Friday, March 31, 2006 - Here's what I receive
in the box:
Panasonic FZ7 (Silver body)
16MB SD memory card
Lens cap and Lens Hood (with included Adapter)
Rechargeable Li-ion Battery and Battery Charger
Interface Cables: A/V, USB
English and French Instruction Manuals: Operating
Software CDs: Digital Camera 2.4 (ArcSoft
PhotoImpression 5, ArcSoft Panorama Maker 3,
ArcSoft PhotoBase 4.5, Lumix Simple Viewer 1.1E,
Panasonic PHOTOfunSTUDIO -viewer- 1.1E, USB
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7 is targeted
to beginner and serious photographers desiring
a long zoom digital camera that gives great results.
The Panasonic FZ7 easily fits the bill and remains
a fun camera to use.
I loved the Panasonic FZ5 when I reviewed it
last September and I was curious as to what improvements
went into the Panasonic FZ7. I am not disappointed:
in a body just slightly wider than the FZ5, the
Panasonic FZ7 remains very intuitive and user-friendly.
Startup is improved at slightly more than 2 sec.,
which is pretty fast for a long zoom lens. It
also still has one of the quickest AF we've seen
in a consumer digital camera, and no practical
shutter lag. Shot-to-shot times in bright daylight
are about 1 sec.
Improvements I like: the extra large 2.5-in.
LCD monitor (though regretably at lower resolution),
Program Shift, a SET button, Manual Focus, and
a Joystick that greatly adds to the usability
factor. I also like the 60 sec. shutter speed
in Manual Mode.
Other improvements: 6MP, much better Movie 848x480
@ 30fps, LCD gain-up, ability to accept conversion
lenses, better battery @ 320 shots/charge. USB
2.0 remains at regular full-speed.
One feature I was very interested in was
the new High Sensitivity ISO 800 and 1600
Image Stabilization helps reduce camera
shake caused by the photographer, but to
stop subject movement (e.g. a child running),
only a fast enough shutter speed (say, 1/125s)
However, indoors and in low-light situations,
there is usually not enough light for the
camera to use a fast shutter speed. A slow
shutter speed cannot freeze movement and
so a blurred picture usually results.
To be able to use a fast enough shutter
speed, you can either use the onboard flash
(or a bright external light source) or use
a higher ISO.
The latter is what the 'High Sensitivity'
scene mode does: boost the ISO to a high
800 and 1600.
How good is it?
According to Panasonic, this high sensitivity
mode "is made possible by the pixel-mixed
readout method of the new CCD." I haven't
seen any technical explanation what that
really means, but it does not really matter.
Bottom line is our sample images have lost
quite a bit of detail, and look very noisy
In retrospect, we should not be too surprised
by that result. So far, small image sensors
cannot produce clean low noise images at
such high ISOs -- in spite of what the friendly
marketing guys would like us to believe.
MENU & SETUP RECOMMENDATIONS
In setting up your Panasonic FZ7, I recommend
the following settings:
- AF MODE is set to 1-AREA (HIGH SPEED).
At this setting, autofocus is lightning
- At ISO 80, the camera delivers the lowest
noise and best image quality..
- PLAY ON LCD is set to ON so that when
you switch to Playback or Review mode, the
images will always show on the LCD monitor
even if you are currently using the EVF.
- HIGHLIGHT is set to ON so the potentially
overexposed bright areas will blink when
the image is viewed in Review mode. Some
users are put off by this extremely useful
feature, so turn it OFF if it bothers you.
- MF ASSIST is set to MF1 so only the center
area (where the AF is focusing on) is magnified
when using manual focus. Some users may
prefer MF2, which magnifies the whole screen.
- SCENE MENU is set to OFF. When you rotate
the Mode Dial to SCN, you are immediately
in the selected scene mode; press MENU to
select a different scene mode. When set
to AUTO, the Scene Menu will always display
when you rotate the Mode Dial to SCN.
- Image Stabilizer is set to MODE 2. If
your camera is on a tripod, turn image stabilization
OFF; select MODE1 if you like to see the
stabilizing effect live; the most effective
image stabilization is obtained using MODE2,
when image stabilization is engaged at the
time of recording the image.
For Canada, Panasonic has provided both the English
and French printed versions of the Operating Instructions.
