Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ7 Review
|Full model name:||Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ7|
|Dimensions:||3.9 x 2.5 x 1.3 in.
(99 x 62 x 33 mm)
|Weight:||8.4 oz (239 g)
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ7 Overview
by Stephanie Boozer
Review Date: 01/14/07
Similar in shape, size, and style to preceding Panasonic Lumix models, most notably the DMC-LZ5, the DMC-LZ7 is a little boxy, yet still fairly compact. The DMC-LZ7 offers many of the same features as the LZ5, but updates the line with a 7.2-megapixel CCD, improved "Mega O.I.S." (Optical Image Stabilization), a new High Sensitivity mode offering ISOs up to 3,200 with Intelligent ISO Control, and a new blur warning. Offering more features to help you get better shots in common situations where lighting is bad and the subjects are moving, such as kids in a classroom, in a play, etc., the DMC-LZ7 is aimed at the family photographer. Panasonic has included a large selection of scene modes for just about any situation you can think of, and optimized the automatic exposure system to do just about everything for you except press the shutter button.
In addition to its almost dummy-proof exposure modes, the DMC-LZ7 offers a generous 6x optical zoom lens, equivalent to a 37-222mm lens on a 35mm camera. As much as 4x digital zoom is available, and there's also a 9x "Extended Optical Zoom" option, which limits the resolution to the 3.0-megapixel size to minimize quality loss. A unique feature here is the DMC-LZ7's Easy Zoom, a button on top of the camera (next to the Shutter button) which jumps between main zoom settings with one touch. The Lumix DMC-LZ7 also features a 2.5-inch color LCD monitor for framing and image review, with a High Angle option that brightens the view so you can see it better when holding the camera overhead, such as shooting over a crowd.
The Lumix DMC-LZ7 will easily fit into larger coat pockets and purses with its 3.88 x 2.45 x 1.30-inch size (99 x 62 x 33 millimeters). It's also fairly light weight at 8.4 ounces (239 grams) with the card and batteries, thanks to plastic body panels. The DMC-LZ7 comes in black or silver, and both models feature shiny silver accents around the lens barrel and on the side and top of the camera. Novice consumers will find the DMC-LZ7 quite simple to operate with just a quick read of the manual, since the camera primarily operates in automatic mode, but you'll need to read through the preset scene mode descriptions to fully understand what each mode does. It does provide user control of basic exposure tools such as EV compensation, white balance, color mode, ISO, etc., but is geared mainly toward automatic operation. Retailing online anywhere from $150 to $200, the DMC-LZ7 actually offers a lot for the money, with its long zoom and range of modes. We noticed high image noise in many cases, but if your intentions with the DMC-LZ7 are to capture small snapshots and images for email use, then the Lumix DMC-LZ7 is a good candidate to consider.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ7 User Report
by Stephanie Boozer
Introduction. With the Lumix DMC-LZ7, Panasonic attempts to address the most challenging area of average consumer digital photography: family and children shots. Because many consumers are simply trying to get great (or even just good) images of their wiggly kids, the DMC-LZ7 offers a range of scene modes and automatic settings to optimize exposures for dim lighting and moving subjects. With its range of scene modes, the DMC-LZ7 handles just about any common exposure situation you can think of. It has two Baby scene modes, each of which offers the option to record a child's age, automatically calculating how old the child is with each image to help you keep track of milestones. And because family photos and bad lighting seem to go hand in hand (think dance recitals, birthday parties, etc.), Panasonic also improved its ISO system, with an Intelligent ISO Control mode. That, combined with the camera's Mega O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilization) mode, should help many consumers get practically blur-free shots in dim lighting. However, with a maximum ISO of 3,200, expect to see noise in the images. Even under normal daylight, in bright, sunny conditions, I noticed a fair amount of image noise. Still, it's impressive that Panasonic is trying so hard to resolve common consumer concerns in digital photography.
At under $200, you get a 6x optical zoom lens with image stabilization, a 7.2-megapixel CCD, a host of preset shooting modes, and really high ISO. On the downside, I consistently noticed high noise in the DMC-LZ7's images. But if you're interest is purely in creating snapshots, and keeping prints around 5x7 or so, noise artifacts shouldn't pose too much of a problem. Indeed, our test prints show that ISO 100 shots from the Panasonic LZ7 are quite good at 11x14, though with slight luminance noise that isn't so bad because it has the look of film grain.
