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Showing 1-10 of 285 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 313 reviews
on May 2, 2012
Review: Panasonic Lumix ZS15 12.1 MP 16x Digital Camera Vs. Canon SX230 HS

(Please note: embedded images are not possible, so I've uploaded a few of the referenced images here on Amazon separately, along with several other representative images.)

From left, the Panasonic ZS-15, Canon SX230, Sony HX5V, and a Panasonic ZR-3. There isn't a huge difference in envelope dimensions. Only the older ZR-3 is significantly slimmer.

From the back, the thin profile of the ZR-3 is easily discernible. Between the two primary subject cameras discussed here, the new ZS-15 and the SX230, there isn't enough difference to worry about.

Recently, I reviewed a battery of compact point and shoot genre digital cameras suitable for hunting and the outdoors. The losers were the Nikon S9100 for poor build quality, very poor video, and sounding like a tractor when you operate the zoom. Not a healthy tractor at that. The Sony HX7V exhibited truly sea-slug slow shooting performance. The middle of the road was taken up by a previous Sony model, the Sony HX5V, while connecting to a PC with a truly wacky proprietary Sony adapter, often took very good pictures, is well-built, but is still noticeably slow compared to several Canon and Panasonic models. The winners were the Canon SX230 overall (easily) with an honorable mention to the older Panasonic DMC-ZR3 for its slimness, responsiveness, very low price, and excellent battery life . . . noting that the more current, but similarly performing Panasonic DMC-FH25K model was quite a bargain at its $140 street price or even a tad less.

The Canon Powershot SX230, with its 14x optical zoom range, has produced some very good images for me. There are situations where the 14x zoom just isn't enough, like the above image of turkeys shot from the far side of a clover field. For extended zoom range without additional bulk or great cost, the new Panasonic ZS-15 has the potential to fill the bill.

In this genre of camera, it only makes sense to compare it to similarly configured cameras with similar envelope dimensions at similar price points. It makes very little sense to try to compare it to a camera with only 3, 4, 5, or 6x zoom. Nor does it make any sense to compare it with a bulky camera that isn't fitting into a pocket.

Most of the 2012 "travel zoom" models are out and as usual, there is a mix of hits and disappointments in what is called the travel zoom category, generally compact point and shoot cameras with 10x or better zoom ranges, often including a GPS. Already, a few of the newer models can be safely deemed a step backward. Inexplicably, the Nikon 9300 adds a GPS to last year's 9100 and along with that dubious feature adds an even more dubious 16 megapixel sensor. Currently, it is way overpriced at its $345 street price and wouldn't be competitive even if it was a hundred dollars or so less as far as I'm concerned. As a sad bonus, the image quality from the Nikon 9300 has taken a nosedive, even at base ISO.

Last year's Sony DSC-HX9V has been replaced by the DSC-HX10V, cramming 18 megapixels onto its tiny sensor resulting in a loss in image quality along the way. Still selling near its retail price of $329.99, it doesn't compare favorably to Canon and Panasonic product. The new Canon SX260 stretches the optical zoom of the SX230 from 14x out to 20x, it runs $300 as of this writing, and it also adds a plethora of new scene modes. It is easy to generally recommend the SX260 as it yields essentially the same performance as the SX230 with the same sensor. It is an incremental improvement, though, and if the 14x zoom of the SX230 is enough for you the remaining SX230's are a bargain at about $199 street price. 100% crops give a slight image quality benefit to the SX230 as well: something subtle enough to go unnoticed in a full image.

You might be wondering when I'm going to get to the Panasonic ZS15, so am I, but I'll get there. Though Panasonic has generally been credited with pioneering this branch of digital camera, their 2011 offerings fell flat. The DMC-ZS10 was described as 'doing everything right except take good pictures' by one reviewer, Jeff Keller, which about sums it up. The 2012 flagship Panasonic super-zoom, the DMC-ZS20, gets Panasonic back in the game with a 20x zoom, a comparatively full-featured GPS, currently offered at the equally full-featured price of $325 or so. While I debated, I decided it wasn't worth reviewing the ZS-20 compared to this Lumix ZS15, a comparative screaming deal at $230 street, or less.

What you give up in saving a hundred dollars is what I find of little value: the GPS, the longer zoom (16x is generous enough), and stereo video recording. If anything, the ZS15 nets you slightly better image quality, better battery life (no GPS or touch screen) and you lose little else. There is no particular reason to avoid the 20x ZS20, I've tested one example, but the more fiscally conservative folks will say that the so-called "downgraded" ZS15 is no downgrade at all for hunting and outdoor use-- and general use for that matter.

