Panasonic ZS7 vs ZS3 vs Sony HX5 - My hands on review of the three

Started May 19, 2010 | Discussions thread
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aeromonte
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Panasonic ZS7 vs ZS3 vs Sony HX5 - My hands on review of the three
May 19, 2010

I hope this helps out anyone who is not sure which one of these cameras to purchase.

OK, so I was also in the same boat - reading reviews and forums for a couple weeks and still could not make up my mind between the Panasonic ZS3, ZS7 and Sony's HX5. So what did I do? I bought all three to see which one I liked best (I first made sure I could return the other 2 without a restocking fee of course).

Below are my results from testing all three. NOTE: All three cameras were tested using each camera’s full auto (intelligent) modes.

ZS3 vs. ZS7:

I am very picky with IQ/detail and in my opinion (and also a couple other people I tortured), both cameras were very close in IQ – almost the same. From reading "some" reviews/posts, I was expecting the ZS3 to have better IQ, but was surprised and actually think the ZS7 takes "slightly" better looking pictures - however both the ZS3 and ZS7 take beautiful pictures and are very close. I would have ruled out the ZS3 from the beginning if I knew that the ZS7 had similar/better IQ, but I wanted to see the results for myself. The ZS7 has a few nice features that the ZS3 does not, including: 1) Shutter button placement to the right. You wouldn’t think it would be a big deal until you use both. The button placement on the ZS7 is much more natural feeling than the ZS3 placement. 2) GPS - not a big deal for me, but could be fun. 3) Manual mode – didn’t use it, but could be fun to play with and learn a little bit more about taking shots in manual mode. 4) The screen has a low glare coating to it that is better than the ZS3 – still a little bit of glare, but not too bad. 5) Focusing seems to be faster for taking pictures and video. 6) Better IS – though I didn’t seem to notice the difference too much between the ZS3 and ZS7.
So the winner, for me, was the ZS7

ZS7 vs. HX5:
This was a hard decision…

Regarding pictures:

In my opinion, the ZS7 takes better pictures. The HX5 would be ok, if you didn't have a ZS3 or ZS7 to compare the IQ to. The HX5 pictures seem a bit blurry to me (probably due to Sony’s noise reduction method) and the color seems to be off a bit (example: green grass seemed a bit florescent and tan sand appeared to be browner compared to the more natural looking colors and sharpness of the ZS3 and ZS7). I fixed the Sony results a little bit in Photoshop, but don’t think you should have to do that. The ZS7 look great and natural as soon as you import them to your computer. Even though people complain of the color cast issue regarding the Panasonics, it really doesn’t bother me because the IQ is so great. In dark shooting conditions, I really don’t see that much more of an improvement with Sony’s Hand Held Twilight (HHT). Dark shooting is poor for all three cameras.

Regarding video:

In my opinion, the HX5’s 1080i video looks better than the ZS3/ZS7s 720p video. It actually looks like hi-def. You can see depth and it feels like you are there vs. an old-school camcorder kind of video look (if that makes any sense). Don’t get me wrong, the video shot by the ZS7 isn’t that bad at all; it’s actually pretty good for the size of the camera - just not as natural looking as the HX5. When taking video with the ZS7 in bright sunlight, details are lost and the bright areas seem to be blown out. Example: faces look bright white instead of seeing skin in detail like the HX5 produces in bright light. There are also the light beams visible in the ZS7 video when hitting extreme bright areas (like sun reflecting off of cars or the water). This does not happen with the HX5 – though the brightness does seem to dim a lot when the lens hits extreme bright areas. However, in dark conditions, like in my house, the ZS7 performs better. The zoom performs smoother on the ZS7 compared to the HX5. It’s more natural. The HX5 can be too fast and jerky. The audio is also much better on the ZS7. The HX5 audio is tinny and muffled and the placement of the left and right mics is really annoying – right where you left index finger feels comfortable.

Regarding features:

On the HX5, I REALLY like the 10fps burst mode and also REALLY like the auto panoramic mode. They both work really well and could be very useful. The HX5 size is also just a bit smaller/lighter, which I think feels a little less bulky – just enough where you can feel the difference in your front jeans pocket.

On the ZS7, the zoom is only 2X more - optical (12X compared to 10X on the HX5), but to me, seems to be just enough to make things seem so much closer. The resolution on the LCD is also much better than the HX5.

Conclusion:

I had a hard time deciding which one to keep, but decided on the Panasonic ZS7. The reason why it wasn’t easy for me to choose the ZS7 over the HX5 was because of the following pros of the HX5: smaller size, great looking video, 10fps shooting and panoramic mode. I just couldn’t get over the “not so great” picture quality and terrible sound quality to convince myself to keep the HX5.

The reason I chose the ZS7 over the HX5 was: it takes amazing pictures, the video is decent, the audio is great (for concerts), the zoom is great, the LCD screen is high resolution and the build quality/design is nice. Maybe next year, Sony will come out with a new model with all the fun features, but with better IQ to compete with Panasonic IQ…

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