Now here's something you don't see
everyday: midsized cameras with a big zoom lens and
image stabilizers! And that's exactly what you'll get
with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ1 and DMC-LZ2.
The two cameras share the same body design, 6X optical
zoom lens, optical image stabilizer, and 2" LCD
display. The only differences are the body color, resolution,
and sound recording abilities. The LZ1 ($250) is silver
only, while the LZ2 ($300) is available in silver or
black bodies (there are minor trim differences
between the two models, as well). The LZ1 is 4 Megapixel,
while the LZ2 is 5 Megapixel. And finally, the LZ2
can record sound, while the LZ1 cannot.
With that in mind, this review will
be a little different than most. I will be reviewing
two cameras in one review, using the LZ2 as the "model" in
the product photos. I will offer sample photos and
some test shots from both cameras.
If you're ready to learn about the "LZ
twins", read on!
What's in the Box?
The DMC-LZ1 and LZ2 have average bundles.
Inside their respective boxes, you'll find:
- The 4.0 or 5.0 effective Megapixel
Lumix DMC-LZ1 or LZ2 camera
- Two AA Oxyride batteries
- Wrist strap
- USB cable
- Video or A/V cable
- CD-ROM featuring ArcSoft software,
SD Viewer, and USB drivers
- 110 page camera manual (printed)
With the LZ1 and LZ2, Panasonic is
taking the same road as other camera manufacturers,
by building flash memory right into the camera, instead
of supplying a memory card. Both cameras have 14MB
of onboard memory, which won't hold too many photos.
To take more photos you'll want a larger memory card.
I'd suggest 256MB as a good place to start for both
cameras. The cameras take advantage of high speed SD
cards, which is worth the money if you plan on using
the burst mode a lot.
Something else you'll need to buy
are batteries. Panasonic includes their new "high
tech" Oxyride AA batteries. These last a lot longer
than regular alkalines, but they still end up in the
trash after a few hours. I'd recommend picking up four
NiMH rechargeable batteries, which gives you two sets
for the camera (it uses two AAs).
Battery life is excellent on both
cameras, especially with NiMH rechargeable batteries.
The LZ1 can take 370 shots per charge, while the LZ2
does even better with 390 shots. Both of those numbers
use the CIPA battery life standard. The included Oxyride
batteries will last for about 67% as long as NiMH batteries,
while regular alkalines only last for about a third
The LZ1/LZ2 have a built-in lens cover,
so there are no lens caps to worry about.
There's just one accessory available
for the LZ1 and LZ2, and that's an AC adapter (price
not available at press time).
Panasonic includes ArcSoft's camera
suite with the LZ-series cameras. This includes PhotoImpression
5, PhotoBase, and Panorama Maker for Mac and Windows.
PhotoImpression (shown above) lets you view, enhance,
and share images. The interface is unique and easy-to-use,
and the whole product is well designed. PhotoBase is
a less impressive product that you can use for organizing
and performing basic edits on your photos. Panorama
Maker will stitch together several shots into one big
Panasonic's manuals leave much to
be desired -- consumer electronics companies just don't
make good manuals. Much like the manual that came with
your VCR or DVD player, there's tons of fine print
and bullet points, and finding what you're looking
for can be difficult.
Look and Feel
The LZ's pack a lot into a relatively
compact package. Imagine a Canon PowerShot A95 and
add a larger (but non-rotating) LCD display, a 6X zoom
(instead of 3X), and optical image stabilization --
and that's the LZ1/LZ2. The cameras are made of a mix
of metal and plastic, and they feel quite solid. The
important controls are easy to reach, and the camera
can be used with one hand or two. As far as size, it's
not the smallest camera out there -- probably too big
for pockets -- but it was never a burden to carry around.
The official dimensions of the camera
are 100.5 × 63.5 × 32.9 mm / 3.96 × 2.5 × 1.3
inches (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) and it weighs
178 grams / 6.2 ounces empty. For the sake of comparison,
the PowerShot A95's numbers are 101.1 x 64.6 x 34.7
mm / 4.0 x 2.5 x 1.4 inches and 235 grams / 8.3 ounces.
With that out of the way, we can begin
our tour of the LZ cameras. Keep in mind that I'm using
the LZ2 as the model here.
