Steve's Conclusion

Steve's SnapShot

  • 12-Megapixel High Sensitivity MOS image sensor
  • 3.0-Inch LCD Screen
  • Venus Engine image processor
  • 16x Leica Optical zoom lens: 24-384mm (35mm equivalent)
  • Power O.I.S.
  • Light Speed AF
  • Face Recognition
  • Auto Panorama
  • Dedicated Video Record Button
  • iAuto mode
  • 1080p HD video recording
  • 3D shooting mode
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card compatible
  • iAuto shooting mode is accurate and easy in all situations
  • Dedicated Video Capture Button is always ready to record
  • Easy to handle and operate
  • Great image quality
  • Power O.I.S. is very helpful when shooting on the move and keeping the full 16x optical zoom manageable when handheld
  • Bright and clear 3.0-inch LCD
  • Great shooting performance
  • HDMI output
  • Competitively priced
  • Average battery life, tests came up a bit short of the approx. number of images listed by Panasonic
  • Noise is pretty apparent after ISO 800
  • Not a noticeable difference with iAuto and HDR scene modes.
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 2.4 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 2/10 to 4/10 of a second
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 0.8 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 1.56 seconds
  • Sequential burst = Select between 2fps, 5fps, 10fps, 40fps (3M), 60fps (2.5M) all of which performed as suggested
  • Sequential flash burst = 1.67fps for 5 shots (3M)
  • High Speed Burst = 10fps 12M (4 images)
  • All tests were taken using an PNY Pro Class 10, 8GB SDHC memory card, Program Mode, ISO auto, Flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
Bottom Line
The Panasonic Lumix ZS15 is an excellent value; providing outstanding image quality, great performance and it's loaded with the newest high-quality features from Panasonic at an affordable price.
Pick This Up If...
You are looking for an affordable yet powerful and high quality compact digicam. You will not be disappointed whether you need an everyday camera or a compact camera to travel with.
Panasonic's Lumix DMC-ZS15 is a powerful yet compact digicam designed for those who are looking for higher quality images without carrying a full-sized camera. Sporting a 12.1-Megapixel High Sensitivity MOS imaging sensor, it actually has less resolution with the same sized sensor as last year's Lumix ZS10. This allows for better low-light performance, and faster processing thanks to the Venus Engine. The camera also features a 16x Leica DC optical zoom lens, 3.0-inch 460,000 dot LCD screen, Full 1080p HD video capture with Dolby Digital Sound, 3D image capture and an in-camera HDR mode for tricky lighting situations. Panasonic's iAuto shooting mode is also included and incorporates the HDR shooting mode as another way to make sure you get the best image possible with the camera set to iAuto.

With the same body style as last year's ZS10, handling and operating the ZS15 is easy in all aspects. With one or two hands, you can frame and capture images with ease, as well as work the camera's menu system. Its shooting modes allow anyone to pick it up and capture pleasing shots, while the manual modes will give anyone the freedom to shoot with total control. Composing your images is accomplished with the 3.0-inch, 460,000 dot LCD screen. With several levels of brightness and an auto setting, there are very few situations that you will find yourself in that you will not be able to clearly see it; which is good to know when you consider this is the only viewfinder.

Our outdoor image samples are very pleasing. The camera's creates excellent exposures that are crisp and clean, providing the photographer with exactly what they saw when they framed the shot. iAuto did a great job of adjusting the camera settings and choosing the correct scene mode for the situation. The powerful 16x Leica optical zoom lens offers a great deal of versatility with a 35mm equivalent zoom range of 24-384mm. This is a huge zoom range for a compact camera, which is sure to give you the angle of view you need for just about any shot; while still fitting in a pocket or purse without any problems.

Looking at our indoor sample images, we see great exposure both with and without the flash, a crisp image and very natural color tones for a realistic portrayal of what the photographer sees. Noise is kept very low for all of the ISO settings. Noise starts to become noticeable at ISO 800, and while it increases with the higher ISO settings, the amount of noise is acceptable for each setting. You will still only want to use anything over ISO 800 if you absolutely have to. Assisting with your low-light and indoor photography is a small built-in flash unit with a range of approx. 21ft, (W) at ISO auto. It works well in most situations as long as you stay as close as possible to your subject. The more you zoom in, the shorter the range will become. It is also a great fill light for backlit portrait shots.

Capturing portraits with the ZS15 is a snap. In iAuto mode or any other with the face detection turned on, the camera quickly detects faces, and does an excellent job of following them within the frame. It also features Face Recognition for any faces that you register with the camera. This allows the camera to prioritize these faces over any others that the camera detects. Looking at our sample images, we see outstanding focus and exposures with natural color and skin tones. We also did not see any redness in the eyes of our subjects when using the flash to light the scene or just as fill.

Your creativity can continue with some of the special shooting modes and color options provided by Panasonic. We tested the panoramic and 3D shooting modes and provided samples for you. Unfortunately we do not have a way to look at the 3D image so it has just been posted for those of you with 3D functionality. The panoramic shooting mode is incredibly easy to use, allowing you to just hold down the shutter release and turn the camera slowly. The only problem is the image quality, as our sample shows, it is not very sharp and shows a lot of image noise. It is more than enough for smaller panoramic prints, just don't expect to great a huge panoramic photo and hang it on your wall. Finally, we wanted to take a look at the camera's internal HDR capabilities. Unfortunately we did not see a noticeable difference between our iAuto image and our HDR image. This is a bit disappointing as it is a growing photography style.

Recording home movies with the ZS15 is as easy as pressing the dedicated video recording button next to the shutter release. This leaves the camera ready at all times to record, so you do not have to worry about changing the camera's shooting mode. Our sample video shows outstanding video and audio quality for a compact digicam. The videos are clear, sharp and play back smoothly on any source. The built-in mic captures all of the sound around the camera. While it will pick up some random background noise, if you stay away from things that make constant noise or out of the wind and close to your subjects, you will be happy with your sound.

Powering the ZS15 is a 3.6V, 895mAh Li-Ion rechargeable battery. Panasonic claim that the camera is capable of capturing up to 260 images on a single charge, which seems to be standard for a compact camera as of late. During our tests we were able to capture approx. 160 images and several short videos on a single charge. While the battery did not completely deplete, it was getting low, showing just one bar left on the battery. With the included USB adapter to charge the battery in the camera, it is a little harder to keep a spare battery charged and on hand, but not impossible. We still recommend a second battery, especially if you like taking long trips or traveling.

Bottom Line - Panasonic's Lumix ZS15 is a high-quality compact digicam. Featuring Panasonic's 12-Megapixel High Sensitivity MOS imaging sensor, Power O.I.S., 16x Leica optical zoom lens and their powerful Venus Engine, the ZS15 gives you outstanding low-light performance and image quality. It also allows for the camera's great shooting performance with both the AF and Burst shooting modes. With a MSRP of just $249.99 US, this is an excellent option for anyone looking for an affordable, yet high-quality digicam loaded with the best in new features from Panasonic.

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