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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38

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The Good Fast autofocus; raw file support; hi-def movie mode; good value for money.

The Bad Tiny joystick controller; irritating macro mode.

The Bottom Line A superzoom's a smart buy as long as you realise that you're not going to get quite the same handling and picture quality as you would from a digital SLR. You don't want to spend a fortune, in other words. On that basis, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 is great. Panasonic's created a camera that's one of the best of its type, but one of the cheapest too

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8.8 Overall

Superzooms are the wannabes of the compact-camera market. They're for folk who don't want the cost, weight, bulk or scary hands-on controls of a digital SLR, but still want a camera that can do everything. But what's the 12.1-megapixel Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 got that all the rest don't? Well, a rather modest price tag of around £270 is a good start.

Distinguishing features
And the humble price is just the start. The DMC-FZ38's 18x optical zoom might not sound much compared to the 26x zoom on the Olympus SP-590 UZ, say, but you're hardly going to miss it, because the DMC-FZ38 still offers the equivalent of a 486mm zoom at full stretch. And it comes with Panasonic's new Power OIS image stabilisation, which the company reckons is better at reducing low-frequency vibration. The DMC-FZ38 was certainly remarkably steady in our hands, even at full zoom.

There's a fair amount of distortion at the wideangle end of the zoom range, but not much chromatic aberration. Colour and detail at low ISOs is very good, although it starts softening up as early as ISO 400, and, by the ISO 1,600 maximum, the quality's tolerable but no more (click image to enlarge)

The DMC-FZ38's autofocus system is super-fast. We don't know what Panasonic's done to make it so fast, but we wish every other manufacturer would do it too. There's still a short delay at longer zoom settings while the camera locks onto the subject, but nothing like the sluggish indecisiveness that afflicts other cameras of this type.

You can either shoot in the 'intelligent auto' mode, which does everything but tell you when to press the shutter, or switch to one of the program, aperture-priority, shutter-priority or manual modes to take control of the shutter speed and lens aperture yourself.

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