The ZS15 uses the new sensor from the Panasonic FZ-150 (a very, *very* good thing) coupled with the lens and body from the ZS-10 (not a bad thing). The sensor obviously boosts image quality, the precise area where the ZS-10 stumbled so badly.

It has been often said that Panasonic has the best artificial intelligence algorithms in the point and shoot camera segment. Their iA (intelligent auto) mode is industry leading, in my opinion. It is as close to "set it and forget it" as can be found. The Lumix ZS15 uses a higher resolution LCD screen (460,000 pixels) compared to its earlier and cheaper models, keeping pace with the Canon in pixels, and foregoes the sometimes annoying pop-up flash in favor of an integral camera body flash, an approach I prefer for general outdoor work particularly.

Sony has long had the "sweep panorama" mode, still ignored by Canon, but finally added here by Panasonic. The battery life of 260 pictures (CIPA Standard) is not shockingly good, but is above average and no GPS or touch screen drain is present. Markedly better than the Nikon 9300 (200 shots) a bit better than the Canon SX230 / SX260 (230 shots), but not close to the Sony HSX-10V (340 shots). Note, however, that the Canon / Nikon / Sony numbers are all estimated with their GPS units turned off. One other useful mode, the High Dynamic Range mode, is added and it is surprisingly effective in difficult lighting conditions.

According to Panasonic, "the Intelligent Zoom is an extensive zoom function using digital zoom, however, you can even draw the subject 2x closer than the original optical zoom with minimum deterioration of image quality thanks to the Intelligent Resolution technology. This means the 16x optical can virtually extend to 32x equivalent." 16x zoom is a goodly amount of zoom as is, a notch better than the 14x Canon SX230. I'm very hesitant to call it as good as true optical zoom, it isn't, but it appears surprising close and in the rare instances where you really need 32x for a still, you've got the shot. It does extend the versatility of the camera.

At 4.13 x 2.27 x 1.31 inch, the envelope dimensions of this camera are slightly more compact than many and the .46 lb. weight with battery and memory card is also appealing. On the negative side, ostensibly to save money, Panasonic has gone to in-camera battery charging which not only puts the camera out of commission but is unbearably slow compared to wall chargers. Consider the addition of an optional wall charger an absolute must, along with an extra battery. Those planning extensive video capture should consider an extra battery or two mandatory. As the temperature outside drops, so does battery life along with it.

I am hesitant to put prices into a digital camera review, as they can change drastically overnight. By the time the holiday shopping season rolls around, you'll likely see some impressive deals based not on camera quality or performance, but just what is left in inventory that needs to be moved to make way for the next year's wonderments. It can be worth waiting for, if you are on a budget. The bad news is that the most popular models may well get sold out and don't make it over to the price cutting stage. If the 20x zoom and GPS holds great appeal for you, you may well want the ZS-20 for the extra c-note. Same situation with Canon, the extra zoom, extra scene modes, and handling features might be worth the hundred dollar upcharge for the SX260 vs. the SX230. It isn't for me, but that is why they call them choices. So, I'll compare last year's winner, the Canon SX230, directly to this Panasonic ZS-15 which should help make the differences a bit more clear.

Battery life: Panasonic wins.

Battery charging: Canon wins, as supplied, with an included speedy external charger.

Zoom Range: Panasonic wins on both ends.

Size / Weight: Advantage to slightly shorter Panasonic, but by the very smallest of margins. No practical advantage either way.

LCD screen: The Canon's 16:9 screen is better for video than 4:3 stills, the reverse is true in the case of the Panasonic. The Canon screen has substantially better viewing angles; apparently the ZS-15 screen is of the "twisted nematic" variety.

Video features: Canon has high speed video modes for lower-resolution slow-motion video. Canon also has stereo sound, but the stereo separation on pocket mega-zooms is not distinct. Panasonic lacks these features, but does have better 30 fps HD video vs. the 24 fps HD of the Canon.

Sensor: Sensor size is the same, the dinky 1/2.3 inch common to many compacts. Both are about 12MP effective resolution, both are of the latest BSI / CMOS type. The "backside illuminated" genre of sensors is no gimmick; while still tiny they are a noticeable jump ahead of CCD sensors. Note that the $600 FZ-200 uses the same mini-sized 1/2.33 sensor as the ZS-15.

To test the intelligent zoom, I shot representative pictures of my utility box on a windy, rainy day from a laser-verified 43 yards. The pictures were taken at the 5M mode (2560 x 1920) and resized with no cropping to 640 x 480 for web use. First, the Panasonic ZS-15 that yields an indicated, astounding, 37.9x zoom.

