Panasonic have released the FZ28 to replace the FZ18 although to look at it, you'd think they'd re-released the same camera.
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28: Specification
Sensor size: 1/2.33in
Sensor type: CCD
Image size: 3648x2736
File type: JPEG, RAW
Sensitivity: ISO100-1600 (maximum ISO6400 in high sensitivity mode)
Storage: Built-in, SD, SDHC
Focus types: Auto, macro, quick AF, continuous, one shot
Normal focusing: 30cm (wide), 200cm (tele)-infinity
Close focusing: 1cm (wide)
Metering types: Face detection, tracking, multi, one area high speed, one area, spot
Exposure compensation: /- 2EV in 1/3 step increments
Shutter speed: 60sec-1/2000sec
Monitor: 2.7in TFT LCD
Interface: USB 2.0
Sporting a 27mm wide angle zoom lens that can crop in to a mouth watering 486mm, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28 costs around £259 and also gives you a Leica lens, RAW recording and 1cm macro facility.
£20 more will get you the Olympus SP-570UZ with a 20x optical zoom that goes down to a similar wide angle view (26mm) but doesn't record in RAW, has a standard Olympus lens but shares the close focusing of 1cm.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28: Features
Little has changed in the design of the Lumix superzooms over the years but then why bother if it works? They've become smoother and more organic than the earlier ones but the oversized lens with built in flash crouched over it still remain and the grip lurches forward with the shutter release and zoom perched on top to aid in one handed photography.
In fact the changes are really blink and you'll miss them such as a slightly larger screen and a recording/playback switch placed on the edge of the thumb pad for quicker reviewing. Loading the images up from memory can take longer than you'd expect which is an unfortunate drawback to begin the review with.
The Q-menu button has now been named and this too is slow to get into. Reviewing cameras such as the LX3 and G1, the Q-menu button is responsive and needs only a tap to get into. The FZ28 needs the button to be held down for a second or so. This menu gives access to heavy use features such as image stabiliser, metering, focusing, white balance and sensitivity. It also plays host to the intelligent exposure mode which is a basic dynamic range boost with four levels of change, including off. It works by analysing the image for any areas that are either too dark or too bright. It then boosts those areas to bring out more detail. It's loosely based on HDR photography but only uses one photograph.
The scene modes on the command dial have been placed there for a reason. They have extra options on top of the basic function such as portrait mode which has standard portrait, soft skin, outdoor, indoor and creative. Landscape is renamed scenery and you can choose from normal, nature, architecture and creative. All the modes have the creative option at the end and this will alter certain areas to get different results. For example, the landscape creative mode will speed up the shutter speed to get otherwise blurry items frozen in the shot. This is illustrated by two fountains, one with static water and one with moving water. A slider is in between and as you move it up or down the shutter speed alters to get the desired effect.
The menu is accessed by the menu button on the back of the camera. It's found in the centre of the navigation pad and also doubles up as the confirm command for any adjustments made. The menu only has two main tabbed areas for shooting and the set-up. A lot of the features in here are doubled up in the Q-menu which I find unnecessary and it bulks out the recording tab to five pages.
The set-up tab changes more of the core elements such as date & time, volume, fn button dedication and language settings. This menu is six pages although the last one only has two options on it. You can navigate around the menu using the Q-menu joystick or the navigation pad and if you decide on the former, selecting choices is done by depressing the joystick.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28: Build and handling
Build quality is standard for this class of camera. A Leica branded lens is supplied for superior optics and while Leica don't actually manufacture the glass, the specifications are supplied by them.
The zoom is quite responsive and although it extends and retracts in steps, the steps aren't huge meaning you can take more advantage of it's immense size.
The screen is bright and has a decent viewing angle but does suffer from some motion blur. The EVF is worse than the screen for blur but it's still better than other electronic viewfinders I've seen on some other cameras.
The Li-Ion battery shares the same bay as the memory card and with a battery larger than others by today's standard, the door is oversized to cope. It has a degree of play in it which is unfortunate but I can't see it breaking easily. What I'm impressed and surprised to see is a metal tripod bush. If you're thinking about this camera then the wide angle lens will be appealing. This more than likely means you'll be taking landscapes so a tripod will be used and a metal tripod bush will last a lot longer.
It has a built-in flash which is a flip up type normally seen on DSLRs showing another similarity that gives bridge cameras their name. It has a range of 0.3-8.5m at wide angle and 1.0-5.4m at telephoto based at ISO100.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28: Performance
Shutter lag times started off looking promising at 0.04sec but it turned out I was being over eager as I started to get consistent results of 0.08sec which is the standard for any compact up to bridge and prosumer status.
