Massive zoom range
Sensor and files
The FZ30 employs an eight megapixel CCD sensor measuring 1/1.8in and delivering 4:3 aspect ratio images with a maximum of 3264x2448 pixels. A total of ten different resolutions are offered: five in the 4:3 aspect ratio, three in a wider 3:2 aspect ratio and two at 16:9. Images can be recorded in RAW, TIFF or JPEG formats, and there's two compression levels for the latter; best quality JPEGs measure around 3.5MB each.
The FZ30 is equipped with an SD memory slot and our UK package was supplied with a 32MB card, although the particular bundle may vary depending on your region and the supplier's offer.
The FZ30 can shoot VGA 640 x 480 pixel video with mono sound at 10 or 30 fps, or QVGA 320 x 240 pixel video, again at 10 or 30fps. All modes allow the use of zoom during recording. The 30fps VGA mode was very smooth and detailed, consuming just over 1MB per second of recording.
The FZ30 starts up and is ready for action in about three quarters of a second, and while this is fractionally slower than most digital SLRs, it's certainly nothing to be overly concerned about for general use. There's a brief pause of about two seconds when you switch into Play mode before the first image appears, but subsequent images can be accessed and viewed after around one second. Nine image thumbnails are also available in around two seconds, while the 12 thumbnail option takes around three.
There are three continuous shooting modes, with a highest quoted speed of 3fps. We tested the FZ30 using a SanDisk Ultra II 1GB SD card at a shutter speed of 1/250 and found the FZ30 in its fastest mode could take up to five best quality JPEGs in 2.3 seconds, delivering an actual fps closer to 2.2fps. After taking five pictures, the camera pauses for a couple of seconds. You then have to let go of the shutter before pressing it again to take another burst, although unless you're manually focussing, the camera will pause briefly to refocus at this time.
If you'd like more than five images in a sequence, you can switch to a different continuous mode which keeps shooting while you've got memory remaining - albeit at a slower rate. In this mode we shot 21 best quality JPEGs in ten seconds, delivering a rate of around 2fps.