Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Panasonic Lumix® DMC-FZ35 12.1-Megapixel Digital Camera with 18x Zoom and HD Video

Panasonic Lumix® DMC-FZ35 Digital Camera Reviewed by Dmiko on .

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35 Digital Camera camera belongs to a category, loosely defined as mega-zoom cameras. This description refers to cameras that have 10x optical zoom or over. Before digital mega-zoom cameras were available, you would have to buy and, not less important, carry around a bunch of lenses and a camera body to be able to get to 10x magnification. Now you can get a digital camera with 10x optical zoom and over for less than $500 and frequently even for less than $300 and put it in a compact bag. 

Why is having 10x or more optical zoom fun? You can zoom in to magnify far-away objects while staying far from them. Alas, not all mega-zoom cameras are created equal. Some cameras have no image stabilization at all, resulting in blurry images at high magnification levels and/or in dim light. Some cameras rely on increased sensitivity setting (ISO) to increase the shutter speed thereby reducing blur caused by the shake when the camera is handheld, but sometimes at an expense of increased noise or detail.

At the top of the mega-zoom hierarchy are cameras with optically-stabilized zooms. These cameras move an optical element within the lens (some shift the CCD sensor itself) to reduce or eliminate blur caused by shooting handheld. The Panasonic FZ35K is on of these cameras and a successor to the Panasonic FZ28.

I have used many mega-zoom cameras, including the 18x-zoom Panasonic FZ28, the Canon SX30IS , the Fuji S6000fd, Fuji S700 and virtually all Canon SX20 and Panasonic FZ28 predecessors.

Although all mega-zoom cameras are fun, the most fun to use cameras for me are the ones with over 15x optical zoom, optical image stabilization and 28mm wide angle. I wanted to try the new Panasonic DMC-FZ35K in part because of its 18x optical zoom, image stabilization and 27mm wide angle (35mm-equivalent). 

Having used and tested Panasonic cameras for quite some time (beginning with their original mega-zoom camera the FZ1 with 12x optical zoom, image stabilization and 2-megapixel resolution), I have come to expect excellent performance and good prices from them. The new Panasonic DMC-FZ35K features 18x optical zoom (with optical image stabilization Panasonic is known for), 12.1-megapixel resolution, HD video recording, HDMI and a very reasonable street price. 

What is Panasonic FZ35 

The Panasonic DMC-FZ35K is a digital 12.1-megapixel camera with 18x optical zoom, including wide angle of 27mm (27-486mm), 2.7-inch LCD and a custom Li-Ion battery. The camera stores photos and videos on the SD (or SDHC) memory cards and weighs only 0.81 lb (0.91 lb with battery and a memory card).

The Leica-branded lens features maximum apertures of f/2.8 at wide angle and f/4.8 at full telephoto (the minimum aperture is f/8 throughout the zoom range). The camera also features face detection. The camera is available in black color with the last letter of the model number FZ35K being an indication of black color.

In addition to photos, the camera can record HD video at up to 1280x720 resolution in AVCHD Lite format (MPEG4). The camera also has an HDMI output.

Mega-Zoom and Optical Image Stabilization 

Having a camera with an optical zoom over 5x lets you magnify images far away without loss of sharpness. But not all mega-zoom cameras are created equal. Some of them have no optical image stabilization, which makes images shot at high magnification or in dim light blurry. 

Optical image stabilization lets you have substantially sharper images in low light or at high zoom levels. It lets you shoot handheld in many situations that would otherwise require a tripod. I would never buy a camera with high optical zoom unless it has optical image stabilization (see exception below). All mega-zoom cameras of Panasonic FZ line have optical image stabilization (including this FZ35K). 

One exception to this rule is the S-series of Fuji cameras, some of which are equipped with Super-CCD sensors that have very low noise at high ISO settings. This lets you increase ISO and thereby shoot at faster shutter speeds decreasing blur. 


The black SLR-like (at least in appearance) FZ35 is easy to use with intuitive menus and controls, just as the previous cameras of the FZ line. The min SLR-like shape and optical image stabilization make it easy to shoot in dim light and/or at high magnification levels. The former because it is convenient to hold, the latter because it can compensate for the unavoidable shake introduced when shooting handlheld.

I found the FZ35 very similar in shape, controls and use to the previous Panasonic FZ cameras, especially with its predecessor, the FZ28. The camera is so easy to use that I have not read the manual but was able to figure out to use virtually all of its features in no time.

The camera's range of zoom is amazing. The wide angle of the lens is 27 mm, which is as wide as it gets with digital mega-zoom cameras. The full telephoto of 486 mm magnifies far-away objects extremely well. The whole range of the zoom can be very useful when traveling or at sporting events. The wide range of the zoom is especially useful indoors or for shooting architectural marvels without having to move too far away from them.

The mega-zoom cameras are fun to use and this one is no exception. In addition to full manual modes, which let you use the camera without having to think about such things as aperture of shutter speed, there are modes where you can enable manual control of aperture and shutter speed. 

Preset scene modes provide a good middle ground and the face recognition works really well and lets camera figure out where to focus, which is especially important at telephoto. 

The camera has features that enthusiasts will find appealing such as Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual mode. The aperture range is up to f/8 and the shutter speed is up to 60 seconds. The camera's electronic viewfinder has very good resolution (201,600 pixels) and lets you use the camera in bright light. The zooming is smooth and uses two speeds, depending on how hard you push on the zoom lever. The 2.7-inch LCD screen with 230,000-pixel resolution is large and bright.

The camera is powered by a proprietary Li-Ion battery, which looks similar to an SLR battery and provides enough power to last through over 470 shots. 

