The ZR1 is primarily a point-and-shoot camera, with no controls over aperture or shutter speed. In Normal Picture mode you get the most control over results with settings for focus, light metering, color effects, white balance, ISO, and exposure. You also get access to Panasonic's Intelligent ISO for limiting the sensitivity to a maximum of ISO 400, 800, or 1,600. (Because of the poor photo results at ISO 1,600, I recommend using the ISO 800 setting.) If you like scene modes, the ZR1 has 29 of them. The list includes familiars like Portrait, Landscape, and Night Scenery, and more unusual artistic options like High Dynamic Range, Pinhole, and Film Grain (though the last two are limited to shots 3 megapixels and below). A MySCN option is also available, letting you associate a favorite scene mode with the MS marker on the Mode dial. Of course there's a fully automatic mode--Intelligent Auto (iA)--that determines the most suitable Scene mode and helps correct any blurring, focus, and brightness issues. There is a Movie mode capable of capturing some very good video at HD quality and you get use of the quiet optical zoom while recording. The last spot on the dial goes to a Clipboard mode that stores low-resolution images to the camera's 40MB of internal memory for fast recall. A recommended use would be for taking pictures of bus/train timetables and maps, which is made more useful by the wide-angle lens.
Panasonic claims to have focused on improving performance with the ZR1 and it shows. Megazooms are typically slow to start, but the time to first shot on the ZR1 is just 1.3 seconds. Shutter lag is at 0.4 second in bright conditions and just 0.6 in dim lighting. Using its full-resolution burst mode, the camera is capable of 2 frames per second. The only average time was its shot-to-shot performance: 2 seconds without flash and 2.5 seconds with it on.
Overall, the photos produced by the ZR1 are very good to excellent, depending on if you care about how pictures look when viewed or printed at the full 4,000x3,000-pixel resolution. There's visible noise at all ISOs, but it isn't until ISO 400 that it and noise suppression combine to soften detail. At ISO 800, photos take on a painterly appearance, but fine detail is still fairly good. Though there's still some detail at ISO 1,600, photos are for the most part unusable because they are covered in faint yellow splotches along with a good amount of noise. Despite its 8x zoom range and 25mm-equivalent wide-angle lens, there was just some minor barrel distortion at its widest position. Purple fringing was minimal in high-contrast areas, too. Most importantly, the ZR1 produces bright, natural colors that are reasonably accurate. White balance and exposure were also very good.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1 might not seem like an astonishing camera, but its combination of new technologies and materials, generally excellent photo quality and performance, and healthy feature set geared toward snapshooters makes it a standout pocket megazoom.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
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