A great bridge camera that shows the fruits of Panasonic's partnership with Leica
Of late, it’s been Panasonic’s efforts within the photographic market that have proved some of the most interesting. Its partnership with Leica together with a flurry of successful models have posed serious competition to the more established manufacturers.
The Lumix FZ18 is the latest weapon of choice from the company, sporting an 18x optical zoom (28-504mm equiv.), full manual control and a feature list to drool over. An 8MP sensor is driven by a Venus III processing engine, while Mega OIS image stabilisation accompanies the lens. A new Intelligent Auto mode picks up where the Intelligent ISO mode left off, by simultaneously selecting the appropriate ISO, stabilisation, scene mode and, where necessary, face detection settings, the latter of which are able to detect up to 15 faces per shot and track them continuously. The same Raw mode as featured on the FZ8 is present and is joined by a simultaneous Raw and JPEG shooting option, while a competent selection of metering and autofocus options round off the spec.
Start-up time is by no means bad, with focusing times displaying a similar performance. The review button’s position on the mode dial makes image playback a little more difficult than it should be, but again, this is no big thing. One bonus comes in the form of the 3fps burst mode, allowing you to shoot at the highest resolution until the card is full.
The design and build of the camera follows that of previous FZ models. The grip has been extended to included a dedicated thumb pad while the familiar joystick allows for the manual adjustment of focusing, exposure values and white balance. Design-wise it’s hard to fault the camera, though its plasticky build – while by no means unexpected – could have been revised into a more solid construction, which would really elevate it above its bridge rivals.
It’s fair to say that the downfall of previous Lumix models was noise, which tended to make too premature an appearance within the ISO range. There do seem to be improvements in this area, but even on the lowest ISO shadow detail turns noisy. Chroma noise is also visible throughout the range, which is a shame as images otherwise are truly impressive. Colour rendition is great and images are packed full of detail. Fringing has been superbly controlled and is only visible in high-contrast areas under close scrutiny, while edge- and corner-sharpness is also well maintained. The only other problems come with highlights, which don’t always seem to hold up well and a slight inconsistency with white balance. Other than that, a very good performance.
Value For Money
For what you’re getting, the camera’s £329 RRP represents better value for money than equivalent models from Canon and Olympus.
Panasonic has really outdone itself with the FZ18. It’s not without its flaws, but all the features you need and a good standard of images that (in 2007) made it one of the best bridge options on the market.