At a bit less than 12 ounces with its proprietary lithium-ion battery and an SD card installed, the silver-plastic FZ4 is a middleweight in the OIS megazoom category. And while the camera is comfortable to hold, the scattered control layout takes a little getting used to, as do the dual-function buttons that alternate between features depending on the selected mode. The up arrow, for example, controls exposure and flash compensation except in Simple mode--illustrated by a heart on the mode dial--where it turns the backlight feature on and off. Another awkward moment occurs when you have to press a separate exposure button to change aperture and shutter speed, even in manual exposure mode.
What the FZ4 might lack in fine-tuning adjustments for attributes such as sharpness and contrast, it makes up for with multiple high-speed burst modes and AF options as well as several extras, such as flip animations and color adjustments. Don't expect to get much out of the camera's 320x240 silent movie-capture mode, though.
If you want to be impressed, switch the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ4 to one of its continuous-shooting modes, where we clocked it at five high-resolution images at 2.6 frames per second (fps). At VGA resolution, that number rose to just over 4fps. Shutter lag and shot-to-shot time were quite good as well. Time between shots for TIFF files averaged almost 13 seconds, which is suitable for studio shooting.
Aside from a tendency to clip highlights, the FZ4 rendered color and detail better than most. On the other hand, though our test shots were generally sharp, we found that some of our maximum telephoto shots weren't quite as well stabilized as we would have hoped. Nevertheless, that just makes the point that OIS doesn't always compensate for shaky hands. We occasionally noticed some odd haloing and minor purple fringing, but the FZ4--at least at ISO 64 or ISO 100--exhibited few other aberrations or image noise. Beware of macro shots with flash, however; the lens gets in the way and vignettes the lower portion of the photo.
Though the DMC-FZ4 is a solid camera, we think that its slightly more expensive sibling, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5, is likely a better buy for all but the most cash-strapped shooters.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Shutter lag (typical)||Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
|Typical continuous-shooting speed|