Composition and screen
Like other all-in-one cameras with long zooms, the FZ30 offers the choice of composition using either a colour LCD screen or electronic viewfinder (EVF). The EVF is larger and more detailed than its predecessor and many rivals, measuring 0.44in and sporting 235,000 pixels. The main 2in display is also very detailed for its size, boasting 230,000 pixels.
The EVF is automatically activated if the display is flipped into the body, face-inwards for protection. With the display facing outwards though, you can manually switch between it and the EVF using a button.
The main display itself is a flip-out and twist design, with the hinge at the bottom of the camera. While this allows a more sensible waist-level shooting configuration without the screen poking out to one side, it does mean the screen can in some instances fold out below the body. It's still preferred to the limited tilting (and smaller) screen of Fujifilm's S9500 / S9000 though.
In use the FZ30's screen is bright and detailed, and pressing the display button cycles between five options: no information, shooting information, shooting information with live histogram, a slightly reduced view with information in the right and bottom edge, and a three by three grid pattern to aid composition.
The FZ30 is equipped with a long 12x optical zoom with an equivalent range of 35-420mm and an optically fast focal ratio of f2.8~3.7; the actual focal length is 7.4-88.8mm. Following a welcome trend in high-end all-in-ones, the zoom is operated by a tactile mechanically-linked ring, although unlike most of its rivals, the lens barrel doesn't physically extend. The FZ30 may be set to wide-angle, but the barrel does not extend when zoomed-in. A lens hood is supplied and the front lens element doesn't rotate during focussing, allowing the easy use of polarising filters.
The FZ30's 12x optical range is truly impressive in practice, with the telephoto end really pulling in distant detail, or throwing backgrounds out of focus on portraits. The wide-angle end is usable at 35mm, although many may prefer sacrificing the extreme long end for something wider, such as the 28mm option on the Fujifilm S9500/S9000 or the impressive 24mm of Sony's R1.