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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 Gordon Laing, June 2007

More features : Lenses / Screen and menus / Sensor and processing / anti-shake

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 lens coverage

The Panasonic Lumix FZ8 is equipped with a Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 12x optical zoom delivering an equivalent range of 36-432mm and a focal ratio of f2.8-3.3; the actual focal length is 6-72mm and the closest focusing distance is 5cm in Macro mode with the lens zoomed all the way out.

Panasonic Lumix FZ8 - lens extension off, zoomed out and zoomed in

Upon power-up the lens barrel extends by 21mm in about two seconds, and by only a further 3mm when fully zoomed-in. Unlike many cameras which lurch from one focal length to another, the FZ8 boasts extremely fine increments as you explore its range – we found it virtually impossible to count discrete steps, but you’re looking at over 60. The FZ8 also offers two different zooming speeds, depending on how far you push the zoom rocker.

The FZ8’s focal range is certainly impressive and the fine zoom increments welcomed, but it’s lacking the wide angle coverage of several rivals. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H9 and Olympus SP-550UZ boast equivalent focal lengths starting at 31 and 28mm respectively, which are both comfortably wider than the FZ8’s 36mm.

To be fair, Panasonic’s own Lumix FZ50 isn’t much better than the FZ8 with its equivalent range of 35-420mm, but both FZ models could do with something wider, especially in the current market. We’d certainly be surprised not to find it in the FZ8 and FZ50’s successors given Panasonic’s adoption (and considerable promotion) of 28mm wide angle across pretty much all its latest models. For instance, the 28-280mm equivalent range of the Lumix TZ3 compact arguably allows more creative shots.

To illustrate the Lumix FZ8’s coverage in practice we mounted it on a tripod and took photos with the lens fully zoomed-out, then fully zoomed-in. For comparison we then mounted a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H9 in the same position and again took shots at the short and long end of its focal range.

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Panasonic Lumix FZ8 coverage wide
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H9 coverage wide
Panasonic Lumix FZ8 coverage wide
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H9 coverage wide
6-72mm at 6mm (36mm equivalent)
  5.2-78mm at 5.2mm (31mm equivalent)

The photos above clearly show the FZ8’s optical weak point: the lack of true wide angle coverage. The Sony H9 may only zoom-out to an equivalent of 31mm, but it’s clearly capturing a noticeably larger field of view, and this is very useful whether you’re shooting a big landscape, building or interior, or even just a big group of people. Compare it to the coverage of the Panasonic Lumix TZ3 which gets even wider at an equivalent of 28mm. On its page we compared it against the Fujifilm F30, which shares the same 36mm wide angle equivalent to the Lumix FZ8, and the difference between 36 and 28mm is clear.

Panasonic Lumix FZ8 coverage tele
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H9 coverage tele
Panasonic Lumix FZ8 coverage tele
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H9 coverage tele
6-72mm at 72mm (432mm equivalent)
  5.2-78mm at 78mm (465mm equivalent)

Where the FZ8 really scores though is zoomed-in. 12 times 36mm gives you a considerable 432mm, which gets you seriously close to your subject. Admittedly the Sony H9 and Olympus SP-550UZ can get a little closer still, but since they both start at a wider angle, they need their broader 15x and 18x optical ranges respectively to get closer at the long end. These longer ranges ultimately sound more desirable, but can result in optical compromises, so while the FZ8 may not get as wide or long, it does maintain pretty impressive optical quality throughout.

Panasonic FZ8 with wide angle converter lens
Panasonic FZ8 with telephoto converter lens
Pansonic FZ8 - lens hood
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If the FZ8’s range really isn’t sufficiently short or long, you can fit optional converter lenses: the DMW-LW55 multiplies the range by 0.7x giving a new wide angle equivalent of 25mm, while the DMW-LT55 multiplies it by 1.7x, giving you a whopping equivalent of 734mm. There’s also an optional DMW-LC55 lens which improves close-up capabilities. All three converters require the optional DMW-LA2 adapter for mounting.

We’re pleased to see Panasonic supply the FZ8 with a lens hood which mounts onto a screw-on filter ring; also supplied. Once you have the accessory ring and lens hood attached, the FZ8 inevitably looks much bigger, but it’s nowhere in the same league as the monster which Sony supplies with the H9. We have demonstrations of both in our Sony H9 and Panasonic FZ8 videos.

The FZ8’s lens hood can also be reversed and slipped back over the lens barrel for storage and transportation. This is handy, but the hood must also be rotated 90 degrees from its working angle for the petals to fit on the barrel when pointing backwards.

This isn’t a problem, but you must remember to rotate it back by 90 degrees again when refitting it for use – we’ve noticed a worrying number of people using the FZ8 with the lens hood incorrectly turned by 90 degrees and therefore suffering from vignetting at the sides of their images at wide angle. It’s an easy mistake to make, so beware.

Panasonic Lumix FZ8 features

Lenses / Screen and menus / Sensor and processing / anti-shake

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