The same was done with closest Canon mode (2816 x 2112) also resized with no cropping to 640 x 480.

Both shots were made hand-held in the wind. The more I experimented with the ZS-15 the more it became apparent that the intelligent zoom is no gimmick, but an immensely useable feature. For close images with perfect lighting conditions, many compact digital cameras do a perfectly fine job for snapshots. For typical portraits and family events, speed isn't always important, and you can often get as close as you need to be. Slow focus, slow shot to shot times and overall sluggish performance has been the stopper for several otherwise enjoyable cameras, particularly several Sony models. Last year's Canon SX230 was a substantial improvement. This year's ZS-15 from Panasonic addresses the weak link of previous Panasonic compact long-zooms, that being poor image quality. In doing so, it has not just closed the gap with Canon and Sony travel zoom cameras, it has leaped ahead by a good margin.

Again handheld at 37.9x "intelligent zoom," this unsuspecting robin was snapped from across my front lawn with the ZS-15. The image, despite being handheld, is surprising sharp considering the aggressive "intelligent" zoom. Without any cropping or retouching, it was resized to 800 x 600 for this web page.

One of the promised technologies incorporated in the Lumix ZS-15 is the "shoots through glass" mode. Here, shot through my front window, a squirrel comes out to enjoy an after rain-shower snack.

As you might be guessing by now, the just-released Panasonic Lumix ZS-15 exceeded the shooting performance of the already excellent SX230 handily, with far greater capabilities and noticeably faster operation. There isn't much to find fault with, but I'll try. The turtle-slow USB charging is a step backward and "genuine" Panasonic branded batteries are overpriced. You can solve both issues by picking up a Wasabi Power charger and twin pack of batteries that are rated at 1200 milliamps, compared to the OEM 895mAh for 27 dollars, which is exactly what I did. The supplied Panasonic software is both "wizard-crazy" and forgettable. The full manual is on CD, and like most I'd prefer a bound copy. These issues are only niggles at best. Yes, the Panasonic 460K could be better in the viewing angle department, there are much better 921K LCDs out there as on this $335 Sony Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V 18.2 MP Exmor R CMOS Digital Camera with 20x Optical Zoom and 3.0-inch LCD (Black) (2012 Model)though Panasonic at least partially combats this with "Power LCD" (bright) and "High Angle" modes.

The ZS-15 captures essentially noise free images not just at base ISO, but also at ISO 200 and ISO 400. It produces far better images at ISO 400 than some older, larger sensor cameras, like the Nikon Coolpix P7000. Concert enthusiasts will consider the ZS-15 a dream come true, as it isn't much more than set the ISO to 400 or 800 in Program mode, and you're there. ISO 800 images print as dazzling 8 x 10s, although at the 100% crop level ISO 400 captures are cleaner. To give you an idea, at ISO 800 a picture of my computer monitor, in a dimly lit room, at 3x zoom hits 1/160 second shutter speed: more than sufficient for most any concert use. In very dark conditions, the "Handheld Night Scene" mode blazes away, cracking off four images then forming a composite that is pleasing at ISO 1250, though like any composite it often isn't the best for moving subjects.

For a fast-operating, long zoom camera that is easy to slip into a pocket and has the ability to take shots you never thought you'd get, effortlessly, with a wondrous artificial intelligence mode, the ZS-15 can only be described as a screaming deal at $230 or less. By comparison, most other travel cams feel underpowered, non-responsive, and sluggish as in the "processing" screen of doom when you would really like to take another shot. It is truly rare to have a pocketable long-zoom digital camera that just gets it all right, but this new Lumix ZS-15 is as close as I've ever experienced.

As a footnote, I took care of the extra battery and external charger needs with this: Wasabi Power Battery (2-Pack) and Charger for Panasonic DMW-BCG10, DMW-BCG10E, DMW-BCG10PP and Lumix DMC-3D1, DMC-TZ6, DMC-TZ7, DMC-TZ8, DMC-TZ10, DMC-TZ18, DMC-TZ19, DMC-TZ20, DMC-TZ25, DMC-TZ30, DMC-ZR1, DMC-ZR3, DMC-ZS1, DMC-ZS3, DMC-ZS5, DMC-ZS6, DM...

Memory cards get faster and cheaper with regularity. At the current pricing, it is hard not to use 16GB cards (ideal if you pan on capturing some video) but 8GB cards are fine for most if still images are mostly what you are after.

