For those who like to take more control, the FZ40 does offer aperture-priority, shutter-priority, and manual shooting modes. Apertures are f2.8-8 wide and 5.2-8 telephoto. Shutter speeds go from 60 seconds to 1/2,000 second. There is also a manual mode for shooting movies. There's a Program mode, too, should you want to adjust things like ISO, white balance, and exposure compensation, but not worry about shutter speed and aperture settings.
If you like to shoot close-ups, the FZ40's macro function can focus as close as 0.4 inch to a subject. The results are fairly sharp below ISO 200 with plenty of fine detail, though a little sharpening with software improves things. A button to the right of the LCD lets you quickly switch to macro autofocus or manual focus. It will also enter macro in Intelligent Auto mode when you get closer to a subject.
Again, without the high-speed benefits of the FZ100's MOS sensor, the FZ40's shooting performance is nothing special. Shutter lag is relatively low at 0.5 second and 0.9 second in bright and dim lighting, respectively. From shot-to-shot without the flash, you're waiting 1.6 seconds; adding the flash drags that time to 4 seconds. Its time from off to first shot is 1.5 seconds, which is above average for its class. Lastly, it's capable of shooting continuously for up to five photos at 1.6 frames per second at its full 14-megapixel resolution. A 3-megapixel high-speed burst is available as well that shoots at up to 10fps.
The camera is well designed and generally nice to use. There's an ample hand grip so you can comfortably handle its 1.1-pound weight. The grip houses a memory card and a large rechargeable battery CIPA rated for up to 580 shots. On top along with the shutter release/zoom lever, power switch, and Mode dial is a one-touch record button for movies and one for setting the variable autofocus area.
On back below the small, but serviceable electronic viewfinder is a decent 3-inch LCD. To its left are the main controls for menu navigation and shooting. They're all well-spaced and easy to press, and there's a jog dial for quickly changing things like aperture, shutter speed, and exposure compensation. However, because of the abundant feature set it's all too easy to get lost trying to find a setting in Panasonic's menu systems. It's not insurmountable, but if you frequently make changes it can quickly become frustrating.
Without the accessory shoe on top and no mic input, you can't add on a flash or a mic. But there are conversion lenses and filters available for it, and Panasonic includes a lens hood.
Having tested the FZ100 before the FZ40, it's definitely a case of "you don't know what you've got till it's gone" for me. I really missed the fast shooting of the FZ100, especially since it meant I could capture in raw plus JPEG without slowing down. On the other hand, it is $100 more, so if you don't need the fast shooting for sports, kids, or wildlife, or the movie capture features, the FZ40 is worth the investment.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
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