Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9 Review

February 26, 2013 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9 is an affordable, svelte digital compact camera boasting an array of features such as a 16.1 megapixel MOS sensor, 10x optical Leica designed zoom lens (25-250mm in 35mm terms), a bright 3 inch LCD screen, built-in wifi connectivity, Full HD video and 14 digital effects. With this many features on a camera that costs just £200, will the image quality match up to the impressive feature-set? In this review, we intend to find out. The Panasonic SZ9 is available in silver or black.

Ease of Use

Panasonic were one of the earliest manufacturers to design their digital compacts with a retro look to them. Using features such as brushed metal, using a certain shape for the body that resembled an old fashioned camera, then placing the lens in a particular place on the body to accentuate that feel. So it was surprising when they seemingly abandoned that approach – especially with the boom in retro and vintage – and went for more sleek looking cameras.

However, it looks as though they're back because, along with other models in the current range, the SZ9 is a lovely looking camera that harks back to the olde days of photography. Maybe not the days of bellows and metal plates, but maybe a 1950's 35mm camera?

The 10x optical zoom pushes the lens out of the body slightly, so it's not entirely flush. Still, instead of try to mask it away, Panasonic have chosen to wrap a big bezel around it to show it off. It also gives the lens the appearance of being bigger than it really is. As we all know; size does matter.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9's lens is made to a specification designed by Leica, a German lens manufacturer – in fact, one of the best in the world – and starts at 25mm. It's not the widest available, but that would only cause barrel distortion. The full test will reveal if the lens suffers from it anyway. Obviously, a 10x optical zoom means that the 25mm wide setting stretches out to 250mm at the top end. That's enough to prevent you from having to walk to things.

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

Interestingly, Panasonic have done away with the switches on the DMC-SZ9 – possibly due to keeping costs down – so the camera is powered up using the small, square button on the top plate. It sits flush with the body, just next to the shutter release which is raised slightly to accommodate the zoom ring. A direct video record button is situated on the opposite side of the shutter release on the right shoulder. The small holes are the stereo sound microphones.

The SZ9 is shaping up to be a great little compact to simply slide into a pocket and use on a day out when carrying around bulky camera gear simply won't do. However, if you're the type that has larger fingers, you may find the small buttons on the back difficult to operate.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9 has wifi connectivity, so you're able to link up to the internet and upload images to a portfolio on one of several approved sites. This is a great resource for young, travelling photographers as it means you don't have to mess about with huge memory cards and you can safely store them online where friends and family back home can view them instantly. Regular uploading means parents will be happy that you're safe, so it's a triple whammy. In fact, the SZ9 seems to be a camera designed for travelling. In the Setup menu (accessed by pressing the Menu button and selecting the section with the spanner icon), there's options to set the World time, set a Travel date and switch the camera into Airplane mode. This latter feature simply stops you from activating the wifi which can interfere with navigation systems and doesn't – as we thought – choose the wrong week to stop drinking coffee.

The other buttons on the back are similar to the layout and organisation of other digital compact cameras. There's a central control pad with four buttons surrounding it. The pad navigates around the menus on the camera as well as doubling up for shooting options such as macro, exposure compensation, flash and macro. The Mode button is for selecting the way the camera takes pictures such as Auto, Intelligent auto, Panoramic, Creative filters or Scene modes. The Creative filters are digital effects that replicate a particular look or type of photography. Effects such as Low key, Soft focus, Impressive art and High dynamic will interest users more interested in photography while Retro, Toy effect and Cross process will please the Instagram crowd.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20
Front Top

The cost of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9 is apparent in the build quality. A camera at a lower price wouldn't have a metal casing, decent lens or even a good quality USB port cover. However, the SZ9 has all these. Interestingly, some of the budget cameras from other manufacturers have recently had metal tripod connectors fitted to them. Weirdly, this has been a kind of unwritten benchmark in quality for many a year until the last 12 months have changed that. Not so with the SZ9, it still has a plastic connector (bush). It's a disappointment to photographers looking to take long exposures at night because the high volume of use that the tripod will see could make it wear sooner.

