Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38


2009 sees the release of an upgrade for Panasonic’s excellent DMC-FZ28. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38(DMC-FZ35outside Europe) is a 12 Megapixel camera with a massive 18x optical zoom and an impressive specification. Among other things it offers HD movie mode; quick start-up (just over a second); face recognition plus; ultra high speed autofocus; and full manual operation. Optical image stabilisation is an improved version of the already excellent FZ28′s. While the ultra high speed autofocus, doubling the speed of the DMC-FZ28, now works in the dark as well.

Although the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 is a lightweight camera it feels nicely solid and comfortable in the hand, and like all good cameras, it has a viewfinder, albeit an electronic one. On top of the body is a pop-up flash, but, alas, no accessory shoe. The stereo microphones, clearly needing to go somewhere, have been located on top of the flash housing.

The lens is a Leica DC Vario-Elmarit producing images with a fine level of detail, good colour depth and dynamic range. The focal length, in 35mm terms, ranges from a respectably wide 27mm (f2.8), to a substantial telephoto 486mm (f4.4). Noise in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 is well controlled for a camera of this type with almost noise-free images at ISO400, though even at the maximum ISO of 1600 the results are good enough for small prints, though fine detail suffers. AT ISO 80 images are sharp and clean with good edge definition.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 has an improved image stabilisation system POWER O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabiliser) and offers twice the stabilisation of the DMC-FZ28 . This means that longer zoom settings can be used hand held. Also indoor photography, where flash would destroy the ambience, (church interiors for instance) becomes more accessible. Makes me wonder how long it will be before tripods become obsolete.

The mode wheel on the top plate, alongside the flash housing, has 14 shooting options (mode wheels are definitely going to have to get bigger) to cover every photographic possibility, so whatever your skill level, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 has a setting to suit. For the absolute beginner there is even Intelligent Auto Mode – just set the Mode dial to IA. This is the ‘Photography for Dummies’ option that lets you concentrate on the picture you want to create and let the camera worry about all those complicated aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings. I am totally in favour of anything that makes it easy for novices to take great pictures. While on the subject of Intelligence (Panasonic seems to like that word): Intelligent Auto Exposure sorts out high contrast problems; and with the Intelligent ISO of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 ‘The camera automatically sets the optimum ISO sensitivity and shutter speed to suit the movement of the subject and brightness of the scene to minimise the jitter of the subject.’ That’s straight from the manual. Great stuff. It won’t be long before the camera takes itself for a day out and comes back with the pictures you would like to have taken.

The innovation and enterprise of camera software designers never ceases to impress me. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 has face recognition with a difference. The camera will remember up to six different faces and whenever any of these particular faces are present in the viewfinder the camera’s focus system locks on to them in preference to any other faces!!! And the best bit is the camera notices when you have photographed the same person several times and prompts you to register them. Registered faces, when recognised, have the focus and exposure optimised for them, over and above whatever else is in the frame.

The innovation and enterprise of camera software designers never ceases to impress me. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 has face recognition with a difference. The camera will remember up to six different faces and whenever any of these particular faces are present in the viewfinder the camera’s focus system locks on to them in preference to any other faces!!! And the best bit is the camera notices when you have photographed the same person several times and prompts you to register them. Registered faces, when recognised, have the focus and exposure optimised for them, over and above whatever else is in the frame.

Movie mode, something of which I’m not a fan in still cameras, is a one button feature. One button starts the movie, press it again and it stops recording. Doesn’t matter what the other settings are. So in that sense it is truly useful and can capture easily those spontaneous moments. With the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 Movies can be recorded in HD (1280 x 720) and at smaller sizes too. HD is great if you want to watch it on your tv at home. The jpeg options are better for emailing and web use.

The monitor is 2.7″, clear and bright and the camera has a useful rechargeable Li-on battery and SD card housed under the same door in the bottom of the camera. Finally there is a tripod screw socket too for when your long exposures outfox the image stabilisation system.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 is a camera you won’t be ashamed to be seen holding, and if you don’t want the hassle and expense of interchangeable lenses and a very heavy equipment bag to carry them all then the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 should definitely be on your short list. Probably not worth upgrading if you already own the DMC-FZ28 but otherwise highly recommended. You really need to be considering DSLRs if you want to significantly improve on this camera. If you want a good quality camera for holidays, family moments, and the occasional Youtube video then this is worthy of serious consideration. For more serious photographers wanting to produce larger sized prints then I recommend that you look at entry level DSLRs.

  • Build quality 9/10
  • Features 9/10
  • Image Quality 9/10
  • Handling 7/10
  • Value for Money 8/10
  • Overall 8/10

Its Rivals.

Author: Michael Hadfield
Website: www.hadfieldsphotography.co.uk
email: Author


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2 Responses to “Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38”

  1. Burl Apana says:

    I just bought a conon Eos 500d, great Camera but was looking for tips how to use it best, although your blog is not telling me there were some things that helped me.

  2. hadfieldsphoto says:

    Glad it helped a bit. Camera reviews aren’t really meant to tell you how to use it though, they just help you to decide whether or not it’s the camera you want to buy.

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