Panasonic DMC-FZ28 Review

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Basic Specifications
Full model name: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28
Resolution: 10.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/2.33 inch
(6.1mm x 4.6mm)
Lens: 18.00x zoom
(27-486mm eq.)
Viewfinder: Optical / LCD
Extended ISO: 100 - 1600
Shutter: 1/2000 - 60 seconds
Max Aperture: 2.8
Dimensions: 4.6 x 3.0 x 3.5 in.
(118 x 75 x 89 mm)
Weight: 15.9 oz (451 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $400
Availability: 08/2008
Manufacturer: Panasonic
Full specs: Panasonic DMC-FZ28 specifications

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18.00x zoom 1/2.33 inch
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Panasonic FZ28

by Shawn Barnett and Mike Tomkins
Review Date: 01/20/09

The Panasonic Lumix FZ28 has a sensor resolution of 10.1-megapixels from a 1/2.33-inch RGB CCD image sensor, and Panasonic has coupled this to an image-stabilized, Leica DC Vario-Elmarit-branded 18x optical zoom lens with a useful range all the way from a 27mm wide angle to a 486mm telephoto. As you'd expect for a long-zoom camera, there's a choice of both an electronic viewfinder and an LCD display. The Panasonic FZ28's electronic viewfinder is a 0.20-inch LCD type with 201,600 dots of resolution, and yields a 100% field of view. There's also a 2.7-inch LCD display with 230,000 dot resolution, which again has 100% coverage. The Panasonic FZ28's lens has a maximum aperture that varies from f/2.8 to f/4.4 across the zoom range. The minimum focusing distance for the Panasonic DMC-FZ28 is ordinarily some 30 centimeters, but drops to just one centimeter at wide angle when switched to Macro mode. At the tele end, focusing down to two meters is the norm, but a Tele Macro mode drops this to as close as one meter when the zoom is set from 11 to 18x.

The Panasonic DMC-FZ28 has a multi-area autofocus system which also includes a single-point "high speed" focusing mode. As with many digital cameras these days, there's also a face-detection function, with Panasonic's implementation capable of detecting up to 15 faces in a scene. Once detected, the camera can then use the information to adjust both focus and exposure to properly capture your subjects' faces. The Panasonic Lumix FZ28 also has an implementation of autofocus tracking, which can monitor a subject as it moves around the frame, continuing to update autofocus as required. Panasonic's AF tracking is linked to the face detection system, allowing the camera to continue tracking a face even if it briefly turns to a side profile -- although it should be noted that the face detection system does require the subject be looking toward the camera to achieve its initial detection.

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 Auto mode. Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to 60 seconds are possible, controlled automatically. The Panasonic DMC-FZ28 uses Intelligent Multiple metering, with Center-Weighted and Spot metering modes also on offer. There are nine white balance settings including Auto, two Manual modes, five fixed presets, and a color temperature option. A whopping selection of thirty seven scene modes let users tailor the look of their images -- including a selection of "Advanced" scene modes that fit into five categories. For the creative types there are both manual and aperture- / shutter-priority modes on the Panasonic FZ28.

A five-mode flash strobe includes both red-eye reduction and slow-sync capabilities, and has a rated range of up to 8.5 meters at wide angle, or 5.4 meters at telephoto. An interesting feature of the Panasonic DMC-FZ28 is an image-leveling function that detects if the camera was slightly tilted at the time of capture, and then corrects for the tilt, automatically cropping as necessary to achieve a straight horizon. There's also digital red-eye correction, and Panasonic's Intelligent Auto, Intelligent Exposure, Intelligent ISO, and Intelligent Scene Selector functions as seen on past models. As well as Raw and JPEG still images, the Panasonic FZ28 can capture 30 frames-per-second movies with sound at up to high definition 1280 x 720 pixel resolution, although the compression used is the older QuickTime Motion JPEG type, so file sizes are likely to be fairly high.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28 stores its images and movies on Secure Digital or MultiMediaCards, including the newer SDHC types. There's also a generous 50MB of built-in memory. Connectivity options include USB 2.0 High-Speed, standard definition NTSC video output, and high-def component video output (although the cable for this is an optional extra). Power comes from a 7.2V, 710mAh proprietary lithium-ion battery, rated as good for 460 shots on a charge to CIPA testing standards. The software bundle includes PHOTOfunSTUDIO Viewer 2.1E, ArcSoft MediaImpression, ArcSoft Panorama Maker, and SilkyPix Developer Studio 3.0SE.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28 started shipping in August 2008, priced at $400.


Panasonic FZ28 User Report

by Shawn Barnett

This particular line of Panasonic long zoom digital cameras is enormously popular with consumers and enthusiasts alike. Though there is an ongoing problem with sensor noise at even the lowest ISOs, optical quality and overall image quality are good enough that most buyers ignore it and persist in blissful satisfaction with their faithful little image makers. We can't say we blame them, and the Panasonic FZ28 continues the tradition of good quality imaging with a surprisingly good lens.

