Huge 60x zoom range. Fast autofocus. 10fps Raw capture. 30fps 4K Photo capture. Touch LCD. Sharp EVF. Wi-Fi.
No EVF eye sensor. Fixed rear LCD. Limited Raw buffer. Omits 24fps video capture. Telephoto video shows wobble effect.
- Bottom Line
Panasonic's Lumix DC-FZ80 camera gives you a ton of zoom for not much money, and includes support for Raw images and 4K video.
We liked the Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ70 thanks to its long zoom lens, low cost, and strong image quality. But it had some serious shortcomings in the bells and whistles department. The DC-FZ80 ($399.99) keeps the same lens and ticks up the price, but for the extra money you get Wi-Fi, a better EVF, a touch LCD, and 4K video capture. It's a better overall camera, though not quite our favorite bridge superzoom. The Canon PowerShot SX60 HS is still our Editors' Choice, but the Panasonic is a good alternative if you don't have the budget for the Canon.
The FZ80 is your typical bridge point-and-shoot. It marries a small (1/2.3-inch) image sensor to a big zoom lens, putting the two together in a body that's about the size of a small SLR. Putting that glass in front of a sensor type developed for pocket-friendly cameras allows for an incredible zoom range, much more than you'd get from any SLR lens, in a package that measures 3.7 by 5.1 by 4.7 inches (HWD) and weighs about 1.4 pounds.
The fixed lens covers scenes from an ultra-wide (20mm full-frame equivalent) perspective when zoomed all thew way out. It extends to a beyond-extreme telephoto (1,200mm) at its maximum extension. It not only has an advantage in telephoto reach over pocket cameras—models like the Sony HX90V reach about 720mm—but it also covers a wider angle. The FZ80's 20mm lens is significantly wider than the more typical 24mm at which most compact cameras start.
The shot above shows the lens at its widest angle, with the moon a faint dot visible in the center of the frame; the image below shows the lens zoomed all the way in.
The FZ80 has a deep handgrip, just like an SLR. The shutter release is at its top, surrounded by a zoom control lever. Behind those you'll find programmable Fn1/4K Photo and Fn2/Post Focus buttons, along with a dedicated Record button for video capture. There's also a Mode dial and the camera's power switch. The hot shoe sits atop the center, just behind the pop-up flash.
Rear controls include a mechanical release to raise the pop-up flash, situated to the left of the eyecup. On the right you'll find the LVF/LCD toggle button, the AF/AE Lock button, and the rear control dial. The rear dial doubles as a direct EV compensation control—you need to press it in to switch its function from aperture or shutter control to EV adjustment.
Below those, to the right of the rear display, there's a button to change focus modes, along with Play, Delete/Q.Menu, and Display buttons. Finally there's a four-way control with Menu/Set at its center and direct adjustment over ISO, White Balance, Drive/Self-Timer, and Focus Area.
Physical controls are supplemented by the Panasonic Q.Menu. Every camera maker has its own take on this interface, which shows translucent shooting controls over the live view frame, so you can make adjustments to settings without losing sight of what your lens is seeing. The FZ80's menu is customizable, and can be navigated using rear control buttons or via touch.
The rear LCD is a fixed panel, not like the more useful vari-angle display offered by the Canon SX60 HS or Panasonic's own premium FZ1000. It is quite sharp, however, at 1,040k dots packed into a 3-inch frame. And it is sensitive to touch, so you can tap to set a focus point or navigate menus as you would with a smartphone.
There's also an eye-level EVF. That's something you really need with such a long zoom lens. Even with in-camera stabilization, it's easier to get a sharp zoomed shot with the camera raised to your eye than it is holding it at arm's length. There's no eye sensor, so you'll have to use a button to switch between the EVF and LCD manually.
The FZ80 has Wi-Fi for image transfer and remote control. It works with the Panasonic Image App, a free download for Android and iOS. It lets you copy photos from the camera to your phone for editing and sharing, and also offers full manual control and a live feed so you can use your phone as a remote control.
There are micro HDMI and micro USB ports on the body, the latter of which is used for in-camera charging. The camera is rated to nab about 330 shots using the rear LCD or 240 shots using the EVF, both solid marks for a bridge model. The ability to add juice via a USB power bank is certainly a benefit for travelers, though if you're the type of photographer to carry a spare battery, it's wise to invest in an external charger as well so you can charge one in camera and one out of camera concurrently.
The memory card slot is in the battery compartment. The FZ80 supports SD, SDHC, and SDXC media at up to UHS-I speeds.
