Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ3 Review
The first thing you notice about the FZ3 is how small it is - especially compared to the FZ1/FZ2/FZ10/FZ20 models that preceded it. The design is simple, boxy even, and is dominated by the huge (for a compact camera) 12x F2.8 zoom. It may look like it should squirt water when you press the shutter, but the basic, 'mini SLR' design is functional rather than decorative - which shows Panasonic has got its priorities right. Compared to its predecessor, the FZ2, the changes are obvious (apart from the color change) - the edges have been rounded slightly, the grip is marginally larger, the flash unit redesigned and the whole thing shrunken slightly (its around 6mm narrower and 25g lighter than the FZ2). Inside the changes are more fundamental - as well as the increased resolution (three megapixels up from two), the new Venus II engine promises faster processing, better image quality and improved image stabilization.
Side by side
The image above 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, but it still feels perfectly adequate and capable of taking the knocks.
In your hand
The smaller size has not harmed the FZ3's handling one bit. Quite the opposite in fact; the camera feels stable, safe and solid, and operation of the main controls (zoom and shutter release is very easy. The excellent handling - along with the image stabilization - means the FZ3 is probably the only 'super zoom' camera I have ever felt really safe using with one hand. It is very well balanced and not too heavy (though inevitably you'll get less camera shake if you support the right side of the camera with your 'spare' hand). Excellent.
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