The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1 is a 12.1Mp compact camera with 8x optical zoom and image stabilisation
Panasonic's Lumix range of digital cameras is well known for their Leica lens that usually help in capturing above-average image quality. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1 is a compact digital camera that is powerful enough to let you capture decent looking photos using its fast lens and quick auto-focusing system.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1 is a 12Mp compact zoom camera that has an 8x optical image stabilized lens with 25-200mm equivalent focal length in 35mm film lens.
Panasonic managed to pack in an 8x optical image stabilization lens (3mm thick) in its 54 x 97 x 26mm body, which is quite admirable. And the body weighs just 138g. Further, the zoom can still be extended up to 15.6x when setting the camera resolution at 3Mp.
Panasonic updated the optical image stabilization system from ‘mega OIS' to ‘Power OIS', which is claimed to be two-times as effective as the former. Its 25mm wide angle lens will also let you capture more subjects in the frame and gives you more control over the depth of field. The ZR1 uses a Venus Engine Processor for high-speed auto-focusing, and much improved face detection (up to 11 faces).
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1 camera can remember up to six commonly shot faces and give importance to those registered faces in terms of focusing and exposure. There is no manual mode but intelligent Auto mode will suffice for most shooting situations.
Apart from this, there are 29 scene modes including pinhole, film grain and travel modes. The ZR1 also captures 720p HD video at 30fps in MJPEG format and thankfully, zooming is also possible while recording video.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1 is an average looking camera but has solid build. There are four colour options (silver, black, blue and red).
The buttons and other components also offered good build quality that won't spoil easily. The back has a 2.7in auto power LCD supporting 230K colors and it's crisp and colourful with good visibility outdoors.
Right next to it, a four-way directional pad and a switching mode for playback and capture are located. There is also an E-zoom which is a shortcut for extending the lens to its tele end and to the maximum digital zoom - at a speed much faster than the manual zoom. This is useful for quickly capturing distant subjects.
The top of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1 has mode dial, shutter button with the zoom ring and a power switch. The buttons arrangement is nothing different from other Lumix cameras and is straightforward and easy to get along. Even first time users will feel right at home.
A port for HDMI is absent which is a bit disappointing and this leaves us with only mini-USB and HD AV out. At the bottom, there is a battery compartment with the SD/SDHC slot inside which is sealed with a cover.
The Lumix ZR1 started up in approximately 1.1 seconds and the time taken from switching the camera on to its first shot was around 1.5 seconds which is very decent for compact cameras. Shutter-lag with pre-focus usually falls in between 0.1 to 0.2 second which is also very decent. Focusing in most lighting situation was quick and accurate.
The face recognition worked well and the registered faces were recognized quickly among the group. Face tracking option also made focusing moving subjects an effortless task. However, the burst mode captures at 2 frames per second, which is below average when cameras like Sony WX1 can capture 10fps in full resolution.
The LEICA DC VARIO-ELMAR lens showed slight distortion or pincushion effect at the extreme end but it is less noticeable than what we saw on the Sony DSC W580 (24mm wide angle lens). Chromatic aberration was barely noticeable and edge-to-edge sharpness is decent with slight softness on the corners. The Power OIS performed admirably during handheld shooting in low lights or while the lens is extended at the tele end.
Images captured showed accurate colours and they were well exposed. The auto white balance worked well except when under fluorescent lighting, but the manual option did the trick here.
Macro shots were excellent too, and the camera enabled us to get as close as 3cm to the subjects. Noise was also not an issue up to ISO 400 whereas many compact digicams already suffered from enormous noise at this level. Overall, its imaging capability is clearly above average compact digicam category.
Video recording was fun using the ZR1. Focusing was quick and the HD videos captured had good frame rates and nice colour saturation. Compared to what we captured with the Sony TX1 or WX1, the videos captured with the ZR1 showed warmer colours but slightly more noise.
The Sony videos were sharper but a bit overexposed. The optical zoom was impressively smooth and silent while recording video which is a plus.
The Panasonic ZR1 is a very good compact zoom camera with impressive performance. However, its heavy price tag of around £170 or more is weighty enough to make us to forget the 8x optical zoom and pay for a more capable compact shooter like the Sony DSC-WX1.
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