Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ3 Review

 
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Panasonic LZ3 Design

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ3 strikes a nice balance between maintaining a simple design and giving you quick access to important functions through hardware controls. Measuring 3.9 x 2.4 x 1.7 inches (100 x 62 x 43 millimeters), the camera weighs approximately 8.22 ounces (233 grams) with batteries and memory card installed. Its plastic body has an understated look, and the telescoping lens retracts to give the Panasonic LZ3 clean lines and a compact form when you're carrying it in a pocket or bag.

The front of the Panasonic LZ3 features the retractable 6x Lumix DC Vario zoom lens. Above and to its right are the flash and the combination self-timer indicator and autofocus assist lamp. On the left side is a curved grip that extends about a quarter inch from the front surface.

The right side of the Lumix LZ3 (as viewed from the back) features the SD/MMC card slot, which is behind a plastic door. Above that is an eyelet for the wrist strap.

The left side of the Panasonic LZ3 (as viewed from the back) features a door that conceals a port for connecting the included USB and AV cables and a jack for the optional AC adapter.

The Panasonic LZ3's top panel features the mode dial; the zoom lever, which surrounds the shutter release button; the power switch; and the Optical Image Stabilizer button.

Dominating the rear panel of the Lumix LZ3 is the 2.0-inch LCD. In the upper right-hand corner, there's a molded edge to rest your thumb against and some small indented points to help you position your hand by touch. I found it more natural to rest my thumb against the corner of the LCD while shooting, the "official" thumb rest left my hand a little cramped-feeling. Below the thumb area is a five-way arrow pad that activates various functions and allows menu navigation. Below the arrow pad on the left is the Display/High Angle button. It cycles through display options when you press it quickly and activates the High Angle LCD mode when you press it and hold it. The High Angle mode adjusts the Panasonic LZ3's LCD for viewing when you hold the camera above eye level. To the right of that is the Burst mode/Delete button. When you're shooting in Easy mode, all of the buttons activate a more limited range of options, and the Up arrow button activates a Backlight mode instead of exposure compensation and autobracketing.

The Panasonic LZ3's bottom panel features the battery compartment on the right and the tripod mount on the left. While the tripod mount is far enough from the battery compartment to allow battery changes without the need to dismount the camera, it doesn't center the lens over the tripod head.

 

Panasonic LZ3 External Controls


Shutter Button
: Located on the right side of the Lumix LZ3's top panel and surrounded by the Zoom lever, the Shutter button 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.

Zoom Lever (see image above): Surrounding the Panasonic LZ3's Shutter button, this lever controls the optical and digital zoom in any Record mode.

In Review mode, pushing the Panasonic LZ3's zoom lever toward the "W" end activates a nine-, sixteen-, or twenty-five-image index display mode. Pushing the lever to the "T" end digitally enlarges a captured image as much as 16x. When playback zoom is active, pushing the lever back toward the "W" zooms back out.


Mode Dial
: To the left of and slightly behind the Panasonic LZ3's Shutter button, this notched dial on the camera's top panel is used to select the camera's shooting modes as follows:

