By Tan Chong Yaw
|Panasonic Lumix FZ35
|» Price: $749
» Available: from authorised dealers
IF IT ain't broke, don't fix it.
That must be the mantra of Panasonic's designers in this update of the superzoom series that dates back to 2003 with the FZ1.
The FZ35 keeps the same shrunken down DSLR shape of a previous model, the FZ28.
The hand grip is meaty to hold and all the controls, save the flash release, are within easy reach of the thumb and index finger of the right hand.
The zoom is still 18x - 27mm to 486mm. At the 27mm wide angle, I could take in every dish on our dining table, which accommodates eight people comfortably.
At the maximum zoom, I could shoot close-ups of lories at the Jurong Bird Park from 2m away so that the skittish birds would not be disturbed.
Externally, an obvious change is the addition of a stereo microphone. This allows the FZ35 to double as a camcorder for HD-ready, 1,280 x 720 pixel, video clips.
I like the separate camcorder start and stop buttons so I can switch instantly to the video mode without even lifting my eyes off the viewfinder.
On a 32GB SD card, up to four hours of top quality video can be stored.
Resolution has been bumped up to 12.1 megapixels to keep up with the competition.
A full zoom shot of an ostrich's head was so detailed that I could see that the bird needed urgent attention in nasal hygiene.
What really counts is what Panasonic has done inside: it has souped up the camera's responsiveness.
It took a zippy 1.5 seconds to power up the superzoom.
Zooming from wide angle to maximum zoom took less than three seconds.
The upgrade I enjoyed the best was the snappy autofocus speed. I did not have to wait for the camera to focus like in most compacts.
Battery performance was outstanding at a rated 470 shots per charge. I clocked about 300 shots but that was with lots of fiddling about with the menus and photo playback while putting the camera through its paces.
Certainly, the FZ35 is not the only game in town.
Nearly all camera makers have a superzoom.
Its competitors have zoom ranges that soundly beat the Panasonic's. This ranges from the 20x zoom for the Canon PowerShot SX20 IS and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 to the 26x zoom held by the current range champion, the Olympus SP-590UZ.
However, considering that the FZ35 is the lightest in its class, you get the thinking in Panasonic's restraint in upping the zoom, which is already a convenient range.
With an all-in weight of 425g, this gizmo is two-thirds the weight of some of its rivals.
A worthy update to a proven superzoom formula. The zippy performance and video ability make the FZ35 a do-it-all camera.
This story was first published in The Straits Times Digital Life.
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