Panasonic Lumix FZ200 Digital Camera Review$599.00
The front of the body is home to SLR-style conveniences like a large hand grip, with a recession for the middle finger, and just enough rubberization to prevent slipping. The huge lens does throw off the balance though, so this is a predominantly two-handed camera.
On the rear panel, the button layout interferes with handling. The thumb wants to come to rest halfway between the AF/AE Lock button and the command dial, well above and to the left of the actual thumb rest, which itself lacks proper grip and is little more than textured plastic. Both the directional pad and Display button are also far too high, and they'll accidentally contact the knuckle of your thumb all the time. If you're taking a shot and suddenly find your white balance preset has changed, that's why.
Buttons & Dials
The control scheme is organized around no less than three customizable Function buttons, making this camera more appropriate for users with some experience. You'll need to commit some of your own internal memory—meaning your brain—to actually remembering what all these buttons do, and you'll also need to practice and use the camera frequently to make this work. We see this as slight overkill on an ultrazoom camera.
We're also bugged by the EVF/LCD button, which is necessary to swap between preview modes in the absence of an eye lever sensor. On the opposite side of the panel, the rear command dial is another example of chintzy, plasticky construction from Panasonic, however the dial is at least highly useful, especially with extra push-in functionality added.
On the top panel you'll find the excellent mode dial, shutter release, zoom lever, and power level; but also a bunch of buttons that are difficult to reach. The Function 1 button is especially challenging (default settings map this to color modes), but there's also the red video record button here, as well as the drive mode key.
The rear review monitor is a 3.0-inch panel with full tilt-out and swiveling capability, which makes framing easy from any angle, especially while shooting video. Reproduction of color and detail is accurate, and viewing angle is very wide, however there's a 16:9 guide zone displayed by default that's very distracting.
The FZ200 has an electronic viewfinder with a 1.3 million dot resolution. The displayed image is small, off-color, and laggy, while the finder itself can be difficult to look through. A diopter adjustment wheel is accessible on the right of the eye cup, however the camera is not equipped with an eye lever sensor, so you'll need to press the EVF/LCD button with your left hand to swap from the LCD.
Other than during testing, we found it best to leave the FZ200's stabilizer active during most of our shooting. The feature protected our maximum zoom shots from motion blur about half of the time. That's not great, but we could see no downside—such as a dip in sharpness—to leaving the system turned on, so we recommend you do the same.