Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 Review

October 15, 2009 | Mark Goldstein | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 (also known as the DMC-ZR1) is a new ultra-compact digital camera with an astounding trick up its proverbial sleeve - the 8x optically-stabilised zoom lens that provides a focal range of 25-200mm in a body measuring just 2.6cms thick. And if that isn't enough for you, the telephoto end can be increased to 15.6x with the Extra Optical Zoom function. The 12 megapixel Panasonic ZX1 also offers 720p motion jpeg movies at 30 fps, a 2.7 inch LCD screen, ultra high-speed auto-focus system, Intelligent Auto mode, new High Dynamic scene mode, Venus Engine V processor, and an upgraded face detection system that can identify previously recognised faces. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 is priced at £269.99 / $279.95 in silver, black, blue, white or red.

Ease of Use

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 is very similar to the slightly older DMC-FX40 model in terms of its design, with credit card dimensions and rounded edges ensuring it's marginally less boxy than other competitors. It's small and light enough to easily fit into a shirt or trouser pocket. You then have to remind yourself that Panasonic have somehow fitted in a new 8x zoom lens, equivalent to a focal range of 25-200mm on a 35mm camera, which provides a longer telephoto setting than the FX40's 5x zoom. There's also an 'extra' optical zoom function boosting it to an equivalent 15.6x, albeit with an attendant resolution drop to 3 megapixels. Even when set to 200mm, the lens doesn't extend very far from the front of the ZX1, making it look to all intents and purposes like a run-of-the-mill compact camera. This helps to make the DMC-ZX1 a great candid camera, as people assume that you're using just a standard point and shoot.

The 25mm focal length provides an entirely new wide angle of view that can only increase your creativity. You won't want to go back to a "standard" 35mm zoom after using the 25mm lens on the DMC-ZX1, or even to a 28mm lens - 3mm makes a surprising amount of difference in the world of wide-angle photography. The 8x zoom lens obviously makes this one of the most versatile ultra-compacts in terms of focal range, especially as it is coupled with the upgraded POWER O.I.S system, which helps to ensure that the majority of photos taken in good light are sharp. The ZX1's lens isn't particularly fast at either the wide-angle or telephoto settings, with maximum apertures of f/3.3 and f/5.9, but we can live with that in return for the frankly amazing focal range.

As with most Panasonic cameras, the DMC-ZX1 is a well-built device with a high quality metal body. There are a couple of external controls that don't instill much confidence. The cover for the battery compartment and SD card slot feels a little insubstantial and is locked using a cheap plastic switch. We can live with that, but not with the annoying Shooting Mode dial. Positioned on the far right of the top of the camera, this dial has a loose action, causing it to often move out of position when you store the ZX1 in a pocket or bag. You'll quickly become sick and tired of seeing the message "Mode Dial is not in the proper position" displayed on the LCD screen. In addition, the tripod socket is made of metal but is inconveniently positioned in the far-right corner of the camera, which doesn't provide enough stability when mounted on a tripod.

There is no optical viewfinder, which does make it a little harder to keep steady at the telephoto end of the zoom than holding the camera up to your eye. The only method of composition is via the rear LCD screen, which is large enough at 2.7 inches but only has an average resolution of 230K dots. On the upside, the screen has a fairly wide viewing angle and it coped well with the majority of lighting conditions, except very bright direct sunlight. There's a clever function called High Angle, accessible from the Quick Menu, which essentially brightens the LCD screen when the camera is held over your head so that it is perfectly viewable, which is great for shooting over the heads of a crowd. The Intelligent LCD function automatically detects the current lighting conditions and boosts the LCD backlighting by up to 40% when shooting outdoors in bright sunshine, helping to keep the screen visible.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1
Front Rear

As this is purely a point and shoot camera with no manual controls, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 is not overly complex in terms of the number of external controls that it has. The majority of the 13 controls are clearly labeled and common to most cameras, with the Q.Menu button and iA mode being specific to Panasonic and requiring a quick read of the user guide. As mentioned above, there's a traditional dial on the top of the camera that lets you select the various shooting and scene modes. This dial is a typical feature of SLR cameras, and enables you to quickly change between the various modes (too quickly most of the time!). 29 different scene modes can be selected via the SCN mode setting, with the MS option allowing you to quickly access your favourite. The High Dynamic mode is an interesting new scene mode which helps to capture a scene with even exposure even if it contains extreme bright and dark areas. There are three options, Standard, Art, or B/W, making your photos look natural or more artistic. In practice this new mode works well, as shown in the examples on the Image Quality page. Also found on the top of the camera are the mono sound mic, small Off/On switch, responsive zoom lever, and the shutter button.

