at 800 ISO and not have any concerns. I shot at 2000 ISO several times and with a little post processing noise removal with Lightroom, the images were better than I would  have ever expected.

A Kinfisher sitting on a branch overhanging the  Pixaima River. Lumix FZ1000 shot at 2000 ISO

A Kingfisher sitting on a branch overhanging the Pixiam River. Lumix FZ1000 shot at 2000 ISO. Click on this photo to be taken to a high resolution, full-sized image that will show the details. Feel free download it if you like for your own personal review.

Finally, while on the subject of the FZ1000, I should mention battery life and the lens. Unfortunately the battery is less than stellar, but for most people it shouldn’t be an issue. I was actually able to shoot an entire morning, mixing the FZ1000 with my GH4’s. Panasonic rates the battery at 360 images in the FZ1000’s spec sheet. I didn’t keep an exact count but 360 images seems reasonable. The lens is very sharp and very fast for a camera of this kind. At 25mm it’s an F/2.8. At 400mm’s it’s an F/4. This is what we would call a relatively fast, bright lens that allows you to shoot in much darker light than similar cameras. The zoom mechanism is all electronic and controlled by either twisting the zoom ring or using the zoom switch just below the shutter button. Being an electronic zoom, it moves very  smoothly but sometimes slower than I would’ve liked. It would be nice if Panasonic gave us an option to change the speed of the zoom. A slow, steady, smooth zoom is quite desirable for video and this camera does astonishing video.

I almost forgot to mention the 4K video capabilities of this camera. For those of you that aren’t familiar with 4K video, quite simply it is considered four times the quality as the 1080HD we’ve all come to enjoy on our HD TV’s. The quality is hard to believe and you won’t be able to appreciate it without a newer 4K TV. For those who don’t care about video, this option is there if you need and virtually invisible if you don’t. Either way, whether you are a video shooter or not, video in still cameras is here to stay and I’m happy to have it when I feel I want to add to the story with moving images.

Here is a list of a few additional tricks the FZ1000 has up its sleeve that I’ve not discussed in detail but thought they were interesting enough to make you aware of them. The following Product Description is from our friends over at Hunt’s Photo. The complete list of all the specs comes from B&H’s web page

Product Description:

The New Panasonic DMC-FZ1000 Camera Incorporates a 1-Inch 20.1-Megapixel High Sensitivity MOS Sensor Improves the S/N Ratio, Making It Possible to Capture Clear Images With Minimum Noise Even When Shot at ISO 12800 / Extended ISO 25600

The new Panasonic DMC-FZ1000 is a long-zoom digital camera that can capture 4K QFHD video and 20.1MP still images. The 1″, High Sensitivity MOS sensor captures still images up to 50 fps, and has an expandable ISO range up to 25600, allowing you to shoot in difficult lighting conditions. The hybrid photo and video capabilities enable you to take 8MP screen grabs from your 4K video files, so you can produce videos and photos simultaneously without stopping your video to shoot a photo.

The Lumix DMC- FZ1000 camera’s 16x Leica DC Vario-Elmarit zoom lens offers a 35mm equivalent focal length of 25-400mm, providing coverage for most situations. The lens has a fast maximum-aperture range of f/2.8-4, and aspherical and extra-low dispersion elements are incorporated in the lens construction to reduce chromatic aberration and distortion.

The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ1000 features five-axis HYBRID O.I.S. image stabilization that pairs with the high ISO range to ameliorate low-light situations by reducing the appearance of camera shake. Fast autofocusing is made possible, thanks to the linear AF motor and LUMIX Depth from Defocus technology.

The Panasonic FZ1000 camera body incorporates a large ergonomic grip, and has a 2,359k-dot OLED viewfinder, as well as a Free-Angle 3.0″ 921k-dot LCD monitor. The body also incorporates a hot shoe for using an external flash, as well as a built-in pop-up flash. Wi-Fi connectivity and NFC allow for direct image transfer, remote control, and monitoring capabilities from a linked smart device.

