The best Lumix camera
When you're ready to move beyond simple photography using a smartphone camera, you want a dedicated digital camera body. The Panasonic Lumix family of cameras is a good place to start.
The majority of Lumix cameras are designed for amateur photographers rather than professionals. They're available in many different configurations so you can find a model that fits your budget with the features you want.
Lumix fixed-lens and mirrorless cameras both are available. Our favorite Lumix camera is the versatile Lumix FZ1000 II with its big zoom lens.
Considerations when choosing Lumix cameras
The primary consideration when shopping for Lumix cameras involves selecting between fixed-lens cameras and mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (or ILCs).
A fixed-lens camera has the lens built into the camera body and the photographer cannot remove it. This limits the versatility of these cameras compared to mirrorless ILCs.
The best feature of a fixed-lens camera is its optical zoom lens measurement, which magnifies far-off subjects.
Fixed-lens cameras are easy to use, often geared toward beginners. They have automatic modes that simplify use, and they often don't have many options for manually controlling the settings.
A mirrorless camera allows the photographer to swap out the lens as desired. This provides greater versatility and creativity in the photos they can shoot simply by using a different lens design.
As a general rule, the mirrorless ILC carries a larger image sensor in terms of physical size than a fixed-lens camera. This means the mirrorless camera creates higher-quality images than the fixed-lens camera.
Mirrorless ILCs operate at faster speeds than fixed-lens cameras, and they allow for greater control over the settings. This makes them good choices for experienced photographers.
When comparing Lumix models, it helps to understand the terminology used with digital cameras.
Image sensor: The size of the image sensor plays the primary role in the camera's image quality. Larger-sized image sensors perform better in low light than small image sensors. With Lumix cameras, a four-thirds image sensor is one of the largest available.
Megapixels of resolution: The image sensor can record a certain number of megapixels. A pixel is a tiny dot in the digital image. Different Lumix camera models typically can record a maximum of 12 to 24 megapixels (roughly equal to 12 million to 24 million pixels). A higher-resolution photo results in better sharpness at large print sizes than lower-resolution photos.
Video recording: All Lumix cameras can record video as well as still images. Among Lumix models, you can record in a maximum full HD or 4K video resolution. Pay attention to the recording speed (measured in frames per second). A speed of 24 or 30 fps is common, but you may have some special effect options with faster speeds. Some older Lumix cameras may record in 4K, but they're limited to a disappointing 15 fps.
Lumix camera prices
Fixed-lens Lumix cameras typically cost $150 to $800, with big zoom or high-end image quality models at the top end of the range. Mirrorless Lumix cameras cost $500 to $2,500 for the camera body only. Lenses for mirrorless cameras cost roughly $100 to $500 apiece.
Q. What does a kit lens mean?
A. Some Lumix mirrorless cameras contain a kit lens that's sold with the camera body. The kit lens is a basic lens, and it's made for beginners. You can purchase advanced lenses later if desired.
Q. How does digital zoom compare to optical zoom in the Lumix camera's lens?
A. Optical zoom refers to the magnification the lens can produce by physically adjusting the elements of the lens. It produces far superior image quality compared to digital zoom, which uses software to magnify the scene.
Lumix cameras we recommend
Best of the best: Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 II Camera
Our take: For a fixed-lens camera, this model delivers better image quality and versatility than its peers.
What we like: With a one-inch image sensor size, it can produce image quality more like a mirrorless camera. Includes a 16x optical zoom lens.
What we dislike: Expensive model. No opportunity to swap out the lens for additional features.
Best bang for your buck: Panasonic Lumix FZ80 Camera
Our take: Huge zoom lens at 60x, which allows you to shoot far-off subjects with success.
What we like: Has a viewfinder, which is not common with fixed-lens cameras. Good price for a model that can record 4K video.
What we dislike: Difficult to hold the camera steady without using a tripod. Image quality is hit and miss.
Choice 3: Panasonic Lumix G7 Mirrorless Camera
Our take: Excellent image and video quality in an entry-level mirrorless interchangeable lens camera.
What we like: Camera body ships with a kit lens so you can start shooting photos immediately. Can record video at 4K resolution.
What we dislike: Doesn't perform as fast as other Lumix mirrorless cameras.
Kyle Schurman is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. BestReviews and its newspaper partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.