Using the new Panasonic FZ200 camera

Earlier in the year, Dorothy thought this photographing birds lark, might be a bit of fun and we started to look for a suitable camera. At first my choice would have been the Panasonic FZ150, as  it filled most of the ‘must haves’.  On looking about Nikon had released a super duper, little V1. This was light, interchangeable lenses and a larger sensor than the Panny.

It also had an adaptor that allowed it to enter the world of the big Nikon glass, and we thought that to be an advantage.  But.

In spite of her best efforts to make it work, the frustration level was high. In the end we had to conclude that the little V1 was indeed super duper, but not a super duper bird photography camera. It would be great for travelling about the markets in SE Asia, boating along the waterways in merry old England. Snapping the kids at the backyard barby, using the clever face and animal recognition features to key in your dog’s birthday, so it would be recorded with each image (??) and the like.  Maybe even a worthwhile real estate agent’s carry in camera. But for birds. Its for the birds.

Here are a few of the frustration points. (I know, I’ve heard them yelled out in the bush more than once)

1. Buttons and controls are too **@&&$& small.  It’s true. Just try to do something in a hurry in the overcast dark forest and it becomes obvious.

2. Too many things are controlled by buttons that have multi multi multi functions. Nope she doesn’t stutter. Its true depending on which of the tiny buttons you are holding while you push another will depend on what is set or unset.
3. Too many real settings are hidden in menus.  ISO and EV being two I can think of, but I do believe there are more.

4. Auto focus that has a mind of its own. Point it at the subject and it immediately is enamoured by something else in the scene, the background, the highlights, the waving branches, the big black truck. Anything but the subject. For an evaluative system it certainly is.  But how about it evaluating what its pointed at?  !!  Now you’ve got to remember that birds sometimes perch on branches in trees, and trees have more than one branch. Which is where the V1 and its brothers and sisters over in the DSLR stable have a similar problem. Anything is more interesting than your subject, so the focus hunts and then avoids the subject. On this subject, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The Nikon techs need to take the Canon techs to lunch and find out how a real auto-focus system works.  OR Nikon should re-hire the team that did autofocus with the D2 and D200 series of cameras. At least they can grab a subject and hold on to it like a terrier. Rather than the namby pamby oh, I’ll just check out a few more things and if I like them better I’ll focus there system in the current stable.

5. Lenses are ok sharp.  This is s non technical description of a lens that looks ok most of the time, but on closer examination of the  image, 100%, (that’s not pixel peeping, it called checking focus), the image bears a strong resemblance to Mum’s old box brownie. (C’mon Nikon you can do better than that. No one is expecting 105mm micro Nikkor sharpness, but really it’s only a tiny chip.  Or is it that the target audience for this wonder is unaware of what a ‘sharp’ image might look like. ) Don’t start me on Nikons Kit zoom lenses. Enough has been said.

6. Battery life is non-existent. We won’t venture out for a day without 3 fully charged batteries.  And each of them will be flat within about 2 hours of being in the camera.  This is a deal breaker.

7. “Oh, its too hot, I’ll just close down now- for an hour or two!!!!!” What?  We photograph in the bush on hot days, 40 Celsius is not uncommon in a mid-summers day in Oz mate. What white coated technocrat dreamed up this one.  Or is it only meant to be sold to people who photograph in 20 Celsius shopping malls? This was the final straw. I was watching a human being in total control, otherwise the V1 would have been sailing through the air to the other side of the forest.

Sooo after much angst.  Well not really, but you read about that stuff in blogs all over, we decided – note the “We” in that sentence, very important for the next part of the post. We decided the Nikon V1 was staying home, and if it was really lucky it might just avoid a trip in the big green dumper.

Canon have a really interesting kit called SX50.  It has a 50X times zoom up to 1200mm in the old 35mm way of looking at things. (Its all about Angle of View, but we don’t want to mess with the calculations here, so go with the marketing depts BS on this). Now Panasonic blasted out of the gate in about October with a FZ200. Only 600m of zoom but with an amazing F2.8 all the way. (the Canon does f 6.5 at the 1200mm spot. about 2 1/2 stops less light. Hmmm).

Rodger S of the Swallows in flight fame , “Swallows Are Us”,  has been impressing with his images of Swallows in flight using the FZ150 and now the FZ200.  See his Flickr set here. He also uses that super little Red-Dot sight, so there is no looking through the viewfinder trying to find the subject. It’s just point and shoot.

