Though far from perfect, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 shapes up to be the best of the cameras promising 18x-zoom Nirvana we've reviewed so far, a trio rounded out by the slow Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd and the slower Olympus SP-550 UZ. Like those models, the FZ18 incorporates a wide aperture, wide-angle lens, specifically f/2.8-to-f/4.2 28mm-to-504mm, and like the S8000fd, incorporates an 8-megapixel sensor.
Its design looks quite similar to its 7-megapixel, 12x-zoom line mate, the
Panasonic doesn't skimp on shooting options here. In addition to a full set of manual, semi-manual, automatic, and scene program exposure modes, and the standard three metering choices--spot, center and multiple--the FZ18 includes six autofocus algorithm options: Face, 1-point, 1-point high speed, 3-point high speed, Multi-point, and Spot. It also offers automatic scene detection, rather sluggish face-detection, and Intelligent Auto mode, which enables the image stabilizer, uses Intelligent ISO (automatic up to the user set cap), face detection, automatic scene mode detection, and continuous AF. The three-shot self-timer provides a retro photo-booth experience. And not only does the FZ18 offer raw mode, it also supplies a raw-plus-JPEG option, which we generally see only in midrange and higher dSLRs.