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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 review




  • Recommended by TR
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18


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Anyone who's interested in photography as a hobby will want a bit more versatility in their camera than is offered by a simple point-and-shoot compact. Many will opt for a digital SLR, but for those whose budgets are a little more restricted, or who don't want the hassle and bulk of a kit bag full of lenses and accessories, there are a number of high-specification super-zoom cameras that offer almost the same level of performance and sophistication. These usually feature lenses of 10x or more optical zoom, covering the whole range from wide angle to extreme telephoto, as well as numerous creative options including manual exposure controls, advanced metering and multiple focus options. Because of the size of the lenses, most super-zoom cameras are relatively large and have SLR-style handling.

Panasonic has been a key player in the super-zoom field since the launch of its impressive Leica-lensed Lumix DMC-FZ1 back in 2002, and has maintained this position with a series of well-received models in the same series. Today I'm taking a look at the latest in the line, the FZ18, which offers a tempting specification for anyone with £300 to spend. It has an 8.1 megapixel CCD, 2.5in 230k LCD monitor, RAW mode shooting and a massive 18x Leica zoom lens with optical image stabilisation and a 28-504mm equivalent focal length range. There are few cameras on the market that even come close to matching a features list like that. The closest contenders are the slightly disappointing Olympus SP-550UZ (£255), or Fujifilm's Finepix S8000 fd, although that camera isn't even available until September. The current super-zoom heavyweights, the Canon PowerShot S5 IS (review coming soon), the Fujifilm Finepix S9600, the Sony DSC-H7 and even the previous holder of the "biggest lens" title the Samsung Pro815 can't match that huge zoom range.

Panasonic has taken few chances with the design of the FZ18. Its overall shape and layout are little changed from its popular predecessor the 12x zoom FZ8, although it is a few millimetres larger in every dimension. In fact the basic style of Pansonic's super-zoom FZ range has changed little since the FZ1, but it was a pretty sound design to start with, so if it ain't broke there's little point in fixing it. The FZ18 has the classic SLR shape, with a simple rectangular box-like body that protrudes both left and right of the large lens barrel, a prominent rubberised handgrip and a large electronic viewfinder set into a pentaprism-like turret above the lens, a feature which also houses the pop-up flash. The comprehensive control layout is also similar to a digital SLR, with a large and well-stocked mode dial on the top panel and numerous buttons providing external controls for most common shooting options.


July 6, 2008, 2:36 pm

It's been almost a year since the publication of this review. So, I think the ratings need to be updated. My ratings would be like this:

Features 7

Image Quality 7

Value 7

Overall 7


Well, you can't use the zoom while recording video unlike MANY compacts. The audio is HORRIBLE. VGA video is unacceptable for a camera of so much potential, particularly when they already have pieces like the TZ5/50 etc with the new Venus engine 4. Noise is visible THROUGHOUT the iso ranges due to their disgustingly tiny sensor. Also, it needs to be mentioned that it is STILL not available (officially) in many countries (at least in India, where I live). I wish Panasonic releases a venus engine 4 counterpart of this model with better video and audio, and making the zoom available while recording video. It is NOT too much to ask.

Doug Sinnott

August 6, 2008, 1:14 am

Get a life!

It's video/sound quality is much the same as most compacts,if you want better buy a video camera!

My FZ18 produces great 10x8s,and,although my Nikon D40 can outperform the FZ18 at bigger blowups,the FZ18 is so handy to take with you,whereas my D40 two lens kit is often left behind because of its weight.

For travelling,and holidays,the FZ18 is ideal,and hard to beat,packed with features,with a great lens,as was proved to me on my own recent holiday.For the first time I wasn't weighed down with a bulky camera bagwhich pleased my wife!,and yet I came back with sharp,colouful,photoes as good as most I have taken in the past,even a couple of quite good video clips!

I keep it on a low ISO setting,as I know the limitations of small sensors,and how Panasonic pack it all is amazing.

So if your forte is exhibition prints,get a modern digital SLR,or if your into videos,get good video camera.

You can't expect too much from a tiny camera like the FZ18,but it can turn out great photoes,and the advantages well outweigh any percieved shortcomings you have.

I have been a keen photographer for 40 years,and these modern compacts are a revelation,offering so much,for so little!!


August 18, 2008, 3:41 pm

I've got to agree with Doug on this one.

I have just purchashed this camera and have had some time to play with it. Is it perfect? No, of course it isn't, but it's 'only' 𧶀. If I wanted a system for excellent video & sound, I'd use a camcorder. If I wanted a system for excellent photograph quality in any environment, I'd spend a whole lot more on a dSLR.

As it stands, I had a budget of 𧶔 and needed a camera that would give ease of use for quick photo's, can be perform reasonably in most lighting conditions, have enough functions to be able to custom set-up the camera to the way i want it (without the necessary complexity of dSLR's) and have a good zoom capability.

The FZ18 meets all of these criteria. Personally, I'm more than happy with it.


August 23, 2008, 11:49 pm


Audio "horrible"? OK, it's not exactly my Linn system but it's certainly better than what my Canon 8mm analogue camcorder delivers. The picture quality is too but I regard the video function on the FZ-18 as a bit of a bonus to a camera that seems to have a better brain than mine as it consistently turns out results on its iA setting that I'm totally satisfied with.

For two hundred quid odd, the FZ-18 is not just a steal, it's grand larceny! Can't praise it enough and I can only stand slack-jawed in amazement at the technology that went into this unique and remarkable camera.


September 1, 2008, 12:28 am

I was going to make a comment about the fz 18s versatility as a take-everywhere camera, but found that Doug has got it about right. I took a while to think out the best camera to take on a short break, and eventually settled for my Lumix fz 18 instead of a DSLR (canon 40D). The results of the trip photographically have been better than expected and the great advantage of this compact is that you really don't miss any photographic opportunity at all: the quality of the image is outstanding for such a tiny piece of kit, the only downside being that you probably take many more pics than you would normally, but then you don't have film prices to worry about. So far as the small sensor is concerned, well what do you expect - such a camera with its astonishing spec is bound to be the result of a tradeoff in that area. And, for me the crucial factor is the quality of the lens: barrel distortion such as you experience on the Canon G9 for example (with a 35mm equivalent to the fz 18s 28mm equivalent WA end, is unacceptable. In the end, the lens and the results determine the success of a camera, so for me the Lumix fz 18 gets pretty much full marks throughout for all ratings. Now if Lumix come up with something which improves upon that, then expect Canon and Nikon with their current DSLR prosumer range to take a seriously sharp dip in sales.


September 18, 2009, 5:47 am

What's this with criticizing some cameras for their "small" sensor and not so for others? It seems that most of this style of camera has a small sensor... so why not downgrade all of them? Appears these cameras are top notch in their own right...

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