Pros stabilized zoom, viewfinder, easy handling, excellent optics, sharp images
Cons Joystick seems fragile, LCD screen needs at least 130K pixels, some pictures noisy
Summary Over the past three weeks I've done a lot of digital camera research. It's been six years since I purchased my first digital camera, a Panasonic PV SD4090, and I had a lot of catching up to do. Before buying the Panasonic FZ7 I tried the Panasonic LZ2 (also a good pick), the Olympus SP-350 and not one but THREE Fuji FinePix F10s, all of which failed to deliver sharp images at high ISOs despite being a number one pick in 2005 for low light performance. Having tried the "best" consumer-level, high ISO point-and-shoot camera on the market and found it wanting three times over, I was left with a limited range of cameras featuring a high ISO "boost", all of which are viewed as worthless options in the eyes of professional reviewers—e.g. people who are spoiled by dSLRs.
Early on it became clear that unless you have the hands of a surgeon, the lowest noise stats won’t matter one iota if hand shake blurs your pictures. That narrowed the field down to Panasonic, Sony and Canon, which are the major players in the image stabilization category. (Fuji and others claim to offer IS, but instead of a gyroscope they provide high ISO substitutes, which, in the absence of manual controls, does not increase the shutter speed sufficiently to eliminate potential motion blur and camera shake.)
If you visit digital camera review sites, you will see that reviewers have mastered the art of “pixel scrutiny.” Oftentimes reviewers will rely on posters of outdoor scenes — canned wall posters! — rather than venturing into the natural world. They test equipment under controlled settings using the camera's default sharpening, color and noise reduction to make their judgments. Therefore, if a camera over saturates color, for example, the average pro reviewer will disparage such a camera without testing any of the adjustment options. The same goes for noise processing, sharpening and other variables that may be fine tuned depending on model in question. Such reviewers then proceed to make impressive but impractical comparisons using crops in order to magnify all signs of noise and chromatic aberration. (If you want something to worry about though, be more concerned about CA and purple fringing, which will stand out even to the untrained eye.)
To put this into perspective, cropping a digital image to the extent and degree that so-called professional reviewers do is akin to a dermatologist taking your face and putting it under a 100x microscope only to exclaim that you that you have a poor complexion, when to anyone looking at normal face-to-face distances you have the skin of a baby or a porcelain doll. In other words, unless an image flaw is noticeable even at normal, uncropped sizes, chances are that image noise comparisons will have little, if any, real-world detriment on your photos. Unfortunately, most professional reviewers simply do not print their results. Instead, they evaluate camera performance with software and computer monitors, all of which alter the perception of color, saturation and other subjective variables. In short, there’s no substitute for evaluating a camera’s OUTPUT. That means PRINT.
And this brings me to pro reviewers’ rubber-stamp criticism of the Panasonic FZ7 at high or even normal ISOs.
As I mentioned earlier, I owned three Fuji FinePix F10s. These cameras created a CULT FOLLOWING because 400, 800 and 1600 ISOs were so effective. Yet what I saw in real-world testing was anything BUT impressive when using natural light (a scene mode with high ISOs and suppressed flash). The pictures were soft. They looked hazy. They looked imprecise. They looked out of focus. They looked bright-as-day yet dull and lifeless. Hand shake — which the high ISO was supposed to compensate for — was still very much a problem. Unfortunately, there was no image stabilization to offset the negative effects of simply pushing the shutter button. Thus, in all practicality, the F10 is a low light loser when used without a tripod or a surgeon’s ultra steady grip. Consider: What does it matter if you can snap a picture in pitch black if that picture is so fuzzy that you wouldn’t want to print it?
Enter the Panasonic FZ7. Some reviewers have gone so far as to say that they wouldn’t use the FZ7 at ISO 200 let alone ISO 400+. They claim the noise is such that the results look like “oil paintings” and not photos. Okay. Here’s the bad: Some photos DO look a bit splotchy, even those with flash (low ISOs). But here’s the good: Splotchy photos are the exception and NOT the rule. This is one of the fastest cameras I have used, which means you can easily snap enough pictures in short succession to get one that is not the least bit offensive wherein noise is concerned.
