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Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3/TZ7 Review

Panasonic-Lumix-DMC-Z33-TZ7K.jpgFor travel or sports photography a long zoom is almost essential. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 (also known in Europe and Australia as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7) takes it even further in that the wide end of the Leica DC Vario-Elmar zoom equates to a 25mm lens on a 35mm SLR, stretching out to 300mm at the tele end. A good widey and a terrific longey!

A plus is the Panasonic ZS3’s large 7.6cm LCD screen. A minus is that it does not have an optical finder.

The still image maximum size is 3648×2736 pixels, on a 10.1 megapixel CCD. It also shoots 1280×720 pixel High Definition motion pictures with stereo sound. Not Full High Def — but still in an 16:9 aspect ratio.

The exposure options are not breath-taking: there’s only Program AE exposure mode with three metering options (multi zone, centre-weighted and spot) as well as 27 scene modes.

The shutter speed range is pretty good: long exposures up to 60 seconds. Shortest is 1/2000 second.

The camera runs from ISO 80 to 1600 with a step up ISO 6400 in the High Sensitivity scene mode, limited to 2048×1536/2048×1360/1920×1080 pixel image sizes.

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The camera has face detection and recognition; the latter can distinguish faces of frequently photographed people!

A USB 2.0 output is built in, as is an HDMI outlet so you can connect to a High Def TV or Blu-ray player with an optional cable.

The optical image stabiliser offers three settings plus off. AF Tracking ‘locks’ focus onto a moving subject and tracks it as it moves, keeping it in focus without the user having to hold the shutter button halfway down.

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Shooting a burst of 10 megapixel shots demands heaps of buffer memory: the Panasonic Lumix ZS3 can capture three pictures at a maximum speed of 2.3 fps or five pictures at 2.5 fps, in a lower JPEG quality. You should also be able to record an unlimited number of frames at 2 fps, until the card is full.

Memory: SD, SDHC, MMC cards are OK, with the Class 4 card recommended for video; the camera also has 45 MB of internal memory.

Movies

Rarely seen, this digital still camera shoot videos and retains access to zoom and focus while recording. A big help.

There are some cautions: when shooting video, you can’t do snap zooms — they just drift slowly.

You cannot alter focus while zooming — your fingers struggle over the crowded zoom and shutter buttons anyway!

Initially, I wondered why there was a separate record button for video. Then the penny dropped: taking this route means the normal shutter button can serve as the trigger for auto focus — in video. Simple really!

You can shoot video in Motion JPEG and a new format called AVCHD Lite, which represents half the file size of the former. Space saver!

You can replay HD video to a normal TV via a composite video connection or to an HD TV or Blu-ray recorder via HDMI.

Startup

From power on to first shot took three seconds with early follow on shots about a second apart.

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Distortion

I was impressed by the optical performance in the TZ7 with no evidence of any distortion with the zoom at wide or tele end.

Still images: accurate colour rendition with excellent sharpness. A great performance.

Movies: I shot parallel tests in Motion JPEG and AVCHD Lite. Viewed on a huge Panasonic Viera LCD screen, the quality between them was indistinguishable.

I did not notice there was poor sound pickup. Also, the text indicators on the four way cursor are hard to see.

Ostensibly, the Panasonic DMC-ZS3/TZ7 is a simple point-and-shoot camera. But I found it an impressive camera!

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 Specifications

  • Image Sensor: 10.9mm. 9.1 million effective pixels.
  • Lens: Leica DC Vario-Elmar f3.3/4.7-47mm. 28-280mm (35mm equiv). 4x digital zoom.
  • Focus Range: Wide/tele 50cm/200cm-infinity.
  • Metering: Intelligent Multiple; centre-weighted; spot.
  • Image stabilization: MEGA O.I.S.
  • Image Sizes (pixels): 4:3 Aspect Ratio: 3456×2592, 3072×2304, 2560×1920, 2048×1536, 1600×1200, 640×480. 3:2
  • Aspect Ratio: 3552×2368, 3072×2048, 2560×1712, 2048×1360 pixels. 16:9 Aspect Ratio: 3712×2088, 3072×1728, 2560×1440, 1920×1080.
  • Movie Clips: 4:3 aspect ratio: 640×480 pixels, 320×240 pixels at 10 fps/30 fps.16:9 aspect ratio: 848×480 pixels at 10/30 fps. HD 16:9 aspect ratio: 1280×720 at 15/30fps.
  • File Formats: JPEG, QuickTime Motion JPEG, AVCHD Lite.
  • ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100 to 6400.
  • Shutter Speed: 60-1/2000 second.
  • Flash: Auto, auto/red-eye reduction, forced on and forced off, slow sync/red-eye reduction.
  • Flash Range: Wide/tele 60cm/1.0m to 5.3/3.6m.
  • Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, AC.
  • Weight: 214 g (minus battery).
  • Dimensions: 103.3×59.3×36.5 WHDmm.
  • Price: At the time of publishing this review the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 is currently $378.10 USD on Amazon.

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Barrie Smith
Barrie Smith

is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

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