There have also been several improvements to the FZ28’s performance, primarily the inclusion of the new Venus Engine IV image processor. The camera starts up in less than two seconds, which is exceptionally fast for a big super-zoom camera, and shuts down again just as quickly.
In single shot mode the shot-to-shot cycle time is approximately 1.8 seconds, while in unlimited continuous shooting mode it can maintain just less than two frames a second until the memory card is full. In RAW+JPEG shooting mode it can manage a shot every 3.8 seconds, again maintaining this until the card is full. This is impressive performance, but in fact in all shooting modes the FZ28 is actually slightly slower than the FZ18.
Some things are apparently unchanged, such as the AF system, although since it is already extremely fast and accurate and copes well in low light situations, it clearly wasn’t in need of much improvement.
The lens is also unchanged, but the slightly larger sensor means that its effective focal length has been slightly reduced, from 28-504mm to 27-486mm. To be honest the difference is barely noticeable, but it’s always nice to have a decent wide-angle setting. The optical quality of the lens is extremely high, as befits the Leica brand name which it bears. It produces almost no distortion at any focal length, and is pin-sharp right across the frame with no trace of chromatic aberration. The FZ28 unquestionably has the best lens of any current super-zoom camera.
The upgraded image processing engine has gone some way towards curing the one problem that has always dogged Panasonic’s cameras; that of image noise. Images at 100 and 200 ISO are now noise-free, and 400 ISO, while showing some signs of noise, has noticeably better colour fidelity. 800 and 1600 ISO are also quite noisy and lack fine detail, but the grain of the noise pattern is smoother with better edge definition, and might make slightly better prints.
Shooting with normal settings, exposure metering, white balance and colour rendition are all extremely good, and the overall picture quality is excellent, even more so if you shoot in Raw mode, although unfortunately Adobe Photoshop’s Camera RAW module doesn’t yet recognise the FZ28’s Raw files, so you’ll have to convert them using the supplied software, which is adequate but a little clunky.
On paper it looks like the FZ28 is only an incremental upgrade on the FZ18, but an objective analysis can’t convey the overall feel of the camera. Despite the obvious similarities, all the little changes add up to a camera that feels a significantly more accomplished and assured than its predecessor. It responds quickly, focuses accurately, exposes correctly and produces outstanding results, and is generally a very satisfying camera to use. The FZ28 will suit anyone looking for a super-zoom camera, whether they want the creative power of its extensive manual options, or the reliable simplicity of its advanced automatic features. In my opinion it is currently the best all-round super-zoom camera on the market, and will become better value as the price drops over the next few months.