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Digital Camera Review, Lumix DMC-FZ18 8.3MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18, Re-Living The CCD Sensor
A retro digital look back at CCD sensor images from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 as an alternative to film photography negative scans.

It has been quite a while since I last posted images captured with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18. I did well with the camera when I was using it then, but I had to put it aside as the battery was losing its charge, and I was on the upgrade path to a digital SLR instead of staying put in the 'bridge' section.

I have the camera running again now, after replacing the dead battery, and maybe within the dire straits of the ever-spiraling cost of film and the even higher cost of a more advanced digital camera which could be too complex to handle, I could find myself a reason for a push to re-live the CCD sensor, the heart of the digital imagery development, until they were replaced by the later complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) technology.

The accolades linger on, and the love for CCD images stays with many photographers who prefer the different look and feel of pictures rendered. If there is to be a new move toward this interest, let this be the time to pick it up and get it going again.


Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18, launched in 2007, is a compact super-zoom bridge camera with an 8.3MP sensor, a superb Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens with an 18X (28-504mm equivalent) optical zoom, a DSLR-like design with a 188,000 pixel EVF, a 207,000 pixels 2.5 inch LCD monitor, a 1 cm. macro mode, RAW shooting mode, and an optical image stabilizer. The model was an upgrade to the DMC-F8, launched six months earlier with a 7.1MP sensor. 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18, Left front

Other new features found on the DMC-FZ18 include a dedicated AF/AE button, Face Detection, a new Intelligent Auto mode that integrates Image Stabilization, Intelligent ISO, Face Detection, and Scene Detection into a 'Super' Auto Mode, an ISO 6400 High Sensitivity mode, and a five-level Noise reduction capability.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18, Right front

The DMC-FZ18 is compact and lightweight, comes with a dimension of 117.6 x 75.3 x 88.2 mm, and weighs 360 grams.



Operation and Control

As I am only exploiting the point-and-shoot and zoom functions of the FZ18 in iE (Intelligent Exposure) mode (same as before), I am not currently into the operation and control of the camera at all, which may probably take me a few days to exploit it all.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18, Right top

For such a camera that is compact in size with a powerful zoom, though, the camera bristles with a large set of features that offers everything from point-and-shoot scene modes to advanced manual photographic controls, though they are easily accessible via the joystick-controlled quick menu system.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18, Back

The top control of the camera is located on the handgrip (right) side of the top plane, which includes the Shutter Release and Zoom Lever dial, AF Macro/Focus switch button, AF/MF button, Exposure Mode dial, Power ON/OFF switch, and a GREEN power ON diode.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18, Top

On the rear, all functional controls are to the right of the 2.5-inch LCD screen, except for the pop-up flash button located to the left of the electronic viewfinder eyepiece, and to the right is EV/LCD display switch, and AF/AE lock button. On the back panel itself, to the right of the screen are the joystick and Display button (changes the amount and presentation of on-screen information). Next is the four-way controller with a central Menu/Set button.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18, Flash on

In record mode three of the four arrow keys have a single function; Quick Review (look at the last image saved), Flash Mode, and Self-Timer, while the top (up) arrow cycles through AE-Compensation, Flash Exposure Compensation, and AE Bracketing. At the bottom is a final button used to delete images in playback mode (or in Quick Review) and to change drive mode when shooting.


In Use

The multitude of functions and shooting modes is the enabler that makes the Panasonic FZ18 suitable for both the amateur who wants the power of a long lens, the enthusiasts who are out to enhance their photographic skills, or even the advanced photographers who are out on specific assignments.

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For advanced users, the Panasonic FZ18 offers Aperture Priority (F2.8-8.0), Shutter Priority (8-1/2,000 seconds), and full Manual mode. The latter offers shutter speeds as long as 60 seconds for night shots or, alternatively, you can use the Starry Sky mode with shutter speeds of 15, 30, and 60 seconds. The ability to save and access three sets of custom settings will also please more advanced users.

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Auto and Program AE modes are on tap for the no-brainer point-and-shoot. The Auto mode minimizes the number of parameters you can set manually. At the same time, Program AE takes care of the basics but allows you some flexibility in choosing specific settings like ISO, and more.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18, Re-Living The CCD Sensor 07
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For easier shooting, go for the camera's Intelligent Auto Mode. This mode incorporates Optical Image Stabilization, Intelligent ISO (a maximum ISO can be set to avoid unwanted levels of image noise and noise reduction), Face Detection, and Scene Detection. The latter analyzes the scene and then chooses the best mode according to the subject. These options work surprisingly well and are a real-time saver if you don't want to set each individually.

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Aside from the standard Scene modes such as Portrait, Scenery, Beach, Snow, and Sports which are available on the FZ18, there are also the Advanced Scene Modes, which provide sub-options such as Normal, Soft Skin, Outdoor, Indoor, and Creative for Portrait mode. Similar Advanced Scene Modes options are also available for Scenery, Sports, and Night Portrait Advanced Scene Modes.


Storage and Battery

The Panasonic FZ18 uses SH/SDHC/MMC media cards. The camera comes with 27MB of internal memory, which gets you a single RAW file or a half-dozen high-quality (low compression) 8-megapixel images. It is powered by a proprietary lithium-ion battery. The Panasonic FZ18's CIPA rating is 400 shots per charge - using the electronic viewfinder.



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