Two months ago Panasonic announced the Lumix DMC-FZ18, an interesting and affordable ultra zoom camera with an 18X wide angle lens, we wrote about it here.
Here's our first impression, out of the box. Well, there's not that much to say really; the design has changed little from its predecessor, the FZ8. The new camera is relatively small considering it packs a 28-504mm F2.8 - F4.2 Leica lens with MEGA optical image stabilization.
It's very light too, and this may be one of the reasons why it doesn't leave a very robust and sturdy impression in the hand. Don't get us wrong, nothing creaks, nothing bends, but most cameras with similar specs are 100-200g heavier, and you may expect something, well, a bit "beefier."
One of the many factors in keeping the weight down is the use of a proprietary Li-Ion battery. For some users this might be a bad thing, since you can't rely on AA batteries for backup when hiking or camping, but the battery life will be sufficient for most users.
The low weight doesn't really matter that much. A nice addition is the thumb grip on the back of the camera, as it really comes in handy. The finger grip could have been a bit thicker, at least if you have big hands, but this probably won't be an issue for most users.
We won't comment on its shooting performance just yet, since we have at least several days of work ahead of us. If all goes well you can expect a full review sometime next week.
So far, we can say that its controls are very good and intuitive, Panasonic retained the joystick used on previous models and it's a really useful little thing. The menus could have looked a bit better, but this is no big deal.
The stabilization works like a charm, we took several pictures without a tripod; at full 18X zoom and even with some insanely low shutter speeds, still they turned out crisp. Wide angle is impressive and really turns it into a jack of all trades.
Any troubles so far ? Well, thanks to a tiny 1/2.5 inch sensor the dynamic range is rather limited and this can be a major issue in some cases. High ISO performance also suffers due to the midget sensor.
The best thing so far ? The price: at around $350 this looks like a great deal.
Stay tuned for more.