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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18
I've always personally considered superzooms a better option for amateur hobby photographers than D-SLRs, primarily because you get so much more right out of the box. If you still feel limited, there are quite a number of add-ons you can use. Now with the superzoom cameras breaking the 12x optical zoom barrier and offering insane 15-18x optical zoom levels, the deal has gotten a lot more attractive.
The Panasonic FZ18 is a bit smaller than the comparative superzooms available today and is not too heavy at 407g. The handgrip is perfectly sized for the camera, which makes it easy to grab and maneuver the camera the way you see fit.
The 2.5 inch LCD display unfortunately doesn't tilt or swivel. I feel that for a camera of this caliber, not having a maneuverable screen can be a handicap, especially considering that the biggest consumers of superzoom cameras are the higher-end experimental sort. Panasonic's done a good job of it in the FZ50, but I'd really like to see it in more of their superzooms. That said, the screen works wonderfully in all kinds of lighting conditions.
The 18x optical zoom is obviously the biggest selling point of the camera, but it's also the easiest thing that can go wrong if not implemented well. Many manufacturers put high zoom lenses that are painful to handle because of the ridiculously bad image stabilization. The FZ18 doesn't fall in that category. I found the FZ18 zoom very easy to handle thanks to Panasonic's excellent optical image stabilization. Even in indoor lighting, I got quite a few perfectly sharp and stable shots at full 18x zoom, which I find commendable.
The 8.1 megapixel resolution may not sound very exciting, but considering that there's also the 18x zoom and an OIS to handle, extra processing time for a higher resolution image would probably take a toll on the camera's performance. Still, 8.1 megapixel is more than enough for an A3 size print, so this isn't really a drawback.
Just as in the other Panasonic cameras we recently reviewed, the FZ18 boasts an iAuto (intelligent auto) mode that works extremely well during those times when you're too lazy (or in a hurry) to set the camera to the right mode yourself. The results are pretty outstanding, and by the looks of it, scene modes could soon be a thing of the past.
In our performance tests, the FZ18 gave some pretty good results, but first let's take a look at the one flaw I noticed consistently in all the images. Since the FZ18 uses a noise reduction engine to reduce noise at higher ISO sensitivity levels, it affects the overall sharpness of the images as a side-effect. This may not seem apparent initially, but on a closer look at the photos on a monitor at full zoom showed that the noise reduction engine also affected the finest of details, making it look a but smudgy.
This was mainly noticeable in landscape shots, where you tend to capture a lot of fine details. Still, this is not a fatal flaw in any way, and I'd say that the detail levels are still pretty good (as the image below can tell you), but perfectionist photographers may need to be warned.
Colors were very well reproduced by the FZ18. There were no issues with reds and greens, and as you can see in the picture below the minute color shifts were also well captured.
Low-light performance was great! As I mentioned earlier, it was possible to take a sharp picture at full 18x optical zoom without keeping the camera on a firm base, which says a lot.
Even the night shots gave excellent details with minimal noise, which is always well-appreciated in consumer cameras.
The battery life easily managed over 75 shots with and without the use of flash.
The price of the FZ18 is currently close to Rs 28,000, which is a bit on the higher side. But in many ways it's worth it. If you're looking at more features, you should probably take a look at the Sony DSC-H9 before picking this up. But if performance is what matters, this is a great superzoom to own.
|Dimensions||118 x 75 x 88 mm|
|Storage||SD/MMC/SDHC card + Internal|
|LCD Type||2.5", 207,000 pixels|
|Effective Pixels||8.1 Megapixel|
|ISO Sensitivity||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1250, (6400 high mode)|
|Shutter Speed||60-1/2000 sec|
|Aperture||F2.8 - F3.1- F8|
|Scene Modes||Baby, Food, Candle, Panning, Scenery, Fireworks, Soft skin, Starry sky, Night scene, Sports mode, Surf & snow, Party/indoor, Portrait mode, Night portrait|
4 positions plus manual
|Flash||Auto, Red-Eye Auto, On, Red-Eye On, Red-Eye Slow Sync, Off, Slow Sync (1&2)|
|Self Timer||2-10 secs|
|Video Resolution||640x480 @ 30fps|
|Street Price||Rs 27,500|