Camera Reviews
by Brad Soo on October 15 2009

Here’s my review of the Panasonic Lumix ZS3 aka TZ7, Panasonic’s latest compact camera in their ‘Travel Zoom’ series. The Lumix ZS3 AKA TZ7 packs 10 megapixels of resolution, 12X optical zoom, a 3 inch screen and point-and-operation. Be sure to check out full-sized photos taken straight out of the camera in the Panasonic Lumix ZS3 photo gallery too. The full review of the camera awaits after the link.

DPInterface Panasonic Lumix ZS3 aka Lumix TZ7 Review

Brad Soo – October 15th, 2009

The Panasonic Lumix ZS3 is a compact super-zoom camera, successor to the popular Lumix TZ5 and the latest in Panasonic’s Travel Zoom series. Unlike quite a number of cameras released this year, the Panasonic Lumix ZS3 is slightly more than a mere megapixel upgrade – it features a slightly redesigned (smaller) body, a new 12X ultra-wide zoom lens, AVCHD movie recording and a few things added here and there. If you want to find out more about the Panasonic Lumix ZS3, our review begins now!

The camera is actually known as the Panasonic Lumix ZS3 in the US and the Panasonic Lumix TZ7 everywhere else around the world (ie Europe, Japan, Australia, etc). I don’t know why Panasonic had to start this confusing ‘naming by region’ convention for many of their 2009 cameras.

Size and Weight

(225.7) 110.6 x 70.4 x 44.7 mm (245 g) – Canon PowerShot SX120 IS
(201.1) 103.0 x 60.5 x 37.6 mm (220 g) – Canon PowerShot SX200 IS
(188.8) 102.5 x 62.0 x 24.3 mm (164 g) – Casio Exilim H10
(180.9) 99.3 x 58.9 x 22.7 mm (180 g) – Fujifilm FinePix F70 EXR
(212.3) 110.0 x 66.8 x 35.5 mm (223 g) – Kodak EasyShare Z950
(179.5) 96.5 x 57.5 x 25.5 mm (140 g) – Nikon Coolpix S630
(179.4) 97.5 x 55.7 x 26.2 mm (125 g) – Olympus Stylus 7010
(187.0) 96.0 x 60.0 x 31.0 mm (185 g) – Olympus Stylus 9000
(200.1) 103.3 x 59.3 x 36.5 mm (214 g) – Panasonic Lumix TZ5
(195.7) 103.3 x 59.6 x 32.8 mm (206 g) – Panasonic Lumix ZS3 aka TZ7
(178.4) 97.8 x 54.6 x 26.0 mm (138 g) – Panasonic Lumix ZR1 aka ZX1
(203.6) 105.0 x 61.4 x 37.2 mm (219 g) – Samsung HZ15W aka WB550
(223.1) 107.3 x 68.7 x 47.1 mm (250 g) – Sony Cyber-shot H20
All the weight figures above show when the camera is empty without a battery or memory card

The Panasonic Lumix ZS3 is somewhere in the middle of the group in terms of size and weight, as far as compact super-zoom cameras are concerned. The camera is compact, probably small enough to fit into large pockets but certainly not slim enough to go into back pockets.

Box packaging

The Panasonic Lumix ZS3/TZ7 comes with a standard bundle:

  • Rechargeable lithium-ion battery (with case)
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB and A/V cables
  • Camera software CD (Photo Fun Studio viewer HD Edition, ArcSoft Media Impression & Panorama Maker, Quick Time and a USB driver)
  • User’s manual

The Panasonic Lumix ZS3 aka TZ7 has a mere 40 MB of built-in memory with 40 MB of internal memory, which is not much nowadays. You’ll want to pick up at least a 2 GB or 4 GB memory card with the Lumix ZS3, more if you’re the type of person who likes recording hours upon hours of video. The camera takes SD, SDHC and MMC cards, I’d recommend sticking to the first two types and even better, go for a high-speed card (60X to 90X speed will do) if you want the camera to perform faster.

