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Successor to the very popular FZ28, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 (FZ35 in the US ) brings even more to the table, including an increased resolution of 12.1 Megapixels, direct access to HD video and is very competitively priced. Making this in my opinion one of, if not the best digital superzoom cameras on the market.

Main Features

The Panasonic DMC-FZ38 digital camera packs a bunch of features into a compact body, that includes the superb Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens with a very powerful 18x zoom (35mm film camera equivalent: 27-486mm) and AVCHD Elite high-definition movie recording capability.

18x Zoom (486mm)

Obviously the main reason to get a superzoom camera is for it,s Zoom and the FZ38 has one of the best available. The super-powerful 18x zoom, equivalent to 486mm on a 35mm camera is great for getting closer to far away action as well as taking dramatic close-up shots. What is more, you can get even closer to the action, by using a 1.7x or 2.2x teleconverter lens (see below)

Panasonic FZ18 and the Raynox DCR-2025PRO Telephoto Conversion LensTele Conversion Lens

If you do want to get even closer to the action and to be honest who doesn't? I highly recommend that you get 1.7x Tele Conversion Lens that easily attaches to the FZ38 that can increase your zooming ability to the equivalent of 826mm on a 35mm camera. For more, read my article on Telephoto Conversion Lenses for the Panasonic DMC-FZ38, DMC-FZ28 & DMC-FZ18 Digital Cameras.

2.2x Teleconverter Lens

For an ever larger focal length, read my review of the Raynox DCR-2025PRO 2.2x Super Telephoto Conversion Lens, which can also be attached to the FZ38.

You can also increase the optical magnification on the camera to 35.2x, but this Extra Optical Zoom function is only available with 3 megapixel recording, so I would suggest it only be used for identification purposes as the quality of the image will be highly compromised.


The beauty of a superzoom is the vesitality, one moment you can be taking close up photos of the herd of Zebra in the distance and then without having to change lenses, using the 27mm wide-angle feature, take photos of the broad view of the surrounding landscape.

Ultra High-Speed Auto Focus (AF)

For me one of the best features of the FZ38 camera was the very quick start-up time (just over a second) and super fast auto focus. There is a noticeable improvement between this and my older DMC-FZ28, meaning that you have a much greater chance of capturing that once in a lifetime photo that you may have previously missed.

According to Panasonic their high speed AF is industry-leading and is twice as fast as that on the DMC-FZ28.

What is more, the new auto focus system helps keep focus on the subject while the camera is in recording mode even before pressing the shutter button halfway. This improves the chances of getting the shot because the focus is always near the subject and AF time is therefore minimized.

Cost & Where to Buy

One of the main advantages of a SuperZoom camera versus a digital SLR is the much lower cost and with the Panasonic FZ38 camera you get plenty of camera for your buck:

UK Shoppers UK Shoppers
Buy this camera in the UK:

US Shoppers US Shoppers
Buy this camera in the USA:


Panasonic FZ38 vs FZ28

At first glance the Panasonic FZ38 camera looks almost identical to the older version and their main stats are fairly similar. But the main differences are important ones, much higher resolution image capture as well as the FZ38 now also has an upgraded Optical Image Stabiliser (O.I.S ), that Panasonic now calls their "Power O.I.S". On top of this the ultra high-speed AF is twice as fast as that on the DMC-FZ28 and it has a quicker start up time.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 Panasonic Lumix FZ28 SuperZoom Camera
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28

Zoom tele (T): 486mm (18x)
Aperture range: F2.8 - F4.4
Continuous Drive: 2.3 fps 5 images
ISO rating:
Auto, Hi Auto (1600-6400), 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600

486mm (18x)
F2.8 - F4.4
2.5 fps for 5 images

Auto, Hi Auto (1600-6400), 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600

Max Res: 4000 x 3000
Effective pixels: 12.1 million
Pixel density: 43 MP/cm²

3648 x 2736
10.1 million
36 MP/cm²

Max Movie: 1280 x 720 @ 30 fps

1280 x 720 @ 30 fps

Dimensions: 118x76x89mm
Weight (+ batteries): 397g (14 oz)

417g (14.7 oz)

In Conclusion

I have already spoken at length what I believe makes the best digital camera to take on safari as well as the pros and cons of a Digital SLR camera vs a Compact Superzoom, so I won't go into it in detail here, but if you do decide on purchasing a superzoom, I highly recommend this latest offering from Panasonic: In my opinion it is currently the best superzoom on the market and is ideal as a travel and safari camera.

Further Reading

For more take a look at this page of reviews on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38 on the TestFreaks website


Canon PowerShot SX20 ISCanon PowerShot SX20 IS

Recently released is the latest superzoom camera from Canon, the PowerShot SX20 IS with a massive 20x zoom and loads of other features including full 720p HD video recording that make this camera a serious contender as the ultimate compact safari camera.

>> Canon PowerShot SX20 IS Digital Camera

Related Articles

Below are some more articles that you may also find useful:

The Best Digital Superzoom cameras for SafarisThe Best Compact Superzoom Cameras for Safari

If you do decide that a superzoom compact camera, rather than a digital SLR, here is our guide to the best compact super zoom safari cameras. Includes features to look out for and review of the top two cameras with a side by side comparison.

>> Best Safari Camera (compact superzooms)

Telephoto Conversion LensesTelephoto Conversion Lenses

Turn your Turn your SuperZoom Camera into a MegaZoom Camera, a guide to Telephoto Conversion Lenses for the Panasonic DMC-FZ100, DMC-FZ38 (FZ35), DMC-FZ28 & DMC-FZ18 Digital Cameras. Including what telephoto lenses fit the Panasonic cameras, which ones to get and example photographs

>> Telephoto Conversion Lenses for the Panasonic DMC-FZ

Visit The Africa Guide for desert, dune, wildlife, people and culture photography


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This page is part of a series of posts on what to take on safari, for further reading try:

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Telephoto Conversion Lenses Telephoto Lenses for Panasonic Digital Cameras

Guide to Telephoto Conversion Lenses like the 2.2x Raynox DCR-2025PRO for superzoom bridge cameras like the Fujifilm FinePix HS20EXR and the Panasonic DMC-FZ100, FZ45 (FZ40), & FZ38 Digital Cameras. Learn how a telephoto lense can turn your SuperZoom camera into a MegaZoom camera, bringing the action ever closer to you. >> more

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The very powerful Fujifilm FinePix HS50EXR with it's 42x optical zoom (1000mm equivalent), very high quality 16 MP image resolution, super fast auto focus and movie recording in full 1080p HD at 60fps. This camera has to be one of the very best safari holiday cameras on the market.

For more information read the full review of the Fujifilm FinePix HS50EXR Bridge Camera >>

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