Operation and controls

Although ostensibly a point and shoot camera, the LZ2 has a surprising number of features on offer, though if you like control over shutter speeds and apertures you will be disappointed. In everyday use the majority of controls you're likely to need (flash, AE compensation, flash, self-timer and drive mode) get their own external control buttons, meaning you only need venture into the excellent menu system to change white balance, ISO and picture size/quality.

Rear of camera

As mentioned earlier, the rear control layout is virtually identical to other members of the Lumix family, with the majority of everday controls ranged to the right of the 2.0-inch screen.

Top of camera

The remainder of the controls are spread over the right hand side of the top plate, within easy reach even when shooting single-handed.

Display and Menus

The most basic preview screen in record mode is completely free of any overlays or icons. You can also, by pressing the Display button, get a simple grid to aid framing (as shown here). Of course you can turn on the information if you want by pressing the Display button.
Half-press the shutter release and the camera will calculate exposure (AE) and focus (AF) indicating the AF area used and the aperture/shutter speed chosen. You'll also get a warning if camera shake is a danger. Switching to the 'Simple' mode (indicated by a heart symbol on the mode dial) gives you a friendlier, simpler on-screen display (OSD) with larger icons, fewer controls and less information. The options menu is also simplified (screenshot).
Another press of the display button gives you a live histogram - something unusual on a camera of this type. Pressing the 'up' arrow cycles through Exposure compensation and AE Bracketing. The left/right arrows change the actual settings.
As with the other 2005 Lumix models, the LZ2 now has a separate stabilizer button (on the top of the camera). Press and hold this for about half a second and you'll get this small menu, offering the usual three options (Off, Mode 1, Mode 2). The three-page record menu covers options such as white balance, sensitivity, picture size/quality, focus modes and image adjustments.
Turn the main mode dial to SCN 1 or SCN 2 (scene) and press the menu button to choose a subject mode (from the 9 available). Press the menu button again and you get most of the options in the normal record menu. You can disable this menu (via SETUP) and the camera will remember which scene mode was last used (so you can effectively set SCN 1 and SCN 2 permanently to your two favourite scene modes). A new addition (also seen on the FZ5) is the 'info' button to the right of each scene mode. Select this and you get a simple description of the mode, and how to get the most out of it.
The two-page playback menu offers the usual array of printing, erasing, protecting and slideshow options. There's also the option to add sound to saved files, as well as crop (trim) and resize them. As when in record mode you can choose the amount of information displayed in playback mode - from nothing at all to full data and histogram (as shown here). You can also review images in record mode (by pressing the 'down' arrow).
Moving the zoom to the right enlarges the playback image. There are only four steps (2x, 4x, 8x and 16x), but it's very quick. The four arrow keys are used to scroll around enlarged images. Move the zoom lever to the left ('zoom out') to view nine thumbnails (again you can turn off the frame numbering and menu bar with the display button).
The setup menu - accessible from either playback or record mode - has three pages of basic camera-related settings, from monitor brightness and auto review settings to power management, sounds and date and time settings. Finally a quick mention for the movie mode. The 320x240 pixel (30 or 10 fps) is nothing special, but there are more than the usual array of options, many of which are the same as when shooting stills.