When friends or family ask me if indeed they should get yourself a point-and-shoot or if their smartphone is sufficient, my answer basically boils down to whether they desire a camera with a superzoom lens or need the one that is rugged. (Display quality isn’t really a concern any longer because the hottest smartphones are on par with the common point-and-shoot. If you would like better pictures, intensify to a large-sensor advanced compact or a dSLR or mirrorless interchangeable lens camera.)

The Panasonic Lumix FZ300 is among the only cameras available that may turn that “or” into an “and.” Typically, if you wish a rugged camera, the one which really can handle drops and is waterproof, it will not employ a long zoom lens. The contrary is also true: If you prefer a large amount of zoom, you’re not likely to find one that’s extremely rugged. The FZ300, however, includes a exceptional 24x f2.8 25-600mm lens and can be splashproof and dustproof.

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The camera, which sells for approximately $500 in america, AU$680 in Australia and £440 in the united kingdom (where it’s called the FZ330), also offers such a complete feature set that it is perfect if you need something among a point-and-shoot and an electronic SLR-like experience. Since it runs on the 1/2.3-inch type sensor, though, (a size typically within point-and-shoots and premium smartphones) its photography quality doesn’t compare to an electronic SLR or a large-sensor advanced compact, including Panasonic’s own FZ1000. Losing some image quality is portion of the price you pay to achieve the 35mm exact carbon copy of an f2.8 600mm lens in a comparatively compact and affordable package. A dSLR lens with those specs will be huge and cost thousands.

Merely to clarify why this lens is indeed good, the challenge with most superzoom cameras is that to keep the purchase price and size of the camera small, the lenses have small apertures. Without getting too bogged down in specifics, a tiny aperture lets in less light, and less light can bring about motion blur and/or soft and noisy photographs and movies. So when you zoom, the available maximum aperture gets even smaller letting in even less light.

The Olympus Stylus SH-2 (left) may have the same size sensor and zoom range as the FZ300, but its maximum aperture of f3.0 at 25mm and f6.9 at 600mm means it lets in drastically less light compared to the FZ300’s frequent f2.8 aperture.

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With the FZ300’s capacity to stay at f2.8 throughout its zoom range, you don’t have to be shooting completely sun or which consists of higher ISO settings to obtain a good shot. Actually, during shooting in mixed daylight conditions, the camera rarely went above ISO 400.

That’s a positive thing, too, for the reason that JPEGs straight from the camera certainly are a little on the soft side, particularly if you head above ISO 400. My recommendation will be shoot in raw or raw plus JPEG. Panasonic is just a little heavy on the noise reduction at higher ISO settings and by shooting in raw you can control the total amount between detail and noise.

On the left is a completely crop from a JPEG straight from the camera captured at ISO 320. The picture on the proper may be the processed raw version.

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The picture above is a wonderful exemplory case of what I’m discussing. The JPEG’s fine details have already been smeared out of existence as the raw image I processed in in regards to a minute with Adobe Camera Raw has far better detail if a bit more noise. (You can observe and download full-size versions of the photographs and more in the gallery below.)

The camera’s JPEGs might use some post-sharpening with editing software generally, but are certainly usable at smaller sizes at and above ISO 800, and the FZ300’s Wi-Fi enables you to easily hook up to an iOS or Android device and use Panasonic’s iphone app to transfer pictures and upload them to the selection of social networks for revealing to your followers. The software can be used to totally control the camera remotely.

Assisting you get those great shots to talk about may be the camera’s lightning quick autofocus system and rapid fire shooting speeds. The FZ300 uses Panasonic’s DFD (depth from defocus) technology, which assists the camera’s contrast-detection autofocus system by calculating the length to a topic at an extremely high speed in order that the focus accurately locks onto a target in approximately 0.09 second.

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In my own tests, continuous shooting speeds reached Panasonic’s claim of 12 pictures per second in both JPEG only and raw plus JPEG with autofocus fixed with the first shot; it dropped to about 50 % that with continuous autofocus fired up. Want to capture even more quickly? You can switch to the camera’s 4K Photo mode that basically gets you 8-megapixel photographs shot at 30 pictures per second which means you never miss a go.

So many settings, so much control
The 4K Photo mode is merely among the many, many shooting modes this camera offers. You get yourself a fantastic full Auto mode with extras like HDR to greatly help balance highlights and shadows and a low-light and a handheld night substitute for reduce noise and blur from handshake. You then have all of the manual and semimanual modes for stills and video. It could capture 4K video (3,840×2,160 at 30 or 24 fps) in MP4 format furthermore to 1080p at 60 fps in AVCHD Progressive or MP4 (MPEG-4/H.264) formats with full-time autofocus.

And the settings, my god, the settings — they just seem to be to be on and on, so that you can change almost every aspect. (If you need to see for yourself, download the entire manual.) Panasonic even added another shooting option with a firmware update called Post Focus. It uses the camera’s high-speed autofocus system to look for the distance between your camera and the topic, which it uses to fully capture the very best focus for 49 individual areas within each frame.

Once captured, after that you can select your focus point by tapping onto it on the 3-inch touchscreen and you can save the photo. The complete process takes time, so it is best reserved for still subjects shot with the camera on a tripod or other support. The other issue is that it must manually be fired up and off in the settings menu, if you inadvertently leave it you might miss a go.

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Also, if you’re somebody who likes to have a whole lot of direct control over various settings, the FZ300 offers you covered. There are four programmable function buttons — two at the top and two on back — together with five more soft keys on the touchscreen. There’s a thumb dial for fast changes to aperture or shutter speed. There are buttons for ISO, white balance, continuous and 4K Photo settings and autofocus areas and a switch to go between focus modes. Other extras include zoom and manual focus controls on the lens barrel, a hot shoe and a mic jack, but there is absolutely no headphone jack.

By the end of the day, if you are buying basic point-and-shoot fully computerized experience, this probably isn’t the camera for you personally. You would be better off with a camera like Nikon’s Coolpix L840. Not that the Panasonic Lumix FZ300 can not be used as such, it could, it’s just that with the other things it could do, it could be overkill. That said, if you desire a camera for a family group of photographers — for simple snapshooters to those who would like to really get imaginative — this is a fantastic choice.