Saturday, June 7, 2008

Testing Panasonic Lumix FZ18

After getting my new Panasonic Lumix FZ18, I've been busy testing it out. This is not only to familiarise myself with the operation but also to charge and discharge the lithium-ion battery a number of times.

As you may or may not be aware, this type of rechargeable battery will not be at its full capacity until it has gone through a few charging cycles. This battery is advertised to be able to take about 400 shots which is a pretty good figure compared to other similar class of cameras. After the first charging, I managed less than 200. However, after every subsequent charge, the number increased and the last time I got about 400 photos, as claimed. but of course, this was for photos taken in rather quick succession so in actual usage, this will be less when it is used not as frequently. In any case, this is a very good capacity. With this, I reckon I can survive without having to buy a spare battery for my trip as I will be charging it at the end of every day. Further more, I'll be taking along a spare camera (the modest Ricoh R3) as an standby in case the Lumix misbehave. I remember in my last trip to Spain, the camera of one of my fellow traveller died on him and I had to loan him my spare camera at that time. So cameras can just give up when you least wanted it and this sort of thing do happen.

So how do my FZ18 perform? It is not the perfect camera (is there such a thing?) but it did pretty well and better than my expectations. Here are some examples to show what it can do.

Actually before buying this super zoom camera, I've looked at several contenders. At this range of 18X zoom, the other models available currently are Fuji FinePix S8100fd, Olympus SP560 and the latest Nikon Coolpix P80. There's also Olympus SP570 at 20X zoom which is an upgrade of the SP560. Out of this bunch, there is no clear winner as each has its pros and cons but in most of the reviews, the Lumix FZ18 seems to get more points. You can read some of the users comments at Amazon and maybe pick one up there as well.

To me, the Lumix FZ18 has more user-friendly features than the rest and so gives you more bangs for your bucks. One unique feature is the present of a joystick with which you can make changes and adjustment easily without going through the menu. The other is the iA mode or intelligent Auto mode which is really pretty intelligent when compared to the normal Auto mode found in other cameras. You have to try it before you can believe that it is uncannily intelligent. The only minus point about this is that sometimes it opt for high ISO (up to 800 for low light or fast moving subjects) which has too much noise. But it's a choice of getting a noisy photo or none at all! The menu is simple and pretty intuitive and very easy to navigate.

Since I enjoy taking macro photos, I really like the telemacro which can be as close as 1 metre at full 18X zoom which gives you fantastic DOF. At wide angle you can go down to 1cm but because of the size of the lens, it is not too practical and insects and other small creatures will be frightened away well before you reach that close. For that, I'll use my Ricoh R3 which is much smaller and less intrusive; the zoom macro is also great, down to 14cm at 7.1X zoom; well that's the subject of another post.

So I'm all ready to go on my trip to Greece and since it is bright and sunny there, camera noise should not a problem for my FZ18. So no more posts until I'm back from this holiday.

Ronald Kwok

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