Da Dah!. One cha-ching later and we (remember “We” from the sentence above). were back in business, and back in the forest.

Ok, so its not perfect. At least I don’t think it is, as it doesn’t make cups of tea and put out the cat, but it does take sharp photos of birds. EASILY. And, it knows about focusing on the subject its pointed at. No discussions, no alternatives. Oh, the bird in the focus box. That’s it. Got it.

Thank you mr Panasonic.

Here are a few from the past few days. (C) Dorothy M J 2012.

They are all hand held. There is no additional software sharpening going on here. As out of the camera. She’s a photographer, not a computer guru.

Wagtails chicks is impressive enlarged.

Go on click on the image to get a larger view. You know you want to.

Eastern Yellow Robin male.
Eastern Yellow Robin male.
Willie Wagtail Overcrowded Nest. Out of five young it looks like she got four on the wing.
Willie Wagtail Overcrowded Nest. Out of five young it looks like she got four on the wing.
Eastern Yellow Robin and nest construction. Back lit so the camera has struggled a bit, but got the focus part right!
Eastern Yellow Robin and nest construction. Back lit so the camera has struggled a bit, but got the focus part right!
Brown Falcon with it's own pet Willie Wagtail.  This has been cropped in a bit. ISO 400.
Brown Falcon with it’s own pet Willie Wagtail. This has been cropped in a bit. ISO 400.
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8 thoughts on “Using the new Panasonic FZ200 camera

  1. Hi Dave. Great shots they look pretty sharp to me. Why didn’t you order the optional tea making kit? Its called the Panasonic T4U Mk1. Fits into the hot shoe.
    I went out to Woodlands this afternoon, got some shots of a red-capped robin and a juvenile – I think.

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    1. G,day Rodger,
      Thanks for the comments. I’ll put in an order for the teaset The hotshoe is full of the bracket for the red-dot.
      Else looks good and it certainly is about the easiest camera to use that we’ve played with in quite awhile. I know we’ve talked about it before, but the autofocus on this camera has less work to do and so the mechanism really does nail focus. Which will come out when we get down to WTP again and try some inflight shots. No swallows.

      Glad you had some luck at Woodlands today. We’ve had a few mornings out there and not seen anything at all, I know of the location of one pair, but the rest are a mystery to me. Did you see any of the Tree Martins. Just about all the big trees have a Pardalote or two and a small Tree Martin colony. Lots of feeding going on. But they are so fast. Still when the RDS arrives watch out.

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  2. Hi Dave, no I didn’t see any Tree Martins or pardalotes. Would have liked to, but they were avoiding me, I could hear them breathing, but they were hiding. Seriously, I didn’t see anything other than a few Magpies until I went into the back paddock and then I didn’t see anything until I walked about 150 meters on from the info shed and suddenly a number of small birds all shot into this one tree. Most were Yellow Rumped Thornbills, but in amongst them were two Red Capped Robins (one male and one juvenile, female I think) and a yet unidentified juvenile honeyeater, plus a couple of Grey Fantails. It was like bird city for about 20 minutes. I got a few good shots, particularly of the juvenile robin, the male wouldn’t let me get as close and he wouldn’t come to me. I sat quietly for a short time hoping he would check me out, but he wasn’t having any of that. I have some shots on Flickr. He has a distinctive little red bit on part of his beak near the eye end.
    I think that back lit Eastern Yellow Robin is a beauty. All those shots are good, but the lighting and sharpness on that shot is outstanding.
    Regards
    Rodger

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    1. Hi Rodger, thanks for the update.
      Its been a bit complicated to get out there at the best times to see the robins.
      Its really nice when the small flocks just merge to a larger flock for a few minutes. Great shot on Flickr of the Juvenile.

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    1. G,day Nina
      I think its essentially the same camera except for the lens. FZ200 is continious f2.8, the FZ47 goes 2.8 to 5.2.
      So all you have to do is fine the appropriate yellow robin and the rest should be easy!
      So he says.

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      1. Hi,
        Brimbank is a really good place. The part I like is down the south end of the park. Close to the freeway. The river runs in a couple of nice sweeping bends and there is plenty of undergrowth for the little birds.
        Good luck.

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