Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35 Digital Camera with 18x POWER Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 2.7 inch LCD 12.1MP

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35 12.1MP Digital Camera with 18x POWER Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 2.7 inch LCD

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35 12.1MP Digital Camera with 18x POWER Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 2.7 inch LCD Rating:
List Price: $399.95
Sale Price: $251.99
Availability: unspecified

Product Description

12.1 Megapixel Digital Camera AVCHD Lite Features high quality movie recording in AVCHD Lite with Dolby Digital Stereo Creator and SD Link compatibility Power O.I.S. About twice as effective in compensating for blurring caused by low-frequency vibration Ultra High-Speed AF Lightning fast 0.3sec AF for capturing scenes as they happen LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT Lens 27mm wide-angle and 18x zoom ?Black

Details

  • 12.1-megapixel resolution
  • 27mm wide-angle Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens; 18x optical zoom with POWER O.I.S.
  • HD movies with 1280 x 720-pixel resolution; AVCHD Lite format
  • 2.7-inch TFT LCD screen
  • Capture images to SD/SDHC memory cards (not included)

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35 12.1MP Digital Camera with 18x POWER Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 2.7 inch LCD out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 953 user reviews
Panasonic Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35 12.1MP Digital Camera with 18x POWER Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 2.7 inch LCD 12.1 Megapixel Digital Camera AVCHD Lite Features high quality movie recording in AVCHD Lite with Dolby Digital Stereo Creator and SD Link compatibility Power O.I.S. About twice as effective in compensating for blurring caused by low-frequency vibration Ultra High-Speed AF Lightning fast 0.3sec AF for capturing scenes as they happen LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT Lens 27mm wide-angle and 18x zoom ?Black $399.95 http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/519K3J%2BCbgL._SL160_.jpg
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10 Responses to “Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35 Digital Camera with 18x POWER Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 2.7 inch LCD 12.1MP”

  1. Morgan Witthoft Says:

    Rating

    If you don’t have a good digital camera, this is a fine choice. Quick response, decent quality pictures, easy to point & shoot, the zoom and image stabilization really work. I like the lithium battery – - they last so much longer than AA’s. You may prefer AA’s for their wide availability.

    If you already have a good digital camera, you might not find it worth your while to upgrade. My main digicam is five years old now, but darn it, it takes fine pictures. It boots more slowly, it has fewer pixels (but still plenty of ‘em), the battery life is not as good, but are those differences really worth $400 out of pocket? That’s your personal call. The changes from old to new camera are incremental, not revolutionary. In particular the color and image quality are about the same (my old one is a Fuji Finepix S7000). Your decision will also depend on whether enhanced movie modes are important to you (and, if so, whether you really wanted to buy a video recorder instead).

    A couple limitations on the Lumix

    1. Zoom. The zoom is nice, and lets you compose some pretty good pictures. However, if it’s real nature photography you want – - the bird on the other side of your yard, the mountain goat across the river – - this camera won’t do it. You need more power.

    2. Pixels and focus. I was hoping I could get the effect of “yet more zoom” by cropping down and enlarging just one part of the image. However, the results were disappointing. Partly, you just have to recognize that 12MP is just not a big step up in resolution/enlargeability compared to 3 or 4 (whatever it is) in my old camera. Partly, it seems that my old camera is more supportive of cropping/enlarging without the picture going grainy from loss of resolution. This could be an issue with quality of focus or with the size of the sensor (other users have raised issues about the sensor size – - I don’t quite understand it). It was a subtle difference, though. If the Lumix is worse than my Finepix in this regard, it’s only a bit worse. But it certainly is not better.

    3. Manual focus. This was frustrating, because auto focus has the annoying tendency to focus on the one tree branch in the foreground instead of the thing you want to see that’s beyond the tree, and manual focus should solve that problem. The Lumix has a manual focus, but there are two big problems with it.

    a. It uses the joystick (AKA “wobbly pencil eraser”), so it’s clumsy. (What good is a clumsy manual focus?)

    b. Manual focus is only available in about half of the large collection of “modes”, and the documentation seems to be wrong about which “modes” support manual focus, or the manual focus intermittently fails to kick in – - it was frustrating and confusing. I’d push on the joystick – - nothing happens. The focus is set to Manual, the documentation says it should work, and it doesn’t.