I'm personally amazed that you can get a camera this darn good for $150 (12/2012 pricing). I was quite satisfied with my first unit @ $230, no one could possibly disappointed at the current $150 threshold. As far as "better" cameras, sure . . . there will always be better if you can tolerate larger and more expensive units. If larger, a bit heavier, and more expensive (but still compact / fixed lens) is no barrier, the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-LX7K 10.1 MP Digital Camera with 7.5x Intelligent zoom and 3.0-inch LCD - Black is worthy of your consideration. I've reviewed it on the linked page.

Copyright May, 2012 by Randy Wakeman and Randy Wakeman Outdoors. All Rights Reserved. Images referred to in the text in their entirety can be viewed at the Randy Wakeman Outdoors website. Additional images have been uploaded here at Amazon, with no post capture enhancement, just as they came out of the camera, for your consideration.
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119119 comments| 501 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
VINE VOICEon June 3, 2012
The Lumix series of Panasonic pocket cameras have a loyal following. This is my fourth Lumix, preceded by the TZ3, TZ5 and ZS5. The ZS15 is by far the best of the series. Although the hardware of the ZS15 sports several improvements, I find the greatest improvements are with the software.

Let me describe six of the features which I really like:
a. Custom Function Switch: This allows for 4 user selected settings. I set the C1 to a burst of 3 images at different exposures for HDR processing. These 3 images shoot rapidly, at a much improved rate. (I find the in-camera HDR almost useless). I set C2-1 to the night image mode which allows for in-camera processing of four images to reduce the noise of the high gain on the sensor. You will be amazed at the images you can take with this feature. I set C2-2 to the horizontal panorama from left to right. I set the C2-3 to the vertical panorama from bottom to top. As with the night images, you will quickly fall in love with these features.
b. The Time-Lapse Video: By shooting video in the miniature mode of the Creative Control menu, you can record time lapse images at 2 second intervals. The camera saves the time-lapse video in .MTS format. A convenient red button turns the video recording on and off.

I did not buy the more expensive ZS20 because I do not need the 20x zoom, the GPS, the 16MP sensor or the touch screen. I'm indifferent to some of the other new features. The 12MP images have more pixels but I find that the processing requires more sharpening. The smaller size of the ZS20 would have been convenient but I've gotten used to the original size. The charging via the USB port means I will not need to carry the charger with me when I travel, but I did like the possibility of having a spare battery in the charger. You cannot operate the ZS15 while it is charging. The camera has a built-in demo program and Panasonic includes a comprehensive digital manual on a CD. A new feature has the description of most menu selections scrolling across the bottom of the screen.

In summary: I am very happy with my ZS15 and would recommend it to nearly everyone, professional, semi-pro or amateur. There are many good reviews if you want to make a side by side comparison of features with other cameras or with the ZS20.
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on May 4, 2012
I loved this camera right out of the box! I own mid-size digital SLR's and previous Panasonic pocket cameras. For my purposes, the Lumix DMC-ZS15 is the best of both worlds.

This P&S sports a distortion-free 24mm wide angle with an amazingly sharp 383mm zoom. The auto-focus is very responsive and works as one would hope. Image stabilization is accomplished through the lens and works well when shooting video, especially at long focal lengths. The Intelligent Auto Mode is a wonderful feature when you just want to shoot and move on. And yet, the manual controls offer excellent control when you need it. Low-light shooting is terrific.

Like with any new camera, you get use to the menu layout as you gain experience using it. Of course, reading the manual front-to-back serves as a necessary overview, plus there are neat features you would not otherwise know exist.

The video performance is excellent. As a professional filmmaker, I particularly appreciate the true 29.97 frame rate. Previous Panasonic models were 30 fps, which played havoc with DVD's and BRD's. The dynamic range of the MOS sensor is much better than previous CCD's I have owned. Also, the audio is clean and quiet at 48,000 kHz.

I could go on and on about my sheer delight with this camera. My only suggestion is that they include an external battery charger rather than requiring users to charge in the camera. For that reason, I bought a Panasonic DE-A65BA Battery Charger and Panasonic DMW-BCG10PP ID Secured Battery. Charging time is much faster and the extra battery is a must if you plan on doing a lot of shooting.