The menu systems on the SZ9 are very easy to read and navigate your way around. The Main menu has four sections: Rec, Motion Picture, Setup and Wifi. The Rec section goes into the camera modes and features that you need a lot of access to, such as ISO, resolution and white-balance. But they're not as commonly used as the flash options, macro or exposure compensation, which have dedicated buttons on the back of the camera. In the Motion picture section, you make changes to the video features such as the resolution, autofocus and wind cut. We've delved into the Setup menu earlier in the review and discussed the travelling options available. There are other interesting options available in the Setup menu, though, such as Monitor luminance, Economy mode, Histogram and the option to reset everything. If you want to only reset the wifi, that can be done as well as a number reset for the pictures you're taking. The latter could lead to a clash of file numbers when downloading and cause overwriting.

Focusing is quite fast on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9 and we think this helped it in it's cold start test. The results yielded a faster time than we're used to. The time it took to switch the camera on, focus and take a picture was a little over two seconds. That's around half a second faster than other digital compacts that we've tested recently. Not bad going and will help with candid photography.

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

The DMC-SZ9 has four burst modes. The first two are similar in what they achieve. They both use continuous AF while shooting, just at different rates; 2fps (frames per second) and 5fps. The latter is arguably the one to choose when shooting continuously. We managed a total of 14 pictures in a ten second period which averages at 1.4fps. Realistically, the camera took four pictures in the first second. Not the 5fps advertised, but we think that could be down to the AF. In this mode, the focusing is in continuous, so as the camera is shooting, it will shift if necessary. This focus shift will stop the camera taking pictures – only briefly in our test as we barely moved – while it focuses. The 5fps will be a clinical test performed by Panasonic. Both of these settings are done at full resolution. The rapid burst mode drops the resolution to 5 megapixel, though. This is to ensure the processor can keep pushing the pictures through at a fast enough rate. Shutter lag sits at 0.08sec which is standard for a digital compact camera and our reflexes.

Press the small Playback button on the back of the camera and you can look at the pictures you've already taken. This can be done regardless of whether the camera is powered on or off. If it's off, you have to hold the button down for a second or two. Press up on the pad and you can retouch the picture either with an Auto retouch feature, a Beauty retouch or Creative retouch. Press the Mode button and you can choose different viewing options such as a slide-show, calendar or filter by specifying certain parameters such as only pictures or only video. The Playback menu has some fascinating features such as Location logging (not using GPS, but manual input), Titles, Retouch, Video divide, Cropping or Resize.

In the box, there's a camera, rechargeable lithium ion battery, charger, wrist strap, Basic owner's manual and a CD that holds the full manual along with PHOTOfunSTUDIO 9.0 editing software. There's also a link to a trial version of LoiLoScope – a video editing software program.

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 6Mb.


Low noise results from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9 seem pretty good when viewed from a normal distance. Zooming in to full magnification shows green colour present even at ISO 100, which is a great shame. Interestingly, edge definition seems sharp enough and the noise isn't interfering with the overall colour of the image.

Moving up to ISO 200 doesn't appear to make any change either for better or worse, so if we were to look for a silver lining, it would be that you can push the ISO to 200 and get similar results than ISO 100.

In fact, there's no definite change in the image quality until ISO 800 when noise reduction starts to smooth the image out, suggesting that the sensor is starting to fail. The last two settings are more art work than photography as the noise reduction gives the image a painted look. Not a brilliant performance from a manufacturer that has made ground breaking achievements in the past.

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)


ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)


ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)


The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9's pictures suffer from noise a little bit too much for our tastes when it comes to sharpening. We used a simple pre-set Sharpening tool in Adobe Photoshop CS4 and found that the problematic noise was exacerbated in the image.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


Focal Range

The focal length of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9 is 4.5mm – 45mm. It's a 10x optical zoom which, in 35mm terms, is a 25-250mm.



Chromatic Aberrations

While we found evidence of chromatic aberration, it was very low compared to other cameras at this level. This goes to show the increased quality that comes with an alliance with Leica.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)


Close focusing is a mediocre 5cm. It's not bad, but nothing to write home about. It gets in close enough, but it's easy to over step the mark. A couple extra centimetres would have been nice as a buffer.


Macro (100% Crop)


There's an ever-so-slight amount of vignetting when a flash isn't used at wide-angle. Add flash and it increases ten fold, resulting in dark corners in the images. Zooming out to full magnification, the problem goes but is still faintly observed.

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

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9 didn't have any trouble with red-eye in our tests, so using red-eye reduction wasn't necessary as we gleaned the same results.

