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August 25, 2009

Panasonic FZ38 (FZ35) now starting to ship (also: SuperZoom recap)

The Panasonic FZ38 (FZ35) is one of those rare cases where a new camera comes out of the announcement gate with not one, but two full reviews published! The reviews came from Trusted Reviews and Photography Blog on announcement day.

Following that, Photo Review has posted their first impressions and a dpreview forum user posted a nice in-forum first-look at the camera.

And fast-forward to today, the camera is now starting to ship, right now from for $400 plus S&H (under $9 for ground shipping).

SuperZoom Wars Heating Up
One of the segments of the fixed lens digital camera market that has continued to thrive are the super-zooms. So much so, that the segment is now loosely broken down into two sub-segments, the compact "fun-zooms" and the bigger superzooms or megazooms. The fun-zooms have the biggest momentum as they continue to get discovered by a wide range of consumers and photographers alike.

The bigger superzooms have the additional challenge of working with an embedded price-ceiling, the fear of DSLR prices and the fear of taking away potential DSLR sales for those manufacturers who have DSLRs.

As a result, we have seen the segment converge to 1/2.3" sensors, and mostly towards the mid-range. RAW continues to be an option with some models, but it is certainly not the norm.

From the previous generation of mid-range-and-beyond superzooms, the Canon SX10 IS and Panasonic FZ28 emerged as popular choices for a number of photographers.

With the new generation of cameras coming out, the new SX20is and FZ38 (FZ35) are hoping to continue their rivalry, but the number of contenders has increased. In the same price-range, we have Sony's Cybershot HX1 with a faster new sensor. Pentax made its superzoom return, and Kodak tried to push the envelope with the Z980.

Above the $400 price-range, there is the now RAW-enabled Canon SX1 is which did not meet the (perhaps unfair) expectations and hype of the first Canon CMOS sensor translating well all the way down to 1/2.3". And there's also the big Fuji S200EXR, with its 1/1.6" SuperCCD-EXR sensor - a characteristic that separates it from the rest.

However, based on what we have seen so far, and considering the current prices, and barring any major problems with the SX20is and FZ38, or any miracles performed by the $600 Fuji S200-EXR, it looks like the mid-range superzoom battle is going to be (once again) fought by the SX10-IS and FZ28 (via their replacements).

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