The Lumix DMC-ZS15 is highly recommended!
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on May 3, 2012
Disclaimer: I am a complete novice and am approaching the review from the perspective of someone who will be using the camera for very basic things, with the Intelligent Auto mode on the vast majority of the time. Last year, I purchased the Panasonic Lumix FH-5. I wanted a very compact camera that could take good, quick pictures while I was out hiking. In general, while I was pleased with the FH-5, two glaring weaknesses became apparent: poor battery life and an underpowered 4X optical zoom. For an upgrade, I wanted to stick with a Panasonic Lumix, so I examined both the ZS-20 and the ZS-15. Ultimately, I went with the ZS-15 for a few reasons: I hate touch screens, I had no use for the GPS feature of the ZS-20, it was using a great sensor (the same one found in the FZ-150) and it was $80 cheaper.

I am happy to report that I got pretty much exactly what I wanted with the ZS-15. It has a 24mm-equivalent lens, allowing you to get great widescreen pics for a point-and-shoot. While it is noticeably bulkier than the FH-5, it's still JUST small enough to slip into my pocket as I go hiking. The battery life is *much* improved over the FH-5...I swear it seems to last twice as long. I also like the fact that you can just plug the camera in to recharge it now, rather than removing the battery and messing with an external battery charger. The most impressive thing about this camera to me is the zoom. The 16X optical zoom really knocked my socks off, coming from the 4X of the FH-5. Even better, the iZoom feature allows you to get up to 32X zoom (according to the camera, anyway...I see another review here that mentions it is actually more.) This does not seem to be just another useless digital zoom gimmick, but a really useful feature. Now that I don't have to get very close to wildlife to get a picture, the animals don't get scared away as quickly and I wind up with much better photos of them. I took and labelled sample pictures of a distant house at no zoom, 4X, 8X, 16X, and 32X to show you the difference, so please review them up top. They were all taken handheld, with the camera in intelligent auto mode.

Although it initially sounds like a downgrade in image quality (16MP for the FH-5 vs 12MP for the ZS-15) I cannot see any dropoff, even looking at the pictures on a 61" HDTV. I guess the better sensor makes up for the lower MP photos. In fact, the ZS-15 allows you to get 40% closer on macro shots than the FH-5, and they look fantastic. I still take my photos in the 16:9 aspect ratio, and with the quality setting on 'fine' I can get 1834 photos on my 8gb card, compared to 1485 on the FH-5. Since I can't see any difference, it seems like I just got another 349 photos worth of capacity. There are not a ton of bells and whistles on the ZS-15, and the interface is simple, but that's exactly what I wanted. I played with the video recording a little bit, and although I will rarely use it, it seems quite nice. You can zoom in and out while recording, but it does so slowly (I think this is intentional, so that the lens motor noise isn't as noticeable in the sound of your video.) The only really obvious weakness of this camera that I see is that it struggles in low-light situations and produces noisy, yellowish images in darkened areas. (This may correctable by manually adjusting things, but I'm only using IA mode since I don't know what I'm doing.) The FH-5 was even worse in this regard, and I knew about this issue before buying and just accepted it. Overall, I am delighted with the ZS-15 and it does what I need it to do very well.

Update: If you are looking for a semi-hard case to protect your camera while it's not in use, I found a good one. It's a universal case by Kodak that fits this camera perfectly. The UPC is 041771753283 (Google it to preview.) It's just plain black without any logos, and has a zipper. I found mine in wal*mart next to the digital cameras, but places like best buy also sell it. It runs about $15.
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on September 25, 2012
After years of being a Canon guy, Panasonic won me over last year with their Lumix FZ35 "bridge" camera, a top of the line, compact zoom that looks like a DSLR but has no interchangeable lenses and lets you shoot totally automatic or go manual. Without making this a FZ review, those cameras take fabulous still and HD videos automatically that will please the most fussy photographer. That Lumix line is still going strong with plenty of budget point choices for the serious amateur. I should note that I entered the digital world six or seven years ago with my prized all-metal body Canon SD450 Powershot Elph, a 5 mp little wonder that is a tiny terror that continues to take great stills and videos. So why am I buying another with two pleasers in my collection? Like a DSLR, my FZ35 is a bit too bulky to tote around daily for spontaneous shots, it's best reserved for the birthday, holiday, special event shots I take at home. So being a camera junkie, I thought it was time to treat myself to one of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of new, updated pocket-size cams that have come out since I purchased my Canon SD450 about 7 years ago. Specifcally, I was looking for a bigger LCD, longer optical zoom, better low-light sensitivity, preferably with one of the new CMOS sensors vs CCD, more megapixels to handle enlargements, and HD video (at least 720p which computers like) with zoom and continuous autofocus capability. These features are easy to find today, and frankly are on almost every point and shoot camera you might be considering over $100. The one thing I will likely lose from the old Canon SD450 is the viewfinder, as most manufacturers have discontinued giving you one on the point and shoots. But that's OK, my other cams have them if I encounter a serious outdoor bright light problem, or I could throw on one of those nifty folding combo light hoods and screen protectors for about $10.