Key Features:

  • 4K QFHD 30p video with hybrid 8MP still photo available to pull from 4K video frame
  • Lens made by Leica
  • Panasonic’s super fast DFD focusing technology
  • Integrated smartphone WiFi for remote imaging control

The FZ1000 also features DFD (Depth From Defocus) technology, for its focusing accuracy and improved Light Speed AF of approx. 0.09 sec*2. Together with the quick start-up time of approx.0.66 sec, the DMC-FZ1000 never misses a shooting opportunity. High speed burst shooting can be shot at 12 fps in 20.1-megapixel full resolution. It also offers a max.1/4,000 (mechanical) and 1/16,000 (electronic) shutter speed.

The FZ1000 boasts a high-precision, high-speed OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) LVF (Live View Finder). With 0.39-inch 2,359k-dot high resolution in 4:3 aspect ratio, the new LVF boasts approx.1.88x / 0.7x (35mm camera equiv.) magnification and 100% field of view. The 3.0-inch 921k-dot free-angle LCD with its wide-viewing angle rotates 180° to the side and tilts 270° up and down. Operability is also improved with a newly added zoom lever, zoom ring and drive mode dial for more intuitive operation. For more creative freedom, Creative Control, Creative Panorama and Photo Style are available.

The FZ1000 integrates Wi-Fi® connectivity (IEEE 802.11 b/g/n) with NFC (Near Field Communication) to offer a more flexible shooting experience and instant image sharing with a simple operation. The FZ1000 also comes with a 3.5mm jack for an external microphone connection. In addition, RAW data can be processed in camera.

*1 As of June 12, 2014
*2 Based on the CIPA standard, when using Live View Finder.

1. Bright Leica DC Lens 25-400mm F2.8-4.0
Panasonic newly developed LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT lens system (F2.8-F4.0) with 16x optical zoom (35mm camera equivalent: 25-400mm). Comprised of 15 elements in 11 groups, including 4 ED lenses and 5 aspherical lenses with 8 aspherical surfaces, this advanced lens unit achieves high MTF value.

2. Large 1-inch 20.1MP MOS Sensor for Amazing Defocus Control
The DMC-FZ1000 incorporates a 1-inch large High Sensitivity MOS Sensor with 20.1-megapixel high resolution. The new 1-inch sensor is 4x larger than conventional 1/2.3-inch sensor in size. This new large MOS Sensor improves S/N ratio, resulting in dramatic reduction of noise even when shooting at ISO 12,800.

The Venus Engine image processor was developed for the DMC-FZ1000 to dramatically boost its performance with a new quad-core CPU providing high speed signal processing required for rich 4K video recording . The advanced Multi-process NR (Noise Reduction) applies effective noise reduction and detail processing according to each component frequency. Plus, newly added Random Filter granulates chromatic noise to be blended into the image even more naturally.

3. The World’s First Digital Compact Camera Recording High Quality Video in 4K
The LUMIX FZ1000 is not only for capturing still images but also high quality video in 4K. It features outstanding 4K video recording capability (QFHD 4K: 3840×2160, up to 30 fps (NTSC) / in MP4*3. Users can enjoy recording video in ultra high definition and even grab an 8-megapixel frame as still image. After recording video in 4K, users can cut out a single frame to choose the best still image in rich resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. The FZ1000 should be used with UHS Speed Class 3 (U3). The UHS Speed Class 3 (U3) guarantees a constant minimum write speed of 30MB/s to respond to market needs for 4K video.

*3 4K video can be recorded up to 29 minutes 59 seconds. Use SDXC/SDHC Memory Card compatible with UHS Speed Class 3 (U3) when using high bitrate video recording mode of 100 Mbps or greater.

4. Super-fast LUMIX DFD Focusing Technology
For even faster response and higher mobility, the FZ1000 newly integrates a dedicated motor into the focus system to achieve extremely fast focusing. In addition, the Light Speed AF is further enhanced with an adoption of DFD (Depth From Defocus) technology which even shortens the time to set focus. It calculates the distance to the subject by evaluating 2 images with different sharpness level while consulting the data of optical characteristics of the current lens in a moment. As a result, the DMC-FZ1000 achieves ultra high speed AF of approx.0.09 sec*4 at wide end and even approx.0.17 sec at tele-end.*5 Together with the quick start-up of approx.0.66 sec and short release time lag, the DMC-FZ1000 never lets photographers miss fleeting shooting opportunities.