370 shots – Canon PowerShot SX120 IS
280 shots – Canon PowerShot SX200 IS
1000 shots – Casio Exilim H10 (This is crazy yet true!)
230 shots – Fujifilm FinePix F70 EXR
280 shots – Kodak EasyShare Z950
220 shots – Nikon Coolpix S630
170 shots – Olympus Stylus 7010
250 shots – Olympus Stylus 9000
300 shots – Panasonic Lumix ZS3 aka TZ7
330 shots – Panasonic Lumix ZR1 aka ZX1
280 shots – Samsung HZ15W aka WB550
290 shots – Sony Cyber-shot H20
All the cameras above are rated with rechargeable batteries with LCD on according to CIPA Standard

The Panasonic Lumix ZS3 aka TZ7 comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery with a charger. The camera is rated at 300 shots per charge (CIPA Standard) which is a little above average compared to other market offerings.

Accessories

The Panasonic Lumix ZS3 isn’t a very versatile camera in terms of accessory range, but then again, neither is the competition. You can get an AC adapter, HDMI cable, various cases/bags as well as an optional waterproof case for the camera.


Camera Tour

The Panasonic Lumix ZS3 aka Lumix TZ7 is the successor to the Lumix TZ5. In terms of design, not much has changed – besides a slightly remolded grip, addition of a dedicated movie button and a brand new lens, the Lumix ZS3 remains just as decent looking and well built as its predecessor. The camera is easy to hold with sufficient space for your right thumb on the back and left hand to hold the other side of the camera.

The Panasonic Lumix ZS3 comes in your choice of four colors: silver, black, gray and red. This model here is the conventional-looking black ZS3.

The Panasonic Lumix ZS3 features an all new 12X optical zoom lens, equivalent to 25 – 300 mm in 35 mm terms. While the lens has a very useful range, especially wide-angle coverage, the aperture range of f3.3 – f4.9 is a little slow. Inside the lens, there’s Panasonic’s Mega OIS system (Optical Image Stabilization) here which helps reduce the effects (blur) of shaky hands on photos.

To the upper right of the ZS3’s lens is its autofocus assist + self-timer lamp which helps the camera to focus in low-light situations. To the upper left is the camera’s lash unit. The flash is average in terms of power, covering a range of 60 cm to 5.3 m at wide-angle and 1.0 m to 3.6 m at telephoto (Auto ISO).

Turn the camera around and the first thing you’ll see is the Lumix ZS3’s 3 inch LCD display. The screen is very sharp with a resolution of 460,000 pixels and visibility is very good, both indoors and out. The Power LCD mode is useful for shooting under bright light, as it boosts screen brightness up (Auto Power LCD does the same thing, except the camera will automatically brighten the screen based on what it sees).

The first thing to the right of the LCD is the camera’s mode switch which moves you between shooting and playback mode, followed by the dedicated movie button I was talking about. The movie button is new to the Lumix ZS3, so now all you have to do is press this button (Regardless of shooting mode) and the camera will start recording.

Next up is the five way navigation pad which also provides quick access to these functions:

  • Up – Exposure compensation (+/-2 EV in 1/3 steps)/Exposure bracketing
  • Down – Macro (Off, macro, auto macro)
  • Left – Self timer (Off, 2 seconds, 10 seconds)
  • Right – Flash setting (Auto, auto with red-eye reduction, on, slow sync with red-eye reduction, off)
  • Center – Main menu/Set

The Panasonic Lumix ZS3 has an exposure bracketing which allows you to take three photos in a row, each with a different exposure value (adjustable to +/- 1 EV in 1/3 steps).

Lastly, we have the DISPLAY and QUICK MENU buttons. The DISPLAY button toggles the information displayed on-screen while the other button brings up the ZS3’s Quick Menu which contains a handful of camera settings you can quickly change. The Quick Menu button also doubles to delete photos in playback mode.

Let’s have a look at the Lumix ZS3’s Quick Menu before we move on, shall we? (Left to right)

  • Drive mode (Single-shot, continuous shooting, continuous AF)
  • Autofocus mode (Face detection, AF tracking, 11 point AF, center point, center high-speed, spot)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, shade, halogen, custom, white balance adjustment)
  • ISO sensitivity (Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600)
  • Intelligent Exposure – brightens dark areas in your photos
  • Aspect ratio, image resolution and movie resolution
  • LCD mode (Normal, Power LCD, Auto Power LCD)

The Lumix ZS3 has a unique white balance adjustment feature, not usually found on compact digital cameras. It allows you to adjust color balance towards the cooler/warmer side up to 10 steps, in 1 step increments.

