DCRP

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 Review

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor

Originally Posted: March 15, 2010

Last Updated: March 27, 2011

The Lumix DMC-ZS7 ($399) is the follow-up to Panasonic's very popular "travel zoom" DMC-ZS3. The ZS3 (and the TZ5 that came before it) were already very good cameras, and Panasonic still found a way to make the new ZS7 even more appealing. Some of the new features on the DMC-ZS7 include:

  • 12.1 Megapixel CCD
  • Venus Engine HD II processor
  • Improved Power OIS image stabilization
  • New Intelligent Resolution feature offers improved sharpening and a nearly lossless digital zoom
  • Faster autofocus
  • Manual exposure controls
  • Built-in GPS, with over half a million known landmarks

Those are in addition to all the features which made the DMC-ZS3 so appealing, namely the 12X, 25 - 300 mm zoom lens, extra-sharp 3-inch LCD display, handy Intelligent Auto mode, and HD movie mode -- just to name a few things.

The chart below compares the ZS7 to both its predecessor, and its "little brother", the DMC-ZS5, which costs $100 less:

Feature

DMC-ZS3

DMC-ZS5 DMC-ZS7
Resolution 10.1 MP 12.1 MP 12.1 MP
Image processor Venus Engine HD Venus Engine VI Venus Engine HD II
Image stabilization Mega OIS Power OIS Power OIS
Intelligent Resolution No Yes Yes
Sonic Speed AF No Yes Yes
LCD size 3.0" 2.7" 3.0"
LCD resolution 460,000 pixel 230,000 pixel 460,000 pixel
LCD anti-reflective coating No No Yes
Manual exposure controls No Yes Yes
GPS No No Yes *
Movie resolution (frame rate) 1280 x 720 (60 fps) ** 1280 x 720 (30 fps) 1280 x 720 (60 fps) **
Movie codecs supported AVCHD Lite
QuickTime (M-JPEG)
QuickTime (M-JPEG) AVCHD Lite
QuickTime (M-JPEG)
Sound recording Stereo Mono Stereo
Dedicated movie recording button Yes No Yes
Wind cut for movies Yes No Yes
Cut animation / video divide No No Yes
HDMI output Yes No Yes
Built-in memory 40 MB 40MB 15MB
Memory cards supported SD/SDHC/MMC SD/SDHC/SDXC SD/SDHC/SDXC
Battery life
(CIPA standard)
300 shots 340 shots 300 shots
Dimensions 4.1 x 2.4 x 1.3 in. 4.1 x 2.4 x 1.3 in. 4.1 x 2.4 x 1.3 in.
Weight (empty) 206 g 191 g 196 g

* GPS not available in China
** Sensor outputs 30 fps

Hopefully that table will be helpful for those of you trying to figure out what separates these three models! With that, I think it's time to begin my review of the Lumix DMC-ZS7.

The Lumix DMC-ZS7 is known as the DMC-TZ10 in some countries. Since the ZS7 has a lot in common with its predecessor, portions of the DMC-ZS3 review will be reused here.

What's in the Box?

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 12.1 effective Megapixel Lumix DMC-ZS7 camera
  • DMW-BCG10 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring PhotoFunStudio 5.1 HD
  • Camera manual (printed)

The DMC-ZS7 has taken a bit of a step backward in the memory department. Where the ZS3 had 40MB of memory built in, the ZS7 has just 15MB, which holds just two photos at the highest quality setting. Anyhow, the ZS7 supports SD, SDHC, and the new, ultra-high capacity SDXC memory cards. If you'll be taking mostly still photos, then starting out with a 2GB card should be just fine. If you'll be recording a lot of HD movies, I'd do 4GB or even 8GB. It's definitely worth spending a little extra for a high speed card, though you don't need to go overboard.

The DMC-ZS7 uses the same DMW-BCG10 lithium-ion battery as its predecessor. Despite having just 3.3 Wh of energy, Panasonic manages to squeeze some pretty impressive battery life numbers out of the camera. Here's how it compares to other cameras in its class:

Camera Battery life
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot SX210 IS 260 shots NB-5L
Casio Exilim EX-H15 1000 shots NP-90
Fuji FinePix F80EXR 230 shots NP-50
Kodak EasyShare Z950 180 shots KLIC-7003
Nikon Coolpix S8000 210 shots EN-EL12
Olympus Stylus 9000 250 shots LI-50B
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 * 300 shots DMW-BCG10
Ricoh CX3 310 shots DB-100
Samsung HZ35W * 240 shots SLB-11A
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V * 310 shots NP-BG1

