The Panasonic TZ models have long been some of our favorite cameras around here, earning high marks from forum members and our staff testers alike for their versatility, simplicity, and solid all-around performance. The ZS3 builds on this strong foundation, starting with a redesigned lens that is, if anything, even sharper than the original TZ lens while adding 25mm wide-angle coverage. The ZS3 still gets Panasonic’s superb 3.0 inch high-res LCD as well, and with better-than-ever Intelligent Auto performance, novice shooters aren’t left out either.
Whether the ZS3 ultimately achieves the seamless “hybridization” that Panasonic claimed for this new model in its integration of video and still captures is an open question. Video performance is quite possibly the best you’ll find on a still camera, though casual shooters may be frustrated by a lack of post-processing options for the camera’s highest-quality 720p video files. If you’re able to put this, as well as few image quality and usability niggles, behind you, though, the ZS3 looks like another clear advancement in Panasonic’s compact ultrazoom line.
The ZS3 is certainly not without its flaws, but for the time being, it looks like Panasonic has yet again come up with the camera to beat in this increasingly crowded niche.
- Accurate, colorful images
- Sharp and powerful 12x zoom
- Excellent design and construction
- 720p HD video capture
- Highly effective iA mode
- Images get noisy above ISO 200
- AVCHD Lite video format not widely supported
- AF speed lags behind competitors