lumixThe Panasonic Lumix FZ38 (also known as the FZ35) makes its grand entrance as a lightweight, rugged and solid feeling 12 megapixel camera with a 2.7 inch LCD (230,000 dots).

A key feature of this digital camera is its ability to ‘super-zoom’ with its wide angle 18x zoom lens and the upgraded Power O.I.S (Optical Image Stabilization) anti-shake system which worked beautifully.

I was really impressed with the fact that it comes out the box with a lithium-ion rechargeable battery which will give you longer battery life and forgo the need to upgrade from AAs at the same time as purchasing.

The Numbers: ISO ranges from 800 to 1600 with a High Sensitivity Mode of 1600 – 6400. The Panasonic FZ38 weighs in at 368 grams without the battery. Shoots up to 10 frames per second (and less depending on what mode you are shooting in and what quality verses quantity settings you are using). Just to mention: 27-486mm focal length and a maximum aperture of f/2.8

I absolutely loved their idea of programmable face recognition for auto focusZ38’s Intelligence Auto Mode. To tell you briefly; your Panasonic FZ38 is able to ‘remember’ up to six faces and when you are taking pictures it will automatically prioritize those faces. So for example, if you have a son and you are taking pictures of your son’s birthday party and he is running wild and happy in amongst his friends, you can take a picture of the whole group of children and rest comfortably knowing that the camera is bias to your son’s face and will ensure that he is the focal point of the picture. To add to this superb feature, you can also specify the age of the face that you have asked the camera to remember and then when viewing you photographs you can specify that you only want to view the photographs in which that person features.

AND – the camera automatically switches to Baby Mode if the subject of focus is less than 3 years old.

This Panasonic Lumix comes with Video mode and I had a superb time playing around with it. Just for fun they have added a number of really awesome movie shooting modes such as: Soft Skim, Sunlight, Candle light, Film Grain, Pinhole, Snow and Creative Mode. In Video mode (you’ll be really impressed) the FZ38’s Intelligent Auto Mode is completely functional. Just set the dial to iA and press your motion picture button and you are set to go. The camera will decide what the most suitable filming mode is for your surrounding and lighting conditions and of course your
Face Detection works as well. I was really happy with how accurately the iA worked and how well it was able to select the most appropriate mode.

The whole crux of iA was to aid beginners and give them a bridge between point and shoot and this kind of more dedicated camera upgrade. The camera does most of the thinking for you, setting the scene mode, the ISO, image stabilization, face detection and auto focus. Also fixes your lighting and exposure and switches on red-eye reduction.

The Optical Image Stabilization also works well during filming and I don’t have the steadiest hand so it was a good test. iA continuously updates the scene mode as you move around so there is no worry of sudden dark blurs or bursts of lights as you move into or out of a room or building.

There is a stereo microphone (internal) on top of the camera which records your movie sound. They went for a higher quality microphone and there was a considerable improvement from the usual muffled sounds you find on most digital cameras. A new feature aids the microphone by cutting out wind and other background noises.

The FZ38 is available in silver or black and is adorned with a luxurious leather effect housing for the battery pack.
For those of you who wear glasses, there is a dioptre adjustment wheel which allows short sighted people to use the camera without scratching their glasses up against the view finder.

You will find a pop up flash with a dedicated activate button situated right behind it, there is however no hot shoe for an external flashgun. The flash built into the FZ38 covers a maximum range of 8.5 meters.

On the body of the camera;, the wheel you find is a quick access for things like program, shutter priority, movie modes, manual modes, scene modes, night scene, portrait and then another option for your own personal custom setting…and of course Intelligence Auto Mode (iA).

Video is recorded in HD: 1280×720 or NTSC Mode: NTSC: 60p / PAL: 50p or (AVCHD Lite, SH: 17Mbps / H:13Mbps / L:9Mbps ) / 30fps (Motion JPEG). To translate that to english – the quality was good and the videos were clear and crisp :]

Storage is available in the form of a SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card and there is 40 Megabytes of internal memory.

Their bright idea for avoiding flare on the LCD was a rather gawky and awkward detachable lens hood which I didn’t find all that convinient to use, but I assume that it just takes some getting used to – it certainly did the job it was made to do.

My Conclusion: It’s all good for the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ38 which gets a 5 star rating for superb functionality and comfortable use. Plus they get extra points for the great new face detection feature they have implemented (three cheers for iA!!) Well Done Panasonic!