If you’re looking for a high-end superzoom camera with image stabilisation, you don’t have to look very far. Basically your choices are the Kodak EasyShare Z712 (£262), the Canon PowerShot S3 IS (£277), the disappointing Nikon CoolPix S10 (£269), the Olympus SP-550 UZ (£295), the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H7 (£289) or DSC-H9 (£339), both of which I have yet to review, or this week’s featured camera the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 at just under £212 including VAT and delivery. Put in those terms, the FZ8 is already a tempting proposition before you even know anything about it.
The FZ8 is a 7.2-megapixel camera featuring a 12x zoom Leica-branded lens with a focal length equivalent to 36-432mm and a maximum aperture of f/2.8-3.3. It has an electronic viewfinder, a large 2.5-in 207k pixel LCD monitor and a full range of manual exposure options. Like most of Panasonic’s digital cameras it also features the acclaimed Mega OIS image stabilisation system. In terms of style, specification and target audience its closest match is probably the Canon PowerShot S3 IS.
The first impression of the FZ8 is how light and compact it is, especially considering its impressive specification. Measuring 112.5 x 72.2 x 79mm it’s actually very close to the dimensions of the Canon S3 IS, but at 357g including battery and memory card it’s around two-thirds of the weight. The camera body is made of plastic, however it feels solid and well made, with no embarrassing creaks when squeezed. There is an aluminium bezel around the lens housing, the battery/card hatch has a metal hinge, and all the controls feel secure and operate with a nice positive action. The general design is similar to a small SLR, with a handgrip on the right hand side, and a flip-up flash mounted above the lens. The overall shape is very simple and businesslike, with no unnecessary frills or decorations. It is available in black or the silver-grey finish of my review sample.