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Lifewire / Andy Zahn
Great image quality
Excellent video quality
No microphone port
The Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80 looks and feels cheap, but delivers excellent photos and videos that exceed its chintzy exterior. This camera offers incredible value for the money.
The Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80 offers tremendous value for budget-minded photographers. It features a huge 60x optical zoom, 18 megapixels, and 4K video for a stunningly low price.
We put the DC-FZ80 to the test to see how this low-priced camera actually performs, and to see if it cuts a few too many corners in its quest for affordability.
It is odd to think about how many kinds of plastic there are—there are plastics so solid and robust that they may be mistaken for metal or glass, and then there are the plastics of which the Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80 is composed. There is something deeply unpleasant-feeling about the materials used in the construction of this camera. And it definitely looks like its budget price tag.
But on a positive note, the DC-FZ80 weighs practically nothing. You’re not going to notice it hanging around your neck, and for a superzoom camera, it is among the most compact. We never felt overburdened by it, and it makes a great travel camera for this reason—ideal for backpacking adventures where every pound matters.
There’s nothing complicated about setting up the DC-FZ80—the touch screen makes setting the time, date, and language extremely easy. The camera charges up in just a few hours, but the included charging cable is very short, so the camera will need to be quite close to an outlet while charging.
Though we found the initial setup easy, the learning curve for the rest of the camera's functions was considerably steeper. Panasonic has packed a lot of features into the DC-FZ80, and the more advanced functions require many references to the manual and a good bit of trial and error to master.
Fortunately, we found the included manual and feature guides to be far more in-depth than what is typically included with cameras and other gadgets these days. Also, the touchscreen makes it easier to navigate the confusing menu system.
The controls are generally serviceable and feel tactile and satisfying to use, though they also have something of a cheap feel to them. You get the usual mode dial, record button, zoom and shutter buttons, and control dial. We appreciated the inclusion of a power switch as opposed to a button, which makes it less likely that you’ll power the camera on or off by accident.
On top of the camera, you also get two buttons that may seem mysterious at first. One selects the 4K photo mode, and the other sets “Post Focus,” a unique Panasonic feature.
4K photo mode has a lot of potential applications. It captures what is essentially 4K video, but as a series of 8MP frames shot at 30fps. You can then select from these individual frames.
In 4K modes, you can choose to record a set period of time, record continuously until the shutter button is pressed a second time, and record for one second before the shutter button is pressed. This last option is quite interesting, and we were able to reliably capture fast action with it since we didn’t have to guess at the right moment to hit the trigger.
It is an absolute bargain for the image quality it’s capable of capturing.
The one problem with 4K photo mode is that the photos are not very high resolution, but it’s a worthy tradeoff if you really have to get a particular, fast-moving shot just right.
“Post Focus” is a unique mode with a lot of potential. In this mode, the camera automatically captures a wide range of focus points, which allows you to adjust the focus after you’ve taken the shot (in practice, we found this to be a bit of a hassle).
Alternatively, you can have the camera render a stacked image where everything is in focus, which is especially useful for shooting close-up subjects.
The modes on the top dial include Auto, Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, and Manual Video. There is also a mode in which you can create your own preset setting, as well as Filters, Scenes, and a Panorama mode.
Filters include effects such as toy camera and fisheye, among others. These can be an amusing novelty, but we found none of them provided pleasing results. Also, the camera is not powerful enough to process these effects in real time, so you must shoot with the screen constantly stuttering.
Scenes are more useful and more varied, including 24 different scene settings of varying quality and utility. But, as with the filters, we found them to be more of a novelty than anything.
The 1.4-million-dot LCD display on the FZ80K is not much to look at, and it doesn’t articulate. But it makes up for this by being touch-enabled. The touchscreen controls are responsive and intuitive, and we were often grateful for the benefit this lends to navigating menus and setting focus points.
The viewfinder is another story. This 1.17-million-dot LCD is tiny and washed out, and must be triggered by a button rather than a proximity sensor. We rarely found ourselves using it due to its poor quality.
We found that while the FZ80K had trouble focusing at times (especially in low light), it does have excellent subject-tracking ability.
Once the camera locked onto a subject, it would track it without fail, even when we were moving back and forth and our subject was moving in different directions. More impressive still was its ability to lock back onto its subject as it moved in and out of the frame.
A big problem with many budget cameras is that they produce sub-par images. Not so with the FZ80K. This camera rivals superzoom cameras well above its price point in terms of RAW and JPEG image quality.
Of course, it doesn’t perform well in low light, but that is never a strong suit of point-and-shoot cameras. The image stabilization helps, but it’s not good enough to counter the camera’s mediocre high ISO performance, which goes up to ISO 6400 but which we would recommend keeping under 800 for good-quality results.
In good light, the FX80K is quite impressive, and for sheer image quality, this camera is hard to beat within the superzoom niche.
As with photos, the FZ80K is an exception to the rule when it comes to cheap cameras. You can record up to 4K video at 30fps, and the footage captured at 4K and at other resolutions is remarkably sharp and detailed. You don’t get many options when it comes to video—it only shoots at 30 or 60fps, and the higher framerate is only available at 1080p resolution and below.
A glaring flaw is the lack of a microphone port. This, coupled with the fact that the screen does not articulate, means that the FZ80K cannot be recommended as a vlogging camera.
The FZ80K is an exception to the rule when it comes to cheap cameras.
However, the good quality of the video the FZ80K produces cannot be ignored, and considering the included timelapse and stop motion features, this would be an excellent camera for recording video where sound and self-recording capability isn’t important.
We found it excelled at capturing natural scenes and animals, and it is ideal for capturing travel video. For travel, you want to minimize the amount of gear you carry and might not want to use an external microphone anyway.
The FZ80K connects wirelessly via WiFi to your smartphone using Panasonic’s free app. We found the app to be useful for transferring images to edit and for sharing our photos while traveling.
The FX80K has an MSRP of $399, but most stores sell it for around a hundred dollars less. It is an absolute bargain for the image quality it’s capable of capturing throughout its long zoom range.
Of course, this low price does come with tradeoffs in terms of build quality—this is not a particularly ergonomic camera to use, and a lot of corners have been cut. However, the camera performs well where it matters, making it an excellent budget option.
Based on our testing, the Canon Powershot SX70 is undoubtedly a better all-around camera compared to the FZ80K. Its build quality, control scheme, menu system, autofocus, and ergonomics are lightyears ahead of the FZ80K. However, the SX70 has an MSRP of $549, does not have a touchscreen, and does not offer superior image quality than the FZ80K. In fact, compared side-by-side, the FZ80K is actually capable of producing slightly higher-quality photos and videos than the SX70.
With that said, the SX70 is going to get more consistent results than the FZ80K because it’s a better-quality camera in every other way. The SX70 is definitely worth the extra money, but if you need to save a few dollars, you won’t have to compromise in terms of image quality with the FZ80K.
A powerful little camera at an extraordinarily affordable price point.
Though the Panasonic LUMIX DC-FZ80 is rather poorly-constructed and has a confusing menu system, the excellent touchscreen interface and high image quality make it remarkably competitive with much more expensive cameras. You won’t find much better value for your money.
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