Look and feel. Boxy yet still compact, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ7 should find its way into larger coat pockets and purses with no trouble. Measuring 3.88 x 2.45 x 1.30-inch size (99 x 62 x 33 millimeters) and weighing in at 8.4 ounces (239 grams) with the memory card and batteries, the DMC-LZ7 is definitely travel worthy. The plastic body panels have a textured surface to help resist minor scratches, but might crack if dropped onto hard concrete, so keep the wrist strap in place. A good-sized bump on the front panel provides a nice handgrip, balanced by a sculpted ridge on the rear panel that secures your thumb as you hold the camera one-handed.
For most applications, I found I could easily shoot one-handed, and though I thought it a little frivolous at first, the Easy Zoom button did simplify zooming while shooting one-handed (especially as I was wielding a grasping 10-month-old on one hip and taking pictures with the other hand). Control layout is good and well-thought-out, with the main needs on the top panel, and easily accessible with a thumb or index finger. On the rear panel, the camera's minimal controls serve double-duty, giving you instant access to exposure compensation, flash mode, etc., without needing the LCD menu. I also liked the Review button, which let me quickly check an image post-capture without enabling instant review or delving into full Playback mode.
Lens. The Panasonic LZ7 offers a 6x optical zoom lens, equivalent to a 37-222mm lens on a 35mm camera, which is quite generous considering the camera's low price point. An Easy Zoom button on the top panel provides one-touch zooming between full wide angle, telephoto, full digital zoom, and Extended Optical Zoom (9x), useful when you don't have a lot of time to wait on the zoom lever to scoot through the full range. The Extended Optical Zoom option is a variation of digital zoom, as the camera is essentially cropping the center portion of the frame at full resolution and limiting the size to the 3-megapixel resolution (2,048 x 1,536 pixels), so keep that in mind if sharp detail is important.
The DMC-LZ7 also offers as much as 4x digital zoom, which not only crops the central portion of the CCD, but enlarges it. Resolution size is not limited, thus image quality and detail suffers. However, the camera did hold onto a lot of detail with digital zoom, despite fuzzy definition. The DMC-LZ7 automatically controls focus, but you can set the AF area through the Record menu. Options are Normal, Macro, 5-area AF, 3- and 1-area AF with High Speed, and Spot modes. The Spot and 1-area AF modes differ mainly by focusing speed and the area size, which is a little larger in 1-area mode. The camera's macro setting focuses as close as 0.16 feet, or five centimeters, and in our testing, captured a minimum area measuring 2.04 x 1.53 inches (52 x 39 millimeters).
(6x Optical Zoom)
6x Optical Zoom
with 4x Digital Zoom
9x Extended Optical Zoom
with 4x Digital Zoom
The Lumix DMC-LZ7 features a 2.5-inch color LCD monitor for framing and image playback, and omitted the typically inaccurate optical viewfinder. In most instances, I found the LCD monitor bright enough for framing, though I still had a little trouble seeing the image clearly in bright sunlight. Even in bright shade, the display was a tad difficult to see, thanks to the highly reflective window. Still, the camera's High Angle framing mode did brighten the display and enhance it for viewing overhead, which would be useful for shooting over crowds. A range of display modes are available, including limited or full information displays, a gridline option and a histogram. The gridline divides the image area into thirds vertically and horizontally, and is helpful in lining up subjects using the rule of thirds or to simply make sure you've got a linear surface straight. The histogram is useful as well, but tiny and really only easy to read if an exposure is really out of whack.
Modes. The Mode dial on top of the camera accesses the main camera modes, which include Normal, Simple, Playback, Intelligent ISO, Macro, Scene, Motion Picture, and Print modes. Normal mode is like a standard Program AE mode, keeping the camera in control of the exposure but letting you adjust a handful of other options. Simple mode is more like a full auto mode, and limits user options to a reduced offering of resolutions and minor setup utilities.
ISO. Intelligent ISO mode bases the sensitivity on the movement and conditions of the subject. The camera analyzes the amount of movement near the center of the screen, then sets the optimal ISO and shutter speeds. You can set the ISO limit to 400, 800, or 1,250 through the Record menu.
Scene modes. Finally, under the Scene option, the DMC-LZ7 offers an exceptional selection of preset modes: Portrait, Soft Skin, Scenery, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Food, Party, Candlelight, Sunset, Baby 1, Baby 2, Pet, High Sensitivity, Beach, Starry Sky, Fireworks, Snow, and Aerial Photo. A good selection of modes, which addresses everyday--and some not-so-everyday exposure conditions. High Sensitivity mode sets ISO to 3,200, which sounds like it would be a real help, but resolution is significantly cut down, making for a smudgy image.
