Okay, you caught me – I am, in fact, superzoom weenie, an aficionado, a fan, an enthusiast. Those who know me best might argue I’m a bit of a maniac on the subject. Alright, I plead guilty. Superzooms are the most versatile cameras on the planet. Typically they deliver equivalent focal lengths of 24-600 mm (try buying a 24-600 lens for your ILC!) and I love using them. If you don’t have a superzoom, you need one; trust me on this.
A little history is in order. My very first superzoom was the Panasonic FZ150, and I really enjoyed using it (and it is now my wife’s camera), but I got seduced by the promise of the constant f/2.8 of the FZ200. I found it to be a marvel – all that continuous focal length (24-600) and a fast lens . . . whoo-hoo!
But there was a fly in the ointment . . . dust. Unfortunately, my beloved FZ200 sucked a dust particle onto its sensor, requiring (since it is not an interchangeable lens camera) a hundred-dollar trip to the camera repair shop. When it happened a second time, I realized that this could be a money pit, so I moved on . . . to the Sony HX400V, a camera that I have used with devotion for over two years.
The HX400V delivers 1200mm (e) reach with a slower lens than that FZ200. It doesn’t shoot raw, but it delivers punchy, sharp, contrasty, saturated jpegs that meet with approval in my household. And, very significantly, the HX400V has a terrific manual focus function – an actual ring – that is the greatest thing since red Jello when it comes to focusing on the wildlife hidden behind foliage.
About a year after the HX400V was introduced, Panasonic brought to market the FZ300, which is a superzoom that has the same 24-600mm (e) constant f.2.8 lens as the FZ200. In addition, the FZ300 has a bunch of the other goodies: splash and dust resistance (which ought to take care of those dust problems), a really good manual focus function, RAW capture (uncooked seize!), and more tricks than a bridge tournament when it comes to taking advantage of 4K video, time-lapse photography, extraction of stills from 4K video, and on and on and on. If you want all the details, check out the reviews on line.
When the FZ300 was introduced, it was selling for about $600US. Recently, I noticed that the price on Amazon had dropped to just under $400US, so I decided to give it a try.
I’ve had the FZ300 in my hands for about 24 hours now, and I wanted to share my impressions of it so far, particularly as compared to the HX400V, which I really like.
The first thing that impresses me about the FZ300 is the lightening-fast autofocus. Most of the time, it is instantaneous; press the shutter halfway down, and you get the focus lock-on indication immediately . . . even in some pretty difficult low-light conditions and at the telephoto end of the focal range. Sure, it will hunt to establish focus if conditions are really awful, but that is a rarity. In addition, there is a slick rotating manual focus knob on the side of the lens that can be used to augment autofocus or do straight manual focus. When that is activated, a magnified section pops up in the middle of the EVF, and focus “sparklies” appear on the thing that is in focus. I had never thought of the autofocus on the HX400V as being inadequate, but it is embarrassed by the speed of the FZ300.
The EVF of the FZ300 is also terrific; really bright, really clear, and a pleasure to use. The HX400V has an adequate EVF, but it ain’t great. One of the odd pleasures of shooting with the HX400V is that the images I “chimp” on the rear screen always look better than the view through the EVF when I triggered the shot.
The FZ300 has two dials for making adjustments to various camera operations, and, I think, four different buttons that can be customized. The HX400V has one dial and perhaps one customizable button.
Both cameras seem to be well built, but the FZ300 seems to me to have the edge in build quality. Both cameras render images with a different “palette.” The images of the FZ300 appear cooler than those of the HX400V.
The one area in which the HX400V has a big advantage is in reach; the HX400V offers twice as much equivalent telephoto as the FZ300, although if you engage i.Zoom on the FZ300, you can get significantly beyond 600mm reach with little in the way of ill effects. On the other hand, in low light conditions, the FZ300 clearly has the advantage.
So where does that leave me so far? Well, for most applications, I think the FZ300 is the superior camera, but I sure do love the 1200mm reach of the HX400V.
More to come.