Design and features
The DMC-SZ7 looks like a shrunken, slimmed-down version of its longer-zoom linemates, the ZS19 and ZS20. Despite being just less than an inch thick, the SZ7 still has plenty of zoom range, going from an ultrawide-angle 25mm to 250mm. Plus, the camera is so lightweight, you can easily slip it in a pocket and not feel weighed down.
|Key specs||Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ7|
|Dimensions (WHD)||3.9 inches by 2.4 inches by 0.9 inch|
|Weight (with battery and media)||4.8 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||14 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch high-sensitivity MOS|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||3-inch LCD, 460K dots/none|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||10x, f3.1-5.9, 25-250mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/AVCHD (.MTS), H.264 AAC (.MP4)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||4,320x3,240 pixels/ 1,920x1,080 at 60fps (AVCHD interlaced; 17Mbps), 1,920x1,080 at 30fps (MP4 progressive; 20Mbps)|
|Image stabilization type||Optical and digital|
|Battery type, CIPA rated life||Lithium ion rechargeable, 220 shots|
|Battery charged in camera||Yes, via USB connected to computer or wall adapter (included)|
|Bundled software||PhotofunStudio 8 Advanced Edition (Windows)|
Controls are relatively easy to master. About the most frustrating part is the use of switches for power and going from shooting to playback. If you're used to buttons for these things, it can take some time to adjust, especially if you're the type to look at your shots right after you take them.
Panasonic fit a 3-inch high-res LCD on back while leaving plenty of room for its controls. The LCD gets reasonably bright, though even at its max brightness you may struggle to see it in direct sunlight. It does have a high-angle setting, however, so if you're shooting above your head it won't completely wash out.
The DMC-SZ7's battery and SD card slot are squeezed into a small compartment on the bottom with a locking door. Battery life is somewhat short if you do more than take some snapshots in auto. Using the zoom lens a lot, burst shooting, or capturing long movie clips will empty your charge quickly. If you're considering the SZ7 for going out and shooting for the day, you'll want to pick up a second battery. The battery is charged in-camera via USB so you may want to get an external charger, too, or plan ahead.
|General shooting options||Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ7|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto,100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200|
|White balance||Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Incandescent, Custom|
|Recording modes||Intelligent Auto, Normal (program AE), 3D Photo, Scene, Miniature Effect|
|Focus modes||Face Detection AF, 1-point AF, 23-point AF, Spot AF, AF Tracking|
|Macro||2 inches (Wide); 4.9 feet (Tele)|
|Color effects||Standard, Black & White, Sepia, Vivid, Happy (only in iA mode)|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||4 shots|
The SZ7 is light on shooting options, but if you're mostly concerned with its fully automatic performance, its Intelligent Auto (iA) performs well. If you like a little more control, there is a Normal mode that lets you select things like ISO and white balance, as well as turn on and off Panasonic's Intelligent technologies for improving contrast, sharpness, and other things.
There are also 15 scene modes that include the usual suspects like Portrait, Scenery, and Food, but Panasonic's added new pan-and-shoot Panorama Shot and a multiexposure Handheld Night Shot that takes a few pictures rapidly in a row and then combines them into one to reduce motion blur and noise. The downsides are that it only works well if your subject is stationary, and the white balance is a bit too warm indoors.
Worth noting, too, is that Panasonic lets you turn on both Handheld Night Shot and a multiexposure HDR mode for its Intelligent Auto mode. That way if it detects low-light conditions or a backlit subject when in iA, it can use those options instead of you having to switch to them manually.
There are a couple other extras available, like Miniature Effect and Panorama Shot modes, but if you're looking for a camera to leave in auto, the SZ7 handles most shooting conditions well.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ7 is great little pocket camera. Even at its original price of $180 it was a good deal, but now that it can be found for less than $150, it's a steal. That's mostly because of its fast shooting performance and its small size and long lens. Its battery life could be better and it has some limitations when it comes to photo quality, but if most of your photos are ending up online and you don't need to make prints larger than the occasional 8x10, it's a solid choice for the money.