The Panasonic Lumix SZ1 is a new range of "Super Zoom" ultra compact cameras with a 10x optical zoom lens, 16 megapixel sensor and 3 inch screen it sure packs a lot into an ultra compact body. The other model in the range is the SZ7 with Full HD and 14 megapixel Live MOS sensor, compared to the SZ1 with 720p video and CCD sensor.
Panasonic Lumix SZ1 Features
Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1
The Panasonic Lumix SZ1 features an ultra compact body with a 25mm wide angle 10x optical zoom lens and optical image stabilisation. The camera promises "sonic speed AF" and features a focus assist lamp. New features added to the camera and a first for Panasonic Lumix cameras is a new miniature effect mode and built in panoramic stitching. The camera uses a USB cable to charge the battery while it is in the camera and features HD (720p) video as well as a high resolution 16.1 megapixel CCD sensor.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 Zoom
16.1 megapixel CCD sensor
25mm wide angle, 10x optical zoom lens
20x intelligent zoom
Optical image stabilisation
3inch screen, 230k dots
Sonic speed af
HD (720p) video
Panasonic Lumix SZ1 Handling
Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 Top
Handling - The camera features a metal body, on/off switch and record / playback switch making it easy to switch the camera on and change between modes. There is a dedicated mode button as well. The options given on screen are iAuto (intelligent auto), Normal, Miniature and Scene modes. There is a dedicated video record button so you can start recording video regardless of which mode you are in. There is no grip on the front of the camera and just an area of raised dots on the back so a wrist strap is recommended.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1
Menus - The Panasonic menus are very easy to use with the camera providing clear text and built in help showing what each option does. Where there are a number of icons, such as the scene mode, each one is explained underneath. The number of options available in the menus changes depending which mode you are currently in, making it very easy to use even for the beginner.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 Bottom
Battery - Battery life is rated at 250 shots from the 680 mAh battery. The battery is very small, but battery life was better than expected, providing over 300 shots before the battery went flat. Charging is via the USB cable, however Panasonic do provide a wall socket to USB adapter in the box so you don't have to be tied to a computer to charge.
Speed - We tested each camera's performance at focusing, shutter response, shot to shot time, continuous shooting etc and have posted the results below. To test this we took 6 or more shots and calculated the average, so that consistent results were produced. Results are shown in seconds unless otherwise stated.
Panasonic Lumix SZ1
Ricoh GRD IV
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response
0.45 (0.3 Snap)
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo
Shot to Shot (without flash)
Shot to Shot with Flash
Continuous Shooting (JPEG)
1fps (Full Resolution)
1.6fps (~ shots)
Continuous Shooting (with Flash)
1.1 (3 megapixels)
Continuous Shooting (RAW)
1.6fps (5 shots)
High speed continuous shooting is available at a reduced resolution of 3 megapixels - in this setting the camera shoots at roughly 7.5 fps. Focusing and shutter response is very quick.
Panasonic Lumix SZ1 Performance
Here we've taken a number of sample photos taken in a variety of situations, including real world as well as studio test photos. Additional sample photos and information can be found in the Equipment Database.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 Sample Photos
Sample photos - The camera takes a decent portrait photo, although there is no red-eye in this photo, when the flash was left on the Auto setting (rather than red-eye reduction) there was noticeable red-eye. Colours are good with bright blues and greens in landscape shots.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 Lens test images
Lens Test images - The lens performs well at both wide and telephoto settings with better than expected detail from such a small camera. The Leica branded lens appears to do a good job with the only complaint being some purple fringing showing in the photo of the trees above. Macro performance is reasonable with the camera letting you focus on subjects that are roughly 5cm from the front of the lens.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 ISO test images
ISO Noise Performance - Noise is quite low at ISO100 and ISO200, however at ISO400 you can see the image becoming softer as the camera tries to removes noise. At ISO800 the colour saturation begins to drop, as does detail. This continues at ISO1600 and it may be best to avoid using this setting if possible.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 White-balance test images
White Balance Performance - White balance performs well using auto white balance in tungsten and fluorescent lighting, with the tungsten preset mode giving a warmer result. The camera doesn't feature a fluorescent preset mode as the camera does a good job on the auto white balance setting.
1/500 sec | f/9.0 | 4.5 mm | ISO 800
Panoramic - This is the first Panasonic Lumix camera with Panoramic mode built in that we've tested and it works well with you simply pressing the shutter button and holding it while you sweep the camera around.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 Digital filters
Digital Filters / Scene modes - The camera has a built in miniature mode and numerous scene modes such as "Shoot through glass" and frame photo as well as all the usual scene modes we've come to expect on compact cameras. There are some additional colour options including Vivid, Black and White and Sepia, but not as many effects as you find on slightly higher end models such as the Panasonic Lumix FX90. You also need to be aware of using the flash for close subjects with the wide-angle lens as seen in these examples. The camera doesn't feature a dedicated HDR or Backlight scene mode, however it does feature i-exposure and i-resolution, design to improve dynamic range and resolution recorded respectively.
Video - The camera gives the choice of 720p or VGA video as well as whether you want continuous AF on or off. There is very little beyond this as far as video options go, however it's good to see that optical zoom is available while recording.
Value For Money
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 is available for £160 to £180 and offers quite good value for money as one of the smallest pocket zoom cameras currently available with 10x optical zoom, with the nearest competitors the Nikon Coolpix S6300 (£175), Canon IXUS 1100 HS (£260 with 12x optical zoom), and Olympus SH-21 (£160 with 12.5x optical zoom). Don't forget you'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.
Panasonic Lumix SZ1 Verdict
The Panasonic Lumix SZ1 performs well for a point and shoot camera and provides a huge amount of optical zoom for a camera not much bigger than the typical 3 to 5x optical zoom compact camera. Add in optical image stabilisation and a good success rate for sharp photos even when using the zoom and you have a good combination if you're looking for an ultra compact pocket sized camera with a lot of zoom. If continuous shooting was a little quicker, the camera had a better grip plus a few higher end features then this camera would be easy to recommend. If these are minor requirements for you and you simply want an easy to use compact camera with a lot of zoom then the Panasonic Lumix SZ1 is recommended, especially if you can find it for less than £160.
The Panasonic Lumix SZ1 packs in a high quality Leica 10x optical zoom lens into an ultra compact body.
Panasonic Lumix SZ1 Pros
Ultra compact 10x zoom
Stylish metal body
Easy to use
Better than expected battery life