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…
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…
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!
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.