*4 Based on the CIPA standard, when using Live View Finder.
*5 Panasonic in-house examination (infinity to 2m shooting time lag)

5. Integrated Smartphone/Tablet Wi-Fi® for Remote Imaging Control
The FZ1000 integrates Wi-Fi® connectivity (IEEE 802.11 b/g/n) with NFC (Near Field Communication) technology camera to offer more flexible shooting experience and instant image sharing. With the Panasonic “Image App”, remote shooting of both stills and video is possible by using the smartphone/tablet for a remote shutter with a monitor. You can release the shutter, zoom, focus and set shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation with a smartphone / tablet.

6.  50 Frames Per Second Super High Speed
This is an electronic shutter option that pumps out jpegs at an amazing rate.  There is no AF in this mode but for a subject that is going to be in a particular spot when the action starts, this is an interesting and exciting feature.

7). Other Features

3cm Macro Shooting
Stunning macro shots can be shot with minimum focusing distance of 3cm.

Highlight/Shadow Control
The Live View function is also advanced digitally making it possible to adjust highlight / shadow separately with the front/rear dial. 3 patterns of settings can be customized in addition to 3 patterns of preset.

RAW data development in Camera
The FZ1000 is capable of processing RAW images in camera.

Level Gauge
The DMC-FZ1000 is equipped with Level Gauge to detect the horizontal / vertical angle of view.

iA+ (Intelligent Auto Plus) Mode for Photo and Video
For beginners, iA (Intelligent Auto) mode supports taking beautiful pictures with a variety of shooting-assist functions including AF Tracking, Intelligent Scene Selector, Face Recognition, Intelligent ISO Control and Food Recognition.

Optional Accessories
A GN58 powerful External Flash (DMW-FL580L) is newly added to the LUMIX optional accessories which allow high speed charging of approx.1.7 sec. Not only wireless control but also LED video light functions are available. The Stereo / Shotgun Microphone (DMW-MS2) which enables stereo/shotgun switch. The 62mm diameter of ND Filter (DMW-LND62), PL Filter (DMW-LPL62) and MC Protector (DMW-LMCH62) are also offered for more creative freedom.

The new Lumix ZF1000 is more than an interesting new photographic tool. It’s revolutionary and one I think I’m going to see many of our guests carrying in the field.

Ok, that’s enough. I can’t write anymore and you probably can’t read anymore. This has become somewhat of a long and rambling Blog/camera review/blah blah blah entry. I may have tried to cover too many  things. I did want to go over the many new tricks and features on both the GH4 and the FZ1000 and in doing so it’s all become too lengthy. So we’ll stop here for now and continue with a future series of more detailed reviews on each camera. I will say that at the end of this trip I’m even more convinced that the new mirrorless technology is where the entire world of photograph will be in the near future. I’m finishing this up in Alaska where I’ll be giving the GH4 another test, only this time with coastal brown bears.

 

 

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There are 8 comments on this post…
  1. Doug BrayOn Sep. 5th, 2014

    Dan,

    Thank you for your reply.

    I think we will wait to see if Panasonic and or Olympus has a fast “pro-level” super tele micro 4/3 lens in the works. Photokina starts soon.

    Doug

  2. Doug BrayOn Sep. 1st, 2014

    Hi Dan,

    Debra and enjoyed the recent brown bear trip.

    Regarding the FZ1000, with the 1″ sensor, how is the low light performance? Is this a smaller sensor than 4/3s? How many fps will it do refocusing between each one?

    Doug

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Sep. 3rd, 2014

      Doug, glad you and Deborah enjoyed our Alaska brown bear adventure. As far as the new compact, all in one Panasoinc Lumix FZ1000 goes, it’s 1″ sensor is smaller than the GH4’s Micro Four Thirds sensor. Even so the low light performance is better than I would have ever guessed. It’s not going to do as well as the GH4 but as we discussed in Alaska, we photographers really have to think about how we are using the images we shoot today. Are they going in a large format book, in a personal calendar, on the web, Facebook, Instagram, etc.? If so the FZ1000 would provide superb quality for most people. If you had an assignment to shoot images for the walls of Grand Central Station in New York, then no, this is not the camera to use. I think you get my point. We have all gotten so caught up in MEGA quality when in reality, many cameras give us superb quality at a much lower price, much smaller form factor and are just simply more fun to use when we’re traveling the world or just going to a soccer game a niece or nephew is playing in.

