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Customer Review

735 of 753 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this camera - it's ACE !, April 14, 2011
This review is from: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 14.1 MP Digital Camera with 16x Wide Angle Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3.0-Inch LCD (Black) (Camera)
For the majority of people looking for a "pocket" camera - they can stop looking. This will honestly do for pretty much everything you really need. It's the newly released little brother to the more expensive ZS10/TZ20.

It is not perfect, of course, but even if you take a "money no object" approach to picking an upper premium compact camera - there is currently nothing on the market that is head and shoulders better than this - although there can always be a case made for different qualities.

Big Zoom - check

Good "glass" on the front - yep, Leica

Optical Image Stabilisation - uh huh, works quietly and efficiently in the background making your shots less blurry.

Good quality photos - sure - but with the caveat that a "full on" digital SLR will always do better. The photos come out are a nice colour (not too vivid - but also not too washed out) and they don't come out a funny colour under artificial lighting (some cameras can struggle and give you a funny tint under striplights or old fashioned tungsten bulbs).

Noise levels - the "speckly" bits on photos that you sometimes get in dark conditions - is definitely there - especially at higher ISO's - but you get this problem in dim lighting conditions even with all compact cameras to a greater or lesser degree. Even if you get an SLR camera - even up to a year or so ago - you'll find that they aren't infallible to this either.

HD Video - check, but in MPEG format. I think that this takes up more space than the newer AVCHD format on the SZ10/TZ18 - but I would be wary of getting a camera that uses this format if you have an older PC or laptop and especially if you have a netbook - in case the hardware can't cope. I guess Windows XP/NT/2000 users should definitely be careful - and to a lesser extent even if you have a Windows Vista machines you might think twice - especially if you are on a laptop where the hardware will always be slower than the equivalent price PC.

I have a mixture of laptops and netbooks running Windows 7 through to XP so didn't want to take the chance - especially as other family members and the kids will probably want to view some of the footage (family and my kids have the older machines whilst dad gets the upgrade LOL).

I do wonder if the AVCHD format on the more expensive ZS10/TZ20 is going to be a bit of an evolutionary dead end - just as BLU RAY hasn't really taken off - even though it's technically better than DVD - most people even if they have a big widescreen TV find that their DVD is fine (probably because the modern DVD players and TV's will upscale the DVD resolution to give a semi-HD picture quality). The ZS10/TZ20 I think gives you the option to record in both (I think I read that somewhere but if this a deal breaker you should check to be sure).

If you only want a great point and shoot camera this is brilliant and has loads of options. Not only that but the options are really well laid out and easy to understand - by which I mean the dials and menus are set out in a common sense fashion and also instead of just little symbols/icons to indicate that you are in portrait mode or landscape mode - there is a little text underneath which tells you what it will do.

I've had a number of Nikon's and Canon's - and for some reason they can still make cameras with menus and buttons that were laid out by Martians - they can be so unintuitive even for people who are really experienced photographers - and you have to keep referring to the instruction book to work out what to press or what menu icon you are looking for - and even then it doesn't stick in the memory because it's all so counter-intuitive.

If you think you might - in a little while - like to step up in your photography later and get a bit more creative - or you are thinking of this a second camera to augment your SLR - then you'll want to know that this has A LOT of manual control thrown in which is pretty unusual in the compact camera class and it has Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Full Manual modes which is quite a rarity in the pocket camera class.

If you are an experienced SLR user, I can tell you that the PASM options are pretty nicely implemented. Sensibly placed access buttons (the small round exposure button and Q Menu buttons to the right of the screen do this) and the menus are nicely set up to easily access the bits you want for Aperture / Shutter priority / full manual control. It'll never be as good as your SLR but you can't carry that around with you this easily and it won't shoot HD video either (or probably not unless you have the latest generation).

The 16x optical zoom is class leading. You can get really good close ups if you want to.

You should only compare OPTICAL zoom when you are looking at different cameras and ignore the Panasonic advertising guys (or anybody else )who point to the overall 20x zoom - because if you include the quoted digital zoom - the extra 4x zoom basically just crops your optical zoom photo in camera - and your laptop software will do that - only better - though I guess it might be relevant if you don't want to be doing with all that and just need an "okay" sort of photo).