Forced On

Forced On (100% Crop)

Auto/Red-eye Reduction

Auto/Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9's night shots were interesting. They were both shot during the snow and we used the snow to do a white balance check. The results were a strong green cast, meaning the camera didn't have the range to deal with the strength of the light. The night scene shot was more realistic to the actual light available. Both shots are sharp and well exposed. The camera chose ISO 100 for the night scene and exposed a 1 second image just like we did in Program.

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-SZ9 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-SZ9

Front of the Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9

Front of the Camera / Lens Extended

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9

Isometric View

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9

Isometric View

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9

Isometric View

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9

Rear of the Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9

Rear of the Camera / Shooting Mode Menu


Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9

Rear of the Camera / Main Menu

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9

Rear of the Camera / Main Menu

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9

Rear of the Camera / Main Menu

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9

Rear of the Camera / Main Menu

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9

Rear of the Camera / Main Menu

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9

Rear of the Camera / Main Menu

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9

Top of the Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9

Bottom of the Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9

Side of the Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9

Side of the Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9

Front of the Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9

Memory Card Slot

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9

Battery Compartment


This is the first camera we've noticed the DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) certificate listed for. This is a universal system which was introduced when the main players (Panasonic, Sony, Samsung and a number of non-photographic companies) realised that consumers don't only use their products. DLNA allows integration with other company's products so the Panasonic will be able to plug into a DLNA Sony television, for example.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9 is a nice enough camera to use, the buttons are laid out intuitively although the video button needs a firm press and being on top of the camera, typically it causes a slight dip when ending video. What we did notice is that the focusing is very fast. Couple that with a good lens that obviates chromatic aberration very well for a lens on a digital compact and you have some good quality images coming through. The main downfall of the camera is the quality of the sensor. We found noise at ISO 100 that was normally found at ISO 400 on lesser cameras. That's not good in this day and age. It's entirely possible they don't want noise reduction to interfere too much with the image but then they could always drop the resolution to help towards that problem.

The SZ9 has a pretty good build to it. We couldn't fault it with any elements of that area. The flash leaves a lot to be desired for, but more than likely if you're looking at this camera, you won't be too bothered about that. After all, the flash will be used in dark places and the vignetting will blend in.

At around £200, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9 isn't a bad little compact. For the price, you're getting a high resolution, large zoom, sexy compact with fast focusing and multiple picture sharing options. Whether you want to share via wifi, DLNA or plug straight into a PC, the SZ9 will be ok with all three. That's pretty cool and good to know for anyone thinking of buying a little compact to go out travelling with. The only part of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9 that lets it down is the noise poking through at the first ISO step. Getting green blobs at ISO 100 is rubbish to say the least. The most unfortunate part of that is that as a camera, that's its primary function.

3.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 3
Value for money 3.5



Dimensions (W x H x D) 96.5 x 56.8 x 21.2 mm / (3.8 x 2.23 x 0.83 inch)
Weight Approx. 119g without Battery and SD Memory Card (0.26 lb) / Approx. 134g with Battery and SD Memory Card (0.29 lb)


Camera Effective Pixels 16.1 Megapixels


Sensor Size / Total Pixels / Filter 1/2.33-type High Sensitivity MOS Sensor / 17.5 Total Megapixels / Primary Color Filter


Aperture F3.1 - F5.9 / 2-Step (F3.1 / 9.0 (W), F5.9 / 16.0 (T))
Optical Zoom 10x
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 20x
Lens LEICA DC VARIO-ELMAR / 9 elements in 7 groups / (4 Aspherical Lenses / 6 Aspherical surfaces)
2- Speed Zoom -
Optical Image Stabilizer/Five Axis Correction MEGA O.I.S. (Off / On) / No
Digital Zoom Max.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 (On/Off)
Focus Normal, AF Macro, Macro Zoom / Quick AF (On/Off, On in Intelligent Auto), Continuous AF(only for motion picture) / AF Tracking
AF Metering Face / AF Tracking / 23-Area / 1-Area / Spot


Shutter Speed approx. 4 - 1/1600 sec / 15sec / 30sec in Sarry Sky mode


Viewfinder -


File Format Still Image: JPEG(DCF/Exif2.3) / 3D Image: MPO / Motion picture: AVCHD, MP4

