It's a tough world in the compact camera market. So many options to choose from (to HD or not to HD?), cheaper prices, sexier designs, easier to use features ... it's little wonder that any consumer is going to be left bewildered by the options out there. The Lumix DMC-ZR1 is a piggy in the middle, squeezed between the ultra-compact cameras in the range like theand the full-on travel zoom .
The ZR1 is the first (of many to come, we assume) in a TZ6 models released earlier this year, the ZR1 features the same dial and button arrangement on the top (mode dial, shutter button and zoom rocker, and power switch) and at the back, next to the 2.7-inch LCD screen, a playback switch and a four-way directional pad. The layout is standard Lumix, and we appreciate the consistency amongst the new cameras throughout the range. The build quality too is exceptional, with a very solid feel that's not permeated with flimsy plastic or cheap components — it's all metal here., which takes a slim body and pairs it with an extended, though not extensive, zoom. Shaped a little like a squashed down version of the popular TZ7 and
That mode switch, which we whinged about on the TZ7, is now pleasingly resistive — no accidentally swapping between modes while taking the camera in and out of a case or bag.
At the side are standard ports for connectivity, just HD AV and USB out, no HDMI here. At the base of the camera is a combined battery and SD/SDHC slot. Available in four colour options (black, silver, red and blue), we like the looks of the ZR1 — it's conservative with a touch of class that puts it above the average stylish shooter.
There's one last thing to mention, and that's the "E zoom" button that appears at the back of the camera. Press it once and it extends the zoom from wide angle to telephoto. Press it again and it extends the digital zoom to a maximum reach of 15.6x.
For much of 2009, the critical megapixel number has been 12.0. The ZR1 doesn't buck with tradition on this marker, with a 12.1-megapixel sensor. At the back is another number that's fast becoming standard on compacts, a 2.7-inch LCD screen.
It's not all "same old, same old" though, as there's a new optical image stabiliser technology from Panasonic called Power OIS, which upgrades the range of stabilisation as much as two times more than the conventional Mega OIS system.
The lens is 25mm at its widest and extends to a pretty impressive 8x optical zoom, impressive for such a small chassis that only measures 5.4cm high by 9.7cm wide by 2.6cm deep and weighs 138g. To give you some idea of how it fits in with other comparably slim cameras, thesports a 10x zoom and measures 9.6cm wide and 3.1cm deep, and the has 7x zoom and is 9cm wide and 2.3cm deep. So, not that slim compared to its zoomy brethren, but still svelte enough to slip into a pocket or handbag with relative ease.
It's not a particularly fast lens, though, with a maximum aperture of f/3.3 at the wide end and f/5.9 at the telephoto. We've got high hopes for image quality given our previous reviews of Lumix compacts such as the FS15, and because of the Leica optics. Read on for our full comments about image quality.