Several silicon valley billionaire gadget freaks turned me onto a hybrid camera they had discovered: the Lumix. Made by Panasonic (a name not usually associated with cameras) the Lumix seems to have a secret following. The mid-level model has the glass lens of a SLR, but at a smaller scale. Attached to a hand-sized 5-megapixel sensor is a very fast, extremely sharp zoom lens made by legendary optician Leica. The zoom is wonderfully telescopic, ranging 12X, all the way from the 35mm equivalent of 36 to an astounding 432 (!), yet clearly bright at 2.8 f/stop, which is perfect for low light without flash, and -- the key innovation here -- it employs image stabilization. The lens self corrects for vibrations. This means that I can shoot indoors and night with zoom extended (yes!) and get razor sharp shots. During daylight it is startling clear. Turns out that for real world use, sharpness is probably more important than megapixel size.Link
Reader comment: Greg Webster says: "I bought one of these back in May, for a bit more money than this (of course).
"The image stabilization is good, but not good enough to compensate for jitters at 12x. Pretty cool at closer levels though. Where it really excels is at medium range shots and at a wide range of light levels. The defaults in it's 'SCN' (scene) mode are really quite useful...using the 'snow' mode to take photos of high light levels like sunsets on water is wonderful. In a reasonably-lit party room I don't even need the flash, which is good because it's really a little overpowered and can wash out features. It also works great taking really close up photos with minimal zooming (bugs on flowers, etc.).
"All told, we've used it for almost 2000 photos in 7 months. Our previous digicam (Pentax Optio 230) took about 4000 before the shutter button began degrading. Digital cameras are wonderful things!"
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects