The 10-megapixel Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28's 18x (27-486mm equivalent) zoom may seen modest compared with some of the other megazooms on the market, such as the 26x zoom Olympus SP-590. But the FZ28 makes up for these possible perceived shortcomings with a solid feature set, including manual exposure controls, Panasonic's excellent MEGA OIS (optical image stabilization), and a relatively effective Intelligent Auto Mode. And if you're enticed by the higher megapixel count of other superzoom models, you don't necessarily have to be. Ten megapixels can be more than enough resolution to turn out some really nice-size prints.
Like its predecessor, the FZ18, the FZ28 has the standard megazoom look and feel of a digital SLR, but without an interchangeable lens. At 14.6 ounces, the FZ28 is about half the weight of the Canon PowerShot SX10 IS and is light enough to carry around all day without any strain or pain. It measures 3 inches high by 4.6 inches wide by 3.5 inches deep, so you won't be able to stash it even in the largest of pockets, but a small camera bag or midsize purse can easily hold the camera.
A new, 2.7-inch LCD, only slightly larger than the FZ18's 2.5-inch monitor but of higher resolution, works well under most lighting conditions and can be adjusted via three brightness options. The first, Auto Power, automatically adjusts to the surrounding lighting conditions; Power LCD increases the brightness; and High Angle really pumps up the brightness so you can easily see the screen even when the camera is held over your head.
The electronic viewfinder is relatively bright and large enough to be useful. It also gains up under low light, but we noticed some distortion around the perimeter of the EVF. Also, as with all EVFs, the refresh rate slows in low light. Still, the EVF is quite usable.
There's no hotshoe, but the onboard flash extends far enough to light a subject almost 18 feet away (using telephoto and auto ISO). A feature I always like is the ability to adjust the flash output, and the FZ28 allows up to +/- 2 adjustment in 1/3 steps.
While snapshooters might experience a learning curve when stepping up to the FZ28 from a point-and-shoot camera (except when they're using the Intelligent Auto, Program AE, or Scene modes), more-experienced users will be able to easily transition to the FZ28. Outfitted with plenty of dedicated controls, buttons and dials are logically arranged along the surface of the well-designed and comfortable grip, and on the camera's rear panel.
Atop the grip you'll find the mode dial, AF macro focus, and AF/MF buttons as well as the power switch and the shutter /zoom lever combo. The silver mode dial looks nice and is packed with options from iA (Intelligent Auto), Program AE, Aperture priority, Shutter speed priority, Manual, two Custom settings, Movie, Scene (which provides access to the Scene menu), and several scene modes including Night Portrait, Sports, Scenery, and Macro. The latter individual scene modes also offer multiple options within the settings. Under Macro, for example, you can choose from Flower, Food, Objects, or Creative.
While the silver mode dial is attractive, it's highly reflective, and under sunlight, the individual icons are difficult to see. Fortunately, the modes are visible on the LCD as you cycle through the options.