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on 31 December 2009
I bought this camera two weeks ago and have since tested it with 6 hours of video, and over 3000 pictures in various conditions, indoor, outdoor, in snow, sunshine, cold weather, warm weather, and decided to write a short review about the camera. I have about twenty years of hobby old-school SLR experience and my first digital camera was the Ixus 50 which we have donated since purchasing this camera. I have uploaded some photos I have taken with this camera that you can see above as well.

THE POSITIVES:

* Truly excellent outdoor photography, I would venture to say near SLR quality

* The zoom is excellent, and gives nice clear shots at great distances

* Full Automatic is excellent and nearly idiot-proof, and fully manual is also possible (see negatives below)

* Camera is light and very transportable

* Indoor photography is VERY GOOD, however not excellent (see negatives below)

* Easy to use menus, very straightforward controls and easy to use controls, surfaces, and all is very reachable, with just the thumb.

* Macro shots are very nice

* Nearly every imaginable setting possible that could be wanted, needed or used is available on this camera.

* Stabilizer is excellent and allows shots at 1/4 second without a tripod (with my analog SLR at less than 1/60 it was already iffy)

* Battery life is good, but I still recommend a backup (OEM work as of version 1.0)

* Auto Focus is super fast, and with AF tracking you can really get some nice sport shots

* HD video is excellent quality (720 not 1080) but unfortunately limited to 30 minutes in the EU (tax regulations I guess).

* Raw photos and does RAW+JPEG simultaneously, this means you get a RAW AND a JPEG saved on your card for each picture.

* The software that comes with it is useful. In the slideshow you can click on properties and see exactly which fstop/shutterspeed was used, which setting, etc. You can also search your database per each and every camera setting you want. i.e. it categorizes all photos taken in "nightlandscape" or "high dynamic range". Can be useful when you have thousands of photos to look through.

* 16:9, 4:3, 3:2 shot formats possible

* comes with a lenscap!

THE NOT SO POSITIVES:

* Fully Automatic indoor photos can be grainy with flash

------THE FIX: In P mode on your camera, you can turn off intelligent ISO and manually set the ISO to 80 or 100 and you get excellent quality pictures anyway with little or no grain. In intelligent ISO mode, you can set the max ISO as well, (200, 400, 800, 1600 are possible). If you set this at 200 you can get very nice indoor photos.

* Zoom is a bit noisy in video mode

* Auto focus is really annoying in video mode, constantly focusing and unfocusing.

------THE FIX: you can turn off constant auto focus in the menu while shooting in Manual video mode. I recommend this for most situations, especially fast moving targets, or party situations where there are a lot of different areas to have to focus on. Also, set the zoom at say 3x and leave it for most applications

* Video limited to 30 minutes at a time (not a big issue for me)due to EU regulations, though this is not the camera's fault ;)

* Manual focus for pictures is possible only by using the toggle stick, joystick thingy, the lens itself is not manually focusable. This means you only have a digital manual focus. The AF is so excellent though, I have rarely used the manual focus on this camera.

* Raw photos not useable with Irfanview, the program I use. They are viewable with the supplied software, but I guess also not with photoshop. EDIT- There is an Irfanview Update which allows you to work with RAW photos!

* No BULBS (leaving the shutter open indefinitely) setting, however, in the night landscape, and starry night modes, shutterspeeds of 8,15,30, and 60 seconds are possible which enable some pretty creative shots.

SUMMARY:

This camera more than fulfills its role as a bridge camera and I am extremely pleased with both the quality of photos as well as the video quality. It is very light, very transportable and is an excellent allround camera which satisfies the point and shoot crowd as well as the more photo savvy crowd as well. The very small negatives to the camera have very doable and acceptable workarounds or fixes and as such, this camera gets a full five stars for doing exactly what it states and doing it very well. Even hobby SLR enthusiasts will find this camera has enough manual settings and creative setting possibilities to keep you well satisfied and keep your creative juices flowing without having to slap down big bucks for an SLR.

I do recommend at least an 8GB, class 6 or better memory card for this camera. I bought the 16GB verbatim class six card from here at Amazon, and this allows the 30 minute max video (so does my 8GB card though) and 1600+ photos at the highest setting (Raw 12M.)

