Panasonic FZ18

Intelligent Auto Mode (iA)

Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto mode works surprisingly well and will be especially appreciated by those who prefer to leave decisions up to the camera.

Advanced digital cameras can intimidate point-and-shooters. If you don’t think so, hand one to a friend or family member and ask him or her to take your picture. Even providing on-the-spot instruction doesn’t guarantee you’ll end up with a decent picture of yours truly.

I rarely use modes that completely leave all settings up to the camera and don’t even read about them in manuals. But the term Panasonic uses for one of their auto modes, Intelligent Auto, intrigued me.

Out came the manual.

Intelligent Auto mode is indeed intelligent

Intelligent Auto (iA) is said to select the most appropriate settings to match recording conditions. These following functions work automatically when the Mode dial is switched to iA (manual page 28):

  • Image Stabilization – steadies the camera to help prevent camera shake
  • Intelligent ISO Sensitivity – camera sets the appropriate ISO and shutter speed to the brightness and movement of a subject
  • Face Detection – camera detects up to 15 faces and adjusts focus and exposure accordingly. Even if a person moves, the camera tracks the face and readjusts settings.
  • Continuous Auto Focus – according to Panasonic, the camera automatically begins focusing even before the shutter button is pressed.
  • Scene Detection – chooses the mode that best matched the subject and recording conditions: Scenery, Portrait, Macro, Night Portrait or Night Scenery.

Does Scene Detection really work?

Skeptical, to say the least, I sat one evening in a dimly lit room and switched to iA mode. The results surprised me:

  • When I took a shot of the room, the iA mode icon appeared on the LCD.
  • I turned the camera quickly around and half-pressed the shutter towards my face…the Portrait Mode icon appeared.
  • I pointed the camera at my knee: the Macro Mode icon appeared.

Kind of uncanny.

The next time I ask someone to take a photo of me with my FZ18, I won’t try to explain how to use it. I’m switching the Mode dial to iA, handing over the camera and then smiling and saying “Cheese.”

Warning when using the flash in iA mode: There ia a lag when using the flash in iA mode, long enough miss part of the subject when it is slow moving. There are no flash options in this mode.