Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 Review
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.