Customer Review

252 of 270 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Impressive specs but a let down in performance, August 8, 2013
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This review is from: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS30 Digital Camera (Black) (Electronics)
I bought the ZS30 in hopes it would replace/upgrade my aging and much loved ZS15. Unfortunately it didn't meet my needs so after just two days I returned it to Amazon. Short story – long; here is what I learned. I am a very experienced photographer and for the past seven or eight years I have used Panasonic cameras exclusively. For vacation and “serious” photography I love my GX1 (a micro four thirds replacement for my previous Panasonic DSLR). For sporting events and video the Panasonic FZ200 just can't be beat. For everything else there has always been a Panasonic Travel Zoom (ZS series here in the US).

I carry my SZ15 during my daily horseback rides, on bicycle rides, aboard the boat and generally everywhere. Since it is the camera I almost always have with me, I take most of my pictures using it. Here is why I won't be able to replace it with the new model. As the number of pixels increases so does the workload of the Image Stabilization system. Additionally, as the zoom goes up need for stabilization increases. In the ZS30 I found the combination of increased resolution and increased zoom has outpaced the technology for image stabilization – which means hand held shots will produce lots of blurry pictures. For me, that would severely limit my ability to shoot from horseback.

In addition, the large zoom range in such a small camera has necessitated a rapid reduction in the light gathering ability of the camera. As the zoom is increased the f/number goes up rapidly(reduced light gathering ability) – making for longer shutter speeds. Again, that means as you zoom the tendency will be for the pictures to get blurry. I found the camera straining if I shot into a shadow – even on a bright day.

What sealed the deal for me was the touch screen. While that might be a useful feature on a studio camera it is insane on such a small camera. Every time I lifted the camera for a shot the camera would beep beep in alarm because my thumb had wandered onto the screen. Search as I might I was unable to turn off the touch screen.

While I am taking the time to write this review I want to cover pixel count. If you intend to print a photograph for an album or a magazine you need about 300 pixels per inch from the camera. So a 12 megapixel camera (4000x3000 pixels) can print a photograph 12 inches by 10 inches at 300 dots per inch easily. If you are going to enlarge the picture and hang it on the wall, as I frequently do; you will be looking at the picture from five or ten feet away. In that case you only need 125 to 150 pixels per inch from the camera and you can still enlarge to 15 x 20 easily.

My recommendation is to stick to no more than 12 megapixels and no more than 200mm equivalent zoom for your small camera. As it happens – Panasonic (and their competition) make a few small cameras that don't compromise their pictures with overlong zooms and too many pixels. Usually these small and capable cameras are called enthusiast cameras. I intend to give the Panasonic Lumix LF1 a try.
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Tracked by 7 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 31 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 8, 2013 8:14:39 PM PDT
Excellent review! Thank you!

Posted on Aug 9, 2013 1:46:32 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 6, 2013 7:57:42 PM PDT
Sorry about your problems with the ZS30. You can turn off the touch screen by lightly touching the yellow icon in lower right hand corner of the LCD. It will turn black, and the touch screen then is inop. Also, you can set the pixel count to about anything you prefer, i.e. 12 MP, if that's your preference. Finally, I think we can all agree that the longer the zoom, the harder it is to hold steady - on any camera. IS is just an aid, not a panacea or cure all. However, I have found that the newer image stabilization of the ZS30 to be quite adequate, and better than the older Panasonics. Pixel density should have no bearing on image stabilization, but may have on picture quality - depends upon the quality of the pixels and the processor. As you know, there are things you can do to assist in holding them steady, but the need for extra steadiness is still going to be there as the lens extends - on any camera - just a fact of life and the way they're made. The variable aperature on the long zooms is also a characteristic of long zooms, and I believe you will find that is so in any P&S long zoom camera, even the LF1. You may have to go to a short zoom and get an "enthusiast" camera like the LX7 to get the lens speed you want.

I have never tried taking pictures from horseback, but I can imagine it might be pretty bouncy. Might be that no IS will take care of that. Did you increase the ISO to allow a 1/500 sec shutter speed (or 1/125 if IS is on)? Sometimes one rule - shoot at lowest ISO for best quality, for example gets in the way of another - shoot at the reciprocal of the equivalent lens extension to prevent blur. I guess I'm still trying to figure out how to get pin sharp pictures while handholding a camera and lens at 480mm equivalent (or even at 200mm equivalent) and riding a horse. I'll have to try it sometime. If an actual full frame DSLR with a good quality 500mm lense (weighing, what ?, maybe 10 pounds, and costing thousands of $) can't do it, how can we expect a tiny travel zoom, weighing mere ounces and costing a few hundred $ to do it?

About those shadows - did you spot meter them or perhaps use center weighted metring, or zoom in to cover only those shadows? Perhaps set shutter speed you wanted and the ISO to auto so if the exposure exceeded the available lens openings, the camera could still make the correct exposure? Did you try HDR or high dynamic mode to bring them out. Did you get buyers remorse and give up? I don't understand how an experienced photographer would not do those things.