There are two versions of continuous shooting on the FZ28 which are normal and unlimited. Normal shooting manages a burst of three photographs in just over a second but then has to download and isn't ready to shoot again for another four seconds. I managed three bursts in ten seconds totalling nine shots. It took me slightly over ten seconds including download time but it was by less than two seconds.
Unlimited continuous does what it says and keeps taking shots. This should be slower but it managed 17 images in the ten second period with another second or so to finish downloading. This is equal to 1.7fps which isn't a bad result compared to the average of 0.9fps in ten seconds from the normal setting.
Good gradation in mono tones and an overall decent colour rendition.
The colour test chart image has given a very nice result with good gradation on the mono tones. I like the richness of the earthier colours such as brown and the green further along the same row. The skin tone looks a little pale but will more than likely be warmed up in portrait mode. I like the yellow, it's really vibrant and the red and primary green are boosted nicely but not as much as blue.
The pastel colours running vertically down the left side of the brown, orange and blue appear more muted than the actual chart shows.
It was a rainy day when I took the landscape image but that's the case nearly every day this time of year. It means light is even with little or no contrast. Even so, fringing is non-existant on this image from the FZ28 both on the white bars and on the branches backlit from the sky. I like the detail in the grass and what colours are there have come out nicely.
A low contrast day means fringing gets a break but isn't visible anywhere in the scene.
See what the insects see with the 1cm macro facility. Problems include shadows and not enough light getting in.
The Panasonic FZ28 has a macro capability of 1cm which makes close up work more exciting and harder. This shot of a lily stamen had the lens so close it would've pushed the petals out of the flower if it was real. The main problem I came across was getting a precise focus point which was also down to my tripod.
I was so close to the subject that I needed to move only millimetres and it was out of focus. This image is a good example of how the part of the stamen nearest the lens is too close and has been thrown out of focus. Instead the part running along its profile is sharp.
I've included a shot of the widest angle of view next to an image from the FZ28 at it's full telephoto capability.
The wide angle shot starts at 27mm.
Telephoto crops in to a brilliant 486mm.
Taking the portrait shot usually ends up with the flash image being cooler because of the white balance not quite coping so I'm surprised to see a warmer result from the flash image. there's a reasonable amount of detail in both shots with the flash picture being notably sharper. There's a little amount of bleaching on the extremities such as the tip of the nose and brow.
The portrait image looks cooler than the image with flash which isn't what normally happens, making my brain hurt.
Adding flash has altered the cast, added catchlights and is dangerously on the verge of bleaching out the nose.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28: Focus and metering
There are a number of different focus modes available on the FZ28. There are some available in the Q-menu such as spot AF, face detection, AF tracking, multi segment, one area and one area high speed. For the more precise focusing options such as spot and one area, the focus area can be moved around the sensor by pressing display and navigating the square with the Q-menu joystick.
On the top of the camera, two buttons are available for different focus types. You can choose between auto or manual on one button and normal or macro AF on the other. Manual focus activates an inserted screen with a slider bar that can be adjusted to shift the focal plane. It's quite precise and when in auto focus the only thing that slows down the focusing is that it has to scroll through the entire scope before finding the sharpest area. The one area high speed is faster but only marginally.
As with any camera giving manual controls, there's only three metering modes available which are spot, centre-weighted and multi. these can be accessed in the Q-menu. A histogram is available to aid you in getting perfectly exposed shots as well as exposure compensation if the camera is struggling.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28: Noise test
Noise is controlled at its best with the first two sensitivity settings so if you don't like any disortion to your images then don't go over ISO200. Detail in the petal starts to fall off from ISO400 onwards with sharpening also starting to try some damage control.
ISO800 sees the detail disappear almost entirely while ISO1600 may as well not bother. Still, it shows a certain common sense that Panasonic are using at the moment. They seem to be aware of the noise issues and have capped the sensitivity at a reasonably low setting of ISO1600 while they iron out the problems.
The ISO100 test.
The ISO1600 test.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28: Verdict
As a small bridge camera, it has a lot going for it such as the Leica lens, large zoom, good macro and colour rendition. Noise seems to be a problem which I think a lot of manufacturers need to look at because so many people are starting to realise this is more important than the amount of pixels on the sensor.
Personally I prefer the blockier design of the older FZ10 as I think it fits the retro styling from the other models in the Panasonic compact stable.
For those of you looking to get a small bridge model to back up your DSLR or one to take when you're on a day out and don't want the bulk of a full interchangeable system, this camera will fit that need perfectly.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28: Plus points
27mm wide angle lens
No fringing on contrast areas
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28: Minus points
Noise comes in badly at ISO400
Repeated menu options
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28 costs around £259 and is available from Warehouse Express here: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28.