As I wrote a few posts ago, I bought myself a new camera. I toyed with the idea of a full Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera, but they’re pricey and I felt I’d be better served starting with a lower priced model so I can learn more about digital photography before jumping into the high end of the field. So after some research, I settled on the 8MP Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18. This is a single lens reflex camera and it is digital, so it qualifies as a DSLR, but it’s still restricted to the single, permanently mounted lens (although you can add adapters and multipliers). The lens has an amazing range of 28-504mm, although at the extreme zoom end, the pics are not as sharp as higher end DSLR/lens combos produce. That’s fine. I can live with that. It also has a bit of an issue with digital noise at ISO levels above 200, but again, I can work around that. I knew all this before purchasing it. But I figure it’s only fair that I won’t get $2000-quality images from a $300 camera.

So here are a few pics, resized for this blog. Click on the images for a larger view. I’ll point out some of the pros and cons with each image. All these shots, btw, are taken on the iA (Intelligent Auto) mode. In other words, the camera did all the work. All I did was point and shoot. These are also processed as JPGs by the camera. The camera gives you the option of storing pictures as RAW files and processing them yourself. I will definitely get into that down the road once I’m comfortable with the camera. 

Here are a few pics of some birds feeding in my back yard. Note the very fine detail visible on the back of this female cardinal. This shot was nearly at full zoom with extreme cropping to frame the bird. It was also shot through a window with some glare and dirt on the outside of the glass.

Female Cardinal

Now here’s a shot of a woodpecker taken at about the same time. Note how it’s slightly less sharp. There were some differences in my shooting location. This shot was taken from a little further away and from a different window, and this particular window has some ivy hanging in front of it, all of which combined to mess with the auto-focus.


Here’s another cardinal sitting on a branch straight out from the window. Note how the auto-focus really focused on the tree trunk and not the bird.


Now here are some doves sitting along one branch. I could not get the camera to focus on the doves. Maybe it was because they were the same color as the surrounding trees, I don’t know. Note that the branches to the left and past the doves are in focus.


Now for some positives. Here are a few pics of the garden under my window. I love the color balance of this camera. This is very, very accurate to what I saw. My previous camera had a problem rendering greens properly. Not so with this Lumix. The focus here is also pretty sharp, but that is due to the generally flat field (nothing in the foreground or background to confuse things).

Snow and Ivy Snow and Ivy

Finally, here’s a picture of my impossibly cute cat, Callie, sitting on top of my wife’s dresser amongst some stuffed animals. This was shot in fairly low light, so the ISO was above 200. Note the noise in the background, especially on the wall behind her. Again, the trade-off is that this camera is very quick to fire up and get the shot and it captures images like this which would be seriously underexposed by a typical point-and-shoot camera.

Which one is real?

I’ll keep posting images as I learn. Hopefully they’ll get better and better and one day I’ll look back at this post and laugh at the rookie quality of these images. We’re heading off to Florida tomorrow, so I’ll have some sunny images to post soon. We’ll be staying in St. Augustine for a few days. St. Augustine is known for its winter lights festival, so I’ll get to try some night shots.

Update: Here are the pics from Florida. The night shots came out pretty well.