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on October 6, 2009
After my overwhelmingly positive experiences of owning Canon PowerShots (SD700 and SD800), I was was pretty sure I wanted another. I looked at three:
SD1200: only 3x zoom, 35mm not wide enough
SD980: 24mm wide, f/2.8, 5x zoom, touch screen. Wow! But no thanks to focus problems.
SD780: 33mm wide, 4x zoom. Almost, but since I take a lot of no flash shots, f/3.2 is a handicap.

After some more searching I came across the DMC-FS7 with f/2.8, 33mm wide, and 4x zoom. Not a lot has been written about this model in either official or user reviews. Amazon.com has not linked the reviews for the various colors of this model, but even combined there are fewer than 20 at the time of writing, despite being available for most of 2009. Based on Panasonic's track record for building decent cameras such as the DMC FX37, DMC-ZS1/ZS3, DMC-LX3--and the irresistible price--I ended up buying this one. No it does not have the hefty 'quality' feel of Canons. After a couple of days, I'm actually preferring the lighter weight because I usually shoot one-handed. I only miss a contoured grip to stabilize the lateral motion required to operate the zoom lever.

What stands out about this camera is the quick access to controls. Exposure compensation is one click away. Forcing FLASH ON is available universally whereas my Canons allowed this only in MANUAL mode. In PLAYBACK mode, you can delete while zoomed in--also unavailable on my Canons. And when you are shooting with a special setting such as a scene mode, MOTION PICTURE, 16:9, etc., one press of the red button switches you instantly into iAUTO ready to take a regular still picture--and another press gets you back to the setting you were in. Much faster than a dial, especially if you like to switch back and forth.

As is typical with digital cameras, outdoor shooting on a hazy day or in consistent shade produces the best pictures: here the DMC-FS7 is capable of good tone, gradation and sharp detail. But introduce some sun and the bright areas tend to overexpose and lose detail. When shooting portraits by the window, even indirect sun can cause parts of cheeks to whiten. Unfortunately, fill-in flash is not much help as FORCE FLASH ON often results in washed out whites. I also get the occasional half stop overexposure when shooting people against foliage.

I really enjoy the 16:9 (HDTV) aspect ratio. At social occasions, it makes up for the not-so-wide 33mm focal length because you can frame 3 faces or a group of people without them having to lean inwards or squeeze together. In fact, at a distance where people fill the frame waist-up, this camera takes some very pleasant indoor flash photos. Beyond that, the flash is too weak. The wide format also brings a fresh perspective to environment and landscape shots. A 3:2 aspect ratio is also available, probably for film converts.

Panasonic has definitely skimped on some features to keep the cost down. In PLAYBACK mode, rotating the camera to vertical does not fill the screen with a vertically taken (portrait) picture. Unless Canon has a patent on that, why omit this feature? The download to iPhoto seems slower than the Canons despite both being USB 2.0 interfaces. And incredibly, it's possible to insert the battery pack back-to-front and still latch the cover closed! I only realized my mistake because of the gaping sides. Fortunately the flimsy cover flexed and did not break.

In summary, the DMC-FS7 is a well thought out camera with decent performance, some compromises in exposure, and amazing value. I can literally buy two of these for the price of a Canon SD940!
To Canon I say: for people like me, your current line of point-and-shoots are less attractive than your older models. The fact that an SD880 sells for $1,200 (4x original price!) on amazon.com attests to how real a problem you have on your hands.

TWO MONTH UPDATE:
Take a look at the shots I've posted under customer images. iAUTO has really impressed me over time. It senses the type of picture you are taking and switches on the fly to the appropriate scene/mode. My favorite aspect of this is its ability to switch in and out of MACRO without me having to press anything! Image stabilization works well. I continue to experience the occasional overexposure, but the bulk of photos are fine. Forget about setting the COLOR MODE to NATURAL. Anyone used to the boosted color of Canon point-and-shoots will find this underwhelming. STANDARD is the factory setting, and VIVID is for color junkies. I've since learned more about the new Canon SD940 with f/2:8 and 4x zoom. I would seriously consider it, but if I dropped my Panasonic into the ocean today, I think I'd still buy another DMC-FS7.
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on December 5, 2009
On the heels of another reviewer, I just spent an hour going through years of archived photos having used the following cameras.

And to keep it short and sweet, I was shocked that the $137 Panasonic Lumix outperformed every camera EXCEPT for the HD Video of the new Canon SD780IS. However, the Panasonic family allows WVGA which takes up a LOT less disc space and perfect for Mac/PC viewing.

Canon SD200 = My first Elph camera worked perfectly in all conditions for over 3 years; ahead of its time. Under 1MB photos stored, but red eye reduction never worked.

Canon SD500 = Bought as upgrade with slightly noticeable difference for still & video, always kept photos in about 1MB size, worked like a charm before 2008 but red eye reduction never worked either.

