Pros + Intelligent automatic is amazing
+ Solid metal body, stylish design
+ Intuitive menu plus very convenient Quick-menu
+ Image quality when optical zoom was at max was very good
+ Very good movie quality in 720p
+ Accepts SD/SDHC and new SDXC
Cons - A mechanical lever for switching between shooting and playback modes
- Some soft "sh-sh-sh" noise while zooming in and out (but no "clicks")
- I wish more sensitivity for low-light shooting
Summary After using this camera for a few weeks I am amending my rating and giving it 5 stars. This camera is truly incredible. The intelligent automatic is amazing---I only move it to manual for a few special situations. The only real complaint is that I occasionally inadvertently hit the video button. Otherwise it is simply amazing.
It handles difficult situations with grace. Sunset with sky and foreground properly exposed. Delivery room newborn with no flash and low ambient lighting. Black and white is fantastic. Couldn't be happier.
This is a great camera for a beginner---Point and shoot. Lots of control for advance photographers. I'm sorry to say I don't lug around a camera bag and tripod anymore. Just slip this in my purse.
I waited a long time to upgrade from the first generation Panasonic Lumix TZ1 (complete with dangling lens cover & 5MP) Glad I did. The best improvements are the quick power-up and lack of a shutter delay for catching fast action. If you leave it in the completely automatic mode it does an impressive job---and if you need control there's plenty and then some. Lots of programs plus aperture and shutter priority or complete control.
Other notable improvements are in the macro end of things where capturing very fine close-ups are greatly improved---my TZ1 was always focusing on the background if I could get it to focus at all. This does an incredible job! Almost too much detail (if that's possible) Every speck on the petal of a flower is exposed. This camera is slightly smaller and has a larger display screen. Most of the functions and dials are similar and I find easy to use but that may be because they are familiar.
Flash is improved over the first generation.
The zoom on the original was 10X. 12X even better. I took incredible photos of bullfrogs 15 feet away. Unbelievable detail.
This camera isn't perfect and no camera will ever be. It would be nice to have a more powerful flash and nice if you could shoot in lower light with less noise without flash and it would be nice if it had a 20X optical zoom and a faster lens but for what it is its an incredible piece of engineering. AND don't forget the Leica lens which is just plain beautiful.
All cameras have limitations and this is no exception. However it will get you a great photo most of the time. The wide angle to long telephoto range is why I bought my first Lumix. This flexibility makes for great travel photos. I did side by side comparisons of a Sony, Canon, Nikon and the first Lumix in the store and then we printed them out on the spot. No comparison. No ghosting, better color correction, better macro. And I like the ergonomics. I always place the wrist band over my wrist and hold onto the camera with fingers and pad of thumb and it feels secure. Some of the ultra small cameras are almost too small for me. (Didn't compare to current models)
What is truly awful about this camera is that the manual is on a disk and covers this camera and its 2 predecessors making it a bit (if Not totally confusing at times). It also does not come with MAC compatible editing software which is really not a big deal for me. One person asked if it is MAC OSX 10.6.3 compatible and it is. The only problem I've encountered is in using Aperture (a MAC program)it doesn't want to import directly into a project that has other images from my other Lumix camera. Make a new project and problem is solved but irritating. (Manual software and downloading from card to MAC is compatible)
Haven't tried uploading video yet.
DO purchase an extra Panasonic Battery DMW-BCG 10PP. Make sure it has the PP (It won't work without it) Also you'll need a SD Card. It's not necessary to go to the Class 6 cards unless you are shooting HD video. A SDHC 4GB card will hold 700+ photos at full MP.For most people this will be more than adequate. I carry two cards in case one goes south. You can always find them on sale for under $20. I also like the Caselogic TBC-302 Ultra Compact Camera Case for under $8.
*** P.S. If you will buy this camera I suggest you have a compare price before you decide at: www.amazon.com/gp/*************?ie=UTF8&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%****%2Foffer-listing%2FB00395WIXA%3Fie%3DUTF8%26ref_%3Ddp_olp_new_map%26condition%3Dnew&tag=***************&********=ur2&camp=1789&creative=390957
Pros Great pictures, lots of features, easy to use
Cons battery life. The lense failed to retract after shut down and would not focus or zoom a couple of months after the warranty expired.
