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DMC-LZ3 - Digital Camera Review
this to say about the camera:
combines a compact, easy-to-carry size with a powerful 6x optical zoom
lens - equivalent to a 37 to 222mm lens on a 35mm camera - for dynamic
closeups or great shots from a distance. The Extended Optical Zoom function,
which magnifies the image with minimal deterioration by using the center
part of the high-resolution CCD, boosts the zoom power to 7.5x1 in 3-megapixel
You can find more information on their website.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ3 (and LZ5) have several improvements over their predecessors, the 4 megapixel LZ1 and 5 megapixel LZ2, which I reviewed previously, they are:
Apart from these improvements, everything else seems pretty much the same - same lack of microphone on the LZ3, and same lack of speaker for video playbak on both the LZ3 and LZ5.
The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Panasonic Lumix FZ3)
Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.
Specifications / Features:
Average box contents - There is limited memory provided with the camera. Some kind of case would be very useful.
Battery usage: Battery life seemed good, using (AA 2100mAh Ni-Mh rechargable) batteries, I was able to take about 250 pictures before the camera displayed "please replace the batteries". With higher powered rechargable batteries, battery life should be even better. Panasonic rate battery life as 250 shots when tested to CIPA standards.
Operation and Options: The
top left dial selects the camera mode. This allows the choice of
the following modes: Photo, Economy, Macro, Video, Playback, Simple
(Heart), Scene mode 1, Scene mode 2.
Photo mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right below:
Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown on the left) The screen has a low resolution of 85,000 pixels, but 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: White balance (including custom), Sensitivity, Aspect ratio (16:9, 3:2, and 4:3), Picture size, Quality, AF mode, AF Assist lamp, Slow shutter, Digital zoom (on/off), Colour effect (Cool, Warm, Black and White, Sepia), Picture adjust (Natural, Standard, Vivid).
Scene modes: (shown on the left, above) Portrait, Soft skin, Scenery, Sports, Night portrait, Night scenery, Food, Party, Candle Light, Fireworks, Starry Sky, Snow, Baby 1, Baby 2, High sensitivity.
Setup menu: (shown on the right, above) Battery type, Clock set, 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: Scrolling through the photos is fairly quick. The zoom is quick up to 16x.
Playback menu: Slide show, Favourite, Rotate disp, Rotate, DPOF Print, Protect, 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 pictures will fit in the provided memory:
As shown in the table above, higher quality images take a large amount of memory, and you can't fit very many photos in the provided memory, so a high capacity memory card is definitely recommended.
A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 256mb memory card, and preferably a 512mb memory card, 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 be away from a computer for a long time (such as when going on holiday) then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in. This camera takes only secure digital memory. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ3:
Find the latest
prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 256mb: £6.59,
1gb (1000mb): £23.40,
2gb (2000mb): £49.95
Speed: The camera is quick to switch on and take photos, being ready in roughly 2 seconds, it then takes roughly a further 0.7 seconds to focus and take the photo. Focusing is quite quick at around 0.5 seconds set to wide angle. Shutter response is almost quite quick at around 0.1 seconds. Shot to shot time is fairly good at around 1.5 - 2.0 seconds (with review switched on), with flash switched on this shot to shot time is around 4 seconds. High speed continuous shooting allows you to take 3 shots at roughly 3 frames per second for 3 shots. Infinite continuous shooting is still quite quick and takes a shot every 0.7 seconds, roughly 1.2fps. Playback mode is fairly quick, and its easy to zoom upto 16x on your last shot and check for blur with the zoom control. Moving from picture to picture is fairly quick, but not as instantaneous as others such as the Casio series, for example the Casio Exilim EX-Z120. Moving around the different menu options is rapid.
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 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). The economy mode makes it easy to extend battery life without having to customise power settings manually.
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. All of the compartments and covers seem well positioned and are easy to open. 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 real world sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Outside, Macro, 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 Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ3 Sample Photo Gallery!
