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Panasonic FZ330 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £499
inc VAT

Fast, feature-packed and excels for telephoto photography, the Panasonic FZ330 shows how a bridge camera should be done


Sensor resolution: 12 megapixels, Sensor size: 1/2.3in, Viewfinder: Electronic (1,440,000 dots), LCD screen: 3in (1,040,000 dots), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 24x (25-600mm), 35mm-equivalent aperture: f/15.6, Weight: 703g, Size (HxWxD): 93x133x122mm 

The FZ330 is the follow-up to 2012’s Panasonic FZ200. It was a groundbreaking camera with a constant f/2.8 aperture across its 24x (25-600mm) zoom. That meant it could capture lots of light in telephoto shots, producing photos with less motion blur and noise than other ultra-zoom cameras could muster.

It must be quite a technical achievement, as no other manufacturer has produced such a versatile lens in the last three years. Bridge cameras from Canon, Nikon, Fujifilm and Pentax offer zooms ranging from 50x to 83x but they all use lenses that close down to f/5.6 or smaller at the long end of their zooms, capturing a quarter the amount of light. A couple of other bridge cameras – the Sony RX10 II and Olympus Stylus 1s – have constant f/2.8 apertures but are limited to relatively modest 8.3x and 10.7x zooms respectively.

Panasonic FZ330 top

As such, it’s no disappointment to find the same lens fitted in the FZ330. The sensor resolution remains at 12-megapixels – a sensible decision given that this is the same small 1/2.3in size used in cheap compact cameras. A higher resolution may sound appealing but it’s more likely to increase noise levels more than details in a sensor of this size.

The headline specs may be the same but there are some welcome improvements to this updated model. The body is now splash- and dust-proof so there’s no need to stow it away at the first sight of a rain cloud or a sandy beach. The 3in articulated touchscreen has a higher resolution than before. The electronic viewfinder is significantly bigger and uses OLED technology for deeper contrast.

The controls have been refined, too, with a command dial that’s more substantial and easier to use. The manual focus switch has moved to the back of the camera, and also includes an AFC option for continuously updating autofocus when tracking subjects. There’s a new wheel on the lens barrel that makes it easy to adjust manual focus. This wheel can also be used to navigate menus and adjust settings. With so many buttons and dials plus an elegant touchscreen interface, there are often multiple ways to access the same feature. This may be overwhelming for some users but we suspect the typical FZ330 owner will find it flexible and efficient.

Panasonic FZ330 back

The FZ200 was released shortly before Wi-Fi became standard issue on cameras, and it’s a welcome addition here. Panasonic’s companion app for iOS and Android is packed with features including a remote viewfinder mode with comprehensive photographic control, video recording, stop-motion animation capture and the ability to capture a photo just by giving the phone a shake. Photos can be geo-tagged with the help of the smartphone’s GPS radio, and the app can generate collages from photos stored on the camera. There’s no NFC for automatic connection to Android devices but it’s easy to connect nonetheless.

Video, shooting speeds and autofocus

Panasonic has embraced 4K video recording more enthusiastically than any other manufacturer, and it makes an appearance here once again. There’s 3,840×2,160 recording at 24 or 25fps, along with 1080p at 24, 25 and 50fps. Other Panasonic 4K cameras we’ve reviewed use a slightly cropped area of the frame so that each pixel of the 4K video corresponds directly with a photosite on the sensor. The FZ330 doesn’t do this, and as a result its 4K videos don’t quite have the same biting clarity. The Panasonic GX8 exhibited slightly crisper details in 1080p videos, too. The FZ330 wasn’t far behind, though, and by any sensible measure it excels for video quality.

It also includes slow motion capture, recording 720p video at 100fps or VGA at 200fps, playing back at 25fps for 1/4- or 1/8-speed slow motion. Manual exposure control and touchscreen-driven spot autofocus are included, too. A drive mode called 4K Photo captures 4K video at a choice of aspect ratios, and allows individual frames to be saved as a JPEG. In effect it’s a 30fps, 8-megapixel burst mode that can keep recording for minutes if necessary. There’s also an option to keep buffering frames and save a second of video either side of when the shutter button was pressed.

