Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ8 Review
By Movable Type Admin
Panasonic has recently released the Lumix DMC-LZ8. This is a compact digital camera that features an 8-megapixel imaging sensor, 5x
Leica optical zoom lens, Optical Image Stabilization (O.I.S.), full manual settings and an automatic shooting mode that takes all the
worry out of taking a picture. All this is crammed into a compact, stylish case that is available in several colors.
For 2008, Panasonic has added a new exposure mode to many of the offerings, Intelligent Auto (iA) mode. When using it, the camera will automatically select the correct scene mode for the current shooting situation. It does a good job at recognizing faces, lighting and distance allowing it to pick even one of the advanced scene modes. Next the camera will pick the correct ISO setting (you do have the ability to set the max ISO). Combining Auto ISO with the Mega O.I.S. system, the camera does an excellent job of reducing camera shake and blur. The final automatic option is the Face Detection, allowing the camera to correctly focus and adjust for the faces in the image and not the surroundings.
The LZ8 has been designed very well and is comfortable to hold/operate with your right or both hands. The zoom control around the shutter release makes zooming a breeze without taking your eye off the subject. The mode dial on top makes it easy to select your shooting mode, and the shortcut buttons and quick menu make changing all of the shooting settings quick and easy. The camera also features a 2.5" intelligent LCD screen. The screen will automatically adjust itself based on the amount of ambient light around it to assure you that you can always see it clearly. There is also a "high angle" setting that makes it easy to see off to the side or above and below.
Performance from the LZ8 was ok. It took 3.4 seconds for the camera to be able to capture its first image after being turned on. The shutter delay, averaged 1/10 of a second when prefocused, but took 8/10 of a second when allowing the camera to focus. The shot to shot delay was ok at just under 1.5 seconds per shot without the flash and very slow when using the flash at around 3 - 4 seconds per shot (mainly due to the camera using AA type batteries). The camera also offers two burst modes, which performed very well. In regular burst mode, the camera captures 4 images in just 1.3 seconds. Then there is continuous burst mode which captured 8-megapixel images at just over 2fps for a full ten seconds without slowing down. All of our tests were completed using an ATP Pro Max 4GB SDHC memory card, program shooting mode, ISO auto, flash off and all other settings on the factory defaults unless otherwise noted. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
Image quality when using 8M Fine mode was average when compared to similar models in this class. When shooting outdoors, the camera produced crisp, clear images with good exposures and colors. The Leica 5x optical zoom lens has a 35mm equivalent of 32-160mm, giving you an excellent wide angle end as well as a good telephoto coverage. The extra wide 32mm end is great for shooting large group photos and landscape photography, while the telephoto end gives you the ability to single out a person in a group for a close-up portrait or the ability to single out an object that is a little ways off in the distance. We found a moderate amount of barrel distortion at the wide angle extreme as well as a bit of edge softness. I also saw a few instances of purple fringing (aka chromatic aberrations) in areas of high contrast.
When using the LZ8 in portrait mode, it quickly finds and locks on to faces. The exposure and skin tones came out nice as long as you stayed within the flash range. One thing to watch on this camera is the Intelligent ISO and the minimum shutter speed can be adjusted, and if they are set too high, you will end up with some dark pictures. The listed flash range is 1.97 - 20.7' at ISO auto depending on the zoom position. When I was shooting anything over 10', no matter if it was wide or telephoto, the subject was dark. The best shots I captured were mid-telephoto from 6 to 8 feet away (ISO auto).
Like the FS3, the LZ8 can capture video in a variety or resolutions. You can choose from two aspect rations, standard 4:3 or a wide HD 16:9 format. This means you can record movies at 640x480, 320x240 or 848x480, with frame rates of 10 or 30fps. We found video quality was good. Our samples ran smoothly and there is very little visible compresion artifacts when shooting in good ambient lighting. However, there was some noticeable noise in the darker settings. The built-in mic did pick up a little noise from the wind outside, but overall the video is good.
Powering the LZ8 are 2 standard AA size batteries. The camera will operate on alkaline, NiMH or oxyride batteries. You do have to be careful though, as the camera has different settings for the different types of batteries. You need to select which type of batteries you are using via the menu system. If you are using alkaline or NiMH the camera will show the battery onscreen in white, if you are using oxyride, it will be show up in blue. We recommend using NiMH batteries (will net you about 470 pictures) as they will last approx. 3 times longer than alkaline (180 pictures), according to Panasonic.
Bottom Line - Panasonic's Lumix DMC-LZ8 is a compact 8-megapixel camera that will suit the needs of anyone in the family. The Intelligent Auto mode makes it easy for anyone to take excellent pictures and the full manual mode gives freedom to the more experienced photographer. Although the shooting performance was a little slow, the quality of the images is good and the camera is loaded with useful features to assist you in your picture taking fun. If the slower performance does not bother you, the DMC-LZ8 is a great deal at about US$180 or less.
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