Inside: The camera has good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - there is no red-eye in the photo, and there is none in other group photos. It has a decent flash, and copes well with group photos, and on AUTO ISO, the ISO setting was kept at the quite low in these photos, although noise was fairly high and detail seemed to be lacking, perhaps due to noise reduction. The camera did a good job at focusing most of the time even in low-light. Colour is richly saturated.
ISO Noise Test: 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 (ISO: 80, 100, 200, 400). ISO800 and ISO1600 are available in the High Sensitivity scene mode.
Below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings, compared with the 7 megapixel, Olympus Mju 720SW. The difference in colour is due to automatica white balance being used on both cameras.
ISO Noise Test Photos - Flash is off. Panasonic Lumix LZ3 on the left, Olympus Mju 720SW on the right. The 7 megapixel Olympus was picked as a comparison due to the similar ISO range of ISO64 - ISO1600. The colour difference is due to automatic white balance / different lighting conditions.
Noise is visible at even the lowest ISO setting on the Panasonic Lumix LZ3. At ISO200 and ISO400 noise is very noticable and detail is being lost with jagged edges. The high sensitivity mode on the Panasonic LZ3 removes a dramtica amount of detail - so much so that at ISO1600 the 'W' is practically non-existant. The Olympus Mju 720SW has much lower noise and has a much better high ISO800 and ISO1600 mode - noise is high, but the camera keeps much more detail compared to the LZ3. You would expect a lower resolution digital camera such as the 5 megapixel LZ3 to have lower noise than a 7 megapixel camera, but unfortunately this isn't the case. With the Panasonic Lumix LZ3 I would say that ISO above 200 is to be avoided.
Anti-shake / Optical Image Stabilisation effectiveness: Here are some test photos taken with "Mega Optical Image Stabilisation" on and off - these photos were taken without flash in low light. The Panasonic Lumix LZ3's anti-shake system moves a section of the lens to counter any camera shake. These photos were taken at full optical zoom, set to macro.
As you can see - image
stabilisation is effective for low-light / high zoom, slow shutter speed
photography helping acheive blur free photos.
Outside: The camera has rich colour, with good saturation and contrast. There was good detail. Noise was fairly low in ISO80 photos. The quality was set to maximum to minimise any jpeg artefacts.
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.
Exposure: The photos of the clock tower are exposed well with detail in the dark areas as well as the lighter areas. Some of the indoor photos were slightly under-exposed both in good light and in poor light when the flash was off, as can be seen in the image stabilisation test above. Some other photos, namely the macro flowers, were under-exposed as well.
Lens noise and zoom: The lens is very quiet in operation. The lens gives excellent control over how you frame your subject with at least 19 steps between wide and telephoto zoom.
Quality issues: Purple fringing was difficult to detect in the majority
of normal photos. In some extreme test cases, by looking closely at the
images some fringing might be noticed (particularly on the clock tower
The custom white balance helps get better colours in the macro mode - however the closest the camera can get to the subject is about average. Noise also becomes quite obvious, even when the ISO is as low as ISO125.
Video mode: The camera's 640 x 480 video mode at 30fps unfortunately lacks sound. To get sound on videos you will need to go for the LZ5 instead.
Summary: The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ3 is a decent digital camera - unfortunately little has improved since last years release of the LZ1 and LZ2 - and whilst they were good digital cameras last year - this year they, and the LZ3, are slightly lacking. The LZ5 with a bigger screen and sound recorded on video appears a much more rounded digital camera. The LZ3 seems to have taken a step backwards in regards to image quality, with noticably high noise, and the occassional under exposed image. The camera has optical image stabilisation which helps in low light or when using the optical zoom. The camera is very easy to use (in auto mode), and would definitely suit a beginner. The camera offers good battery life, with good controls and good build quality. If you aren't interested in sound on videos, then the LZ3 is definitely good value for money for a compact ultra zoom, however if image quality is a priority then it would be worth looking elsewhere.
What I like:
What I don't like:
Additional Test Images are viewable in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ3 Sample Photo Gallery.