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Having used the Panasonic DMC-FZ200 for over 2 months to take hundreds of pictures and video clips, mainly of wildlife and live music, having filled up a 32 MB and a 16 MB memory card and also transferred this to a computer, I am now in a position to make comments on it.
I really wish I could wholeheartedly recommend this model for the sort of stuff I do but I am afraid it is not the case. On the plus side, the quality of image and sound is fairly good, even though I understand that other still cameras costing the same or less have a greater resolution. There are 2 main types of problems, one of which is I think due to having a faulty individual camera, and the other is probably due to an inherent problem with this type of camera, which is basically a still camera adapted for video rather than a regular camcorder.
1. Intermittently, though from about the very beginning, the record button and the Zoom have given problems; from time to time, the record button will not come on when you press it, or if already recording, will not stop when you try to turn recording off. In these cases I have had to use the main ON/OFF switch. Similarily, from time to time the zoom will not respond, if you try to zoom in or out, or will by itself zoom in or out when you do not intend it to. The camcorder has not been dropped or damaged in any way.
2. Close-ups of insects and flowers, etc, have always formed a major part of my video work in the past. Unfortunately at times it is very hard to focus either at wide angle or telephoto to get a good large image, yet at times one can get right in and get a large image in focus (the manual states that one can focus as close as 1 cm. from the lens, but in practice I have seldom found this possible); this seems to happen without me knowing how or why, though I have consulted the manual. Manual focus would be useful here at times but has to be done through a menu system, rather than pressing a single button, and this is fiddly and does not give the desired result. I have read that camcorders are better than still cameras at autofocusing on moving images than still ones, as one would probably expect, since camcorders deal primarily with moving images.
3. I have noticed that on a number of occasions, when the image in the viewfinder loosk correctly exposed, and gives a correct exposure when taking a still picture, that when one starts recording Video, it becomes somewhat burned out looking, though I think this depends on the lighting and contrast, etc.
4. There have been problems with copying files to my laptop, using the supplied software, called PhotoFunStudio 8.3; when one connects the camera via a USB lead, the default, at present, is for all files on the memory card to be selected for copying. One can untick the ones that one does not want, but of late even if one does this, they have still been copied to the computer anyway, and one then has to laboriously go through the recently copied files to delete the ones which were copied earlier so as to avoid duplicates. As the memory card becomes fuller and fuller this takes longer and longer.
I know one could avoid this by deleting any files on the memory card which have already been copied to a computer. I however like to keep these on, unless the card is full or nearly full, both as a back-up in case something happened to the computer, and also as I often wish to show people footage e.g. of wildlife or musical events, on the camera itself.
I seem to remember that in the early days when one connected the camera to the computer, a menu came up giving one the option of only copying new files, etc., but this does not seem to appear any more.
Although I managed to produce a DVD of music from files originally recorded on the camera, to do this needed another program, a free one called Amersoft which I downloaded from the Internet. Unfortunately when I did this, the name Amersoft appears in noticeable white Letters across the middle of the video, which is rather distracting. I was recently asked to film some performers at a local music session and upload the results to You Tube, and would prefer this Amersoft Logo not to appear; actually perhaps there is a mechanism for this not to appear, since it did not appear with a DVD I produced earlier with footage of a lecturer which I was also asked to produce. Perhaps it is possible to burn a DVD using PhotoFunStudio, though the camera manual which I printed out is not clear on this.
Another nuisance is that while one can view the file names in Windows Explorer, the image does not appear as a thumbnail, so without clicking on it one does not know what the footage or image refers to. One has to view the thumbnails in PhotoFunStudio to see what they are. I don't know whether one can readily copy these to a memory stick, etc, through PhotoFunStudio.
I do not know whether it is possible to save sequences of Files for future use, e.g. if one wanted to produce more than 1 copy of the same DVD, so that one didn't have to laboriously select the same files in the same order each time.
Burning DVDs also takes quite a long time; if one for example were burning an hours length of video footage to a DVD, it takes more than an hour, not counting the selection of the individual files, in the right order, beforehand. Not having burned DVDs before I don't know whether this is normal, although it is certainly longer than burning an hours worth of audio on to a CD; admittedly Video files are more complex than Audio files.
As far as I can gather, one cannot play the highest quaility images, called AVCHD, available on the camera, directly on a DVD; one must either set the default to MP4, or convert the AVCHD files to MP4 files, using a separate programme. I have set the default to MP4 for all future recording.
If I understand things correctly, one can actually take still photographs in the middle of filming video aLthough I haven't tried this yet. I have a vague recollection of reading somewhere that it is possible to put both Video footage and still footage on to the same DVD and later view both; I haven't tried this yet but it would be useful to do in in the case of the DVD of music above.
I don't wish this rather long post to sound like one complaint after another. Certainly it is good to have in effect a combined camcorder and still camera for £450.00, when prior to hearing about this camera I was considering paying twice this for a camcorder alone, which only has a zoom range of 12 rather than 24. Battery life is fine and I would not expect to run out of battery power during a normal days filming if the battery was fully charged at the start of the day, although I have bought a spare battery anyway. I also like the fact that the battery charger is separate from the camera; with some camcorders I have had, the battery charger was built in which mean that the camera could not be used when charging up a battery.
I realise some of the problems I have mentioned above, perhaps especially those concerned with copying files and burning DVDs, etc, may be solved as I become more familiar with the camera, etc; the manual when printed out, runs to 220 pages and I have not had the time to read all of it. The main concerns are the intermittent faults with the Record Button and Zoom lever, and the problems with focusing in close-ups, referred to above, are the main worry.