Panasonic has expanded its popular ultra-zoom lineup with the 8.1 megapixel, 18x zoom DMC-FZ18.
The new Lumix boasts a very versatile 28-504mm F2.8 - F4.2 Leica lens with MEGA optical image stabilization. Unlike most ultra-zoom cameras, the lens is a bit on the wide side, starting at 28mm and this might help out as far as indoor shots go. Only the Olympus SP-550 UZ has a similar lens, while most manufacturers stick to 10, 12 or 15X lenses.
Another thing that most of its potential competitors lack is RAW format support. Of course, the camera is SDHC compatible, so storage won't be an issue.
It's based around the Venus Engine III, which allows ISO sensitivity of up to 1600 in most shooting modes and a whopping, and probably useless, ISO 6400 when using the new High Sensitivity mode. In the movie department, it's capable of 848 x 480 at 30 FPS.
It retains the joystick used on the DMC-FZ8, but also adds some SLR-like controls. This model should nicely fill the gap between the FZ8 and FZ50, offering a bit more choice for consumers who don't want to take the SLR road.
The price is very interesting too, it should cost about $400 when it hits retail in September. Considering that Canon's S5 IS and Sony's H9 are priced at almost $500, the new Panasonic seems destined to grab the best buy title. All things considered, this should be a very interesting product.