Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7 Review
Conclusion - Pros
- Excellent resolution & sharp results
- Good, natural color and excellent exposure
- Superb 12x optical zoom
- Effective image stabilization
- Small and light, but well built
- Comprehensive range of controls
- Very fast operation
- Very fast (and accurate) focus using 'High Speed' option
- Well designed menu system
- Nice handling and improved controls
- Easy to use
- Bright, clear, large LCD screen
- Usable EVF
- Good burst mode and fast card writing
- Autofocus illuminator and generally excellent low light focus
- Powerful flash
- Excellent battery life
- Huge improvement in video performance
- Superb value for money
Conclusion - Cons
- Higher than average Noise at ISO 80
- Strong color noise at ISO 200+
- Mild Chromatic aberration and corner softness in macro mode
- Mild vignetting at widest zoom setting / widest aperture
- New LCD is bright, but resolution is lower
- Occasional focus hunting at long end of zoom in low light
- Macro mode pointless - why not a macro button?
- High sensitivity mode results next to useless
Over the last few years we've been spoilt - cameras have seen huge leaps in capabilities from one generation to the next, whilst at the same time prices have steadily been falling. I think it's safe to say that for the time being we've got to accept that these 'great leaps forward' are fewer and farther between, and the best we can expect from new models is tweaks and minor face lifts. In this context the FZ7 is a welcome upgrade to an already excellent camera - it offers everything that made the FZ5 so great, and adds a few features, better manual control (via the new joystick) and a refined design. And of course you still get a very reliable image stabilization system and a superb, fast 12x Leica-designed lens.
That said I can't help being slightly disappointed by the lack of significant (let's be honest - any) improvements in image quality (though highlight clipping is less of a problem than it was with the FZ5). Noise is - if anything - worse (though the extra megapixel means that the difference is pretty much indistinguishable in prints), and though there is more resolution it doesn't show in real world shots, where the noise reduction system smears very fine low-contrast detail (such as foliage and hair) at all but the lowest ISO setting. The new High Sensitivity mode is useful for getting a shot where all else has failed, but to be honest, from a photographic point of view it's pretty much unusable.
But let's put this into perspective; the FZ7 is better - and cheaper - than the camera it replaces. Sure, there's no measurable improvement in image quality, but there wasn't a huge amount to complain about before. Compared to many competing 'super zoom' models the FZ7 is fast, well-designed, reliable and very enjoyable to use, and of the 1000 or so shots I took in the course of this review only a tiny minority (maybe 10 shots or so) suffered from any serious issues (missed focus, camera shake, bad exposure and so on) - a remarkably consistent performance, and an unusually high hit rate.
The FZ5 was a camera that stood out in a very crowded market by virtue of an excellent lens, comprehensive set of photographic controls and fast, reliable operation. And most of the issues we did have - poor movie mode, fiddly manual exposure control, lack of external ISO control and poor low-light screen visibility have been addressed pretty convincingly in the FZ7.
Unfortunately, no matter how good the camera we can't let the noise issue pass; like the LX1 reviewed late last year the FZ7 exhibits an unacceptable level of noise at all ISO settings, most especially at ISO 200+. For this reason - and this reason alone - the FZ7 misses out on a Highly Recommended; let's hope Panasonic has a better sensor up its sleeve for the next generation of this otherwise superb camera. As for you - have a look at the samples gallery and decide for yourself if the noise in real-world shots is acceptable; I'd happily buy the FZ7 myself, but I wouldn't use it at over ISO 100.
Last week, more than a million tonnes of Californian coastline slid into the ocean, taking part of Highway 1 with it. Check out the remodeling in photos taken before and after the landslide.
Even after eighteen months of reviewing the latest, greatest, shiniest and must-buy-me-est new gear, DPReview staffer Carey Rose has continued to use older DSLR cameras for his freelance work. But now, that might be changing. Read more
Sony is the world's leading mirrorless camera brand but remains third for ILCs overall, it's said in a presentation to investors. A focus on high value cameras and lenses should boost operating income, it says. Read more
It's nicknamed the 'Cycloptic Mustard Monster,' and is a 3D printed medium format camera. Read more
The new NanGuang LED lights are battery powered and come with accessories including filters and diffusers.
Have you been telling yourself, "Hey, I really need one of those 8K displays?" A video about Dell's new 8K monitor shows you what to expect. Is it really that much better?
Tamara Lackey, a Nikon ambassador USA and pro shooter, discusses embracing self-consciousness as a means of connecting with subjects.
There's a new Spiderman movie coming out and the poster been generating a lot of online chatter. Mostly about how it looks like the creation of a fevered teenager that just discovered Photoshop.
An honest defense of the system's merits, with photos as proof.
Copyright disputes are no fun at all. 'Binded' is a new startup that aims to simplify the process of registering - and enforcing - copyright for photographers. Read more
Not everyone wants to pay a premium for a long zoom camera. Thankfully, there are many reasonably priced cameras available, though they won't offer the same image quality as enthusiast models. In this updated roundup we look at big zoom cameras with more consumer-friendly price tags. Read more
Think Tank Photo has updated two of its popular bag lines with improvements to functionality. Read more
We’ve all seen Bob Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize winning photo, but there's another.
The sample footage looks good.
It will automatically pick the best camera settings depending on shooting conditions. It even promises enhanced functionality for your camera, like exposure and focus stacking. It already supports many cameras from Canon, Fuji, Nikon and Sony. Read more
As if $13,950 wasn’t enough to pay for a special edition lens, the Leica Store in San Francisco is offering a prototype of said lens for $24,995. Read more
Make those old photos disappear without deleting them forever.
Firmware updates enable 10 fps shooting with adapted A-mount lenses, and faster startup times and better compatibility for 20 fps shooting when using native lenses on the a9.
Fujifilm has released firmware updates for its camera models X-T2, X-Pro2, GFX 50s, X-T20, X100F and X-T1 and updates to three of its software products.
A 22 year-old Romanian photographer uses his DJI Phantom 4 drone to capture unique perspectives of the city where he now lives.
What's it like to ride the waves with champion surfer Kelly Slater? This VR video from Teton Gravity Research gives you a taste.
When Nikon released the full-frame D3 in 2007, it changed the professional photography industry. In this week's Throwback Thursday, Barney remembers a legend. Read more
The new stuff should have better red hues, improved sensitivity and finer grain - but don't worry - will still shift blues to green, greens to purple and yellows to pink.
Ricoh has introduced a new rugged compact camera with a 16MP CMOS sensor, 28-140mm lens, 2.7" LCD and built-in LED macro lights. Read more
This compact drone can shoot HD video using a 2-axis stabilized 12MP camera. Read more
The new Prynt Pocket can print a photo directly from their iPhone simply by inserting the phone into the printer, then snapping a photo. Each print will cost about 50 cents. Read more
Updates for Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom CC bring support for the Sony A9 and Panasonic ZS70/TZ90, along with bug fixes.
The Triggertrap remote camera control system is no longer sold due to the company folding, but now users will be able to build their own. Read more
The Magic Format Converter comes with internal optics that expand the image circle of full-frame DSLR lenses for use on the Fuji medium format camera. Read more
The usually Apple-exclusive MacPhun software developer has announced that it will introduce PC versions of two of its most popular applications. Both Aurora HDR and Luminar should be available for the Windows operating system by the autumn of this year. Read more