ISO comparison

Depending on what your plans are for its photos, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ7's shots are either very good to excellent or unusable. If you're looking to use its 14-megapixel resolution to enlarge pictures to full size and heavily crop in, don't buy this camera (or most other point-and-shoots). Things just don't look great when viewed at 100 percent.

However, those viewing on screen at less than 100 percent or making prints up to 8.5x11, which is probably the majority of buyers, will be really happy with the results. These are 100 percent crops from our test scene. Looking at them more closely you'll see subjects are somewhat soft and noisy even at the camera's lowest ISO sensitivities where things should be their sharpest.

As you go up in ISO, such as when you're shooting in low light, you'll pick up more noise, particularly yellow blotches. Panasonic's JPEG processing has gotten much better at these higher ISOs, though, making them usable. Things definitely get worse at ISO 1600 and above, however, so you'll want to avoid using them whenever possible. Also, subjects generally look soft above ISO 200; if it's something you're sensitive to, you can always sharpen somewhat with editing software.

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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Macro

Most compacts produce their best fine details in macro mode, but again, you can see that the SZ7's results aren't great at 100 percent. (This is a 100 percent crop from the inset image.) However, scaled back to 50 percent, which is still plenty large, things look much better. And considering the camera can focus as close as 2 inches from a subject, you can still get in pretty close.
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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Color

The SZ7 produces very nice colors: pleasingly vivid and bright. Highlights, however, tend to blow out, costing you some details.
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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Zoom range

The zoom range of the lens goes from 25 (top) to 250mm (bottom). For the most part, the image stabilization did fine when fully extended. You're always going to be better off with the camera supported, though, especially indoors.
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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

HDR mode

The camera does have an HDR mode, but it's only available in Intelligent Auto mode. You have to go into the main menu system to turn it on and the camera will decide when it's appropriate to use it. It's off in the left photo and on in the right, where it corrects for the bright sun bringing our more detail in the sky as well as bringing up shadows on the buildings and in foreground tree.
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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Color modes

The SZ7 isn't overflowing with filters and effects like some competing models, but you do get some color modes to work with. The top picture is Standard, and the bottom from left to right is Happy (only in iA Mode), Sepia, and Black & White. There is also a Vivid mode available for Normal mode and movies.
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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Miniature Effect mode

The camera does have a miniature effect mode that is decent, but very slow to process.
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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Panorama Shot

Panorama Shot makes it easy to capture 360-degree horizontal or vertical panoramic pictures by simply panning the camera. It doesn't handle motion well, but for still landscapes, it's pretty good. View at full size.
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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Sample photos at 250mm (f5.9, 1/250th, ISO 250)

The following slides are all shot at full telephoto at various ISO sensitivities. A link is provided below each slide to view photos at full size. These are large files, though, so it may take a few seconds for each to load.

View full size image.

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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Sample photos at 250mm (f5.9, 1/500th, ISO 160)

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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Sample photos at 250mm (f5.9, 1/640th, ISO 160)

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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Sample photos at 250mm (f5.9, 1/1,000th, ISO 100)

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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:

Sample photo at 500mm (f5.9, 1/800th, ISO 100)

This was taken using Panasonic's Intelligent Zoom feature, which digitally doubles the optical zoom to 20x.

View full size image.

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Photo by: Joshua Goldman/CNET / Caption by:
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