Bridge cameras - the long-zoom, fixed-lens cameras - have come a long way.
Just a few years ago, they were deemed unwieldy, given their large size, and image quality wasn't superb either. But camera makers have heard consumers' feedback and have been steadily beefing up this category.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC- FZ2500 was announced at Photokina in September last year, and it is the Japanese manufacturer's top- of-the-line bridge camera.
Its design and handling are superb, mimicking those of a full-size DSLR camera. Its weight (966g, including battery) is in the ball park of the latter too.
The handgrip is robust and users with large hands will find it easy to operate the camera. The presence of mode dials and a jog wheel at the top shows its appeal to enthusiasts and serious photographers.
What's unique about the FZ2500 is that it packs a one-inch sensor, and this implementation serves to deliver better-quality imagesthan those bridge cameras with a 1/2.3-inch sensor.
The 20x zoom lens goes from a super-wide 24mm to 480mm (in the 35mm focal length equivalent), covering a decent range that most photographers will need.
IMAGE SENSOR: 20-megapixel 1-inch CMOS sensor
DISPLAY: Articulated 3-inch LCD display with 1,040k dots; electronic viewfinder with 2,360k dots
SHOOTING SPEED: Up to 50 frames per second
WEIGHT: 966g (body only, with battery and memory card)
BATTERY LIFE: 4/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5
It also helps that the Leica-branded optics has an aperture that starts at a relatively bright f/2.8, and stops down to f/4.5 at 480mm. This allowed me to capture low-light scenes without the need for a tripod, or boosting the ISO up too high.
Another interesting feature is Post Focus. In this mode, the camera captures 49 4K photos, utilising all 49 autofocus points.
After the capture, photographers can scroll through the 49 shots to find the shot that they want, and save it as an 8-megapixel image.
There is also the Focus Stacking function which I used to get a sharp macro shot, which typically only shows a shallow point of focus.
Also worth a mention is the articulated LCD, which makes it easy to capture high- or low-angle shots easily. The high-resolution electronic viewfinder is also bright and clear, possibly one of the best that I have tested so far.
Autofocus is quick. It locks onto subjects and, in Autofocus Continuous (AF-C) mode, it was quick to track moving subjects and keep them in focus as they moved within the frame.
Image quality from the Lumix's one-inch sensor is great. Colour reproduction was accurate in Standard Colour mode.
Photos captured below ISO 1,600 were generally clean and free of noise. Monochromatic noise started creeping in only at ISO 3,200 and beyond, but even that didn't affect the colour reproduction. In this respect, the FZ2500 held up well even against conventional DSLR cameras.
The FZ2500 has a lot of other features that make it a great all-in-one camera, including allowing users to choose between mechanical and electronic shutter, RAW image capture, 5-axis image stabilisation, up to 12 customisable buttons, 4K video recording and built-in variable neutral density filters.
These are what enthusiasts or semi-pro photographers typically look for in a camera.
•Verdict: If weight is not an issue and you are shopping for a capable bridge camera, the FZ2500 should be highly considered for its excellent feature list and image quality.
•Leonard Goh is a photography instructor and a freelance writer who wrote about cameras at CNet Asia.