There’s also AF Tracking and face detection; both are pretty self explanatory features. AF Tracking continuously tracks your subjects around the frame while face detection picks up faces in the frame (I’ll elaborate more later in the review).

We have a few more things to check out at the top of the Panasonic Lumix ZS3 before we head on to our camera performance and image tests. From left to right, we have the camera’s speaker, dual microphones (for recording stereo sound), power switch and shutter button. There’s a zoom controller, wrapped around the shutter button, which is pressure sensitive. The zoom controller allows you to zoom at either low-speed or high-speed, depending on how hard you pull at it.

At the very right edge of the Lumix ZS3 is its mode dial, which what we’re going to look at now:

  • Intelligent Auto – Fully automatic with Panasonic’s “Intelligent” features activated
  • Program mode – All the settings are unlocked but the camera still decides exposure for you. Program shift is available so you can select different aperture/shutter speed combinations
  • My Scene position 1
  • My Scene position 2
  • Scene modes
  • Clipboard – for storing and easily accessing pictures of maps, schedules, etc

Intelligent Auto mode is Panasonic’s replacement for the “regular old” Auto and Simple modes on previous models. In Intelligent Auto mode, the camera activates face detection, auto scene detection, subject tracking, Intelligent ISO, Intelligent Exposure, optical image stabilization and backlight compensation are both set to automatic (he camera handles everything). You can also toggle the “Intelligent” features manually in other modes; more on them in a bit.

As you can also see, the Panasonic Lumix ZS3 is essentially a point-and-shoot camera, giving you no direct control over exposure. There are two My Scene positions, however, which allow you to store and quickly access two of your most commonly used scene modes on the camera.

This side of the camera is blank… let’s move on.

On this side of the Panasonic Lumix ZS3, you’ll find two ports: a mini HDMI port and a combo port for A/V out and USB 2.0 High speed. You’ll need the optional ‘Multi conversion adapter’ in order to connect an AC adapter to the Lumix ZS3.

At the bottom of the camera, you can see its battery/memory card compartment with an averagely built door over it as well as a metal tripod mount (which isn’t in-line with the lens).

Taking pictures (Shooting mode)

The Panasonic Lumix ZS3 aka TZ7 shows everything you need to know about your photo/video settings on its display. You’ll get to see camera settings (for both still image and movie settings), exposure details, a live histogram, battery indicator, optional gridlines (not shown here) and a live histogram. A zoom indicator also appears whenever you operate the camera’s zoom mechanism.

The Panasonic Lumix ZS3 offers several dozen combinations of image resolution, compression and aspect ratio settings for you to choose from. The choices you have for image resolution include 10 MP, 7 MP, 5 MP, 3 MP, 2 MP and VGA; while the aspect ratios available are traditional 4:3, print 3:2 or widescreen 16:9. And lastly, the two image compression settings available are Fine and Standard.

Like all of Panasonic’s other cameras, the Lumix ZS3 has an “Extra/Extended Optical Zoom” function, which is essentially cropping, so you can get additional reach without lowering image quality (unlike traditional digital zoom). You can extend the ZS3’s total zoom range up to whopping 21.4X when you lower resolution to 3 megapixels.

We’re going to take a look at the Lumix ZS3’s menu pages now. In case they sound familiar, some of the options can be quickly accessed via the camera’s Quick Menu:

  • Picture size, quality and aspect ratio
  • Intelligent ISO On/Off
  • ISO sensitivity (Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, shade, halogen, custom, white balance adjustment)
  • Face recognition On/Off
  • Autofocus mode (Face detection, AF tracking, 11 multi-area, center, center high-speed, spot)
  • Pre AF (Off, quick AF, continuous AF)
  • Metering mode (Multiple, center weighted, spot)

The camera has two “Pre AF” modes which try to improve response time by focusing before you half-press the shutter button. Quick AF activates autofocus when camera movement is detected while the camera is constantly focusing in continuous AF (though battery life may take a hit because of this).

