Panasonic has released the Lumix DMC FS18 as a continuation of the successful Lumix DMC FS range of ultra compact cameras.
The Lumix FS18 is equipped with a Leica DC Vario-Elmar Aspherical 4x optical zoom lens, which covers a useful range of 28mm-112mm, and when combined with the Optical Image Stabilisation gives excellent shake free images.
To maximize image quality, the camera it is equipped with what Panasonic terms Intelligent Resolution Technology. This detects outlines, fine detail and soft gradation and applies different signal processing (sharpening etc) on a pixel by pixel basis.
Panasonic has incorporated 5 shooting modes into the Lumix DMC FS 18, from Intelligent Auto through to HD movie.
Intelligent Auto (iA) is a mode in which the camera attempts to recognise the scene and choose from six pre-loaded scene modes (Portrait, Scenery, Macro, Night Portrait, Night Scenery & Sunset) to apply the appropriate white balance, exposure and sharpening settings.
Intelligent Auto (iA) comes with the option to adjust the colours between Standard, Black & White, Sepia, or if you prefer your images with increased saturation and contrast you can choose Happy. Happy mode can make the greens seem a little over powering in some situations.
Intelligent Auto mode is designed to make photography easy and the scene analysis is quick and accurate, so I expect that most users will choose this mode, as the results are excellent.
Normal mode gives more user choice, with options for Image Stabilisation to be turned on or off, multiple frame burst, the camera to choose from eleven focus-points, manual white balance, ISO choice, image ratio (3:2, 4:3 & 16:9) and file size. There is also a screen option in Normal called High-Angle; when the 2.7" 230k dot screen is viewed normally at this setting it appears bright and low contrast, but when held high in the air; at a concert for example, the on-screen image appears normal and is easy to view. It is a clever idea and works very well.
Next on the menu is a mode called 'Food', an intriguing choice that even offers focus tracking in capabilities.
The last of the still shooting options is Scene containing of 28 scenes to choose from, including useful effects such as Pin-Hole, Film Grain and Panorama assist. The fifth and final shooting choice is Movie, in which the Lumix DMC FS18 can shoot in High Definition (1280x720 pixel) video.
Whether shooting still or movies the 2.7in 230K dot screen gives a clear and accurate live view.
As you would expect for a camera in this class, the Lumix DMC FS18 metering is taken care of by a standard evaluative meter, so user input is minimal. Exposure compensation is available in Normal, Food, Scene and Motion Picture mode to +/- 2EV.
The Lumix DMC FS18 offers up to four focus modes. Firstly there is single point, with the brackets in the centre of the screen; off centre focusing is achieved by half-pressing the shutter button, which locks the exposure and focus, before recomposing, and fully depressing the button takes the shot. The shutter, in all situations, is quick to respond and shutter lag is negligible.
Secondly the 11-point AF facility allows the camera to choose between 11 focus points as the focus point.
Portraits are simplified with Face detection, that finds and focuses on faces. Finally, the Lumix DMC FS18 has focus tracking, which made good attempts to track the subjects, but overall was not as successful as I would have liked, and occasionally I missed a shot.
Panasonic have included the ability for in camera tagging of videos for YouTube and photos for Facebook for a simple upload to these sites, using the included software but it only runs on Windows.