Where most cameras this size have
a 3X, or if you're lucky, a 4X zoom lens, the LZ1 and
LZ2 pack a powerful 6X lens. The focal range of this
F2.8-4.5 lens is 6.1 - 36.6 mm, which is equivalent
to 37 - 222 mm. The lens is not threaded and conversion
lenses are not available.
The LZ1 and LZ2 have the same optical
image stabilization system as Panasonic's FZ-series
cameras. Here are two examples of why you want this
feature. Ever taken a indoor photo without flash, only
to be disappointed when its blurry? Or what about when
you're taking a picture near the telephoto end of the
lens and the photo is blurry, despite a fast shutter
speed? The OIS system can help.
Sensors in the camera detect this
motion and an element in the lens is shifted to compensate
for the shake. This lets you use shutter speeds 3-4
stops slower than what you can use on an unstabilized
camera. For example, a 1/30 sec shutter speed will
result in a blurry photos for most people (unless you
have hands of stone), but with image stabilization
you'll most likely get a nice, sharp photo. In actuality
you can shoot even slower, as this sample illustrates:
OIS on (mode 2), 1/8 sec
OIS off, 1/8 sec
Convinced yet? OIS systems won't save
the world, but they'll help you take better photos.
To the upper-right of the lens is
the camera's built-in flash. The working range of the
flash is 0.3 - 4.2 m at wide-angle and 0.5 - 2.6 m
at telephoto, which is about average. You cannot attach
an external flash to these cameras.
The only other item of note on the
front of the camera is the self-timer lamp, located
above the Lumix label. There's no AF-assist lamp on
either of the LZ-series cameras.
The lens isn't the only larger-than-average
thing on the LZ cameras. The LCD is bigger too -- it's
2.0 inches in size. One thing that's not as impressive
is the resolution: the screen has just 85,000 pixels,
and you can tell when you look at it. This is one thing
you'll want to check out for yourself before you buy,
if possible. Despite the low resolution, the screen
is bright and motion is fluid. In low light, the screen
is unfortunately too dark to be usable -- just like
the FZ-series cameras.
Something missing on the LZ cameras
is an optical viewfinder. Some people like them (I
do!), others never touch them. With the poor low light
performance from the LCD, you really start to miss
having a viewfinder. If an optical viewfinder is important
to you, the LZ cameras are probably not your best choice.
To the right of the LCD are three
buttons plus the four-way controller. The top-most
button, Display, toggles the information shown on the
LCD. The four-way controller is used for menu navigation,
- Up - Backlight compensation + exposure
compensation + auto bracketing + white balance fine
- Down - Review (jumps to playback
- Left - Self-timer (Off, 2 sec,
- Right - Flash setting (Auto, auto
w/redeye reduction, flash on, flash slow sync w/redeye
reduction, flash off)
I should talk about those options
that appear when you press the "up" button
on the four-way controller. Backlight compensation
is something you can toggle on and off while in "simple
mode". Use this if your subject has a bright
light source behind them. Exposure compensation is
the usual -2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments like on
every camera. Auto bracketing takes three shots in
a row with each shot having a different exposure.
You can choose from ±0.3EV, ±0.6EV
or ±1.0EV increments. White balance fine-tuning
lets you adjust the preset or custom WB that you've
selected in the red or blue direction, with a total
range of ±10 (in 1-step increments).
Below the four-way controller are
two more buttons: menu and burst mode / delete photo.
The burst modes are pretty impressive on the LZ-series
cameras. You can choose between three shooting modes:
high speed, low speed, and unlimited. At high speed
mode you can take 3 or 4 photos (LZ2/LZ1) at the highest
quality setting at 3 or 4 frames/second (LZ2/LZ1).
At the low speed setting you can take the same number
of pictures, but at 2 frames/second. The unlimited
shooting option will keep shooting at 2 frames/second
until the memory card is full. A high speed SD card
is recommended for this mode.
Here now is the top of the camera.
Right in the center is the microphone (the LZ1 does
not have one), and below that is the mode dial, which
has the following options:
| Movie mode
||More on this later
||For close-up shots; more
||Take pictures with lower power consumption
(lower LCD brightness, faster "sleep" when
|Normal picture mode
||Fully automatic mode with all menu options
||More on this later
||Fully automatic, with
a simplified menu system (and fewer options)
|Scene mode 1/2
|| You pick the scene and
the camera uses the appropriate settings;
choose from portrait, sports, scenery, night
scenery, night portrait, fireworks, party,
and snow; the two spots on the mode dial
are for saving your favorite scenes so you
don't have to reselect them everytime
Hopefully everything up there is self-explanatory.