Enjoy! I will post some photos soon that I have taken with this camera.
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on 14 December 2009
I bought this camera recently as I wanted something with a decent zoom and could take better pictures than my Sony T100, but I didn't want to go for a full SLR, as I'm a real photography novice. This camera is perfect, firstly it is priced really well considering the feature set it has. It is really easy to use, having an intelligent auto setting that detects the surroundings and chooses the right settings. If you want to take a bit more control you can select the setting type (night, portrait, landscape etc) and finally you can also have manual control of all the finer settings if you want, making it a great stepping stone to a full SLR.

The photos I have taken with it on a recent trip to New York are great, just using the auto setup. I intend to start learning more about photography and hopefully work my way onto the manual setup.

It also comes with some really good panorama photo stitching software, which with some carefully taken photos, allows you to stitch them together to make fantastic panoramic shots.
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VINE VOICEon 10 May 2010
I have had this camera for over 6 months when writing this view and overall have been very pleased with the camera. My niggles are that it is larger than I was expecting and certainly not far off the size of many some DSLR's. The video HD mode is superb (with the exception of the auto focus and noisy zoom). My biggest issue is having an adequate backup and storage strategy now that I can easily write 16GB of video in a day. With my previous 3MB camera this was never an issue.

I debated for ages about whether to get a DSLR, and eventually opted for this because of the combination of hd video and the zoom size at the correct price point however the annoying things about my old bridge camera are still present in this one. Shutter lag and poor indoor shots.

The auto face recognition works well with adults but is sporadic with children often picking out the wrong fair headed child. I have switched this off now that the novelty has gone.
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on 5 July 2012
I bought my Panasonic Lumix Z38 from Amazon over two years ago and have taken at least 15,000 pictures all over the world in all sorts of lighting and weather conditions. I can take fairly sharp photographs indoors and even at night without flash and rarely turn it on. It has a large viewing screen and is surprisingly lightweight. This camera has lasted me longer than any other I have bought over the years and I have taken many more pictures with it than any other. I have had it repaired and need to again though but it has been the only camera I've had that I would consider worth repairing. The same fault is developing again which is that the zoom lens is sticking, preventing me from taking the next photograph. A sticky drink was blamed. With this camera I have taken lovely shots of birds and flowers which have not been possible in such detail with previous cameras. Occasionally it is difficult to focus up close so it isn't brilliant for insects or very tiny things. The lithium battery is still good, but I have bought a couple of spare ones so I never get caught short. These are only about £8 on Amazon and last a very long time, usually reliable for at least 500 shots and often a lot more.
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on 22 May 2010
My main camera is a Nikon D200 DSLR, and I bought this as a supplementary less chunky camera.
I was particularly looking for a lightweight "bridge" camera with an EVF (squinting at an LCD in bright sunlight just doesn't work for me).
This FZ38 works brilliantly in the Intelligent Auto mode, but is just as adjustable as my Nikon DSLR - White Balance, ISO settings, metering mode are easy to change (there is an assignable function button). There are the usual aperture/shutter priority, colour depth/intensity etc all very easy to modify without delving through layers of menu. The EVF is excellent.
In all, I feel I've definitely made the right purchase.

Don't expect to slip it easily into a jacket pocket - common to most bridge cameras it's a fairly angular shape, but I have no hesitation in recommending this for ease of use or total user control and quality of photos.Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38EB-K Digital Camera - Black (12.1MP, 18 x Optical Zoom) 2.7 inch LCD
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on 22 April 2010
This Panasonic Lumix is a great compromise between a small compact digital camera and a full blown digital SLR. It has advantages over a DSLR in being small, lightweight and compact with a superb Leica lens that covers a 18x range from full wide-angle to extreme telephoto, equivalent to a zoom from 27mm to nearly 500mm on a 35mm camera. It also has effective shake compensation which has enabled me to take blur-free hand-held photos at full telephoto range. As befits its quality it is made in Japan itself, unlike many current digital cameras, and has the ability to shoot in RAW or RAW and JPEG together, rather than just JPEG, which allows good post image processing. It can also record HD quality videos which saves taking a dedicated camcorder.