The DMC-ZX1 features an enhanced version of Intelligent Auto Mode, with AF tracking and Face Recognition added to the mix. Panasonic have tried to make things as easy as possible for the complete beginner by providing this shooting mode, which allows you to point and shoot the camera without having to worry about choosing the right mode or settings. Intelligent Auto Mode automatically determines a number of key criteria when taking a picture, including selecting the most appropriate scene mode (from 5 commonly used presets) and ISO speed, and turning face detection (up to 15 faces), image stabilization and quick auto-focus on. Intelligent Exposure increases the exposure only in the under-exposed areas of the image, and Digital Red-eye automatically detects and removes red-eye. Intelligent Exposure can also be turned on in the Normal Picture mode (but strangely not Digital Red-eye).

AF tracking continually tracks a moving subject and keeps it in focus, without you having to hold the shutter button halfway down as on most other cameras. Face Recognition is a fun and genuinely useful new feature, which "remembers" up to 6 registered faces and then always prioritizes the focus and exposure for that person in future pictures. Very useful for group shots where you want your loved ones to be the centre of attention. You can specify the age of the registered subject, stamp the age of the subject onto your photos, change the focus icon for a particular person, and playback only the photos that contain a certain face. The camera will even automatically switch to Baby mode if someone registered as less than 3 years old appears in the frame!

In practice the Intelligent Auto Mode system works very well, with the camera seamlessly choosing the most appropriate combination of settings for the current situation. The 5 available scene modes are Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Night Portrait and Night Scenery, so obviously not all situations are covered by Intelligent Auto Mode, but it does work for the majority of the time. It makes it possible for the less experienced photographer to easily take well-exposed, sharp pictures of people, scenery and close-ups by simply pointing and shooting the camera.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1
Front Front

The Camera / Play button on the rear of the camera enables you to quickly and easily switch from shooting to playback without also changing the shooting mode. The E.Zoom button cleverly zooms to the full telephoto focal length at a much faster speed than normal (and then back to wide-angle with a second push). Very useful if you need to quickly zoom in on a far-away subject. Panasonic have confused things slightly by mixing in Extra Optical Zoom (read the next section) with the E.Zoom feature, as a second press of the E.Zoom button automatically activates the 15.6x zoom, 3 megapixel setting (annoyingly this can't be turned off).

The Extra Optical Zoom function works by digitally increasing the zoom from 8x up to a maximum of 15.6x by only using the central part of the image. To achieve that increase, though, a smaller image size has to be used. Choosing the 3 megapixel mode means that you can zoom up to 15.6x, whilst 5 megapixel provides a 12.5x zoom, and 8 megapixel is 9.8x (all in the 4:3 aspect ratio). Fairly useful if you don't mind the decrease in resolution. When activated, EZ is displayed next to the horizontal zooming scale.

Also on the rear of the camera is the Q.Menu button which provides quick access to most of the principal controls, including ISO speed, image size, image quality and white balance (there are 9 settings in total). You can still access all of these options from the main menu system too. Optical image stabilisation is only accessible through the DMC-ZX1's menu system. This isn't really a problem in practice, as I left it turned on for 99% of the time without negatively affecting the battery life.

The ZX1 can record 720p video at 1280x720 pixels at 30 or 15 fps in the Motion JPG format. There's no dedicated video button as on other recent Panasonic compacts, which means that you need to turn the Shooting Mode dial to the Video position and then press the shutter button to begin recording. You can also use the zoom lens during recording and really make the most of that 25-200mm focal range. The various movie options are now sensibly stored in a new, easy to understand Motion Picture menu. On the negative side, you'll find that the lens zooms more slowly than when shooting a still image, and if you choose continuous auto-focus, areas of the video will be blurred before becoming sharp again as the camera tries to refocus. The sound recording is mono not stereo, there's no clever wind-cut option, and also no HDMI port for connecting to a HDTV.