I'll have more about the simple mode later in the review.
The next item of note is the shutter
release button, which has the zoom controller wrapped
around it. The controller moves the lens from wide-angle
to telephoto in about 2.1 seconds. Panasonic has always
been good about giving you lots of "stops" in
the zoom range, and these two cameras are no exception.
By quickly pressing on the zoom controller you'll find
that there are 20 stops throughout the 6X range.
To the right of the shutter release
/ zoom controller is the OIS button. This lets you
switch the OIS mode from Off to Mode 1 to Mode 2. When
the "mode 1" setting is used, the stabilizer
is always running, which helps you compose your photo
without camera shake. Mode 2 only activates the stabilizer
when the picture is actually taken, which actually
does a better job of eliminating the blurring caused
by camera shake. You can also turn the whole thing
off, which is advisable under certain situations, such
as when you're using a tripod.
Below that button is the power switch.
On this side of the LZ's you'll find
the I/O ports for USB + A/V out (one port for both,
the LZ1's is video out only) as well as DC-in (for
optional AC adapter). The ports are covered by rubber
cover. The LZ's support USB 2.0 Full Speed, which
is the "slow" version of USB 2.0.
On this side of the camera you'll
find the SD/MMC card slot. The LZ's can use SD or MMC
memory cards, though only the former is recommended.
A plastic door of average quality covers the slot.
We end our tour with a look at the
bottom of the camera. Here you'll find a plastic tripod
mount and the battery compartment. As you can see,
the LZ's use two AA batteries. A fairly sturdy plastic
door keeps your batteries safe and sound.
The included Oxyride batteries are
shown at right.
Using the Panasonic Lumix
DMC-LZ1 and LZ2
It takes a rocket-fast 1.3 seconds
for the LZ's to extend their lens and "warm up" before
you can start taking pictures. Hot!
There's a live histogram
in record mode
Autofocus speeds are about average,
ranging from 0.4 - 0.6 seconds in most cases. At the
telephoto end, focusing will take a bit longer. It's
too bad that the high speed focusing modes from the
FZ4 and FZ5 didn't make it to these models as well
-- those were really impressive. Low light focusing
was poor, due mostly to the lack of an AF-assist lamp.
Shutter lag was low, even at slower
shutter speeds where it often occurs.
Shot-to-shot speed is excellent, with
a delay of a little over a second before you can take
another shot, assuming the post-shot review feature
is turned off.
There is no easy way to delete a photo
immediately after it is taken -- you must use the Review
Now, here's a look at the resolution
and quality choices on the two cameras:
||# images on 14MB built-in
||# images on 256MB card
The LZ-series cameras do not support
the RAW or TIFF formats.
The camera saves images with a name
of PXXXYYYY.JPG, where X = 100-999 and Y = 0001 = 9999.
The camera will maintain the file numbering, even as
you erase and switch memory cards.
There are two menu systems on the
LZs. One is used only in "simple mode" and
it's quite stripped down. Here's a quick look at the
- Pict mode (Enlarge, 4 x 6, e-mail)
- change the resolution and quality
- Battery type (Alkaline/NiMH, Oxyride)
- Beep (Off, low, high)
- Clock set
All the other menu options are fixed
and cannot be changed.
If you do want to change those other
menu items you'll have to use one of the other shooting
modes. There you'll find an attractive, easy-to-use
menu system with the following options:
- White balance (Auto, daylight,
cloudy, halogen, white set) - the last option will
let you use a white or gray card to set a reference
for white, allowing for accurate color under any
lighting; I mentioned the ability to fine-tune the
WB earlier in the review
- Sensitivity [ISO] (Auto, 64 [LZ1
only], 80 [LZ2 only], 100, 200, 400)
- Picture size (see chart)
- Quality (see chart)
- Audio recording (on/off) - record
a 5 sec audio clip with each picture [LZ2 only]
- AF mode (5-area, 3-area, 1-area,
- Slow shutter (1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1
sec) - choose the slowest shutter speed the camera
will use; do note that the slower ones really need
a tripod for best results
- Digital zoom (on/off) - it's best
to keep this off
- Color effect (Off, cool, warm,
black & white, sepia)
- Picture adjust (Natural,
Okay that's all for this menu -- everything
should be self-explanatory here.
