Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 Review

 
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 Optics


Lens

Zoom
A whopping 18x optical zoom with very good performance. Digital zoom performance is a little better than average these days.

28mm 504mm 1.6x "Extra Optical" Zoom

Not only does the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 offer a much larger zoom range than the average consumer digital camera (the equivalent of a 28-504mm lens), it also offers a much wider maximum wide angle at 28mm. Results are good, only a little soft, at full wide angle, with minimal coma distortion in the top corners of the frame, and only moderate blurring in the corners. Results at full telephoto are quite good, with sharper detail. The camera also offers an additional 1.6x "Extra Optical Zoom," which does a pretty good job of digitally enlarging the scene without losing too much detail, though noise is stronger, resolution lower, and details more blurry.

Macro
A very small macro area with good detail and high resolution, though difficulty with exposure. Closest focusing distance is too close for the flash, but exposure is slightly better.

Standard Macro Macro with Flash

The Panasonic DMC-FZ18's macro setting performed well in terms of detail and area, capturing a very small minimum area of 1.39 x 1.04 inches (35 x 27 millimeters). Detail and resolution were both good, if a little soft, and there's some blurring in the corners from the lens. (Most cameras have some softening in the corners in macro mode.) Exposure is quite uneven, however, due to the proximity of the camera to the subject. The Panasonic FZ18's flash wasn't quite sufficient for the macro area, but overall exposure is actually better here than with the external lighting.

Distortion
Low barrel distortion and very low pincushion.

Barrel distortion at 28mm is 0.2%
Pincushion at 504mm is less than 0.1%

The Panasonic DMC-FZ18's 0.2% barrel distortion at wide angle is surprisingly low, and though noticeable in some images, is much better than average. At the telephoto end, the DMC-FZ18's less than 0.1% pincushion distortion is also quite low, making for an impressive performance. This is the tendency for the lens to bend straight lines outward (like a barrel -- usually at wide angle) or inward (like a pincushion -- usually at telephoto).

Chromatic aberration
Low at wide angle, bright at telephoto. Noticeable effect on some images in the corners toward full telephoto.

Wide: Very low
top left @ 200%
Wide: Very low,
top right @ 200%
Tele: Low but bright
top left @200%
Tele: Very bright,
top right @200%

The Panasonic FZ18's chromatic aberration is very low at wide angle, showing only a couple of pixels of very faint coloration on either side of the target lines. However, at telephoto, the effect is much stronger and brighter, with an almost neon appearance that is noticeable in images with high-contrast elements near the corners. Still, this is not a surprise in an 18x lens. This distortion is visible as a slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.

Corner Sharpness
Very little blurring in the corners of the frame at wide angle, and a slightly stronger effect at telephoto.

Wide: Slightly soft in the
corners (lower right).
Wide: Sharp at center.
Tele: Stronger blurring in the
corners (upper left)
Tele: Sharp at center.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 produced only very slightly soft corners of the frame at full wide angle; results were really quite good. At full telephoto, blurring was a little stronger, but still remarkably well controlled. An impressive performance, especially at wide angle.

Viewfinder

Coverage
Excellent accuracy from the electronic viewfinder and LCD monitor.

28mm eq., EVF 504mm eq., EVF
28mm eq., LCD 504mm eq., LCD

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18's EVF and LCD monitor both showed about 101% coverage accuracy at wide angle, and about 99% at telephoto. Great results.

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 Photo Gallery.

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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