Build complex toys and simple tools
by Tony Karp
Some musings about the Panasonic DMC-FZ28
 - Self portrait in a baby's eye - Panasonic DMC-FZ28 - 100% crop - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
Self portrait in a baby's eye - Panasonic DMC-FZ28 - 100% crop
Why I bought the DMC-FZ28   As an artist, I tend to get bored doing the same thing for any length of time. That's probably why my pictures have so many different styles. Boredom. One way to alleviate the problem is with something new. A new piece of equipment, a new place to take pictures, or something to change my bored attitude. This is what Picasso did, and I have the feeling that he got bored doing the same thing. When Picasso faced boredom, one of his cures was to get a new woman to serve as his inspiration. I can't afford a new woman so I got a new camera. (And besides, The Artist's Muse still inspires me after more than forty years.) Take that, Picasso

So The Artist's Muse will be inheriting my DMC-FZ18 and my little granddaughter, just turned five will inherit my DMC-FZ5. Being Panasonic means never having to say you're Sony.
A correction about the FZ28 in my earlier posts   In several posts, I mentioned that the AUTO POWER LCD MODE was a new feature of the FZ28. it isn't. The FZ18 had it as well, hidden under the DISPLAY button on the back of the camera, The new location, along with the other LCD modes, makes it easier to access.
About the FZ28's smaller viewfinder   Below are the descriptions of the viewfinders in the FZ18 and the FZ28, taken from the Panasonic web site. (These items are copyright by Panasonic Corp.)
 - From the Panasonic web site - A description of the Viewfinder in the DMC-FZ18 - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
From the Panasonic web site - A description of the Viewfinder in the DMC-FZ18
 - From the Panasonic web site - A description of the Viewfinder in the DMC-FZ28 - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
From the Panasonic web site - A description of the Viewfinder in the DMC-FZ28
While the FZ18's viewfinder is 0.44", the FZ28's is only 0.2". Quite a bit smaller. In addition, they've managed to jam a few more pixels into this smaller, more crowded space. The result is a viewfinder that's still usable, but not quite as good as the earlier one.

According to Panasonic, the newer viewfinder now requires a magnifier of almost 20 power. A higher power magnifier like this is harder to design and build and the end result is a lot more finicky. You have to hold your eye right up to the finder, and exactly square with the camera. A little off-center, and the image in the finder looks worse. The diopter adjustment is also more critical as the higher power magnifier has less depth of field.

One other weirdness is the shape of the exit pupil on the different cameras (see the pictures above). On the FZ18, it's rectangular, the same shape as the image in the finder. On the FZ28 the exit pupil is square. I think that this is to force you to look squarely into the FZ28's finder. On the FZ18, the alignment between your eye and the finder was not as critical. (Another bit of strangeness is the claim that "Using the viewfinder also consumes no battery power.")

The real question is why, in this day of bigger and better camera features, did Panasonic choose to shrink the viewfinder? It can't be to make it better, as even a cursory inspection will show that it isn't. Perhaps they had to make room for something else in the camera, but it doesn't seem like this would free up much space.

I suspect that it's about money. Panasonic seems to have set an inelastic price point of $399.99 for this series of cameras. The camera has a larger sensor and a larger LCD monitor, so something had to go. What happened to the viewfinder is what happened to your favorite candy bar when the maker had to hold the price steady in the face of rising costs. They shrunk it.

About the DMC-FZ28's controls   These are pretty much the same as on the FZ18, with only one major change. The Record/Playback function has been moved from the camera's Mode dial to a slide switch on the back of the camera that rests right by your thumb when you're holding the camera.

This turned out to be a lot more useful than I thought it would be. Just move your thumb to switch between record and playback instead of flipping the camera over and fiddling with the Mode dial. I ended up using this more than the Review function that's under the Fn button.

Since the LCD MODE function has been moved to the joystick menu, the DISPLAY button no longer brings up this function.

The Mode dial now has C1 and C2 to replace CUSTOM, which allows for more custom sets of your favorite settings.

The button labeled REV (Review) on the FZ18 is now labeled Fn. The FZ28's Setup menu lets you assign one of several menus to this button. If you don't assign a new function, the default is Review, just like on the old model. The menus that can be assigned to the Fn button are already accessible through the Joystick menu, so I'm not sure how useful this feature will be.

The Joystick now has a label. It's Q.MENU. Seems fitting.

The real upheaval in the FZ28's interface is in the menu system. Things have been relocated. Things have been changed. Things have been added. Things have been removed. Lots of changes, and new functionality. I'll be looking at this in a future article.

So, after a week, how do I feel about my new FZ28? If it had been a simple, incremental upgrade of FZ18, I would probably still be bored. But the many changes have opened new doors and forced me to use the camera in new ways. I already have a stack of "keepers."

And that's what this exercise is really about.

Making pictures.
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