The obvious attraction of the Panasonic DMC FZ18 is its 18x optical zoom lens. This is one of the first digital cameras to increase the lens length on a consumer digital camera beyond 12x. The lens is supported by image stabilisation to help cut down on any camera shake caused by the added weight of the lens. The DMC FZ18 also hosts a number of manual controls and settings and is based on the lines of a digital SLR camera. In fact it is one of the most feature packed cameras you can buy. It has 8 megapixels.
117.6 x 75.3 x 88.2m
Image Quality - See Sample Images Below
Outdoor Scenic Shots in Good Light
Outdoor 1 (Medium Zoom):
This type of shot appears not to cause any real problems for the DMC FZ18. The photo is sharp and the levels of focusing are maintained very well up to the edges. Colours look natural although in places where the sun is at its strongest blues appear to have a purple tinge to them.
At the time of the year the photo was taken many cameras really struggle with the glare from the sun in this photo. Although not perfect this camera handles the problem quite well.
Outdoor 2 (No Zoom): This photo is brighter than many cameras manage to produce when the lens is not zoomed in at all. Colours are strong, but there is a small amount of noise creeping into the sky. Considering how far distant some of the objects in the photo are the DMC FZ18 does a fair job of focusing.
Outdoor 3 (Maximum Zoom): When using the full capacity of the zoom lens the camera is still able to produce a sharp shot.
More or less every super zoom camera suffers from a problem called purple fringing. This is where a purple line is added to the edges of objects where the sun strikes them and the lens is using most of its zoom. Therefore I was interested to see what would happen with this even longer lens. The result does show some purple fringing, but no more than I am used to seeing with 12x lenses. If anything it looks less of a problem with the DMC FZ18.
One worrying aspect is that noise is again showing in the sky. It is more noticeable in this photo and it may cause a problem in larger prints.
I like this shot. To help warm up the photo I used the white balance setting of shade. This helps to add some extra life to the shot.
Indoor Portrait with Flash: Another portrait shot that works well. The flash unit pops up well away from the lens so there should not be a problem with red eye in your shots. This image is bright and sharply focused.
Indoor Portrait without Flash: The indoor portrait without flash doesn't work so well. Although the light is not especially poor the resulting photo is dark. The camera also appears to have pushed up the ISO levels. This has led to a fair amount of noise appearing. Many people prefer the more natural look a photo has without flash. With the DMC FZ18 it looks like you will need pretty good light to be able to take flash free indoor portraits.
Macro, Colours and Noise
This is another good result and it suggests you should be able to take some decent close up photos with this camera. The photo is sharply focused.
Colours: Throughout all my test shots I am happy with the colours. They are strong enough without being overbearing.
ISO 400: There is a loss as picture quality at this setting as I would expect, but the DMC FZ18 does perform better than most cameras I have tested.
ISO 1600: After pushing the ISO setting up to its maximum there is a clear loss of quality. Again though it is not as pronounced as I often see, and the camera manages to stop the colours from starting to break down.
This is the first digital camera with an 18x zoom lens I have tested. Overall I am happy with the results. They may not be perfect in places, but the results compare well with other super zoom digital cameras.
The DMC FZ18 resembles a small digital SLR camera. It is available in black and silver.
Shutter Lag Times
Single Shot With Flash
Five Shots With Flash
Ease of Use
As you would expect with all the features this camera has it will take time to master them all. The menus and buttons used to control the camera are all laid out and relatively easy to find.
Points I Like
Long zoom lens - colours - picture sharpness - design - features
Where it Could Improve
Noise creeping in on some photos
Overall the Panasonic DMC FZ18 is a winner. There are one or two areas where I think picture quality could improve, but that is the same for just about every other camera too. The camera has a very good range of controls and taking the length of lens into consideration Panasonic have managed to keep the price tag very reasonable. It is also one of the most feature packed consumer level digital cameras on the market.
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