Canon SD1100IS = the BEST Canon I have owned, but stolen last year. indoor, outdoor and video on AUTO were great! no complaints. Looking back, this camera outperformed the photo quality (all conditions) of the 12MP new SD780IS.

Panasonic DMC-FS7 = THE BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK PERIOD. the still photos and WVGA videos are amazing and AUTO setting for Panasonic is much more effective than Canon's technology. I was told the Leica lenses are far superior to Canon lens technology as well. This was also stolen overseas, so I bought the pricer FX48 below.

Panasonic DMC-FX48 = The still photos were NO different than the lesser priced FS7 and I tested all light conditions, speed etc. However, oddly, the HD video was terrible as compared to the Canon HD. It was very grainy and the motion sensor didn't work well. Sadly, I returned it.

Canon SD780IS = WHAT A DISAPPOINTMENT! I am overseas now again after tossing the box and papers, and now stuck with this this lousy camera. The HD video is amazing, but the auto focus never seems to work for stills, the PROGRAM mode is a royal pain in the *ss, the flash always seems to be too bright for indoors even after changing settings, and good luck trying to photo moving children - takes 1/2 day to focus and shoot. In summary, I changed settings and ISO and cannot get the same quality photos as the Canon SD1100IS (now 1200IS).

I AM BUYING ANOTHER PANASONIC DMC-FS7 AND SAYING GOODBYE TO CANON FOR NOW.

Hope this simple review helps, folks!
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on June 26, 2009
I bought this camera over a month ago and have taken and printed several pictures. I am very pleased with the quality of the photos and the ease of using and carrying the camera. It fits easily in a pocket. I also have a Nikon Coolpix that I have had a few years. I really like the zoom and image-stabilization on the Panasonic Lumix and the compact, flat shape. It also has a much faster flash cycle than the Nikon. So far, I like all the features that I have used on this camera.
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on September 10, 2009
I purchased this camera after selling my fairly new but discontinued Panasonic Lumix TZ4 ($235 from the Egg). It was 8mp and 10x optical. I love Panasonic cameras and the TZ4 was the best compact camera on the market at the time. I'm planning a backpacking trip to Scotland in October so after weighing in all my options I decided the TZ4 was just too bulky and heavy to keep in my coat pocket. I wanted to stay with Panasonic and so began a search for a Panasonic ultra-compact. The first camera to find was the Lumix DMC-FS15 which runs about $180 which is what I sold my TZ-4 for. It gets great reviews and is 12 megapixels. Then I stumbled upon it's little brother, FS-7. It was only $130 with free ship. It's only 10 megapixles and when shooting in widescreen 16:9 it drops to 7.5 megapixles (I'll explain this later so bear with me).

I had a feeling the FS7 would be much less quality than my old TZ-4 but having such a good feeling about Panasonic cameras I was encouraged to take a chance. So I crossed my fingers and made the purchase. I received the camera and started taking pictures right away. Much to my surprise, the image quality is stunning. The macro mode is far superior to the TZ4. The pictures look great with a realness the TZ-4 lacks. Image stablization has an added "Auto" feature and it works superbly! Also, the focus problems TZ4 had are gone. A firmware update helped it a little but didn't cure it. I do miss the 10x optical and you can't focus in and out while shooting video, but this camera is amazing for it's size, weight and price.

I've uploaded some pictures of Ben Lomond Mountain so you can compare my old TZ-4 and the new FS-7. Remember that when the TZ-4 fist came out, it was considered by many to be the best compact camera on the market and it still takes fantastic pictures. But I do wish I had the FS-7's big brother, the FS-15 to compare pictures with, but these will have to do.

The pictures I've uploaded have an imbedded description inside showing which camera took the picture, month and time of day. These pictures of Ben Lomond are a great way to examine the two cameras because they are taken 5 months apart of each other but on very similar days at almost the same time of day. Take a look at the sky taken with the TZ-4 on May of 2009. You can see a grainy pixelation in the blue. I would use photoshop to get rid of that but it's a hassle. Take a look at the similar FS-7 picture. It was taken on July 09 2009. No noise in the blue sky at all. The picture looks a little more lively and warm too. Don't you think?