The faster processor that’s required for 4K video capture has various other ramifications. One is that battery life has fallen from 540 to 380 shots. That’s disappointing but it’s still enough for a day’s enthusiastic shooting. The upside is that continuous performance has improved dramatically. The FZ200 could shoot at 10fps but only lasted for 13 frames before it needed to take a break to save them. The FZ330 kept going at 12.5fps for 83 JPEGs or 23 RAW frames in our test. It also captured at 7.2fps with continuously updating autofocus, lasting for 27 RAW frames and indefinitely for JPEGs.

Autofocus performance was exceptionally fast in normal use, too, typically taking around 0.2 seconds between pressing the shutter button and taking a photo. Shot-to-shot times averaged just 0.3 seconds. Autofocus is easy to control, too, with lots of options from a large area to a horizontal strip to a small pinpoint, plus responsive subject tracking. It’s also possible to move the autofocus point using the touchscreen, even when using the viewfinder. This level of performance and the fast, flexible autofocus are perfect for sports and wildlife photography – situations where the bright telephoto lens are in their element.

Image quality

We’ve seen this lens and sensor combination before in the FZ200, and the FZ330 largely matched our high expectations.

The sensor itself isn’t particularly remarkable – it’s the same 1/2.3in size that’s used in cheap compacts and most other bridge cameras. Comparing its output with the FZ200 in our studio tests, the FZ330’s JPEGs at ISO 100 delivered smoother fine details such as strands of hair, and less evidence of noise in darker areas of the frame. Its advantage wasn’t so noticeable at ISO 800, with both cameras’ JPEGs exhibiting spidery textures where the noise reduction was struggling. The FZ330 still produced cleaner shadows, though. Both cameras were flailing by ISO 3200 but the FZ330’s output looked better when resized for social media sharing.

These are respectable results for a camera with a 1/2.3in sensor, but the FZ330 has much less cause to use fast ISO speeds compared to its direct rivals, thanks to its constant f/2.8 aperture. This means it can capture telephoto shots at ISO 400 while other cameras must go up to ISO 1600. We much prefer this to the 50x and bigger zooms offered by most rival bridge cameras, which can be unwieldy to use.

This lens was also exceptionally sharp throughout its zoom range, delivering crisp details and coping admirably with dense textures such as foliage and hair. It also excelled for close-up photography, as it’s able to focus on subjects just 1m away at its full 600mm (equivalent) zoom position. This means subjects just 8cm across fill the frame – perfect for capturing insects and other small creatures without having to come too close and scaring them off.

One area that left us slightly disappointed was shooting in low light at wide-angle zoom positions. Panasonic’s cameras offer an Intelligent ISO mode that adapts the ISO speed not just depending on available light but also on focal length and the detection of moving subjects in the scene. This is available in the FZ330 but the settings it chose weren’t always what we wanted. The slowest shutter speed it allowed was 1/60s, whereas for wide-angle shots of static subjects 1/15s gave us reliably sharp results. It’s not hard to set the shutter or ISO speed manually but we’d prefer not to have to bother.Panasonic FZ330 image sample

^ This wide-angle shot is packed with detail. The overcast sky is burnt out but there’s only a little blooming and fringing.  (1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 100, 25mm equivalent)Panasonic FZ330 image sample 2

^ Focus is exceptionally sharp at the long end of the zoom, too. (1/2,000s, f/4, ISO 100, 600mm equivalent)Panasonic FZ330 image sample 3

^ The JPEG engine has handled these dense leaf and grass textures superbly. (1/1,300s, f/4, ISO 100, 61mm equivalent)Panasonic FZ330 image sample 4

^ Accurate, natural colours, and outstanding details once again. (1/160s, f/3.5, ISO 100, 42mm equivalent)Panasonic FZ330 image sample 5

