Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7
An easy-to-use, long-zoom digicam with an excellent menu system and effective image stabilisation.Available in silver or black, Panasonic’s new DMC-FZ7 Lumix camera replaces the popular FZ5 and offers a higher-resolution sensor, larger LCD screen and a redesigned body that is slightly larger and heavier. The electronic viewfinder (EVF) has been relocated directly over the lens barrel, where it’s more comfortable to use and your nose is less likely to touch the LCD – an important feature with the enlarged monitor. A new omni-directional joystick makes manual focus and exposure easier to operate and a higher capacity battery allows up to 320 images to be recorded per charge. . . [more]
Available in silver or black, Panasonic’s new DCM-FZ7 Lumix camera replaces the popular FZ5 and offers a higher-resolution sensor, larger LCD screen and a redesigned body that is slightly larger and heavier. The electronic viewfinder (EVF) has been relocated directly over the lens barrel, where it’s more comfortable to use and your nose is less likely to touch the LCD – an important feature with the enlarged monitor. A new omni-directional joystick makes manual focus and exposure easier to operate and a higher capacity battery allows up to 320 images to be recorded per charge.
The 12x Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens zooms internally, which allows Panasonic to offer a range of accessories for the FZ7. The lens itself is unthreaded but its collar accepts a screw-in adapter for 55mm Panasonic accessories, such as wide-angle and telephoto lenses, a close-up lens, ND filter and lens protector, as well as the supplied, clip-on lens hood. The 12x optical zoom range can be extended to 48x with 4x digital zoom or up to 16.5x in 3-megapixel recording, using the Extra Optical Zoom (EOZ) function.
Five AF settings are provided. The default 9-area AF selects from an array of positions, depending on the subject. The 3-area high speed AF chooses from three focus points across the centre of the screen. One-area AF is available for high and normal speeds and reads from the centre of the screen. Spot AF reduces the central reading area. For the last three modes you can select continuous AF for tracking moving subjects. An AF Assist Lamp is provided for focusing in dim lighting.
Three aspect ratios are offered for image capture: the default 4:3 for all image sizes, 3:2 for 5MP shots for printing on 10 x 15cm paper, and 16:9 for EOZ shots with the 2MP resolution setting or 4.5MP without digital zoom. Another new addition is the widescreen (848 x 480 pixels) movie mode, which allows users to shoot 16:9 format movie clips at 30 frames/second.
Program Shift has been added to the FZ5’s ‘P’ mode, with adjustments via the joystick. Other additional shooting modes include Soft Skin, Food, Candle Light, Starry Sky and two Baby modes that allow the child’s age to be recorded and displayed with the picture. A special ‘High Sensitivity’ mode extends sensitivity to ISO 1600 and complements the Mega OIS stabilisation system, making the 12x zoom lens usable in even lower light levels.
Internal enhancements are also appealing. Panasonic has replaced the FZ5’s Picture Adjustment settings with adjustments for contrast, sharpness, saturation and noise reduction. Long exposure times have been extended from eight to 60 seconds, with exposures over eight seconds accessible in the manual and ‘starry sky’ shooting modes. The buffer memory has been enlarged and now accommodates 13 Standard JPEG shots – up from seven.
Like its predecessor, the FZ7 is small and light, with an excellent, easy-to-read menu system. We found the test camera’s image stabilization (‘Mega OIS’) to be very effective – and reliable enough for situations where you don’t want to use a tripod. Autofocusing was fast, although not always accurate at full zoom extension, especially in dim lighting. However, for closer subjects the AF Assist illumination was good enough to solve most problems. Overall performance in such conditions was good, although some colour mottling could be seen in shadows in shots taken at ISO400.
In bright lighting, the test camera produced images that were sharp and detailed with good colour accuracy and slightly elevated saturation. Imatest showed lateral chromatic aberration to be negligible and resolution to be adequate, although not outstanding. We found slight barrel distortion at the wide lens setting but no obvious pincushion distortion at full tele zoom. The lens delivered good edge-to-edge sharpness at all focal lengths and aperture settings, except with macro mode, where corner softening was visible. Digital zoom quality was well above average, especially with the Extra Optical Zoom. White balance performance was excellent with all settings.
The FZ7 took roughly three seconds to power-up and shut down. Capture lag averaged 0.7 seconds, reducing to less than 0.1 seconds with pre-focusing. The standard burst mode recorded at two frames/second, while the high-speed mode managed 3fps for 13 shots. 
Image sensor: 5.76 x 4.29mm CCD with 6.37 million photosites (6.0 megapixels effective)
Lens: Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 6.0-72.0mm f2.8-3.3 ASPH zoom (35-430mm in 35mm format)
Zoom ratio: 12x optical, up to 4x digital
Dimensions (wxhxd): 112.5 x 72.2 x 87.8mm
Weight: 310g (without battery and card)
Image formats: Stills – JPEG (Exif 2.2), TIFF (RGB); Movies – Quick Time Motion JPEG (848 x 480, VGA, QVGA at 30/10 fps)
Shutter speed range: 60-1/2000 sec.
Focus system/range: TTL Contrast-Detect AF System; range 30 cm to infinity; macro to 5cm.
Exposure metering/control: Intelligent Multiple, Centre-weighted, Spot metering; Auto, P, A, S and M shooting modes; 10 scene modes.
White balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Halogen, Flash, White Set (x2).
Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, forced on, slow synch, forced off; red-eye reduction available. Range 30 cm to 6 m.
ISO range: Auto, ISO 80, 100, 200, 400 (ISO 800, 1600 in High Sensitivity mode)
Sequence shooting: Up to 13 Standard images at 3 or 2 frames/sec
Storage Media: 16 MB Secure Digital card; holds 0 TIFF files, 5 high-resolution JPEG images or 16 low resolution JPEGs.
Viewfinder: 0.33-inch Colour EVF (114k pixels); Field of view: approx. 100%
LCD monitor: 2.5-inch Polycrystalline TFT LCD Display (114k pixels, Transflective Type)
Power supply: CGR-S006E lithium-ion Battery Pack (7.2V, 710 mAh)
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