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Panasonic FZ7 Review
Date: Apr 24, 2006
to Serious Amateur
The Panasonic FZ7 is a digital camera
targeted to beginner and serious amateur photographers.
It has 6.0 megapixel resolution on a 1/2.5 in.
CCD image sensor, and a 6-72mm (36-432mm, 35 mm
equivalent) 12x optical zoom lens, with a maximum
aperture of F2.8(W)-F3.3(T), and minimum aperture
We find the overall image quality of the Panasonic
FZ7 to be very good to excellent with lots of
detail. Noise is very low at ISO 80 though chrominance
noise may be slightly visible in the shadows when
viewing the images at full size on screen.
(36mm, 35mm equivalent)
(432mm, 35mm equivalent)
The Panasonic FZ7 has a 12x optical zoom lens
for very clear and detailed images. In the above
pictures, we show the coverage for 36mm and 432mm.
It's one of the longest reach in consumer digital
cameras, plus it comes with a very effective image
stabilization, which helps to reduce camera shake
when hand holding at long focal lengths. We also
like the relatively large F3.3 maximum aperture
at the long end of the zoom.
|6mm, Programmed Auto, Multi-Pattern,
1 sec., F2.8, ISO 80
Macro can be as close as 5 cm (2 in.) at wide-angle
or 1 m (3.28 ft) at max telephoto ("Tele-macro").
Tele-macro is convenient when you cannot move
close to your subject but still want to cover
a small area. Interestingly, in A, S and M modes,
you don't need to select macro mode on the Mode
Dial to move in as close as 5 cm.
AF is fast (especially when using the 1-area
High Speed AF) and works very well even in low-light.
In extreme low-light, the AF Assist Lamp kicks
in automatically (if you've set it ON in the menu)
to help achieve focus. Auto focus is very accurate
and locks without hunting even at the extreme
long end of the zoom. Once focus locks, it stays
locked at that distance even when you remove your
finger from the shutter button and recompose;
when you press the shutter button fully to take
a picture, focus seems to still stay locked at
that particular distance.
One feature I miss is an AF Area mode (where
you can position the AF frame to any position
on the screen). You also cannot lock focus and
exposure independently of each other.
There are three metering modes:
Multiple (Multi-Pattern), Center-weighted, and
As the above two pictures show, the Auto White
Balance (AWB) is not quite accurate indoors under
artificial lighting [I have those special white
light fluorescent bulbs]. The Panasonic FZ7 allows
WB to also be set manually via the Menu. AWB works
very well in natural light.
Besides Auto white balance, you can select Daylight,
Cloudy, Halogen, Flash, White Set 1, White Set
2, Manual. You can save 2 custom WB settings (White
Set 1, White Set 2).
You can set the ISO on the Panasonic FZ7 from
80 to 400. The 100%
crops above (area delimited by the white square)
demonstrate that noise at ISO 80 is under control,
though chromatic (coloured) noise is finely visible
at full image size. Noise starts to be more visible
at ISO 100 but is still usable. At ISO 200 and
400, the presence of chrominance noise in the
form of coloured splotches is clearly visible
at full image size.
New is a High Sensitivity scene mode that allows
you to select ISO 800 or 1600 (or a range between
ISO 800 and 1600, if set to Auto).
Looks kind of blurry? In fact, the user manual
states the following: "A slight blurring
of the subject is created when taking pictures
indoors etc." I've taken a number of shots
and the ISO 800 appears to be more blurry than
the one taken at ISO 1600 on my review camera.
The fact that it is a scene mode tells me that
it is some kind of in-camera digital processing
of the captured image. In that scene mode, you
also cannot specify WB. So, it's not quite like
the FZ7 has true ISO 800 and 1600 low-light capability.
Use with discretion.
CA is not really a problem in everyday shots,
though apparent in some very high contrast shots.
In the above photo, the corner delimited by the
red square, and reproduced at 100% crop at bottom
right, shows about the most purple fringing we've
encountered in our image samples.
|6mm, Shutter-Priority, Multi-Pattern,
5 sec., F2.8, ISO 80
Manual WB, Macro, Self-timer 10 sec., Tripod
The Panasonic FZ7 allows the use of a long shutter
speed of up to 60 sec. in Manual Mode (1 sec.
in P, 8 sec. in A and S). This allows you to take
some very nice Night Shots. Generally, with CCD
image sensors, noise usually becomes more prominent
at slow shutter speeds. The Panasonic FZ7 has
special noise reduction (NR) algorithms that automatically
kicks in at shutter speeds of 1 sec. and slower
and you'll notice aprox. twice the processing
time before the next picture can be taken. I like
that there is a countdown of the long shutter
speed as well as of the "signal processing"
(noise reduction) time displayed on screen.
To test this noise reduction algorithm, we take
a low-light indoors shot using a long shutter
speed of 5 sec. The NR works quite well. The AF
worked very well in low-light, and the AF-assist
Lamp made for precise and fast focus lock [again,
depends on how contrasty your subject is].
The Panasonic FZ7 has a flash that is effective
up to 6m (19.7 ft.) at max. wide-angle when sensitivity
is set to AUTO. Movie is now 640 x 480 pixels
[4:3] or 848 x 480 [16:9], both at 30fps.
The last feature we will mention is the histogram.
A histogram can be displayed during Shooting Mode
and Playback mode. Also, if you set Highlight
Display to ON [MENU - SETUP - HIGHLIGHT = ON],
any white saturated area will blink in B&W
in Review (but not Payback) mode. The histogram
and Highlight display are invaluable to give an
indication of under- and over-exposure (don't
rely on the LCD/EVF since the brightness is adjustable,
auto brightens, and thus will be misleading).
Overall, very good to excellent image quality
for a 6.0MP digital camera: sharp pictures, very
good image detail, beautiful colours, well-exposed.
The pictures in the Panasonic FZ7 Photo Gallery
page provide a good sample of what the camera
is capable of. I have provided samples at 800x600
pixels (compressed to Quality 60/100 in Photoshop
Elements) as well as the 2816 x 2112 pixels original
size (click on the image for the original version).
You can safely assume that most macro shots
and slow shutter speed shots required the use
of a tripod (due to the effective image stabilization,
the use of a tripod was restricted to the long
shutter speeds). Any image that is adjusted for
levels in Photoshop has "_adjusted"
appended to the file name (though the original
sized image is, of course, not adjusted).
I have defaulted the image size to 800x600 pixels.
For those who have their monitor resolution set
to 1024x728 pixels, everything should snugly fit
and you should not have to scroll to see the whole
image. If your monitor is set to 800x600 pixels
resolution, start the slide show and then scroll
to the right to position the image within your
screen width. Then, press F11 (if you are using
Internet Explorer) to switch to full screen mode,
and the image should fill your screen nicely.
Press F11 again at any time to switch your monitor
display back to normal mode.
To return to this page from the Photo Gallery,
click on the animated graphics of the camera.
Please open and download the original size version
only if you need to and only once
to your hard drive -- and save me some precious