So how did I find the Panasonic SZ15 out of the way-too-many choices? At first, the challenge seems daunting. Every manufacturer makes so many variations of the same camera, that it's a project in itself to figure which feature was dropped or added between model A and B. Therefore, I take a 3 step process to narrow down my choices. First of all, I go to the Amazon Best Sellers list for the category to see what is ranked #1, you can't argue with the marketplace, it's generally pretty accurate. The number one seller was the Panasonic ZS20, the model above the one I bought. The ZS15 is one step below and anywhere from $30 to $65 cheaper depending on the price you catch it at. I got mine for $165, currently it's $199. But the ZS15 was ranked #38 on that list, so why did I buy it? I probably wouldn't have if I had only used that best seller list. However, my next step was to Google up some professional reviews on the ZS20. A good reviewer will usually mention nearby models and steer you in the right direction. In this case, the reviewer loved the ZS20 and stated if you didn't need the GPS function, which tells you forever exactly where that pics was taken on the map, buy the ZS15 because it will save you money and essentially you have the same camera as the number one seller. I wasn't interested in GPS, so I followed his advice, and he was absolutely right! As a final check before I ordered it, I looked up the consumer reviews. Both the ZS20 and ZS15 had 4.5 stars and glowing reviews, so I purchased it. Had I only used the best seller list, I would have never considered the ZS15 as it was way too far down on the list. But I believe this kind of thing constantly happens when camera manufacturers make so many similar models, many get lost in the shuffle, or buyers simply buy the "loaded" one to make sure they have everything they need as they learn to use the camera. Forgive me for spending so much time on the choosing process, but I hope this may help others from overlooking better,wiser, less expensive choices by doing just a little more research prior to purchase.

Now for the camera itself. I've owned it about 5 days now and so far I am very pleased. It's a little thicker than many pocket cameras, but I love the metal body and controls, it speaks quality out of the box. Mine was made in Japan and they still build good cameras there. The controls set-up and software is similar to that of my upscale Panasonic FZ35 so the learning curve to use and understand all was short for me. I figured the best test was to shoot the same pics and videos using the FZ35 (which is about twice the price of the ZS15) then download the results on my computer and do side-by-side comparisons. And that's exactly what I did. All shots were done set on IA or P or Macro, both with and without flash on. I have to say the ZS15 shots were amazingly close to ZS35 shots, whether I was doing stills or videos. In fact, most people probably couldn't tell the difference and would be totally delighted. If the FZ35 is a 10, I'd rate the ZS15 a 9. The autofocus system worked perfectly both on close-up and on video, as well. The ZS's sound is mono vs stereo on the FZ's, but it too is not detectable on the computer view. I shot in 720p mode on both which is MPEG-4 on ZS15 whereas the FZ35 is MOV.com. Both formats looked great on my computer screen, though you may have to download a viewer like KMP or VLC instead of using your built-in Windows movie viewer. The ZS has a neat auto-retouch and creative retouch feature. With the push of a button it will show you an alternative look, and if you like it you can save it without losing the orgininal shot. Both have dedicated movie buttons to start and stop, and yes, you can zoom during video shoots. The Leica lenses do their cameras proud in both cases. The macro shots with the ZS15 were quite amazing, fabulous detail, even when it settled on that mode itself using the IA setting, which I believe stands for Intelligent Automatic mode. One quick negative side note, instead of the traditional battery charger, the ZS15 comes with a cord that charges the battery in the camera using either AC or your computer's USB port. This is a bit inconvenient, especially for charging back-up batteries for special events, so I'm going to buy a charger for it on Amazon along with a back-up battery and that problem will be solved for very little money.

That's all I have to say for now, so if you're looking for very well built, mostly metal, pocket-sized point and shoot camera that will automatically give you pictures that will rival some of the best bridge and entry level DSLR's, I'd recommend this one. If you need GPS, then spend a little more and get the ZS20, otherwise this Panasonic ZS15 is a great buy and a real performer.
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on March 12, 2012
I bought the Fuji F505/F550 EXR - nice camera to use, but soft in the corners and a lot of noise and noise reduction. Replaced it with a Nikon S9100 - POS as far as I'm concerned; couldn't focus at 18X no matter what the light, couldn't get anything other than a blurred, un-printable photos even at wide angle - likely the camera was not working right; I'm not sure. I don't think anyone would accept it's output; I sure hope it was defective.