Although small, the Lumix is not pocket sized, unlike a compact camera, but as well as a rear LCD screen it has an electronic viewfinder or EVF and a full range of manual and specialised exposure control modes with an iA automatic mode which allows point and shoot photography without any worries. I increasingly find I use my Lumix instead of taking a hefty DSLR along and would recommend a 46mm UV filter to protect the lens and a good case to store the camera, which takes high capacity SD cards of 4Gb or above and can be set to record in 16:9, 4:3 or 3:2 picture formats whichever preference you have. Highly recommended.
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on 31 January 2010
I chose this bridge camera as a compromise between a full SLR and a compact, having used a digital compact camera for a few years, and also a 35mm SLR too.

The excellent zoom range on this camera means that I don't need to consider changing lenses, as the range is sufficiently versatile that it's not necessary.
It's also surprisingly light and easy to use, from "intelligent auto" to manual control over just about everything.

The picture quality is excellent - in one shot I used the zoom on full telephoto to snap a picture of a squirrel in tree branches and was very impressed at the quality of the shot and surprised it wasn't blurred at all due to camera shake.

Battery life seems be be acceptable, though I bought a second battery so I should never be caught out.

I have only found one negative point, and that is when connecting it via USB to my computer the files on the camera are read-only, so I can't manually manage the files from the computer (which is something I could do with my compact camera).
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VINE VOICEon 9 September 2009
Note (19 Aug 2010): The FZ38 (FZ35 outside Europe) is now "last year's model" - you can now get the FZ45 (14.1MP, 24x Optical Zoom, equivalent to 25-600mm) and FZ100 (both of these, flash hot-shoe, different sensor and hinged LCD screen which seems to have higher definition) - at higher prices, of course.

This started as an initial review after one day of ownership, but has been revised since. My previous experience of digital cameras is limited to a Nikon Coolpix compact, now about 7 years old, and this camera is intended to replace the Nikon film SLR and three lenses which I've lugged around on holidays for 10-15 years. So some things that are amazing me will be just what you expect if you're used to similar cameras.

From that standpoint, the first thing to amaze me is the weight. Complete with battery, SDHC card, lens cap, lens hood and shoulder strap, it's 1lb 1oz on the kitchen scales. And there's very little to add in the accessory line - a clear and polarising filter (unlike some 'bridge' cameras, this one has a filter screw thread), spare battery, blower brush and mini-tripod from old stock and a new bag, and we're done. This probably means the full kit weighing less than the SLR with mid-range zoom. It seems that it also weighs less than any other camera of similar type.

One reason for persevering with the SLR was being able to use an 18-35 mm lens for wide-angle shots. As the wide end of this camera is only equivalent to 27mm, I was pleased to see the panorama assist facility, and will be testing out the "stitching" software supplied with it to see whether I can still get a picture of a cathedral from the square in front of it. (An initial experiment suggests that given a level tripod, some good results should be available). At the narrow end, you don't get the same power as the 24x or 26x alternatives, but with my previous range of 18-300mm, I used the 300 end less often than the 18, so probably not a big issue unless you're snapping birds or cricketers. (You can have 32x if you reduce image size to 3Gb (and even sillier numbers if you turn on the digital zoom), but a very quick comparison suggests that unless stuck for memory space you may as well use 18x/12Mb and crop the picture later.)

The next big surprise was the quality of the results from "Intelligent Auto" mode. As soon as the battery was charged, I went outside and snapped away without worrying about where the sun was, or anything else I'd have pondered with the SLR. Results were very good, so you can do some very lazy photography, and if one or all users of the camera have never cared about shutter speeds and exposure compensation, it barely matters - Intelligent Auto and some other top-wheel choices like the scene mode will do most of the work.

The movie-making side isn't of great interest to me, but it's quite easy to make videos that are surprisingly good. There is an issue with concentrated light sources in videos - these can easily produce ugly green or purple vertical lines. But these are visible on the LCD as well as the played back film, so you can at least identify the problem, and discussion elsewhere suggests that other still cameras with movie-making options have similar problems.