  • Intelligent Exposure (Off, low, standard, high)
  • Burst mode Off/High-speed/Unlimited
  • Digital zoom
  • Color mode (Standard, Natural, Vivid, Black & White, Sepia, Cool, Warm)
  • Optical image stabilizer mode (Off, auto, mode 1, mode 2)
  • Minimum shutter speed – Set the slowest shutter speed the camera will use
  • Audio record – Record a 5 second audio clip every time a photo is taken
  • Autofocus assist lamp
  • Clock set

The Panasonic Lumix ZS3 has two optical image stabilization modes. Mode 1 keeps the system on continuously so everything from composing the shot to taking the picture is steady, while Mode 2 activates the image stabilization only as a photo is taken (which is both more effective and less power consuming). If you’re not really bothered with fiddling with things, there’s an Auto Stabilization mode which switches between Mode 1 and Mode 2 as the camera sees fit. Or you could turn off image stabilization if the camera is already on a steady surface (ie tripod, table).

Panasonic’s “Intelligent” features
Let’s discuss the various “Intelligent” features that the Panasonic Lumix ZS3 has. First off would be Intelligent Scene Selection where the camera will automatically select one of five scene modes for you (portrait, scenery, night portrait, night scenery and macro) in shooting mode, or one of four modes in movie mode (portrait, scenery, low-light, macro).

Intelligent ISO adjusts ISO according to the amount of movement in the frame. More movement would mean the camera will use a higher ISO setting to freeze action while a static scene will make the camera choose a low ISO setting.

Intelligent Exposure is just like D-Lighting, iContrast and Shadow Adjustment on other cameras, and brightens dark areas of your photo at the cost of some increased noise. It’s a shame that this feature is available only in shooting mode – which means you cannot brighten your photos in playback mode after you capture them.

Backlight compensation is only available in Intelligent Auto mode. It’s essentially like automatic exposure compensation which comes on if the subject detects a face/faces with strong backlighting behind.

Face Detection and Recognition
There’s also face detection and face recognition on the Lumix ZS3, though only the former works in movie mode. The camera can detect up to 15 faces in a frame and can offer to remember up to 6 faces if they frequently appear in your shots (you can also manually add them to the list). The face detection system will then give priority to those faces that it recognizes (indicated by the orange frame around a person’s face, along with their name beneath the box), and you can even pick a custom focus icon, if you want.

Scene modes and macro
While there aren’t any manual exposure controls on the camera, the Panasonic Lumix ZS3 does sport plenty of scene modes: portrait, soft skin, transform, self-portrait, scenery, sports, panorama assist, night portrait, night scenery, food, party, candle light, baby 1 & 2, pet, sunset, high sensitivity, high-speed burst, flash burst, starry sky, beach, snow, fireworks, aerial photo, film grain, pin hole and underwater. Here are some details on the more interesting scene modes on the ZS3:

  • Transform mode is “sort of like Beauty Mode” as it compresses/stretches your subject and also smoothens their skin
  • High sensitivity mode reduces resolution to 3 megapixels while automatically selecting an ISO speed between 1600 – 6400
  • High speed burst lowers resolution to 3 megapixels and allows you to take up to 100 photos at 6 FPS (image priority) or 10 FPS (speed priority)
  • Flash burst lowers image resolution and boosts ISO to take several flash photos in quick succession
  • Panorama assist brings up a guided user interface for taking multiple shots in a row, to be combined into a single panorama later on
  • The camera will select a shutter speed up till 8 seconds in Night Scenery mode while Starry Sky allows you to select a preset extra-long shutter speed (15, 30 or 60 seconds)

If you’re not sure what the various scene modes do, no worries – the Panasonic Lumix ZS3 displays a helpful tooltip for each of its scene modes; telling you a brief description of what every mode is suited for.

One neat (or not…) feature is you can now use scene modes in movie mode! I’m not sure how useful that is, but all you have to do is pick a scene mode like you normally would, and hit the dedicated movie button to start recording using the scene mode you’ve picked.

The Panasonic Lumix ZS3 has a pretty good macro mode which allows you to go as close as 3 cm to a subject at wide-angle and from 100 cm at telephoto. An option called “Zoom Macro” mode fixes the camera’s lens at wide-angle and allows you to use digital zoom to magnify your subject (identical to how Canon’s Digital Macro mode works). In my opinion Zoom Macro mode isn’t really useful as digital zoom degrades image quality of your photos – if you wanna get closer, you mind as well use the cropping tool in the ZS3’s playback mode.

