Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-ZS7 has been ranked one of the best compact digital cameras in 2010, by TopTenReviews.com.
The ZS7 is a 12.1MP camera with 25mm wide-angle lens and 12x optical zoom. It can record 720p HD video using AVC HD Lite and there is built-in GPS for geo-tagging shots. The full specifications are available from Panasonic.
The ZS7 reminds me a lot of the older Panasonic’s ZS3 point-and-shoot (the ZS7’s predecessor). They are both high-end consumer cameras with fantastic build quality, a nice lens, and lots of zoom. The ZS7 got some internal upgrades as well as some design tweaks that fixed minor problems with the exterior. The change was relatively minor though.
The Zs7 is undeniably a premium point-and-shoot camera. The metal body just oozes quality, as do the On/Off switch and the Camera/Play switch (as opposed to a button) and the metal door covering the external ports. The camera has a really nice heft to it and while it’s on the large size for a consumer camera it shoots HD video and packs in 12x optical zoom, so it’s worth a few extra ounces.
The controls on the ZS7 are pretty standard, with the heavy lifting being handled by a 5-way navigation area. People who used the ZS3 will immediately note that the mode dial now uses the entire circumference, so that there is no dead space on one side of the dial. On the back of the camera there is a dedicated video button, which is always a nice perk, and then your standard controls. The one thing people might have to get used to is the Exposure button, which is used for toggling settings when you are in Aperture Priority (F stop), Shutter Priority (shutter speed), and Manual (both). The controls feel great and they are matched by a simple, easy-to-understand set of on-screen menus.
Perhaps the coolest feature of the ZS7 is the built in geotagging. If you have this feature turned on, the camera is able to tag both photos and videos with geographic coordinates which can then be use to map out your shots. This is best used in services like Google’s Picasa and other photo sharing sites, but this EXIF data has all sorts of different uses. The system can also recognize up to 500,000 different landmarks so you can get more than just a place name and some numbers. Geo-tagging can be turned off as well as customized, in case you don’t want, say, the the landmark or city/town data. For travelers and map geeks, this is a killer feature. The GPS can be a bit slow to find its location though, which seems to be a downside of slapping it on a not-so-powerful device.
Interestingly the GPS stays on for some time even after the camera is turned off (you’ll see a green light blinking every few seconds). This is done so the camera can maintain its positioning and be ready for you to shoot again. If the camera doesn’t move it will shut off GPS after two hours, if it has it will shut off 9 hours after the camera was powered down. You can shut off GPS manually though, which will prevent any leakage of battery life.
Shooting with the Zs7 is a great experience–just about as good as I’ve had with a point-and-shoot. The Leica lens on this camera is quite good and it delivers nice macro shots and then really nice telephoto ones. Here the auto image stabilization plays a major role as holding a point-and-shoot steady at 12x zoom is no easy task. The camera’s auto focus is quick and accurate and hunting is kept to a bare minimum, even in less than ideal lighting. Images are sharp throughout the range of the lens, which is a testament to the Leica glass. The macro abilities are especially impressive given the versatility of the lens.
Start-up time and shot-to-shot times are on the long side for a performance point-and-shoot camera, but shutter lag isn’t too bad. This all didn’t bother me much as the end results were so good–the ZS7 really does deliver great images. If you need high image quality quicker than this, than you really need to look at a DSLR (or at least a Micro-4/3rds). Image quality stays quite high through the lower ISO levels but then suffers as you get to the upper options… no surprise there. Colors tend to look great, if not a bit on the warm side.
The ZS7 shoots 720p video using AVCHD Lite. It does this in a very polished manner, giving the user the full range of the camera’s zoom and even slowing down the zoom so it can’t be heard. There is a stereo microphone which picks up sound surprisingly well, even in noisy surroundings, and it is possible to use the camera’s scene modes to enhance videos. The camera can shoot long videos, thanks the use of AVCHD Lite, so you are mainly limited by your choice of memory card and your video quality setting.
Click here to view Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 selling price.