Australian Review: Panasonic Lumix FZ80 - Feature Rich

Panasonic Lumix FZ80
Australian Review: Panasonic Lumix FZ80 - Feature Rich
The FZ80 is another new entry level camera from Panasonic that provides a few features from higher-end cameras in a cheaper body. In the FZ80’s particular case, some of these features are nice to have, but others are quite niche, making the value they add questionable. It’s a solid little camera, but it isn’t small enough to be called compact, and it isn’t full-featured enough to fill a DSLR’s shoes.

While the FZ80 boasts a very light weight design, it is still a bit bulkier in size than some of their other recent entry level cameras. It sports a more DSLR-like design than compact cameras like the Lumix GX850, but doesn’t seem to have the extra features to warrant the bulkiness. While it does include an impressive optical zoom range of 60x (focal lengths from 20mm to 1200mm), this isn’t really a feature most people would necessarily need or use on a camera in its category.

4K video is a big feature Panasonic seems to love throwing into lower-end cameras, and the FZ80 is no exception. It can produce excellent footage at 4K 30p, and is one of the only cameras in its price range to include such a feature - most others will only do 1080p.

Build quality is decent, but not as good as I’ve seen from some other entry level cameras. The buttons and dials feel a little soft and indefinite, and the body feels a little cheap. It feels solid enough to throw in a bag without too much worry, but the screen doesn’t flip and will be left unprotected from scratches.

Even if you have shaky hands, images from the FZ80 come out crisp and sharp, thanks to an impressive image stabilisation system. If you hold the camera up to your ear while it’s active, you might be able to hear the motors working against shaky hands to keep sharp focus. I have a little bit of hand tremor, but the stabilisation smoothed it out perfectly.

With good lighting, the photos it produces are nicely contrasted, well focused, but miss a little bit of detail under scrutiny. However, pushing the zoom lens out to the extreme does result in a noticeable loss of detail. Night shooting is much trickier - even with the impressive stabilization, you’ll have to take many shots as insurance against a blurry end product as the shutter speed has to slow to compensate against the tighter aperture of the zoom lens. Cropping at full size will also reveal significant grain as the ISO is pushed higher.

100% crop

Moderate zoom

Moderate zoom, 100% crop

Moderate zoom

100% crop

Moderate zoom

While I enjoyed using the FZ80, I can’t help but feel that it isn’t quite as attractive a prospect as some of their other small, cheap cameras like the Panasonic GX850. The FZ80 might boast a huge focal length range, but it comes at the cost of portability - it’s roughly the size of a compact DSLR but without the interchangeable lens system. On the other hand, the GX850 boasts interchangeable lenses on a camera only slightly bigger than an iPhone 3GS, and still manages to take very impressive photographs. The FZ80 isn't a bad camera by any stretch, just a little confused as to what role it should fill.

At roughly AUD$600, the Panasonic FZ80 is decent value, but I would prefer to spend a little bit more and get something like the Panasonic GX85 - it’s more compact, has interchangeable lenses and doesn’t suffer on image quality. For those who want a DSLR, a camera like the Lumix G7, Nikon D3400 or Canon 1300D would represent better value at very similar prices thanks again to interchangeable lenses providing upgrade paths without shelling out for an entirely new camera. If you’re truly set on a fixed lens camera, both the Sony Cybershot RX100 or Canon G9X II feature similar pricing, wider aperture for better low light or stylised shots, and significantly more compact and portable bodies.

Cybershack Score - rating backgroundrating 3.5

Decent valueA little confused
Enough features for most usersHuge zoom feels unnecessary
Fantastic image stabilisationNo interchangeable lenses

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