There's also a setup menu, which
is accessed from the record or playback menu. The items
- Battery type (Alkaline/NiMH, Oxyride)
- supposedly you need to change this to make the
battery life indicator work properly
- Monitor brightness (-7 to +7 in
- Auto review (Off, 1 sec, 3 sec,
zoom) - the zoom option shows the picture for a second,
then enlarges it by a factor of four for a second
- Power save (Off, 1, 2, 5, 10 mins)
- Economy (Level 1, 2) - how quickly
the camera shuts the LCD in Economy mode
- Beep (Off, soft, loud)
- Clock set
- File number reset
- USB mode (PC, PictBridge/PTP)
- Video out (NTSC, PAL)
- Scene menu (Off, auto) - if set
to auto, scene menu opens automatically when you
turn the mode dial to one of the two scene mode positions
- Language (English, German, French,
Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Chinese)
Well that's enough menus for one day,
so let's move on now to our photo tests! I will sometimes
use just one camera for the tests for which I expect
similar results. For other tests, both cameras were
used. Let's go!
Both cameras produced tack sharp (and
I mean it) renditions of our famous macro subject.
Most colors are good, but the red cloak is too orange
for my taste, especially on the LZ1. The custom white
balance feature was used on both cameras, so my 600W
quartz studio lamps were not a problem.
You can get as close to your subject
as 5 cm at wide-angle and 50 cm at the telephoto end
in macro mode, which isn't too bad.
Well I'm certainly not going to win
any awards for framing these shots the same, am I?
Most of the important buildings are here and they're
the same size, so I think these images are comparable.
To take long exposures like this you must use the Night
Scenery mode -- that's how you get the slowest shutter
Both of the cameras did a good job
with this scene, taking in plenty of light. The buildings
are very sharp (just like the macro shot above), but
noise levels are also quite high. Purple fringing was
not a problem for either camera.
Since I got identical results from
both cameras, I'm using the LZ1's flash test shot here.
As you can see, there's quite a bit of redeye. The
Panasonic FZ-series cameras were quite good at resisting
redeye, but that apparently didn't get passed down
to the LZ's. While your results may vary, I'd expect
to deal with this annoyance at least occasionally.
We switch to the LZ2 for the distortion
test. As you can see, there is moderate barrel distortion
at the wide end of the lens. You can also see some
vignetting, or dark corners. Unfortunately this vignetting
also appears in my real world test shots in the photo
Overall image quality on the LZ's
was good, but not great. First, the good points. The
camera took well-exposed photos, with accurate color
and very little purple fringing. Images were also extremely
sharp. That leads to the negatives: the images were
so sharp that "jaggies" appear on straight
lines, and images seem a little too grainy for my taste.
I also spotted vignetting in some of my photos. For
examples of these issues, check out the church (LZ1, LZ2)
and library (LZ1, LZ2)
shots. While vignetting can make your prints look a
little strange, I don't think the other issues will
affect things too much, unless you're doing large format
prints. I didn't see any major differences between
the photo quality on the two models -- they share the
same good and bad points.
That was a real mouthful. So don't
just listen to me -- use your own eyes to judge the
photos! Check out the LZ1 and LZ2 photo
galleries and decide if their photo quality meets your
Like other recent Panasonic cameras,
the movie mode on the LZ's isn't anything to write
home about. You can record video at 320 x 240 at 30
frames/second until the memory card is full. As you
can imagine, that doesn't take long when you're using
the built-in memory, so you'll want a larger memory
card for longer movies. A 10 frame/second mode is also
available, though the video will be quite choppy.
The LZ2 records audio along with the
movie, while the LZ1 does not. As is usually the case,
you cannot use the zoom lens during filming. The image
stabilizer functions in movie mode which certainly
comes in handy.
Movies are saved in QuickTime format.
A capture of the first frame of the movie is saved
as JPEG along with the movie.
