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Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS15 Overview

Posted: 01/30/2012

The pocket-friendly body of the Panasonic ZS15 couples a 1/2.3-inch type, 12.1 effective megapixel, RGB-filtered MOS image sensor, and a Leica DC Vario-Elmar branded 16x optical zoom lens. In 35mm equivalents, the ZS15's lens provides everything from a very generous 24mm wide angle, to a powerful 384mm telephoto. When recording movies, a stronger focal length crop results in a 35mm-equivalent range of 27 - 432mm, still a reasonably useful wide angle, and an extremely powerful telephoto. As you'd expect with this much telephoto reach, there's a Power O.I.S. optical image stabilization system included, and when shooting movies, an Active mode allows a greater degree of correction. Continuous shooting is possible at a rate of around ten full-resolution frames per second for as many as four frames.

The Panasonic ZS15's lens has a maximum aperture that varies from f/3.3 to f/5.9 across the zoom range. The minimum focusing distance for the Panasonic DMC-ZS15 is ordinarily 50 centimeters, but drops to just three centimeters at wide angle or one meter at telephoto, when switched to Macro mode. There's sadly no optical or electronic viewfinder; for framing and reviewing images and videos, the Panasonic ZS15 opts instead for a 3.0-inch LCD display with 460,000 dot resolution, equating to approximately 153,000 pixels, with each pixel comprising separate red, green, and blue dots.

The Panasonic ZS15 has a 23-point multi-area autofocus system which also includes a single-point focusing mode. An AF assist lamp allows the ZS15 to focus on nearby subjects in difficult lighting conditions. As with almost all digital cameras these days, there's also a face detection function, with Panasonic's implementation using the information to adjust both focus and exposure to properly capture your subjects' faces. Going a step further than some cameras, though, the Lumix DMC-ZS15 can also be programmed to recognize specific individuals' faces, and prioritize these over other detected photos when capturing photos, or search for photos containing a specific person's face in playback mode. The Panasonic Lumix ZS15 also has an implementation of autofocus tracking, which can monitor a subject as it moves around the frame, continuing to update autofocus as required.

ISO sensitivity ordinarily ranges from 100 to 3,200 equivalents, with the ability to extend this as far as ISO 6,400 equivalent in High Sensitivity mode. There's also Panasonic's Intelligent ISO function, which detects if your subject is moving, and adjusts sensitivity appropriately to gain a shutter speed to freeze that motion. Shutter speeds from 1/4,000 to 15 seconds are possible. The Panasonic ZS15 uses Intelligent Multiple metering, with Center Weighted and Spot metering options available.

The Panasonic ZS15 offers six white balance settings including Auto, Manual, and four fixed presets. A whopping selection of 17 still image scene modes let users tailor the look of their images and movies with a minimum of effort, and the Panasonic ZS15 also offers aperture-, shutter-priority, or fully manual still image modes when more control is desired. There's also an Intelligent Auto mode, which can automatically select from a subset of available scene modes.

In movie capture, there are four options for Intelligent Scene Selection -- Portrait, Scenery, Low Light, or Macro. The Panasonic ZS15 can also capture 3D images in MPO (Multi Picture Object) format, by processing data from a number of sequentially captured images. A five mode flash strobe includes red-eye reduction capability, and when using Auto ISO sensitivity, has a rated range of up to 6.4 meters at wide-angle, or 3.5 meters at telephoto.

As well as JPEG still images, the Panasonic ZS15 can capture movies at up to 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution or below, using either AVCHD compression for high-def movies. Full HD movies are captured at an interlaced 60 fields per second from 60 frames per second sensor data, while 720p movies can be captured at 60 progressive-scan frames per second, and at all resolutions, movies can be recorded at 30 frames per second. All movies include monaural sound. A Video Divide function allows in-camera movie splitting, letting users trim away the unwanted portions to keep just the parts of movies that they desire.

The Panasonic ZS15 stores its images and movies on Secure Digital cards, including the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC types. There's also a useful 70MB of built-in memory. Connectivity options include a USB 2.0 High-Speed connection, plus standard definition NTSC video output. The Panasonic ZS15 can also output high-definition video via a mini-HDMI connection, and is compatible with Panasonic's proprietary "VIERA Link" system that allows the connected TV's remote control to be used to navigate the camera's slideshows.

Power comes from a proprietary lithium-ion battery with ID-Security feature that prevents use of counterfeit or third-party batteries, and is rated as good for 260 shots on a charge to CIPA testing standards. The software bundle includes PHOTOfunSTUDIO 8.0 Advanced Edition.

Pricing for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS15 is set at approximately US$280 with availability from March 2012. Two body colors will be available: black and silver.

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