Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 brings with it a wide array of features plus an 18X zoom lens and all this into a relatively compact body. This 8.3-megapixel camera provides above-average image quality. At $399.95, it's a good bargain. A worthy follow-up to Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8, the FZ18 puts in some important features like a longer zoom and wider angle, higher sensitivity and resolution, and Intelligent Auto Mode, which includes face detection, automatic scene selection, intelligent ISO, and continuous autofocus.

The best part of the FZ18 is its 18X wide-angle Leica lens, which has a range of 4.6mm to 82.8mm. The wide angle is a welcome upgrade from the FZ8, allowing you to capture more in group portraits and landscapes. The zoom operates at two speeds, depending on how far you push the zoom lever, and operation is smooth and seamless.

It's ISO ranges from 100 to 1,600. The camera has an Intelligent ISO mode that detects moving subjects and automatically increases the ISO to decrease blur. Panasonic has added a high-sensitivity mode that enables you to capture photos at an ISO as high as 6,400, although the resolution drops to 3MP. The FZ18 offers not only raw mode, it also provides a raw-plus-JPEG option, which isn't usually found on inexpensive superzooms.

The FZ18's design showcases Panasonic's thoughtful attention to ergonomics. Weighing around 14.4 ounces, the camera is lightweight for a superzoom yet feels solid and well constructed. The mode dial lets you select one of 14 top-level settings, including the primary mode selections and most popular scenes. Panasonic has added discrete manual focus and macro buttons, allowing for direct operation.

The back of the camera has a 2.5-inch, 207,000-pixel display. The screen is very bright. The LCD is sometimes slow to refresh. If that's a problem, you can frame shots with the electronic viewfinder, which has a 188,000-pixel display and includes an adjustable diopter.

The buttons on the FZ18's back are well positioned for ergonomic use. The two that you'll use most are the main menu cursor buttons and the joystick. The center button of the menu cursor puts you into the menu system; the four surrounding directional buttons let you control exposure, flash settings, the self-timer, and image playback. If you prefer, you can navigate the menu using the small joystick. It's convenient for accessing commonly changed settings, such as ISO and white balance.

Image stabilization works well. Panasonic gives you two stabilization settings: In mode 1, the image stabilizer is constantly working; in mode 2, the stabilizer is activated only when the shutter button is pressed. The face detection function, new to the Panasonic's superzoom line, automatically sets exposures and focus. It can recognize up to 15 faces, and it worked well under normal lighting conditions, although sometimes not as well in low light. The FZ18 has 17 scene modes, plus an advanced mode that lets you fine-tune the settings in popular scenes. In portrait mode, for instance, you can choose among normal, soft skin, outdoor, indoor, and creative settings.

For video, you can record motion JPEGs at 30 frames per second (up to 2GB in size) at resolutions of 640 by 480 and 320 by 240 pixels at the traditional 4:3 aspect ratio, and 848 by 480 pixels in 16:9 aspect ratio. The camera adjusted well to various lighting conditions and color was impressive, but you can't zoom during video capture.

The Panasonic Lumix FZ18 is at the top of its class in features, and its performance was marred only slightly by noisy images under low lighting conditions, which is typical of cameras in this category. It's a perfect option for the photographer who wants more than a point-and-shoot but doesn't need the advanced features of D-SLR models.


2 comments:

chanapong

April 8, 2008 at 7:26 PM

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18

Blogman00

May 11, 2008 at 2:03 PM

Thank you for the review. I have lately developed an interest in photography and am looking for the right camera. I have taken the opinion of alot of my friends and am reading reviews like yours to help me make a wise desicion cause I dont want to spend much. However, I think if you put up this camera on an online tool like MyPRGenie (http://www.myprgenie.com/technology/); it will help build PR and resolve all marketing related issues and will allow regular users like me to be easily connected to the seller. It will save buyers and sellers both from alot of research hassle.