....OK, so the FZ30 image is noisier (though in prints it's not enough to\ncause concern), and has marginally less detail and a narrower dynamic\nrange, but perhaps the most surprising thing here is how well the FZ30's\nimage stacks up against a camera with a huge sensor and a razor-sharp\n50mm F1.4 lens. If you compare the FZ30 against a 350D with a cheaper\nzoom lens the sharpness difference is far less stark.\n\n....If you ever wanted a stark example of why people buy a digital SLR\nfor high ISO work these comparisons will do the job. One of the reasons\nimage stabilization is so popular with big zoom cameras is that they\nsimply cannot produce acceptable results at anything over ISO 200,\nwhereas Canon's CMOS sensor is producing results at ISO 1600 - two stops\nmore sensitive - that have almost as little noise as the FZ30's ISO 80\nimages. This somewhat negates the argument that to compare 'like for\nlike' you need to look at very fast image-stabilized lenses when\ncomparing a super zoom camera with a DSLR.\n\nConclusion:\n* Noise is even an issue at ISO 80, a real problem at ISO 400 or in\nvery low light\n* Very occasional exposure problems\n* Max aperture at long end of zoom only F3.7\n* Limited dynamic range, highlight clipping in JPEGs\n* Pointless RAW converter produces worse results than JPEGs\n* Focus at extreme telephoto sometimes hunts, occasionally misses\n* Images can look a little soft viewed at 100%\n\nIn many ways the FZ30 is everything the FZ20 could (and maybe should)\nhave been, and Panasonic must be applauded for implementing a huge raft\nof handling and control improvements, as well as speeding up overall\nperformance. On the other hand you cannot help but wonder how much\nbetter this camera would be with a less noisy chip - the 7MP Sony CCD\nused in models such as the SD500 springs to mind (not that Panasonic\nwould be caught dead using a Sony sensor of course!).\n\nOn the positive side this is as near as you'll get to a digital SLR with\nthe equivalent image-stabilized lenses, without the cost or bulk, though\nalso without the low light capabilities. Handling and control\nparticularly have been improved almost beyond recognition, and for this\nalone the FZ30 can be considered a worthwhile upgrade from its predecessor.\n\nBut if the FZ30 represents a quantum leap in terms of handling and\ncontrol it is little more than a tiny step forward in terms of image\nquality. Yes, there's more detail, but there's also more noise and a\nless effective image stabilization system. If you want a camera that can\nbeat all the 5MP super zooms (including the FZ20), you'll be happy, but\nif you actually need the additional pixels to produce larger prints you\nmay well be disappointed - it simply isn't that much better. The one\nsaving grace is that ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) is - with a little tweaking\n- capable of getting far more out of the FZ30's RAW output than either\nin-camera JPEGs or RAW files converted using the stunningly useless\nutility supplied in the box (we have heard rumors that Panasonic is\nworking on a better RAW converter, let's wait and see).\n\nSo, in the end this is a camera that improves on its predecessor in\nalmost every aspect, and one that makes most of the current crop of 5MP\nsuper zooms look like toys in comparison, but it's also one that is\nfrustratingly disappointing for anyone looking for a significant\nimprovement in image quality over the (admittedly class-leading) FZ20.\nBuy one for it's handling, control, features and sheer class, but don't\nbuy one if you want much better image quality than an FZ20 in anything\nbut very good light, as you simply won't get it. A stunning camera, but\nnot a perfect one.