The Panasonic Lumix FZ38 – or FZ35K as it’s known in the US – is the newest model in the FZ line. Updating the previous FZ28 model, does the FZ38 offer enough additions to make you part with your cash? The What Digital Camera Panasonic Lumix FZ38 (FZ35K) review…
Panasonic Lumix FZ38 review – Features
The Panasonic FZ38, with its 18x optical zoom, offers from the fairly wide-angle of 27mm through to 486mm telephoto range. At such an extended zoom, it’s a tough call to keep images sharp when shooting handheld – enter the newest version of Panasonic’s image stabilisation, POWER O.I.S., to help you avoid image blur – an upgrade said to be twice as good as the previous MEGA O.I.S.
The FZ38’s 12.1 megapixel sensor is another improvement over the FZ28, though the changes are relatively minimal thereafter. The lens is very much the same, albeit with improved, faster focusing, as is the 201,600-pixel electronic viewfinder, whilst the body itself is highly similar bar a few button rejigs and inclusion of AVCHD Lite movie recording (using H.264 encoding – widely regarded as the current best available in stills cameras) with stereo microphone. Whereas both the UK and US enjoyed the previous FZ28 model, our American counterparts haven’t gone the whole hog and jumped the namesake to its next ‘full’ conclusion – the FZ38 as it’s known in the UK instead adopts the FZ35K title, perhaps prompting that it’s more of a subtle update than major upgrade.
However, scrawl down the FZ38’s specs on paper and it offers a top of the line camera at a sensible price point. There’s a plethora of options, with intelligent Auto (iA) to capture the action without the need to fiddle with options for the more entry-level user, complimented by an array of more advanced manual options: PSAM means full control, there’s even an AF/AE lock and quick-access AF/macro/manual focus button. If you’re not in the market for a DSLR, but want to achieve a huge range of shots from close-up macro, through to distant telephoto, then the FZ38 more than ticks all the boxes – it can even shoot RAW + JPEG files simultaneously.
Panasonic Lumix FZ38 review – Design
The FZ38 has a conventional design – a large lens to the front, with the 2.7in LCD to the left on the rear. On top of the camera is the thumbwheel, zoom trigger with shutter and a two quick-access buttons for AF/macro/MF and focus. The main set of controls can be found on the rear to the right, with the usual d-pad configuration, though with some additional quick-access buttons: the new one-touch movie button jumps straight into recording, whilst the q-menu saves the bother of digging through extensive menus to find the key controls. As the q-menu is trigger-like in design it can be used like a miniscule joystick to thumb in any direction through menus.
Although many of the functions are advanced like a DSLR, the lack of the mirror box means an absence of optical viewfinder. Instead Panasonic has included an electronic viewfinder with an impressive 201.6K pixels to maintain detail to the eye. Whilst electronic viewfinders may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the FZ38’s EVF is up there with the best on the market. The screen itself is a 230K-dot offering, which is becoming an ever more common standard in compacts.
In the hand the Panasonic FZ38 feels good, and there’s enough of a grip to the right side to maintain stability, with the rubberised finish offering even more grip-support. The lens glides super-smoothly between focal lengths without your hands getting in the way and everything feels well made. In general, it’s top marks all round. A slight qualm is that when using the electronic viewfinder the images cannot be quick previewed on the LCD screen, instead only appearing in the EVF itself.