At the top of my review, we asked if Panasonic knew what it was doing by introducing a "superzoom" with a 12x lens when so many other companies are pushing toward the 30x range. With an apology to a certain car insurance commercial, does Charlie Daniels play a mean fiddle?
The ZS7 is a great little camera, due in part to the "little" factor. You can pack around a 25 to 300mm zoom in your shirt pocket and hardly anyone will notice. Remove it from your pocket and it will focus quickly, shoot when you press the shutter button and return very good image quality and color in the process. The lens is a good performer, exhibiting only small faults that have minimal impact on images. There are auto and scene shooting modes to satisfy folks who want to just point and shoot, and full manual controls for the rest of us. Video fans get a camera that produces nice movies and has a fairly seamless one-button interface to initiate video capture from nearly any shooting mode. With a built-in GPS, you can geo-tag still or video images to help find locations on that array of images you took on vacation. ISO performance is typical for the class.
There's little to dislike about the ZS7. The AVCHD Lite video mode requires format-compatible devices to view, but you can always fall back on motion JPEG. If the camera has an Achilles heel, it might be the $400 MSRP (as of this writing). That price point pits the ZS7 squarely against at least one 26x competitor, and is $50 more than at least one 30x model. Folks looking to maximize zoom for their buck or for whom size doesn't matter, may be tempted to look elsewhere. But if you need an easy-carrying digital camera that cranks out solid images and gives you a versatile lens shooting range, the ZS7 is hard to beat. If Panasonic had only fit a viewfinder into this thing, it would be just about perfect.
Design/Ease of Use
* Ratings averaged to produce final score
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