I've owned digital cameras now for about 10 years, and have got through a few in that time. The last one I bought for myself was a Panasonic DMC-LZ7, which I have owned for four years now. This camera could be considered dated now but as it has served me so well in those four years I haven't felt the need to replace it in that period.
~*~The Camera ~*~
If you are looking for an ultra small camera, then this Panasonic probably isn't for you. It's not massively bulky but is significantly larger than the Fujifilm camera I bought for my daughter last year and for a point and shoot does seem big four years after purchase.
The camera was available in black or silver casing - the black camera is the one I own but it has a silver top panel and the lens casing is silver metal too.
The camera measures 9.85 x 6.2 x 3.3 cm and weights 184 grams.
The camera megapixel capability is 7.2 MPs, and it also boasts a 6x optical zoom and a 2.5 cm LCD screen. The camera also incorporates Panasonic's Optical Image Stabiliser which is designed to minimise camera shake.
The camera is powered by 2 AA batteries and unlike some newer models doesn't come with a rechargeable battery pack. You can use normal alkaline batteries or rechargeable batteries with the camera.
Internal memory is pretty paltry, with just 28 MB - which is roughly enough space for 6 pictures. As such an SD card is a must for this camera.
The camera can also shoot video footage although it's fairly low resolution VGA quality.
I bought this camera because I already had a couple of Panasonic cameras in the past and generally had liked the build quality and image quality in comparison to a couple of very disappointing Samsung cameras I had.
The camera is very easy to use and doesn't really require a lot of thought on the part of the user - which is another reason for me liking it. I can't get my head around the more technical aspects of photography and generally use my camera for snapshots or for photographing items if I am selling things on eBay and as such the Lumix DMC-LZ7 is perfect.
The camera is easy to turn on and off and doesn't really blind the user with science due to too many controls.
The main controls are located on the top of the camera, with the power switch joined by the function dial switch and two switches which can be used for zooming in and out - one is a knob you turn which enables the user to decide how far to zoom in, the other is a press button which is called EZoom and which takes the choice out the user's hands. I tend to use the knob when using the zoom. The top of this knob is the exposure button you press when you want to take a picture.
The zoom on this camera is rather good and is one of the reasons why I have stuck with it for so long. Although the camera claims to have an optical zoon of 6x in reality it can go as far as 36x. The problem is that the further in you zoom the more risk you run of blurry pictures and generally my advice would be if you want to zoom in as far as the camera will go you would be best to use a tripod as images have a tendency to blur the more you zoom. I have managed to get some really good shots without a tripod but to be honest that's the exception to the rule.
The main control dial offers several options including Simple Mode, Intelligent ISO, Macro and Video, as well as a playback option to enable you to view the pictures you have taken, a Print Mode and Scene Mode. I tend to use the basic camera mode most often but find the Macro mode particularly useful when photographing items for eBay as it is designed for photographing an item close-up.
I have never used the Print Mode as I find it far easier to print by connecting the memory card to my printer. The camera does come with software and a USB lead to connect to your computer or printer but I have never felt the need to use these thanks to having computers with SD card slots on them.
I similarly have never had much use for the Intelligent ISO so cannot really comment on that.
I do use the Scene Mode regularly and find it particularly useful when taking photographs at night, as I find the Night Portrait mode to be particularly useful in the dark. If I don't use it can result in a very dark background in my photograph and some washed out colours instead of a picture which shows every detail of both subject and background.
I don't like the Night Scenery mode quite so much as this incorporates a slight time delay before the shutter is released and it takes a bit of practice when using this to avoid a picture being out of focus. There are many other options I have tried with varying levels of success including Beach, Soft Skin, Fireworks and Sports.
On the back of the camera are buttons for other functions including accessing the menu, setting the timer delay and the flash, as well as a button for setting a high angle and a control for deleting pictures from the memory card. The menu enables you to scroll down through many options, including the option to slow the shutter down which I find particularly effective if photographing moving water or rain and you can also find amongst many other options the chance to change from colour photography to black and white or sepia.
I find the menu very straightforward and easy to understand and it's a testament to the simplicity of this camera that in 4 years of ownership I haven't had to resort to the manual since the first few days of ownership at all.
Obviously I understand there are limitations with a point and shoot camera so while I have taken some rather good snapshots over the years I certainly wouldn't consider this on par with a DSLR, but then again for the price I paid I wouldn't expect that anyway. Image quality is generally very good, especially if I opt for using the Simple mode for straightforward snapshots or Macro mode for close ups. The zoom is fantastic at 6x and certainly up to about 16 x you can expect to get some sharp shots without use of a tripod. I've used the camera to take photos at concerts and have been very impressed with the results and my sister borrowed it when she attended the Wimbledon Mens' Final a couple of years ago and was delighted with the results it yielded of her special day.
The flash is easy to set although I generally opt for manually setting when I want to use it as the Auto Flash mode isn't always reliable. I only use it when photographing people in the dark as there is an Auto/Red Eye function which is very effective at minimising red eye in your shots.
The camera is a little limited in 2012 by its video capabilities. The footage it captures is pretty low resolution which doesn't particularly bother me as I don't shoot a lot of footage with my camera. Also, although the camera does record sound it doesn't have a speaker so if you want to play it back on the camera it will be silent playback.
That's a minor gripe and my only real major gripe is the fact that the camera can be rather slow at responding, and certainly if you want to take lots of shots in rapid succession, this isn't the camera for you as it can sometimes take up to 30 seconds to prepare itself for another shot after you have pressed the exposure button. I find this incredibly frustrating if I am taking a picture of something that is moving so perhaps this isn't the camera for trainspotters.
Overall I have been very happy with my Panasonic DMC-LZ7 camera. It takes crisp, clear photographs which you can view clearly on the large screen at the back and is simplicity itself to operate. The camera is bulky in comparison to point and shoot models available today but because of the versatile zoom and clarity of images produced I can overlook that.
This isn't a camera for the dedicated amateur photographer but for simple snapshots it's ideal thanks to its sturdy build, the Optical Image Stabilisation which definitely does help to minimise blurry photos and the versatility of functions available to you in Scene Mode.
The video function is however a little limiting in the high definition era and is perhaps the camera's biggest drawback.
The DMC=LZ7 is still available to buy on Amazon and is priced between £110 and £130. I purchased mine new for £90 on eBay four years ago so it may be worth looking there too for a bargain or for a second hand camera.