    Memory FYI: the specs don’t tell you whether the Lumix comes with a memory card included. The answer is, no, it doesn’t: so go ahead and order one at the same time you order the camera. (It does come with enough built-in memory to take 4 or 5 pictures).

  2. Cop3 Says:

    Rating

    I’ve had the FZ35 for about 3 weeks now. I have found nothing of substance to gripe about yet. The camera has a lot of features and since I have a day job it will take a while to really learn how to get the most from this camera, but the effort is worth it. Getting started is easy with the simple booklet that comes in the box; yes, it would be nice to have the entire manual in print but I downloaded to my laptop and read a little more each week as I fiddle with the camera, so slowly but surely I’m getting the big picture, so to speak, of how to operate the fz35.

    I finally got around to using the supplied video cables tonight and learned I could hook the camera up to the hdtv. This past Sunday morning was sunny and inviting so I went into the yard and took pictures of flowers and assorted closeups mostly, in the fish pond, butterflies, even a hummingbird, using the different settings and priorities, the flash, and so forth. Tonight I watched a slide show of all the pictures on my hdtv, complete with music (it’s programmed into the camera in several different styles). The picture quality on the tv was incredibly good; several photos were extreme closeups of a butterfly on the ground and the particles of dirt below the butterfy’s wings were clearly visible on my 37″ screen.

    Picture quality and features aside, this camera is easy to use for the beginner who can gradually improve their skills by using the shutter speed/aperture priorities or manual mode, or automatic, or choose one of the many scene modes depending upon the situation. The camera boots up quickly and the delay between shots is acceptable, if not blazingly fast. (There is a setting for taking several shots in quick sequence, if needed.) The flash is strong and recycles fairly quickly. the camera won’t fit in your pocket unless you’re Captain Kangaroo, but with its accessories it’ll fit into a small camera bag. I purchased the wide angle and exta zoom lenses because they came on sale, but really, you don’t need them given the range of the supplied Leica lens. The controls are fairly easy to use and intuitive; I really like the design of one convenient button to toggle directly back and forth between the lens finder and the lcd screen on the back of the camera; all digital cameras don’t feature that.

    Sure, not much is perfect in life, but this camera is close enough for me.

    .

  3. S. Hock Says:

    Rating

    I previously purchased the Canon SX20is and used 2 weeks. I found the images just a bit too soft for my taste. Too bad because all other facets of the camera was great. But, to me image quality is everything. If it can’t produce a crisp image, I don’t want it. Perhaps I was spoiled by the excellent SX10is I was switching from.

    Desperate for an inexpensive Hi Def video camera for a client project, I decided to give the dual Panasonic FZ35 a try. I had used a Panasonic LX2 for several years and liked it, so I figured why not even though Panasonic is not a manufacturer one would normally think of first for a high quality still camera.

    So far, I have been pleasantly surprised!

    What I like about the FZ35:

    1. The super sharp Leica lens! Having 18x zoom in such a small package.(Sharper than SX20is)

    2. Metal tripod mount

    3. VERY Reasonable price for all the features included. Seems a bargain to me.

    4. The fact you also get very nice HD video in one package is a bonus.

    5. Excellent macro mode. If you like macrophotography you’ll like this camera.

    6. Relatively simple controls/interface once familiar. (You do have to read the manual)

    7. Has 46mm filter threads for add ons.

    8. Full time battery indicator.

    9. Optional wide angle and telephoto lenses are available if desired.

    10 Better than most image stabilization system.

    11. Many focus & exposure options.

    What I’m not so crazy about:

    1. Buttons & switches are quite small and seem rather delicate.

    2. Manual as PDF (what a pain). I’ll take mine paper, thank you.

    You might as well print it out right away. You’re gonna need it!

    3. Smallish Electronic ViewFinder (Not just this one either. They all leave me wanting.)

    4. Construction and light weight give a slight feeling of cheapness.

    5. Proprietary Panasonic battery.

    6. Location of media card in battery compartment.

    Is it perfect? Nope. Are any of them? Even the $5,000 ones?