All the way around the Panasonic FZ7 will focus faster — fully 2 seconds faster under low light than the Fuji F10! — and a greater percentage of photos will come out sharp and clear than your average competitor. It’s all in the lens — the Leica lens, that is.
I’ve shot in available light using the high ISO scene boost, and while I won’t be printing these pics at 13x19 on my Canon i9900 or even 8x10, high ISO photos are detailed and sharp compared to anything the three overrated Fuji FinePix F10s could produce indoors during the day with lights on and blinds open.
So let’s recap. Are we to worry about “high noise” or are we going to be more concerned with a higher degree of successful pictures (non blurred, accurate focus, speedy shutter, etc.). In my case, I wanted superior optics for sharper images. Any point-and-shoot camera will produce a cliche digital camera look: a picture devoid of anything that looks like it would be sharp or rough enough to scrape a finger. Even bricks and stones come out looking airbrushed by the time your average digital camera finishes writing them to your memory card. And coming from an artist’s perspective, that just isn’t true to life. Only a reliable focus system and optimal optics will reproduce mood, texture and realism. And that’s where the Panasonic FZ7 shines. Coupled with one of the best AUTO white balance systems I’ve run across — and that’s including a comparison to two dSLRs — the FZ7 hits a home run. With accurate white balance comes truer color and less time processing them later. Kudos to Panasonic.
Much ado about noise? Here’s my advice: Take the photos into Photoshop or a noise reduction program and strip it out if it is a problem (to my eye it is generally NOT, however). Now try that with your average Fuji FinePix F10 — meaning try to put back detail where camera shake, motion blur or in-camera noise reduction has eliminated and oblitrated it.
“Not possible,” you protest?
It’s much easier to deal with a camera that will allow you to adjust noise settings — as the FZ7 will — than deal with a camera that makes all the decisions for you and ends up making your picture look soft and artificial.
In art school they tell you that if you stare at your drawing or painting too long you will be unable to see it for what it is. You might even ruin it if you continue to work after you’ve lost your objectivity. You MUST to step away to get a bigger perspective on what strikes you as wrong and what strikes you as right. The same goes for professional digital camera reviewers. These folks are looking at so many cameras and so many charts and so many studio lights and so many tripods and so many graphs and so many stats that they can no longer just pick up a camera and see it for what it is. What is the FZ7? A solid performer that is faster and lighter and easier to hold than just about anything else. A camera that offers simple menues and straightforward options. And did I mention a optically stabilized 12x zoom? Did I mention the ability to shoot in lossless TIF? Did I mention that unlike the Panasonic FZ20 and FZ30 this is MUCH smaller and easier to tote about? Did I mention that if you are unhappy with the color, contrast, sharpening or noise reduction you can CONTROL these factors?
If you are going to be concerned about something be concerned about a camera’s battery life, optical qualities and the surety of a digital camera’s auto focus system, paying particular attention to its behavior under household light and similarly dim conditions (restaurants, etc.). An outstanding auto focus system will mean the difference between obtaining that charming pic of your child at a birthday party vs. having to stand there trying to refocus until the moment is gone. By contrast, camera noise — unless you plan on printing images larger than 8x10, which you really shouldn’t attempt with a 6MP anyway — is most likely a nil issue.
Get the camera. You won’t regret it.
Pros lighting fast focus, great controls, SMALL compared to competion
Cons no zoom in movie mode, no dedicated ISO button, no panarama/stich assist mode
Summary Great camera, I bought yesterday at Circuit City for $399.00 in black, (hint, this camera in silver is on sale for $339.00, the store I was at didn't have silver in stock.) Bought this camera after extensive research, wanting a mega-zoom, yet wanting to retain some portability. This camera is loads smaller, and lighter than the Canon S2 IS, or the Sony H1, both of which are monsters. This camera has a 2.5 inch lcd, as opposed to the 1.8 lcd of the Canon.
This camera seems to focus blazingly fast, with no or little shutter delay, which was one of the main faults of the older Olympus C3000 which it is replacing. It is about the same size of the C3000, and lighter in weight, with 12X zoom as opposed to 3X of the C3000.
