Panasonic DMC-FZ7 Design
Without its long, flanged lens hood, the Panasonic FZ7 resembles the short, squat body of a classic Leica rangefinder camera. It's smaller and considerably lighter than a Leica, though, at just over three quarters of a pound with card, and battery (0.78 pounds; 356 grams; 12.56 ounces). Adding the lens hood adds about 37 grams (a little over an ounce). Dimensions on the Panasonic FZ7 are also rather svelte for a model with this much firepower, at 4.4 x 2.8 x 3.1 inches (112.5 x 72.2 x 87.8mm). Adding the lens hood, which prevents flare, does add considerable length to the barrel of the camera, making it nearly impossible to pack into a coat pocket. While some might feel the hood gives the camera a more professional look, others might think it just looks kind of strange. The camera is big enough that I recommend a small case to protect the Panasonic FZ7. Just shoving it into a backpack will surely damage the finish, and could result in damage to the lens mechanism, since without the lens hood on, the lens mechanism protrudes from the front of the camera.
From the front, the camera has a low-slung appearance, with the pop-up flash housing slanted downward. On the right side of the Panasonic FZ7--from the user's perspective--is the rubberized handgrip, a slightly darker gray than the rest of the camera. The barrel of the lens also has metal ring that is used to attach the hood adaptor and other optional accessory lenses. Upper left of the lens are two holes for the Mic, and the AF assist lamp/Self-timer indicator.
The right side of the Panasonic FZ7 has an exposed metal lug for the strap, and is otherwise featureless.
The left side has the other lashing point, plus a plastic flip door for the AV Out/Digital socket and the DC In socket.
The top of the Panasonic FZ7 on the right has a decent sized zoom ring surrounding the shutter button on the cusp of the handgrip, and two small buttons: one for activating the optical image stabilization and selecting the stabilizer mode, and another for switching between autofocus and manual focus. The mode dial just right of the electronic viewfinder, toward the back of the Panasonic FZ7. Its placement is excellent for quick changes with a flick of the thumb, though I worry that it's a little loose.. The center top of the camera has the pop-up flash.
The 2.5-inch LCD dominates the back of the camera toward the center left. As mentioned in the user report, while the screen is large, the resolution is only mediocre and sometimes fails to give accurate representations of an image's quality. The Panasonic FZ7's LCD is, however, nice and bright and has a good angle of view, especially when taking overhead shots. The back is also populated with several tiny buttons including the manually-operated flash activator button, the EVF/LCD switcher, an on/off switch, a display/LCD mode button and a continuous mode/trash button. (These buttons are a bit tiny for my fingers, requiring me to operate them with my thumb turned at a sharp angle.) In the center right of the back of the Panasonic FZ7 is the "joystick," which is really more of an omni-directional button. Four cursor buttons on the bottom right of the back of the camera--also very tiny--let you select exposure compensation, flash, review and self-timer options. In the center is the Set/Menu button.
The bottom of the Panasonic FZ7 has a large sliding door for the battery and the SD Card slot below the handgrip. If the O.I.S. needs some help for particularly shaky shots, there's also a metal tripod mount in the center of the bottom of the camera.
Panasonic DMC-FZ7 External Controls
Power switch: Located on the back of the Panasonic FZ7 next to the EVF/LCD button, the power switch turns the camera on or off. Powering the camera on with the Mode dial set to a record mode triggers the lens to extend.
Shutter button: The shutter button, located on top of the handgrip, sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed, and when fully depressed, it trips the shutter release. In Self-Timer mode, fully depressing the Shutter button triggers a two- or 10-second countdown before the shutter is released.
Mode dial: The mode dial is located near the pop-up flash. Turning it is easy but each mode selection does not sharply lock into place, so it can turn by accident. The icons denote the following functions:
Program AE mode: The camera automatically adjusts exposure.
Aperture-Priority AE: Shutter speed is determined by the aperture value set by the user.
Shutter-priority AE: The aperture value is automatically determined by the shutter speed set by the user.
Manual exposure: Exposure is adjustable depending on which aperture value and shutter speed are selected.
Macro mode: This mode is designed for taking close-up pictures of a subject.
Motion picture mode: Lets the user record video clips in six different settings and two aspect ratios, 4:3 and 16:9 at 10 or 30 frames per second.
Scene mode: In this setting, the user can pick from 16 different scene modes.
Simple mode: The camera sets everything in this entry-level mode.
Playback mode: The user can playback images and video clips in this mode.
Zoom ring: The zoom ring is a rotary toggle surrounding the shutter button. As is befitting a camera with a long zoom like the Panasonic FZ7, the ring is very responsive and zooms in and out smoothly. The zoom ring also lets you zoom in on an image in playback mode to check for sharpness.
Four-way Cursor and Menu/Set buttons: Located to the right of the Lumix FZ7's LCD display, this group of four cursor buttons circling the Menu button accesses a variety of camera settings. Menu options are navigated and camera settings adjusted using the buttons as arrow keys. The top button lets you adjust exposure, auto bracketing and flash exposure. When the flash is on (it must be manually deployed by pressing the "flash open" button), the right button lets you pick between six flash modes: Auto, Auto/Red-Eye reduction, Forced ON, Forced ON/Red-eye reduction, Slow sync/Red-Eye reduction, and Forced OFF. The bottom button labeled "REV" lets you do a quick review of your images while you're still in a recording mode. The left button is for setting the self timer which can be set to two or ten seconds. The Panasonic FZ7's center button is for accessing the menu system or for setting a function.
Optical image stabilizer button: This button is located on the top of the camera and allows you to turn image stabilization on or off and set it to one of two modes. In Mode 1, the stabilizer is continuously active; in Mode 2 it is activated only when the shutter is pressed.
Auto focus/Manual Focus button: This button lets you switch between auto focus and manual focus. In manual focus, the joystick on the back of the camera can be adjusted up or down to focus the camera. To access MF assist, the user must also select it from the menu and choose either MF1, where the center of the screen is enlarged or MF2 where the entire screen is enlarged.
Joystick: Along with helping the user adjust manual focus, the joystick can be used to manually adjust exposure in the Manual mode by setting aperture and shutter speed. The joystick can also help scroll through images in playback mode though, for some reason, you cannot use it to scroll through menus.
Flash activator: The flash activator button pops up the springloaded flash assembly and allows you to select among flash modes.
EVF/LCD button: With this button, you can switch between using the electronic view finder or LCD screen to compose images, depending on the circumstances.
Burst mode/Delete button: In Record mode, this button can turn on or turn off the continuous shooting burst capabilities of the Panasonic FZ7. In playback, this button brings up an image deletion dialog.