Because the DMC-LZ7 appears to be oriented toward capturing snapshots of family and kids, I tested a few of the camera's preset modes in a common situation. All of the above were taken in normal window light, and I kept the Mega O.I.S. setting enabled. The first image, captured in the Baby scene mode, utilized the Red-eye flash, and looks pretty much like any normal auto flash exposure. The camera automatically enabled the flash, so no ambient lighting was allowed in to balance the exposure. In High Sensitivity mode, the camera instead raised the ISO all the way to 3,200, which resulted in very strong image noise. The final two images were captured in Intelligent ISO mode, with and without the flash. In both modes, I set the maximum ISO to 1,250 (you can choose between 400, 800, and 1,250), but the camera opted to go only as high as 400, minimizing noise. It did slow down the shutter speed however, to 1/8 second, which is hard to hand-hold, and though Mega O.I.S. was enabled, the image is slightly blurry. Still, I like that the camera opted to slow down the shutter rather than crank up the ISO all the way, saving the image from too much noise. And even though the shot is slightly soft, the image stabilizer did a good job considering the long shutter time.
Movie Mode. In addition to its range of still photography modes, the DMC-LZ7 also offers a Motion Picture mode for capturing short movie clips with sound. You can choose the frame rate, either 30 or 10 frames per second depending on the resolution, as well as the aspect ratio, either 4:3 or 16:9 for HD televisions. There's also a Burst mode for capturing a rapid sequence of images. Both speed and the total number of sequential images depends on the resolution and quality settings. Also buried in the Record menu is a Slow Shutter setting, which lets you manually select a slower shutter speed for shooting in low light, from 1/8 to one second. You can access the feature in Night Portrait mode as well.
Storage and battery. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ7 has 27MB of internal memory, so you can start snapping images right out of the box. An SD card slot on the side of the camera lets you increase your storage space, but a card does not come with the camera. The camera's internal memory should hold about seven large/fine JPEGs, and about 53 seconds of the lowest resolution movie file at 30 frames per second, so you'll definitely want to purchase a large-capacity memory card right away to make sure you don't miss anything.
For power, the DMC-LZ7 accepts two AA-type batteries, and ships with a set of alkaline single-use cells. Runtimes are limited with the alkaline batteries, at about 150 shots according to CIPA standard, but jump to 450 shots with NiMH rechargeables. The Panasonic Oxyride alkaline cells that come with the camera are slightly above average alkalines, at 250 shots. Still, we strongly recommend you pick up a couple of sets of good-quality NiMH rechargeable batteries and a good-quality charger, as they'll save you many times their cost over the life of the camera.
Shooting. With its automatic exposure control and range of preset shooting modes, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ7 handles most average shooting situations fairly well. Zoom speed is a little sluggish with the Zoom lever, but the Easy Zoom button jumps to full telephoto pretty quickly. Overall performance times are a little slow, however, beginning with a slow startup time of 2.75 seconds for the camera to power on and extend the lens. Shot-to-shot cycle times are also on the slow side, at about 2.61 seconds for large/fine JPEGs and 1.87 seconds for the lowest resolution and quality. Really quite slow, especially given the camera's bias toward family photos.
The Panasonic LZ7's Burst mode is also a bit slower than average, capturing only 0.7 frames per second at the highest quality and resolution. However, things pick up at the lowest settings, at 1.54 frames per second. Autofocus performance is also on the slower side, though closer to average, at about 0.84 second for operation at full wide angle (time is from a full press of the Shutter button to image capture).
As I mentioned earlier, the 2.5-inch LCD monitor is bright and good for framing, though it was a little difficult to see in bright sunlight. The High Angle mode was effective when holding the camera overhead and even pointing down slightly. In Playback mode, the LCD monitor display was about accurate in terms of what the actual exposure was, as I wasn't surprised when viewing the images on my computer. The small histogram was somewhat useful in determining any over- or underexposure, but the small size did limit its usefulness.
A lot of fine detail, with slightly
Image quality. The Lumix DMC-LZ7's 7.2-megapixel CCD captured a lot of fine detail, with reasonably good sharpness and good overall color. Detail definition is slightly soft overall, but you can still distinguish a lot of fine details throughout the frame. Noise and noise suppression are both evident, however, limiting detail in shadows and gray areas.
As you can see in the crops above, the DMC-LZ7 produces a fair amount of image noise even as low as ISO 100. Noise becomes quite obtrusive at ISO 400, and dominates the image at ISOs 800 and 1,250. At ISO 3,200, the camera lowers the resolution to reduce noise through "pixel binning," and then samples the image back up, resulting in a very blurry image. (Pixel binning, put simply, is the practice of combining four or more pixels into one, and averaging the value.)
