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Panasonic have this to say about the camera:
"Panasonic is proud to introduce the 8-Megapixel, 12x optical zoom LUMIX DMC-FZ30 inheriting MEGA O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer) as an up-and-comer to its creative super zoom FZ double-digit line. The DMC-FZ20, released in 2004, has been internationally acclaimed for meeting the needs of the market by realizing the ideals of users."
You can find more information on their website.
The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Panasonic Lumix FZ3)
Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.
Specifications / Features:
Average box contents - you will need to buy a larger memory card, and a case (as with almost all digital cameras).
Battery usage: Up to 280 pictures with supplied batteries, according to CIPA testing, 300 when using the EVF. Battery life seemed good, although not as good as the 500-shot Fuji F10 for example.
Menu Options / Modes: The camera mode is selected using the top dial.
Photo mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right below:
Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown on the left) The screen resolution with 230,000 pixels is very good, and has a live histogram. The screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read. Optical Viewfinder: There is no optical viewfinder, instead there is an Electronic ViewFinder (EVF) - which is especially useful outside on bright sunny days - this has a diopter corrector and the size of the EVF means I'm able to use it even when wearing glasses.
Photo menu options: White balance (2 custom modes), ISO Sensitivity (80,100,200,400), Aspect Ratio (4:3, 3:2, 16:9), Picture size, Quality (RAW, Tiff, Fine, Standard), Audio record, Metering mode, AF mode, Continuous AF, AF assist lamp, Digital zoom, Colour effect (Off, Cool, Warm, Black and White, Sepia), Picture Adjust (Contrast, Sharpness, Saturation, Noise reduction), Flip anim, Conversion (Wide, Telephoto adapters available).
Scene modes: There are two scene menus, so that it's possible to quickly switch between two favourite scene modes. The Scene modes are: Portrait, Sports, Food, Scenery, Night portrait, Night scenery, Baby, Soft Skin, Candle light, Party, Firewoks, Snow, Starry Sky, Panning. Pressing left with give a short description of what the scene mode does, for example, for 'Baby', the description is "Suitable for taking pictures of your baby. Age can be displayed with picture if you set the birthday."
Setup menu options: Monitor brightness, Auto review, play on LCD, Power save, MF Assist mode, Beep, Shutter, Volume, Clock set, Number reset, Reset, USB mode, Highlight, Video out, Scene menu, Language.
Playback (Review) mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the left, below:
Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is fairly average, with initial display a bit sluggish. The zoom is fairly quick. There were four different playback views, normal, thumbs - showing 25, 16, or 9 thumnails. Further photo information was available by pressing the display button.
Playback menu options: Slideshow, Favourite, Rotate display, Rotate, DPOF Print, Protect, Audio dub, Resize, Trimming, Aspect convert, Clean up (defragments the memory card), Format.
Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number of images will fit on the 32mb memory card provided with the camera:
As shown in the table above, you can fit a small number of images on the 32mb memory card - a large memory card is definitely recommended, unless you want to use the lower image sizes / higher compression options in order to fit more pictures in memory. There is a very good choice of image sizes and aspect ratios, and a very good choice regarding image compression.
A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 256mb memory card, and preferably a 512mb memory card, or larger, especially considering the relatively low prices - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to go on holiday then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in, as you don't always know when you will next be at a computer. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30:
the latest prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 128mb: £9.99,
1gb (1000mb): £29.99,
2gb (2000mb): £59.08.
Speed: The camera is very quick to switch on and take photos, being ready in around one second. Focusing seemed fairly quick even in low-light thanks to the bright focus-assist lamp. The playback mode is also fairly quick. The camera shutter response seemed quick (0.1 seconds) when pre-focused - and shot to shot time was quick, with a delay of around 2 seconds between shots without flash. The flash recharge time was quite quick. The cameras menu's seemed quick. Continuous shooting is quick, at roughly 2fps for upto 6 shots at the highest resolution (without flash).
Ease of use: The camera is very easy to use, especially in AUTO mode, or one of the scene modes, even though the camera has a lot of options. The controls on the back of the camera are quite straight forward - the menus are responsive and easy to read and navigate. The menus are also easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy enough to see clearly. The modes are easy to access, quick and simple, mainly thanks to the right number of dials and buttons on the camera (most options aren't hidden away in menus which makes it easier to use). Most functions can be worked out without having to refer to the manual. The manual zoom ring is very easy to use, especially if you are used to using SLR cameras.
Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are fairly easy to use, and they are in a good position. There seem to be the right amount of buttons and dials allowing easy access to the most commonly used functions and features. The buttons feel okay, although some may find them small. The shutter release is quite decent. The buttons are labelled fairly well - although the scrolling wheels can be confusing in playback mode - I expect with extended use I would have become used to this. I thought the camera felt very good ergonomically, with an excellent size rubbery handgrip, the rubberised cover will appeal to many, as will the SLR-styling and black colour. The camera feels like a very solid, robust and well built camera, with a metal body (whereas most budget Digital SLRs have plastic bodies).
Image Quality: Here are some real world sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Noise, Outside, Zoom, Macro, to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30 Sample Photo Gallery!
Inside: The camera has very good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - there is no red-eye in the photo. It has a decent flash, and copes well with group photos, and on AUTO ISO, the ISO setting was kept quite low in these photos. The camera did a good job at focusing even in low-light. Colour is richly saturated.
Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels, and manual ISO settings (ISO: 80, 100, 200, and 400) - below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings.
Noise is visible in photos taken at ISO80 and ISO100, however noise isn't a problem as these ISO settings and images are still good. At ISO200 and ISO400 noise levels are high / very high - these ISO settings are best avoided if image quality is your highest priority. However in some circumstances, especially when taking photos of dark objects, ISO200 is unusable even when images are resized, but in other circumstances, ISO200 produces acceptable results.
Outside, the camera had very good (rich) colour, with good contrast and saturation. There was good detail although images did seem slightly soft. There seemed to be good dynamic range. Noise seemed quite low, especially on sunny days. I didn't notice jpeg artefacts in the images.
Zoom: The camera has a 12x optical zoom lens, a 4x digital zoom, and a 19x optical / smart zoom mode at 3 megapixels - I've included examples below to show what the zoom range of the camera is. Using the digital zoom degrades image quality and is best avoided.
Exposure / Metering on the photos of the clock tower seems good, with the dark areas of the photo not too dark, and the bright areas of the photo still visible. Purple fringing is well controlled.
Lens noise and zoom: The lens is very quiet, making almost no noise when switched on due to the lens already being in position. The manual zoom ring also means that zooming in silent. The shutter is quiet. There are probably an infinite number of positions between wide and telephoto due to the manual / analog zoom ring - this gives you very good control on how you frame your subject.
Other Image Quality issues: Purple fringing seemed quite low - and seems well controlled.
Macro: You can use the flash in macro mode, although if the subject is too close, then there will be a shadow cast over some of the image due to the position of the flash and the long lens. The camera can be roughly as close as 2cm away from the subject from the front of the lens in wide setting, when set to macro focus mode.
The macro mode is very good - colour and detail is good, and there apears to be fairly low noise at ISO100 (although quite high noise when I used ISO200 for the same photo). The camera allows you to get very close to the subject. Images did seem a bit soft - and may benefit from sharpening. Custom white balance helps acheive better results.
Movie: The movie mode on this camera is very good with VGA at 30fps, with sound and allows use of the optical zoom. The camera also has a 320x240 video mode with sound. The camera did well even in low light. Videos are recorded as .MOV files.
The Panasonic Lumix FZ30 is an excellent ultra zoom digital camera, offering
excellent image quality, an excellent Leica 12x optical zoom lens with
image stabilisation, and a manual zoom ring. The high resolution 2"
swivel screen is very good, and the camera is very good value for money.
The easy to use camera offers speedy performance, good battery life, with
good controls and excellent build quality thanks to a solid metal camera
body. I would highly recommend this camera, especially to people who like
it's SLR styling, although be aware that noise is on the high side. If
you can stick with the lower ISO settings or only wish to print small
images then this camera should be high on your shopping list! I'd recommend
trying the camera before purchase, as this camera is definitely large
when compared to your average sized ultra zoom camera.
What I like:
What I don't like:
Remember to have a look at the test photos in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30 Sample Photo Gallery.