Panasonic has announced its latest Lumix digital camera, the 8.1-megapixel DMC-FZ18. In a crazy mixed-up world where nothing much makes sense any more, least of all technology naming, what does that Z18 stand for? It stands, my friend, for 18x optical zoom.
Yes, 18x. That's equivalent to 28-504mm on a 35mm film camera. The DMC-FZ18 has a 28mm wide-angle Leica DC lens. A zoom that size would massively magnify those jitters we mysteriously wake up with every morning, so it's a good thing the DMC-FZ18 has an optical image-stabilisation system. This shifts the lens fractionally to compensate for those tiny shakes, so our pictures should be blur-free, even if our vision isn't.
The camera also includes Intelligent Auto Mode, which brings lots of features together to take all the work out of snapping things that are, y'know, really far away. The DMC-FZ18 picks the best shooting mode, like portrait or landscape. A continuous auto-focus function allows you to focus on something very, very far away, and will then keep the focus locked on even when that super-distant thing moves.
Face-detection mode focuses on faces -- right, thanks, seen that before. How many faces? Since the DMC-FZ18 is playing the numbers game, it picks out 15 faces. If they can put their pints down and their trousers back on long enough to all look straight at you, you could photograph a rugby team. From a mile away.
Ready for some more numbers? 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD screen. Okay, that was lame. Try this, then: the DMC-FZ18 goes up to a maximum light sensitivity of ISO 6,200. So you can photograph stuff from an extremely long way away -- in the dark. On top of all that, the DMC-FZ18 shoots raw footage. It's out in September in the US for $400, so expect it here soon for around £250. Frankly, we want one. We're fairly sure Panasonic will see us coming, though. From some distance.
Update: Aof the FZ18 is now available. -Rich Trenholm