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313 of 319 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2009
Color Name: Silver
I've had quite a number `point and shoot' digital cameras over the past decade-it seems I replace them about every three years. As a believer in the maxim, the best camera is the one you have with you, they have all been Canon Elphs But this time...I wanted more. One of the new compact designs with a big optical zoom, plus the wide angle lens. So it was natural that I picked out a Canon PowerShot SX200IS for an for a birthday trip to Italy. Glad I checked it out prior to departure - its form factor didn't really work for me ...A friend suggested the Lumix ZS1, which just happened to be on sale for $229 at Costco - a hundred dollars less than the Canon.

And I am so glad I made the exchange! The Lumix ZS1 delivers beyond all expectation. There was a point on the trip where I had a vision - imagine (if you go back to the 70's as I do) having an entire photographers bag - say a Nikon F, with a kit of Nikor lens say a 24mm perspective control, 50mm macro, a couple of zooms, multiple camera backs, the flash, the motor drive- in a package that fits in your shirt pocket. The last camera that blew me away like this was the Olympus XA (old school 35mm) which delivered amazing optics in a shirt pocket size.

Cutting to the chase:
Pros:
Unbelievable Leica lens. You can't imagine what a difference there is between 25 mm and 28 mm at the wide end. Imagine taking pictures of building facades and interiors as your eye sees them - and without distortion - extraordinary, and worth the decision to go with this camera alone. Even better - this lens works at all levels. This is by far the best the macro I've seen on a point and shoot, and the lens is solid all the way to 300mm equivalent - and yes, the image stabilization does really help - in old school terms, think light weight tripod with a very heavy long lens

Unbelievable Panasonic electronics. This has a very simple, yet incredibly rich feature set, all of which is useful, all of which delivers great, real world pictures, with as much real world manual control as you could want. For example - you can set the max ISO -which really gives you control over the F stop (since like most compact cameras there really isn't that much of a range) and shutter speed, there is a very convenient toggle button on the camera body to increase/decrease exposure (+/- 2 f stops), and the IA (Intelligent Auto) is the best auto setting I have ever worked with. You do have to read the manual, however, and play with the multiple settings to fully realize what Panasonic has delivered.

Great sensor. Images are very sharp below 400 ISO as others have noted. But ultra low light performance, is what is truly amazing. Think: extraordinary rendition of Giotto's frescos at the Basilica of St. Francis, tapestries at the Vatican, even the Sistene Chapel ceiling - settings where flash will not help or is not permitted - These demanded ISOs of up to 3200 - and the results look truly amazing - when printed, when projected.

Great build quality and ergonomic design. Part of what caused me to return the Canon - it simply didn't fit in my hand well, and the control layout was awkward. This one fits perfectly in the hand, and every control both on the body and in the menus is well placed, well conceived. And it not only feels solid, it looks solid, and that is comforting.

Cons (yes there are a few, but they are few)

The view finder is bright enough in many situations (be sure to turn on the `auto mode'). But there is no substitute for an optical viewfinder in a bright outdoor setting.

Proprietary download cable. Why not use universal mini-USB to USB like Canon does?

Average battery life. All that zooming of the lens barrel and digital wizardry means that this needs to be charged daily

No HD video. I find the widescreen VGA mode delivers very acceptable performance - and because it works with the optical zoom, actually looks sharper than the Canon HD at any zoom setting (Canon is digital zoom). But I think the ZS3's HD video will be even more awesome, and probably will end up being available for the same price point.
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124 of 127 people found the following review helpful
Color Name: SilverVerified Purchase
Panasonic finally delivers on the noise end of things.
This is the first Lumix prosumer camera that I have seen where image noise is not a serious issue.
In fact, just prior to purchasing this camera I had to return a Lumix DMC-FX35K, which I found totally unacceptable in terms of image quality (see my other review).
This camera boasts a clean picture with properly controlled noise (very little smudging), it can produce a usable and very printable image up to 800 ISO. Images at 400 ISO are surprisingly good (for this kind of camera).
Awesome optics,from a very wide angle to a medium long telephoto, little distortion, no observed vignetting, very acceptable chromatic aberration, a veritable photographic powerhouse in your shirt pocket!
Exposure, good if only a bit on the overexposed end (to my taste).
All kinds of automation, too much to cover here.
Two types of optical stabilization, which on the whole a care little about, in my opinion the technology is far overrated (applies to all brands). You want tack sharp pictures in very low light, lean the camera against a wall a tree or a railing or mount it on a tripod, bean bag or just set it on a table.
Very good macro capabilities.

