Wow – a photographic bazooka, that's what the FZ18 is. If your consideration when choosing a camera is how far and wide you can take its lens, your train has reached its final destination.
The astounding range of the FZ18's incredible Leica lens is 18x, with an equivalent of 28-504mm on a 35mm film camera. That's summat else, by anyone's standards. But the genius is that it doesn't physically result in a massive, shoulder-mounted cannon, but in a relatively small body with a lens that barely protrudes at either end of the zoom range.
Neither is the speed of the lens compromised, sitting, at its fastest end, at f2.8-4.2 – a wide enough aperture to minimise blur, when combined with the excellent image stabiliser.
Megapixels in moderation
Rather unfashionably, Panasonic has chosen to resist going into double figures with the megapixels, installing a quite sensible 8.1MP sensor. There's nowt wrong with that, and indeed the image quality is excellent, with punchy colours and decent detail – although there's a sense that perhaps the lens is capable of capturing more than the sensor can handle.
In nearly every respect, the FZ18 is a delight to use. Focusing is fast and accurate, there's an enormous amount of creative control at your fingertips, and the grip makes it quite comfortable to hold. Flash and macro performance are also pretty good.
Stonking burst mode
This being such a perfect snapper for sports and wildlife in every other way, it wouldn't be complete without an excellent burst mode for shooting a fast series of photos. And thankfully it fulfils its promise there, too.
The only real disappointment is the large amount of noise at high ISO, but that's a small price to pay for such an amazingly versatile camera.