Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 Review

December 31, 2012 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 is a stylish and slim compact camera sporting a 10x optical zoom that starts from 25mm, 720p HD video recording in MP4 format, 16.1 megapixel resolution and high speed response for faster autofocus. As part of the 2012 collection, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 is available in violet, silver, blue, black and red and costs around £150.

Ease of Use

Gone are the days when a 10x optical zoom had to be a large, brick shaped affair with a slow, lumbering operation.  Thanks to cameras such as the Lumix DMC-SZ1 from Panasonic, getting a huge zoom can still mean slipping the camera in your pocket.

In this futuristic world we live in, many of the digital compacts from Panasonic and other manufacturers are touch-screen but the SZ1 has funny bumpy things called buttons. Call us old fashioned but there's nothing wrong with buttons on a camera. In fact there's been many comments on new cameras with touch-screens saying that they simply don't have enough buttons.

The lens on the front of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 is Leica designed and starts at a relatively wide 25mm zooming out to a perfectly respectable maximum telephoto of 250mm (in 35mm terms). Image stabilisation is Panasonic's noted Mega OIS. We say noted because it's been present on their digital compacts since they started making them. A few years ago, they introduced Power OIS which gives a better performance but that's generally reserved for the top end cameras. With a high zoom, it would've been handy on the SZ1 though.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20
Front Rear

To accommodate the lens, the top of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 bulges out slightly. The speaker sits just to the left while on the right are the power switch, shutter release button and direct video button. A zoom ring is wrapped around the shutter release button.

On the back, a large 3inch LCD screen uses up the left two thirds of the available space leaving a slim area on the right to fit all the buttons into. Mind you, Panasonic have managed it. A small switch on the far right flits between shooting and playback. A small mode button selects the shooting mode you'd like to choose.

There are four selections: Intelligent Auto, Auto, Miniature and Scenes. A lot of digital compact cameras are coming out with interesting digital effects and filters at the moment. The Miniature effect is one such filter. It blurs the top and bottom of the screen leaving a thin band of focus across the middle. Used at a high vantage point to a lower scene featuring life such as cars and people, it gives them the appearance of being models.

At the bottom, the Q.Menu allows quick access to your most used features. In this menu, you can change the resolution, ISO, white-balance, AF modes, continuous shooting and power LCD. The latter compensates for bright sunshine or high angle shooting. They're very effective as we found in the brilliant sunshine we got throughout our test. For more in-depth features, the button located in the centre of the navigation pad opens up the main menu. Here you can change camera features, video features and the core set up of the camera such as the language or date/time. You can also completely reset the camera or format your card, so be careful!

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20
Side Front

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1's interface is clean and straightforward to use. It's changed slightly from earlier cameras from a couple of years ago so if you're in the market to replace your existing camera, this could take some getting used to. However, with all things new practice makes perfect and it'll get easier in a short time. Panasonic have split the main menu into three parts for shooting, video recording and the basic set up. In fact, this will have been present on older cameras just laid out less obviously. It does make it easier to navigate. No-one wants to be scrolling through pages of options just to find out how to change the file format of a video.

The quality of build with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 is actually pretty high. The metal body has a silver ring around the centre dividing the front and back. The battery compartment also houses the memory card. The SZ1 can accept SD cards up to and including SDXC. The battery bay door has a lock to keep it in place. A tell tale sign of the positioning of the camera – apart from the price – is the tripod bush. Higher end cameras are metal with lower end cameras using a plastic one. The SZ1 tripod bush is plastic. It's ok for occasional use but can't cope with prolonged heavy duty use.

Start up time from the camera being switched off to taking a picture is around 2.5 seconds. We managed to get around 13 pictures in a ten second period which works out at about 1.3fps.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

Flicking the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 into playback, the pictures shown are defaulted full screen and can be adjusted to thumbnails by zooming out. Pressing the display button will scroll through varying amounts of information on the screen. In the menu, you can mark pictures to upload to the internet, resize, crop, copy and protect.

The box contents are the usual suspects of accessories: A wrist strap, battery, USB cable, charging adapter plug, video cable and CD with the full manual and editing software.

