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Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ3 Review

Daniel Bell reviews the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ3, it has a 10x optical zoom lens, 16.1 megapixel sensor and 720p HD video recording.

|  Panasonic Lumix SZ3 in Compact Cameras
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Panasonic Lumix DMC SZ3 Black (5)

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ3 was announced in January 2013 alongside the SZ9. They are both similar cameras, but the SZ3 is a cheaper budget model, with a CCD sensor and 2.7 inch screen, whereas the SZ9 has a MOS sensor and 3.0 inch screen. The SZ3 is available for around £80 in white, violet and black.

Panasonic Lumix DMC SZ3 Black (2)

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ3 Features

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ3 has a 16.1 megapixel CCD sensor and a 10x optical zoom lens, which is a 35mm equivalent of 25-250mm. There is Mega Optical Image Stabilisation to keep shots as sharp as possible, and the SZ3 can shoot full resolution images up to 1.4 fps.

The SZ3 has an Intelligent Auto mode which adjusts the camera settings for the detected scene. There are a number of scene modes to choose from, panorama shot mode and creative control. Creative control has a wide range of creative shooting modes, such as high dynamic, dynamic monochrome and impressive art. Portrait shots can be improved using Beauty ReTouch, available in playback.

Videos are recorded in 720p at 24 fps with optical zoom available during recording.

Panasonic Lumix DMC SZ3 Black (6)

Key Features

  • 16.1 megapixel CCD sensor
  • 10x optical zoom lens (35mm equiv: 25-250mm)
  • Mega Optical Image Stabilisation
  • 2.7 inch 230k dot LCD screen
  • Creative Control mode including HDR
  • 720p HD video recording at 24fps
  • ISO 100 - 1600
  • 5cm minimum focusing distance
  • 1.4 fps continuous shooting
  • Panorama shot mode
  • Available in white, violet and black
Panasonic Lumix DMC SZ3 Black (7)

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ3 Handling

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ3 has a metal body that is lightweight and small enough to carry in your pocket. On the rear is a 2.7 inch LCD screen, which has a 230k dot resolution, which most is standard for cameras in a similar price range.

On the top of the camera is the on / off button, shutter release and zoom rocker. On the rear are mode, movie record, playback and delete buttons, as well as a d-pad for cycling through the menu. The menu is access via the button in the centre of the d-pad and the menus are easy to navigate, although there is no direct way to access picture settings (such as ISO and white balance), you have to press menu, then choose rec. The d-pad offers quick access to self-timer, flash and exposure compensation.

Battery life is rated at 250 shots according to CIPA test results, which is decent for a budget camera. We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.

Shutter Response   0.1 secs
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response   0.2 secs
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response   0.4 secs
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo   1.5 secs
Shot to Shot without Flash   2.5 secs
Shot to Shot with Flash   3.0 secs
Continuous Shooting - Burst   0.6 fps
Continuous Shooting - High-Speed Burst   7.9 fps
Continuous Shooting - Flash Burst   1.1 fps

We struggled to get anywhere near the 1.4 fps in continuous shooting that Panasonic claim the SZ3 is capable of. The high-speed burst and flash burst modes both record at a maximum of 3 megapixels.

Panasonic Lumix DMC SZ3 Black (1)

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ3 Performance

Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ3 Sample Photos

Sample Photos - Images are bright and colourful, with good shots possible outdoors in good light and indoors using the flash. Portrait shots aren't the best, with skin tones benefiting when edited using the Beauty Retouch mode in playback.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ3 Lens test images

Lens Performance - Image detail is decent enough throughout the zoom range for a budget camera, with purple fringing kept under control as well. The lens has a minimum focusing distance of 5cm, which does allow for a good macro shot.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ3 ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - Noise is low at ISO 100 and 200, with a little noise appearing at ISO 400 that causes a slight softening of the images. Image quality really starts to suffer at ISO 800, which becomes even worse at ISO 1600, with a large amount of detail lost at this setting.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ3 White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Under the incandescent and fluorescent lights the Auto White Balance (AWB) performs excellently. The incandescent preset produces an image with a slight colour cast under the incandescent lights, there isn't a fluorescent preset available on the SZ3.

Panorama 2 | 1/200 sec | f/9.0 | 4.5 mm | ISO 800
Panorama 2 | 1/200 sec | f/9.0 | 4.5 mm | ISO 800

Panorama mode - Panoramic shots have a decent amount of detail and are stitched together well. If bright, sunny conditions, the SZ3 struggled to keep a consistent exposure throughout the panoramas.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ3 Digital filters

Digital Filters - The SZ3 has a number of colour modes to choose from, or you can opt to use the creative control mode to produce unusual and unique shots. We've included a number of examples above.

Video - Below is a video recorded in 720p HD. Quality is good, you can use the zoom during recording, where the focusing keeps up with the zoom and you can't hear the lens movement.

Value For Money

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ3 is available for £82.96. Other compacts with a similar amount of optical zoom include the Fujifilm FinePix T500 (12x zoom) at £74.99, Samsung WB30F (10x zoom) at £99.99, Olympus Stylus VR-370 (12.5x zoom) at £109, Nikon Coolpix S6400 (12x zoom) at £105, Sony Cybershot WX200 (10x zoom) at £129.99 and Canon IXUS 265 HS (12x zoom) at £179.

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 DMC-SZ3 Verdict

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ3 offers a decent amount of zoom for a budget camera, that is small enough to carry in your pocket. It's a cheap option for someone wanting a pocketable travel camera, with picture quality suited to sharing on the web, rather than large prints. The SZ3 comes with optical image stabilisation and the creative control mode makes using the camera a lot of fun. You can't expect much for £80, but the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ3 certainly offers value for money.


Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ3 Pros

Decent image quality for a budget camera
Creative control mode for unique pictures
Has optical image stabilisation
Good value for money

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ3 Cons

Lacks a button to give quick access to picture settings such as ISO and white balance
Continuous shooting slower than expected
Inconsistent exposure in panoramas in bright sunlight


Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ3 Specifications

Max Aperturef/3.1 - f/5.9
35mm equivalent25mm - 250mm
Optical Zoom10x
Image Sensor
Pixels16.1Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4608
Pixels (H)3456
Sensor TypeCCD
Sensor Size1/2.33
Sensor Size (width)6.16mm
Sensor Size (height)4.6mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 4:3
  • 3:2
  • 16:9
  • 1:1
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor2.7in
Screen resolution230k
Touch ScreenNo
Min Focus5cm
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Spot
  • Face Detection
  • Multi
  • Centre
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/1600sec
Shutter speeds longest60sec
Bulb modeNo Data
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Scene modes
  • Multi Pattern
ISO sensitivity100 - 1600
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Shade
Exposure Comp+/-2
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting1.4fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
Video FPS24fps
Stereo SoundNo
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeLithium-Ion
Battery Life (CIPA rating)250shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

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