      The FZ1000 shoot 12 FPS when not in AF mode. When i Predictive AF it shoots at 7FPS. How it does in predictive I’m not certain. it seemed to do better than anything like it before when I was shooting it on birds flying in Brazil. However, I’m with holding my opinion until I get another one to try with a fast dog. Yep, I’m on the look out for another fast pooch. Just hope we don’t have any accidents on this test run. The FZ1000 uses the same DFD (Depth From Defocus) technology that Panasoinc pioneered in the GH4. That’s been a huge improvement in the G series cameras and I’m guessing it will be the same for FZ1000 as well.

      I’ve uploaded a recent PDF brochure on the FZ100 that you can download by clicking on this link. Lots of good information I was unaware of in this PDF. Hope this helps. By the way, the jaguar image I have in the Blog post The Lumix Diaries: Adventures in the Pantanal Continued was shot with the FZ1000 at 3200 ISO. It’s the first image in the Blog below the header title, The New Lumix FZ100. I ran the image through the noise reduction filter in Lightrom but it didn’t take much. The evening I shot this image it was nearly dark she this jaguar finally came out of the jungle to walk down the sand bar of the river.

  3. Portrait of Jane Scott Norris

    Jane NorrisOn Aug. 29th, 2014

    Dan, great articles on the Lumix cameras. If only there was a pro version of the 100-300! I hope something is announced at Photokina then many of us will invest in the GH-4 system.

  4. Portrait of Christine Crosby

    Christine CrosbyOn Aug. 20th, 2014

    Thanks for the extensive review!! My mom just “lost” (stolen) her Lumix Z200 that she had on the whale trip so this is especially timely and interesting as a replacement for her. I also appreciate all your thoughts on the GH4 with the 100-300mm. I love the possibilities with this camera and am looking forward to an upgrade of the lens for wildlife. I really love the size and reach but agree that AF is a problem and a challenge to get sharp images for the reasons you said, though mine did improve too when I worked a lot harder with my hand holding techniques at your suggestion. I’m curious about the tripod collar too so thanks for that. Hope you and T have an amazing trip in AK. Thanks for a great trip in Brazil!

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Aug. 21st, 2014

      My pleasure Christine. I’m grateful for your input so Panasonic sees we have people who are desperate for better, long zoom lenses, specifically the 100-300mm F/4. Sorry to hear about your mothers lost camera but I will say that the new FZ1000 is a HUGE step up from what she had. She will lover it.

  5. Portrait of David and Shiela Glatz

    Dave GlatzOn Aug. 20th, 2014

    Dan the ZF1000 is intriguing. One question I have from reading a review at DP Review: they refer to the concept of an f-stop equivalent. Basically they suggested that f4 on the ZF1000 is not the same as f4 on a full frame cam. I think this is because of the smaller sensor. Do you see any difference in terms of depth of field or separation from background as compared to a DSLR? Seems weird to me and I don’t recall DP Review using this concept with smaller sensor DSLRs, micro 4/3 etc. Maybe I’m misreading their review. Just curious about your thoughts. Seems to me that f/4 is f/4 but again maybe I’m missing something. Thanks.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Aug. 21st, 2014

      Dave, yes, all the small sensor cameras see depth of field differently than the larger, full frame sensors. I have a hard time explaining it but F/4 on the FZ1000 does give you more depth of field than a full frame Nikon. I belie it’s about a stop so an F/4 would look like F/5.6 from a full frame camera. Some people complain about too much depth of field in the smaller cameras. However, for me, I have NEVER had a problem with having too much of my subject in focus. I’ve alway had problems getting ENOUGH of it in focus. the issue of too much depth of field is a non issue in my mind. Just my two cents.

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