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Conclusion - Pros

  • Excellent resolution and detail capture
  • Sharp results
  • Good, natural color
  • Superb 12x optical zoom
  • Very effective image stabilization
  • Small and light, but well built
  • Comprehensive range of controls
  • Very fast operation
  • Well designed menu system
  • Nice handling and control layout
  • Easy to use
  • Decent, if small, LCD screen
  • Usable EVF
  • Good burst mode
  • Autofocus illuminator
  • Powerful flash
  • Good battery life
  • Superb value for money
  • TIFF mode

Conclusion - Cons

  • Some vignetting at wide end of the zoom and in macro mode
  • Occasional exposure problems
  • Occasional clipping of highlights and shadows in high contrast scenes
  • Focus at extreme telephoto sometimes hunts, sometimes misses
  • Visible noise at high ISO settings
  • Low resolution movie mode

Overall conclusion

It may be the baby of Panasonic's super zoom range, but the FZ3 is a mature, feature-rich product with a stunning lens, powerful processor and outstanding performance. It's fast, reliable, easy to use and packed with useful and powerful features and functions. Sure, you don't get the super-solid build quality of other Panasonic FZ models, but at under $400 you do get a small, light, solid camera capable of dealing with virtually any photographic task you throw at it - from macros to landscapes to handheld telephoto shots, the FZ3 comes up with the goods time after time.

There are some minor problems (the mild vignetting and occasional loss of highlight detail being the most common), but taking into account the excellent price and overall performance, these are simply not enough to discount the FZ3 as a serious contender for the best budget super zoom on the market today. If you value results over cute design, want a huge - usable - zoom range and can live with the limitations of 3 megapixels, there probably isn't a better choice. Excellent.

Highly Recommended

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