So, I took a risk and ordered the ZS15 - no-one had even seen it at the time; it was an "unknown" - all I knew was that it had Panasonic's incredible Power OIS, which beats the cr@p out of any other IS system; and it had the same sensor as the FZ150 - which again, beat the cr@p out of any other current 12 mp sensor.

Well,... I am not disappointed. The pics are sharp, well exposed, and overall, infinitely better than the shite I was getting from the Nikon. Noise reduction is there, don't think you'll avoid it, but it's not an issue at normal print sizes; OIS is a marvel and even 1/4 second photos are sharp. Videos are quite good; no problems with the "jello", and the OIS works well. The user interface takes a bit of getting used to but it does everything I want it to.

I have found my jewel in the rough - it's going to be the companion to my dSLR from now on.....
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on March 16, 2017
THIS CAMERA IS PROFESSIONAL GRADE. FORGET THE SLRS ! 12MB PLEANTY FOR 11X14 PRINT. LEICA LENS ZOOMS TO 400MM. SAY NO MORE.-
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on April 18, 2012
Got rid of my Nikon 9100 2 weeks after buying the ZS15. Nikon screen better but the ZS15 does everything else better. ZS15 has best menu setup in business. Preset ISO at 400, great pictures, no noise. Set IR very sharp pictures. Set C1 for flash, you're good to go. Video is very smooth. Camera is very fast,fast. After market batteries work great. Buy a couple & a wall charger at Amazon for $20 & a screen protector & go take great pictures.Note, don't buy this camera if: you want more zoom that you can't keep steady;need more pixels that slow write time;really need a second microphone 1" from other mike; want to play with a pop-up flash that doesn't work at 10';or if you have an extra $70-100 burning your pocket. DO buy the ZS15 at a great Amazon price, take lots of pictures/video & buy a second ZS15 for your spouse who will say, better than her treasured TZ3, & my this digi-cam is f, fast. Read the camera mags, the ZS15 is Camera of the year (you will not miss waiting for a stupid GPS program to eat your battery & tell you your hienie is not on first base).
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on November 30, 2012
I purchased both the ZS20 and ZS15 to compare the two cameras and decide which one I like better. Since the ZS15 was significantly less expensive than the ZS20, I decided it was worth trying both. As far as I can tell, the technical differences between the two are A) 20x optical zoom vs 15x optical zoom, B) 14.1 MP vs 12.1 MP, and C) the ZS20 has GPS but the ZS15 does not.

As most casual, yet technically savvy, photographers already know, the 2 MP is not going to make a huge difference at this level for day-to-day picture taking. As for me, this camera is to take pictures of family (usually kids) and of nature/wildlife. We live in Colorado and spend a lot of time in the mountains taking pictures of the scenery and wildlife, so a good optical zoom was very important for me. I've never blown up a non-professional picture bigger than 11x14, so the megapixel difference was a wash for me. Another big requirement I have is decent picture taking in low light. It's not like I'm trying to take pictures inside, at night, with the lights off - but it would be nice to take pictures in a room with dim lighting without the flash making everything look funky or getting picture after picture with people's eyes closed.

Out of the box, I started taking pictures with both the iA mode and various different "scene" modes. Honestly, on both cameras, I found most scenarios to have the same experience and quality. However, with taking pictures in EXTREMELY low light (with a light on behind me but no lighting in the room of the subject I was taking a picture of) were quite different between the two cameras. It seems that the less light in the room, the longer it would be for the camera to take the picture after pressing down on the button. There was a much longer delay on the ZS20 in this circumstance, and it was extremely frustrating. At first, I even thought I wasn't pressing the button down, but I was. The ZS15 still had a delay, but not quite as long as the ZS20. I tried this in both iA and multiple scene modes and had the same result. Again, this was extreme, as I was doing it in a room with almost no light - I could not even see what I was looking at through the LCD screen because it was so dark. I'm sure this can be corrected with manual settings, but I am not going to kid myself into thinking I'm going to learn the finer technical points of photography overnight. I couldn't tell any difference between the two cameras when it came to nighttime scenery with light (a dark street with streetlights) or natural daylight pictures.

