Masthead header

Panasonic Lumix TZ7/ZS3 HD samples [video]

It’s been out a while now but I’ve been asked by a few people on various sites, forums and emails how I find the HD video quality of the Panasonic Lumix TZ7 (ZS3 in the states) as at the time or writing, it’s my only form of video camera. So thought I’d put a rough video together just with random clips to show what I think are the strengths and weaknesses of this compact little camera.

I’ll keep the write up brief…as they say, a picture says a thousand words, so I’ll let you watch the video and you can decide for yourselves. First of all, in general I am very happy with TZ7 / ZS3. It takes nice snaps, it’s pretty small and it has just enough features for me to not get weighed down with how to set this and what to do with that (that’s the job of my DLSRs). Video seems to be the key thing everyone wants to know about with this camera though, and so here are my experiences…

View in higher resolution
I recommend you view on my Vimeo channel to see higher resolution and better quality, but you can also view bigger here on YouTube too.

In general
Overall I am pleased with the video quality this little pocket camera puts out. Max resolution is 1280×720 and the stereo sound is a nice bonus to your movies, although if you want to speak in to the camera you have to be pretty close for your voice to be picked up – as you’d expect. Although the camera shoots at 1280×720, I find footage to be a little soft and grainy when viewed at full size, but again that is something that I would expect from such a small camera and sensor. Get the footage online though and you should get some quite nice looking video to share with friends and family. However, it’s not without it’s faults…

Problems
I have three problems with the Lumix TZ7 video…the first is, when zooming there is an annoying creeping clicking type sound as the motor works. Now, I’m not sure if this was there when I first got the camera but I have dropped it once (in it’s case though) and now I notice the sound every time I zoom when filming as you will hear in the video. It may be a standard ‘feature’ of the camera but I’m not sure because like I said, I did drop mine early on…oops!!

The bigger problem for me, is the annoying blue line you get coming out of very bright light sources within your footage. The line appears on the LCD screen too, although if you take a photo it doesn’t appear. Video footage though, as you will see suffers from it quite a lot at times and can be very very annoying. You can learn to shoot round problematic light sources that give you this line but that can be a pain sometimes and has ruined a few nice shots.

I also find panning can be a bit jerky or choppy because the anti shake is on all the time when you film, and if you move the camera too quickly it causes the image to stutter – again as you’ll notice in some of the footage. Panning slowly (or smoothly) solves this but it is something that can catch you out at times and it can affect both wide angle and telephoto shots. If you are used to shooting with either Nikon VR or Canon IS lenses you will be used to this type of jerky movement in the viewfinder if you quickly recompose a shot with VR/IS on.

Zooming whilst filming and focusing
One of the things that gets mentioned a lot for this camera is the fact it can struggle to keep focus locked whilst zooming. I have found a bit of a cheat to get round this. I find that if I switch off all auto-focus, so the camera only focuses when the shutter button is half pressed I can do the following:

Zoom in to my intended target range, focus the camera and then zoom back out and start filming. Doing this means I can now zoom in and the focus will remain intact. This won’t work in ALL cases but because the depth of field is so great with this camera, many times focusing at full zoom then pulling back out will still result in the image looking in focus at the wide angle, unless you have objects very close to you. I’ve done this with quite a few shots now and it is very convincing. Sure it’s a work around but at least it gets a smooth focused zoom when you want it!

Summary
It’s not without it’s flaws, but for the money you can’t expect the world. I really like the TZ7 / ZS3 and if it wasn’t for the annoying blue line you sometimes get I would be completely happy as for now, it does what I want – gives me decent enough video footage in a small easily manageable compact camera. At the time of writing I only need to do video for my blog, so the quality doesn’t need to be incredible at high resolution…so for my purpose it is perfect. I use a gorillapod and a glass sucker window mount with mine so that I can have steady shots in random places which is something I couldn’t easily do with a DSLR. It’s a double edged sword though, on the one hand I’d love better image quality (and will in time get a video DSLR) but I love the portability, flexibility and general quality this fun little camera offers. Basically, if it broke tomorrow would I buy another? Yep, I think I would.

Want to buy?
If you’re in America, the ZS3 can be purchased here, from BH Photo.

And if you’re in the UK, check out Warehouse Express.

And don’t forget
You can view all the other videos on my blog here.

Also, why not subscribe to my YouTube channel or my Vimeo channel.

Mark

I bought one for my wife for Xmas and we got the dreaded blue line on our first Vid, so glad to find out it’s not just her camera.

Richard Peters

Hi Mark. Nope, you’re not alone don’t worry. It’s a bit annoying when you aren’t expecting it. I didn’t read about it in any of the reviews when I was researching before purchase. In fact, I think I’ve only ever read about it once from another owner. So I guess although it’s a pain, it’s fairly easy to shoot round the problem in most cases…!?

Gerald T.

Thanks for your review. I just got my TZ7 (actually the ZS3, since I live in the USA), and have been trying it out. I too noticed that when I tried to record MPEGs in HD format, I got very jerky motion while panning. I thought it might be due to having a memory card that was too slow, even though the card I originally purchased had an SD speed class of 6. Today I got a faster memory card, but the video was still jerky. Thanks for pointing out the role of the anti-shake feature in causing choppy video. Is there anything I can do to work around this?

Also, I am really trying to avoid recording in the AVCHD Lite format, preferring instead to use either the HD MPEG or WVGA formats. Do you have any tips for focusing or recording in low light in these formats? Thanks!

Charles

I own the ZS3 and so far I am very happy with it. However, being new to digital video, I don’t know what to use to edit the AVCHD Lite movies. Ideally, a software package similar to Microsoft MovieMaker would do the trick… My needs are quite basic — I want to do editing similar to the sample video you’ve posted.

