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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 - Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38

By Cliff Smith



Our Score:


The upgrade to the FZ38's internal systems includes a new faster Venus Engine HD image processor and a much faster autofocus system, and as a result the camera's overall performance has been significantly improved, although the start-up time is still approximately two seconds, not the 1.3 claimed in the accompanying press release. Shot-to-shot time in JPEG mode is noticeably faster at approximately 1.4 seconds, compared to the 1.8s of the FZ28, however in Raw + JPEG mode shot-to-shot time is unchanged at approximately 3.5 seconds.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 top

What is rather puzzling is the lack of a long-period continuous shooting mode. Instead the FZ38 has a simple 3fps high-speed burst mode, which takes three, five or ten frames depending on the image size. In other words, in the full 12MP size that most people will want to use, it only takes three shots. This mode is not available when shooting in Raw + JPEG.

The new autofocus system isn't just faster, it also works even better in the dark. The FZ28 had no problems in this department, but the FZ38 will focus quickly and accurately in total darkness at a range of several metres, although it does slow down a little at full zoom.

The big Leica lens is of course unchanged, and rightly so. It produces excellent edge-to-edge sharpness with no optical distortion at all, although some of that is undoubtedly due to post-processing. Nonetheless the level of fine detail in the resulting images is outstanding, with colour depth and dynamic range to match.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 battery

I was concerned that the increase in sensor resolution would have a negative impact on image quality, but this has not proved to be the case; in fact image quality is noticeably improved. There are inevitably some black shadows and burned-out highlights, but only at the extremes of contrast. The FZ38 has an additional low-speed setting of 80 ISO, at which the image quality is as good as any 12MP compact on the market, and the performance of the noise reduction system at higher ISO settings is also better, with virtually noise-free images at 400 ISO. Like the FZ28 the FZ38 has a maximum of 1600 ISO, and even at this setting the results are far from useless.


My verdict on the FZ38 is pretty much the same as for its predecessor. If you've already got an FZ28 it's probably not enough of an improvement to justify an upgrade. However for anyone else looking for a new super-zoom camera they really don't come much better than this. Build quality, handling, features, performance, image quality and versatility are superior to any of its immediate rivals, and the excellent video quality is icing on the cake. To get anything better than this you'll have to move up to a DSLR.


July 28, 2009, 6:00 am

Man Alive. I want this Camera even if my bank balance wont. Its pretty much a do it all device. Are we talking over 300 notes or what?

Cliff Smith

July 28, 2009, 8:22 am

There's no news on pricing for this or Panasonic's three other new cameras yet, and there probably won't be for several weeks, but I'd guess it'll launch at about the same price that the FZ28 did, around £290.


July 28, 2009, 10:07 am

Wow, I'm impressed, that's the quickest I think I've ever seen a review of a just announced product appear on TR :D


July 28, 2009, 11:27 am

With CCD sensor size 2.33 it is hard to believe that it is getting 10/10 for image quality. Wait one month for Fuji's S200EXR with Super CCD sensor size 1.6 and EXR technology.

Geoff Richards

July 28, 2009, 12:28 pm

Lars, you cynic - there's even a video review! ;)


July 28, 2009, 1:24 pm

Even my five year old compact had a larger sensor size than this...


July 28, 2009, 5:44 pm

It always amuses me to see how often Exeter cathedral has scaffolding around it.

Harry Fowler

July 28, 2009, 11:43 pm

What about the Fujifilm Finepix S9600 for best review. That's an absolutely awesome camera. I've owned one for a year now and haven't even considered upgrading to an SLR. I know they're generally better and more flexible, but I'm living off a student budget :)

Paul 15

July 29, 2009, 2:17 am

As an owner of an FZ18, I'm rather dissapointed they kept to a small sensor. I would like to have seen a reduction of noise at the higher iso settings. Is there a reason manufactures don't produce a compact with a larger sensor even if it means a larger body size? On a simialr theme isn't it possible to produce a dslr but with a macro and large zoom lens that is found on compacts.


July 29, 2009, 2:21 am


It amuses me more that I have never ever seen anyone working on said scaffolding in any review!

Geoff Richards

July 29, 2009, 4:08 am

Cliff rubs them out in Photoshop for consistent test shots (I'm joking of course!)

Ron 1

July 29, 2009, 12:34 pm

Being a relative newbie and a 'point and shoot' person with a Sony DSC-P120, would I be better to go for this or the TZ7?

Any advice appreciated.

James Morris

July 29, 2009, 3:51 pm

@Geoff He always manages to catch these English workmen on a tea break somehow. No idea how he manages that!

Barry Ward

July 29, 2009, 7:35 pm

I have the fz28 and am VERY happy with it. I am most impressed with it's macro capability, matching that of my old SLR which I no longer use. The only thing I wish was better was noise on higher ISO levels. There's little to seperate that and the new model- I wonder if some would just be happier paying less for the earlier model.

Cliff Smith

July 29, 2009, 9:14 pm

Now that you mention it, I don't think I've ever actually seen anyone working on that scaffolding. A friend of mine is a stonemason working on the restoration project, but I only ever see him in the pub across the green. No wonder the job's been going on for so long; it probably also explains why the cathedral took 300 years to build in the first place.

They should have got Polish builders in, it would have been finished in a couple of weeks.


July 29, 2009, 10:33 pm

I noticed in the local Gazette the Council has put out tenders for scaffolding restoration.

Tony Walker

July 30, 2009, 8:39 am


TZ7 is a truly wonderful camera - I own one. You can't go wrong with it.

Tony Walker

July 30, 2009, 8:41 am

@ all the naysayers

If they've done as good a job with the sensor and optics on this as they have on the TZ7 then it will be one fine camera indeed, regardless of sensor size.


July 30, 2009, 1:01 pm

@Pihrana: Park Cameras has it on pre-order for £320, putting it in the entry-level DSLR price range where most other bridge cameras also seem to be ending up nowadays.

Tom Barry

July 30, 2009, 7:24 pm

How can this be the best of breed if it doesn't have a hot shoe?


August 2, 2009, 9:21 pm

@Cliff - advice please... this review is tempting me to upgrade from Lumix DMC-FZ30 (which serves me v. well), mainly due to the video features which I use occassionally but not enough to want/afford a separate camcorder. Thoughts?


August 4, 2009, 6:16 pm

Im hoping that maybe I can grab a clearance bargain on the FZ28 when this starts hitting stores.

John Shewsbury

August 5, 2009, 3:03 pm

I owned FZ28, bought it in February 2009 after reading Cliff Smith's review and another review in www.steves-digicams.com

FZ28 is indeed a powerful super zoom bridge camera, maybe just loss a little bit on points to that Canon SX10 but FZ28 still win on price.

I rather buy an extra additional add-on lens for my current FZ28 rather than upgrading to FZ38 (at least not for this year)

However, if I suddenly hit a lottery, I don't mind upgrading to Panasonic G1 - the red color...


August 6, 2009, 3:00 am


I currently have a Panasonic DMC-TZ1 which I love. I have taken fantastic photo's with this, however I am thinking about upgrading and saw the FZ28 today.

If I was to upgrade should I go for the FZ28 or the FZ38? I have also seen second hand FZ28's on ebay and was considering buying from there as I don't have a lot of cash to throw around at the moment.

What would you suggest? The full whack of cash or the second hand?

Thanks for your help in advance.


August 6, 2009, 7:56 pm

I own the FZ28 and I like it very much. But I'd rather have the new camera. While I'm not all that interested in the new video capability, it's nice to have if you need it. But what really attracts me are its improved optical image stabilization ability, faster auto focusing and improved low light picture quality.

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