    What do I miss most when switching from my NIKON? That bright, super clear viewfinder.

    Will it clip highlights? Sure, if you don’t set it up right. They all do. High dynamic range is not usually a feature on most consumer cameras.

    Can it take a sharp picture? You Bet! In macro especially, you’ll love the clarity of the image.

    Newbies purchasing this … make no mistake, this is a complex little piece of gear. Sure, you can use it on intelligent AUTO if you want, but what a waste. You have to LEARN this camera to get the most out of it. And don’t expect to learn it in a day or even a week. Used properly it will yield beautiful, sharp images. Buy it and shoot, shoot, shoot and you’ll get the hang of it. Why not? The “film” is cheap!

    By the way, purchase a Class 6 SD card right away. That way if you want to play with the HD movie function you can. Some cheap SD cards can’t write fast enough for HD video use. If you have a hi def TV you’ll love it.

    Beware though, HD video files get HUGE fast! Uploads to YouTube (or anywhere else) can take quite awhile. A 1 minute, 36 sec. clip equals 491 MB and over 4 hrs to upload via DSL.

    If you get serious about HD video, or enjoy doing critical focus photography, PLEASE, buy a decent tripod and USE it. Camera movement is the main enemy of sharpness. At the low ISO settings required to get the most out of these small sensors, keeping the camera still is extremely important. Don’t expect stabilization systems to entirely solve “jitter” problems at very low shutter speeds!

    High end users take note: In the Custom controls there is an separate adjustment for contrast, saturation, noise reduction and sharpness. YEA ! Somebody is listening.

    Nov. 5, 2009. I’ve made nearly 1000 shots with this camera and I’m impressed and still very happy with it.

    September 2010, I’ve made thousands of images and still am impressed by its sharpness. The price has dropped to under $300 now and I consider this an excellent buy. The sharpness of this camera is the standard to which my next one will be held. Hard to beat for the money.

  4. radiowires Says:

    Rating

    I have had this camera for one week and am enjoying it thoroughly. All of the positive points of this camera have been covered in other reviews, it is an excellent choice. My husband and I chose this as our new family camera to have manual and automatic abilities for our family photos, and to be able to shoot HD music videos (former filmmakers who have sold all our official equipment).

    Please make sure, if shooting HD video, that your location is well lit. The graininess of indoor home movies is much more apparent on a big ol’ HD tv! if you have good lighting, this won’t be an issue.

    I have spent a lot of time with the digital manual, and i simply cannot replicate the indoor afternoon light/no flash automatic photos i used to take with my 7 year old canon point and shoot. Using the iA (intellegent auto, this camera’s point and shoot mode), daytime indoor/no flash photos are desaturated, full of color noise, and hard to get in focus without a tripod. I would expect this from a night time room with lights on, but not from a well-lit living room during the day. I had read about low-light issues with this camera, but am disappointed it is not even comparable to my old basic P&S Canon. If you read this and have advice, please comment. Luckily, the built in flash is a triumph above my old camera, it is the “kindest” and least harsh flash I’ve ever used.

    Those are the two points I wish I’d understood before buying this camera. I love it on the whole, and find navigating through the menu very easy. My outdoor photos are simply gorgeous for a p&h sensor. I ordered the Tamrac 3535 Express 5 Camera Bag and it is just the right size to carry the camera and basic accessories on a daily basis. Tamrac 3535 Express 5 Camera Bag (Black)

    GET A CLASS 6 memory card, at least 8 Gigs, if you want to shoot video. Plus the speed of this card makes downloading from the camera to your computer super fast, a perk I wasn’t expecting.

    *UPDATE* after a recommendation from an online photo group for this camera, I switched to using the “indoor portrait” mode, and the outcome has been much better than with iA mode. The group members have indicated that this camera was not designed to excel at indoor Automatic captures, but instead outdoor zoom photography (i expected it to do both), and so it needs more information from the camera person. No big deal, switch to portrait and click down to indoor, and the photos have very close to the color and dimension I am used to. You just can’t use this for an all around Auto (iA) camera in every situation.

