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Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ1 and LZ2 - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 01/07/05
Rating: Recommended!

Buy now: LZ1: £170 LZ2: £195 Silver / Black


Introduction: This is a joint review of the new Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ1 and LZ2. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ1 and LZ2 both feature a 6x optical zoom lens, the main difference is that that LZ1 is a 4 megapixel digital camera, whereas the LZ2 is a 5 megapixel camera. The LZ1 is available from around £170, and the LZ2 is available from around £195 - they are both quite compact considering the zoom power - the 6x optical zoom lens is equivalent to 37-222mm on a 35mm camera. They both feature a 2" TFT screen. The camera is enclosed in a silver plastic body, with the LZ2 being available in silver or black. It records unlimited 320 x 240 / 30fps videos without sound on the LZ1, and with sound on the LZ2. The camera's quite compact, takes AA batteries and measures: 101 x 64 x 33 mm (without protruding parts), and weighs 224g (without the battery and memory card)

On the left: the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ1, on the right, the 5 megapixel LZ2. The main difference is the LZ1 is a 4 megapixel camera, whereas the LZ2 is a 5 megapixel camera. The LZ1 has a darker top, and no microphone, whereas the LZ2 has a lighter top, and does feature a microphone, which enables the LZ2 to record audio on videos. As these cameras are very similar to the LS1 - this review is based on the LS1 review.

Panasonic have this to say about the camera:

"The 4-megapixel DMC-LZ1 features a DC VARIO lens with 6x optical zoom, with capability of up to 24x magnification when combined with the 4x digital zoom, and MEGA O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer). Panasonic's MEGA Optical Image Stabilizer automatically detects and optically compensates for hand movement.The new DMC-LZ1 model has a large 2.0 inch TRM (Transmissive with Micro Reflective) crystal-clear LCD display which is extremely easy to view, even outdoors on bright, sunny days. Even with the optical 6x zoom lens unit, the cameras' body size is as compact as an ordinary AA-battery operated 3x optical zoom camera."

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: It's quite compact and made out of silver plastic - the Panasonic Lumix LZ2 was used for the photographs below.
(Photos of the camera taken with a Panasonic Lumix FZ3)


Front - Camera off.


Front - Camera on, lens extended, flash, led.


Back - the 2" TFT screen, display button, menu, 4-way controller, continous shooting / delete button, led.


Top - mode dial, image stabilisation mode button, shutter, zoom control, and on/off switch. Above the mode dial on the LZ2 is the microphone hole, on the LZ1 the hole is not there as there is no microphone on the LZ1.


Bottom, under the camera there is a plastic tripod mount, and the battery compartment.


Left Side (from back) AV/USB out, DC in - lens extended (telephoto).


Memory card holder, lens strap hole.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Lomo LC-A 35mm film camera - a fairly compact 35mm film camera.


Size comparison.


Size comparison.

Specifications / Features:

  • LZ1: 4-megapixel sensor
  • LZ2: 5-megapixel sensor
  • 6x optical zoom lens
  • MEGA Optical Image Stabilizer keeps low-light and telephoto images sharp
  • Store images on Secure Digital (SD) memory cards
  • 2.0" LCD
  • Movie mode: Record 320 x 240 at 30fps without sound (LZ1), with sound (LZ2).
  • ISO: Auto ISO, Manual ISO 64 (LZ1), ISO 80 (LZ2), 100, 200, 400
  • TV Out
  • Continuous shooting: Standard Mode: Up to 7 images at 4 or 2 frames/sec. Fine Mode: Up to 4 images
  • 14mb built in memory

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • 2 x AA Oxyride battery
  • AV cable
  • USB connection cable
  • AC cable
  • Strap
  • CD-ROM software
  • 1 year manufacturer's guarantee.

Average box contents - 14mb is an average size memory or a 4 megapixel camera - and fairly low for a 5 megapixel camera.

Battery usage: Up to 215 images with supplied Oxyride batteries according to Panasonic. I would recommend you buy high power rechargable batteries and a charger, ie. 2300+mah ni-mh batteries. Battery life seemed good. The camera also has an economy mode which should increase battery life.

Menu Options / Modes: The camera mode is selected using the rotating dial.

Photo mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right below: (These screenshots are from the Lumix LS1, as the menus and screens are identical to the LZ1/LZ2 screens.)

Photo mode Photo Menu

Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown on the left) The screen is a fairly decent resolution, and updates smoothly - the colours appear accurate. There is a live histogram available and the screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read. Optical Viewfinder: There is no optical viewfinder.

Menu options are: White balance (including custom), Sensitivity, Picture size, Quality, AF mode, Slow shutter, Digital zoom (on/off), Colour effect (Cool, Warm, Black and White, Sepia), Picture adjust (Natural, Standard, Vivid).