  • Motion Picture Mode: Records short movie clips (without sound), at 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 pixels, both at 30 or 10 fps. Given a fast enough SD card, the actual amount of recording time is limited only by the capacity of the SD card in the camera (and of course the remaining battery life). (We tested with Kingston 133x and 50x cards with good results. Slow SD cards may result in limits to the length of video clips you can record without pausing.) Movies cannot be recorded on an MMC card. A handful of image parameter adjustments are available in this mode, including exposure compensation, white balance, AF mode, digital zoom, optical stabilization, and color effect. However, once recording starts, the aperture, optical and digital zoom, and focus are locked for the duration of recording.
  • Macro Mode: Sets the camera for image capture, and allows you to take close-up pictures of your subject. Whereas regularly the camera will only focus as close as 1.64 feet (50 centimeters) at the wide position or 3.94 feet (1.2 meters) at the telephoto position, in Macro mode the camera can focus as close as 0.16 feet (5 centimeters) at the wide position or 1.64 feet (50 centimeters) at telephoto.
  • Economy Mode: Dims the LCD slightly, turns the LCD off five seconds after you take a picture or 15 seconds after you operate a control, and puts the whole camera into sleep mode if you don't operate its controls for two minutes.
  • Normal Picture Mode: Sets the camera for image capture, with all variables except for image size / quality, optical / digital zoom, flash mode, ISO sensitivity, white balance, AF mode, self-timer, aspect ratio, AF assist lamp, slow-sync shutter speed, color effects, sharpness, and burst mode set automatically. Voice annotation, antishake modes, exposure compensation, and autobracketing are also selectable in this mode.
  • Playback Mode: This mode allows you to scroll through captured images and movies; play slideshows; add voice annotations to photos; mark photos as favorites; write-protect images; view a nine-, 16-, or 25-image index display; zoom into a captured image; delete unwanted images; rotate, trim, and resize images; copy images between internal and card storage; set up images for printing on DPOF compatible devices; play movies; and format the memory card.
  • Simple Mode: This would be the "green" or "Auto" mode on other cameras; Panasonic calls it the "Simple" mode. In this mode, most user options are removed, allowing control only over image resolution (with options of "Enlarge," "4x6," or "E-Mail"), Beep (off/low/high), Battery Type (alkaline/NiMH or oxyride), and Clock Set. Continuous-mode options are reduced to a single choice, and instead of exposure compensation adjustments, the up arrow on the four-way controller simply toggles a Backlight option. Flash options are reduced to just Off and Auto with Red-Eye Reduction. The self-timer function offers only a 10-second option, and the image stabilizer is permanently set to Mode 1. In Simple mode the camera can focus as close as 0.16 feet (5 centimeters) at the wide position or 1.64 feet (50 centimeters) at telephoto.
  • Scene Mode 1: You can set each of the scene mode positions to directly access a particular mode. When you activate the LCD menus, you can scroll through other selections. The available scene modes are Portrait, Soft Skin, Scenery, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Food, Party, Candle Light, Fireworks, Starry Sky, Snow, Baby 1, Baby 2, and High Sensitivity.
  • Scene Mode 2: Same as Scene Mode 1, this lets you quickly switch between two different pre-selected scene modes, without entering the LCD menu system.


Optical Image Stabilizer Button
: Directly to the right of the Panasonic LZ3's Shutter button / Zoom lever combo on the top panel, this button accesses the camera's image Stabilizer function, which attempts to reduce image blurring caused by camera shake. The Lumix LZ3's Stabilizer can be disabled altogether, or can be set to Mode 1 or 2. In Mode 1 the Stabilizer functions continuously. Mode 2 operates the Panasonic LZ3's Stabilizer only during the actual image capture, which conserves power and potentially provides a slightly better chance of capturing a blur-free image (when in Mode 1, the Stabilizer may already have used much of its available range to correct shake that occurred just before the shutter was released, and hence may not have as much latitude to correct the shake during the actual exposure).


Power Switch
: Below the stabilizer button, this sliding switch turns the camera on or off. Powering the Panasonic LZ3 on with the Mode dial set to a record mode triggers the lens to extend. (Likewise, turning the camera off causes the lens to retract.)


Cursor Buttons
: On the rear of the Panasonic LZ3, this group of four cursor buttons circling the Menu/Set button accesses a variety of camera settings. Menu options are navigated and camera settings adjusted using the buttons as arrow keys. The Up arrow activates exposure compensation, autobracketing, and white balance fine-tuning, all of which you can adjust with the Right and Left arrows. (In Simple mode, the Up arrow instead activates a backlight compensation feature.) The Down arrow displays the last photograph taken when you're in shooting mode. The Left arrow activates the two- or 10-second self-timer, while the Right arrow cycles through five flash modes.

In Playback mode, the right and left arrow keys navigate through captured images and movie files. The down arrow key starts or stops movie playback. While a movie is playing, the left and right arrow keys cue through the movie, while the up arrow key pauses the movie. When an image has been digitally enlarged, the four arrow keys pan around within the image.

Menu/Set Button (see image above): In the middle of the Panasonic LZ3's Cursor buttons is the Menu/Set button, which calls up the settings menus on the LCD display in all camera modes. A further press of the Menu button cancels the menu display. Pushing the Set button while the menus are active applies the highlighted setting.


Display Button
: Below the cursor pad, this button controls the image and information displays in Record and Playback modes. In Record mode, pressing the button cycles between the four display modes, which include the image with information, image with information and live histogram, alignment grid, and image with no information modes.

In Playback mode, pressing the button cycles between the image with information, expanded information and histogram, and no information displays.


Burst Mode / Delete Button
: Directly to the right of the Display button. In most record modes, this button accesses the three Burst modes (High, Low, or Infinity), or returns to the single-shot mode. In Playback and Review modes this button pulls up the delete menu.

 

Panasonic DMC-LZ3

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