Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 6 to 7 Megapixel

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 6 to 7 Megapixel 


The 7.2 megapixel Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 is the latest ultra zoom point and shoot camera to be added to Panasonic's range.


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[Sep 18, 2007]


Excellent image quality, almost no distortion in the Leica lens, long reach zoom.


Very slow RAW file writing. Mediocre macro ability.

Before buying the FZ8, I looked at two other long zoom cameras, both Canons: The S5 and G9. I have been using Canon for years and own several Canon products. In fact, I was trying to choose between them when I accidently saw the tech review on DP Review for the Panasonic. The G9 was discarded due to the price. As the image quality and features of the FZ8 and S5 were pretty much the same, the FZ8 won because of its much lower price.

So far, I have been extremely happy. The camera is much bigger than my favorite (and old) Canon S400 but still small enough that it fits, sort of, in the plam of my hand. With winter coming up, the FZ8 will fit nicely in a big coat pocket. The controls are logically placed and marked. The menus are a bit annoying and somewhat clumsy to use but not worse than average. The camera comes with an excellent lens hood! The camera can use SD or SDHC memory cards.

The FZ8 does have an EVF, something I have never liked much. I planned to use only the LCD but was very surprised when I saw the excellent quality of this newly redone EVF. It is bright, sharp, and clear even in low light. I used to be very much against EVF but now I've been forced to change my mind. It makes a big difference in bright sunlight when the LCD sometimes picks up reflections. There is the standard diopter adjustment and the view is fine when wearing glasses.

The camera comes with image stabilization that works in a couple of modes. I have it set to work like Canon lenses: it comes on when the shutter is pushed. Since the lens is very long (12x), IS is a necessity as the handheld shake is obvious in this mode.

There are the usual range of image sizes but also image aspect ratios. The camera can switch between 4:3, 3:2, and 16:9. I have chosen to stay with maximum pixels and the default aspect ratio. There are only three modes for file storage, two levels of JPEG and RAW. JPEGs have a good shot-to-shot time but RAW really bogs down the camera. It takes about 3-4 seconds for each RAW shot to be saved during which time the camera is locked.

The lens, designed by Leica, is quite good. The distortion at both ends is barely noticible and, even then, only in special situations. This is actualy better than the 3x zooms I've used on several Canon P&S cameras. The zoom is quick and efficient with a variable zoom speed that works without thinking about it. Focus is about normal for this type of camera. Battery life is excellent.

Much has been made of "Panasonic noise." As it turns out, this is not really a problem. I have the noise reduction set to low. If you use raw, the noise reduction is even less. At low ISO, 100, it is no worse than the Canons. At 200, the noise goes up a bit but it is still very useable. As one might expect in a tiny-sensor P&S, 400 ISO has obvious noise. However, in all cases, the noise is very well distributed without the ugly "color clumps" one sometimes sees. It is also a lot less than 400 speed film for those who remember the "old days." The ISO speed go up to ISO 1250. Very noisy but, if you need it, surprising quite useful.

The supplied RAW software, SilkyPix, is a pretty good program. I used it to convert a lot of RAW test shots and really liked the job it did (saving to TIFF). The noise reduction, however, is awful. For the high ISO shots, I did all my conversions in SilkyPix with no noise reduction and then judiciously applied Neat Image to reduce the noise in the resulting TIFF. Neat Image does a vastly superior job (at least the demo version did!).

There is an AF macro setting with is OK but I get better results with my Canon S400. There are a million scene modes that are easy to set and look quite useful. I haven't tried any yet but plan to. There is a wide range of program shift as well as the usual EV adjustments. Oddly enough, the White Balance control has no setting for flourecent lighting. There are, however, two manual settings that can be saved for future use. Auto white balance is just as bad as it is in all Canon cameras so I'm used to setting it myself.

The image quality overall is much better than my other P&S cameras. Even better than my beloved Canon S400. They look much more lifelike and sharp, almost (obviously, almost) like a noiser DSLR. Movie mode is the best I am personally familiar with. At its best setting, the videos match, and sometimnes exceed, the output from a digital camcorder a friend just purchased. In all, image quality is extremely good. I would not hesitate to take this camera on a trip instead of my DSLR.

Four stars instead of five because of the very slow RAW file writing.

Customer Service

When used for my S400 and old film cameras, excellent and fast.

Similar Products Used:

Canon P&S various models, Canon DSLRs

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