On top of the TZ-4 was a wheel that let me spin it to different shooting modes such as movie or auto. Thats gone on the FS-7 and instead you'll find it as a button on the back. I don't mind and it saves me from worrying about the rotary knob breaking off. I'm extremely familar with the TZ4 menu layout so it was a breeze to figure out this camera in 5 minutes. Most of the menu options are the same, Picture Size, Quality, Aspect Ratio, Intelligent ISO (on of off), Sensitivity, White Balance, AF Mode, Burst, Digital Zoom (on or off), Color Mode, Stabalizer, AF Assit Lamp (on or off), Clock Set. Thats almost identical to the TZ-4. The video mode does however lack some options. You only have the digital zoom to work with and I'm happy to see that they have removed the "continious auto-focus" feature which would ruin your video as it constantly whirled around trying to find focal points. The quality of the video recording has been improved a little and it's pretty good. They have added more color modes like vivid which looks warm and energetic (unfortunatley it's missing from the movie mode) but I'm allready thinking about sunsets at Canon Beach in Oregon. I like the zoom option for macro too. It's awesome. I've included a picture of a jalapeno plant I've been growing so you can see Macro Mode in action. The TZ-4 would never have taken such a lively looking macro shot.

Also the camera starts up very quickly, shoots quickly and is ready to shoot again very quickly. If you're like me, you sell stuff on e-bay once in a while. I've been snapping shots of silly things around the house like a cd on a computer desk, a coffee cup, some pens, my lcd monitor. I have the flash set to auto and it seems to produce some really nice images that are easy on the eye. The flash doesn't overpower the scene. With the TZ-4, the flash would wash everything out and I had to really work to get good indoor pictures of objects. This is good if you sell on the bay a lot.

Also, some people have been wondering why digital cameras like the FS-7 drop to 7.5 megapixels when shooting in 16:9 wide angle and step back up to 10 megapixel when in 4:3 mode. Don't be worried that you're losing quality, you're not. Both modes shoot an image that is 3648 pixels wide and thats whats important. The pixel depth remains the same because it's a physcial property of the CCD sensor. I'll explain.

When you shoot in 4:3 mode the picture is 2636 pixels tall and when you shoot in 16:9 mode, the picture is only 2056 pixels tall. All they are doing in 16:9 mode is cropping off the top and the bottom of the image to make it technically accurate for the wide-angle standard. When you shoot in wide-angle 16:9 you lose a total of 2,480,640 pixels (two and a half million) but the image quality remains the same of course.

Why would anyone want to give up all those extra pixels from their pictures? Some people prefer a wide angle picture because it looks so professional and artsy. Also, if you don't trust your eye, then you could leave it as 4:3 and crop the image yourself later on in Photoshop and decide where you want the cuts to be.

To sum things up, this camera takes great pictures, the flash is an improvement over the TZ4 for sure, but not as intense and the weight of the camera is amazing. One problem with my TZ-4 is that it was a little bit hefty, so it would never leave the house when I went anywhere. I used it so little that it was essentially in mint condition when I sold it. You couldn't fit it in your levis so I never took it anywhere with me in summer and now that winter is on it's way I may have started carrying it but perhaps not.

Also one last thing. If you're considering a camera for a kid and don't want to spend too much money, I couldn't think of a better camera. You can set it to auto for them and they will capture some amazing pictures that you would be proud of. Set the anti-shake feature to "auto" and I'd be surprised if they took a single blury picture all day. It also comes in really cool colors.. The blue one is my favorite.

:UPDATE:

Dec: 28th 2009

I recently returned from my backpacking trip to Scotland. What an adventure! I started in Edinburgh, went to Saint Andrews, Dundee, Aberdeen, Inverness. Then over to the Isle of Skye. Then down through the west coast of Scotland to Fort William and then over to Oban on the coast. Crossed over to the Isle of Mull, up to Fionophort and over to the Isle of Iona. Back over on the ferry to Oban, then down to Glasgow and then back to Dundee and finally back to Edinburgh. Just as I imagined, I had this little camera in my coat pocket for the entire 2 months I was there. I took well over 1500 pictures and in two months, I charged the camera maybe 3 or 4 times total. I stayed at Hostels along the way and met several pro and amatuer photographers. All were blown away by what this little camera can do. I couldn't recommend it enough. I took a little Asus Netbook with me and could view my pictures after a day of shooting. Scotland was so beautiful. I took a real chance on such an inexpensive tiny camera and I have no regrets at all! Check out some of the pictures I've included of the Isle of Skye. Cheers!
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on November 2, 2009
I bought this camera to replace an Olympus pocket digital camera that broke when I dropped it. Now I tell friends I'm glad that it broke! This is a super little camera that takes high resolution shots. Its easy to set up and use. I am an accomplished amateur photographer and have several film SLR's and another digital camera, and this one has enough features to do specific shot setups and good automatic settings as well. The video function also works well with a couple of different resolutions. The first shoot I did with this camera was a friend's wedding, and it performed excellently, taking good pictures in a variety of lighting settings and close/far and early morning, existing light, group shots, etc. Like most digital cameras, you have to take a few pictures to get it right, although the image stabilization setting helps a lot. I think for the price you really can't go wrong getting this camera. I can't say anything about the software that comes with it as I don't use it. Overall this is an excellent choice for a pocket style camera with high resolution.
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on February 11, 2010
I have been researching point and shoot cameras for several weeks now. My previous $500 Panasonic camera got dropped and doesn't work any more. I wanted something cheaper this time around since I now see the fragility of electronics and have an almost 2 year old and a new baby on the way. My biggest criteria was to have a camera with a fast shutter lag time. With little kids you really need a camera that will take a picture right when you press the button or you will miss the moment that you were after. This is currently a big problem with a lot of the lower priced point and shoot digital cameras. I recently used my mother's camera that takes between 1 and 2 second to shoot the picture after the button is pressed and I ended up not capturing anything I was after. I have only had this camera for a couple of days now but I am very happy with it so far. It takes great fast pictures of my squirmy 2 year old. If you are looking for an inexpensive camera that will take quick pictures, this one is a great choice.
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on February 25, 2011
I wanted a camera that i could take with me everywhere. I have a NIKON D90 with all the attachments and use that on professional shoots - and where i can get the best shots - but having the LUMIX allows me to ALWAYS to get the good shot - I searched and researched, read all the reviews and decided that this would be the best camera for portability, good battery life and excellent picture quality. This camera proves to be the best. I have had Fuji, Canon, Sony, Kodak as smaller cameras and the LUMIX is by far the best. Picture quality is great - however it is a bit over on the exposure - how can a picture be tooo bright??!! Colors are crisp - focus is great - lens is great [Lecia lens, of course!] Compactness is really good - not so small that your hand and fingers fumble around - and you can't hold the thing, or your finger covers the flash!! but it is small enough to throw it in the purse/backpack and go! I did get a small case to carry it in - the smallest, flexible case around - to make it even easier and protects the LCD. When the camera is off the lens has it's own cover - which is a plus. Battery life is excellent - comes with a charger. Some reviews say the charger should have a cord attachment - i disagree - i like the portability and one less cord to deal with- just put it in the wall - charge is fast. I recently went on a trip and decided to leave the monster at home and was it ever easy - and i got some great pictures - never missed them! Response is fast. Good to get the higher quality SD card - will take up to 32MB - always get the SDHC or the Ultra ll - for faster response and writing - and for good video. I have only used the video once - and it was comparable to my D90 [well, D90 was a bit better but yeah - it's a point and shoot!!!] i must say MUCH better than any flip/and or older cams i have used!!!!! i LOVE the iA feature - and almost always use it - sort of automatically determines the proper shutter, etc. it is great in a spontaneous moment. the buttons are all quite handy and are intuitive. I like that you don't have to go through a million menu options to get the basic thing - and that is what you want out of a portable, point and shoot!!! this is an excellent choice - you won't be disappointed! i also got my camera used, through Amazon. good communication with the seller to make sure it has all the original packaging and attachments, accessories and etc... - make sure it is in great to mint condition and have REALLY good communication! Don't be afraid to ask questions - if the seller does not respond in 24 hours - move on! i have never been disappointed by buying used - through Amazon - and you save a bit of money!
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on August 28, 2009
Excellent built quality with all metal case. Camera menu is sensible with sufficient flexibility and is easy to maneuver.

Face detection works very well, and iA mode with dedicated button is useful. Particularly like the Extended Optical Zoom feature, and WVGA motion picture mode (848x480, about the resolution of a standard DVD) at this price range. Low light performance is not bad, and would guess the larger 1/2.33" image sensors used in the higher end models fair better.

Improvements:

In motion picture mode, when the maximum 2GB file size has been reached, the firmware should automatically create a new sequenced file with the same settings and continue to shoot. Otherwise, add new 15 fps or time lapsed modes (similar to Canon).

Allow motion picture playback in camera without the associated JPG file. Support more quicktime file formats to let movies edited using a computer playable in the camera.

The camera encodes the movie in Apple Photo - JPEG with variable bit rate, and audio 16-bit Integer (Big Endian), Mono, 16 KHz, 256 kbps. Ideally, if the edited movie can be viewed using Panasonic's own PhotoFunStudio, then it should also be playable in the camera.
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on June 10, 2009
We are expecting a new baby, and I needed a camera that was fast enough to capture little ones in motion. I have had ones in the past that shutter speed was too slow and ended up either blurry or I missed the smile, etc. With my first child we had a panasonic that was great at this, but seemed to have lost it in a move. I purchased this camera and have been more pleased that ever with panasonic. It captures the exact picture I'm shooting for and I have even gotten great shots of my older child playing tball with the ball in midflight! easy to use, nice big display, great for short recordings- love, love.
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on December 19, 2009
The camera takes good snapshots and has a nice (initial) price point for its performance. But the camera firmware needlessly prevents aftermarket batteries. The official battery is $30-$50, compared to a $10 aftermarket BCF10 battery. So budget a bit more.
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