Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7 Review
Review Date: June 19th 2006
(out of 5 stars)
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7 is one of a handful of compact digital cameras with a 12x zoom lens, offering a versatile focal range of 36-432mm that will satisfy most photographers. The ability to zoom from 36mm up to 432mm and still get sharp results thanks to Panasonic's Mega O.I.S system is a revelation if you're used to a camera with a smaller zoom. Everything from mild wide-angle scenics to distant close-ups is possible, all from a camera that you can fit into a small camera bag, and there isn't too much distortion at either end of the zoom range. The FZ7 is a stylish, very well made camera that will feel instantly familiar to anyone who has used an SLR before, with a full range of automatic and manual exposure controls available. It's also quite responsive with a good Continuous mode. Image quality is on the whole above average, although the inability to alter sharpness in the camera is frustrating as the images are soft by default.
Unfortunately there is an even bigger image quality problem than softness, namely noise. The slowest ISO speeds of 80 and 100 on the DMC-FZ7 are perfectly fine, but ISO 200, which isn't exactly a fast speed, displays some noticeable noise and blurring of detail, and ISO 400 is very noisy indeed. The optical image stabilisation system partially makes up for the noise problems, in that you can take a photo at a slower ISO speed and therefore a slower shutter speed, and still get sharp results, without adversely affecting the battery life too much. But it isn't a complete solution. Panasonic's attempt to alleviate the noise issue, the new High Sensitivity mode which provides ISO speeds of 800 and 1600, is only partially successful because the image resolution is automatically reduced, resulting in smaller print sizes. It seems to be an interim fix until the company can come up with a better image sensor than the 1/2.5" one in the FZ7.
So overall, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7 is a stylish, easy to use, advanced camera with that 12x zoom lens as its main attraction. The noise issue is by no means a show-stopper, particularly if you live in a sunny climate or tend to shoot mostly outdoors, but it does stop me from recommending this camera more strongly. If you're really interested in the massive focal range on offer, then the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7 should definitely be on your shopping list.
PhotographyBLOG is a member of the DIWA organisation. Our test results for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7 have been submitted to DIWA for comparison with test results for different samples of the same camera model supplied by other DIWA member sites.