Scene modes Setup Menu

Scene modes: (shown on the left, above) Portrait, Sports, Scenery, Night scenery, Night portrait, Fireworks, Party, Snow.

Setup menu options: (shown on the right, above) Battery type, Monitor, Auto review, Power save, beep, clock set, no. reset, reset, USB mode, video out, scene menu, language.

Playback (Review) mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right, below:

Playback mode Playback Menu

Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is quick. The zoom is quick up to 16x.

Playback menu options: Rotate disp, Rotate, Protect, DPOF Print, Slide show, resize, trimming, copy (allows you to copy from internal memory to memory card and vice versa), format.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number of images will fit on the 14mb memory provided with the camera:

Size / Quality: Number of Photos Stored
  Fine Normal
5mp (2560x1920) LZ2 5 11
4mp (2304x1728) LZ1 8 15
3mp (2048x) LZ2 9 17
HDTV (1920x1080) 13 25
2mp (1600x1200) 14 27
1.3mp (1280x960) 22 40
VGA (640x480) 68 111
Video 320x240 30fps 26 seconds

You can fit a small number of images on the built in memory - a larger memory card is definitely recommended, unless you want to use the lower image sizes / higher compression options in order to fit more pictures in memory. There is a very good choice of image sizes, and there is a good choice regarding image compression.

A larger memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 128mb or 256mb memory card, and preferably a 512mb memory card, or larger, especially considering the relatively low prices - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to go on holiday then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in, as you don't always know when you will next be at a computer. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ1/LZ2:

128mb SD memory card - £9.99 from Amazon.co.uk.
256mb SD memory card - £15.99 from Amazon.co.uk.
512mb SD memory card - £25.99 from Amazon.co.uk.
1gb (1000mb) SD memory card - £49.99 from Amazon.co.uk.

Speed: The camera is fairly quick to switch on and take photos - however the camera can occassionally 'hunt' for the focus in darker indoor conditions. The screen updates are quick and smooth (in good light). The playback mode is also quick. Playback mode allows you to zoom as close as 16x. The camera has a very quick (4fps!) continuous shooting mode. The camera shutter response seemed quick when pre-focused - and shot to shot time was also noticably quick.

Ease of use: The camera is easy to use, although the camera does have quite a lot of options and features. The controls on the back of the camera are fairly easy to use - the menus are responsive and easy to read. The camera is very compact for a digital camera that has a 6x optical zoom lens. The menus are also easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy enough to see clearly. The modes are easy to access, quick and simple - there's even a basic mode for simple point and shoot operation (shown with a red heart).

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are fairly easy to use, and they are in a good position. There seems to be the right amount of buttons. The buttons feel okay, the shutter release is quite decent. The buttons are labelled fairly well. I thought the camera felt very good ergonomically, and was the correct weight - it seemed lighter than it looked, but not too light. The hand grip seemed good, without making the camera too big or bulky. The only design problem, which is a fairly minor one, is the location of the tripod mount, which is quite close the the edge of the camera.

Image Quality: Here are some sample photos/video(s) taken in various settings, such as Inside, Noise, Outside, Zoom, Macro, Movie to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the new gallery!

Inside:

Heather and Flower (LZ1) Group photo (LZ2)

Inside: The camera has very good colour - It took one of the best "Heather and Flower" photos. It has a powerful flash, and copes well with group photos. The camera did a good job at focusing the majority of the time. Red-eye didn't seem to be huge a problem.

Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels, and manual ISO settings (ISO64/80, 100, 200, and 400) - below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings.


Noise test photo - flash on

LZ1 - Actual Pixels LZ2 - Actual Pixels
ISO64 ISO80
ISO100 ISO100 (out of focus)
ISO200 ISO200
ISO400 ISO400

Noise levels appear low at ISO64/80 and ISO100. At ISO200 noise becomes more noticable but is still acceptable, at ISO400 noise seems high and detail is being lost.

Outside:

Shops (LZ1) Chrysler Crossfire (LZ1)

Outside, again the camera had excellent colour, with good contrast and saturation. There was good detail. Noise seemed well controlled. I didn't notice jpeg artefacts in the images.

Zoom: This camera has a 6x optical zoom lens and a built in 4x digital zoom - in the case of this camera the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and enlarges it using software blurring the image so that it is not pixellated. Generally it's best to avoid using digital zoom as it degrades the quality of the image and, often, better results can be obtained by using a photo package such as Adobe Photoshop. I've included examples below to show what the 6x optical zoom and 4x digital zoom is capable of.

Wide-angle 6x Optical zoom 6x Optical zoom + 4x digital zoom

Lens noise and zoom: The lens is fairly quiet. The lens is quick at going from wide to telephoto - there are about 19 steps between wide and telephoto to count! This gives you good control on how you frame your subject.

Other Image Quality issues: I did notice purple fringing in some photos, i.e. the clock tower photos, however it is still quite low.

