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Compared to... Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd and Olympus SP-560UZ

Although the 'big zoom' market is getting increasingly crowded, for this review we decided it made most sense to see how the FZ18 compares to its only direct competitors, the Fujifilm S8000fd and the Olympus SP-560UZ (both 18x zooms, both 8MP). We have included samples at each camera's lowest sensitivity setting (FZ18: ISO 100, S8000fd: ISO 64, SP-560 UZ: ISO 50), ISO 400, 800 and 1600.

Studio scene comparison (FZ18 @ ISO 100, S8000fd @ ISO 64, SP-560UZ @ ISO 50)

  • Panasonic DMC-FZ18: Aperture Priority mode, ISO 100, Default Image Parameters, Manual white balance, +0.66 EV compensation
     
  • Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd: Aperture Priority mode, ISO 64, Default Image Parameters, Manual white balance, +0.67 EV compensation

  • Olympus SP-560UZ : Aperture Priority mode, ISO 50, Default Image Parameters, Manual white balance, +0.7 EV compensation
     
  • Lighting: Daylight simulation, >98% CRI
Panasonic DMC-FZ18
Fujifilm S8000fd
Olympus SP-560UZ

ISO 100, 1/60 sec, F4.5

ISO 64, 1/40 sec, F4.5

ISO 50, 1/40 sec, F4.5
3,361 KB JPEG
2,914 KB JPEG
2,801 KB JPEG

Unsurprisingly there is not an awful lot of difference between the three cameras at the lowest ISO setting. Contrast and sharpness of the Leica-badged lens are good, although not as good as the 12x zoom in the FZ8 - it's becoming increasingly obvious that squeezing an 18x zoom into such a compact format is pushing lens design almost to breaking point. As expected from lenses with such a massive zoom range edge-to-edge performance is nowhere near as good as the best zooms, and there is a small, but noticeable drop-off in sharpness at the edges and into the corners of the frame. That said, of the three cameras here the FZ18 is capturing the most detail, by a whisker.

All cameras' output (in these brightly lit conditions) looks pretty clean, with only very little visible noise but also an overall softness and - in all cases - a hint of noise reduction (though of course this is 100% on-screen; in print they all look pretty impressive). In general the Panasonic's results feature punchier colors than the competition. If you like that or not is a matter of personal preference, you can always reduce saturation in the record menu.

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