I have had a Panasonic Lumix camera for a few years now. The reason I chose it was that I wanted a small camera with a big lens – not a big SLR style one. The zoom I wanted was for taking pics of my son at sports etc. , where normal 3x zoom compacts just wouldn’t do.
Size has to do with it as well and the Panasonic had the smallest 12x zoom camera around. Not talking dirty here but size is important , too big and I know the camera will sit at home and be forgotten. It’s a fine line between performance and size and at the time the FZ-3 was perfect.
Panasonic upped the models with mainly megapixel increases, keeping the great lens (f2.8 for the full 35to420mm zoom) until this new model , the FZ-18 … it has an 18x zoom! Not only has the zoom length gone greater (504mm) it now is wider as well, 28mm. Excellent. The Fstop has increased, naturally, with this long lens – f2.8-4.1, still very, very good.
The size is bigger and, to be honest, for my use it is just a little too big now. The TZ-3 would get more use in our family as it still has a pretty good 10x lens but is in a tiny body that we would carry around. Remember it doesn’t matter how good the camera is if you leave it at home, and that is what I think would happen with the FZ-18.