  5. Michael A. Duvernois Says:

    Rating

    This is the first of the Panasonic Lumix superzooms that I’ve had an opportunity to use extensively. I regularly use both small point and shoot digital cameras (Canon SD550 and a waterproofed Canon S100) and digital SLRs (Canon 5D and Rebel XTi), but this is definitely a different sort of beast. It’s nearly the size and weight of a DSLR with a lens that is noticeably long in use. It’s sold as straddling the line between the two categories and it initially seems that way. But the more that I think about it, the more I think this camera really fills a different niche. If you’re a serious photographer, a DSLR is really the way to go. You get full control over the images, a large sensor size, a selection of lenses, and filter options. If you’re that person, this is hardly a replacement, and for the compact point and shooter this is a massive camera. Where this camera wins out is for a very simple kit covering wide angle (27mm equivalent for a 35mm camera) and the stunning 18x zoom. You’ll be able to do most everything passably with this camera and with no additional lenses. Maybe this is the camera to put in the glovebox of your car? It’ll always be there, and you can get most any shot with it. No preparation needed. Okay, enough thinking about who wants the camera, how does it work?

    Well, it works pretty darned well. The image stabilizer seems to work extremely well, especially at moderate zoom (say 50-150mm equivalent), the battery lasted about 300 shots with some flash use in there, and image quality (subjective, not measured scientifically) was quite good. The camera was a bit slow to react at times though and the face detection works only occasionally. Still, that leaves this a solid camera for what I think is a quite good price. If you’re not going to take advantage of the DSLR capabilities, this is a good functional camera for you. Or an excellent second camera for simplicity.

    Pros: 18x zoom with a genuine wide angle, solid construction, good battery life, image stabilization that works, one size might well fit many

    Cons: big for a point and shoot, slow acting at times, gimmicky features are, well, gimmicks

  6. J. Holdahl Says:

    Rating

    As a serious amateur, I’ve been fortunate enough to own a number of point and shoots including Panasonic, Fuji, several Nikon’s, & a couple of Canon’s. All have had their strong points and I’m not a brand loyalist by any means, but after a couple of weeks, I must say I absolutely love this camera.

    My first impressions were ones of pleasant shock. The camera seemed smaller than in the pictures and if it seemed smaller, it seemed doubly more so in terms of weight. Compared to my SLR this thing is an absolute lightweight but very well built and certainly heavier than the smaller ‘in your pocket’ point and shoots. A great balance…although I wouldn’t want to drop it. Some strategically placed silicone on the housing would make this a bit more rugged without much if any impact on cost. Powerup is about as fast as you can bring the camera up to your face – amongst the best of the point and shoots. Controls are easy to use and I like the mini joystick for making on the fly adjustments in manual and scene modes. The menus are fairly well laid out although some items I had to resort to the manual to find their location for the first time.

    The iA or Intelligent Auto function gave consistently above par picture quality, although I was always able to tweak it better myself (this could have been as much preference as anything). The AVCHD and HD movies worked absolutely flawless with my Transcend 16 GB SDHC Class 6 Flash Memory Card TS16GSDHC6E [Amazon Frustration-Free Packaging]. (NOTE:Make sure you lowlevel format these SDHC cards a COUPLE of times BEFORE first use). I do wish that you could use the normal shutter release instead of the dedicated movie button on the back face when in movie mode. I kept forgetting and tried to stop the movies using the shutter button instead of the record button. Minor nuisance, but will be overcome as I get my brain wrapped around the change in button locations.

    The battery worked well past 300 stills and about 35 clips, so I am very pleased with it with the LCD display being used for most of the shots. I purchase another spare battery;Lenmar DLP006 Lithium-ion Digital Camera/Camcorder Battery Equivelent to the Panasonic CGR-S006A Battery, also available here at Amazon, and it appears to be working about as well as the original Panasonic (a great buy). The EVF or Electronic View Finder was very handy, although most of the overlaid information is very hard to distinguish in the small EVF. I CAN’T BELIEVE PANASONIC DIDN’T INCLUDE A RUBBER BOOT FOR THE EVF! Please someone, anyone, make it as an accessory.