The image stabilazation seems to work very well, which was somewhat of a problem with the C3000. Everything on the camera seems well thought out, with it being very easy to learn most funtions without consulting the manuel. I looked closely at the Canon S2 IS in various stores, the controls did not seem to be very as easy to learn, with no explanation of scene modes offered while the camera was in use, which the Panasonic does well.
The movie mode in the Panasonic seems very good, except that there is no zoom,(which even my old C3000 did) or ability change focus (either manuel or auto) once you start recording.
This camera also does not have any type of panarama/stich assist functions, that the Canon seemed to have, however, I don't know how much use I would really get out of that anyway.
Two things I wish it had was a dedicated ISO button, instead of having to navigate through the menu, however, that works fairly easy. The other wish is a dedicated scene mode for Beach or Sunrise/Sunset, that several of the other brands of cameras I looked at had.
One thing that is a big selling point for me is the fact that the flash remains folded down until you want to use it, I can't remember how many times I inadvertantly took a flash photo with my C3000 because I forgot to disable it.
Overall, this camera seems to be a lot less frustrating to navigate through the menus than the C3000 was. It is easy to use, yet has enough features that it is still fun to putz with the controls.
The capibilities it possesses in such a small package will, I confident to say, make it a great and useful camera to use.
"What a joy!"on by Technogeek333
Pros Great photos, easy to use, manual focus, fast, upto 16.5x zoom, versatile, big lcd screen, image stabalization, intelligent design layout, etc.
Cons comes with a wimpy 15 meg sd card
Summary I researched a number of cameras before settling on this one. I have owned a Kodak, Canon, and Nikon before this. This camera does it all for me. The wide range of controls, including just doing it manually allow for shooting in all the conditions that I want from low light, candle light, bright light, you name it. I have tried the various resolutions and even at 3 megapixels the photos are outstanding. It covers all of my present needs and then some. I really could not be happier. The only reason I did not give it a ten is because I do not think perfection is possible.
"The Panasonic DMC-FZ7K is an outstanding camera that is easy to use and takes awesome pictures!"on by itsmejs
Pros Quick startup, sharp pictures, and it' s just the right size for a zoom camera.
Cons Having trouble finding a case for this camera
Summary I was considering the DMC-FZ30S, but it was a larger camera then I wanted. I also decided that I wouldn't need a camera that was more then 6 Megapixels. The 2.5 LCD display on this camera is easy to see and also very sharp as is the viewfinder. Most of the camera controls are easy to access and use. When you hold the camera it seems well built and is just the right weight for me. I found the camera for $339. I would suggest getting at least 1 MB of memory when purchasing this camera. If I can take great photos with this camera, just think what outstanding photos can be acquire with someone who really knows what they're doing.
Pros Professional results even from an amateur
Cons I will never have the time to learn everything this camera can do
Summary This is my third digital camera. I did no research before my previous purchases, and like most people I went for the most megapixels I could afford. Little did I know the size, and quality of the lenses was most important. Also, following an accident which left me with limited use of one hand, I was interested in the "anti-shake" technology, which has worked just as described.
This camera will zoom in, and take a picture of an ant on the back of a bug! The other day I went eagle watching, and took pictures while sitting in my car. It appeared as if I had been sitting in the tree with the bird. After sharing my pictures of my grand-daughter's 2nd birthday party I was told by several people I should become a professional photographer.
This was all "out of the box, point and shoot". Every day I discover a new setting or button, and find even more fun. Definitely don't frustrate yourself trying to learn functions by reading the manual...just go do it! If you do have a question, I've found Panasonic to be extremely easy to contact, and helpful by phone.
Buy it, and have fun for half of what I paid for it. You will not be sorry
Thanks for your submission!
Write a Review
- Amazon.com Marketplace
- Release date02/21/06
- Digital camera type Full body
- Resolution 6 megapixels
- Optical zoom 12 x
- Lens 36 - 432mm F/2.8
- Optical sensor size 1/2.5"
- Optical sensor type CCD
- Image stabilizer Optical