So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30
- Great design, full set of features, big zoom
- Image noise is a problem, pricey considering the cost of SLRs
The FZ30 is a joy to take pictures with. If not for the price tag, and the image noise problem, this would be one of our favourites. As it stands, it is a solid entry by Panasonic, and will satisfy most users.
Price$ 1,099.00 (AUD)
The current flagship model for Panasonic's camera range, the FZ30 is an impressive piece of imaging hardware. Built like an SLR, the FZ30 is a bulky, solid camera with a non retractable lens and a full manual zoom ring. The only thing lacking is the detachable lens.
The build quality of this camera is fantastic. To some people, the sizeable weight the FZ30 brings to the table would be considered a major flaw, but when buying such an advanced camera one cannot really expect it to be too much smaller, and we found the weight really added to our ability to take a steady shot. With lighter cameras we often found ourselves getting shaky images, but not so with this model.
The body is built from a standard combination of plastic and light metal, but also has leather pads incorporated around key grip areas, which we think is an excellent idea. They keep the camera from slipping, and give you a little extra comfort throughout long shooting sessions. The LCD is also rotatable to some degree, but it doesn't offer enough axes of movement to be really useful.
The 12X zoom lens is what will really attract buyers. As a high end prosumer camera, this model offers powerful shooting from a great distance. Combine that with the optical image stabilising, and you definitely have a winner on your hands. Landscape photographers in particular will love the strong lens.
The FZ30 is equipped with a mammoth amount of buttons, however Panasonic hasn't fallen into the trap of creating a cluttered interface, as most of the controls are easily accessible. The layout is largely the same as prior models (the FZ20 and FZ25) with two additions, in the form of two scroll wheels, one on the front and one of the back of the right hand grip. These allow easy navigation through options such as shutter speed and aperture and are definitely a nice addition. We did find however, that they are not as sensitive as we would have liked. It takes a good ten to fifteen seconds to navigate from a fast shutter speed to a slow one for example, which could get frustrating in the long term.
One of the big problems with most advanced cameras is the on screen display is extremely intimidating to most users, which discourages them from making the leap into more complex photography. Whilst obviously advanced models are meant for those that know what they're doing, there must be a point of intersection to make the transition easier. The FZ30's interface is definitely a step in the right direction. Little things like images showing the correct way to turn to adjust various settings, and the countdown timer showing how much longer the shutter is open were a very nice touch.
Image quality was a little worse than we would have liked, but was still better than average. The eight megapixel sensor captures extremely sharp images with crisp edges and extremely fine detail. Colour balance was quite good, except for a tendency to oversaturate reds. What really disappointed us was the massive image noise, clearly noticeable across almost all of our shots. We shoot many of our pictures under a soft light, which really brought out a lot of graininess. This was particularly evident on the black background in our shots, which were horribly speckled. For such a high quality camera, this was a big let down.
The feature-set was also a mixed bag. We loved the fact that aperture goes all the way up to 11 f/stops, however shutter speed stops at a mere 8 seconds, and ISO sensitivity is capped at 400. There are 14 pre-set shooting modes, which is about average, and a full set of white balance presets and manual settings. The continuous shooting mode was quite robust, at about 1.5 images a second. Rounding out the features is the video recording mode which records what is now a fairly standard 640x480 video file at 30 fps.
Battery life is listed as roughly 280 shots by CIPA standards, and we found this to be accurate, taking about 290 shots before it powered down. Considering the high quality LCD, and the bulk and featureset of the FZ30, this is a fairly appropriate result, although it won't compete with smaller models that manage 400 or 500 shots to a charge.
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