For the last four years I've been using a 2.1 mega pixel camera, which has served me well, but I was thinking I might want to make larger prints. I checked my pocketbook and it said, "Under four hundred bucks, pal." So, I began looking over camera reviews for a camera in the 8 mega pixel range with a decent telephoto lens - an ultra zoom. The three sites that I used for camera reviews and recommendations were:
I began my search early last Fall and the camera that seemed to have the highest recommendations over all was the Panasonic FZ18. Some of the features that attracted me were:
8 mega pixel
28mm equivalent wide angle
Accurate pictures at both ends of the zoom under normal conditions
Low purple fringing
Plus the camera was much smaller and lighter weight than the one I'd been using, which would make it great for backpacking.
The the review sites were unanimous in praising the camera for its versatile zoom range, its optical stabilization, and its sharp, accurate pictures. However the camera is not without its weaknesses. The one most commented on was the poor picture quality at anything under ISO 400 - excessive noise and blurring of detail. Secondly, the default noise reduction was set too high resulting is loss of detail. Surprisingly, the FZ18 does not offer high speed USB 2.0 support in data transfers. All in all, I'm happy with the camera.