Bridge cameras, with their fixed super-zoom lenses, have traditionally offered users a great focal range, but not necessarily the image quality to match. That changed with the Sony RX10, which used a large one-inch-type sensor to boost photographic quality. But now there's a new challenger on the block, the Panasonic FZ1000, which offers much of what makes the RX10 great, and a bit more too. Here Gizmag looks at how the two cameras compare.
Both of these bridge cameras boast a one-inch-type CMOS sensor which is considerably larger than the 1/2.3-inch type commonly employed in this category of camera. This sensor size gives them a distinct advantage when it comes to image quality. However, their sensors are still much smaller than those found in most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras.
With megapixel counts around the 20 megapixel mark, both the Panasonic FZ1000 and Sony RX10 are going to be capable of producing detailed images. Either would be suitable for larger-scale printing, while not producing excessively large files and causing you to worry about the computer processing power needed to cope with them.
Focal range is the first big difference between these cameras. The Sony RX10 covers a 35-mm-format equivalent of 24-200-mm, from wide to telephoto, which should be enough for the majority of shooting situations. However, the Panasonic FZ1000 extends all the way into super-telephoto territory with a 400-mm equivalent. This makes it ideal for those who need the extra zoom potential, and it still offers 25-mm equivalent at the wide end.
With the cameras both offering long telephoto focal lengths, it's good to know they also feature built-in optical image stabilization. Available in most shooting modes, this can help smooth out the wobbles that are almost inevitable when shooting at slower shutter speeds or longer zooms.
One of the features that makes the Sony RX10 great is that its lens has a constant maximum aperture of F2.8 across the zoom range. This means it has a good light gathering ability at any focal length, and can produce images with a shallow depth-of-field. While the maximum aperture of the Panasonic FZ1000 is variable from F2.8 at the wide end, to F4 at the super-telephoto, that's probably not too much of a sacrifice when you consider it's also zooming that much more.
Both cameras feature sophisticated image processing engines which are able to produce images with faithful reproductions of textures and details quickly. They also give the do-it-all duo high-speed processing capabilities which have not previously been seen in bridge cameras.
The Panasonic FZ1000 and Sony RX10 both use contrast-detection autofocus, rather than a hybrid contrast and phase detection system. Of the pair, it's the FZ1000 which appears to have the advantage as it boasts 49-areas to the 25-points of the RX10. It also uses Depth from Defocus technology, where two images with different sharpness levels are evaluated to shorten focus times. Both cameras offer AF features such as subject tracking and the ability to focus on the eyes of a subject.
The one-inch-type sensors in this pair mean they're able to be used in more varied lighting conditions than their predecessors, without suffering from excessive noise. As such, their ISO options cover the sort of range you'd expect. However, once you are into the higher end of the numbers (the Panasonic has an extended option to match the RX10 at ISO 25,600) you're always going to see significant noise and loss of color reproduction.
Neither of these cameras are slouches when it comes to burst rate shooting. The Panasonic FZ1000 is the faster of the two, topping out at 12 fps compared to the 10 fps of the RX10.
The Panasonic FZ1000 has something to shout about in terms of video modes, because it can record 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels) footage at 30/25 fps, 100Mbps. Both cameras can shoot Full HD 1080p video at 60/50 fps, depending on your region, but the FZ1000 also boasts a 1080p high-speed mode at 120/100 fps for producing slow motion footage.
Both cameras offer electronic viewfinders in addition to their LCD monitors, which is great for photographers who are used to, or just prefer, using a viewfinder. Of the two EVFs, the Panasonic has the advantage in that it has 2,359k dots compared to the 1,440k dots of the Sony. This level of detail can make all the difference when composing shots.
Three-inch LCDs are the order of the day, and this time it's the Sony RX10 which has the higher resolution screen – with 1,229k dots, compared to 921k on the FZ100. However, the screen on the Panasonic is free-angle, meaning it can be rotated into a number of positions to help when shooting in awkward positions, while the Sony can only be tilted.
Neither of these cameras is going to fit in your pocket, despite sometimes being categorized as compact cameras. They look, and are sized, much like entry-level DSLRs. Of the pair, the Panasonic is considerably larger, mostly because its zoom lens is that much bigger, but it also has a bigger hand-grip and is taller.
Both of the cameras weigh in at over 800 g (1.76 lb), with the Panasonic again being slightly the heavier of the two. It's worth noting that the Sony uses a rigid magnesium alloy body and features dust and moisture-resistant seams and control seals. Meanwhile, Panasonic has not seen fit to shout about the construction of the FZ1000.
As you would expect from cameras designed primarily to appeal to enthusiasts, both the Sony RX10 and the Panasonic FZ1000 are able to shoot JPEG, or more post-processing friendly RAW image files.
Both members of this do-it-all duo are equipped with built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity for easy wireless pairing with other devices. Once connected via iOS or Android apps, either camera can share images or allow their owners to remotely fire the camera's shutter with smart devices.
As with the majority of digital cameras on the market, SD memory cards are the storage media of choice on both the Sony RX10 and the Panasonic FZ1000. However, the RX10 can also accept Sony Memory Stick Duo cards... if anyone still has those lying around in a drawer somewhere.
The Sony RX10 and the Panasonic FZ1000 should both last for around 350 shots on a single battery charge.
One of the biggest differences between these two cameras is their price-tag. The newer Panasonic FZ1000 has undercut the Sony RX10 by a substantial US$400.
When the Sony Cyber-shot RX10 first came out, it impressed us in a way that no other bridge camera had done before. It instantly became what we'd recommend to anyone looking for a premium do-it-all all-in-one camera. But where it was once by far the best bridge camera on the market, and an easy choice, it's now a much harder sell.
That's because the new Panasonic Lumix FZX1000 gives the Sony some very serious competition. It matches (or betters) the specification of the RX10 almost across the board, and has a significantly lower price-tag. It also goes without saying that if you need the 400-mm equivalent zoom, or 4K video recording, the Panasonic is the only one for you.
As always, we'd recommend trying either, or both, of these cameras out before making the investment. A big part of getting the right camera for you is seeing how it feels in your hands, and making sure it takes the sort of images that you are going to be happy with.