As with all current Panasonic models, the ZX1 has an anti-shake system, now upgraded to POWER O.I.S. Turn it on and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 automatically compensates for camera shake, which is a slight blurring of the image that typically occurs at slow shutter speeds when the camera is hand held. There are two different modes, Mode 1 is on all the time including image composition, and Mode 2 is only on when you press the shutter button. An Auto setting is also available if you're not sure which one to use. Panasonic claim that the new POWER O.I.S. system is twice as effective as the older MEGA O.I.S, and while its difficult to make a direct comparison, I found that it does make a noticeable difference, as shown in the examples on the Image Quality page. You don't notice that the camera is actually doing anything different when anti-shake is turned on, just that you can use slower shutter speeds than normal and still take sharp photos. Thankfully leaving the anti-shake system on didn't negatively affect the battery-life, with the camera managing over 300 shots using the supplied rechargeable Li-ion battery.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

Panasonic also provide a High Sensitivity Mode to help combat the effects of camera shake. When this scene mode is selected, the camera automatically raises the ISO speed up to a maximum of 6400 and therefore allows for a faster shutter speed. This mode allows you to handhold the camera without using the flash and get more natural results, whilst at the same time freezing subject movement more successfully. There are some obvious drawbacks with this special scene mode, principally a significant increase in noise and blurring - Panasonic state that "Pictures may appear slightly grainy due to high sensitivity". You also need to select the scene mode and therefore have some idea about when it is applicable to your subject, and the resolution is reduced to 3 megapixels.

The Intelligent ISO mode is the third way in which the DMC-ZX1 attempts to avoid subject blur in low-light conditions. The camera automatically sets the appropriate shutter speed AND ISO speed for the subject that you are taking pictures of. So if you're taking shots of a child indoors, the DMC-ZX1 automatically raises the ISO and in turn the shutter speed to avoid blurring the child's movement. If the subject is still, then the camera chooses a lower sensitivity and slower shutter speed. It's a clever idea that works well in practice, with the camera generally choosing an appropriate combination of shutter and ISO speed. You can also limit the maximum ISO speed that the camera can choose, which I'd strongly advise, as ISO 1600 produces very noisy images - ISO 800 is a better maximum setting.

The main menu system on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 is straight-forward to use and is accessed by pressing the Menu/Set button in the middle of the navigation pad. Depending on which shooting mode you're using, here are three menu options, Record, the new Travel Mode or Motion Picture, and Setup. Most of the camera's main options, such as white balance, image quality, auto-focus mode and ISO speed, are accessed here. As mentioned previously, the addition of the Quick Menu button on the rear of the camera speeds up access to some of the more commonly used options. Due to the large LCD screen and restricting the number of on-screen choices to five, the various options and icons are clear and legible. If you have never used a digital camera before, or you're upgrading from a more basic model, reading the easy-to-follow manual before you start is a good idea, especially as a few of the buttons are specific to Panasonic cameras. Thankfully Panasonic have chosen to supply it in printed format, rather than as a PDF on a CD, so you can also carry it with you for easy reference.

The start-up time from turning the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 on to being ready to take a photo is very quick at around 1 second. Zooming from the widest focal length to the longest is a little slower at around 2.5 seconds, but focusing is very quick in good light, backing up Panasonic's claims of a two-fold increase compared to the DMC-TZ7. The camera achieves focus most of the time indoors or in low-light situations, helped by the focus-assist lamp. We also didn't have too many problems locking onto the subject at the tele-photo end of the lens in low-light situations. The ZX1 is especially quick to find focus if you use the 1-point high-speed AF option. It takes about 1 second to store an image, allowing you to keep shooting as they are being recorded onto the memory card - there is no LCD blackout between each image. The ZX1 has a disappointingly slow Burst mode which enables you to take 2.3 frames per second at the highest JPEG image quality, up to a maximum of 5 images in Standard mode and just 3 images in Fine mode. In the High-speed Burst shooting mode 10 shots per second can be recorded, but only at 3 megapixels. The Flash Burst mode makes it possible to take 5 consecutive shots with continuous emissions of the flash.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 has a good range of options when it comes to playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can instantly scroll through the images that you have taken, view thumbnails (up to 30 onscreen at the same time and in a special Calendar view), zoom in and out up to 16x magnification, view slideshows, delete, protect, trim, resize, copy and rotate an image. You can also select favourite images, sort images into categories, change an image's aspect ratio, add a text stamp, add a soundclip and set the print order. Face Recognition playbacks only the photos that contain a certain face. The Display button toggles detailed settings information about each picture on and off, such as the ISO rating and aperture / shutter speed, and there is a small histogram available during both shooting and playback. When taking a photo, pressing the Display button toggles between the detailed information, the detailed information plus gridlines to aid composition, and no information at all.