It also has a really good wide angle lens - 24mm - which basically means you can get more scenery in the shot at the edges. The lower the number the better - and 24mm is currently the lowest I am aware of. The lower the number the more you can fit into the photo - so if you are looking at a nice panorama or want to take a photo with the whole table in the shot - you are more likely to get it with this lens than say if you compared it to other cameras - whose lens might start at 27mm, 28mm, 35mm. This small difference can be the difference between getting everything or maybe not quite getting everything into the shot that you want to.

OVERALL it feels nice in the hand - and it is quite light. It has a cool solid feel metal body and all the buttons and switches feel like they will last.

Of course none of this would be of any use if the photos weren't top notch ... but luckily they are in my opinion. Sure, you can get a little better photos perhaps - but bear in mind if you are reading other reviews - a lot of this is personal preference - like how you like your TV at home to be set up with brighter or more vivid colours or more contrast etc.

In technical terms - compact cameras are never going to match SLR cameras - because their sensors just aren't as big. This is also one of the reasons that you get more "noise" (or speckly bits) in photos from pocket cameras. The camera reviewers who do this for a living always seem to forget they are reviewing a pocket camera - as they probably all have SLR's at home - and they get a bit obsessed about how the photo appears when you look up close with a magnifying glass. Surely most people simply look at their photo on their laptop/Mac/PC and go "ooh that's nice" before deciding whether to print it or not ?

Bottom line - this gives great photos that I am more than happy with even compared with my SLR (a two year old Pentax K20) - and if you want a compact/pocket camera with the ability to take great scenery or panoramic shots and then also zoom really close on things as well then this will do a great job for you. I think you'll be pleased with this as your main or secondary camera. Try not to get too hung up on specialist reviews - a compact camera is never going to give you technical quality photos of a large SLR - but you can video with it and even the newer SLR's don't do that very well - though heaven knows why not - maybe they just have a slow escalation marketing policy and are going to deliver that to the market as the desire for SLR's with video capability increases. And remember that if you wanted a whopping great SLR you'd have got a whopping great SLR.

Also - go and have a look at all the cameras "in the flesh" in a store - to see if the size suits you. There aren't any smaller camera's with this big a zoom, but there are plenty of camera's which are smaller and more pocket / handbag friendly.

IF you consider the size too big then you should definitely look at other camera's, but if the huge range zoom is just what you are looking for (like me) - then this is for you I reckon (unless you have a strong loyalty for one or other brand in particular I guess).

IF you really want lower noise on high ISO photos but don't want an SLR and still want the big zoom then do have a look around at the competition and check out the specialist website reviews.

IF you just want a nice pocket camera that gives you nice photos - but you are on a budget then you should look at the outgoing models from all of the manufacturers - but do have a look at Fuji as they have currently (March 28th 2011) some nice deals on their outgoing models which would give you good zoom and reasonable photos eg Fuji Finepix with 10x zoom 12MP photos.

And finally don't get hung up on the megapixels on a compact camera. The quality of the "glass" on the front of the camera is likely going to have just a big - if not bigger impact. Although there are exceptions - more expensive usually equals better glass. This is why getting a formerly $400+ camera which is currently being discounted due to a newer incoming model can be a worthwhile strategy - as the originally more expensive camera will generally have better quality lenses. Anything above 10MP is going to be fine 90% of the time - and more megapixels actually often means more grainy photos in darker conditions.

PS

Here's my snapshot on two good alternatives - although there are potentially important subtleties amongst them and numerous alternatives from other manufacturers like Pentax and Fuji. There are lots of minor but potentially irritating features out there such as how fast can they take photos - how do they perform in low light with the flash off - how realistic are the colours (which can definitely be a personal taste thing) - and also really important day to day things away from how good the camera is technically in delivering a good photo or video - eg are the buttons and switches and menus in just the right or wrong spot for you - and does it feel good in the hand to you - you may prefer a lighter camera, bigger or smaller buttons.

