Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ30


      In summary

      Panasonic’s ‘FZ’ series of 12x zoom cameras divides into ‘single digital’ models that are simpler, lighter and more automated and ‘double digit’ models for enthusiasts. The 8-megapixel DMC-FZ30 is the eighth since the release of the DMC-FZ1 in late 2002, making the company something of a long-zoom camera specialist. The new model has plenty to attract enthusiast photographers. . . [more]

      Full review


      Quality rating (out of 10) Build: 8.5Ease of use: 8.5Image quality: 8.0Value for money: 8.5

      Panasonic’s ‘FZ’ series of 12x zoom cameras divides into ‘single digital’ models that are simpler, lighter and more automated, and ‘double digit’ models for enthusiasts. The 8-megapixel DMC-FZ30 is the eighth since the release of the DMC-FZ1 in late 2002, making the company something of a long-zoom camera specialist. The new model has plenty to attract enthusiast photographers.

      For starters, its sensor is the largest since the LC1, although individual photosites are slightly smaller than those on the FZ20’s chip, which challenges the Venus Engine II image processor’s effectiveness. The larger chip has allowed Panasonic to add a 3:2 aspect ratio image size to the 4:3 and 16:9 options, with full sensor resolution provided only at 4:3 size.

      Panasonic has extended the FZ30’s zoom range with an ‘extra optical zoom’ function that captures smaller image files for all three aspect ratios and capitalises on the excellent ‘Mega O.I.S.’ stabilisation system. You can achieve up to 15.3x zoom with 5-megapixels in 4:3 format or 4.5-megapixels in 3:2 format or 19.1x for 3-megapixels in 4:3 format or 2-megapixels in 16:9 format. The function relies on cropping the imaging area without subsequent interpolated up-sizing.

      A RAW shooting mode has been added to the image format options, although its functionality is limited. It took one minute 40 seconds to convert a RAW file to JPEG format (conversion to TIFF is not provided) with the supplied PhotoFunStudio viewer software, and no adjustments were possible during the conversion process. RAW files from the camera were not recognised by Adobe Camera Raw or RawShooter Essentials and, although this situation may change in the future, it makes RAW less attractive than TIFF capture.

      Fortunately some other features on the FZ30 are admirable, especially the provision of a mechanically-linked zoom ring on the lens and focusing enhancements. Focusing controls have been moved to the lens barrel and ‘one-shot’ autofocusing (or pre-focusing) is achieved by setting the focus slider to MP and sliding the focus button down. Two MF Assist settings enlarge the viewed image to assist manual focusing with the lens-mounted focusing ring. One- and three-point ‘high speed’ AF area settings have been added to the AF area model selections and five additional scene modes are provided.

      The electronic viewfinder is larger and brighter and now sits in line with the lens axis, making it more comfortable to use, and the LCD monitor is ‘flip down and twist’ adjustable. Front and rear control dials are provided for adjusting many settings, as is a dedicated AE lock button. Long exposure times have been extended from eight to 60 seconds. The minimum aperture of the lens is now f11, giving users greater depth-of-field to play with.

      The test camera was a pre-production model so we can’t guarantee that its performance will exactly reflect that of production units – which should receive more fine-tuning. In general, the overall picture quality produced by the test camera was above average, although shots taken in bright conditions suffered from the blown-out highlights that commonly affect high-resolution digicams with relatively small sensors. Colour saturation was slightly elevated, particularly in purplish blue and orange hues. This, too, is common in consumer digicams and produces brightly-coloured prints.

      Imatest showed image sharpness to be generally good, although not outstanding. Image noise was low right up to ISO 400 and the digital zoom produced surprisingly sharp images at top magnification. Chromatic aberration was generally low and wide-angle close-ups were distortion-free. The auto white balance failed to eliminate the green cast produced by fluorescent lighting and the orange cast of incandescent lights. However the dedicated pre-sets and manual control produced excellent results with both types of lighting.

      The test camera proved highly responsive for a long zoom model, powering up and shutting down almost instantaneously. The average capture lag of 1.1 seconds reduced to 0.1 seconds with pre-focusing and the camera took less than a second to process a large JPEG file. Three burst modes are supported: high speed, low speed, and continuous. High speed records at 3.5 second intervals, while low captures at 2 fps (both for up to nine frames). The continuous mode is slightly slower, with burst length determined by card capacity.

      Although larger and bulkier than other models in the FZ line-up, the FZ30’s body proved comfortable to handle and all controls were easy to access. Panasonic’s excellent menu system was readable in outdoor lighting. [25]





      Image sensor: 7.18 x 5.32mm CCD with 8.32 million photosites (8.0 megapixels effective)
      Lens: Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 7.4-88.8mm f2.8-3.7 zoom (35-420mm in 35mm format)
      Zoom ratio: 12x optical, 2x or 4x digital
      Lens multiplier factor: 4.9x
      Dimensions (wxhxd): 140.75 x 85.5 x 138.1mm
      Weight: 674g (without battery and card)
      Image formats: Stills – JPEG (Exif 2.2), TIFF, RAW; Movies – QuickTime Motion JPEG (VGA/QVGA at 30/10 fps)
      Shutter speed range: 8-1/2000 second (to 60 sec. in manual mode)
      Focus system/range: 1-, 3- or 9-point AF; range 50 cm to infinity, macro 5-30cm
      Exposure metering/control: Intelligent multiple/centre/spot metering; P, A, S and M settings plus 14 Scene modes in 2 banks
      White balance: Auto, daylight, cloudy, halogen, flash, white set 1/2
      Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto and slow sync (with & without red-eye reduction), forced on/off; -2 to +2 EV flash output adjustment; range 0.3-7.0m
      ISO range: Auto, ISO 80, 100, 200, 400
      Sequence shooting: 3 fps for 9 high-resolution images
      Storage Media: SD/MMC cards; 32 MB card supplied holds 4 8M TIFF files, 8 high-resolution JPEG images or up to 114 low-resolution shots.
      Viewfinder: 0.44-inch colour EVF (235,000 pixels), 100% field of view
      LCD monitor: 2.0-inch polycrystalline TFT (235,000 pixels)
      Power supply: 7.2 V lithium-ion rechargeable battery





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