Customer Review

142 of 143 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as it gets before a dSLR, November 15, 2007
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This review is from: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18K 8.1MP Digital Camera with 18x Wide Angle MEGA Optical Image Stabilized Zoom (Black) (Electronics)
Having owned Olympus, Minolta and Canon digital cameras, I was somewhat reluctant to go through a new brand's learning curve, but on paper the FZ18 had everything I wanted, so I went for it. I use digitals mostly for wildlife and nature photography, therefore optical zoom, image stabilization, fast focusing capability and good handling of low-light situations were my main priorities. I didn't want to shift to dSLRs mainly because of weight issues; I was looking for a compromise, for something that would give me flexibility and quality without the hassle. I have to say that, after several weeks of subjecting this camera to everything that came my way, I am pleasantly surprised. The FZ18 is FAST, especially with a SDHC card (check that your card reader handles these, otherwise get a newer reader), and although I usually work with the optical zoom fully extended and no tripod, there has been no shake. This camera does well in low natural light, focuses ultrafast, colors are mostly true (sometimes it oversaturates reds a tad)and below ISO 400 there is no discernible noise -- I never use anything above that anyway. I have control over all the settings, too, but if I get lazy I can let the camera do all the thinking for me: it does equally well as a point-and-shot and as an advanced amateur camera. I like that I can extend zoom even more if I reduce resolution. Menus are intuitive and I've had no trouble learning how to handle them. The one thing I don't like much are the proprietary batteries: I'd rather be able to use AA's. But this is a minor setback, considering all the FZ18's qualities.

January 2008: After using this camera for a few months and taking a couple thousand pictures (bird photos: if you're lucky, one in ten is passable!), I stand by what I said before. But there is one issue that I perceived over time, and that has been annoying me. There is a tiny lag between pressing the button and the camera actually registering the image (optical zoom fully extended, maximum resolution). This tiny lag has made me lose a lot of pictures, especially of birds in flight. I've been trying to learn to compensate for it, but I can't say I've been successful -- understandably, since birds don't always fly predictable paths... This lag isn't bothersome when you're shooting landscapes or slow moving objects. I never perceived this with my previous camera, a Canon S3 IS, and I'd like to know from other users if they have noticed this in the FZ18 as well.
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Showing 1-10 of 14 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 4, 2008 1:34:02 PM PST
There is a face to face comparison found on the website below:
http://www.digitalversus.com/duels.php?ty=1&ma1=60&mo1=389&p1=2586&ma2=1&mo2=312&p2=2074&ph=21

While the canon S3 takes 0.65 seconds to focus, the FZ18, at full zoom, takes 1.5 seconds to focus. That is extremely long, especially for action shots.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 5, 2008 4:45:03 PM PST
ubat says:
Hi Thuan, and thanks for the link. It's not the focusing time that bothers me -- in fact, with optical zoom fully extended, I find the FZ18 quite fast --, it's this tiny lapse between hitting the shutter button and something actually happening within the camera. This small lag is enough for me to end up with a photo of empty sky instead of the bird flying -- the bird that I was seeing in the viewfinder a nanosecond before, and that I thought I'd taken a picture of. What I've been doing to compensate for this is use continuous shooting most of the time (in this mode, I find the Panasonic better than the Canon, because you only have to set it once, whilst in the S3 IS you have to set it every time you turn the camera on). It's a happy-go-lucky kind of strategy but I usually get the subject.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 6, 2008 7:11:33 PM PST
P. Dolan says:
I have had the Lumix DMC-FZ20 for two plus years and use it much as you do, lots of bird photography as well as other wildlife, plus photographing my art for competition entries.

My camera also has that small lag time between clicking the shutter to the actual photo being taken. The only way I've found to help compensate for the lag time is to use the multiple image selection to take several photos at once. It doesn't always work, of course, but it gives me more opportunities to catch what I'm after.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 8, 2008 7:26:07 AM PST
ubat says:
I'm so glad to know that you have the same issue -- I was beginning to think I was imagining things! This lag isn't really noticeable until you try shooting something in motion, and then it becomes quite annoying. I've been doing much the same as you, using burst mode while trying to keep the bird in flight in my viewfinder. As you said, it doesn't always work, but sometimes it can make the difference between having a photo and not having it. Have you noticed if your camera "jumps" around a bit in burst mode? I mean, even if you're standing motionless photographing a bird on a tree limb, you'll have it in the center of your viewfinder for the first couple of photos, and then it'll shift around in little jolts.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 14, 2008 2:24:20 AM PST
well, as I have just ordered fz18 with its ver. 3 engine, I must say I was annoyed to find Panasonic press release posts about a flood of new p/s models coming out with a v. 4 engine, primarily addressing noise, the click speed delay (now down to .005 sec) and color sat issues 3 things that you noted as concerns. Too bad they sent the fz18/fz50's to market last Fall for Christmas just before their new engine was coming out. I can't afford an upgrade anymore than every 3 years at that.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 17, 2008 2:25:46 PM PST
ubat says:
You should be annoyed, as should I... When I was looking for a new camera, given my priorities, I had three options: the FZ18, the Olympus UZ 560 (I'm glad I didn't buy that one! Should I be thinking of the 570 now?!) and the Fuji S8000fd. Compared to the other two, the Panasonic still seems to be the best, but it now turns out that I should have waited a while longer... Every time we want to acquire any electronic device, it all boils down to: which model is closest to what we envisage as the ideal one? And no moment is the right one, because two weeks after we get our new gizmo, someone is bound to come out with a new one that seems better than the one we just got. Brek, since you just ordered it, you can just as easily return it, can't you? And wait for the v.4 engine... I can't, since I've been using the FZ18 since November, over 8,000 photos so far... Best regards!

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 11, 2008 11:44:14 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 11, 2008 11:44:55 PM PDT
desertblue says:
I'm interested in buying this camera - is this camera now available with the v. 4 engine? On the Panasonic website, it says the shutter lag on the DMC-FZ18 is .005 seconds. How would I know which engine is in it? Esp. if buying online.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 15, 2008 8:29:13 AM PDT
ubat says:
Hi,
I really don't know. Perhaps contacting the vendor, or waiting a bit longer while the "old" FZ18s are sold off and all the available units start coming with the v.4 engine? As for the shutter lag informed on the Panasonic website, I've no idea where and how they got that number...

Posted on Apr 3, 2008 5:42:02 AM PDT
I also have cursed the lag - I throw away most of my bird shots and have lots of empty sky shots to contemplate. It is a big weakness in this camera.
Moira

Posted on May 14, 2008 12:25:07 AM PDT
Jay Edwards says:
I take pics of animals, birds typically-- and I quickly noted the cute expression on the raccoon's face when I pull the trigger is not the one that is recorded--- often a full frontal comes out as a full side view when the pic is registered.... But the camera is so great otherwise for an amatuer like me. I just got a 8 MB card and fire away. But This fault would make the camera useless to anyone really intent on capturing animals.
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