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Comment: all very good
Good: 18x zoom
Comment: Just purchased my Panasonic fz18 in june this year and took it on my family holiday to Florida. The 18 x zoom was perfect for the animal parks when you wanted a picture of an animal that was just a bit too far away. Have got all my holiday photos on my pc now to enjoy my mamories, thanks Panasonic
Good: RAW shooting, excellent anti-shake, fantastic long range optical zoom, wealth of features.
Bad: Noise readily apparent at mid-ISO levels, hard to get the hang of for beginners.
Comment: After I smashed my old Canon pointNshoot, I was in desperate need of a camera that had a good zoom range, and a variety of options. There was no way that I could afford a dSLR camera, and I felt that I had gone beyond a simple pointNshoot.
So, I looked into what has now become known as 'bridge' cameras; which combine the quality of picture and control over features in a dSLR, and the affordability and portability of a smaller pointNshoot camera, without all that mucking about with extra lenses, which can often add a few hundred pounds to your expenditure (though of course, optional lenses are available for most bridge cameras).
The Panasonic DMC-FZ18 had some raving reviews on the web, so I finally decided it would be a worthwhile purchase. Thankfully, I was so so right.
Of course, one of the most touted features of this camera is the extraordinary large optical zoom lens, which can reach up to 28x optical on lower resolutions, and 18x optical on the normal resolutions. You would think that with such a huge zoom that shake would be a massive problem; but amazingly it is not. The Panasonic's anti-shake feature is definitely the best I have ever come across on a camera of this caliber - I was able to take a clear picture on the maximum zoom, using no tripod, on a windy day.
Image quality is also very very good, the camera sporting a nice megapixel range, with colours that come off as quite accurate. As with most cameras, the Panasonic comes with very many scene modes, plus the Intelligent Auto mode general mode; which detects the scene type and adjusts the settings accordingly. The iA mode does well 80% of the time, and yet for that final 20% I often find that the images can become too overexposed, or have colours that are slightly off. iA mode is also limited to JPEG, without having access to the RAW mode, which I must say was a key feature that I wanted in a new camera. Therefore, I would recommend that you stick with the huge variety of different scene modes which should cover most environments that you find yourself in.
Another great feature is that this camera comes with pretty much full control over aperture, exposure, and shutter; including the general Aperture and Shutter Priority modes, and Manual and Program modes. Disappointingly, this camera has a limited open shutter time of just 60 seconds, and not a bulb mode.
The video mode was also quite a disappointment, as although it recorded video in very good quality, you are unable to zoom in or out, without first stopping the recording, zooming in, and starting it again.
The camera has a good design, quite like that of many dSLRs. The screen is large and clear, and there is too an electronic viewfinder. Buttons are placed sensibly, and feel high quality. You may notice a little joystick to the right of the display; which gives an added dimension to navigating through menus; which can be a great help. The mode selector wheel is prominent and sturdy, making a satisfying 'click' when it is turned to the next mode. The battery/card plus the external port covers are again strong, and probably won't snap off without some considerable effort. The camera is also surprisingly light, and fits comfortably in your hand when taking pictures.
Some of the only drawbacks I can see with this camera is that the medium-sized sensor can produce visible noise results, even at lower ISO ranges. To help combat this, I recommend downloading Imagenomic's Noiseware free Community Edition, which can tackle noise very effectively. Also the manual is huge; just a tad smaller than a novel, and it is not exactly user friendly. Therefore I recommend a thorough read of it before you begin to start using some of the more advanced features, especially if you are a newbie to these types of cameras.
But in all, this camera is excellent. It provides great pictures, and enough features to rival the lower-end dSLRs, an outstanding zoom range, and a good long battery life (though I
Good: The size,versatility,quality of lens and photos,build quality
Bad: Nothing really
Comment: I already have a Nikon D40,and the excellent 18-55 standard lens,and the 55-200 VR tele-zoom lens.
As good as this camera is,sometimes the shear weight of the outfit,which is light,compared to some SLRs,put me off taking it on walks in the country,etc.,meaning I just use to leave it behind,or just take the camera with just one lens,which can be very restrictive.
The FZ18 is the ideal alternative,being packed full of options,with that superb Leica lens,from wideangle to super telephoto.
It quick to use,produces great A4 prints,and I can't fault it.
Obviously,if you were to really picky,as the D40 has a larger sensor,the prints at high ISOs should be better,but up to ISO 400,there is very little noticeable difference at all on the screen,and none on the 11x8.5 prints.
I am,I like to think,quite knowledgable about cameras,and photography,being a keen photographer for over 40years,having had numerous 35mm SLRs,and digital,starting with the very good(at the time)Fuji S602,up to my current Nikon.
But,as I also print most of my pictures,(unlike a lot of digital converts)I have no hesitation in recommending the FZ18 as being a great choice if you want the benefits of an 8MP camera,with almost all the benefits of an SLR,but in a much more user friendly,portable,package.
As the camera is so light,but still a well made piece of kit,it's a joy to take out,and I'm really impressed with it,and have hardly looked at my Nikon since I bought the FZ18.
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