Look and feel. With a shape and appearance very like the FZ18 that preceded it, the Panasonic FZ28 will be familiar to upgraders. Its SLR-like look is comfortable, if a little short, and the grip is better for small hands than for large. But the grip manages to balance the large lens barrel well enough, thanks largely to the Panasonic FZ28's light weight. At 15.9 ounces (451g), the Lumix FZ28 weighs just under a pound with battery and card.

A small switch on the top deck, just right of the large Mode dial powers up the Panasonic FZ18, extends the lens to just under an inch from the body. From power-on to when you can capture your first picture takes about 2.4 seconds. That's on the long side even for a long zoom digital camera, but then again, the FZ28's 18x lens is a little longer than the 10x lenses of yesteryear. Still, be sure to anticipate your shots, including this 2.4 seconds in your estimate for getting a shot off quickly.

The flash is activated on the back with a press of a manual release button, found just left of the electronic viewfinder (EVF). Flash is powerful enough for use within about 15 feet in Auto mode at all focal lengths, but diminishes from there.

Lens. Ranging from 27 to 486mm equivalent, the Panasonic FZ28's Leica-branded 18x zoom offers good quality in a relatively small package. Because of the very clean results, especially at wide-angle, we suspect that the FZ28 is processing images to improve sharpness, distortion, and chromatic aberration before saving the files as JPEGs.

But we really don't mind that either. How can you argue with getting the best possible images out of your camera? Purists might get upset, but most of the target audience for the Panasonic FZ28 won't care a whit.

The Lumix FZ28's lens has Panasonic's Mega Optical Image Stabilization, which works remarkably well. And frankly, if the FZ28 didn't have optical stabilization, we wouldn't recommend it at all. Handholding a lens at 486mm unassisted is next to impossible. For more on this quality lens, see our test analysis below.

Modes. The large silver mode dial on the top deck is missing the Playback mode setting, which is now controlled by the switch just to the right of the thumbgrip on the Panasonic FZ28's rear. We'd prefer Playback be activated by a button, so that the camera can return to record mode with the press of the shutter button, but the Function button (down arrow) can also be programmed to go into Review mode, which is something like Playback with fewer features.

In the place of the Playback icon is an additional Custom mode that allows you to save settings you'll want to return to in a hurry in the future, say for your ebay product shots.

The Panasonic Lumix FZ28 also shows that the company knows people are unlikely to use the otherwise well-designed Scene modes on the camera, because they've included their Intelligent Auto mode, which is designed to pick the Scene mode for you based on what the camera sees in the image. If the Panasonic FZ28 sees a set of faces framed tightly, the camera switches to i-Portrait mode and snaps its shot. If you're paying attention while it does that, you'll note the red Mode icon in the upper left corner change to the icon for i-Portrait mode. Focus on some flowers close up, and the FZ28 switches to i-Macro mode. Pretty smart.

Menu. The Lumix FZ28's menu is decent, if a little dated. The font size is enormous. It seems they could have reduced the sheer number of menu pages by reducing the font a bit. Still, large fonts my be in-demand from those with diminished near vision, so perhaps Panasonic is listening to its customers.

In addition to the regular menu, the Lumix FZ28 has a Quick Menu, which is launched with a press of the silver Joystick just above the Display button. This menu drops down from the top of the screen and allows you to change more common settings, including Stabilizer, Metering, AF mode, White Balance, Intelligent ISO, ISO, Intelligent Exposure, Picture size, and LCD mode.

Storage and battery. The Panasonic FZ28 stores images on SD/SDHC memory cards, for a current maximum capacity of 32GB per card. That'll be sufficient for most needs with this camera, and indeed a 4 to 8GB card should be sufficient unless you plan to shoot a lot of video with the FZ28.

The Lumix FZ28's battery is a 710mAh, 7.2 volt lithium-ion design, model number CGR-S006A. The B-shaped battery latches in place beneath the big sliding door with the metal hinge. The battery's contacts are recessed, reducing the likelihood of fire in your pants or camera bag, something to consider, especially when you opt to purchase a second battery for long outings, as a single charge is good for about 460 shots. That's above average, but still consider buying that spare battery.

Shooting. It's always a pleasure to use a good quality camera, and the Panasonic FZ28 is certainly one of those.

Indoor shooting with the FZ28 is better than most, with the Optical Image Stabilization helping get steady shots even as slow as 1/13 second. In our tests, four out of five shots were sharp at this speed. The camera wasn't exactly consistent with its shutter speed and ISO choices, with some coming in at ISO 400 and 1/13, and others coming in at ISO 800 and 1/30 second. I very much prefer the ISO 400 shots to be sure.

Even when I switched to the long zoom, the Panasonic FZ28 held quite steady.

The Lumix FZ28's zoom is quiet, smooth, and fast. It also has quite a few steps to choose from along its zoom range, while a great many cameras just zoom in large blocks that make framing your image precisely very difficult. Not a problem with the FZ28.

