Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1 review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
  • Overall: 8.0
  • Design: 8.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Performance: 8.0
  • Image quality: 8.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Simple to use; nice design; excellent performance, photo quality.

The Bad No AV output cable included; no shutter speed, aperture controls.

The Bottom Line With a wide-angle, megazoom lens, a quick AF system, and generally high-quality snapshot photos, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1 is a standout compact megazoom.

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It's always nice when a camera fulfills its promise. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1's unassuming outer shell doesn't stray from the company's other compact megazoom cameras, but what's inside does with a re-engineered autofocus system, an ultracompact, wide-angle lens with 8x zoom, and a revamped optical image stabilization system. Add in fast performance and very good photo quality, and you get a pretty great pocketable megazoom camera.

Key specs Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1
Price (MSRP) $279.95
Dimensions (WHD) 2.1 x 3.9 x 1 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 5.6 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 2.7-inch LCD, 230K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 8x, f3.3-5.9, 25-200mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/Motion JPEG (.MOV)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,000x3,000 pixels/1,280x720 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Optical and digital
Battery type, rated life Lithium ion rechargeable, 330 shots

The ZR1 is shockingly small considering its lens specifications. Though 8x is on the short end of megazoom, it's longer than the more typical 3x or 5x zoom lens found on cameras this size. Generally compact megazoom cameras--especially those with wide-angle lenses--are heavy and thick from the lens. This model, however, uses a lens unit made up of superthin 0.3 millimeter elements, allowing for a lightweight, compact body. The camera looks and feels good, too, and, though it's available in black, silver, blue, and red versions, its subtle design won't stand out in a crowd. A nicely rounded right side gives you something to grab onto when shooting one-handed. The ZR1 also features new image stabilization--Power OIS--that doubles the repression power of Panasonic's previous Mega OIS system. In my tests it worked quite well, particularly when the zoom lens was in use.

The camera's controls are simple and straightforward enough that out-of-the-box use shouldn't be a problem for most people who are familiar with digital cameras. A silver plastic Mode dial on top lets you easily slip between shooting options; so easily that it frequently needed to be reset after taking it in and out of a pocket or case. Plus, you have to reach over it to press the shutter release and use the zoom ring, which might bother some users. Otherwise, the remaining controls on back are relatively large, easy to use, and logically arranged. Worth mentioning is the Extended Optical Zoom (E.Zoom) button next to the thumb rest, which quickly zooms the lens completely out with one touch. However, press it again and it activates the extended optical zoom that basically crops the 12-megapixel image down to its center 3 megapixels. This effectively gives you a longer zoom, but not at full resolution making its name misleading. Press the button a third time and the lens goes back to its starting position.

The menu systems are by and large uncomplicated. A Quick Menu button (Q.Menu) on back at the lower right brings up a vertical bar of shooting-mode-sensitive options. A general Menu button sits at the center of the four navigational buttons that double as exposure, flash, macro, and timer controls. The main menu system features three tabs: one for setup, one for shooting features, and a Travel mode. The Travel mode lets you program in date, time, and location for a trip so that everything shot between the programmed dates are grouped together. There's also a slideshow playback option so you can go straight to viewing just those photos and videos taken on your trip. However, if you plan to view those travel photos on a TV, you'll have to pony up for a USB-to-AV cable (or USB-to-component cable if you want HD).

General shooting options Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Halogen, Custom
Recording modes Intelligent Auto, Normal Picture, SCN, Beach & Surf, Snow, Sports, Clipboard
Focus modes Normal AF, Macro AF, Zoom Macro AF
Metering Face, AF Tracking, Multi (11 point), 1 point high-speed, 1 point, Spot
Color effects Standard, Natural, Vivid, Black & White, Sepia, Cool, Warm
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) 5 photos (standard compression); 3 photos (fine compression)

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Where to Buy

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1 (Blue)

Part Number: DMC-ZR1P-A Released: Sep 24, 2009

MSRP: $279.95

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Sep 24, 2009
  • Digital camera type Compact
  • Optical Zoom 8 x
  • Optical Sensor Type CCD
  • Sensor Resolution 12.1 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical (POWER O.I.S.)
  • Optical Sensor Size 1/2.33"