While snapshooters might experience a learning curve when stepping up to the FZ28 from a point-and-shoot camera (except when they're using the intelligent auto, program AE or scene modes), more experienced users will be able to easily transition to the FZ28. Outfitted with plenty of dedicated controls, the buttons and dials are logically arranged along the surface of the well-designed and comfortable grip, and on the camera's rear panel.
Atop the grip, you'll find the mode dial, autofocus macro focus, and AF/MF buttons, as well as the power switch and the shutter/zoom lever combo. The silver mode dial looks good and is packed with options, including intelligent auto, program AE, aperture priority, shutter speed priority, manual, two custom settings, movie, scene (which provides access to the scene menu) and several scene modes, such as night portrait, sports, scenery and macro. The latter individual scene modes also offer multiple options within the settings. Under the macro scene mode, for example, you can choose from 'flower', 'food', 'objects' or 'creative'.
While the silver mode dial is attractive, it's highly reflective and, under sunlight, the individual icons are difficult to see. Fortunately, the modes are visible on the LCD as you cycle through the options.
The rear of the camera is well-organised, with an EVF/LCD switch, flash open button, AF/AE lock and a new, helpful record/playback switch. A joystick calls up a quick menu for easy access to the most-often changed settings.
The four-way controller with a centre 'set' button has slightly more depth to it than most. The up arrow, when pressed multiple times, provides access to exposure compensation, bracketing options and flash output adjustments. To change flash settings, press the right arrow when the flash is popped up. The down arrow can be customised to access ISO, white balance, metering mode, AF mode, intelligent exposure or as a review button. The left arrow accesses the self-timer that includes a 10-second/3-picture option. The set button also calls up the easy-to-navigate main menu.
Notable features include 30 frames per second 720p movie recording, in clips up to 2GB, which the FZ28 saves using the Motion JPEG codec as a QuickTime MOV file. You can zoom during capture, as well as use the optical image stabiliser. It also offers two custom white-balance settings, a Kelvin temperature white-balance option and the ability to tweak the white balance by adjusting amber, blue, green and magenta points. Always a plus is having the option to set a maximum ISO and minimum shutter speed, which earns the FZ28 a few extra points.
Although not the fastest camera on the market, the FZ28 is fairly zippy for a superzoom and can certainly hold its own against the competition. It powers on and shoots in 2.3 seconds, and focuses and shoots relatively quickly under good and low-contrast conditions -- 0.6 seconds and 0.8 seconds, respectively. Its 1.8 seconds between shots is pretty good, and the 2.4 seconds shot-to-shot time with flash is pretty typical for this class.