So the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 is pretty basic. It has everything you need to keep you taking pictures – which is important – but we can't help but be a little disappointed at the lack of digital effects. Especially considering that they're so popular at the moment with the type of person that the camera is aimed at. With apps such as instagram and Streamzoo allowing phones to apply these filters and upload to the net, we expected to see a lot more to coerce customers back to holding a camera.

Saying that there are that select few consumers who don't want to get bogged down with filters and effects. That's who this camera is perfect for. The small size is useful for travellers. The zoom will be great for capturing the world while the Leica quality lens should ensure sharp pictures. Couple that with the in built charger, internet uploader  and SDXC compatibility for huge memory cards and the whole package is all you need.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 16 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5.5Mb.


The noise performance of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 is decent enough at low ISO settings. It doesn't give the sharpest results we've seen but they're acceptable. The camera gives the same results at ISO 200 but noise starts to creep in at ISO 400 which is unfortunate. The best idea is to keep the camera as low as possible and use the flash if the light is too dark. Images are sharp though, with edge definition good up to the mid range levels.

At ISO 800, not only does edge definition then begin to fail but noise starts to creep in quite badly. Green colour is present in dark areas. Noise reduction ups the ante in the final setting and while colour noise has been removed, this is at the cost of the colour in the pictures which is greatly reduced as well.

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)


ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)


ISO 1600 (100% Crop)



Although the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 gives a sharp picture, we thought it benefited from some sharpening in Adobe Photoshop. Although some areas looked a little over sharpened, on the whole they look better.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

Focal Range

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1's 10x zoom lens provides a very versatile focal length of 25-250mm in 35mm terms, as demonstrated below.



Chromatic Aberrations

We found traces of chromatic aberration on the edges of branches and other high contrast edges. It's most noticeable at the edges of the frame.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)


The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 has a good enough macro facility (of around 5cm) for the level of user it's aimed at. Centre frame edge definition is good but it suffers badly towards the edges. That's where chroma (see above) comes in too.


Macro (100% Crop)


The flash performance of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 is great. It balances light out in the frame and gives the appearance of not being used which can also be attributed to a good white-balance system. In fact in the portrait shots, we had to look for catch lights back at the computer to work out which pictures had fired the flash and which hadn't. The flash leaves no vignetting in the corners at wide angle or full zoom.

Forced Off - Wide Angle (25mm)

Forced On - Wide Angle (25mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Forced Off - Telephoto (250mm)

Forced On - Telephoto (250mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

We didn't find an instance of red-eye in our test shots but the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 has both a red-eye reduction mode on the flash menu and a red-eye removal mode in the main menu.

Forced On

Forced On (100% Crop)

Auto/Red-eye Reduction

Auto/Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)


There are two options open to you when taking night shots. The night mode in scenes will offer a longer exposure (8 seconds in our sample) but little else. This means that the auto white-balance can't cope with strong colour casts such as the orange glare of street lights.

Using the auto mode, we managed to adjust the white-balance to be less harsh but the exposure is a little dark because the longest exposure in that mode is 1 second.

Night Auto

Night Auto (100% Crop)


Night Scene

Night Scene (100% Crop)

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 camera, which were all taken using the 16 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

Product Images

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1

Front of the Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1

Front of the Camera / Lens Extended

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1

Isometric View

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1

Isometric View

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1

Rear of the Camera / Record Mode

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1

Rear of the Camera / Quick Menu

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1

Top of the Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1

Side of the Camera


Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1

Rear of the Camera / Record Mode Menu

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1

Front of the Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1

Memory Card Slot

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1

Battery Compartment


The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 looks very good on the outside. The 10x optical zoom, Leica lens and large screen show a camera advanced beyond its price tag. We like the thin design of the camera housing the larger zoom and the addition of switches makes the camera easier to understand and use. People with larger hands will prefer this lay out which widens the market appeal.

The operation is easy to use. The new menu layout has the basic functions broken down so there's less need to scroll through endless options that don't pertain to what you want to change or enable. However, black text on a white background isn't the best for anyone that's hard of seeing because the overpowering white bleeds over the black. An option to change to white on black would be good. However the set up menu does offer contrast, brightness and colour options for the screen.

