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Sometimes a large camera can be a bit awkward to carry around, and in many situations, I don't want to risk damaging my expensive SLR in order to get a few reference shots. Take music festivals for example - I require something small which will fit in my pocket, whilst at the same time offering a decent zoom and fairly good image quality. Therefore, I'll buy a compact digital camera for a specific event, and sell it after the occasion on eBay for a similar price to which i've bought it for. This method of buying as I need is a good way for me to feed my addiction for new gadgets, whilst not losing much money whilst i'm doing it!
Offering only five Megapixels of shooting power, the Panasonic Lumix LZ3 is a fairly basic machine, and one which doesn't aim high in terms of its specifications - but as you can purchase it for just over £100, is it worth a look?
Design & Feel
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For a compact, the LZ3 is a little larger than some of its nearest rivals. The design isn't anything special - constructed from silver plastic, and looking very old-school in style. Personally, I don't mind this type of design, but I know there are those amongst you who are seeking something a little more petite and classy. That said, the build quality is good, and the camera feels comfortable to hold.
The two inch LCD screen is perhaps a little small in this day and age, but it's clear and of a fairly high resolution, which makes viewing the shots you have taken easy, even in bright outdoor situations.
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The thing that initially attracted me to this model was its 6x optical zoom - reaching out to a fairly impressive 222mm. Whilst not being able to compete with the (larger) superzoom's of this world, it's nice to have that extra bit of flexibility when compared to the standard 3x's that many cameras in this class offer. With the digital zoom included, you can stretch the range to 7.5x, but beware, this will decrease the image quality of the final image. Of course, with this above average zoom, there is the downside of camera shake (resulting in blur) at the telephoto end, but fortunately, the LZ3 has an Image Stabilisation system which is very effective and will help you achieve steady images.
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Obviously it's no good having a feature laden camera if it can't take decent shots, and luckily the LZ3 performs well in this area. I found pictures to be sharp and well saturated, and the camera seems to be able to capture a wide tonal range.
With selectable ISO settings of 80 - 1600, this model is fairly versatile in a variety of lighting conditions - however, image noise is very noticeable at anything over ISO 200. Using the camera at ISO 1600 results in an image which, due to the excess grain, is useable at small print sizes only - but at least the option is there.
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The LZ3 takes two AA batteries, or an Ni-Mh rechargeable cell which can be bought separately. Obviously the rechargeable option will allow you to take more shots, but it's good to have the choice of AA's (which will take an estimated 250 shots) should you ever find yourself in a situation without a charger or a plug socket.
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The camera has 15MB of internal memory, meaning you can use it without a storage device - however, it won't hold many shots unless you invest in an SD card (which is the standard removable memory type for cameras these days).
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The menus are easy to navigate, colourful, and well laid out - a relative newcomer to the world of digital cameras should be able to find their way around with ease. The mode select dial on top of the LZ3 is a little fiddly however, and can be moved accidently when sliding the camera in or out of a pocket.
There are fifteen preset scene modes which beginners can utilise in order to achieve the optimum settings for various types of shots - this is useful as you can easily set the camera to night, action, landscape and a variety of other shot choices.
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Although it is somewhat lacking in looks and megapixels, for a beginner, the LZ3 is a great camera which is simple to use. I enjoyed taking shots with this model, and found the picture quality to be of a high standard. Although the images can be a little grainy (noisy) if you're shooting in dark conditions, the overall performance is by no means bad. The in-built flash has a decent range, and the general responsiveness and start up time is fast. The camera also offers a 640 x 480, 30 frames per second movie mode, but unfortunately it doesn't record sound. Nevertheless, for the price, this model is capable of great results, and would be an ideal choice for a novice.
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Zoom: 6x Optical, 4x Digital
Lens Data: f/2.8 - 4.5 (37 - 222mm)
ISO Sensitivities: 80 - 1600
Shutter Speeds: 8-1/2000sec
Flash Modes: A, RE, Fon, Foff, SS
Storage: SD Card
Batteries: AA, NiMh
Weight: 231 grams with batteries
Size: 100 x 62 x 45mm
Expect to pay:
Ebay (new) £100 - £130
Ebay (used) £60 - £100
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