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Panasonic also offers Image Stabilization with their optical image stabilizer. Most companies offer image stabilization, but some do it without a physical mechanism - they up the ISO to get a faster shutter speed, thus adding more noise & artifacts, results in less details and overall poorer image quality. With the Panasonic models, ISO stays low and you maintain all your details for greater over all image quality.
One of the best bang for the buck P&S style cameras currently (Dec, 2008) is the Panasonic DMC-FZ28. It can be had for ~$250 US. This sounds cheap, but the camera is far from it! It offers image stabilization (IS), great software (including Industry leading RAW conversion software SilkyPix), full auto controls for the beginner, full manual controls (including manual focus) for the advanced/professional user, incredibly accurate white balance, and the ability to shoot in RAW format. The FZ28 also offers super fast start up and shutdown times and very fast (dSLR like) shot-to-shot times. It can also shoot a burst speed of 3fps or 2fps until the card is full. In addition to all of this, you also get an amazing video mode with user-selectable true wide screen mode.
Some important things to clarify: Panasonics typically get a bad rap for noise, which can be true if you use the default settings that the camera has out of the box. However, if you follow this simple guide your image quality will improve greatly and image noise will decrease!
First of all, it is best to set your ISO to 100 and leave it there, unless you absolutely need to go above that. Never go above ISO 400 if you can help it. Make sure your picture size is set to the maximum and that quality is set to the maximum as well.
Next, make sure you turn OFF digital zoom! Digital zoom is bad since it greatly destroys image quality. This goes for any camera; you want only to be using optical zoom.
Next, go to your picture adjustment (PICT.ADJ. on most or maybe Color Mode on some) and set it to Natural instead of the Normal default.
Some, but not all models allow you to control the amount of in-camera noise reduction (NR). You want to turn this to the lowest setting possible. Your images might have a bit more noise as a result, but you will also have far more detail in your images. To remove resulting noise in post-processing, you might want to buy or download the demo of Neat Image. This will remove the noise easily while retaining the greatest amount of details. If you really want to retain the most detail but highly reduce noise, take the time and make a custom noise profile in Neat Image for your camera. You may be amazed with the results!
These simple steps will allow your Panasonic P&S style camera to perform at its best ability! Many of these tips also hold true for other brands of digital cameras.