Canon PowerShot SX210 has 14.1 MP and 14x zoom - has only a 28mm lens - which isn't too bad - looks a good bet and has pretty nice write ups. ISO goes up to 3200 if you look at the SX200 - though of course it'll probably give you a speckly ol' photo. FWIW I didn't think that the difference between 24 and 28mm on the wide angle zoom was that much of a difference - but having had it now for a while I have to say that there's no way I'd go back.

Nikon CoolPix S 8100 has 12.1MP, significantly worse wide angle lens at 30mm so you won't be able to get so much scenery into the shot, only 10x zoom but is therefore smaller and more pocket / handbag friendly. It has a fast shooting 10 frames per second though the TZ18 can do similar job if not quite so fast. It has less manual control as it has no Shutter and Aperture Priority.

ME ... personally ... I did have a good look at the SZ10/TZ20 and in fact nearly got it - but in the end I decided that it's a bit heavier (though not much) and I couldn't see that the extra money for Geo-Tagging and Stereo video sound were much use to me. I mean the stereo Mics are 5mm apart and worrying about the battery drain on the geotagging would have driven me crazy - constantly turning it on and off to save power ... and I figured that I would make do with simply remembering where I was when I took the photo. If I really want to know where I was at the time I take a photo of a road sign or landmark nearby ? Works for me anyway :o)

I wanted big zoom - on a compact camera - with a wide zoom and I already have an SLR so this is perfect. Although there are no doubt one or two better cameras out there, they aren't that much better to make me worry.

Good luck and have fun picking your camera.
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Comments

Tracked by 14 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 50 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 20, 2011 6:55:38 PM PDT
Very simply stated - what a great informative review... especially for a basic point and shoot guy like me. Thank you for your time, carefully selected words, and expertise.

Posted on Apr 23, 2011 7:50:31 AM PDT
Great review; you convinced me to get this instead of the ZS1 and ZS10!

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2011 9:47:49 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 4, 2011 9:49:02 AM PDT
Captain Zoom says:
I have no regrets about getting this ... I hope you're as happy :o)

It's perfect for what I want ninety percent of the time and I rarely reach for my SLR these days although oddly I appreciate it more for what it's good at these days now that I rarely have the need to use it ... low light shots where I don't want to use a flash eg candid party shots ... scenery shots ... fast action shots ... if this were my only camera I'd be more than happy unless you really need a camera that goes to more than 16x ... in which case a bigger all in one bridge camera ... one of those mini SLR looking cameras with a long extending zoom lens but not removable / exchangeable lens ... is what you need unless you want to take a big financial and size leap up to an SLR.

Posted on May 10, 2011 2:31:22 PM PDT
alan stover says:
Thanks Captain for the wonderful review as others have stated. I'm in a search for just such a camera to compliment my "bridge" Lumix FZ18. The wider lens and pocket ability certainly make this camera a consideration, but I still want a view finder. Seems like there are no P & S camera's with said feature, and since I hike & bike a lot, most of my shooting is in sunlight where I find the LCD screens difficult for my old eyes. Guess I'll keep looking. ;-) Cheers, Al

In reply to an earlier post on May 16, 2011 11:21:11 PM PDT
hipertec says:
thanks for the input. I was looking into the ZS7 over the ZS8 and ZS10. Was told that the zoom and image quality was much better in the ZS7. with your expert knowledge, which has the better zoom and image quality of the 3 models? should I move to the ZS8 over the ZS7?

In reply to an earlier post on May 17, 2011 5:09:15 AM PDT
Captain Zoom says:
@ hipertec

Hi there,

FWIW to be honest I don't think you'd be unhappy with any of them - and in terms of the glass on the front you might google "compare" and then the cameras and see what comes up. I would guess - but couldn't be certain - that the lens on the front of the ZS10 and ZS8 are the same -the older ZS7 might have similar lens quality.

