The FZ30 is designed to look - and operate as far as possible - like a traditional SLR (single lens reflex) camera, and it's not that much smaller either. The body is dominated by the large 12x zoom lens, which no longer extends on power up, and so is around an inch longer than the FZ20's zoom (with lens retracted). Overall a much more considered and mature product than the FZ20, the new button layout, additional control wheels and manual zoom ring make the FZ30 a much more serious alternative to an entry-level DSLR than any of its predecessors.

Side by side

Here you can see the FZ30 (left) beside the camera it replaces, the five megapixel FZ20. As you can see there has been a fairly comprehensive redesign of the entire camera, with a deeper, larger handgrip (a significant handling improvement), better positioning of the viewfinder and shutter release and - of course - a non-extending zoom lens. It's a little larger and quite a lot heavier than the FZ20.

As the FZ series moves closer and closer to DSLR functionality, so too does its size - it isn't significantly smaller than the Canon EOS Rebel XT (350D), though it's still dwarfed by Sony's new monster, the DSC-R1. Of course when comparing with a DSLR you have to take into account the additional bulk and weight (and cost!) of the extra lenses required to match the FZ30's 35-420mm image stabilized optics.

In your hand

The combination of the new deeper hand grip the molded rear thumb grip make the FZ30 a fairly comfortable camera to hold, and it feels very stable thanks to a well-balanced weight distribution. The large lens barrel automatically becomes the grip position for your left hand. You can shoot single-handedly - if you've got strong wrists and a steady hand - but the weight of the lens barrel makes it feel a little unbalanced, and you get much less camera shake when you support the camera with both hands.

Two body colors

Just like the FZ20 the FZ30 will be available in both black and silver.