The FZ35 delivers improved performance over its predecessor, with a couple of notable highlights for its class. It wakes and shoots in 1.6 seconds, which is relatively fast, and it takes a class-leading 0.4 second to focus and shoot in good light but a slowish 0.9 second in dim--and it feels even slower. Panasonic claims that the new AF system is twice as fast at its predecessor, but we peg it as closer to 30 percent, at best. Shot-to-shot time runs 1.7 seconds, good for its class, with decent flash recycling speed that adds only about 0.3 second to shot-to-shot performance. While burst shooting runs at about 2fps, faster than the rest, it's limited to three shots at full quality (five at most). However, the real limitation for burst shooting with these cameras is the electronic viewfinder, anyway, since they black out while you're shooting. The FZ35's EVF, like the FZ28's before it, also suffers from slow refresh in low light (as does the LCD). It's fine under all other circumstances; the LCD remains visible in direct sunlight if you prefer shooting that way.
Ultimately, EVF and performance limitations render the FZ35 a poor choice for shooting kids, pets, and sports. That's too bad, because the Power OIS image stabilizer works very well, producing solid images when I could visibly see in the viewfinder that my hands were shaking--it yielded at least a 3 2/3 stop gain in casual testing.
Because it's possible to get some really nice photos out of the FZ35, I tipped the image quality rating over to 7 from 6. If you plan to print without cropping or retouching, or shoot only raw, you'll be able to get some excellent low-ISO-sensitivity photos from the camera. Color and exposure are generally good, and the lens--the same as that on the FZ28--is solid for a megazoom, with decent center sharpness and only moderate fringing. That said, the FZ35 has two weaknesses when it comes to photo quality, the same weaknesses that plague all the other models in this category: JPEG compression artifacts and poor blue-channel processing at ISO sensitivities as low as ISO 100, which results in noticeable yellow splotches throughout images. Although neither will likely jump out even when printed at large (12x16) sizes, they will if you crop or enlarge or try to adjust the colors or the tonal range.
Though the FZ28 supported 720p movie capture, the FZ35 updates it to use the more efficient AVCHD Lite codec, which also supports stereo sound; it still supports Motion JPEG MOV files. Like the GH1, and unlike many competitors, the FZ35 has a pretty robust set of movie controls, including full PASM and scene modes, ISO sensitivity, and metering options. You can't drop the shutter speed below 1/30 sec, though, (for special effects). The video and audio quality are pretty good, too, though the placement of the large mic--atop the pop-up flash--is susceptible to wind noise, which the wind filter only partly compensates for.
A better-than-average megazoom choice, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35 delivers standout video capabilities and an excellent manual feature set. Nevertheless, it suffers from a lot of the same drawbacks as its competitors, including weak photo quality.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)