The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 is one of the best 18x-zoom Nirvana cameras on the market today. It has an 8-megapixel sensor, a wide aperture and wide-angle lens (f/2.8-to-f/4.2 28mm- to-504mm, to be more specific).

The design for Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 is very like the FZ8sony Cyber-shot DSC-H3 (7-megapixel, 12 x-zoom lines). What is noteworthy is that FZ18 has an electronic viewfinder (EVF) along with the optical image stabiliser and this helps give the extra steadiness (given by the eye-level-grip type of position) when shooting that long.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 has a whole range of shooting options. It has the usual full set of automatic, manual, semi-manual and scene program exposure modes. It also has the three standard choices for metering, i.e., spot, centre and multiple. Other than these the FZ18 incorporates six auto focus algorithm options like Face, 1-point, 1-point high speed, 3-point high speed, multi-point and Spot. Some other options FX18 offers are face detection and automatic scene detection. The image stabiliser is enabled by the Intelligent Auto mode. It uses the Intelligent ISO. It also offers continuous AF. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 also has a three-shot self timer. The really good option in this camera is the raw mode cum JPEG, which is found only in midrange and higher dSLRs.

The photographs taken with FZ18 are sharp, have an excellent exposure, beautiful colour rendering, good lens geometry and very little noise at the low –to-middle ISO sensitivities. All this adds up in giving a good image quality especially under natural lighting. Unfortunately, under tungsten and fluorescent lighting the image quality was not as good- there was a little more noise, compression artefacts in JPEG images and poor automatic white balance. The raw mode (Adobe Camera Raw) however, gave better pictures under these artificial lights.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 performs well in its class of cameras. It takes 1.8 seconds from putting on the power to the first shot. In good light it takes 0.7 seconds to focus and shoot and 1.1 seconds in dimmer light conditions. This is very good for a non-dSLR. It takes just a 1.3 second (that’s real fast) interval between two consecutive shots and this goes up to 1.8 seconds with a flash (really, really fast!!). Raw capture is a little slow and takes 2.3 seconds between two shots. It also takes pictures at a clip of 3.7 frames a second; however, only seven frames can be shot continuously at standard quality. This comes down to four frames at fine quality.

The Mega OIS image stabiliser in Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 works very efficiently. Using the cameras 504mm-equivalent focal length and multipoint focus, one can obtain sharp images of a stationary subject indoors, especially if the picture is taken four stops slower than the usual reciprocal focal-length rule ( !/125 seconds instead of 1/2000 second). The relatively low resolution LCD, which is 2.5 inches and the EVF were, however, a disappointment in this camera.

This camera costs around $359 and if you are looking for one with a wide angle and long zoom lens in this range, then this is the camera for you.

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