Performance and Imaging
The FZ80 takes a little while to turn on, focus, and fire—about 1.8 seconds—due to its lens having to move in position to grab an image. But once it's on and and ready to go it's quite speedy. The autofocus system locks on in about 0.05-second at both the wide and telephoto end in bright light. In dim conditions it takes some time, about 0.9-second, to focus and fire at the wide end, and tends to hunt when acquiring focus at 1,200mm. A bridge camera isn't the the best choice for shooting in dim conditions, unless you opt for a model with a larger 1-inch sensor and shorter zoom lens, like the Panasonic FZ1000 or Sony RX10.
Burst shooting is available at about 10fps at full 18MP resolution in Raw or JPG format. You can snap 13 Raw+JPG, 15 Raw, or 52 JPG shots at a time, with about 15 seconds required to clear the buffer after a Raw burst and about 8 seconds to do the same for JPGs. The camera supports Panasonic's 4K Photo mode as well, which can shoot 8MP JPGs at 30fps with your choice of fixed focus through the burst or Panasonic's Post Focus mode, which changes the active autofocus point between each shot.
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Tracking focus is available when shooting full-resolution files. Setting the camera to AF-C will cause it to acquire focus for each shot in a burst, but it does slow the capture rate down. You're limited to shooting at 5.4fps when tracking moving subjects. It works well, delivering solid results in our lab tests and in the field, where we used the FZ80's long lens to snap shots of bald eagles in flight.
I used Imatest to check the sharpness of the FZ80's lens. At its widest angle and aperture, 3.6mm f/2.8, it matches the field of view of a 20mm lens on a full-frame camera. It scores 2,078 lines per picture height on a center-weighted sharpness test, better than the 1,800 lines we want to see out of a camera of this type with an 18MP image sensor.
At the 140mm equivalent position, the maximum aperture is f/5.3. Image quality remains solid at 1,811 lines. Zooming farther, to the 235mm equivalent focal length, cuts the maximum aperture to f/5.5, but resolution remains strong, 2,007 lines. Testing beyond that is impractical in our lab—there's simply not enough room to back up from the test chart and keep it in frame.
I shot numerous images at full zoom in the field. The lens certainly loses some sharpness at its maximum extension. If you're hoping to make big prints of a handheld shot of the moon, you'll be disappointed. But the results are still very Instagrammable.
Imatest also checks photos for noise. Noise can detract from detail and add a grainy quality at higher ISO settings. When shooting JPGs the FZ80 keeps noise under 1.5 percent through ISO 1600, so you shouldn't have trouble capturing low-noise images in sunlight, even when keeping the shutter speed short to freeze motion.
But just because the camera controls noise through ISO 1600, it doesn't mean that image quality is perfect through that setting. In reality you can shoot through ISO 400 without any noticeable drop in quality. There's some mild smudging of fine detail at ISO 800, which is more prevalent at ISO 1600. Results at ISO 3200 and 6400 are noticeably blurred.
If you're more serious about images, you can set the FZ80 to capture photos in Raw format. Raw images require post-processing before sharing, but hold up better at higher ISO settings. You see a lot of grain at ISO 1600 when shooting in Raw, but detail holds up well. But you don't want to push too far beyond that—grain starts to overwhelm the image at ISO 3200, and at ISO 6400 it's even more distracting.
The FZ80 shoots video at 4K resolution at a fixed 30fps frame rate and 100Mbps compression rate. You can also shoot at 1080p at 60fps (28Mbps) or 30fps (20Mbps), and at 720p at 30fps (10Mbps), all in MP4 format. It also supports AVCHD compression, but only at 1080p quality. There's no 24fps option available at all, a downer for those who prefer video with a cinematic look.
At wider angles video looks quite good, with crisp detail and strong colors. But the limitations of optical stabilization for handheld video show when zoomed in. Handheld footage at extreme zoom levels, beyond 500mm, show significant wobble. You'll want to use a tripod to steady the camera when recording at extreme focal lengths.
The Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80 delivers an incredible amount of zoom coverage for not a lot of money. It uses the same lens as its predecessor, but improves on fit and finish, sporting a better, touch-enabled rear LCD, a sharper EVF, Wi-Fi, and 4K video, all missing on the bargain-oriented FZ70. It costs about $100 more, but at $400 it still falls well into the range of affordability, especially given how far of a reach the lens delivers. You can spend a bit more on our Editors' Choice, the Canon PowerShot SX60 HS, which has a similar zoom range and adds a vari-angle LCD. If you're able to spend more than that on a superzoom model, consider getting one with a 1-inch sensor, like the Panasonic FZ1000 or any member of the Sony RX10 series.
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About the Author
Jim Fisher Senior Analyst, Digital Cameras
Senior digital camera analyst for the PCMag consumer electronics reviews team, Jim Fisher is a graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he concentrated on documentary video production. Jim's interest in photography really took off when he borrowed his father's Hasselblad 500C and light meter in 2007. He honed his writing skills at re… See Full Bio
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