Panasonic updates today its popular ZS series with the Lumix ZS7 and Lumix ZS5. These new compact high-zoom cameras add geo-tagging functionality and manual controls to the 12x optical zoom range of the previous generation.
The 12.1 megapixel Panasonic Lumix ZS7 and Lumix ZS5 will both record 720p HD video. Before it, the ZS3 was touted as an all-purpose creative tool that was both a camcorder and still camera. The latest ZS models carry on in the same direction, adding to the list of features manual exposure settings including manual, aperture priority, shutter priority, and program modes.
Fans of automatic shooting will still find Panasonic's iA Intelligent Auto mode here, a function that worked reasonably well in our testing of the ZS3. In fact, the Lumix ZS3 merited an Editor's Choice award from DCR, producing high-quality images with minimal distortions. Part of that distinction is thanks to a Leica-branded zoom lens. The "L" is back for this ZS generation, and both models sport a 25-300mm equivalent 12x optical zoom lens. It isn't particularly fast lens with a wide angle maximum aperture of f/3.3, but the telephoto end starts at a nice f/4.9.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7
The Lumix ZS7 will feature GPS functionality and will record latitude and longitude information in the image's EXIF data when a photo is taken. Later, users will be able to pinpoint the location in which the photo was taken when they add it to the map function of sharing sites like Flickr.
The ZS7 will also offer a large 3.0 inch, 460k dot LCD, and it will record those 720p video files in AVCHD Lite. Additionally, Panasonic has added a new feature called "intelligent resolution" to the ZS7 - it's a feature that's designed to reclaim the image detail lost when using digital zoom. The new Venus Engine HD II processor seeks out the distortions and jagged edges that digital zoom often creates and smoothes them over. The feature is put to work in the camera's Intelligent Zoom mode, which boasts an increase in zoom power from 12x to 16x.
In a similar vein, Panasonic has added a feature called Happy Mode to the ZS7. Like other manufacturers, they've attempted to create a sort of shortcut to capturing more vibrant, saturated images of subjects like sunsets. High Dynamic mode is new as well, a feature that should help shooters in situations with both light and dark areas.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5
The Lumix ZS5 doesn't have the GPS functionality or new tech features that the ZS7 boasts, but otherwise it's very similar to the ZS7. Though slightly smaller, a 2.7 inch, 230k dot monitor should be sufficient for composing and reviewing images. Rather than recording video in AVCHD Lite, the ZS5 spits out motion JPEG video files.
Panasonic claims that the results are on par with images that use only optical zoom. At the very least, it's an interesting solution to the problem of digital zoom.
Pricing and availability
As with Panasonic's CES announcements, they have not released pricing or release dates at this time. The Lumix ZS3 debuted a year ago at $399.95, so it seems fair to assume that the ZS7 will cost upwards of $400.
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