Summary I purchased this camera from Costco for a reasonable price after comparing several different manufacturers and deciding this was the superior choice. The camera took great pictures and was easy to use. I was very happy with it. At my daughter's graduation the camera's lense began to stop functioning. I could hear the motor turning and trying to retract and extend the lense but the lense wouldn't respond. I then received an error message on the camera screen stating there was an error and to restart the camera which did not resolve the issue. I called Panasonic and they said it was out of warranty and I could have the camera exchanged for a refurbished one for $180.00 dollars. I will throw this camera in the trash and buy either a canon or a nikon.
Pros Flexible shooting options, quality zoom, GPS, good battery life (even with GPS), compact size for 12x zoom.
Cons Flash seems a little weak, some zoomed-in pictures show blurry edges, menus are not intuitive, AVCHD video format not iPhoto compatible (but does work with iMovie). GPS doesn't work in or near China.
Summary I got this camera to take travel pictures on hikes around the world, replacing a Canon SX200is, also a 12x super-zoom compact. As shown from my pros and cons above, I like the ZS7's size and feature set when compared to the Canon, but don't like the low-light pictures and image quality beyond 12x.
The primary reason I chose this camera was the GPS and it works beautifully. On hikes in the local mountains, it acquires signal quickly and affects battery life minimally. When displayed in iPhoto or Smugmug, the geo-tags are precise. The clock can be set to automatically adjust using the GPS, a nice feature for travelers. One issue I'm concerned about is Panasonic claims the GPS won't work in China or neighboring areas (owing to Chinese prohibitions on foreigners engaging in "mapping" within their borders), and I'm planing a trip to Nepal. Panasonic say there is no work-around.
Image quality is good overall, with true colors and sharp resolution up to 12x zoom. Panasonic claim that the camera's optical really goes to 16x because of some excess sensor real estate, but I found images do show some artifacting above 12x. While in zoom, the camera focus can take a couple of seconds, especially when focusing on distant objects. There is some annoying shutter lag in general, which is even more noticeable when using the underpowered flash. Start-up time is fairly quick though.
Movie quality is good, with several format options. The AVCHD format, which Panasonic recommend for HDTV viewing, is not compatible with Macs' iPhoto software, but it will load to iMovie. An MPEG video option is also available, which does work in iPhoto, and is HD. The only downside is the geo-tagging does not work with that format. The ZS7 has a dedicated movie button located on the back of the camera. I found the button to be small and difficult to press without shaking the camera.
The ZS7's automatic mode does a good job sensing what the user wants and is great for on-the-fly shots where there is no time to micro-manage. I caught a great closeup of a jumping frog while outside, and some nice images of my kids hugging their grandma after opening Christmas gifts; spontaneous moments where an amateur like me can't quickly adjust settings for the perfect picture. When there is time, however, the flexibility of the shooting modes yields some nice results. It seems as though there is a setting for everything, from taking pictures of food, to softening the skin in portraits, to taking pictures out an airplane window. The manual shutter and aperture settings are there, and relatively easy to adjust. I got some nice images of a flowing creek showing blurred motion and a cool closeup of a wildflower with a blurred background using the manual adjustments.
While it's a no-brainer to use the automatic mode, choosing the appropriate scene mode and running through the menus for such features as stabilization, naming your pet or face identification, GPS features, etcetera, is less than intuitive. There are so many scene modes that it can get a little confusing as to what they all do. You will have to read the electronic manual.
Pros Excellent quality in most lighting conditions, fast start up, easy to navigate menus, sharp photos with high contrast, long battery life.
Cons Some blur in dim lighting situations.
Summary I bought this camera to replace an Olympus 765 that was showing it's age. I use a Canon XT Rebel in conjunction with a pocket camera for most purposes. I was hesitant to buy a camera that did not offer an optical viewfinder, but it seems that camera makers are eliminating that feature on smaller cameras. I am extremely happy with this camera despite the fact that it does not offer an optical viewfinder. The anti shake function seems to eliminate blur even when using the zoom at its highest level. Videos are easy to record as well. I highly recommend this gem to anyone, beginner, and enthusiast who is interested in a portable, powerful ultra zoom.
Pros Excellent at taking angled photos
Cons The price is a little higher. Do research before you purchase