FZ18 first impressions

Started Aug 26, 2007 | Discussions thread
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Ming Thein
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FZ18 first impressions
Aug 26, 2007

Hi guys,

Been given a production FZ18 to review today - I don't see many threads on this camera, so I presume it's not readily available as yet...hope you find this useful.

First impressions for now, pictures to follow soon.

Build is better than the previous FZs, a little larger - but it fits in the hand better.

It's a really snappy camera, feeling faster than my TZ3 in operation. AF is VERY impressive given the lens range - even at the extreme 504mm end. Buffer size is similar, though the frame rate isn't quite as high. Card write speed is very good though, and even when shooting raw the camera locks for about two seconds at most (I'm using a class 6 SDHC, though).

The one thing that impresses me most about this camera is the lens - it's simply incredible. I thought the TZ3 lens was good, but the FZ18 is even better. Basically it's a bit sharper and a bit contrastier than the TZ3, and still has zero distortion and zero CA throughougt the zoom range - incredible! Consistently sharp across all focal lengths, too. Easily the best lens I've used on a non-DSLR, and better than some DSLR lenses too. I see better per-pixel sharpness than my TZ3 delivers.

The good news is that the noise reduction is adjustable in five steps; the bad news is that you will need it. There are some minor visible NR artefacts at ISO 100, getting worse as ISO increases. I would say 400 is okay and 800 is useable, 1600 avoid. Overall noise levels are on par with or slightly better than the TZ3. As with all the panasonics, the response of the camera to low light situations depends very much on the ambient light temperature.

As for the dynamic range issue - expose for the highlights (spot +0.3 or 0.7ev for highlights works well for me) and you will be fine. Yes, the DR goes down with every successive MP increase, but you'll still get more DR with this than the FX100, for instance.

One other thing I've noticed is that either the color is quite off or the auto WB isn't very good. Skies don't come out blue - more like cyan - and the reds tend to be way overdone. Turning down the saturation helps somewhat, but not completely solves the problem.

Please post any questions you have and I'll try to answer them here...

Ming

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Ming Thein's Photographic Dictionary, D2H Noise Reduction curves and galleries at
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