In Depth Review of the Panasonic DMC-FZ8


I've been testing the Panasonic DMC-FZ8 for a few months now, and I've just discovered a review on Camera Labs that echos many of my findings. If you're interested in the FZ8, I recommend that you go over to their site and read up on this nifty Panasonic camera.

Overall, I like the DMC-FZ8 because for about $298 US you get a 12X Leica zoom lens with a maximun aperture of f-2.8, Raw mode that can be read by Lightroom 1.1 and Adobe Camera Raw 4, 16:9 aspect ratio for both movies and stills, long battery life, very light and compact body, electronic viewfinder, manual controls, live histogram, image stabilization, intelligent ISO, and a filter ring that is perfect for attaching a polarizer.

On the downside, there is more image noise at higher ISOs (400 and up) than with a Digital SLR (such as a Canon Rebel XTi) and Panasonic's noise reduction can be a little aggressive, resulting in slight smearing visible at 100 percent on a HD screen (but I haven't noticed it in prints). Both of these nits exist in almost all of the competitive models often costing more than the FZ8 (such as Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-H9). Also, the lens only goes as wide as 36mm, but extends all the way out past 400mm on the telephoto end.

Bottom line, I love shooting with this camera at 16:9 in Raw mode using the long Leica telephoto lens. I think it's a perfect addition to your camera collection if you're looking for a compact super-telephoto that records in Raw.

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You didn't mention whether you were doing the conversion of FZ8 RAW files using CS3 or Panasonic's included app. I was disappointed to find no native Mac OSX support for FZ8 RAW format, disrupting my otherwise seamless Aperture workflow.

Which RAW converter do you prefer for this camera?

Inspired by a friend who uses a Lumix LX2 which shoots 16:9 to a sensor that is native 16:9, I used iPhoto's custom-ratio crop constraint to crop a set of shots I'd taken of my kids on an outdoor excursion to 16:10 - see them here:

I prefer 16:10 over 16:9 because it is closer to the ratio eventually described by the ratio of adjacent numbers in Fibonacci sequence (1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,...). This ratio is known as the 'golden mean' (1.618) and many people believe it has a particular aesthetic resonance with our sense perceptions. Note that Apple's LCD displays are using this aspect ratio, or something close.

Anyway, I was surprised and pleased by the visual 'punch' the pictures cropped to this aspect ratio.

The 16:10 aspect ratio seems to work much better in horizontal rather than landscape compositions. When used in vertical shots it seems too tall - this would be more pronounced at 16:9.

Yes Leica lens is Leica lens - perfect but Panasonicians noise over 200ISo is too bad for me.

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