Anyway, Peace, and best wishes on your next camera. I understand the LF1 is very good, and it seems to be your ideal camera - 12 MP, larger sensor, faster lens, costs more, and has a much shorter zoom so it should be easier to hold steady. I may get one someday, but for now, the ZS30 is right for my needs and the way I shoot - and, I think, takes pretty good pictures too. Not sure about your comments about pixel count and dots per inch when printing is relevant to the ZS30. Yes, you need a certain number of pixels to provide a resolution sufficient to allow the printer to print at 300 dots per inch - which is a printer thing. If you are short on pixels - perhaps by heavy cropping, you can resize the picture in Photoshop to add virtual pixels to make up the difference in your new cropped photo. If you have too many pixels, the printer may still print at 300 dots per inch. 300 pixels is also about what the best human eye can (or really, cannot) resolve so the the picture looks "smooth" - or about the space subtended by one minute of angle at any given distance. Anything more, like 400 dots per inch won't make it appear any "smoother" because we can't see the difference anyway. - but I'm preaching to the choir now. Enjoy your new LF1.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 11, 2013 10:06:03 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Aug 11, 2013 4:34:19 PM PDT]

Posted on Sep 30, 2013 6:09:33 PM PDT
John T. says:
I just had my Lumix ZS10 stolen...I really enjoyed that camera it took great photo's except in low light. In your opinion how does it stack up against the ZS10 and I presume the same problem exists trying to take photo's on a sunny day when you cannot see the screen to well...I am also seriously looking at the LF 1 for that very reason.

John Tennat

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 30, 2013 7:08:01 PM PDT
John - LF1 is a very good camera. If you decide on a ZS30, get a "Clearviewer" Google it. it will solve the "hard to see LCD is bright light" issue.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 30, 2013 10:00:25 PM PDT
D. L. Howe says:
Hi John, If I could have turned off the touch screen like described by John McQuitty above I probably would have kept the ZS30. It is a good replacement for an older ZS camera. As it is I am pleased with my LF1 and only seldom wish for a longer zoom. After another month of use I have yet to use the viewfinder on the LF1 - the LCD screen seems to have become my "standard". The LF1 is much smaller than the ZS (and MUCH smaller than the LX7). The LF1 can shoot RAW while the ZS can't, valuable for me but maybe not for everyone. The LF1 has the ability to take a single picture using several quick exposures, much like a HDR exposure - which I have found intriguing. Low light photos are always a challenge, both for focus and for exposure; I don't think either the ZS or the LF has an edge - the LX probably would have an advantage.

My favorite camera is still my GX1 (it replaced my GH2) though if I were to pick one single camera to take on vacation it would be my much more capable FZ200 (do yourself a favor and check it out). From horseback the LF1 is just right for me. Anyway - you can't go wrong with any of the above. Happy shooting.

Posted on Oct 9, 2013 9:52:42 PM PDT
Mita says:
owned it for maybe 10 days. after loving my Lumix zs7, I had a similar disappointment with this camera, that was supposed to be an upgrade. You expressed very well what my experience was also. I now own a Nikon 1V1 and am loving it for the most part.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 10, 2013 4:23:19 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 10, 2013 4:24:02 PM PDT
DL Howe -- Since you have had your hands on both the ZS30 and the LF1, and you say the LF1 is much smaller than the ZS30, you're the perfect guy to ask -- smaller how?

I have an LX7 and like it very much. I would like a pocket camera, though. The LX7 is not really that. Which is a better pocket camera, the ZS30 or the LF1?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 10, 2013 9:32:10 PM PDT
D. L. Howe says:
Hi Edward, I have a GX1 w/the 14-42X lens that is about the same size as the LX7 - so I know what you mean. I have carried a ZS15 for years - in a small pouch that fits on my belt. The ZS30 fit into the same pouch and as it turns out - most of the time the LF1 is in that same pouch. The ZS15 or 30 didn't EVER work in my pocket but the LF1 can and occasionally does, especially when I don't want to look like batman with a utility belt.

The big difference (aside from the ZS30 having too dense of pixel count and a zoom that overpowers the IS) is that the LF1 has RAW while the ZS cameras don't. Of course the sensor in the LF1 is the same 1/1.7 as the LX7 - which I think is preferable. In my way of thinking you need to get good pictures FIRST than pocket-ability second. The LF1 cones closest.

HOWEVER if you don't have a camera with a long zoom - they are a LOT of fun and the ZS30 might make sense for you. I have the FZ200 (25-400 zoom w/f/2.8 lens) for my long zoom and I LOVE it - it is ALWAYS my camera of choice. The LF1 is almost always with me though, so it gets a lot of use. I suggest you take a look at your favorite pictures. When I did I discovered that I took most of them (4 out of 5) wide angle and very few of my favorites used much zoom. Good luck.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 19, 2013 12:55:14 PM PDT
R. Singer says:
Really enjoying this conversation! Was just in the neighborhood Costco, they had a ZS25 for $200 (after rebate). My trusty old ZS6 is feeling its age, and the ZS25 looke dlike a goo dreplacement at a good price. Then I started reading about the ZS30. Though in the past I've been happy to cart lost of gear and lenses around - ah, my beloved old Canon AE1s - now I like a pocket camera, shooting sunrises on hikes and other grand vistas. The wifi of the ZS30 looks good. I'm seeing the ZS30 for ! $350. Flip a coin? Go with the much cheaper ZS25? TIA for any comments. - Bob
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