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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 front view

Shopping for a digital camera is totally mind boggling. There are an incredible selection of great cameras available. A few weeks ago I purchased a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 to take better SIGNAL Kool photos. I won’t attempt to do a full technical review because I’m not an imaging expert. There’s plenty of material already written on the Internet by much more knowledgeable writers. What I will do is share my practical experience with some of the camera’s cooler features. Let’s start with how I made the decision to buy the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300.

Going into the research phase I had some specific criteria to fulfil. For video shooting I wanted “somewhat” future proof 4K video capabilities with an external microphone jack. I also wanted WiFi and App support, weather protection, and a wide angle to super zoom lens. I didn’t want to carry around extra lenses, therefore it seemed that my needs put me into the “DSLR like” bridge camera segment of the market.

What I didn’t care so much about was maximum megapixels (MP) – the FZ300 is 12MP.  For web work you are always reducing the image size to under 2MP, so this isn’t really a critical specification. Even if I plan to enlarge some photos for printing, 12MP will be plenty for my needs. Sensor size is related to image quality and the ability to capture more detail in lower lighting conditions. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 has a relatively small sensor. Expect it to be challenged when shooting darker scenes.

Short List

I first consulted some of the excellent review sites on the Internet such as DP Review and CameraDecision. I narrowed my choices to four cameras in the $500US price range:

  • Nikon Coolpix P900
  • Canon Powershot SX60 HS
  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX400V
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300

All of the above cameras have great optical zoom ranges. The Panasonic has the narrowest at an amazing 25-600mm equivalent. The Nikon goes to a whopping 2000mm but be prepared to use a tripod. It is pretty much impossible to be steady enough to get a crisp looking image at this zoom level.

The Nikon was the only other camera of the four – other than the Panasonic – to have an external microphone jack which is useful for attaching a wireless microphone. This is great when you want to do interviews or speak at a distance from the camera when taking video. Amongst these four shortlisted cameras, only the Panasonic is dust and moisture resistant and shoots 4K video. This pretty much made the decision easy for me. As a bonus the Panasonic has a 3″ OLED touch screen which is pretty unique. Control is more like a smartphone with touch selection, pinch to zoom, swiping for photo browsing, etc.

Zooming On The Water

Pacific Grace sailboat zoomed out
Pacific Grace

My first real experience with the Panasonic was on a fishing trip to Gabriola Island across the Georgia Straight from Vancouver. On the way we crossed paths with the beautiful yacht Pacific Grace which was a chance to test out the camera at full zoom. The DMC-FZ300 maintains a maximum aperture of f2.8 throughout the entire zoom range which is useful for long shots like this one.

Panasonic DMC-FZ300 Pacific Grace zoom in
Pacific Grace zoomed in at 600mm

I’m pretty impressed with the zoom, it’s like using binoculars. Even though we were bouncing around a bit, the camera’s 5 axis optical image stabilization did a great job of making the above photo clear.

WiFi / App Control

Panasonic iPhone Image App

There isn’t much written on the Internet regarding Panasonic’s Image App.  I tried the App on my iPhone and it works pretty well to control the camera with a live view of what the camera is seeing. The best use of the App is probably to remotely snap photos where you want to use a tripod and also be in the photo. On my vacation in France I used this feature to take a group shot sitting in front of a lovely viewpoint in St. Circ Lapopie, a beautiful and very old French village north of Toulouse.

The App allows you to browse your photos and save them to your camera roll or directly to social media sites. Alternatively you can save to social media and Google drive directly from the camera. Be aware that you first have to go through a bit of a convoluted process which involves signing up for Lumix Club. Until the end of September Panasonic is giving away 100GB of Google Drive storage as a promotion if you buy the camera.

4K Burst Mode

The killer feature for me is 4K burst mode which takes 8 megapixel images at 30 frames per second and quickly and easily allows you to extract the photos you want after easily browsing through them directly on the camera. You set the camera to 4K burst and then hold down the shutter release button for as long as you need. This allows you to get the pick out the exact frame you want which is incredibly useful for action scenes.

Panasonic DMC-FZ300 4K Burst Eagle
Pick the exact frame to save

In this photo I held the shutter release during the flight of the eagle in Cordes-Sur-Ciel as it flew between handlers.  I then picked out the frame where the eagle prepares to land. A pretty awesome feature.

There is also a mode that captures a second before and a second after you snap a burst of photos. If you are late on the trigger the camera saves you. In this mode the built in buffering is always on so it will warm up the camera and use up the battery faster. Use it sparingly.

Post Focus

With a recent firmware update the camera now supports a post focus mode which allows you to pick your focal point after taking a photo. I haven’t tried this feature yet but it’s a pretty unique feature that you won’t find on many cameras.

Conclusion

I guess my report is “so far so good” with the Panasonic DMC-FZ300. I’m really enjoying figuring out how to take better quality photos. Learning all the features of this camera is a bit daunting, you really have to read the manual to get the most out of it. My cousin Phil has just shown me how to use exposure bracketing which takes 3, 5 or 7 photos at different exposures to later combine for better detail. Basically it’s HDR done manually. My first attempt is shown below.  I took 3 shots and combined them using Photomatix software to bring out the detail in this gorgeous shot. Next time I would use a tripod to avoid the bit of blur on the sign!

St. Circ Lapopie
St. Circ Lapopie, France

– Safe Boating –

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Adam Hyde (SIGNAL Kool Editor) is a member of Boating Writers International and has written articles for Panbo, SAILfeed, Power & Motoryacht, and Passagemaker. He lives in the Pacific North West in beautiful Vancouver, Canada, and is a self professed boat nut and marine electronics geek. His pride and joy is "Journey," a 1976 26 foot Tollycraft Sedan. When he's not out on the boat exploring he's often trying to figure out how to add more technology to it, hence this web mag. Adam is an advanced crew member in the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue and the author of 4 free boating related Apps in the iTunes and Google Play stores. See Adam's syndicated work

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