Video Recording

The Panasonic Lumix ZS3 aka TZ7 inherits the same, nice 720p HD movie mode as its predecessor plus a couple of new things (such as AVCHD Lite and stereo sound recording). The Lumix ZS3 can record 720p HD (1280 X 720) movies at 30 FPS with stereo sound until your memory card fills up. On paper, Panasonic mentions something about ’60 FPS’ but to clear up the confusion, the camera’s sensor records at 30 FPS (25 FPS for PAL video) and doubles the frame rate when playing videos. So the native output of the sensor is actually just 30 FPS, with double the FPS rate in playback to give the illusion of “60 FPS”.

Other than the 720p resolution (1280 x 720), there are several other recording sizes available, including WVGA (848 x 480), VGA (640 x 480) or QVGA (320 x 240), all at 30 FPS. The camera also has three “Recording quality” settings for overall movie quality (both video and audio): Super High (17 Mbps), High (13 Mbps) and Low (9 Mbps) quality.

There are two video codec settings to choose from on the Panasonic Lumix ZS3: the very memory efficient AVCHD Lite format or the more traditional MJPEG-MOV format. There’s a reason why Panasonic still includes the latter alongside the “superior” AVCHD format. Although smaller in terms of file size, unless you plug the memory card directly to a Panasonic Viera TV or Blu-ray player, or use VLC player to view them, AVCHD Lite movies cannot be viewed by most video players without re-encoding/processing first. The other option (MJPEG-MOV) on the other hand, is playable right out of the camera, but consumes more space on your memory card and movies are limited to 2 GB per clip.

You can do a lot of other things while recording movies, including the ability to use optical zoom, optical image stabilization and continuous autofocus. The ZS3’s lens operates very quietly, by the way, so the camera doesn’t pick up its motor or operation sounds. There’s also a wind filter available – helpful if you’re recording movies on a breezy day.

And here’s the last bit of icing to the cake: face detection, the LED illuminator, Intelligent Exposure, scene modes and Intelligent Scene Selection all work in movie mode. For the movie ‘scene modes’, just pick any scene mode from the regular list of options and hit the dedicated movie button

Overall video quality was very good and fluid along with good audio quality.

Image Quality

Time for image quality tests with the ZS3:


ISO 80 (f3.3, 0.62 sec)


ISO 100 (f3.3, 0.62 sec)


ISO 200 (f3.3, 1/4 sec)


ISO 400 (f3.3, 1/8 sec)


ISO 800 (f3.3, 1/13 sec)


ISO 1600 (f3.3, 1/25 sec)


ISO 2000 (f3.3, 1/30 sec)

Image quality starts out clean and very usable (albeit slightly grainy) at ISO 80 and remains fairly consistent till ISO 200. At ISO 400, image quality becomes fairly grainy and soft looking but still usable for most purposes. By ISO 800, you’d probably figure that this setting is only suitable as a last resort and I wouldn’t go anything above that.

Quite surprisingly for a lens which starts out so wide (25 mm) AND covers a large range, the Lumix ZS3 exhibits little lens distortion at both ends of its lens. There’s no vignetting or chromatic aberration (color fringing) either. Apparently, he camera’s processor removes are red-eye and chromatic aberration (color fringing) automatically. Software based redeye removal is not available in playback mode though, so you’ll have to remove the occasional red-eye that slips past the camera on your computer instead.

Overall, the Panasonic Lumix ZS3 takes pretty good pictures with decent detail levels, vivid colors and not much intrusion from noise till ISO 400. My rant here is the camera’s noise reduction processing reduces image sharpness slightly and gives this grainy look to photos. There isn’t much to complain in terms of lens flaws though – I’m pretty sure the Lumix ZS3’s ambitious 12X zoom lens would have its share of flaws, but lucky for the camera, Panasonic’s Venus processor does a good job at covering up for the lens.

Photo gallery

There are full-sized photos available in the Panasonic Lumix ZS3 photo gallery.