Shortcomings, mainly two:
1 - very limited manual controls (that kept me from giving it 5 stars)
This limitation precludes its usability as a serious photographic tool (pity!). Albeit, it can still take some tremendous pictures but at the mercy of its automation.

2- Absolutely terrible Auto White Balance under artificial light, especially the new compact fluorescents. Compensates a bit with an easy to use manual control but that is effective in skilled hands only. Panasonic better come up with a firmware update addressing this issue soon ,else they might start seeing a lot of returns.

In summary, a very flexible, well built and powerful camera squarely aimed at the traveler or occasional photo enthusiast.
The camera does have the potential to take breath taking images, but it is definitely not a photographers tool; although, given its price, size and sturdiness might work well as a "just in case" gadget for those "ouch" moments when your main camera is not available.

A curious observation:
this camera is endowed with a fabulous lens and an almost interminable list of scene modes and other automatic feature, yet it omits simple aperture priority and shutter priority modes which would have probably placed it in a class by itself. As I said before, what a pity!
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86 of 87 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon August 2, 2009
Color Name: Black
Leica is famous for the quality of their lens designs. A 24mm super-wide angle lens provides a MUCH greater field of view than the more common 35mm wide angle lens. That makes it possible to take interior photos that show a large portion of a room, or to take architectural photos of entire buildings, even in tightly packed urban areas.

BUT, Leica's famous 24mm super-wide angle lens costs about $3,500. Now Leica has designed a 25mm to 300mm zoom lens for the Panasonic ZS1 and ZS3 which has even LESS visible distortion (bowing of straight lines, such as doors and window frames) and vignetting (darkening of the photo's corners) than does Leica's famous 24mm lens. So, the owner of an LS series Panasonic gets the photo quality of a $3,500 lens for less than $250.

The Panasonic DMC-ZS1 and ZS3 share a superb Leica-designed zoom that provides outstanding performance from the super-wide 25mm range, through to the 50mm "normal" range waaay up to very long telephoto zoom of 300mm...and the lens provides excellent color and contrast in every part of that very long range.

There are NO zoom lenses or digital cameras available at ANY price level that will outperform the Panasonic ZS series for ultra-low distortion, rich colors and excellent contrast throughout the entire ultra-wide 25mm to 300mm long telephoto range of the ZS cameras.

The Panasonic ZS series cameras are designed to be easy to use. Putting them in the "intelligent auto" mode enables the camera to make all of the decisions. You simply zoom in on your subject, press the shutter very slightly to pre-focus, wait a second to see the focus confirmation "dot", then press the shutter to take your photo.

The camera will automatically switch to the "macro" mode if you are taking a photo of something a few inches from your lens, it will recognize a person's face and switch to the "portrait" mode for natural skin tones, and it re-adjusts the ISO level and shutter speed to match the lighting conditions for each photo.

Outdoors, the "intelligent auto" mode delivers consistently fine photos with natural color tones and contrast. The photos are "sharp" due to Panasonic's auto stabilization mode, which makes it possible to get hand-held photos that are tack sharp, even at the full telephoto range of 300mm.

WARNING: Flash photos tend to be mediocre, unless you are VERY careful. Indoors, when using flash, the "intelligent auto" mode works well ONLY with subjects that are very close...about three feet to six feet from the camera. Beyond six feet, many flash photos will be darker than most people would prefer. The solution is to switch to the manual mode, and select a higher ISO of 200 or 400. These cameras have a tiny flash, and good results require getting close, and the results are best in a well lighted room. This camera is a "five star" camera outdoors in bright sun light, but is closer to being a "three star" camera indoors with flash.

In the manual mode, users can select from many "scene" options, including a "night mode" that takes beautiful time exposures in dim lighting. I took some "night mode" shots in a dark coffee shop without flash that perfectly recreate the mood of the dimly lighted room. Also, in the manual mode, users can set the maximum ISO they want to use, and set the minimum shutter speed they prefer. So, for a sports photo, you can chose to use ONLY shutter speeds of 1/250 of a second or faster to "freeze" the action. Or, you can switch to the "sports" mode, and the camera will select a fast shutter speed, and lock the focus to keep subjects beyond about 16 feet away in sharp focus.

The manual options give users dozens of ways to tailor their photos, including ways of fine-tuning the color balance. The instruction book uses 140 pages to detail all of the options for every type of photo. It is worth an owner's time to work page by page through the entire 140 pages to learn everything this camera can do.

