Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS18 / FH5 Ken McMahon, May 2011
 
   
 

Panasonic Lumix FS18 / FH5 verdict

The Panasonic Lumix FS18 / FH5 is a 16 Megapixel compact with a 4x stabilised optical zoom and a 2.7 inch LCD screen. The FS18 / FH5 was announced in January 2011 alongside a 14 megapixel sibling, the FS16 / FH2, both models share the same lens and screen, and both shoot HD video at 720p resolution.

The Lumix FS18 / FH5 is 20 percent slimmer than its predecessor, the Lumix FS11 / FH3, while also adding 2 Megapixels to its resolution. But the main difference between the new and old models is the lens, reduced to a 4x optical zoom here from the FS11 / FH3's 5x lens.

The extra reach has all come off the telephoto end of the range, so at least the 28mm equivalent wide angle remains, which combined with a very compact lightweight body and consumer-friendly features like Face detection and Intelligent Auto exposure with scene detection, this is a camera squarely aimed at casual snappers looking for quality images without breaking the bank.

   
   

 

Compared to Panasonic Lumix FS16 / FH2

 
 
     

Not sure whether to go for the Lumix FS18 / FH2 or it's less expensive sibling the Lumix FS16 / FH2? The good news this should be a very straightforward decision to make.

First, the price difference isn't all that much - about what you'd expect to pay for a modest SD card and, like the price, the differences between these two models are also small. The lens is exactly the same, as is the 2.7 inch LCD screen and the body is virtually identical. A minor difference concerns body colours, with the FS18 / FH5 avaialble in silver, black, violet and gold and the FS16 / FH2 in black, pink, red and blue.

The only real difeerence between these two cameras then is the sensor - 16 Megapixels in the FS18 / FH5 and 14 Megapixels in the FS16 / FH2. The larger sensor on the FS18 / FH5 means you can make bigger prints, but unless you need to do that, go for the FS16 / FH2. The smaller sensor has no other disadvantages, other than marginally slower continuous and burst shooting. In fact, in both our real-life resolution and high ISO noise tests, the FS16 / FH2 came out on top.

See our upcoming Panasonic Lumix FS16 / FH2 review for more details.



Compared to Canon PowerShot A3300 IS

 
 
     

The Canon PowerShot A3300 IS shares the same 16.1 Megapixel resolution as the Panasonic Lumix FS18 / FH5, and can also shoot 720p HD video. So much for the similarities, what sets them apart? The FS18 / FH5 is a slimmer, more compact model - at only 19mm it's a full 5mm slimmer than the PowerShot A3300 IS and it's also significantly lighter. So if you're looking for a compact that you can easily slip into you trouser pocket the FS18 / FH5 will literally be a better fit.

One reason the FS18 / FH5 is smaller is that it has a 4x optical zoom compared with A3300's 5x zoom. Both start at a useful 28mm (equivalent) wide angle, but the PowerShot A3300 IS has a slighly further telephoto reach at 140mm compared with the FS18 / FH2's 112mm (equivalent).

Both cameras have optical image stabilisation, but neither can zoom during video recording, though the PowerShot A3300 can at least use its digital zoom. The FS18 / FH5 also has a smaller 2.7 inch LCD screen compared to the 3 inch screen on the PowerShot A3300 IS, it does, however, sport several viewing modes, most usefully one which makes it more visible when holding the camera above your head.

Finally there's handling to consider. Though both cameras have a variety of auto shooting modes and quick access menus, the PowerShot A3300 IS outdoes the Panasonic Lumix FS18 / FH5 in offering a wider range of fun and ease of use features. Though it has a wider range of scene modes, the FS18 / FH5 can't compete on features like Easy shooting mode, Live View Control, Creative filters and Smart shutter options like wink and Face self-timer. The Canon out-features the Panasonic in this comparison, and for many that will be worth spending the small amount extra.

See our Canon PowerShot A3300 IS review for more details.

 

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS18 / FH5 final verdict

The headline feature of this latest Lumix FS / FH series is size, and especially thickness. A mere 19mm thick, it's very compact and very light, the kind of camera that could happily live in your shirt pocket or, as we've said, the back pocket of your jeans providing you can remember not to sit on it.

The other thing not to lose sight of is that it has a 16 Megapixel sensor. If you love to make big prints up to A2 size, but don't love big cameras, this is what you've been waiting for. If you don't care about that though, it's a bit of a no brainer, as the 14 Megapixel FS16 / FH2 is a little cheaper and its image quality is actually a little better.

Aside from more pixels in a more compact form though, we can't help but feel that FS18 / FH5 has little else to offer that's new. It's great to see 720p video, but the FS11 already had that. What's left is AF tracking, a little more internal memory, Intelligent exposure, Intelligent resolution and slighly faster performance, all welcome, but incremental improvements. The FS18 / FH5 is an excellent camera, but it lacks the freshness that features like Smart shutter, Face self time, Live View cotnrol and Creative filters have brought to the Canon PowerShot A-series. So while it earns a Recommended award, we'd strongly suggest closely comparing it against the only slightly pricier Canon PowerShot A3300 IS.

 



Good points
4x stabilised optical zoom.
28mm equivalent wide angle.
720p HD video.
Versatile LCD screen modes

Bad points
Poor AF performance in low light.
No zoom while recording video.
Lackluster image quality.
Lacking 'fun' features of latest Canons.



Scores

(relative to 2011 compacts)

Build quality:
Image quality:
Handling:
Specification:
Value:

Overall:

17 / 20
15 / 20
16 / 20
16 / 20
17 / 20

81%


   
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