* Built-in GPS

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

I don't know how they do it, but somehow Casio always manages to make everyone else look bad in the battery life department. Here, their compact ultra zoom EX-H15 last more than three times as long as the closest competitor. In the group as a whole, the ZS7's battery life runs about 10% below average, which isn't much in the grand scheme of things. I should add that those numbers are derived with the GPS turned off -- they'll be considerably lower if you keep it on full-time. And speaking of which, if the GPS is turned on, it will check your location every 15 minutes, even with the camera powered off. While this will allow the camera to usually know where it is when you turn it on, it does reduce battery life. To turn this feature off, switch the GPS to airplane mode in the menu.

I have to make my usual list of issues that surround proprietary batteries like the one used by the DMC-ZS7, and all the other cameras on the above list. They're on the pricey side, with a spare DMW-BCG10 setting you back at least $30. In addition, should that battery die, you can't use an "off-the-shelf" battery to get you through the day. One ZS7-specific issue regarding batteries is that the camera is designed to only accept genuine Panasonic batteries. I'm not saying that they aren't generics out there, but Panasonic has made an effort in recent years to prevent them from working.

When it's time to charge the battery, just pop it into the included charger. It takes just over two hours to fully charge the battery. This is my favorite kind of charger, plugging directly into the wall, though that may not be true for folks in other countries.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 in the hand

The DMC-ZS7 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no lens cap to deal with. As you can see, it's a pretty small camera, especially when you consider the fact that it packs a 12X zoom lens!

There's just a handful of accessories available for the DMC-ZS7, and I've compiled them all into this table:

Accessory Model # Price Description
Underwater case DMW-MCTZ10 $300 Take the camera up to 40 meters underwater.
AC adapter DMW-AC5
DMW-DCC5
$60
$15
Power the camera without draining your battery. You need both of these parts -- and good luck finding them!
Carrying case DMW-CT3-K $45 This is the official camera case for the ZS7, but it's not easy to find.
HDMI mini cable RP-CDHM15
RP-CDHM30
From $31
$34
1.5 and 3.0 meter HDMI cables, for connecting to an HDTV. Generic ones are MUCH cheaper.

A pretty short list, but that's not surprising, given that it's a compact camera.


PhotoFunStudio 5.1 HD

Panasonic includes their PhotoFunStudio 5.1 HD Edition software with the Lumix DMC-ZS7, which is for Windows only. The software is fairly basic, but it gets the job done for basic photo viewing and editing. On the main screen you can view photos by date, folder, or by location (see screenshot). Strangely enough, there's no map shown in the software, nor is there a link to one.

Other things you can do here include recognizing faces, display a slideshow, e-mail or print photos, or copy them to a DVD or memory card.


Editing photos in PhotoFunStudio

Above you can see the still photo editing screen. Here you can adjust things like brightness, contrast, color, and sharpness. Images can be changed to sepia, black and white, or "negative color", and redeye can be removed with the click of your mouse. There's also an auto enhancement feature, for those who want to keep things simple.

As for movie editing, you can remove unwanted footage from your clip, and then burn the results to a DVD or memory card, though the interface is confusing. While you can view the AVCHD Lite videos produced by the camera using PhotoFunStudio, you can't convert them into more commonly used formats. To convert the files into other formats, try Handbrake, CoreAVC, or AVS Video Converter. For editing, Windows users will want to use something like Adobe Premiere, Pinnacle Studio, or Sony Vegas (see the full list here).

Mac users don't get any video viewing/editing software with the camera. If you just want to view the AVCHD Lite movies, try downloading VLC. If you want to convert them to other formats, I've had decent luck with both Handbrake as well as Toast Titanium 10 (which can also burn the movies to DVD or Blu-ray). Editing the AVCHD Lite videos is the biggest pain in the rear, as both iMovie and Final Cut Pro don't actually edit the MTS files themselves -- rather, they're converted to another codec.

If you want to avoid all of this AVCHD stuff, you can use the good old Motion JPEG instead. Your videos will still be HD, but the file sizes will be larger and recording times shorter.

Panasonic includes a detailed, though not terribly user-friendly manual with the Lumix DMC-ZS7. While I'm not 100% sure (since I didn't have a final production box), there will be a basic printed manual to get you started, and a full manual in PDF format on a CD-ROM (boo!). You'll definitely find answers to any question you may have about the camera within the pages of this manual -- just expect to sort through lots of tables and fine print along the way. Documentation for the included software is installed onto your computer.

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