Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR3 review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR3

Overall photo quality from the ZR3 is very good for a compact camera. At its lower ISO sensitivities, photos are sharp with good fine detail and little if any visible noise. At ISO 400, subjects appear softer and there's a slight shift in color. Some fine detail is preserved, though, so you can still get good 4x6 prints as long as you don't do any heavy cropping or enlarging. Pictures taken at higher sensitivities are OK; they're good enough for Web use, but there is a noticeable increase in noise and softness. The ZR3 has a High Sensitivity mode for shooting in very low light. It can capture up to a 3-megapixel image using ISOs from 1,600 to 6,400. Unfortunately, yellow blotches from noise are quite visible and occur even at lower ISOs in this mode. Basically, it's there for getting a shot without using a flash, but the results aren't good for much.

The ZR3's 25mm-equivalent wide-angle lens show a little asymmetrical barrel distortion on the left side. Likewise, when the lens is fully extended, there's slight pincushion distortion. Neither is bad enough to be concerned about, though, and sharpness is good edge to edge. There is little to no fringing in high-contrast areas of photos.

Color performance is the weakest part of the ZR3's photo quality and in the end is what brought its overall rating down. They tended to look washed out and slightly inaccurate in my test shots. However, that's not to say they aren't pleasing and for many people they'll be fine. Plus, if you like punchier colors there's a Vivid setting that'll get you those. White balance is very good, other than being a little warm indoors when set to Auto. Exposure is also very good, and Panasonic's Intelligent Exposure does a good job of rescuing shadow details without overexposing highlights.

Video quality is good, on par with a pocket minicamcorder. Like those, if you do a lot of panning or you're shooting fast-moving subjects, you'll see a fair amount of judder. You do get use of the zoom lens while recording, and despite being a mono mic, sound quality was very good. There's a windcut filter that helps out some, too. Plus, the Intelligent features and many of the scene modes work for movies including Pin Hole, Film Grain, and High Dynamic. Just select the mode while in photo mode and press record.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR3 is a very good compact camera thanks to a flexible lens and a healthy feature set. Most of the features are geared for point-and-shoot users, which makes the more-advanced option of recording movies in AVCHD Lite slightly strange. And the value of going up to 14 megapixels is debatable, too. On the other hand, Panasonic's suite of "Intelligent" technologies gives those who want to get the best results right out of the camera a decent chance of doing so.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1
Fujifilm FinePix JZ500
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR3
Nikon Coolpix S8000
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W370

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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