In summary, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 is a very responsive and easy-to-use point and shoot camera offering an incredibly versatile focal range for such a small device.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5.5Mb.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 produced images of very good quality during the review period. The 1/2.33 inch, 12 megapixel sensor used in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 produces noise-free images at ISO 100 and 200, with ISO 400 also looking good, although there's slight loss of saturation. ISO 800 shows some quite obvious noise and softening of fine detail, and ISO 16000 is even noisier, although still OK for small prints and web images. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 dealt extremely well with chromatic aberrations, with limited purple fringing effects appearing only at the edges of the frame in high contrast situations. The built-in flash is rather under-powered but worked fairly well indoors, with no red-eye and adequate exposure. The night photograph was excellent, with the maximum shutter speed of 60 seconds allowing you to capture plenty of light. Anti-shake works very well when hand-holding the camera in low-light conditions or when using the telephoto end of the zoom range. Macro performance is good, allowing you to focus as close as 3 cms away from the subject. The images were a little soft straight out of the DMC-ZX1 at the default sharpening setting and ideally require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, as you can't change the in-camera setting.


There are 6 ISO settings available on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)


ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)


ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


Here are two 100% Crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. Unfortunately you can't change the in-camera sharpening level.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


File Quality

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 has 2 different image quality settings available, with Fine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

10M Fine (5.87Mb) (100% Crop) 10M Normal (2.82Mb) (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 handled chromatic aberrations excellently during the review, with very limited purple fringing present around the edges of objects in certain high-contrast situations, as shown in the example below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)


The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 3cms away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


The flash settings on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 are Auto, Auto/Red-eye Reduction, Forced On, Slow Sync./Red-eye Reduction, Forced Off. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Forced Off - Wide Angle (25mm)

Forced On - Wide Angle (25mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Forced Off - Telephoto (200mm)

Forced On - Telephoto (200mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Flash On or the Auto/Red-eye Reduction settings caused any red-eye.

Forced On

Forced On (100% Crop)

Auto/Red-eye Reduction

Auto/Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1's maximum shutter speed is 60 seconds in the Starry Sky Mode scene mode (there are also 15 and 30 second options) and 8 seconds in the Night Scenery mode, which is great news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 15 seconds at ISO 80. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like. The camera takes the same amount of time again to apply noise reduction, so for example at the 15 second setting the actual exposure takes 30 seconds.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Anti Shake

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 has an anti-shake mechanism, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, I took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with anti shake turned off, the second with it turned on. Here are some 100% crops of the images to show the results. As you can see, with anti shake turned on, the images are much sharper than with anti shake turned off. This feature really does seem to make a difference and could mean capturing a successful, sharp shot or missing the opportunity altogether.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Anti Shake Off (100% Crop)

Anti Shake On (100% Crop)

1/2 sec / 25mm
1/2 sec / 200mm

High Dynamic

The High Dynamic mode is an interesting new scene mode which helps to capture a scene with even exposure even if it contains extreme bright and dark areas. There are three options, Standard, Art, or B/W, making your photos look natural or more artistic.

High Dynamic Off

High Dynamic - Standard

High Dynamic - Artistic High Dynamic - B&W

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 camera, which were all taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1280x720 at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 19 second movie is 69.5Mb in size.

Product Images

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1

Front of the Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1

Front of the Camera / Lens Extended

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1

Isometric View

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1

Isometric View

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1

Rear of the Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1

Rear of the Camera / Main Menu

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1

Rear of the Camera / Quick Menu


Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1

Top of the Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1

Bottom of the Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1

Side of the Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1

Side of the Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1

Front of the Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1

Front of the Camera

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1

Memory Card Slot

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1

Battery Compartment


The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 bridges the gap between the popular FX and TZ series cameras, offering the small size of the former combined with a similar focal range to the latter. Super-quick auto-focusing and improved image stabilisation help to sweeten the deal, although the video mode and LCD screen aren't as good as the TZ7's.