Outdoors it's important to keep the lens hood in place, but you do better indoors to remove it. At wide angle the hood casts a shadow when used with the lens hood.

Perhaps the best part about shooting with the FZ28 is the zoom to size ratio. You can reach out to 486mm and grab a shot, then slip the small long-zoom digital camera into a jacket pocket or bag with ease.


Panasonic FZ28 Lens Quality

Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Slightly soft upper right
Tele: Sharp in center
Tele: Softest upper left corner

Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Panasonic FZ28's zoom is surprisingly sharp from center to corner, but the telephoto end is quite soft in some corners. We usually see the opposite from long zoom lenses, where the wide-angle end has softer corners.

Wide: Very slight barrel distortion; hardly noticeable
Tele: No distortion

Geometric Distortion: There is surprisingly little barrel distortion at wide-angle (0.2%), and no perceptible distortion of any kind at telephoto. No doubt, with the help of some clever processing.

Wide: None
Tele: Moderate

Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle is non-existent. Telephoto, however, exhibits some strong purple CA, though it's only moderately bright.

Wide: None
Tele: Moderate

Macro: The Panasonic FZ28's Macro mode captures a very sharp image at the center, with softness and chromatic aberration radiating out from the center. The camera focuses so closely that the flash is blocked by the lens at the most extreme close-up. Minimum coverage area is 1.32 x 0.99 inches (34 x 25 mm).


Panasonic FZ28 Image Quality

Color: Color is somewhat muted in some respects, especially yellows, some of which have a slight green tint. Blues are pumped more than reds, but color looks mostly accurate, rather than the usual tendency toward oversaturation that most companies employ to appeal to consumers. Hue is also a little off for colors like yellow and cyan. Dark skintones are a little more saturated, but lighter tones are pretty spot on.


ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is quite good at ISO 100 and 200, with some softening beginning at ISO 400. Chroma (color) noise is pretty well controlled at all ISOs, but luminance noise is still a problem for the average Panasonic sensor, affecting large prints. Relative detail is still maintained as you go up the ISO ladder, despite the noise suppression. See Printed results below for more on that.

Wide: Inconclusive
Tele: Dim

Flash: The Panasonic FZ28's flash works well at ISO 100 at wide-angle out to about 14 feet before it starts to dim. It goes out to about nine feet when zoomed to telephoto.

Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) doesn't work well at wide angle when the reported distance goes beyond 16 feet, because that takes the camera out of the main lab, so the wide-angle result is inconclusive. The telephoto test came out a little dim, and it's unusual that the camera didn't raise the ISO further. Given the ISO 100 results, the FZ28's flash will be sufficient in most situations, though, just keep your subjects within about 14 feet, and don't use the flash at full telephoto.

Auto WB: Very good
Incandescent WB: Too warm

Incandescent: Auto white balance handles our tungsten lighting test better than Incandescent mode, with the latter rendering a very warm image.

Printed: ISO 100 Printed results look good at 13x19 with good color and detail, except that the luminance noise is clearly visible where it should be a little smoother. This becomes less pronounced at 11x14 inches. ISO 200 and 400 also look good at 11x14, which is just about right for a 10-megapixel digital camera. ISO 800 shots are usable at 8x10, and better at 5x7. ISO 1,600 shots are still surprisingly usable at 5x7. Overall, a good performance for a long zoom digital camera, and excellent performance at this price point.


Panasonic FZ28 Performance

Shutter lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is good, at 0.50 second at wide angle and 0.81 second at full telephoto. Prefocus shutter lag is 0.012, quite blazingly fast.

Cycle time: Cycle time is also relatively fast, capturing a frame every 1.7 seconds in single-shot mode, and every 0.55 second for a burst rate of 1.82 frames per second.

Flash Recycle: The Panasonic FZ28's flash recycles in a relatively quick 3.4 seconds after a full-power discharge.


Panasonic FZ28 Conclusion

True to the line, the Panasonic Lumix FZ28 is a good quality digital camera with a long, 18x zoom. Image quality is excellent at wide angle, and only suffers a bit in the corners at telephoto. Most impressive is the Panasonic FZ28's low chromatic aberration at wide angle, as well as the sharp corners, something most long zoom digital cameras cannot achieve. Barrel distortion is minimal at wide angle and non-existent at telephoto. The Lumix FZ28's color is closer to reality than some will like, but it's really better to have saturation under control in your JPEG images so that you can choose to enhance them later if you like, as oversaturation is impossible to reverse, as it obliterates detail. The Panasonic FZ28 take the right tack for its enthusiastic enthusiast audience. Luminance noise is a little high for our taste at low ISO, a long-time shortcoming for Panasonic cameras, but printed performance from ISO 100 to 1,600 is quite good, so most users will be happy. A fast flash recycle time and fast shutter lag numbers make the little Panasonic FZ28 a great all-around digital camera, great for indoor shooting as well as outdoor, long-range photography, and a Dave's Pick.


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