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Panasonic DMC-FZ3 hands-on Preview

By dpreview staff on Jul 22, 2004 at 22:40 GMT

The DMC-FZ3 is Panasonic's new budget priced, compact, twelve times optical zoom, three megapixel digital camera. It's based around the guts of the higher end FZ15 and FZ20 digital cameras with a smaller sensor and lens system. The first thing that strikes you when you pick up the FZ3 is just how compact it is an how light, it may not have the expensive feel of the FZ20 but it's certainly good enough and some $200 cheaper. Again, as the camera we have is pre-production we will not be publishing any sample images.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ3 hands-on Preview

The FZ3 follows the body design and layout of the FZ2, between the two (apart from the obvious body color change) the FZ2 is approximately 6 mm (1/4 in) wider and 25 g heavier (0.8 oz). Other changes are similar to those between the FZ10 and FZ20, edges have been rounded the hand grip modified and enlarged (slightly) the flash unit redesigned and the strap eyelets flattened. Just like the FZ2 the FZ3 has a 1/3.2" Type CCD however the pixel count has gone up from two to three megapixels. Other changes include the new 'Venus Engine II' which just like in the FZ20 promises faster response, higher quality images and better image stabilization. We'll get a better idea of how good when we review a production camera.

Side by side

The image below should give a good impression of how much smaller the FZ3 is compared to the FZ20. This means it's obviously more portable which means it's likely to be carried out more and used more often. The FZ3 doesn't have the FZ20's poly carbonate case material however it still feels perfectly adequate and capable of taking the knocks (although I can understand that not everyone will be a fan of silver).

In your hand

As we know the FZ3 is a small camera, and so this means less depth to the hand grip and yet despite this it is actually easier to hold than the FZ20. I think it's because your middle finger tends to grip vertically down the inside of the grip plus the weight of the camera is much less than the FZ20. Overall the grip design on the FZ3 works well and it's easy to take single handed shots (especially considering the optical image stabilization).

Operation

On top of the camera we have the mode dial which allows you to select the various camera modes including 'Simple Mode' (the heart symbol) which is a point and shoot mode with fewer options and larger on-screen indicators. While the zoom control does allow for fairly subtle adjustments it would have been much better if it were multi-speed or proportional.

Rear control layout is very similar to other Panasonic's (including its bigger brother the FZ20) and everything is logical enough. It's actually quite nice to see a common control layout throughout a range of cameras, Kudos Panasonic. The FZ3 gets the same user interface revamp we've seen across the range of new cameras (although actual operation is similar).

Design elements

The combined battery and SD storage compartment is found in the base of the hand grip, the battery held in place by a secondary spring clip. The battery is a 7.2 V 680 mAh Lithium-Ion unit and is charged by the dedicated charger / AC adapter. On the right side of the camera (from the rear) is a plastic compartment cover with a sprung metal hinge which covers the combined AV/USB and DC-IN connectors. Thank goodness Panasonic have positioned themselves away from nasty rubber compartment covers.
The FZ3's pop-up flash is released via a manual button on the rear of the camera. It provides a specified range of 4.6 m (15 ft) with the camera set to Auto ISO. The FZ3's flower petal type lens hood fits onto the camera with a bayonet style fitting over the metal front lens ring.

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