    The EZ or Extra Zoom function is quite handy. Using this feature, you can shoot at lower resolutions and get more effective zooming power out of the camera…over 30x and it works very well. The LCD screen is clear and crisp, but its performance in high ambient light is about average. Thank goodness for the electronic view finder mentioned above.

    Image stabilization is the absolute best amongst my camera collection and is especially noticeable in low light and full zoom. I was pleasantly surprised how well I could take indoor pictures at night with a simple tweak of the exposure. Far better than any of my other point and shoots, although nowhere near my SLR.

    The standard 3picture burst mode was fairly standard and unimpressive, but the 10pics per second for speed priority and 6 pics per second in image priority burst mode worked well for catching difficult shots like geese landing on the water and children jumping out of swings, but I still wish the resolution and picture quality was better in these modes. Still, for a point and shoot, it’s ability to catch the fast action is at the top of it’s class.

    The lens cap interferes with zoom, but the camera will kindly remind you that you have left it on with a 17,000 volt discharge…just kidding…it will tell you on the LCD screen.

    UPDATE: A new megazoom runoff was conducted by Digital Photography Review in June of ’07 and can be seen here: [...] or you can cut to the results here: [...]

    To say the FZ35 stacked up well would be an understatement, but as they point out in the above review, you will likely not be disappointed with any of the other fine cameras in the pack. The review, however, will help you to pick one that works best for your needs and preferences. (I’m still super happy and winning contests with my amateur photos).

    LIKES: Ease of use, picture quality, zoom and extra zoom, HD movie, lightweight, stop action. BEST Point and Shoot I’ve ever owned ! ! !

    DISLIKES: (all minor) No eyepiece boot for EVF, lens cap interferes with zoom, tripod mount interferes with battery/memory door when in use. Only 10 sec. max on the built in timer.

  7. R. Hermann Says:

    Rating

    I love this camera! It is my sixth digital camera (not counting camera phones) and is clearly the most advanced, sophisticated, best-photo-taking camera I have used. Most of the time, I don’t even take it out of automatic mode, as I like the results so much.

    I have owned a couple of cameras by Canon (very good, compact size); and a few from Olympus (from one of their first basic ones to the Ultra-Zoom 765); and also another Panasonic, the DMC-FZ8.

    You can read all the technical details elsewhere. I’ll just tell you what a dream it is to use. The viewfinder, which I find essential, is great; the large LCD is even better (although I use it only for viewing shots, not composing them). Ease of use is exceptional, despite the myriad of options. Most are very intuitive and work as expected.

    Although it uses a dedicated battery pack, they are easy to find, not too expensive, and last for many shots and viewings.

    The Leica lens is wonderful, providing rich, clear color and balance. It’s rated at 18X, which gets noticeably closer than my 10X Olympus, but also zooms out to a 27mm equivalent wide angle, which is handy.

    You can shoot at the full 12 MP resolution, or save some disk space and shoot at 5 MP. It also shoots HD movies at 720P and boasts stereo mics for sound.

    I really don’t have any complaints about this camera at all. I will confess to not having used all its advanced features yet, and I don’t have an HD TV to play back the video, but I’m pretty impressed with everything that this camera can do, especially for the price, which was under $330 through Amazon when I bought it in October 2009.

    If you want more that a simple point-and-shoot, but don’t want to get into the expense and complexity of a Digital SLR, then this is a great choice. I highly recommend it!

  8. M. Sant Says:

    Rating

    This purchase is a replacement for the Lumix FZ18 which was also a fine camera. I find the fz35 to be a great point and shoot super zoom. I shoot one-handed often so a regular DLSR is not really useful to me. The fz35 is very easy to use one handed, all the controls are very convenient (if you are right handed that is). It has a remarkable lens and produces a great picture. The only drawback I can find to this camera is its somewhat poor low light/high iso capabilities. I personally find anything above 200 iso to be unacceptable, the grain is very noticeable. It is programmable to limit the iso to various ranges and when shooting between 80 and 180 iso, the images are exceptional. The autofocus is quick and manual mode is very flexible. Overall I am very happy with this camera.