But, MOST people will be happy to simply put the camera in "intelligent auto" mode and let the camera make all of the decisions. With just a hour or two of practice, anyone should be able to obtain fine photos consistently.

Digital "noise" is always an issue with pocket sized compact digital cameras. However, with the ZS1, the digital "noise" is well controlled. In an 8 x 10 inch enlargement, it would take a very keen eye to see any "noise" in the ISO 80 to ISO 200 range. At ISO 400, a small amount of noise be visible in an 8 x 10 enlargement, but only if you are looking for it.

For people who are "fanatics" about reducing digital "noise" to a minimum, the ZS1 enables you to select an "auto" mode that has a "locks" the ISO setting to the ISO 80 to ISO 400 range, or you can "lock" the ISO at your choice of ISO 80, ISO 100, or ISO 200. On a bright sunny day, locking exposure to ISO 80 produces photos that can match those made with a $3,000 pro DSLR camera.

The battery will last about 300 photos without using the flash, and about 200 photos if you use the flash for about half your photos. The more time you spend reviewing, editing, and deleting photos, the fewer photos that can be taken. A "battery gauge" tells you the amount of power remaining in the battery so you know when to recharge. The battery recharges in about two hours or less.

WARNING: The size and shape of the ZS1 make it a VERY easy camera to drop. It would be wise to ALWAYS wrap its strap around your wrist BEFORE removing the camera out of its case. The ZS1 will fit into a jacket pocket, but it would be much better protected in a padded case. A camera as nice as the ZS1 deserves being treated as the fine piece of equipment that it is, and keeping it in a padded case is an inexpensive way to protect your investment.
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135 of 140 people found the following review helpful
Color Name: SilverVerified Purchase
I've just returned from my first vacation with this camera. I previously had a Kodak subcompact. Weight and size are good, still easy enough to carry in a purse or pocket. The wide angle takes a huge sweep of area in the photos. Pictures are crystal clear with a touch of roundness at the edges of the landscapes. The zoom is incredible, but it takes a special touch getting used to the sensitivity of the zoom dial. The zoom was my main reason for selecting this little camera, along with the fine Leica lens. I used the manual and IA settings, great shots both ways. Very good photos in low light and with the flash off. Huge screen for viewing your subject, but I do miss my old viewfinder. Easy to playback shots and review, as well as a quick upload. Included software is very good for editing, etc. I still have a lot of experimenting to do, the camera has tons of interesting feaures. Have not seen a downside as of yet, easy to use, battery life is quite good, I shot for most of the day before it wore down, and it fully recharges in a couple of hours. Highly recommend this camera for the travel buff that loves to take pictures.
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2009
Color Name: Silver
After having used a wide range of Point & Shoot Digicams from different companies, the one camera that has always given me consistent performance in terms of great pictures and good battery life is a Panasonic Lumix FX01, which I have been using since 2006. So, when the time came for upgrading my camera, Panasonic was on the top of my list of manufacturers.

My specifications were :
I wanted atleast 10x optical zoom.
A P&S type form factor, which would be easy to carry around.
After having used a wide range of Point & Shoot Digicams from different companies, the one camera that has always given me consistent performance in terms of great pictures and good battery life is a Panasonic Lumix FX01, which I have been using since 2006. So, when the time came for upgrading my camera, Panasonic was on the top of my list of manufacturers.

My specifications were :
I wanted atleast 10x optical zoom.
A P&S type form factor, which would be easy to carry around.
7 - 10 megapixel resolution.
A CIPA rating of atleast 300 photos per fully charged battery.

I Googled around and checked out various websites, shortlisting 5 models, ranging from a Sony, a Samsung, a Canon & 2 models from Panasonic - the ZS1 & the ZS3.

After a final elimination round, I was left with only the ZS1 & the ZS3. Considering the fact that both featured 12x optical zoom, 10 megapixel resolution, 300+ pics per charge, they exceeded my specs. Some additional sweeteners were that the ZS1 & ZS3 come with 25mm wide angle lens! Sites like [...] too had some very good reviews of both the cameras, so I just had to choose between the two.

When I placed the order in early May 09, there was a $100+ difference between the two models. The main differences were that the ZS3 can record High-definition video clips with stereo sound + there are a few other features that are missing from the ZS1.

Though I was very tempted to buy the ZS3, I decided to go with the ZS1 and invest the money saved in buying an extra battery + a high capacity SDHC memory card. The rest of the process was very smooth & easy.