The excellent Panasonic image stabilization really works and lets you obtain sharp pictures with no motion blur in low light and/or telephoto. I was able to get sharp results at up to 2-3 stops slower than normal rule of 1/35-mm equivalent zoom.

The camera comes with 40 MB of built-in memory, but I used my 2-GB SD card with it since I shot a lot and the ease of transfer is important to me (using a card reader). The camera can also use high-capacity SD cards (SDHD - Secure Digital High Capacity). Also included are the USB cable, the A/V cable, CD-ROM with software (I haven't installed it and probably never will), the battery pack and charger, lens hood, lens hood adaptor, lens cap with a strap and a shoulder strap. 

As I mentioned above, the FZ35 comes with a lens hood and a hood adaptor. The lens hood is very useful to avoid flare, which has a potential to reveal itself if shooting on a sunny day with the sun ahead. The hood is not very easy to attach, but it works well. 


The FZ35 has a 2.7-inch LCD with 230,000 pixels that covers 100% of the view. You can also use the electronic viewfinder (EVF) with a diopter adjustment. The LCD screen is fluid, has pleasing colors and good resolution. The LCD is well-visible in regular conditions, but in sunlight, visibility decreases and you have to use the EVF, which works well in sunlight. 

The optical viewfinder would be better, but it would not have been possible to make an optical viewfinder that would fit in such a small space and work with such a monster 18x optical zoom. 

At any time you can see the estimated remaining amount of pictures that will fit on the memory card as well as the battery status. The icons are descriptive and the information is displayed in easy to understand format. It is worth repeating that Panasonic cameras have very easy-to-use menu systems.


The camera takes a couple of seconds to extend its lens when powered on, but is fast otherwise. There are no delays between shots, unless the flash needs to be recharged. Even in that case, the delays are shorter than from AA-powered cameras. 

The burst mode is very fast and the bracketing mode burst is fast as well. The flash is powerful at wide angle. And the focusing is fast, even in dim light, seemingly the fastest I have experienced (well under a second, almost instantaneously). 

The AF illuminator helps with faster focusing in dim light, but even if it cannot reach its target, the camera still focuses fairly fast. 

The camera has focus confirmation - it shows you a small or larger rectangle around the area where the camera is currently focused. The shutter lag when pre-focused is virtually absent and the picture is taken almost instantaneously. You can select to have the taken picture appear on the screen for 1 or couple of seconds after it's taken to confirm if it is good or you can select not to have this, so-called, quick preview at all. In the latter case, the LCD goes blank only momentarily. 

Overall, depending on the focus mode, the shot-to-shot delay ranges between less than a second (High-Speed Autofocus) to a little more than a second. Since RAW images are much large than JPEGs, the delay is longer, depending on the SD card speed. Obviously, the times above are with no flash use. 

Shooting with flash is slower since the flash needs time to recharge. Depending on battery condition and the subject distance, you can expect the flash recharge time of 2-5 seconds, which is still very good and much better than that of AA-powered cameras.

Again, I cannot emphasize the importance of the wide angle capability of this camera. It makes the camera more useful than other cameras that do not go as wide, especially indoors and while taking pictures on narrow streets.

Image Quality 

The camera features excellent, sharp optics. When shooting JPEG, there is little chromatic aberration (purple fringing) at full wide angle and slightly more at telephoto. But when shooting RAW images, there is more purple fringing visible. Since I (and vast majority of people) usually don't shoot RAW, this is a non-issue.

The corners are a little soft at full telephoto and slightly less so at fill wide angle. But the sharpness is excellent overall with sharp images throughout the zoom range. The barrel and pincussion distortion are small. Overall, the lens is excellent. 

Unfortunately, Panasonic cameras still do not feature the best CCD sensors and it shows. The sensitivity range is ISO 80-6,400. There is a little chroma noise even to lowest sensitivity (ISO) settings and it grows at higher ISO. The image processing tames noise but makes fine detail softer. If this issue was solved, this camera would be pretty much perfect (well, maybe the flash should be a bit more powerful).

The softness and slight noise are not by any means bad or intrusive. They are not visible in smaller prints prints and you can print up to 13x19 at lower ISO settings, 5x7 or even 8x10 at ISO 800. The higher-ISO photos are adequate at 5x7 or 4x6, aside from ISO 3,200 or 6,400, which are barely usable (perhaps for posting online). Overall, keeping the camera at ISO 400 or below is recommended for prints you want to be noise-free or close.


The flash recharges fast, but features slightly uneven coverage at full telephoto and is, otherwise, not the brightest. Still, it is adequate.

Computer Connectivity 

I was able to connect the camera to my Windows 2000 SP4 Professional computer (yes, I still use Windows 2000 on one of my computers) with no need to install any drivers or software. After that, the camera appeared as a removable drive in my system and I could copy the files from it. The transfer speeds were very high at over 5 MB per second. Still, I prefer to use my memory card reader, which accepts SD cards and is also fast. 


The camera is very cheap at less than $320. With 18x optical zoom, 12.1-Megapixel resolution and even 720p high-definition video recording it is a bargain.

Pros: Excellent performance, price, zoom range, photo quality, ease of use, battery included, fast flash recycle.
Cons: Slightly uneven flash coverage at wide angle, chromatic aberration at telephoto, noise at higher ISO.


The Panasonic DMC-FZ35 is an excellent camera for traveling, sporting events and general photography. With its combination of high resolution, 18x wide optical zoom, optical image stabilization, HD video recording, ease of use and excellent performance, it is a great choice and I highly recommend it, especially at for the price.
Rating: 5 stars out of 5.

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