Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: May 18, 2003
May 19, 2003
of the most interesting digital cameras of 2003 comes from a
rather unexpected source: Panasonic. After a string of so-so
cameras, Panasonic has come up with a camera unlike anything
else on the market at this time: the Lumix
DMC-FZ1. The FZ1 ($449)
has a 12X, F2.8 Leica lens with optical image stabilization.
Enthusiasts might be turned off by its 2 Megapixel CCD and lack
controls. Even so, there's nothing else out there like it (which
is a shame).
this the ultimate "big zoom" camera? Find out now in our review!
the model shown here (DMC-FZ1S) has a silver body. Another model
(DMC-FZ1K) with a black body is also available.
in the Box?
FZ1 has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
2.0 (effective) Mpixel Lumix DMC-FZ1 camera
Secure Digital card
featuring ArcSoft Camera Suite and USB drivers
page manual (printed)
FZ1 includes a 8MB card Secure Digital memory card, which is
definitely a "starter card". You'll definitely want
something larger when you're ready to get
so I recommend picking up a
64MB card (or two). The camera can use SD or MultiMedia (MMC)
cards, though Panasonic says performance is better with SD cards.
FZ1 uses a proprietary lithium-ion battery to provide power.
The included CGA-S002 battery has a decent amount of power --
4.9 Wh. Don't expect hours of picture taking, though, as the
battery will only last for about 110 minutes in record mode (50/50
of a proprietary battery include the cost ($78), and the fact
that you can't just pop in a set of AAs when you're low on juice.
it's time to recharge, just put the battery in the included external
charger, and wait 90 minutes. You can also use the charger as
an AC adapter to power your camera without using batteries.
camera includes a lens cap and retaining strap to protect your
Leica lens. Panasonic also gives you a lens hood for shooting
outdoors -- a nice touch.
aren't a whole lot of accessories available for the FZ1. Choose
from a neutral density filter, MC protector (filter), and various
SD-related accessories. No add-on lenses or flashes are available.
includes a whole bunch of ArcSoft's software with the FZ1.
This includes PhotoImpression (for editing photos), PhotoBase
(for organizing photos), PanoramaMaker (for creating panoramic
images), and PhotoPrinter (for printing photos). All of these
programs are Mac OS X native -- and Windows compatible too, of
course. In addition to the ArcSoft software, USB drivers for
Windows are also included. When connected, the camera mounts
on the Mac OS X desktop -- it is also compatible with iPhoto.
FZ1's manual is much like the one included with your DVD player
- detailed, but confusing, with lots of "notes" in
small type on each page.
DMC-FZ1 is surprisingly compact for a camera with a 12X lens
with image stabilization. The body is made of metal and high
plastic, and is easy to hold and operate.
dimensions of the camera are just 4.5 x 2.8 x 3.3 inches (W x
H x D), with a mass of 318 grams empty. Compare that with the
Olympus C-740UZ's numbers of 4.2 x 2.6 x 2.7 and 295 grams, respectively.
let's begin our tour of the camera now.
you know one thing about the FZ1, it's about the stunning 12X
optical zoom lens. This lens, made by Leica, is fast all the
way through the focal range, with a maximum aperture of F2.8.
Speaking of the focal range, it is 4.6 - 55.2 mm, which is equivalent
to 35 - 420 mm. The lens is not threaded.
one thing to have a big lens. But add an optical image stabilizer
and it's a totally different animal. This image stabilizer will
help reduce camera movement when you're at the telephoto end
of the focal range, allowing you to get shots that would normally
require a tripod. Do note that it can't work miracles: as the
shutter speed gets slower, it becomes less effective. But believe
me, it's much better than nothing at all!
above the lens is the FZ1's pop-up flash. The flash has a working
range of 0.3 - 2.1 m at wide-angle, and 1.2 - 2.1 m at telephoto
-- not great (compare with 0.6 – 5.1 m and 0.6 m – 3.8
m on the C-740UZ). The FZ1 doesn't support
an external flash.
only other items on the front of the camera are found to the
upper-right of the lens. They are the microphone and self-timer
lamp. There's no AF illuminator on this camera.
on to the back of the camera, we can see the FZ1's 1.5" LCD
display. While it's not a very big display, the LCD is bright,
images are fluid, and the resolution is high. Viewing it outdoors
can be difficult, as is the case with nearly all LCDs.
the upper-left corner is the camera's electronic viewfinder,
or EVF. This is like a little LCD screen that you view in the
same way as you would a regular optical viewfinder. You can see
the same items on the EVF (menus, settings, etc) that you would
find on the LCD.
must say that the EVF's quality is excellent -- it's high resolution
bright, and one of the best I've seen. However, in low light,
the EVF becomes useless -- you can't see a thing. I like how
boosts the "gain"
EVFs in this situation, and wish everyone did it.