- Checked the prices of the ZS1 on a couple of websites and Amazon had the best deals, with free shipping too. So placed an order.
- Placed an order for an extra battery pack + SDHC card.

Everything was delivered without a hitch and after a quick glance through the user manual, I was ready to start clicking... and I have been clicking away since the past 3 months.

The main pros & cons of the ZS1 are:
- Very good optical zoom (12x) & great wide-angle lens (25mm)
- iA (Intelligent Auto) mode is really effective in getting great results.
- Battery life is quite good.
- Image stabilization is more effective than most models I have used.
- Very handy and easy to use!

Now the cons:
- Autofocus works good, but a manual over-ride would have been really great.
- Performance of the camera in low-light conditions is just average.
- At higher ISO levels (Above 400), there is a significant amount of noise in the photos in low light conditions.
- The mode selector dial is a little vague and easily moves out of position.

But then, everything cannot be perfect, can it? and these cons are something that I can easily live with.

The bottom line is that at this price point, the ZS1 is a great camera for the casual users, active travellers and anyone who needs a easy to use wide angle camera, with good zoom. I would recommend it without any reservations!

Products I ordered:
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS1 10MP Digital Camera with 12x Wide Angle MEGA Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 2.7 inch LCD (Silver)
Panasonic DMW BCG10 Battery pack (The camera will not work with any other non-panasonic batteries)
A Transcend Class-6 SDHC 8GB memory card.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2009
Color Name: SilverVerified Purchase
Had a previous Lumix and loved it for it's ease of use...bought this one because the old one was dropped and stopped working..my fault...anyway love the setting on this one called: Intelligent mode...takes great pictures in all kinds of conditions...movies are great also...colors are true all around...
The one small negative is that when you reach from right to left to use the zoom you can hit the mode dial and then it's not in the right position. The mode dial really should be to the left of the zoom NOT to the right.
Love the playback feature where you just flip the switch to quickly see the most recent picture..Last model there were 2 or 3 steps to accomplish this...Battery on this one seems to last a lot longer than on the previous one...
All in all love this model...other than that small inconvenience with the zoom and mode dial.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2009
Color Name: SilverVerified Purchase
First the pros:
Great zoom and great in low light. It will be difficult to find situations where you need the flash. Only the competing Sony can beat it on sharpness during zoom, but that may be because the wide angle lens penalizes the ZS1 on sharpness. Video is VGA/WVGA which I prefer because I only need it for internet video. I can't imagine the amount of PC time required to transfer, edit, and upload HD. Macro is as good as they get.

The "fair" attributes, adequate compared to other cameras:
LCD size at 2.7 is adequate, but not large as the other reviewer stated. The smaller screen is not nice, but it helps save battery life. Without the flash on the automatic setting, color and everything else seems great. My own settings can hardly ever do better. Lighting is strong unlike the reviewer's comment, but the wide angle makes it difficult to get even lighting in such a wide field. Backing up and zooming to look more like a regular camera (to decrease the field of view) enables the flash to be more consistent, maybe more consistent than others since you are further away. If you don't back up and zoom, expect more shadows from the flash because it's too far to the side of the lens, especially on the sides of the wide field. If the flash were above the lens, the shadows would be beneath the subject and therefore much less noticeable and more natural. But again, low light ability is so good, I do not expect to ever use flash. I value even and natural light more than the extra sharpness that the flash provides. Operation seems as sensible, good, and fast, about like the others I've tried. It's "complicated" without the automatic setting like all the others, and just as easy and accurate as the other on the automatic settings. Anti-jitter allows going from 1/60th or 1/30th to 1/8th shutter speed, which is a great improvement for all cameras that have it, despite the comment from the other reviewer about this feature being over rated.

Cons:
Those who are used to regular digital cameras may not the wide angle which causes a "fish-eye" effect. For example, if you're doing family or people shots, you will need to be a little closer or use the zoom. On the other hand, the wide angle is preferable in some instances. For the higher-end user, the wider angle will allow shots other cameras can't get (there's no "reverse zoom" on regular cameras). Microphone is on top instead of in front which causes more echo from ceiling in rooms, the person recording to sound too loud, and many people will be placing their left index finger over the mic.

Video:
Wide angle is much nicer for video than pictures. Zoom is painfully slow during video, which is intentional because most people zoom too much in videos. But it does not begin zooming right away and is too slow. This is my only complaint about video. As with many cameras, videos are stored as Quicktime .mov files. Editing beginning and end of video on camera is not possible which would have been nice. Memory usage is 1.2 MB/second so 16 GB class 6 SD card will store 3.8 hours. For internet usage, I've found converting to .avi with Indio 85% compression was resulted in files 5 times smaller. You must convert from .mov to .avi using one of several free tools online in order for a Windows machine to edit it.