We've never seen such a small camera with such a long zoom lens before. The combination of an ultra-compact, lightweight and well-made body with the 8x, 25-200mm lens is a real winner, covering most photographic situations that you'll encounter, from wide-angle land- and city- scapes to close-up candids. There is inevitably some barrel distortion evident at the 25mm setting, but it's not too noticeable and more than made up for by the sheer versatility of the ZX1. Limiting the maximum range to 8x/200mm, combined with the improved POWER O.I.S system, also means that you get less blurry shots when hand-holding the camera.

Panasonic have also made significant strides with their autofocus technology, with the ZX1 very quickly locking onto your intended subject almost regardless of the lighting conditions and zoom setting. There weren't too many occasions when the camera struggled to focus, and focus quickly too. The ZX1 felt noticeably quicker than the TZ6/7. Unfortunately there haven't been any improvements to the burst shooting speed, which at just over 2fps is starting to literally lag behind rivals like the Sony Cyber-Shot TX1 (capable of an extraordinary 10fps at full resolution).

The ZX1 delivers on the image quality side of things, with ISO 100-400 perfectly usable for most photos with ISO 800 reserved for low-light situations. It dealt extremely well with chromatic aberrations, colours were a little muted but accurate, and macro performance was good - only slightly soft images and an under-powered built-in flash detracted from the overall performance.

The HD video feature is difficult to judge, being better than lots of rivals but not as good as the more expensive TZ7, which this camera will inevitably be compared to. 720p HD video on such a compact camera is appealing, but there's no dedicated video button, stereo sound, AVCHD format, wind-cut option or HDMI port. If video is high on your list of priorities, then the TZ7 makes more sense.

Which leaves us with an otherwise excellent pocket camera that's easy to recommend if you don't need more advanced manual controls or the best possible HD video. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1's combination of size, speed and that remarkable lens is simply too compelling to ignore.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4.5
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 5
Image quality 4.5
Value for money 4

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZX1 from around the web. »

The DMC-ZX1 is Panasonic's all-new 'Super Compact Camera'. Squeezed into a matt silver casing no bigger than a packet of Marlboro Lights you'll find a 12.1-megapixel machine ready and eager to take snaps at the push of a button. The DMC-ZX1 is the latest addition to the award-winning Panasonic Lumix range of cameras. It's the younger sibling to the more powerful Panasonic TZ series, with the DMC-ZX1 trying to push the boundaries of what we've come to expect from today's truly compact compacts.
Read the full review » »

If you're looking for a compact zoom camera, the DMC-ZR1 is one of the best, if you can forgive some performance issues in terms of burst speed and average video quality.
Read the full review »



Camera Effective Pixels 12.1 Megapixels
Sensor Size / Total Pixels / Filter 1/2.33-inch / 12.7 Total Megapixels / Primary Colour Filter
Aperture F3.3 - 5.9 / 2-Step (F3.3 - 10 (W) / F5.9 - 18 (T))
Optical Zoom 8x
Focal Length f=4.5-36.0mm (25-200mm in 35mm equiv.)
Extra Optical Zoom (EZ) 9.8x (4:3 / 8M), 12.5x (4:3 / 5M), 15.6x (under 3M)
Lens LEICA DC VARIO-ELMAR / 9 elements in 7 groups / (4 Aspherical Lenses)
Optical Image Stabilizer POWER O.I.S. (Auto / Mode1 / Mode2)
Digital Zoom 4x / ( Max. 32.0 x combined with Optical Zoom without Extra Optical Zoom ) / (Max.62.5x combined with Extra Optical Zoom)
Focusing Area Normal: Wide 50cm - infinity / Macro / Intelligent AUTO : Wide 3cm / Tele 100cm - infinity
Focus Range Display Yes
AF Assist Lamp Yes
Focus Normal / Macro, Zoom Macro, Continuous AF (On / Off), AF Tracking (On / Off), Quick AF (On / Off)
AF Metering Face / AF Tracking / Multi (11pt) / 1pt HS / 1pt / Spot
Shutter Speed 8-1/2000 sec / Starry Sky Mode : 15, 30, 60sec.
Shutter Interval 1.1 sec

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