Playback

The Panasonic Lumix ZS3 has a fancy playback mode with quite a bit of bells and whistles sprinkled around. First off, you can choose one of five ways to play back your photos/videos: normal play (which is your traditional “browse through pictures and play back video with sound”), slideshow mode (complete with fancy effects and background music), mode play (which allows you to playback photos only or videos only), category play (which lets you play back photos by category) and of course, you can choose to view only the photos marked as your favorites.

The Lumix ZS3 features the usual playback functions here: print marking, voice clip attachment (up to 10 seconds), image protection and the ability to tag photos as “favorites”. Photos can be enlarged by 16X so you can inspect details/confirm focus and also can be displayed in sets of 12 or 30 thumbnails. You can view photos by date in calendar view by hitting ‘zoom out’ after the two thumbnail options.

There are a couple of editing features worth looking at on the ZS3 such as title editing, resizing, trimming (aka cropping), image leveling and the ability to add text stamps to photos… but strangely, no image rotation option. I’m puzzled, actually, why Panasonic forces you to stick with the camera’s auto-rotate feature and not let you rotate the photos yourself in the camera. You can also copy images back and forth between the camera’s internal memory and memory card.

There aren’t any movie editing features in the camera but one interesting thing to mention is that you can “grab” a frame from a movie clip and turn it into a photo. Two things that are missing here are red-eye removal and Intelligent Exposure – both of which can be used in shooting mode, but these two actions cannot be performed AFTER a photo is taken.

The Panasonic Lumix ZS3 shows you everything you need to know about your photos in playback mode; that includes exposure and shooting details and a brightness histogram.

Conclusion

The Panasonic Lumix ZS3 (now also known as the Lumix TZ7) improves upon a line of very good compact super-zoom digital cameras from Panasonic. The Panasonic Lumix ZS3 doesn’t seem to like following the megapixel craze with a comparatively modest increase of resolution to 10 megapixels, up from 9 on its predecessor (compare that to the 10 MP to 12 MP jump we saw on other cameras this year). Instead, the Lumix ZS3 introduces several small improvements, sorta like fine-tuning an already-great camera.

The biggest change, in my opinion, is the new 12X optical zoom lens on the ZS3. With megapixels hitting the roof in terms of quality and practicality for compact cameras (for now…), it seems like wider lenses and bigger screens are the latest trend nowadays. The Panasonic Lumix ZS3 features a 12X lens that starts out at a rather wide 25 mm, reaching a very nice 300 mm at full telephoto, and it comes with optical image stabilization and your choice of two zooming speeds.

Ergonomics have been tweaked very slightly on the Lumix ZS3, with a more rounded right hand grip and new dedicated movie button. Build quality is just as good here, except I’d like to see a more rigid, less flimsy door over the bottom compartment.

The Panasonic Lumix ZS3 is almost entirely a point-and-shoot camera, save for the fancy white balance adjustment feature and faux bulb mode. There are plenty of scene modes, automatic and “Intelligent” bells and whistles and relatively simple operation and easy to use menus that you don’t exactly have to pick up the manual if you just want to start snapping casual photos. Face detection and face recognition are both around to help with ‘people shots’. What the ZS3 lacks is manual exposure control – which is what I wanna complain about here. If some competition (namely the Canon SX200 and Samsung HZ10W/HZ15W I’ve reviewed, and the upcoming Fujifilm F70EXR).

The Lumix ZS3 also has a nice movie mode – 720p HD recording, stereo sound, optical zoom and stabilization, continuous AF, even a wind filter is available – pretty much one of the best movie modes you can find in a compact camera. Unfortunately, the Panasonic Lumix ZS3’s AVCHD Lite recording codec is both a big plus point and a downside as well; on one hand, it’s really efficient and produces smaller files than MOV-MJPEG… but on the other, the output files typically need to be decoded first before they can be played on most players. There are two workarounds: you could plug the camera directly to your HDTV or download the Video LAN player (Windows and Mac versions available) to view AVCHD Lite movies without decoding anything, or you could pick the less efficient MOV-MJPEG codec to record.

The Panasonic Lumix ZS3 does pretty well in the image quality department (save for softness), producing detailed photos with good noise control and little lens flaws. The Lumix ZS3’s processor does use some mirrors and smoke in order to produce the pictures you see out of the camera; automatically removing redeye and color fringing, and apparently reducing lens distortion. Well, I’ve got no qualms with that – what I do have against the camera’s processing is the slight softness and graininess it introduces while trying to produce smooth photos.