10 MP not better than 5 MP:
My biggest complaint is that there is no difference between 5 MP and 10 MP settings. Regular pictures, zoomed in shots, and macro all appeared to be identical quality under 5 MP and 10 MP settings even when letting the timer prevent blur. Selecting 5 MP standard compression compared to 10 MP fine compression resulted in files 4 times smaller with no change in quality under any conditions when blowing the shots up to look at the details. The smaller files are much less likely to hang your computer up when editing and viewing thumbnails.
Maybe the 10 MP is used to get better digital zoom. This situation may exist with all 5 MP+ cameras. All this is not relevant to the typical user who is only using pictures for the computer, in which case 2 MP is plenty.

Most MP settings are disabled in auto mode:
Sadly standard compression is disabled in automatic mode so 80% of users will be stuck with files twice as big as necessary. My favorite 2 MP is not allowed. I have to use 3 MP. Combined with disabling the standard storage, all my files therefore have to be 3 times bigger than any computer work needs if you use automatic settings. A typical computer screen is less than 1 MP, so it seems insane that so many cameras (like this one) do not allow 1 MP pictures. Since this camera is not improved with anything above 5 MP, you basically have only 3 settings in automatic mode: 3 MP (4:3), 5 MP (4:3), and 2 MP (16:9), with forced fine storage (low compression). The last 16:9 may actually be good for wide computer screens and HD TVs playback.

Macro:
Macro can show things you could only see with a microscope at 30x. It can show the hairs on the legs of a flea, 1 inch from the lens in sunlight. It can show the detailed imperfections in each R, G, and B emitter in each pixel of my computer screen.

Other interesting features:
They went overkill on settings for different subjects and lighting conditions. lots of options if you want them. For example, baby picture and flower modes. Focusing and lighting options are advanced, like tracking a subject once you lock on with half a click, or setting lighting to background, foreground, or spot. Individual face recognition is there, but not synced with eyes open. To have almost zero delay between pressing the button and the picture being taken, you have to press half-way first.

In short, I think I will get used to the wide lens and even be glad I have it. Certainly I love taking pictures without the flash. The zoom is great. It's nearly a disaster that they don't allow standard storage in automatic settings.
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104 of 121 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2009
Color Name: Black
I bought this Lumix ZS1 along with a Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-H20. The Lumix in general have excellent reviews and people rave about their wide angle, sharp, good quality images, etc, but I found the opposite to be true. It did have a wide angle, good for including more elements in your photos, but I found the images to be muted and hazy, and most of the time not sharp like the Sony. This model has 12x zoom, while the Sony has 10x, but I found the Sony to have better reach, and its images were sharper when I zoomed in with the digital zoom. I did several test shots with both, and in my opinion, the Sony won, no question about it. The Lumix also has a very weak flash, which seemed to increase blurriness in lower light. The Sony has a very powerful flash, but thankfully you can adjust its intensity.

I thought I preferred a wide angle lens, but honestly, I much prefer the telephoto end and having crisp, sharp images. That is just my opinion and experience!
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Color Name: Black
We've always used an SLR but found out that we were taking it along less frequently because of the weight. We needed a good quality smaller camera and tried this out.

What a pleasant surprise. It could take excellent fireworks at a distance or highly detailed macro shots. We'd like to stop using our SLR for our professional food photography shots because we think the quality of this small camera would work for our purposes - were it not for the fact that our clients think that since we're using a big camera (SLR), we are more professional that way.

Great product - must be the Leica lens!
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2009
Color Name: Silver
I recently bought this camera to take on vacation with me and I have to say that I love it. I own several other cameras all different types (SLR, DSLR, compact digital, video, etc.) For vacations I usually take what everyone calls my Japanese tourist camera (Nikon D40) because it takes beautiful pictures and while large, it's still relatively compact. Well, this Panasonic has now replaced the Nikon as my tourist camera. Not only are the picture sharp and clear thanks to the Leica lens, but the zoom is just incredible. Shots are fairly noise free even when using digital zoom. Plus you just can't beat it for all this at this price and in this size.

While it's not really a pocket sized camera it is certainly purse size and easy to carry around. It's not heavy and would fit nicely in a jacket pocket. Low light performance was good, better than the Panasonic tz5 (which I have also used) in my opinion and the flash range is also very nice.

This one is definitely a keeper.
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