We're surprised to see a lack of digital effects. They're extremely popular at the moment because of the massive retro movement which currently on trend. The only digital filter available is the miniature mode which gives the effect of a diorama. It's an unusual option to include as the sole filter and we wonder what the thought process was to conclude that the miniature mode was the best. Not that it's a bad mode and the camera works it well.

We're disappointed in the image quality of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 and this could stem from the fact that as a general rule of thumb, Panasonic cameras perform very well. However something has gone wrong here because noise starts to come in much too early. Images are sharp in places but not in others and there's a massive gap between centre and edge definition. The saving grace of the SZ1 is the flash performance. Use this in a dark area at a reasonable distance from your target and you'll hardly know it's been used at all. Skin tones are flattering, there's no harsh light and hardly a shadow at all.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 is a camera for the happy snapper that isn't concerned with ISOs and a multitude of modes. If you simply want a decent camera that has a trusted name, can take good pictures in low light and has a good zoom so you don't have the tediousness of actually walking to places, then the SZ1 is a camera you should look at. Just remember to keep the ISO low and use the flash if needed.

3.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 3.5
Features 3
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 3.5
Value for money 3.5

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 from around the web. »

The Panasonic Lumix SZ1 is a new range of "Super Zoom" ultra compact cameras with a 10x optical zoom lens, 16 megapixel sensor and 3 inch screen it sure packs a lot into an ultra compact body. The other model in the range is the SZ7 with Full HD and 14 megapixel Live MOS sensor, compared to the SZ1 with 720p video and CCD sensor.
Read the full review » »

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 has an ultra compact body, particularly for one with such a broad zoom lens range that runs from a wide 25mm wide angle to a telephoto end of 250mm; a 10x optical zoom. Optical image stabilisation is recruited to help keep things steady, which is a pretty much essential as the small body size and the long zoom combine to make steady hand held shots a real challenge, particularly in low light.
Read the full review »



Dimensions (W x H x D) 99.0 x 59.4 x 21.0 mm / (3.9 x 2.4 x 0.9 inch)
Weight Approx. 114g without Battery and SD Memory Card (0.26 lb) / Approx. 131g with Battery and SD Memory Card (0.30 lb)


Camera Effective Pixels 16.1 Megapixels
Sensor Size / Total Pixels / Filter 1/2.33-type CCD sensor / 16.6 Total Megapixels / Primary Color Filter
Aperture F3.1 - F5.9 / 2-Step (F3.1 / 9.0 (W), F5.9 / 16.0 (T))
Optical Zoom 10.0x
Focal Length f=4.5-45.0mm (25-250mm in 35mm equiv.) / (27-270mm in 35mm equiv. in video recording)
Extra Optical Zoom (EZ) 12.6x (4:3 / 10M), 18.0x (4:3 / 5M), 22.5x(4:3 / under 3M)
Intelligent Zoom 20.0x
Lens LEICA DC VARIO-ELMAR / 9 elements in 7 groups / (4 Aspherical Lenses / 6 Aspherical surfaces)
Optical Image Stabilizer MEGA O.I.S. (Off / On)
Digital Zoom 4x
Focusing Area Normal: Wide 50 cm - infinity / Tele 150 cm - infinity / Macro / Intelligent AUTO/ motion picture: Wide 5 cm - infinity / Tele 150cm - infinity
AF Assist Lamp Yes
Focus Normal, AF Macro, Zoom Macro / Quick AF (Always On), Continuous AF(only for motion picture) / AF Tracking
AF Metering Face / AF Tracking / Multi (23pt) / 1pt
Shutter Speed approx. 8 - 1/1600 sec