Macro: To use this camera in macro mode, you switch to macro mode - you can use the macro mode at wide angle, all the way to telephoto. You can use the flash in macro mode. The camera can be roughly as close as 6cm away from the subject from the front of the lens.

Macro Watch Actual Pixels (LZ1) Actual Pixels (LZ2)

The macro mode is very good - the camera is okay, but not brilliant of toning down the flash, and colours and detail are very good.

Movie: 320x240 at 30fps without sound (LZ1), with sound (LZ2). The movie is recorded as an .MOV file. Unfortunately you can't use the optical zoom whilst recording videos. The quality of the movie(s) is quite good, colour is good, the camera also does a good job in low-light. The frame rate is good.

Conclusion

Image Quality: Image quality is excellent, the images have extremely accurate colour, saturation, contrast and good detail - however there is some purple fringing. Images tend to come out of the camera perfectly, without requiring any post-processing! The camera did a good job focusing the majority of the time, only slightly struggling in low light. Noise was on the high side, especially at ISO 200 and 400. I didn't notice any vignetting in the corners. There is a good range of image sizes and a good choice of compression options. The macro mode is very good. Auto white balance and metering seemed to be very good. Red-eye was controlled fairly well. The movie mode is slightly better than average, at 320x240 / 30fps although unfortunately doesn't record sound on the LZ1, and on the LZ2 the camera has no built in speaker for playback.

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is compact and is designed well - the camera feels very comfortable in my hands. The camera is very compact considering it's large zoom range. The camera is easy to use, the menu system is easy to use and there is a good layout of buttons and controls. There is a good choice of features and options although the majority are aimed at beginners, rather than experts, however there is manual white balance, a live histogram, and high speed shooting. The camera speed is good, with a okay switch on time, good focusing time, good shutter response, and an especially impressive 4fps continous shooting mode - which is better than some of the new digital SLRs!

Alternative 4 megapixel digital cameras: Kodak Easyshare DX7440 (£129 - 4x optical zoom - read my review), Canon Powershot A520 (£160 - 4x optical zoom), Pentax Optio S40 (£149), Fuji FinePix A340 (155), Sony Cybershot S40 (£129), Sony Cybershot S60 (159), Olympus Camedia C-470 (£149 - read my review), Olympus Mju Stylus 410 (£159), Olympus Mju Mini Digital (£169 - read my review), Nikon Coolpix 4100 / 4200 / 4600 (read my review), HP Photosmart R507 (4mp, £163 - read my review).. Check amazon.co.uk / kelkoo.co.uk or amazon.com for the latest prices. See more suggestions sorted by megapixels here.

Alternative Ultra Zoom Digital Cameras: 8x Optical zoom: Nikon Coolpix 4800 (read my review), Konica Minolta Dimage Z10 / Z20, Olympus C-725 (read my review) 10x Optical zoom: Fuji Finepix S5500, Olympus C-765 (read my review) / C-770, Canon S1 IS (Image Stabilisation), Kodak Easyshare DX7590 (read my review) 12x Optical zoom: Konica Minolta Dimage Z3 (read my review) / Z5 (read my review), Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ3 (read my review) / FZ4 / FZ5 / FZ15 / FZ20 (Image Stabilisation), Sony Cybershot H1 (Image Stabilisation), Canon Powershot S2 IS (Image Stabilisation).

Summary: The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ1 and LZ2 are very good digital cameras! The camera has an impressive stabilised 6x optical zoom lens that captures a lot of detail with the cameras 4/5 megapixel sensor. The camera has a very good macro mode. The camera has very good image quality, with especially good colour. However the camera is let down by noise, and lack of sound on videos (on the LZ1). The Panasonic offers very good value for money as an easy to use, quick and powerful digital camera that regularly produces good results. Another huge bonus of these cameras is that they are both pocketable - whereas similar long zoom cameras are much bulkier. As the cameras take AA batteries, they would make excellent travel cameras.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ1 / LZ2 Rating: Recommended!
Buy now: LZ1: £170 LZ2: £195 Silver / Black (Pixmania)

What I like:

  • Good macro mode
  • Very good picture quality (excellent colour, saturation)
  • Good detail
  • Optical stabilisation lens
  • Colour effects (Cool, Warm, Natural, Vivid etc)
  • 2" screen
  • Take AA batteries
  • Smallest digital cameras with 6x optical zoom lens (still pocketable!)
  • Very fast continous shooting mode (4fps!)

What I don't like:

  • LZ1: No sound on videos (no microphone)
  • LZ2: No speaker for video playback
  • High noise above ISO200 (LZ1 seems to have more noise / LZ2 seems to use more noise reduction)
  • Tripod mount too close to the edge
  • LZ2 images slightly softer
  • Some vignetting (eg wide angle clock tower)

Remember to have a look at the test photos in the new gallery.