Here are nearly identical sample movies
for your enjoyment. I'm getting pretty desperate for
source material, as you'll see:
to play LZ1 movie (3.8 MB, 320 x 240, 30 fps, QuickTime
Click to play LZ2
movie (3.5 MB, 320 x 240, 30 fps, QuickTime format)
Can't play them? Download QuickTime.
The LZ's have a pretty standard playback
mode. Basic playback options include slide shows, DPOF
print marking, image protection, thumbnail mode, audio
captions (10 seconds, LZ2 only), and zoom and scroll.
The cameras are also PictBridge-enabled for direct
printing to a compatible photo printer.
The zoom and scroll feature (my term)
allows you to zoom in as much as 16X (in 2X increments)
into your photo, and then scroll around.
You can rotate, resize, and crop your
photos right in playback mode. A "copy" feature
is also available, for moving photos from the internal
memory to an SD/MMC card and vice versa.
One other feature that I appreciate
is the ability to delete a group of photos, instead
of just one or all.
By default, the camera doesn't give
you a lot of information about your photos. But press
the display button and you'll see plenty of info, including
Photo playback is pretty snappy, with
a 0.5 second delay between photos, and that's with
a regular speed SD card. From my experience with other
Panasonic models, a faster SD card lets to faster image
How Does it Compare?
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ1 and DMC-LZ2
are two cameras don't quite live up to their potential.
The biggest features of the LZ's are the midsized body
packing a 6X optical zoom lens with optical image stabilization.
You won't find anything else on the market quite like
these two. Unfortunately, there are some annoying flaws
which keep the cameras from being as great as the FZ-series
cameras that I've given rave reviews to over the past
First, the good news. The LZ's are
well constructed, midsized cameras. Instead of the
typical 3X or 4X zoom lens, these cameras have a 6X
zoom lens, giving you a lot more telephoto power than
you're used to. To help steady keep the camera steady
and images blur free, the cameras offer Panasonic's
optical image stabilization system, which does just
as it sounds (and well, too). You'll be able to get
sharp images which would be blurry on other cameras
-- just don't expect miracles. Camera performance is
very good for the most part, especially in terms of
startup, shutter lag, and shot-to-shot times. The LZ's
burst mode and battery life numbers are excellent as
well. The LZ's are almost 100% point-and-shoot, with
the only manual control being the very welcome custom
white balance feature.
Image quality on the LZ's is a mixed
bag. Colors look nice, as do exposure and purple fringing
levels. Photos are extremely sharp, perhaps too much
so. Along with this sharpness comes "jaggies" on
straight edges and some fuzziness on fine details.
Vignetting (dark corners) and redeye were also a problem.
While I appreciate the larger-than-average 2.0" LCD
display on the camera, it's basically useless in low
light situations, and there's no optical viewfinder
to bail you out. Along those lines, I found low light
focusing to be poor. The LZ's movie mode isn't great
either when compared to most of the competition.
I like the concept of the DMC-LZ1
and DMC-LZ2 a lot. I just wish the execution was a
little better (the LZ3 and LZ4, maybe?). The two cameras
earn my recommendation, but mostly for outdoor shooting.
Those taking indoor and low light shots will likely
be disappointed with the camera's performance in those
What I liked:
- Good quality, sharp photos (but
see issues below)
- 6X optical zoom lens in a midsize
- Optical image stabilization system
- Excellent performance
- Good continuous shooting mode
- Great battery life
- Histograms in record and playback
What I didn't care for:
- Images a little too sharp, leading
to "jaggies"; some vignetting
- LCD doesn't "gain up" in
- No optical viewfinder
- Poor low light focusing; no AF-assist
- Paltry 14MB of internal memory
doesn't hold many photos at highest quality
- Movie mode isn't great
No other manufacturer makes a camera
quite like the LZ1 and LZ2. Some non-stabilized models
to consider include the Canon
PowerShot A520, Casio
Exilim EX-P505, Fuji
FinePix E550, Kodak
EasyShare DX7440, Nikon
Coolpix 4800, Olympus
C-5500 Sport Zoom, and the Pentax
As always, I recommend a trip to your
local camera store to try out the DMC-LZ1 and LZ2 and
their competitors before you buy!
Want to see how the photo quality
turned on? Check out the LZ1 and LZ2 photo
Feedback & Discussion
If you have a question about this
review, please send them to Jeff.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me
asking for a personal recommendation.
To discuss this review with other
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