Panasonic Lumix FZ8 design and build quality
The Panasonic Lumix FZ8 shares the DSLR styling of its predecessor the FZ7, and like that model it’s much smaller than it looks. In the photo below we’ve placed it alongside Sony’s Cyber-shot DSC-H9 and Canon’s ESO 400D / XTi, and it’s clearly dwarfed by both models.
The grip is obviously a scaled-down version of what you’d find on a real DSLR, or even most other super-zooms, but with it and the ridge for your thumb on the rear, it’s possible to hold the FZ8 quite securely – and many will also find it easier to hold with one hand than, say, Panasonic’s own TZ3 super-zoom compact. If you have large hands though, we’d advise picking it up in person, as it may be a little too small to hold comfortably.
It’s interesting to compare these two Panasonic models side by side as the metal-cased TZ3 feels like a much more substantial camera, while the FZ8 comes across as quite plasticky in comparison. The FZ8 is also much lighter than you’d imagine, but while it doesn’t feel as solid as the TZ3, the overall build quality remains to a high standard. The materials and joins are smooth, well-assembled and there’s certainly no creaks to worry about.
The FZ8’s controls are concentrated between the top right side and the area to the right of the screen. The top surface is home to the main command dial offering the traditional Program, Manual, Aperture and Shutter Priority modes, along with additional positions for Movie, Print, Scene Presets, fully automatic (indicated by a heart icon), Playback and Panasonic’s Intelligent ISO mode. The latter is new to Panasonic’s current range of cameras and we’ll describe it along with the full exposure details in our Features pages.
The shutter release button is housed within a circular zoom rocker and alongside are buttons to adjust the Optical Image Stabilisation and focusing modes. The on off switch is on the rear of the camera alongside a button to switch between the screen and electronic viewfinder, EVF. To the left of the EVF is a button which manually pops open the flash.
The rest of the controls are concentrated in the lower right corner on the back of the camera. Like most Panasonic models, four buttons arranged like a joypad are used to navigate menu options, scroll across images during magnified playback, or select various options during shooting. A button in the middle of the four brings up the main menu system or confirms settings.
Pressing the top of the four buttons while shooting presents the exposure compensation settings, offering the traditional +/-2EV range for darkening or brightening exposures; there’s also an option for exposure bracketing. Pressing the bottom button shows the last image taken (or viewed during playback), and like playback mode, you can magnify using the zoom lever.
Pressing the left button lets you choose between a 10 or two second self-timer, along with a neat option which after a 10 second countdown takes three photos at two second intervals just to make sure.
Pressing the right button cycles through the options for the built-in flash once it’s been manually popped-up: Auto, Auto with red-eye reduction, Forced on (with optional red-eye reduction if you’re using the Party or Candle Light scene presets), and Slow sync with red-eye reduction. If you don’t want the flash to fire, simply don’t pop it up.
Two further buttons to the left of this main group switch the display mode and either delete images or adjust the continuous shooting options. Most important of all though is a small joystick just by the top right corner of the screen. Pushing this in presents the FZ8’s dropdown menu system which gives you very quick and easy access to a wide variety of settings including ISO, White Balance and image quality. It’s one of the best user interfaces around and we’ll explain how it works in our Features pages – we also have a demonstration in our FZ8 video tour.
Connectivity and battery
A door on the left side of the body opens to reveal DC-in and a combined USB / video out port; the DC-in port works with the optional DMW-AC7G AC adapter, but it won’t charge the battery inside the camera. A larger door under the grip side of the body houses the battery and SD memory card slot.
The Lumix FZ8 is powered by a CGR-S006E 710mAh Lithium Ion battery pack and the camera is supplied with a mains recharger. Thanks to the FZ8’s latest power-saving Venus III image processor, Panasonic claims each charge is now good for 380 shots under CIPA conditions, but that’s a best-case scenario. If you end up composing mostly with the screen and with optical stabilisation activated, the battery drains much faster, so investing in a spare would be advisable.