Two compacts cameras that have impressed us this summer are the Sony HX5V (our review here), and the subject of this review, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 (the TZ10 in some markets). Both cameras share very similar form factors, similar specs, and both of them feature built-in GPS, a fun and potentially useful addition that lets you geotag your photos for either organizational purposes, or simply for locating images later on Google Maps for example.
The ZS7 brings to the table a slightly longer lens than the HX5V (12x zoom vs 10x zoom) and also seems a bit more oriented to somewhat skilled photographers, as compared to the more beginner friendly HX5V. Either camera makes an excellent traveling companion, indeed our preference for either almost seems like a coin toss, but most of the time that coin comes up ZS7.
- Sensor: 1/2.33″ Type CCD, 12.1 million megapixels.
- Lens: 12x optical zoom, 25 – 300mm (35mm equiv.), f/3.3 – 4.9.
- ISO: 80-1600, High Sensitivity (1600 – 6400).
- Continuous Shooting: 2.3 fps for 5 frames (standard), or 3 frames (fine).
- LCD: 3″ 460K dot.
- Shooting Modes: Intelligent AUTO, Program AE, Aperture Priority AE, Shutter Priority AE, Manual, Custom, SCN, My SCN 1, My SCN 2, Clipboard.
- Scene Modes: Portrait, Soft Skin, Transform, Self-Portrait, Scenery, Panorama Assist, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Food, Party, Candle Light, Baby1, Baby2, Pet, Sunset, High sensitivity, Hi-Speed Burst, Flash Burst, Starry Sky, Fireworks, Beach, Snow, Aerial photo, Pinhole, Film Grain, High Dynamic (Standard, Art, B&W), Photo Frame, Underwater.
- Video: 1280 x 720 @ 30fps, 848 x 480 @ 30fps, 640 x 480 @ 30fps. Stereo sound.
- Dimensions: 4.1 x 2.3 x 1.3 in. (103 x 60 x 33 mm).
- Weight: 7.7 oz (217 g) includes batteries.
EXTERIOR AND INTERFACE
For a camera packing an awfully complicated 12x zoom lens, the ZS7 is quite compact, featuring a well made and rather classy exterior. The camera’s front offers a slight bulge for grip which is paired with a textured surface for the thumb on the rear.
It’s an easy hold, but the camera’s slick surface should encourage users to consider using the wrist strap for security. Camera controls on the rear are a bit small, but are well labeled and are responsive to the touch.
Panasonic’s typical “Capture/Playback” switch is here, and a dedicated movie record button means that video is always a button press away. A dedicated flash means no annoying pop-up action (sorry Canon SX210 IS), and clever placement of the stereo speakers means fingers aren’t apt to accidentally cover them during recording.
All in all the ZS7 is a well made camera, that while not offering the most innovative design, sure comes off quite practical and compact.
As to the interface, the ZS7 appears to be a bit more complex at first blush than the competitors, and it certainly offers more in the menu section in terms of customization (like control noise reduction for example).
It isn’t nearly as pretty as the HX5V or SX210 IS, nor does it come off as intuitive, but in actual practice the interface is fairly to use: the “Quick Menu” button allows for easy camera setting changes, the “Display” button offers several different views of your composition, or captures depending on the mode you’re in, and as we mentioned, while the menu isn’t as neat in appearance, it’s still effective at getting the job done, and offers more options than “the other guys”.
The visuals aren’t just a ZS7 thing, it’s a Panasonic thing we’re noticing, and though we don’t mean to make to big of deal of it, we do wish they’d consider giving their interfaces a bit of refresh.