Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH8 Overview
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH8 is an ultra-compact digital camera with an attractive body that's reminiscent of last year's DMC-FH7 model, but with subtle styling differences. Effective resolution is unchanged compared to the earlier camera, at 16.1 megapixels from a 1/2.33" RGB CCD image sensor, but Panasonic has now coupled this with a more powerful Lumix DC Vario-Summarit branded 5x optical zoom lens, in place of last year's 4x zoom. The DMC-FH8's lens offers a 35mm-equivalent range from a useful 24mm wide angle to a 120mm telephoto, placing a little extra range at both ends of the zoom range, and features a true optical image stabilization system with which to fight blur caused by camera shake. The Panasonic FH8's lens has a two-step aperture that offers a choice of either f/2.5 or f/9.0 at wide angle, and a rather dim f/6.4 or f/20.0 at telephoto. Full-resolution burst shooting is possible at a rather sedate 1.3 frames per second, and the FH8 includes a Venus Engine-branded image processor. It's possible to boost the shooting rate significantly to ten frames per second, by slashing the resolution to just five megapixels.
The Panasonic FH8 doesn't include an optical viewfinder, instead opting solely for a 3.0" LCD display with 230,000 dot resolution on which images and videos are both framed and reviewed. The Panasonic DMC-FH8 has a 23-point multi-area autofocus system which also includes a single-point focusing mode, rather than the 11-point system of the FH7. Like almost all digital cameras these days, there's also a face detection function, with Panasonic's implementation using the information to adjust both focus and exposure to properly capture your subjects' faces. Unlike some cameras, the FH8 doesn't attempt to recognize the faces of specific individuals, nor to differentiate between adults and children, though.
ISO sensitivity ordinarily ranges from 100 to 1,600, with the ability to extend this as far as ISO 6,400 equivalent in High Sensitivity mode. The Panasonic DMC-FH8 also includes the company's Intelligent ISO mode as seen on past models. Shutter speeds from 1/1,600 to 8 seconds are possible. The Panasonic DMC-FH8 uses Intelligent Multiple metering, and offers six white balance settings including Auto, Manual, and four fixed presets. A generous selection of 15 scene modes let users tailor the look of their images, useful given that the Panasonic FH8 doesn't offer aperture-, shutter-priority, or fully manual modes. There's also an Intelligent Scene Selection function, which can automatically select from a subset of commonly used scene modes. A five mode flash strobe includes red-eye reduction capability, and has a rated range of up to 5.6 meters using Intelligent ISO.
As well as JPEG still images, the Panasonic FH8 can capture 30 frames-per-second movies with monaural sound at high definition 1,280 x 720 pixel (720p) resolution, or standard definition 640 x 480 pixel (VGA) resolution or below, and the compression used is the newer MPEG-4 type, so file sizes for high-def movies are likely to be lighter, although editing hardware requirements will be higher. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH8 stores its images and movies on Secure Digital cards, including the newer SDHC or SDXC types. There's also a pretty generous 70MB of built-in memory. Connectivity options include a USB 2.0 High-Speed connection, plus standard definition NTSC video output. Power comes from a proprietary 680mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable battery pack, and is rated as good for 260 shots on a charge to CIPA testing standards. The software bundle includes PHOTOfunSTUDIO v8.0 Standard Edition and Adobe Reader.
US-market pricing and availability for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH8 will be announced approximately 30 days before the camera ships, and hence weren't available at press time. Available body colors for this model are silver, black, red, and violet.