Sometimes I was very disappointed with the picture quality, but it was not the camera's fault. I know this because if I changed the settings, the same exact picture would look EXTREMELY different. If I didn't know any better, I would have thought the pictures were taken with two separate cameras. The reason I mention this is that I think this camera has fantastic potential. If you are willing to take the time to learn about cameras and the different settings to use in particular conditions, this will be an amazing camera. This is something I want to do, but I also wanted something that will take very good pictures out of the box using the default modes that are built in. If you are unable or unwilling to fiddle with changing to different presets and figuring out when to use those at the very least, I do not think this camera will be good for you. I am very excited to learn how to do the manual settings as I think this will take this camera to an even higher level. Again, the potential seems very high.

As far as the zoom goes, the 16x vs 20x was something I was very curious about. Can I zoom in more on the 20x? Well, duh, of course I can! Enough to justify the cost difference? Eh, not so much. Optical zoom is very important to me, but 16x was more than enough to fulfill my needs. I just didn't think the extra zoom was worth it for me. The intelligent zoom is very good on both cameras to go beyond the optical zoom, which surprised me. I was able to take hand-held pictures at full zoom on both cameras without blur. Even taking pictures of a full moon on full zoom were quite impressive.

The touch screen I didn't find particularly good. It's one of those that you kinda need to depress a little, which to me is not a sign of a very good or responsive touch screen. However, a touch screen on this camera that is similarly responsive as a high-end smartphone I think would cause a lot of accidental touches. So in this case, the touch screen is neither a plus nor a minus. I could go without it but it does not detract from it either.

THE BOTTOM LINE:
* Decent camera out of the box. It is definitely not a good choice for the older crowd or people who are not very technically inclined. If you can't program your DVR or set up a home wireless network (which to me are incredibly easy and basic things), then this is not for you. Stick with a Kodak EasyShare or a Canon PowerShot, which are more user-friendly from my experience.
* Lots of potential with manual settings if you are willing to learn more than the average camera user to get the most out of your camera.
* Optical zoom is fantastic for the camera size and price point.
* Manual settings give this camera a significant advantage over similar cameras in this price range.

Should you get the ZS20 or ZS15?
I ultimately decided to keep the ZS15. I do not care about the GPS on the ZS20. For optical zoom, 16x already met my needs and I do not think the 4x extra zoom was worth the money. The 2 MP difference between the two cameras shouldn't matter for anyone that is specifically looking for this class of camera (an affordable, compact, point-and-shoot). If you really want the GPS or 4x more zoom, by all means get the more expensive camera - it just wasn't worth it for me. With the money I saved by sticking with the ZS15, I can get a new video game and a 12 pack of my favorite microbrew :)
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on August 13, 2012
I really can't add too much more in the way of technical details to some of the great reviews already posted here, but I wanted to insure that my 5 stars would be counted.

Actually, Randy Wakeman was one of the deal sealers, thanks Randy!

I purchased my 1st Digicam in 2004, after years of being a Nikon 35mm slr fanboy.

I loved my Panasonic DMC FZ3, and till recently, still used it from time to time.

I relaced the FZ3 with a Canon Powershot "A" series digicam that was more pocketable, but never fully embraced it due to limited zoom, and really poor low light performance, not to mention, it sucked AA batteries dry in no time.

A few months ago, while strolling around BB, I spotted a Nikon S8200, and was quite impressed with the size & zoom.

I was infected, I had the bug, I craved a new "Travel Zoom".
Started comparison shopping the Nikons, Canons, and Panasonics on Digital Resources, and Steves, as well as dpreview.
After downloading sample images, and comparing them on my home pc, I went to Fry's & BB to get some hands-on time.

I've got to say, the ZS15 was a wize choice, and it fits my needs almost perfectly.
It fits really well in my jersey pocket when I'm out biking, and with it's fast power up, and shot to shot performance, it is a great little camera.

I primarily use it in P mode, and keep the exposure at -1/3 ev, to minimize blown highlights.
With some experience, and practice one can achieve very good low light indoor exposures without flash.

So what is the only real drawback?

Well, as with all the present day P&S cams, there is no viewfinder, and it is a real challenge to compose a shot in direct sunlight, while straddling my bike, with wraparound sunglasses!

Problem solved!! I read many positive reviews on dpreview regarding a device called the "Clearviewer". It screws on to the tripod mount, and unfolds to the back of the camera actually giving all the benefits of an Electronic Viewfinder, and it lets you see the LCD display in the sun.

I'd suggest anyone reading this to google clearviewer, and check out the product. I have no affiliation with Clearviewer, but I just received mine last week, and it just plain works!

So, that concludes my review of the DMC ZS15. As with any product, I recommend you go to a brick & morter store, to get a feel for the actual camera, but trust me, you won't regret buying this sweet little zoomer!
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