EVF also has
diopter correction knob, for those without perfect
are several buttons to the right of the EVF. These include:
- switches between EVF and LCD, plus the info shown on each
- you can use this button to prefocus the camera
the right of the LCD are two buttons (menu, delete photo) as
well as the four-way controller. In addition to its menu navigation
function, the controller also does the following:
- Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments) +
exposure bracketing (3 shots in a row with different EV values
[±1/3, ±2/3, ±1EV])
- Flash (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, forced on, slow sync
w/redeye reduction, forced off)
- Review (jumps to playback mode)
- Self-timer (2 or 10 sec)
To the right of the four-way controller is the FZ1's speaker.
the top of the FZ1, you'll find the pop-up flash (closed here),
mode dial, zoom controller, shutter release button, and burst
mode button. Note also the handy lens cap used to prop up the
are quite a few strange symbols on the mode dial, so I'll cover
them below, beginning with the heart symbol and moving clockwise:
- Simple mode - totally point-and-shoot, most settings
- Normal picture - still point-and-shoot, but with all settings
- Macro mode - more later
- Portrait mode
- Sports mode
- Night portrait mode
- Panning mode - used when you follow a fast moving subject with
the lens. Sharp subject, blurry background.
- Movie mode - more later
- Playback mode - more later
zoom controller, wrapped around the shutter release button, (very)
quietly moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in just over
seconds. The controller is also very precise, so you can get
the lens exactly where you want it.
there's the burst mode button. This button lets you select between
two burst modes: high speed and low speed. High speed will take
up to 4 shots (at the highest quality setting) at 4 frames/second.
Low speed will also take up to 4 shots, but at 2 frames/second.
only thing to see over here are the FZ1's I/O ports. They
are normally kept under a sturdy plastic cover, which I have
opened here. The ports include A/V and USB.
the other side, also under a plastic cover, is the other I/O
port: the one for DC-in. By plugging in the included AC adapter,
can power your camera without draining your battery.
bottom of the camera is where you'll find the tripod mount, battery
compartment, and SD/MMC card slot.
metal tripod mount is neither inline with the lens, nor in the
center of the body.
thing to note: you cannot change the memory card while the camera
is on a tripod, for obvious reasons.
the Panasonic DMC-FZ1
having such a large lens, the FZ1 starts up very quickly. It
may appear to be ready to go in about two seconds, but in reality
it takes four, as the lens has to move to the wide-angle position.
good lighting, autofocus speeds were excellent, with the camera
taking under a second to lock focus. Shutter lag was virtually
nonexistent. In dim lighting, things went downhill -- the camera
had a lot of trouble focusing. Here's where an AF-assist lamp
would've come in handy. If you are able to lock focus, the shutter
lag is still minor, thankfully.
speed is excellent, with a one second delay between shots
(assuming the post-shot review feature is off). You cannot delete
a shot as it's being recorded to memory, but you can enter review
mode (using the four-way controller) to do so.
a look at the image size/quality choices on the FZ1:
photos on included 8MB SD Memory card
is no TIFF or RAW image format on the FZ1.
file numbering system on the FZ1 is simple. Files are
named P101####.JPG, where #### = 0001 - 9999. The numbering
is maintained as you erase and swap memory cards.
FZ1 has a very basic (in terms of appearance and operation) menu
system, which is where you'll find all the camera's settings.
balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, halogen, manual)
size (see chart)
mode (on/off) - focus and metering measured on a spot in the
center of the frame
sensitivity (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400)
recording (on/off) - record a 5 second voice clip with each
autofocus (on/off) - when on, camera is always trying to focus
trigger (Focus, shutter) - define what button locks the focus
zoom (on/off) - using this will reduce photo quality
effect (Off, cool, warm, black & white)
adjustment (Natural, standard, vivid) - see below
only manual control on the FZ1 is white balance. There's no
control over shutter speed, aperture, or focus.
picture adjustment feature is a little confusing. The manual
describes it as a sharpness adjustment, while in reality it appears
to adjust the color saturation. The examples below should illustrate
the three options for you (be sure to view the full size images as
View Full Size Image
View Full Size Image
View Full Size Image
There is also
a setup menu on the FZ1, which is another "tab" in
the record and playback mode menus. The setup options are:
- Monitor/EVF brightness (-3 to +3)
- Auto review (Off, 1, 3 sec)
- Beep (Off, low volume, high volume)
- Power save (Off, 2, 5, 10 min)
- File number reset (on/off)
- Reset settings
- Clock set
- Language (English, Japanese)
- Video out (NTSC, PAL)
enough about menus. Let's
take a look at some photo samples now.
no manual controls, your night shooting abilities are somewhat
limited on the FZ1. I was able to get the 8 second exposure above
by using the night scene mode, without the flash. The shot above
isn't perfect (look at the lights on the bridge), but it's not
bad, and the noise levels are quite low.
weird thing in the sky on the right is one of those planes with
a scrolling message on it.
