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Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 Ultra Compact Zoom Review

We review the ultra compact camera from Panasonic with an impressive 10x optical zoom lens.

|  Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 in Compact Cameras
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1
Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1

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
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
Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 Zoom

Key Features

  • 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
  • Miniature effect
  • Panoramic shot
  • USB charging
  • HD (720p) video

Panasonic Lumix SZ1 Handling

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 Top
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
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
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
Shutter Response 0.05 0.05
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.15 0.45 (0.3 Snap)
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.20 N/A
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 1.7 1.7
Shot to Shot (without flash) 1.2 1.1
Shot to Shot with Flash 2.1 2.2
Continuous Shooting (JPEG) 1fps (Full Resolution) 1.6fps (~ shots)
Continuous Shooting (with Flash) 1.1 (3 megapixels) N/A
Continuous Shooting (RAW) N/A 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
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
Panoramic mode
Stylish metal body
Fast focusing
Easy to use
Good colour
Better than expected battery life

Panasonic Lumix SZ1 Cons

Some purple fringing
Lacks grip
Limited ISO range


Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1 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 inch
Sensor Size (width)6.08mm
Sensor Size (height)4.56mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 4:3
  • 3:2
  • 16:9
  • 1:1
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution230,000 dots
Touch ScreenNo
Min Focus5cm
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Face Detection
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/1600sec
Shutter speeds longest8sec
Bulb modeNo
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Scene modes
  • A
  • Multi Pattern
ISO sensitivity100 - 6400
White balance
  • Auto
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Shade
Exposure Comp+/-2
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting1.3fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
  • 640x480 VGA
Video FPS25
Stereo SoundNo
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeLi-ion Battery Pack (3.6V, Minimum: 680mAh)
Battery Life (CIPA rating)250shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsBattery Pack, AC Adapter, AV Cable, USB Cable, Hand Strap, CD-ROM

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Photographs taken using the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ1

Pink SwirlHydrangea 2Another Fishy TailA Winter FantasyLast LightOn SafariDartmouth harbourCold Winter AheadFeed Me!Dramatic CliviaWet GlassBayards CoveThe Old TractorThe Colours Of ChristmasCan I Come In?

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25 Feb 2012 3:03PM
I like see in your testing too how it look with 2* digital zoom.New Cameras all promote better digitalzoom.

In older tests you show often a image with digital zoom, that was great. I hope in future Camera tests, you can too show digital zoom. the tower with clock you choose, is a good motive to show this.

I think your tests are great, when show digital zoom too, and i look often here for new camera test. I look forward to the panasonic tz 30/tz31 with 20* zoom and other Compact with 20* zoom, how picture quality is in digital zoom. From my old camera i test, digital zoom is little better as do a 100% crop, seem camera can do better exposure on the small snippet and so more contrast and details are here. If quality can increase more is great.Much zoom is important to me and i dont want buy a FZ150, because it is too large for everyday Camera.

So please in future add a max intelligent digital zoom image too in the sample images.
joshwa Plus
12 927 1 United Kingdom
26 Feb 2012 8:16AM
Hi, full intelligent / digital zoom samples can be seen here:
Just click images when you get there,

Thanks for your feedback

LKC 9 Singapore
13 Oct 2012 3:31AM
Is Panasonic DMC SZ1 good for taking clear pictures in dim light environments?
joshwa Plus
12 927 1 United Kingdom
13 Oct 2012 9:09AM
Hi, for better low light shots you ideally want: a bright lens (smaller f number), image stabilisation, backlit cmos or cmos , high speed continuous shooting can also help, as well as higher ISO settings.
2 Dec 2012 11:00PM
I was thinking on getting the FinePix T400 for my GF as a small camera for now and I just noticed you selected this Panasonic as the top budget one. Unless my eyes are fooling me, the Panoramic shot on this camera is horrible compared to the FinePix T400 . Am I right or is something wrong with the posted pic?
joshwa Plus
12 927 1 United Kingdom
3 Dec 2012 10:10AM
Panoramics are not a strong-point on the SZ1, however this is just one aspect of the camera.
LKC 9 Singapore
19 Jan 2013 1:53AM

Quote:Hi, for better low light shots you ideally want: a bright lens (smaller f number), image stabilisation, backlit cmos or cmos , high speed continuous shooting can also help, as well as higher ISO settings.

Hi Joshwa,
My colleague suggested I get a Panasonic. So, which model will you recommend that can take sharp pictures in dim light environment?
Ingleman 15 9 4
13 Apr 2013 6:08PM
Having used the camera for a few months I am less enamoured with it's limitations and performance. Great little camera for point and shoot....but not a patch on a good quality DSLR + lens. Now very unhappy to find serious dust spots on all images. (Dust & fibres on the sensor) Video images can't be edited, so most movies are ruined. Apparently, this is a common fault with compacts due the suction caused when zooming in and out! I wish I had known that before I obtained a compact camera!
15 Jan 2014 11:35PM
Guys I have had this camera for nearly 2 years now, never had any problems whatsoever. However, the other day I picked it up and it won't switch on at all, doesn't even charge. . . Does anyone have any suggestions on what could be wrong? You would really help. Thanks

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