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Panasonic FZ18 Review
Date: Sep 7, 2007
Category: Beginner to Serious Amateur
Tuesday, August 21, 2007 - Here's what I receive
in the box:
- Panasonic FZ18 (Black body)
- Shoulder Strap
- Lens cap and Lens Cap String
- Lens Hood (with included Adaptor)
- Rechargeable Li-ion Battery and Battery Charger
- Interface Cables: A/V, USB
- Operating Instruction Manuals (English and French)
- Software CDs: Lumix Simple Viewer 1.3E,
PHOTOfunSTUDIO -viewer- 1.4E, ArcSoft
Software Suite (Panorama Maker 4,
MediaImpression), SILKYPIX Developer Studio 2.1 SE, USB
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 is targeted
to beginner and serious photographers desiring
a long zoom digital camera that gives great results.
With 18x optical zoom that starts at a 28mm wide-angle and ends at 504mm Tele (35mm equivalent), the Panasonic FZ18 is an impressive ultra zoom yet remains
an easy and fun camera to use.
We get our first impression of a digital camera when we first pick it up, zoom to compose and then half-press the shutter release button. If the image snaps into focus and a full press of the shutter release button captures the image instantly with no shutter lag, we feel supremely satisfied.
That's the first impression you get with the Panasonic FZ18. It definitely does not suffer from any shutter lag or focus problems: there is no practical shutter lag and Auto Focus is fast and precise -- even at the long end of the zoom and in low light. Of course, at the long focal lengths, there is the usual slight AF lag (pre-focusing is recommended), but AF locks quickly and positively -- unlike some other long zooms. This is quite an accomplishment, and makes the FZ18 a joy to use.
[Added 2007-09-08: When we say there's no practical shutter lag, we don't want any reader to misunderstand. Shutter lag is the time interval between fully pressing the shutter release button and the camera recording the image. But the camera also has to auto focus, and we call the time it requires to do so as the AF lag. At wide-angle and focusing on a subject with good contrast in bright light, shutter lag and AF lag are both practically negligible. Point the camera to a subject with no contrast and the camera -- any camera -- will need to lock focus first before firing the shutter. Depending on your subject and the lighting, there may be a slight AF lag. In these cases, we recommend that you pre-focus; then when you fully press the shutter to take the picture, there's no shutter lag. At the longer focal lengths, there is the usual slight AF lag any camera needs to lock focus at such long focal lengths and how long this is depends on your subject contrast and the lighting. Once focus is locked, when you fully press the shutter to take the picture, there's no shutter lag. What this means in practical terms is that is you want to take pictures of your son way out there on the soccer field, or of a bird high up in the branches of a tree, you will need to pre-focus before fully pressing the shutter release button to capture the right moment. Both the AF performance and the shutter/processing performance of the FZ18 are remarkable compared to other bridge ultra zoom cameras out there. Of course, none of the bridge cameras can be favourably compared to the speed a DSLR delivers. If you're looking for a digital camera that can auto focus and take the picture in the millisecond you press the shutter release button (without bothering to pre-focus), then investigate the DSLRs. I've gone back through the entire review and added a few choice explanations to ensure that readers who are new to this concept of shutter lag and AF lag do not misunderstand.]
As the above picture shows, you can just about squeeze your little pinkie onto the handgrip, but most of you will probably find it easier to put the latter under the grip for a more stable hold.
Any feature an advanced photographer may ask for is present: Program Shift, Manual Focus, a Joystick that greatly adds to the usability
factor, 60 sec. shutter speed
in Manual Mode, AF Area mode, Image Stabilization, Wide-angle coverage, and RAW file format. And they are all implemented so that they are easily and intuitively accessible.
For Canada, Panasonic has provided both the English
and French printed versions of the Operating Instructions (plus a Spanish version).
We find them quite
good. Though the type is small as in most other
manuals we've seen, the manual is logically organized
and finding anything
using either the Table of Contents or Index is
both quick and easy. Explanations are clearly
illustrated with appropriate drawings. This camera
is fully featured so we recommend that you take
some time to familiarize yourself with all the
features; you might find an easier way to achieve
what you are trying to accomplish.
The zoom on the Panasonic FZ18 is an example for
others to follow. There are about 46 intermediate
steps from wide-angle to telephoto, thus allowing
precise framing. Most cameras give you at most
a dozen or less steps.
There are a number of applications on the supplied CD: Simple Viewer 1.3E and PHOTOfunSTUDIO -viewer- 1.3E, Arcsoft Panoramaker 4, Arcsoft MediaImpression, and SILKYPIX Developer Studio 2.1 SE.
LUMIX Simple Viewer
The LUMIX Simple Viewer is used
by default to transfer, view and print images;
that's about all you can do with it.
The PHOTOfunSTUDIO -viewer- allows you to transfer,
view and print, plus perform basic functions such
as resize, rotate, email, create a wallpaper,
Inexplicably, none of the software will give you all the important EXIF info.
Arcsoft PanoraMaker 4
As its name implies, Arcsoft PanoramaMaker 4 is used to stitch together panoramic pictures.
MediaImpression is used to edit your movies.
SILKYPIX Open File
To manipulate your RAW files, SILKYPIX Developer Studio 2.1 SE is included. The Open File dialog box cannot be resized, which will make it inconvenient to locate a file for those who take lots of RAW images.
SILKYPIX RAW Editor
The usual functions are available, including Exposure (-3 to +3 EV), WB, Sharpness, Tone, Color, NR.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 continues
to be a best value for money and one of my very
favourite. In a compact, light and solidly built
body, it includes all the features desirable in
a digital camera and throws in a couple that are
hard to find in many other digital cameras: an
stabilization (the real type) and an accurate
High Speed AF. All of this wrapped in an interface
that is intuitive to use. If you are in the market for an ultra zoom, you definitely owe it to yourself to try the Panasonic FZ18 before finalizing your decision. It is an impressive digital camera and easily the ultra zoom that sets the standard for the others to follow.