Various minor points:

The supplied Photofun Studio 4 software says that it doesn't support 64-bit Windows Vista, but does install and seems to work OK.

You do NOT get a printed copy of the full manual, just a short 'Getting started' guide. The full manual in PDF is supplied on CD and you can find it and read it on the Panasonic website before buying, but I would have liked to have the whole thing - spare time on holidays is an ideal time for reading it. As and when we have a netbook PC for keeping and editing pictures, this issue will disappear!

The lens hood is easy enough to fit but its guide mark is unhelpfully placed on the bottom of the camera and common-sense fitting by eye without inverting the camera works just as well. The lens cap fits on the screw-in ring to which you attach the hood, or a filter-ring. If you put the lens hood in front of a lens-protecting filter you'll get a bit of vignetting at the widest angle. Although I got a UV filter for lens protection, I don't use it much - partly for this reason and partly because if you leave the screw-in ring on, the filter is quite well protected from incidental knocks unless you're waving something pointed around. You've also got the lens cap (the best protection) immediately accessible, not in whatever bag or pocket you put it in 20 minutes ago.

The square "+/-" symbol on the display may cause mild panic if you're used to an old SLR's top-panel display, where the symbol itself indicates under/overexposure. On the FZ38, it doesn't unless there is a number next to it. The display options are worth exploring - the guidelines option is a boon for lining up, and when displaying pictures, you can optionally show a lot of information like shutter speed and aperture. Another user interface issue is that some selections are made without the equivalent of an "OK" button and some with, so at first you may find yourself pressing the "Menu/Set" button too often, despite the camera's efforts to guide you.

One problem with the user interface is more significant - some lists of option choices use graphical symbols whose meaning may not be obvious. In some cases (like the ones shown when you select portrait with the mode wheel) these have explanatory captions (my favourite is "Smooth skin - shoot potrait's skin more smoothly" - misspelled and a bit repetitious, but they tried). In others, there's no help - try Setup - LCD mode, where your choices are "Off", "A*" and "*" with no help about what LCD mode is or what these settings mean. You have to go to the full manual in PDF to find out. Depending on your experience, other symbols may be obvious, and explanation might be irritating, so there's probably scope for some kind of "expert/beginner" setting which determines how much is explained. This is the area that stops me upping the rating to five stars.

The electronic viewfinder works well as an alternative to the screen, once adjusted with the diopter wheel. The display is exactly the same - you can even look at your stored pics with the viewfinder if you really want. Talking of the screen, this is a fixed LCD - some similar cameras from other brands have movable ones.

The battery is good for 470 shots based on the CIPA standard, but the manual warns you that this is based on a particular usage pattern - "e.g. when recording once every 2 minutes, the number [...] decreases to about 117. So a spare battery is probably worth buying. The charger is good for voltages 110-240, so for foreign trips you only need the kind of adaptor that makes the plug fit.

A couple of points if you're also considering this as an alternative to SLR kit:

The range of apertures is much smaller - about f2.8 to f8, rather than say f2 to f22. The depth of field for a particular f-number isn't the same as on a 35mm SLR, so contrary to what the numbers might suggest, what you lose is the ability to easily blur the background in portraits, rather than the ability to keep near and distant objects both in focus.

No hotshoe - you're restricted to the on-board flash, though it seems a perfectly good one.
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on 6 June 2010
I received my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 5 days ago,it's great.I have had a compact digital before but wanted a larger zoom range.I am a amataur photographer with just holiday and odd snaps to my name so didn't want anything complicated,this is great i didn't even need to study the instructions too much (which i hate)as it works like a basic compact when on auto mode but can be more inventive if thats what you want.It's very light and easy to carry.Wont just drop into your pocket like the compact,but you dont need a large handbag for it.
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on 14 December 2009
I upgraded from the Panasonic FZ18 to the FZ38. I am amazed at the picture quality and results I get with this camera. I was always pleased with the FZ18, but when they brought out the upgrade from 8mp to 12mp I decided to change. I'm glad I did. I have only had this camera a short while so have not had chance to use all of the functions yet. However, what I have taken has given fantastic results I would recommend this camera to anyone who wants a good camera without having all the extra accessories and extra weight involved in owning an SLR.
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