Any suggestions? (of course, free software would be preferable).

Thanks!

Hugues Tremblay

Hi
Thank you for your work on this little camera. I will buy one and I am sure it will be a good companion to have with you all the time. But I have to be really careful with my shooting. Anyway we have to use that when the still is not the good choice. I remembered a day after climbing a mountain, all the clouds moving like in a dream and I took picture but…… was not the good device at that time. Thank again for the steady shot to care about.

paul holmes

I recommend Powerdirector- should be perfect for your needs and the only one I got top work well. Make sure however that you update to the very latest version as previous versions were very buggy. Latest version is perfect though.

Gordon

Here’s a clue – when (by your own admission) you’ve dropped the camera – even in its case – you cannot expect the optics to be perfect (hence likely cause of “blue line” and clicky-ticky noise). As you say, you’ve only “ever read about it once from another owner” and how many of these cameras are there in the world? And how many have not been dropped?

Richard Peters

Gordon. Here’s a fact. The blue line is actually a very well known issue amongst other compact camera’s as well, in fact the new TZ10 also does it. So, it has nothing to do with the camera being dropped as it did it from day one – so your assumption is wrong. Obviously the zooming noise may be because of being dropped but I don’t know for sure – if any other owners out there would care to let me know if they have this problem as well then please do. Also, this camera is prone to a ‘beeping noise’ on the audio track when filming scenes with in almost silence…again, nothing to do with being dropped but a ‘feature’ of the camera.

Gordon

Richard. Here’s a real fact – the blue line is formed in just the same way as any other multi-element lens that is looking partially into a bright light source (it’s called partial internal reflection and / or refraction). This happens to a greater or lesser extent with absolutely every multi-element lens. Your admission about dropping the camera now not only suggests that the zooming noise could well be a result of the unfortunate impact but makes me wonder if the ‘beeping noise’ is a symptom of the same issue? Have you asked the experts at Panasonic to examine your camera as you seem to be being quite critical of this excellent camera? (And no, I don’t work for Panasonic).

By the way, the plural of “camera” is not “camera’s” but “cameras” – no “grocer’s apostrophe” is required as the word “cameras” is neither possessive nor abbreviated

Richard Peters

Woah!!! Gordon, not really sure what the problem is here to be honest! You seem intent on shooting me down for no real reason, other than I pointed out some issues with this camera that you seem to be overly passionate about not agreeing with (I assume you own this camera?).

First of all you say the blue line might be caused by me dropping the camera, then when I tell you it actually is a known issue you come back and tell me you know it is and exactly what it’s called and caused by. So why say in your first comment that it might be caused by me dropping the camera, when we both know that it wasn’t and in fact the phenomenon is, in your own words ‘a real fact’! Actually, I am ignorant to the ins and outs of it, so if you could explain why it only happens in video and not stills I’d actually really be interested to know?

Second of all, noise during quiet scenes IS a known issues of the camera amongst some users (as pointed out in my last reply to you, so why are you again saying it might be due to it being dropped? Are you just trying to disagree for the sake of it or have you actually done lots of research on this camera on various forums from a large range of owners like I have, but somehow missed all talk of noise in silent scenes?). I checked out the AVForums.com, that’s where I did a lot of research before I got the camera and knew about some of the issues beforehand, and a couple of issues I found out about after (such as the blue line), as once I noticed them I looked in to them more specifically because I then knew they existed and what to search for to find out about them.

If I thought for a second my camera only had problems because I once dropped it I wouldn’t have made the video, but I’m not some ignorant clueless person and do not appreciate you assuming I am. However, my camera had these issues from day one. The noise when zooming I’m not sure about because ALL my footage that has zooming in makes the noise, but I don’t recall when it was dropped so can’t say 100% if it caused it or not.

Do you own this camera Gordon? As it stands you seem to have very little actual understanding of this camera based on your lack of knowledge of known issues with the model. Rather than jumping to it’s defence and trying to shoot me down you could be helpful and tell me if your camera makes the noise when zooming?

Just for the record, I do like this camera…a lot! Always have done, but it is not without it’s flaws as seen in the video, and these flaws were there from DAY ONE. I stand by that. But then what camera is perfect? None. I’d buy this camera again if I had to replace it (well, I’d get the TZ10 now) and have always recommended it to friends and family that have asked what compact to get. So it seems the only thing we do agree on here is that it IS a good camera. I’m all up for healthy discussion but this is not that, you just seem out to attack and ‘prove wrong’ everything I say. All you seem focused on is that I dropped it once, and so that must be the reason for the problems and to be completely ignoring some keys statements such as my camera has done all this from day one and that proper research will show this camera does have known issues. For some reason you can’t accept it isn’t a perfect camera whereas I can, having used it for quite some time now.

Clearly you don’t agree with anything I’m saying, so either get out there and enjoy your perfectly working TZ7 if you own one, or just agree to disagree. Either way it seems pointless to just reply to this trying to prove me wrong again. You think I’m wrong, and that dropping my camera caused everything and that these issues aren’t real, I get it. Lets just move on, please.
Oh and lastly, thank you for the English lesson, again trying to get one up on me. But my interest is photography, not English, so if I make the odd grammar mistake here and there I can live with it – but your correction has been noted and I’ll make the changes when I get the time :)

Richard Peters

Oh, also, I don’t have time to find a million links but for reference, here is one where noises are discussed on the AVForums and another on Dpreview. Some say it’s a firmware issue, others not and have their own theories. But clearly it’s an issue for some owners.