We don't say that often, but we find them very
good. Though the type is small as in most other
manuals we've seen, the manual is logically organized,
with lots of white space, and finding anything
using either the Table of Contents or Index is
both quick and easy. Explanations are clearly
illustrated with appropriate drawings. You won't
need to go to the manual often but this camera
is fully featured that we recommend that you take
some time to familiarize yourself with all the
features; you might find an easy way to achieve
what you are trying to accomplish.
The zoom on the Panasonic FZ7 is an example for
others to follow. There are about 46 intermediate
steps from wide-angle to telephoto, thus allowing
precise framing. Most cameras give you at most
a dozen or less.
To transfer images from the camera to my PC running
Windows XP, all I have to do is simply connect
the USB cable from the camera (turned off) to
the PC. I then turn the Mode Dial to Playback,
turn on the camera and the camera is immediately
recognized as an external drive. Then it is simply
a matter of drag-and-drop in Windows Explorer.
LUMIX Simple Viewer
Or, use the LUMIX Simple Viewer to transfer and
index the images. The LUMIX Simple Viewer is used
by default to transfer, view and print images;
that's about all you can do with it.
Besides the LUMIX Simple Viewer, Panasonic also
includes the following applications on the CD
to transfer and view your images:
The PHOTOfunSTUDIO -viewer- allows you to transfer,
view and print, plus perform basic functions such
as resize, rotate, email, create a wallpaper,
Arcsoft PhotoBase 4.5 allows you to do the same
things as PHOTOfunSTUDIO -viewer- but a bit better.
And, finally, Arcsoft PhotoImpression 5 does
eveything above, plus basic editing functions
such as Red Eye Removal, Brightness/Contrast,
Color Adjust, Blur/Sharpen, plus create a photo
album or calendar. Arcsoft PhotoImpression 5 is
unfortunately so much slower than the other apps.
Note that one major shortcoming of the Arcsoft
applications is that they do not default back
to wherever you left off last. You have to painfully
browse to the directory you last used to save
Note that LUMIX Simple Viewer and PHOTOfunSTUDIO
do not show all important EXIF info: e.g. they
do not show the focal length used!?!? I have to
launch one of the Arcsoft application to find
the EXIF info I need.
Once all the images have been transferred, I
click the drive icon on my task bar and wait for
the signal that it is now OK to unplug the cable
at both end.
You can perform Multi Delete and select which
pictures to delete. In the above example, I have
selected picture 1 and 5 (marked with a trash
can symbol) to be deleted.
To erase all pictures from the memory card, I
put the camera in Playback (or Review) Mode, then
press the Delete button twice - ALL DELETE - Yes.
This is a much better implementation than in many
digital cameras where you have to go into the
MENU and scroll down and look for the Delete All
function. Another example of a user-friendly design
on the Panasonic FZ7.
Or, if you need to ensure all images are completely
wiped out on the memory card, simply reformat
everytime. Formatting a 1GB card takes a surprisingly
very short time, only a few seconds, so it might
only be a "Quick Format."
One last feature I will mention is Manual mode.
The Panasonic FZ7, as in a few other digital cameras,
provides "Manual Exposure Assistance."
How this works is that when you half-press the
shutter release button, a scale ranging from -2EV
to +2EV displays with a yellow/orange indicator
pointing to either 0 (indicates correct exposure),
a +ve number (indicates overexposure), or a -ve
number (indicates underexposure). What you want
to do is to align that indicator to point to 0.
Use the Joystick to change the shutter speed and/or
the aperture until you have correct exposure.
It's that easy! It's an approximation but this
makes using manual exposure a snap.
- Noise: noise is higher than average at ISO
80. If you plan to use the FZ7 mostly for bright
landscapes, you won't find it objectionable. Most
digital cameras competing in this category have
practically no (or extremely low) noise at their
lowest ISO setting.
- LCD is extra large at 2.5-in. but resolution
has been reduced. Competitors are providing much
higher resolution -- sometimes enough to judge
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7 continues
to be a best value for money and one of my very
favourite. In a compact, light and solidly built
body, it includes all the features desirable in
a digital camera and throws in a couple that are
hard to find in many other digital cameras: an
stabilization (the real type) and an accurate
High Speed AF. All of this wrapped in an interface
that is now even more intuitive to use.