  9. Northwindz Says:

    Rating

    …who doesn’t adore this camera.

    To begin with, I did my research, and I really thought this would be the perfect new toy, so I asked for it for Christmas. My husband complied and bought me the Lumix FZ35 for Christmas, and I bought him the Lumix ZS3. We are both digital SLR users, but as we are both tour guides, we wanted lighter, easy-to-use ‘bridge’ cameras that would take great photos and HD video while we are in the midst of guiding, as it is just too much hassle to use and carry an SLR while you are also carrying a heavy pack and talking at the same time. Let me add, I have the older version of the FZ35 (the DMC-FZ50, circa ’06) it’s a totally awesome camera, and my faithful workhorse for my other job as a resource inventory person, but it is much larger, probably at least 3X heavier than the FZ35, and it does not shoot great video. After reading the great reviews for the newer camera, I thought the FZ35 could be my new ‘guiding camera’.

    My husband and I just returned yesterday from guiding a National Geographic trip in Yellowstone National Park, downloaded our photos and began comparing. My husband’s images were jpg, I was shooting RAW+jpg. My husband is much happier with his photos than I am with mine. I found the wildlife shots I took while completely zoomed in to be mostly fuzzy, while my husband’s taken with the ZS3 to be clear. I was also disappointed with the amount of color noise in my photos, especially when shooting with the iAuto, although I experimented with many different settings mostly in bright light. In short, I was not completely happy with a single shot that I took during the past week. This is something that has never happened to me before. I have taken tens of thousands of photos in Yellowstone with at least 6 different cameras over the years, and I can attest to the fact it’s not a difficult place to get a decent photo in. However, I couldn’t seem to get a decent photo with the FZ35, no matter how much I played around with it.

    I know I was not using it incorrectly, as the menus are virtually identical to the camera I have been using since 2006. Maybe I have a lemon, but there are enough issues besides the photo quality that I still plan to return the FZ35 without getting a replacement. Read on.

    I also found the fact I had to constantly adjust the diopter to use the optical viewfinder to be extremely irritating. The optical viewfinder was one of the reasons I wanted this model, as I am terribly far-sighted and I didn’t want to have to wear magnifying glasses to take photos. With other cameras I’ve had, once the diopter’s adjusted, you should rarely, if ever, have to re-adjust it. Something else I found disappointing right out of the box, is the previous model of Panasonic I still own has a wonderful swiveling LCD, which turned completely around and locked for protection when not being used. The function automatically switched to the LCD viewer if you opened the LCD or turned it around. I thought this was a great feature, and I can’t figure out why Panasonic doesn’t have it on their newer model. Having an adjustable LCD is almost mandatory for taking macros of plants at ground level, which is something I do constantly during the summer.

    Another really serious flaw to me is that the R2W RAW format used by Panasonic is unrecognized by Lightroom and Photoshop CS3, as well as Aperture, iPhoto, and Adobe Bridge. Apparently, if you use Panasonic’s proprietary software you can open the photo and convert it to a .tiff, but since I have approximately $700 bucks worth of photo processing software on my MAC computer, I’m not about to confuse the issue by having to open something in Panasonic’s software, save to a .tiff (which creates enormous files, unlike saving to .psd or a .dng) just so I can work with it in the software I already own. I’ve searched high and low for a plug-in for RW2 format for photoshop, but apparently Panasonic hasn’t issued one yet that will work with the aforementioned software.

    So, I’m disappointed that I didn’t find a worthy replacement for my DMC-FZ50 and I am returning the camera in favor of the compact Lumix ZS3, which at this point is about a hundred bucks cheaper.

  10. Peter Biddlecombe Says:

    Rating

    (Copy of a review posted on the UK site – this is the FZ38 over there)

    This is an initial review after one day of ownership, which I’ll revise. My previous experience of digital cameras is limited to a Nikon Coolpix compact, now about 7 years old, and this camera is intended to replace the Nikon film SLR and three lenses which I’ve lugged around on holidays for 10-15 years. So some things that are amazing me will be just what you expect if you’re used to similar cameras.