FZ1 did a fine job with the macro test subject. The colors are
very saturated, and the subject (save for maybe the ears) is
nice and sharp. In macro mode, you can get as close as 5 cm
at wide-angle, and 1.2 m at telephoto.
was surprised at the amount of redeye in my test shot, especially
given the FZ1's pop-up flash that is well away from the lens.
You can remove it pretty well using software, of course, but
it would be nice to skip that step!
other things to note: I enlarged and brightened this shot a bit
so you can see the details. Also, the shot was fairly noisy (you
can kind of see that here).
must confess that I was eagerly awaiting the distortion test.
It wasn't the barrel distortion that I wanted to see -- it's
moderate, as you can tell. What I was really after was the vignetting
(dark corners), that I noticed in a few of my test shots. I never
used the lens hood, so that's not to blame. One way to get rid
of this is to close down the aperture a bit (using a higher F-value),
but since the FZ1 doesn't let you control this, you're kind of
at the whim of the camera.
quality on the FZ1 was overall a mixed bag. On the positive sides,
exposure, sharpness, and color were all very good. The camera
was able to capture static and dynamic objects with ease. And
for getting rid of the awful overaggressive image processing
that the DMC-LC5 had.
include the aforementioned vignetting (which was infrequent),
levels, and some purple fringing. The purple fringing is to
be expected with a huge lens like this, and to be honest, it
ultimate decision about photo quality lies with you, so check
out the photo gallery and draw your own conclusions.
DMC-FZ1 has an above average movie mode. You can record 320 x
240 video until your memory card is full. In the case of the
included 8MB card, that's 35 seconds. But move up to a 64MB card
and you can record 350 seconds of continuous video. Sound is
recorded as well.
cannot use the zoom during filming, but you can position it wherever
you want before you begin filming.
are saved in QuickTime format, using the M-JPEG codec.
a sample movie for you. It always seems to be windy when
I record these. Also, those are hang gliders in the distance.
Click to play movie (2.2MB, QuickTime format)
view it? Download QuickTime.
FZ1 has a nice playback mode as well. Panasonic covers all the
basic features, including slide shows, DPOF print marking, thumbnail
mode, image protection, and zoom and scroll.
zoom and scroll feature lets you zoom 2, 4, 8, or 16 times
into your photo, and then scroll around. This feature is well-implemented, though
I wish you had more zoom choices.
are a few advanced features as well, including image resizing
and trimming (cropping). In both cases, you can choose to save
or delete the original photo.
photos is a snap: just use the button on the back of the camera.
You can delete one, multiple, or all photos.
FZ1 doesn't show a whole lot of information about your photos.
The basic stats are there -- just don't expect a histogram. The
camera moves through photos quickly, with about 1/2 second between
high resolution thumbnails.
Does it Compare
was a little skeptical when I heard reports from a few folks
in our message boards about how much fun they were having with
the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1. After using it for two weeks, I
must agree with them. There's something about a fast, 12X optically
stabilized zoom lens that makes photography a little more fun
than with a regular camera. The FZ1 is very easy to use, it's
responsive, compact (for a big zoom camera), and the photo quality
is pretty good.
not to say that the FZ1 is perfect though, because it's not.
There are no manual controls (besides white
balance), the EVF becomes useless in low light, some images
suffer from vignetting, noise and purple fringing, and the resolution
is only 2 Megapixel. Redeye seems to be a problem as well.
terms of manual features and photo quality, Olympus'
models are superior. But when I was out with both the FZ1
and C-740UZ, I found myself reaching for the Panasonic more often
-- probably that fun factor again.
conclusion, the FZ1 is a nice choice if you don't need a lot
of resolution. If you're
doing larger prints (8 x 10 or greater), and don't mind missing
out on this nice lens, the Olympus models may be a better choice.
movie, playback modes
and fun to use
electronic viewfinder, except in low light
good photo quality (though see issues below)
continuous shooting mode for a point-and-shoot
I didn't care for:
manual controls, except for white balance
noise, purple fringing in some images
low light focusing
- EVF impossible to see in low light
- Only 2 Megapixel
aren't very many "big zoom" cameras out there -- and none have
the image stabilizer of the FZ1. Other models to look at include
Photosmart 850 (4MP, 8X zoom), Olympus
C-740 Ultra Zoom (3MP, 10X), and the Olympus
C-750 Ultra Zoom (4MP, 10X)
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try
the DMC-FZ1 and it's competitors before you buy!
how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos
in our photo gallery!
a second opinion?
out the review of the FZ1 at Steve's
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking
for a personal recommendation.