Recording Modes

Mode Dial / Mode Button Intelligent Auto, Normal Picture, Creative Control, Panorama Shot, SCN,
Creative Control mode Expressive, Retro, High Key, Low Key, Sepia, Dynamic Monochrome, Impressive Art, High Dynamic, / Cross Process, Toy Effect, Miniature Effect, Soft Focus, Star Filter, One Point Color
Still Image Scene Mode Portrait, Soft Skin, Scenery, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Hand Held Night Shot, Food, Baby1, Baby2, / Pet, Sunset, High Sensitivity, Glass Through, Photo Frame, Starry Sky, 3D Photo
Continuous Shooting Mode Full- Resolution Image with AF Tracking: 5 frames/sec, 2 frames/sec Max.100 images / High-speed Burst Mode: approx. 10 frames/sec / (recorded in 3M for 4:3, 2.5M for 3:2, 2M for 16:9, 2.5M for 1:1) / Flash burst shooting

Motion Picture Recording (*2)

HD Video 1920 x 1080 pixels, 50i (FHD: 17Mbps / AVCHD) / 1280 x 720 pixels, 50p(HD: 17Mbps / AVCHD) (Sensor output is 25p) / 1920 x 1080 pixels, 25 fps (FHD: 20Mbps / MP4) / 1280 x 720 pixels, 25 fps (HD: 10Mbps / MP4)
STD Video 640 x 480 pixels, 25 fps (VGA: 4Mbps / MP4)

Continuous recordable time (motion pictures)

AVCHD approx. 60 min (FHD/60i), 65 min (HD/60p)
MP4 approx. 60 min (FHD)

Actual recordable time (motion pictures)

AVCHD approx. 30 min (FHD), 30 min (HD)
MP4 approx. 30 min (VGA)

Exposure Parameters

Exposure Auto(Program AE)
Exposure Compensation 1/3 EV step, +/-2 EV
Auto (AE) Bracketing 1/3 -1EV step, Max +/-2EV, 3 frames
Light Metering Intelligent Multiple
ISO Sensitivity Auto / i.ISO / 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 / 3200 / High Sensitivity mode (ISO 1600-6400)

Picture Quality

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)
Image Quality Fine / Standard (3D mode: MPO Fine / MPO Standard )
White Balance Auto / Daylight / Cloudy / Shade / Incandescent / White Set / White Balance Adjustment (Except Auto)
Photo Style / Film Mode -
Color Mode / Color Effect / My color Color Mode : Standard, Black&White, Sepia, Vivid ?Normal only), Happy (only in iA Mode)
Aspect Bracketing -


Digital Red Eye Correction (Red-Eye Removal) Yes
Wi-FI IEEE 802.11b/g/n / 2412MHz - 2462MHz (1-11ch) / WPA / WPA2 / Infurastracture mode / WPS / Wi-Fi Direct / Wi-Fi Button
Zoom in Motion Picture Yes
Self Timer 2sec / 10sec


Playback Mode All, Slideshow, Filtering Play (Picture Only, Video Only, 3D Play, Category Selection, Select Date, Favorites), Calendar
Thumbnails / Zoomed Playback 12,30-thumbnails / Yes
Calendar Display / Dual- Image Playback Yes / No
Set Favorites / Rotate Image Yes / No
Show Histogram Yes
Show Highlights -
DPOF Print Setting / Set Protection Yes / Yes


Retouch Creative Retouch / Auto Retouch / Beauty Retouch
Resize / Cropping / Aspect Conv. / Leveling Yes / Yes / No / No
Copy / Title Edit / Text Stamp Yes / Yes / Yes
Cut Animation 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 (460K dots) / AUTO Power Monitor mode, Power Monitor mode, High Angle mode


Built- in- Flash Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Forced On, Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction, Forced Off, / 0.6 - 4.1m (Wide/ISO Auto), 1.5 - 2.1m (Tele/ISO Auto)


Recording Media Built-in Memory, SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card, SDXC Memory Card
Built- in- Memory Approx.60MB


Microphone / Speaker Stereo / Mono


Interface microHDMI, AV Output (PAL/NTSC), USB(AV/USB Multi)


Power Li-ion Battery Pack (3.6V / 690mAh / 2.5Wh) / AC Adaptor (Input: 110-240V AC)(Included, connect with USB cable, playback only)
Battery life (approx.) 220 pictures (CIPA Standard)*1

Standard Package

Included Software PHOTOfunSTUDIO 9.0 AE / Adobe Reader
Standard Accessories Battery Pack, AC adaptor, 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. / *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. / -Maximum time to record motion pictures continuously with [AVCHD] is 29 minutes 59 seconds. / -Maximum time to record motion pictures continuously with [MP4] is 29 minutes 59 seconds or up to 4 GB.

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