Chromatic aberration isn't too bad with the Lumix DMC-LZ7. At wide angle, there's about 2-3 pixels of moderately bright coloration along either side of the target lines. The effect intensifies slightly at telephoto, though some blurring may be enhancing the distortion.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ7 produced slightly soft corners at wide angle, though the effect was stronger on the left side of the frame. At full telephoto, the effect was again stronger on the left side, most notably in the lower left corner.
Outdoors, the Lumix DMC-LZ7 performed fairly well. I noticed moderately high noise (and some noise suppression), which limited detail a bit even in brighter exposures, but the camera produced good-looking exposure and color overall. Despite the noise and noise suppression, detail was still fair in the shadowed areas of the tree trunk above. Highlight detail was almost obliterated in the brightest areas, but I still found both images pleasing.
Appraisal. Ultimately, the Lumix DMC-LZ7 is a good snapshot camera. It has an impressive array of features, and a definite bent toward improving family photography, but high image noise will limit print size. That said, if you plan on making small prints (8x10 inches or less on average) or simply posting photos on the Web, the DMC-LZ7 offers a lot for its small price. Its 6x optical zoom provides greater flexibility, and options like image stabilization and high ISO help you in difficult lighting. The Lumix DMC-LZ7's images are reasonably sharp with good color, and the camera's auto-exposure system handles most conditions well. But if you're after lower image noise and slightly better image quality, you might skip this one. Alternatively, if you need something simple that does a lot of thinking for you, produces pretty good images, and isn't a major splurge financially, the DMC-LZ7 should suit your needs just fine.
- 7.2-megapixel CCD delivering image resolutions as large as 3,072 x 2,304 pixels
- 2.5-inch color TFT LCD monitor
- 6x, 6.1-36.6mm lens, equivalent to a 37-222mm lens on a 35mm
- Maximum 4x digital zoom
- "Extended Optical Zoom" up to 9x at 3 megapixels
- Automatic exposure control
- Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to 8 seconds (To 60 seconds in "Starry Sky" scene mode)
- Maximum aperture of f/2.8 to f/4.5, depending on lens zoom position
- Built-in flash with four modes
- AF assist lamp
- 5 selectable autofocus modes
- SD/SDHC memory card slot for storage
- Approximately 27MB internal memory
- Power supplied by two AA batteries, or optional AC adapter kit
- Software CD included for both Windows and Mac platforms
- Optical Image Stabilization with two modes
- 14 programmed automatic scene modes
- Movie mode with sound
- Economy mode for conserving battery life
- Simple mode for full automation
- Macro mode
- 3 Continuous Shooting modes
- Two- or 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release
- Burst option in Self-Timer mode
- Audio annotation option
- White balance (color) adjustment with five modes, including a Custom setting
- Color Effects including Cool, Warm, Black and White, and Sepia
- Adjustable image sharpening
- Adjustable ISO setting
- Selectable shutter speeds with slow-sync flash
- DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) and PictBridge compatibility
- USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included)
- A/V cable for connection to a television set
- Set of NiMH rechargeable batteries and charger
- AC adapter
- Soft case
- Large capacity SD/SDHC memory card
- Compact size
- Wide array of preset shooting modes
- Mega O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilization)
- Large 2.5-inch LCD monitor
- 6x optical zoom
- Generally good overall exposure and performance
- Good prefocused shutter lag
- Good macro performance
- Good viewfinder accuracy
- Good Auto White Balance performance in incandescent lighting
- Good resolution for a 7.2 megapixel camera
- Produces good quality prints up to 11x14 inches, and its ISO 1,250 shots are usable at 4x6 inches
- Good battery performance with NiMH AA cells
- High image noise and noise suppression
- Slow startup, cycle times, and shutter lag
- Moderate blurring in the corners from the lens
- Strong contrast under harsh lighting
- High barrel distortion at wide-angle
- Flat, clay-like skin tones
- Poor flash performance indoors, requiring +1.3EV to get a good exposure
- Low flash range at ISO 100
Compact, stylish, and affordable, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ7 is priced right at under $200, offers a 6x optical zoom lens, a load of great preset shooting modes and optional controls, image stabilization, and high ISOs. On the downside, image noise is a bit high and timing is sluggish. The Panasonic LZ7's highest ISO mode, ISO 3,200, is really not usable at all, but its ISO 1,250 still delivers good quality 4x6-inch prints. Flash performance is a little weak, so be careful shooting indoors, especially at full telephoto zoom. Among mid-size digital cameras, the Panasonic LZ7 is small, though a little thick, thanks to the 6x zoom lens. Overall, the Panasonic DMC-LZ7 is capable under a range of conditions and should suit basic photography needs well, provided you give its lens enough light.
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.