Superzooms / Bridge Cameras


Huntsville, AL
I was a long time user (and still use occasionally) the Panasonic FZ3. Panasonic made small iterative changes with these cameras until they made a full fledged bridge camera in the FZ50. I never owned this camera, but I saw many good results over all the forums with this camera. I was always hoping for a better, increased IQ of this camera. The main culprit was really the processing engine.

Fast forward to 2010, and Panasonic is now releasing the FZ100 and FZ40. Panasonic has been conservative with adding more zoom to their bridge cameras. While other companies were bosting 24x all the way up to 30x, Panasonic stayed conservative. Now they have some new entries.

Using this site which has some full size pictures:

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100 Photos | PhotographyBLOG

I'm really not seeing, after 5 or 6 years, anything that is even evolutionary in terms of picture quality. Panasonic has gone away from a CCD to some sort of MOS sensor, and I'm not sure why, other than faster read times for burst shooting.

I realize that these perse aren't compacts, but does anyone have any thoughts on where the superzoom market is heading?
I owned the FZ50 until giving it to my daughter when I got a G1. I bought that old FZ50 back in November of 2006 and paid around 600 dollars for it. I took a lot of great pictures and lots of terrible pictures. Most of the terrible ones were due to the camera not doing well in low light. I can't believe that after all these years, Panasonic or no one else has come up with a worthy replacement. I can't see the FZ100 being that great with such a small sensor. We should know in a week or so when a proper in depth review get's published with production firmware. After owning the G1 for a year, I can't see going back in time to a small, low resolution EVF either.

I'm trying to get that old FZ50 back right now. The closest thing I can see for a real worthy replacement for that old FZ50 is the GH1.
I don't know about Panasonic, but I have a Canon SX10 IS (which had decent IQ, unlike SX20 IS that made a lot of pixel peepers unhappy). I was using it casually until the day I discovered CHDK (primarily the ability to shoot RAW) and 'then' realised the potential of the camera. RAW (DNG) files are noisy but remind me of film grain and have incredible detail, even at full zoom; they clean very nicely in Lightroom. The camera takes about 2 seconds to write a raw file on a Sandisk Extreme III card but I've got used to it. I call it the 'Swiss Knife Compact' for it has raw, live histogram, a super macro mode, vari-angle LCD, 28mm wide, 560mm zoom, ultrasonic lens, takes 52mm filters and lens hood, has awesome IS, an EVF, PSAM modes, a flash hot shoe and runs on AA batteries (my favourite)!!! With live histogram, I am careful and hardly lose highlight detail. It's useable till ISO 200 in low light. Above ISO 200 I switch to jpeg as the NR of this camera is pretty decent at ISO 400. With raw the camera slows down but that's the challenge, even a swiss knife can't solve all problems!!! :) I think SX10 is the best superzoom Canon made till date because the earlier versions did not have wide angle and IQ seems to have gone down since the SX20 IS.

Here are two image of birds (Common Babbler and Small Green Bee-eater) photographed at full-zoom and in RAW:

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Those are nice pictures.

A few of other issues I'd like to address. The first one is size. The latest crop of new superzooms have gotten pretty large. When I first played with the Canon SX10, it was the same size as the G1, aside from the lens. The new FZ100 is pretty close in size to the G1 too. The FZ3 I own is actually smaller than my EP1.

Another issue is simply dynamic range. As an all purpose camera, to which these are sold as, the mFT format has greater dynamic range.

I guess to the point I'm making, in the last 5 or so years, it seems like the lenses get longer, there are more features, but the IQ has not drastically changed. I guess I'm hoping for one day that small sensors can produce better results.
I agree with you, Djarum, superzooms tend to be bulky, in fact the SX10 is bulkier and heavier than FZ35/40/100 but that's a trade off imho, for they pack a punch! Also, like any other type of camera, a superzoom has to be used for its advantages and not its disadvantages, that's the challenge! Yes, the IQ of FZ100 and FZ40 is disappointing, to say the least, but my experience says that by shooting RAW one can get more out of superzooms which includes about 1/2 stop of additional highlight detail (often I am able to recover lost highlight detail while processing SX10 raw files). I think FZ35 (still available) had better IQ than the new models they have launched, do try processing some FZ35 raw files (available at if you can. If you or anyone else wants to experiment with SX10 raw (DNG) files, send me a personal message, I would gladly e-mail some.
Thanks for enlightening article and illustrations. I use SX10 and have installed CHDK but have not tried shooting DNG images yet since I do not have any RAW/ DNG editor. Is there any freeware available which can open and edit DNG images?
SX10 IS isn't the best camera for bird photography as it lacks some of the most important prerequisites for bird photography: fast (or 'SLR fast') focussing, good bokeh, decent high ISO performance to capture action and at least 2 frames per second shutter speed. While shooting RAW SX10s shutter speed slows down dramatically. However, it's compact size and decent zoom are huge advantages as is the cost (how much an image stabilised 560mm equivalent lens for an SLR would cost we all know :) With patience and in good light, I would say it is a very handy camera for shooting birds. Allow me to share a post on my birding blog about Brown Rock Chat (now known as the Indian Chat). All images were shot with an SX10: Brown Rock Chat! « Lazy Birder

Mayank, those are some great bird images. I am tempted to get a SX10 IS on that basis alone!
This may help: DNG File Extension - What is DNG ? How to play / open DNG file?
I think Adobe Photoshop Elements is one of the best and a very versatile software for editing DNG files. I have been trying a trial version for the past few days and am impressed. I think it is available for about $80 only and is therefore worth every cent!

Thanks for enlightening article and illustrations. I use SX10 and have installed CHDK but have not tried shooting DNG images yet since I do not have any RAW/ DNG editor. Is there any freeware available which can open and edit DNG images?