File Format Still Image: JPEG(DCF/Exif2.3) / Motion picture: MP4
Mode Dial / Mode Button Intelligent Auto, Normal Picture, SCN, Miniature
Still Image Scene Mode Portrait, Soft Skin, Scenery, Panorama, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Food, / Baby1, Baby2, Pet, Sunset, High Sensitivity, Glass Through, Photo Frame
Continuous Shooting Mode Full-Resolution Image, 1.3 frames/sec Max. 100 images / High-speed Burst Mode: approx. 10 frames/sec / (recorded in 5M / 3M for 4:3, 2.5M for 3:2, 2M for 16:9, 2.5M for 1:1)?Max. 15-100 images
Motion Picture Recording (*2) [HD Video] 1280 x 720 pixels, 25 fps (HD: 10Mbps / MP4) (Sensor output is 25P) / [STD Video] VGA: 640 x 480 pixels, 25 fps (4Mbps / MP4)
MP4 (Continuous recordable time [motion pictures]) approx.90 min
MP4 (Actual recordable time [motion pictures]) approx.45 min
Exposure Auto(Program AE)
Exposure Compensation 1/3 EV step, +/-2 EV
Light Metering Intelligent Multiple
ISO Sensitivity Auto / i.ISO / 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 / High Sensitivity mode (ISO 1600-6400)
Still Picture Recording [1:1] 3456x3456(12M) / [4:3] 4608x3456(16M) / 3648x2736(10M EZ) / 2560x1920(5M EZ) / 2048x1536(3M EZ) / 640x480(0.3M EZ) / [3:2] 4608x3072 (14M) / [16:9] 4608x2592 (12M)
White Balance Auto / Daylight / Cloudy / Shade / Incandescent / White Set
Color Mode / Color Effect / My color Color Mode : Standard, Black&White, Sepia, Vivid(in normal / video), Happy (only in iA Mode)
Digital Red Eye Correction (Red-Eye Removal) Yes
Optical Zoom in Motion Picture Yes
Self Timer 2sec / 10sec


Playback Mode Normal Playback, Slideshow, Filtering Playback (Category, Favorites), / Calendar Playback
Thumbnails / Zoomed Playback 12,30-thumbnails / Yes
Calendar Display / Dual-Image Playback Yes / No
Set Favorites / Rotate Image Yes / No
DPOF Print Setting / Set Protection Yes / Yes
Resize / Cropping / Aspect Conv. / Leveling Yes / Yes / No / No
Copy / Title Edit / Text Stamp Yes / No / Yes
Video Divide Yes
PictBridge Support Single / Multi / All / Favorites / DPOF


OSD language Japanese, English, German, French, Italian, Spanish


LCD Monitor 7.5cm(3.0") TFT Screen LCD Display (230K dots) / Field of View : approx. 100% / AUTO Power LCD mode, Power LCD mode, High Angle Mode
Built-in-Flash Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Forced On, Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction, Forced Off, / 0.6 - 5.6m (Wide/i ISO), 1.5 - 2.9m (Tele/i ISO)
Recording Media Built-in Memory, SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card, SDXC Memory Card
Built-in-Memory Approx.70MB
Microphone / Speaker Mono / Mono
Interface AV Output (NTSC/PAL), USB2.0 High speed
Power Li-ion Battery Pack (3.6V, Minimum: 680mAh) (Included) / AC Adaptor (Input: 110-240V AC)(Included, connect with USB cable)
Battery life (approx.) 250 pictures (CIPA Standard)*1
Included Software PHOTOfunSTUDIO 8.0 Standard Edition / Adobe Reader
Standard Accessories Battery Pack, AC Adapter, AV Cable, USB Cable, Hand Strap, CD-ROM

Further Specifications

NOTE *1 / Recording conditions by CIPA standard / - CIPA is an abbreviation of [Camera & Imaging Products Association]. / - Temperature: 23 oC (73.4 oF)/Humidity: 50%RH when LCD monitor is on. / - Using a Panasonic SD Memory Card (32 MB). / - Using the supplied battery. / - Starting recording 30 seconds after the camera is turned on. (When the optical image stabilizer function is set to [ON].) / - Recording once every 30 seconds with full flash every second recording. / - Rotating the zoom lever from Tele to Wide or vice versa in every recording. / - Turning the camera off every 10 recordings and leaving it until the temperature of the battery decreases. / - The number of recordable pictures decreases in Auto Power LCD Mode and Power LCD Mode. / *2 / - These are standard times taken at a temperature of 23 oC (73.4 oF) and a humidity of 50%RH. / - The time available for recording varies depending on the environment, the interval between recordings, and the manner of use. / - Actual recordable time is the time available for recording when repeating actions such as switching the power supply [ON] / [OFF], starting/stopping recording, zoom operation etc. / *3 / - Motion picture in [MP4] can be recorded continuously for up to 29 minutes 59 seconds. / - Also, motion picture recorded continuously in [MP4] is up to 4 GB.

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