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Digital Camera Review, Lumix DMC-FZ40 14.1MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ40/45 14.1MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera
A retro digital look back of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ40 with a 14.1MP CCD sensor fitted with a 25-600mm zoom lens.

Going beyond the series of digital cameras with CCD sensors that I have already reviewed for the 'Re-Living the CCS Sensor' series, I am now on to the Lumix DSMC FZ40/45. The digital bridge camera, launched in 2010 was the update of the DMC FZ35/38, features a 14.1MP CCD sensor, a wide-angle 24x zoom lens with an equivalent focal length of 25-600mm, a fixed 3-inch 230K-pixel LCD screen, a 201,600 dots EVF (Electronic Viewfinder), and Venus Engine HD II processing engine.

The FZ40/45 is virtually identical to the higher spec DMC-FZ100, also launched in 2010, which has a 14.1MP CMOS sensor, higher resolution 460K dot 3.0 inch tiltable LCD, and faster shooting speed. Both have a maximum shutter speed of 1/2000 second, ISO speed range from 80-1600 in Auto and 1600-6400 in Hi-Auto, offers AVCHD Lite 720p HD video recording, manual shooting mode, and comes with Panasonic's Sonic Speed auto-focus system that provides the industry's fastest focus times.

On its own, the 25-600mm (35mm equivalent) f/2.8-5.2 Leica DC Vario-Elmarit Lens is quite formidable, with the help of the Power O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer), and is still hand-holdable at the long end of the zoom or when taking night shots.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ40/45, Front view

The 24x optical zoom can be virtually extended to 32x equivalent with Intelligent Zoom, and the extra visual zoom function extends zoom power to 50.6x by using the center part of the large CCD to bring subjects even closer.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ40/45, Front

The Sonic Speed AF system gives fast and accurate AF performance, and a quick start-up time adds to the overall performance of the camera. The energy-saving Venus Engine HD II image processor helps extend the shooting time of the DMC-FZ40 to approximately 580 shots per battery charge.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ40/45, Top

In use, the quirk of having to choose image viewing options, either via the LVD or EVF is still apparent with the FZ40/45. The EV/LCD option button is now moved back to the top of the film back, as seen on the FZ28, while the Red Movie button, which was located on the camera back of the FZ-35/38, is now on the top plane of the camera, mid between the Shutter Release and Focus buttons.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ40/45, Back

Another feature that is missing from the FZ40/45 is the Joystick that was used on previous models to adjust the camera settings including the aperture, shutter, and manual focus, or pushed-in to fire up a superimposed menu. In place of the Joystick is the cycle selector button for AF, AF Macro, and MF options.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ40/45, Bottom

The Record/Playback slider as seen on the top right corner of the FZ35/38 is also missing, replaced by a push and turn Rear Dial to activate and set Exposure Compensation, Shutter Speed, and Aperture Opening when the camera is operated in PASM exposure modes. Playback, which will still push images to the LCD screen, is now a Green Arrow button on the camera back.

The camera's body weight is now decidedly heavier than the FZ35/38 at 498 grams with card and battery.

Early Images

While the camera is not for slipping into a pocket, it does feel solid and firm in the hand. Ease of use is enhanced by a prominent eye relief that keeps the rest of your face away from the LCD screen when you are shooting with the diopter-correctible 100% field-of-view EV.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ40 14.1MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera 01
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ40 14.1MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera 02
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ40 14.1MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera 03

At shorter zoom distances, unwanted camera shake is well catered for by the cameras Power O.I.S (Optical Image Stabilization). You will still have to use either a fast shutter speed or a tripod at the long end of the zoom though. The maximum apertures of F/2.8 at 25mm and F/5.2 at 600mm seem to work well for this class of camera.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ40 14.1MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera 04
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ40 14.1MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera 05
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ40 14.1MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera 06

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 14-megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5.5Mb. With Intelligent Resolution, images are manipulated to have a higher resolution look, or its zoom magnification bootes from 24x to 32x. Images are of very good quality, and noise-free at ISO 80-200.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ40 14.1MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera 07
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ40 14.1MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera 08
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ40 14.1MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera 09
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ40 14.1MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera 10

The versatility of the zoom lens offers a Macro setting that you can set to focus on a subject that is 1cm away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. Though the Macro setting was not used for these early image shots, The FZ40 is equally competent with close-ups as seen here, as used with the metering options available.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ40 14.1MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera 11
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ40 14.1MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera 12

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ45's maximum shutter speed is 60 seconds in Manual shooting mode and the Starry Sky Mode scene mode, which is great news if you're seriously interested in night photography. With its anti-shake mechanism, the FZ40 is able to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds as compared to other digital cameras.

The CCD Sensor

CCD sensors, the gold standard for camera sensors from the early 80s till the late 2000s, are acknowledged for their high image quality in low-light conditions with images that are generally sharper with more precise colors and less image noise when compared to images created by CMOS sensors. Though phased out now by the CMOS variety, CCDs are still the preferred sensor used in certain areas of specialized photography.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ40/45, Top View

Cameras with CCD sensors, vintage as they were in production more than 10 years ago with technology that has been bypassed and considered redundant, are still easily available on the online auction market or even in brick-and-mortar stores. There is a whole variety of them, with prices for the asking and fully functional, which are good enough to give you a good head-start for your enthusiasm for the creativity of digital photography. Go get one!

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