There’s little to not to like about the Panasonic Lumix ZS3 AKA Lumix TZ7 – it has a big and wide 12X lens stuffed into a relatively compact body, it has a large, sharp display, plenty of scene modes and bells and whistles, and most importantly, good performance in terms of speed and image quality. Sure, there are a few minor quirks that need to be ironed out, but the Panasonic Lumix ZS3 is a worthy successor last year’s TZ5 and gets my recommendation if you want a nice point-and-shoot compact super-zoom.

What’s hot:

  • Good image quality till ISO 400
  • Big and stabilized 12X lens fitted into a compact body
  • Not much lens distortion; camera’s processor removes color fringing and redeye
  • Large and sharp 3 inch LCD with good visibility
  • Above average battery life
  • Fast performance; unlimited continuous shooting mode
  • Lots of scene modes and ‘Intelligent’ assist features; face detection and auto scene mode selection
  • 720p HD movie mode with stereo sound; optical zoom, image stabilization, continuous AF, face detection and scene modes can be used while recording, dedicated movie button
  • Fancy playback mode

What’s not:

  • Lacks manual controls
  • Photos are a bit on the soft side with some graininess
  • No red-eye removal, image brightening or movie editing features in playback mode
  • AVCHD Lite movie codec not for everyone; needs to be converted to more common formats to be shared/uploaded (and no conversion software supplied)

Camera rating: (Ratings guide)

  • 4.0 – Design and build quality
  • 3.0 – Bundle in the box
  • 4.0 – Lens (Zoom, aperture range, image stabilization)
  • 3.5 – Feature set and manual controls
  • 4.5 – Ergonomics and ease of use
  • 4.5 – Performance and speed
  • 4.0 – Image quality
  • 3.93 over 5.0 – Overall rating

Competitors:

Some competing compact super-zoom cameras worth checking out include the Canon PowerShot SX200, Samsung HZ15W and Fujifilm FinePix F70 EXR.


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4 Comments

  1. Kamie October 22, 2009 Reply

    Love my old Lumix DMC-TZ3. Purchased the new DMC-ZS3 with all the new bells and whistles. It does not seem to have the grab feature from movie playback that you mention in your article. Can’t find that feature in their book. One of the reasons that I wanted this new one is that it took better movies, but now I can’t get the stills out of them. Big reason that I bought the first one and also “sold” it to many other people was because of that feature. Am I missing something?
    I take pictures for the Duquesne Mary Pappert music school usually from the audience as I am the dean’s wife. Having the better movie pictures was the main reason I purchased it and was looking forward to getting better stills from movies!!! Musicians move as they play their instruments and especially the piano. Again, am I missing something?
    Thanks,
    Kamie

  2. Kamie ( read after 1st) October 22, 2009 Reply

    “There aren’t any movie editing features in the camera but one interesting thing to mention is that you can “grab” a frame from a movie clip and turn it into a photo. Two things that are missing here are red-eye removal and Intelligent Exposure – both of which can be used in shooting mode, but these two actions cannot be performed AFTER a photo is taken.”

    Above is the sentence that I referred to in your article from the last e-mail I sent to you. I cannot find the grab feature on the new DMC-ZS3. One of reasons I purchased the new one (DMC-ZS3) was to get better stills from the movies. Am I missing something? Can’t find the Grab a frame feature from a movie clip to turn it into a photo. Not in the book either that I could find.
    Sorry,
    Kamie

    • Brad October 22, 2009 Reply

      I would think that you need to pause the movie during playback and press the shutter button in order to grab a frame. Hope that helps.

  3. kamie schoonhoven October 24, 2009 Reply

    Hey Brad,
    I spent all day with the “techs” at Panasonic and finally got an definitive answer! There is no Grab from Movies on the new camera’s!!! What a shame,, better quality movies and now not able to grab a still from them…What gives, did some one forget to put it back in? Can you at least talk to someone there that knows Why on earth they did not put it back. And don’t let them tell you its because it can take pictures in Hi Def, It still can take them in JPEG, I’m not that blonde!
    L,
    Kamie

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