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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Panasonic ZR1

Panasonic Digital Cameras


Panasonic ZR1 Review

Review Date: Oct 02, 2009

Category: Point-and-Shoot

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1 / ZX1

Photoxels Editor's Choice 2009 - Compact Ultra Zoom
Photoxels Editor's Choice 2009 - Compact Ultra Zoom 


The Panasonic ZR1 is targeted to point-and-shoot photographers desiring an easy-to-use ultra zoom digital camera. It has 12.1 megapixel resolution on a 1/2.33-in. CCD image sensor, and an 8x ultra wide-angle optical zoom (25-200mm equiv.) lens, with a maximum aperture of F3.3(W)-F5.9(T).

We find the overall image quality of the Panasonic ZR1 to be very good at ISO 80 with low noise and good image detail. Image quality is good up to ISO 400; at higher ISOs, images suffer from noise and loss of detail.

8x Wide-angle Optical Zoom
Wide-angle 25mm Telephoto 200mm
Wide-angle 4.5mm
(25mm, 35mm equivalent)
Telephoto 36mm
(200mm, 35mm equivalent)

The Panasonic ZR1 has an 8x ultra wide-angle optical zoom lens with Panasonic's new POWER Optical Image Stabilization (O.I.S.). In the above pictures, we show the coverage for 25mm and 200mm. We love the 25mm ultra wide-angle coverage that allows us to capture real wide landscapes! The POWER O.I.S. helps reduce camera shake at the long end of the telephoto and when using slow shutter speeds.

4.5mm [25mm], Intelligent AUTO [Macro], Multi-Pattern, 1/640 sec., F3.3, ISO 80

Macro can be as close as 3 cm (1 in.) at wide-angle.

AF is fast (especially when using the 1-area High Speed AF), works very well in good light and even in low-light. There is only one metering mode: Intelligent Multiple (i.e., Multi-Pattern), which works very well in all lighting situations.

White Balance Indoors
AWB Custom WB
AWB Custom WB

As the above two pictures show, the Auto White Balance (AWB) is not quite accurate indoors under artificial lighting [I have two energy-saving fluorescent light bulbs on the ceiling]. Fortunately, the Panasonic ZR1 allows WB to be easily set manually and this brings out the real colors. Most P&S digital camera does not provide manual WB, so this is a real bonus! AWB works very well in natural light.

ISO Comparisons
ISO 80
ISO 80
ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800
ISO 400 ISO 800
ISO 1600  
ISO 1600  

You can set the ISO on the Panasonic ZR1 from 80 to 1600, plus a high ISO 6400 in High Sensitivity scene mode. The 100% crops above (area delimited by the white square) demonstrate that noise at ISO 80, 100 and 200 is under control. Noise starts to be more visible at ISO 400 but is still usable, and ISO 800 is also quite usable at small prints and for Web display. At ISO 1600, the presence of noise is clearly visible at full image size and with visible loss of detail.

ISO 6400 [3M]
ISO 6400

The High Sensitivity scene mode boosts the sensitivity up to ISO 6400, but reduced to 3M resolution. It looks very noisy and splotchy, with loss of image detail.

Chromatic Aberrations

CA is not really a problem in everyday shots. In the above photo, the top right area delimited by the red square, and reproduced at 100% crop at bottom right, shows negligible purple fringing.

Long Shutter Speed
Long Exposure
10.3mm [57mm], Starry Sky, Multi-Pattern, 60 sec., F4.6, ISO 80
Self-timer 10 sec., Tripod Used

The Panasonic ZR1 allows the use of a long shutter speed of 15 sec., 30 sec. or 60 sec. in Starry Sky scene mode (only up to 1 sec. in P, or up to 8 sec. in i-Night Scenery). This allows us to take some very nice Night Shots. The Panasonic ZR1 has special noise reduction (NR) that automatically kicks in at the long shutter speeds 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. Some digital cameras leave you "in the dark" forcing you to do your own mental countdown. You can cancel saving the picture at anytime, either during the picture taking countdown or during noise reduction processing.

To test the long shutter speed, I take a low-light indoors shot using 60 sec. at F4.6, ISO 80. I turn off all lights in the room to simulate night conditions. The AF-assist Illuminator helps achieve focus.

A histogram can be displayed during Shooting Mode and Playback mode. The histogram is invaluable in giving an indication of under- and over-exposure (don't rely on the LCD/EVF since the image on the LCD auto-brightens and so can be misleading).

Panasonic is now equipping all of its digital cameras with the High Dynamic Range scene mode. We decide to test it out.

High Dynamic Scene Mode
No HD HD - Standard
Normal HD - Standard
HD - Art HD - B&W
HD - Art HD - B&W

As you can see on the HD - Standard picture, High Dynamic scene mode can make a big difference compared to the "Normal" picture where the sky is blown out. However, if you look at the grass, you'll notice that it has lost quite a bit of detail in the HD versions. I would have liked HD to only affect the highlights and deep shadows, instead of the whole image. So, it's not perfect and there are compromises, but it's useful nonetheless in certain situations.

Overall, very good image quality and the availability of manual WB and Live Histogram is a bonus for more advanced photographers. It is very easy in point-and-shoot mode (Intelligent AUTO) to obtain beautiful pictures, and the High Dynamic scene mode may be useful in some situations.

The pictures in the Panasonic ZR1 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 4000 x 3000 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 bandwidth. Thanks!


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