PANASONIC FZ100 and / or SONY RX1 - WHICH ONE SHOULD YOU BUY?

A comparison between the Panasonic RZ1000 and Sony RX10 'superzoom' cameras.

Panasonic FZ1000 and Sony RX10 side by side. My thanks to Jeff the cat for coming along and making these comparison shots more interesting than usual. He's always fascinated by my cameras and does in fact treat them with respect and curiosity. He is also the model for the only serious 4K video I've so far shot with the FZ1000 which you can see on YouTube HERE.

CLICK HERE for links to my Panasonic FZ1000 posts

CLICK HERE for links to my Sony RX10 posts

Two similar cameras stylistically, both with the sane sensor, both with wide-ranging fast zooms, both with top class lens stabilisation and video implementation. I have both so it isn't an issue, but if you are looking to buy one of these, which one should you choose? The Panasonic FZ1000 is the newer model, it has a longer zoom and 4K video. The Sony RX10 has a shorter but faster zoom, better construction and these days, despite a high starting price, is the cheaper option.

Incidentally there is a third choice. What might be called the luxury superzoom. It's a Leica rebadged version of the Panasonic. But then Leica did design the lens. It is difficult to guess just how much input Leica have in these Panasonic collaborations, but with the arrival of the Leica T, they have proved that they are perfectly capable of contributing to the high-tech digital camera world. I can't imagine this is different in any way to the Panasonic version. Looks great though.

If you want a good run down of the differences between the FZ100 and RX10 there is an excellent review at Imaging Resource HERE. Their verdict? After Sony dropped the price of the RX10 it was - 'UPDATE: The race is now too close to call!'

This review is my personal take on the cameras after using both for a while and my impressions of each. This isn't a whodunnit, so I should say that for me, in terms of which one I prefer, it's pretty much a dead heat. Both have their own unique virtues and it's nice to have both. And owning both isn't particularly expensive either. The two of them cost me around £1400, which is not that much when you consider what I'm getting with those fast zooms, compared to investing in an interchangeable lens system.

IMAGE QUALITY FOR STILLS

In terms of comparison, I can get this one out of the way pretty quickly. Like everybody else who has looked at this, I struggle to find any difference between the two cameras at any ISO. I can't say whether it has been acknowledged publicly that this is the same sensor, but the assumption is that it is. Certainly the files from each camera bear this out and it's too much of a coincidence for there to be any doubt that it is indeed the same sensor.

IMAGE QUALITY FOR VIDEO

Again for HD video the results are again very similar. However the FZ100 shoots 4K. And it is undeniably impressive. You need a seriously fast computer to even run it smoothly, but it is pretty spectacular. Plus you have the opportunity to do 7MP 21MB frame grabs off the video which are very good indeed. So if you are looking for the best quality video option then the RZ100 would seem to be the one. Though in terms of shooting video the RX10 has some advantages. It has a headphone jack as well as a microphone jack for monitoring sound while recording, whereas the Panasonic has only a microphone jack. The RX10 also has clean HDMI out to an external recorder and a built-in neutral density filter which allows the use of narrow apertures in bright light, which with that fast f/2.8 aperture throughout the zoom range is very useful if you want to achieve a narrow depth of field look.

THE 1" SENSOR

Now this is the key to those incredible zooms. The 1'' sensor allows that huge zoom range and wide apertures in a much smaller and lighter design than would be required for APS-C and 35mm film size / 'full-frame' sensors.

For those who are unaware how a 1" sensor compares to everything else here's a diagram.

Above are samples of how this 1" sensor performs at ISO 125 and ISO 3200. As expected it's no great shakes at the higher setting. In fact there is so much noise reduction applied that almost all detail is lost. But then if high ISO stills shooting is your thing, I doubt that you are considering one of these cameras anyway.

OPERATION AND HANDLING

Again there is very little to split these. If you are used to either Sony and Panasonic layouts then you'll probably be happiest with the one you are familiar with. I have a personal preference for Panasonic , but there is not a lot in it. Incidentally with Leicas penchant for stripped down menus I wonder what the V-LUX menus are like?

In terms of handling, the Sony RX10 is slightly smaller, the zoom having a less ambitious range. However, it does feel significantly classier in the hand. The Panasonic feels VERY plasticky, and even while I suspect it's nothing of the sort, fragile. However, Panasonic know how to make a polycarbonate body that can stand some heavy duty use so I'm certain it's easily strong enough to withstand whatever is thrown at it. It is also surprisingly light. The big grips on both are really nice and give both cameras a very stable, solid feel.

Both are incredibly close to DSLR design and no non-photographer would be in any doubt that you were using a serious piece of kit. Very handy for making the right impression if you use one of these for video at a wedding for example.

See below for images that show what these cameras look like kitted out for video. If they don't say 'Stand back and behave, I'm a PROFESSIONAL photographer' then I don't know what does!!!

SO, WHICH ONE SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?

To a large extent, whichever you choose is down to what's more important to you. The Sony has slighter better 'Pro' video implementation and a faster zoom. (The Sony zoom fully extended to the '200mm' equivalent length is still obviously at f/2.8. When the Panasonic FZ1000 is zoomed out to an identical '200mm' equivalent length it changes to f/4, which is where it remains for the rest of the zoom range.) The Panasonic has the longer zoom and 4K recording. the Sony feels better made, though whether or not it actually is, is open to debate. The Sony is also slightly smaller, though not by much.

Now I've got these two camera to handle some upcoming jobs that my nephew and I have when we will be shooting both video and stills. So we will be using one each. And they will complement each other. The plan is to use them both mostly hand held. Again with regard to the OIS image stabilisation in each, I find it impossible to come to any judgement as to which is better. Both are excellent in that respect. So, I can find a use for both. However if you are thinking about just one of these (and of course because they are all-in-one 'solutions' you can add either to what you have already) then I'm afraid I'm not really going to be any help. I find it completely impossible to recommend one over the other. At this current time the Sony is cheaper, if that's any help.

Finally I have to say that both are excellent cameras. I hate the term 'bridge' camera as you know, because that demeans both of them. The notion that they are in any way similar to those micro sensor, cheap zoom, plastic monstrosities that manufacturers have tried to foist on us for years is purely coincidental. These two 'superzooms' are a breed apart and for their size and price are simply amazing in terms of what they offer. In terms of high ISO stills, you may struggle to get a sharp, clean image, but for low light video they work superbly well. The Panasonic FZ1000 is still the front runner for my 2014 camera of the year award and the lens leads it's catergory also. Now that isn't me picking one over the other. It's simply a reflection of what I shoot and what I find most useful.

But both cameras show just what multi-national electronics companies can achieve. This is their forte and the real contribution they make to the digital camera marketplace. With their undoubted resources and big R & D budgets they can come up with something like this and not worry that much if it fails. However in this case both Sony and Panasonic are to be congratulated on coming up with a resounding success. It is really difficult for me to find fault with either camera. And that's a pretty rare occurrence!!