    From that standpoint, the first thing to amaze me is the weight. Complete with battery, SDHC card, lens cap, lens hood and shoulder strap, it’s 1lb 1oz on the kitchen scales. And there’s very little to add in the accessory line – a clear and polarising filter (unlike some ‘bridge’ cameras, this one has a filter screw thread), spare battery, blower brush and mini-tripod from old stock and a new bag, and we’re done. This probably means the full kit weighing less than the SLR with mid-range zoom.

    One reason for persevering with the SLR was being able to use an 18-35 mm lens for wide-angle shots. As the wide end of this camera is only equivalent to 27mm, I was pleased to see the panorama assist facility, and will be testing out the “stitching” software supplied with it to see whether I can still get a picture of a cathedral from the square in front of it. (An initial experiment suggests that given a level tripod, some good results should be available). At the narrow end, you don’t get the same power as the 24x or 26x alternatives, but with my previous range of 18-300mm, I used the 300 end less often than the 18, so probably not a big issue unless you’re snapping birds or cricketers. (You can have 32x if you reduce image size to 3Gb, but a very quick comparison suggests that unless stuck for memory space you may as well use 18x/12Mb and crop the picture later.)

    The next big surprise was the quality of the results from “Intelligent Auto” mode. As soon as the battery was charged, I went outside and snapped away without worrying about where the sun was, or anything else I’d have pondered with the SLR. Results were very good, so you can do some very lazy photography, and if one or all users of the camera have never cared about shutter speeds and exposure compensation, it barely matters – Intelligent Auto and some other top-wheel choices like the scene mode will do most of the work.

    I haven’t yet tried the movie-making side, though that’s not of great interest to me.

    Various minor points:

    The supplied Photofun Studio 4 software says that it doesn’t support 64-bit Windows Vista, but does install and seems to work OK.

    You do NOT get a printed copy of the full manual, just a short ‘Getting started’ guide. The full manual in PDF is supplied on CD and you can find it and read it on the Panasonic website before buying, but I would have liked to have to whole thing – spare time on holidays is an ideal time for reading it. As and when we have a netbook PC for keeping and editing pictures, this issue will disappear!

    The lens hood is easy enough to fit but its guide mark is unhelpfully placed on the bottom of the camera and common-sense fitting by eye without inverting the camera works just as well. The lens cap fits on the screw-in ring to which you attach the hood, though I’ve not yet checked whether you can stick this whole lot in front of a lens-protecting filter without vignetting or other trouble.

    The square “+/-” symbol on the display may cause mild panic if you’re used to an old SLR’s top-panel display, where the symbol itself indicates under/overexposure. On the FZ38, it doesn’t unless there is a number next to it. The display options are worth exploring – the guidelines option is a boon for lining up, and when displaying pictures, you can optionally show a lot of information like shutter speed and aperture. Another user interface issue is that some selections are made without the equivalent of an “OK” button and some with, so at first you may find yourself pressing the “Menu/Set” button too often, despite the camera’s efforts to guide you.

    One problem with the user interface is more significant – some lists of option choices use graphical symbols whose meaning may not be obvious. In some cases (like the ones shown when you select portrait with the mode wheel) these have explanatory captions (my favourite is “Smooth skin – shoot potrait’s skin more smoothly” – misspelled and a bit repetitious, but they tried). In others, there’s no help – try Setup – LCD mode, where your choices are “Off”, “A*” and “*” with no help about what LCD mode is or what these settings mean. You have to go to the full manual in PDF to find out. Depending on your experience, other symbols may be obvious, and explanation might be irritating, so there’s probably scope for some kind of “expert/beginner” setting which determines how much is explained. This is the one that stops me upping the rating to five stars.

    The electronic viewfinder works well as an alternative to the screen, once adjusted with the diopter wheel. The display is exactly the same – you can even look at your stored pics with the viewfinder.

    The battery is good for 470 shots based on the CIPA standard, but the manual warns you that this is based on a particular usage pattern – “e.g. when recording once every 2 minutes, the number [...] decreases to about 117. So a spare battery is probably worth buying. The charger is good for voltages 110-240, so for foreign trips you only need the kind of adaptor that makes the plug fit.

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