Bear in mind that a camera is the sum of it's parts and that between model generations they often fiddle around with the processing software algorhythms as well as the hardware and on occasion the newer version actually comes up short - for instance I got a Nikon P5000 a few years ago - c dec 2007 - and it really couldn't get the light settings quite right on the video indoors - the videos would often come out with a funny hue - because it was adjusting for standard lightbulbs in the room whereas they were halogen lights which give out a slightly different hue. This is the reason that even from the major manufacturers one model is considered "vintage" if I can switch to a wine analogy - but another subsequent model in the same target price range doesn't get the same glowing references.

I saw good reviews for all of them but decided I didn't need the GPS on the ZS10.

best wishes and luck

In reply to an earlier post on May 17, 2011 5:15:18 AM PDT
Captain Zoom says:
@ alan stover

Hi Al,

You're right - not much on the visual view finder front in the P&S market - but I'd suggest that you might consider trying this (and a load of other cameras I guess) out in a small photo store where they might be able to go out of the shop with you into daylight in order to clinch the sale - I'm 40 (for two months more at least!) - and don't have too much trouble in daylight even in bright sunlight. The viewfinder screen on the ZS8 is pretty bright - compared to previous generations of digital camera. I think they do little stick on shade-y thingies to provide shade in bright sunlight - have a look in the back of photo magazines in the ads section.

bw

CZ

In reply to an earlier post on May 20, 2011 11:46:56 AM PDT
hi...you seem so knowledgable so perhaps you can help...i want to make sure that i get the correct model that is easy to use for uploading videos to my older dell w/ windows xl........would the 8 or the 5 be better in this regard?.....or do i need a special program to upload and share videos?...thank you

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2011 4:22:25 AM PDT
Captain Zoom says:
@ ronda baldwin

hi ronda,

sorry about the slightly late reply - just moved house and no internet at home yet ...

I'm not sure if I quite understand your questions correctly but way I get the way I get photos and videos from my camera onto the computer is to use a card reader. The camera stores photos onto a memory card which should have a logo on it saying either "SD" or "SDHC" on it. Any camera store or computer shop should be able to supply you with a card reader - best just take your camera and memory card in with you. The memory card from your camera (should say 500mb or 2gb or 8gb) slots into the card reader - much as a knife would slide into a sheath - and the card reader attaches via a cable into one of your USB ports. To open your memory card go to start menu => my computer => d/e/f drive (the letter will probably vary) which should be your SD CARD. All of your photos and videos should be in one folder which you can cut and paste / move to the folder on your computer. I think you can use a cable from the camera to the computer direct - but I have been doing it this way for years since before that option became available - so I'm afraid I couldn't really comment if that was your question. The card reader method would be fine for either the 8 or 5.

In terms of sharing videos - you might need a special program to burn your photo's and videos onto a CD or DVD to share - but your computer might already have one. These would only play on a computer - but if you needed the videos to play on a domestic DVD player - you would likely need a special program eg Quicktime Pro to burn the video so that it would play properly.

You probably don't need a special programme if you want to upload to different sites. There are loads of different sites and although I never use them I think you upload directly to the major sites much as you attach a document to an email eg "Flickr" - the Yahoo owned site - or "Picassa" - the Google owned site. You need to set up an account with them first though - but once you've done that I think you just follow the instructions to upload a video or photo.

FWIW - my advice is to do take care to figure out / ask somebody who knows about privacy settings though - you need to be careful who you let view your photos and videos - for instance if you have photos of children / grandchildren etc - as there are a lot of weirdo's out there.

good luck.

Posted on Jun 5, 2011 6:23:23 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 5, 2011 6:28:35 PM PDT
L. A. says:
I just bought the Nikon CoolPix S 8100 but am already considering returning it. I am now considering the ZS8 instead. Thank you for the great review! I am hoping you could answer 2 questions for me though before I decide.... 1. Does the battery need to be in the camera in order to charge it (one of my complaints with the S8100), or is the batter able to be placed into the wall charger? 2. About how many photo's do you think the ZS8 takes per second (compared to the 10 frames/second for the S8100...with exception of the large delay when the flash is on)? I appreciate any input you may have!
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