^ The ability to focus on subjects 1m away at the long end of the zoom is perfect for macro shots without disturbing the subject. Meanwhile, the f/2.8 aperture keeps the ISO speed (and noise levels) down. (1/125s, f/2.8, ISO 250, 590mm equivalent)Panasonic FZ330 image sample 6

^ Shaded skin tones are always a tough test and reveal the noise limitations of the small sensor, even at ISO 100. (1/1,000s, f/4, ISO 100, 500mm equivalent)Panasonic FZ330 image sample 7

^ Indoor skin textures are respectable, though, thanks to the bright f/2.8 aperture. (1/80s, f/2.8, ISO 1250, 157mm equivalent)Panasonic FZ330 image sample 8

^ There’s little evidence of noise in this ISO 800 shot taken at dusk. (1/80s, f/2.8, ISO 800, 128mm equivalent)Panasonic FZ330 image sample 9

^ This shady spot captured in late afternoon has pushed the ISO speed up to 2500. Details are smudged but it’s not a bad effort. It would look a lot better if the automatic settings ventured to shutter speeds slower than 1/60s though. (1/60s, f/2.8, ISO 2500, 25mm equivalent)


The FZ330 is exactly what an ultra-zoom bridge camera should be, excelling for image quality at the long end of the zoom and with elegant controls and lightning-fast performance. It’s not cheap, though. The Panasonic FZ200 is still a great option and is currently available for just £250 from Amazon, and there’s a £60 cashback offer until 7 September 2015. Then there’s the Panasonic FZ1000, which has a more modestly specified 16x (24-400mm) f/2.8-4 lens but more than compensates with a significantly larger 1in sensor. It’s currently available for around £600, or just £500 with a cashback offer, again until 7 September.

Once prices settle down we envisage the FZ330 holding its own against its esteemed siblings. Frankly, there’s nothing from rival manufacturers anywhere near this price that comes close. Though if you want to see some options then check out our regularly-updated Best camera 2015 and buying guide article. Buy Now from Amazon.

Sensor resolution12 megapixels
Sensor size1/2.3in
Focal length multiplier5.56x
ViewfinderElectronic (1,440,000 dots)
Viewfinder magnification (35mm-equivalent), coverage0.7x, 100%
LCD screen3in (1,040,000 dots)
Orientation sensorYes
Photo file formatsJPEG, RAW (RW2)
Maximum photo resolution4,000×3,000
Photo aspect ratios4:3, 3:2, 16:9 1:1
Video compression formatMP4 (AVC) at up to 95Mbit/s
Video resolutions4K (3840×2160) at 24/25fps, 1080p at 24/25/50fps, 1080i at 25fps, 720p at 25fps, VGA at 25fps
Slow motion video modes720p at 100fps (1/4x), VGA at 200fps (1/8x)
Maximum video clip length (at highest quality)29m 59s
Exposure modesProgram, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual
Shutter speed range60 to 1/4,000 seconds
ISO speed range100 to 6400
Exposure compensationEV +/-3
White balanceAuto, 5 presets with fine tuning, manual, Kelvin
Auto-focus modesMulti, zone, flexible spot, custom multi, pinpoint, face detect, tracking
Metering modesMulti, centre-weighted, centre, face detect
Flash modesAuto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, rear curtain, red-eye reduction
Drive modesSingle, continuous, self-timer, AE bracket, WB bracket, HDR, panorama, interval, stop-motion animation, 4K Photo
Optical stabilisationYes
Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths)24x (25-600mm)
Maximum aperture (wide-tele)F/2.8
35mm-equivalent aperturef/15.6
Manual focusyes
Closest macro focus (wide)1cm
Closest macro focus (tele)1m
Card slotSDXC
Memory suppliedNone
Battery typeLi-ion
ConnectivityUSB, AV, micro HDMI, 3.5mm microphone in, 2.5mm wired remote
GPSVia smartphone app
HotshoePanasonic TTL
Body materialPlastic
AccessoriesUSB cable, neck strap
Size (HxWxD)93x133x122mm
Buying information
WarrantyOne year RTB
Price including VAT£499
Part codeDMC-FZ330EBK

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