are here: Home > Digital Camera Reviews > Panasonic
ZR1 / ZX1
Panasonic ZR1 / ZX1 Review
Date: Oct 02, 2009
Photoxels Editor's Choice 2009 - Compact Ultra Zoom
Wednesday, September 23, 2009 - Here's what I receive
in the box:
- Panasonic ZR1 (blue body)
- No memory card
- Wrist Strap
- Rechargeable Li-ion Battery BMW-BCG10PP 3.6V
895mAh 3.3Wh (with case)
- Battery Charger DE-A65
- Interface Cables: USB, A/V (A/V cable may not be included outside of N.A.)
- English and French Instruction Manuals: Basic Operating
- Software CD: Digital Camera 2.4 (PHOTOfunSTUDIO 4.0, [Advanced] Operating Instructions English, French, Portuguese, Spanish)
Shave a few mm to the right, shave a few mm to the left, use a little less optical zoom, hold off on a couple of manual features, and Panasonic manages to squeeze an 8x ultra wide-angle optical zoom camera into a body about 1 inch thick. The result is a digital camera that is very pocketable and that you can take anywhere. Fortunately, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1 delivers great images in one of the best designed compact ultra zoom ever, earning it our Photoxels Editor's Choice 2009 - Compact Ultra Zoom award.
Overall user experience is very positive. The mix of features and zoom power seems just right for a camera this size, and I find myself reaching out for the ZR1 every time when deciding which camera to take with me when I step out of the house. It's not that other comparable compact ultra zoom digital cameras do not have the same feature set or even more powerful zoom, it's just that it's immensely easy to use the ZR1: its intelligent auto everything mode simply works!
Though "just" a point-and-shoot digital camera, the Lumix ZR1 has not forgotten the more advanced photographers: there is manual WB for accurate color reproduction when it matters; it even gives you WB adjust [press UP Arrow 3 times] if you really want the color to be exact! There is Live Histogram to nail the exposure right. You can display Guide Lines and Live Histogram together. You can even zoom while filming videos (though you will also record a faint zoom and autofocus noise). A neat feature is the Focusing Distance Display which displays the allowable shooting range above the zoom bar. The Panasonic ZR1 has a hard plastic port door that conveniently stays opens to allow easy access to the ports. Sometimes, it's the little things that make or break a camera -- that makes the user experience a positive or negative one.
There are not any major negatives to speak of, per se, but just be aware of the following:
- LCD does not gain up in low light. Unless you take pictures in the dark, this should not matter. Though it would have been nice to have.
- As with any other camera that uses a REC/Playback switch, you can't just touch the shutter release button to quickly return to shooting mode. Not a biggie for me, just have to get used to it.
- Mode Dial has a good rotation tensile, but since it is placed on top, it's quite exposed, and retrieving the camera from your pocket may knock the mode dial to a different setting. Doesn't happen every time. So, make it a habit to check.
A couple of other things to be aware of where the ZR1 differs from the ZX1. For some [marketing, no doubt] reasons, the Panasonic ZR1 [North America] and ZX1 [rest of the world] come with different accessories and features. For example, my review ZR1 comes with an A/V cable; I read from reviewers in Asia and Europe that there is no A/V cable included with the ZX1. The ZX1 records and outputs HD movie (you will need to also purchase the optional HD component cable DMW-HDC2 and confirm that the TV you are connecting to has a component input terminal compatible with a 1080i signal); the ZR1 records but does not output HD movie.
The Advanced manual is now a PDF document on the CD ROM. The disadvantage is that you cannot take it with you easily; the advantage is that it is searchable. However, some terms are too restrictive. For example, if you search for "movie" you won't find a match; you'll need to search for "motion picture."
For North America, Panasonic includes only PHOTOfunSTUDIO 4.0 (no ArcSoft Panorama Maker). It can be a bit buggy: I lost my scroll bar and some images did not display, throwing me into panic mode. [The bug disappears when you move the slider to adjust the size of the thumbnails and the screen refreshes.] It does everything you need it to: transfer ("copy") images from your camera to computer, and do simple editing: Brightness & Contrast, Hue & Saturation, Sharpness, Sepia, Negative, Grey Scale, Red Eye Remov[al], Auto Enhancement. It's user interface, tough, could do with major improvements: it dates back to the 80's, with distracting flashing arrows, low quality thumbnails, and annoying confirmation pop ups everytime you click a button. It also indexes pictures to where you uploaded them to; move them using another application (e.g. Windows Explorer or Adobe Photoshop) and suddenly you have broken links everywhere. If that should happen to you, simply refresh all the affected folders, and it's fixed.
Here are four reasons why I simply love the ZR1:
- 8x Wide-Angle Image Stabilized Zoom. The 8x optical zoom covers a satisfying 25mm (equiv.) ultra wide-angle to a long 200mm (equiv.). I love the wide-angle coverage because I can capture wide landscapes as well as include everyone in a large group shot. The tele reach brings far away subjects real close. Add 3cm macro, and there is not much that is happening out there that the ZR1 cannot easily enough capture.
- Super Compact. The Panasonic ZR1 is super compact and light that I can carry it in my trousers pocket. A jeans pocket is a tight fit and I would not recommend it. Many will prefer to protect it in a soft case and carry that from their belt or in a purse.
- Fast Performance. As expected, the ZR1 focuses fast and precise, making it a joy to use.
- Intelligent Auto Everything. The Intelligent Auto (iA) shooting mode really works! In fact, I don't bother to use any other mode to capture well exposed and great looking shots. The Panasonic ZR1 takes very good quality images at the low ISOs and even the high ISO images up to ISO 400 are perfectly acceptable.
For those into underwater photography, there is an optional marine case (DMW-MCZX1) that is certified to a depth of 40 meters.
If you are looking for one digital camera that has pretty much everything you need for snapshooting, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1 is a well-designed ultra zoom digital camera that will make many point-and-shoot photographers happy. Just set it to iA shooting mode for hassle-free shooting under almost all conditions. Now in an even more compact body.