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Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 Digital Camera Review

panasonic20120827ca.jpgDigital Camera Review by: Keith Parsons

The rather stylish Panasonic Lumix SZ1 sits right amongst a new range of "Super Zoom" ultra compact cameras from Panasonic and boasts features such as 10x optical zoom, a 16-megapixel sensor and even a 3” LCD screen.


For such an affordable compact camera Panasonic has definitely not skimped on the features here though the ability to throw this camera in your pocket or handbag and still walkaway with high quality images is the real selling point.

 

Appearance and Functionality


The Lumix SZ1 is a sleek and simplistic camera. As soon as you pick up the SZ1, it immediately feels robust and nicely balanced. The actual weight of the camera also makes it a delight to handle and furthermore it aids in balancing the camera for shooting.


The black finish should appeal to consumers looking to get away with a more expensive looking point-and-shoot camera, but as expected the camera is also available in some more lively options such as Silver, Red or Blue. No matter what colour is selected you can be assured of a perfectly finished body and well rounded feel.


The buttons are well spaced and easily accessible, making for hassle free navigation and good ease of use. The addition of the “quick menu” button in the lower right corner allows important settings such as focus modes, image resolution and burst modes to be accessed quickly without searching endlessly through setup menus. The power and playback buttons are both sliding switches, with smooth and glassy operation. Once in position they also stick firmly minimising any chance of knocking them.


panasonic20120827cb.jpgOnce in the main menu which appears simple and well though out, users are able to navigate the different features by using the main directional button positioned on the back. Users are not confronted with a maze of options and should find it very easy to select the desired options.

Power up time is reasonably fast and should not hinder the user from capturing the perfect moment. Once the lens emerges from the body it is immediately ready to use and fully functioning with a simple press of the shutter button. The SZ1 also offers a huge range of scene modes to choose from. Ranging from landscape at one end of the scale right through to food. Continuous shooting is also available in both full resolution and low-resolution settings with the latter producing up to 7 frames per second at 3 megapixels.


The image playback on the SZ1 is clear and concise and users should not have any problem view their images on the rather large 3” LCD. Display settings are also available to tweak the playback screen into allowing more image viewing space.

Battery life from the 680 mAh battery is rated at 250 shots, however users can expect slightly more with some of the power saving functions available. The battery is also incredibly small and light making additional batteries easy to carry when travelling. Recharging can either be done via a USB cable or a wall socket (both included in the box) depending on the users personal preference.

 

Image Quality


The SZ1 offers an impressive 16.1 Megapixel CCD sensor. Some may argue that CCD sensors suffer slightly in lower light situations and this is noticeable when ISO settings exceed the 400-800 range. The camera however works very hard to remove any excessive noise but users might also notice that this comes at a slight cost of sharpness.

panasonic20120827cc.jpgThe ISO range extends right up to 6400 but the upper reaches of the scale will produce images some might not find desirable! Unfortunately RAW functionality is unavailable in the SZ1, which could have been of great benefit, however this is certainly not an expected feature for a camera in this price class.

Skin tones and colours are reproduced well at low ISO however as mention above some loss of saturation and detail might occur at higher ISO settings. Notably colours are great in landscape photographs consisting of greens and blues, which should please those who love capturing majestic scenery.

With an array of White Balance settings for those who find the auto setting inadequate or like to be somewhat more creative, there is more than enough to play with. Another benefit is the quick recycle times of the built in flash, which does not need to pop-up and is instead housed within the body.

 

View street test images on our Facebook page 

 

Lens Quality


As can be expected from the renowned lens manufacturers, Leica, this lens does a great job both at wide angles and telephoto. With its 10X optical zoom (35mm equivalent range of 25 – 250mm) users will never be left wanting. The lens also offers a reasonably fast speed of f/3.1 – f/5.9 that is more than adequate for such a versatile lens. Reproduction of detail is great at both extremes with the only complaint being slight colour fringing in some circumstances.

There are macro features also on offer though it only has a minimum focus distance of 5cm from the front of the lens. Panasonic’s Sonic Speed AF allows for extremely fast focusing and users will also benefit from the new focus-tracking feature. Boasting speeds of 0.15 -0.2 seconds the SZ1 will do everything possible to guarantee you don’t end up with blurred imagery.

 

Viewfinder / LCD Screen


panasonic20120827cd.jpgThe SZ1 does not offer a viewfinder but instead boasts a huge 3” LCD screen at a resolution of 230,000 dots. Whilst this resolution is not huge it must be remembered, that images are made to be viewed on computers or in print and the LCD should only ever be used as a guide

The LCD reproduces colour well and users will find some of the viewing options very useful. A personal favourite is the “high angle” setting, accessible through the quick menu, which enables users to hold the camera above their head and shoot above well above eye level though still being able to view the LCD.

