Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 Review

4.5
July 27, 2009 | Mark Goldstein |

Image Quality


All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 3Mb.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 produced images of very good quality during the review period. The 1/2.33 inch, 12 megapixel sensor used in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 produces noise-free images at ISO 80-200, with limited noise and colour desaturation starting to appear at ISO 400. ISO 800 exhibits quite visible noise, loss of fine detail and colour desaturation, and ISO 1600 is even noisier, although still usable for small prints.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 dealt extremely well with chromatic aberrations, with limited purple fringing effects appearing only in high contrast situations at the telephoto end of the zoom. The pop-up flash worked well indoors, with no red-eye and adequate exposure. The night photograph was excellent, with the maximum shutter speed of 60 seconds allowing you to capture plenty of light.

Anti-shake is a feature that sets this camera apart from its competitors and one that works very well when hand-holding the camera in low-light conditions or when using the telephoto end of the zoom range. Macro performance is amazing, allowing you to focus as close as 1 cm away from the subject (although it's difficult to get the lighting correct at such a close distance). The images were a little soft straight out of the camera at the default sharpening setting and ideally require further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, or you can change the in-camera setting if you don't like the default results.

Noise

There are 6 ISO settings available on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting:

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

Focal Range

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38's 18x zoom lens provides a focal length of 27-486mm in 35mm terms, as demonstrated below.

27mm

486mm

Sharpening

Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default sharpening setting. You can change the in-camera sharpening level if you don't like the default look.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

   

File Quality

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 has 2 different image quality settings available, with Fine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

12M Fine (6.08Mb) (100% Crop) 12M Normal (2.94Mb) (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 handled chromatic aberrations excellently during the review. There's very slight purple fringing between areas of high contrast, but it's only noticeable on really close inspection, as shown in the example below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Macro

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 1cm away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.

Macro Shot

100% Crop

Flash

The flash settings on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 are Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Forced On, Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction, and Forced Off. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (27mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (27mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Flash Off - Telephoto (486mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (486mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are a couple of portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Forced On setting or the Auto/Red-eye Reduction option caused any amount of red-eye.

Forced On

Forced On (100% Crop)
   

Auto/Red-eye Reduction

Auto/Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)

Night

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38's maximum shutter speed is 60 seconds in Manual shooting mode and the Starry Sky Mode scene mode, which is great news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 8 seconds at ISO 80. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Anti Shake

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 has an anti-shake mechanism, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, I took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with anti shake turned off, the second with it turned on. Here are some 100% crops of the images to show the results. As you can see, with anti shake turned on, the images are much sharper than with anti shake turned off. This feature really does seem to make a difference and could mean capturing a successful, sharp shot or missing the opportunity altogether.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Anti Shake Off (100% Crop)

Anti Shake On (100% Crop)

1/13th / 27mm
1/15th / 486mm

High Dynamic Range

The High Dynamic Range mode helps to capture a scene with moderate exposure even if it contains both bright and dark area together. Three options are available, Standard, Art, or B/W, each creating a different effect, which you can see below.

Off

Standard

   

Art

B&W

Entry Tags

hd video, review, 720p, 12 megapixel, movie, super-zoom, 2.7 inch LCD, Panasonic, Lumix, 18x, fz38, DMC-FZ38, dmc fz38

Tracker Pixel for Entry