Panasonic’s DMC-FZ30 is an 8 Megapixel all-in-one ‘bridge’ camera with a powerful 12x optical zoom lens and SLR-like styling. Like other long-zoom bridge cameras, Panasonic’s aiming the FZ30 at buyers of budget Digital SLRs, with key advantages including LCD-based composition using a flip-out screen, movie mode and of course a lens with a considerably longer focal range than the typical 3x kit SLR lenses.
And by considerable, we’re not kidding: the FZ30’s 12x lens has an optical range equivalent to 35-420mm on a 35mm camera. This takes you from a reasonably wide angle to an incredible telephoto – and better still, unlike its predecessor, the FZ30’s lens doesn’t extend.
Of course it’s hard to handhold any lens with this kind of magnification, so to combat any camera-shake the FZ30’s equipped with Panasonic’s Optical Image Stabiliser (OIS) facility – this should allow you to handhold shots at much slower shutter speeds than normal.
It’s an impressive specification for a low price, but the FZ30 has tough competition from other long-zoom call-in-one cameras including Fujifilm’s FinePix S9500 / S9000. Sony’s Cybershot DSC-R1, while not having as long a zoom, is also a key rival.
Then there’s the budget Digital SLRs. The Panasonic may have an stabilised long zoom lens, flippable live screen and a lower price, but in their favour, budget Digital SLRs should boast lower noise levels, superior manual focusing and of course the ability to swap lenses.
In this review we’ll examine the FZ30, put its optical stabilisation to the test, and compare the performance with its closest rivals, the Fujifilm S9500 / S9000, Sony R1 and Canon’s EOS-350D budget Digital SLR.