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 (also known as the FZ80 in the United States) is the latest bridge camera from Panasonic and it replaces the FZ72.
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 Panasonic’s Power OIS (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 shoot a short video before the frames are stitched together to make a still image.
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 review: 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.
Panasonic FZ82 review: early verdict
We’ve yet to test the FZ82 but it looks and feels like a good option for people who want to get creative with their photography and video, but who don’t want the hassle of interchangeable lenses.
Novice photographers are often preoccupied with getting longer reach through a telephoto lens, but a wide-angle lens tends to be more useful for day-to-day, travel and holiday photography. The FZ82 delivers a wider-than-average lens combined with a very long (stabilised) telephoto optic, making it extremely versatile. Add in features such as 4K video recording, 4K Photo Mode and Touchpad AF and it’s an enticing package.