 

Video


The SZ1 only offers the option of HD 720 or VGA video quality, though at this price range that is expected and if it is Full HD you are after be prepared to blow your budget. The video on the SZ1 does do an ok job though and will certainly stand up to many outputs like youtube for example.


The benefits of being able to alter zoom while recording is a huge bonus and the quick record button situated next to the shutter button makes for fast, hassle free recording. The cameras sound is not great though will get you by in a number of circumstances.

 

 

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Conclusion


At this price level it is hard to find fault in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 which manages to pack in a number of features and yet retains its relatively slimline small design. There are a number of shortcomings on the SZ1 but nothing too detrimental, mainly noisey images at higher ISOs and the lack of decent video which it's competitors all have to deal with as well.

Whether you are looking for a day-to-day carry around or a versatile travel camera, the SZ1 should more than justify its small price. The 25-250mm lens is an excellent range and will cover almost any situation faced by happy snappers, allowing the SZ1 to provide many thousands of great images.

 

Accessories Used During Testing:

SanDisk Extreme 30MB/s SD Card 

Tamrac Evolution Zoom 16 / 5715 Bag

 

Recommended Retailer:

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View / Buy The Panasonic Lumix SZ1  

 

Appearance rating 4 stars
Functionality rating 4 stars
Image quality
3.5 stars
Video quality
3 stars
Lens quality
3.5 stars
LCD screen (Rear)
3.5 stars
Value for money 4.5 star
Street Price
$229.95
SPACER.GIF  
Effective Pixels 16.1 megapixels
Sensor Type
1/2.33-inch CCD sensor / 16.6 Total Megapixels / Primary Color Filter
Image Sizes 8 sizes / 4 ratios
Lens f=4.5-45.0mm (25-250mm in 35mm equiv.) / (27-270mm in 35mm equiv. in video recording)
Lens Mount
-
Resolution Settings: Stills [1:1] 3456x3456 (12M)
[4:3] 4608x3456 (16M)
3648x2736 (10M EZ)
2560x1920 (5M EZ)
2048x1536 (3M EZ)
640x480 (0.3M EZ)
[3:2] 4608x3072 (14M)
[16:9] 4608x2592 (12M) 
Resolution Settings: Video [HD Video] 1280 x 720 pixels, 25 fps (HD: 10Mbps / MP4) [STD Video] VGA: 640 x 480 pixels, 25 fps (4Mbps / MP4) 
GPS No
Face Detection Yes
Manual Focus No
Auto Focus Yes
Aperture Priority No
Shutter Priority
No
Shutter Speeds 8 - 1/1600 sec  
ISO Auto / i.ISO / 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 / High Sensitivity mode (ISO 1600-6400)
LCD Monitor 3.0"(7.5cm) TFT Screen LCD Display (230K dots) / Field of View : approx. 100% / AUTO Power LCD mode, Power LCD mode, High Angle Mode
Viewfinder -
Flash Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Forced On, Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction, Forced Off, / 0.6 - 5.6m (Wide/i ISO), 1.5 - 2.9m (Tele/i ISO)
Hot Shoe No
White Balance Auto / Daylight / Cloudy / Shade / Incandescent / White Set
Self Timer 2 seconds or 10 seconds
Stills Format/s
JPEG
Video Format/s MP4
Video Recording Time/s 29 Minutes / 4GB
Storage Type - External SD, SDHC, SDXC memory cards
Storage Type - Internal
70MB
Connectivity AV Output (PAL/NTSC), USB2.0 High speed
Power Source AC Adaptor (Input: 110-240V AC) (Included, connect with USB cable)
Battery Options Li-ion Battery Pack (3.6V, Minimum: 680mAh)
Battery Life Approximately 250 Shots
Dimensions 99mm (W) x 59.4mm (H) x 21mm (D)
Weight 114g (including battery and memory card)
















 


 

 

About Panasonic

 

Panasonic Australia is a proud member of the Australian corporate community. With long standing links to local manufacturing and with hundreds of employees, Panasonic Australia is committed to fostering good relationships with consumers, businesses and governments alike.

 

On both a Local and International basis Panasonic is deploying long term strategies related to stable economic growth, responsible use of resources and being friendly to the environment.

 

The pages contained within the 'About Us' area will give you an insight into how Panasonic Australia operates and an overview of our companies history.

 

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