CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS1 review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS1

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS1

Joshua Goldman
Joshua Goldman Managing Editor / Advice
Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn't consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.
Expertise Laptops, desktops and computer and PC gaming accessories including keyboards, mice and controllers, cameras, action cameras and drones Credentials More than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.
5 min read

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS1 may look identical to its linemate, the ZS3, but give its specs more than a cursory glance and you'll find it's a different camera. The make-or-break difference, though, is the ZS1's lack of HD movie capture. So if you don't need that and aren't doing a lot of action photography, you'll probably be satisfied with what the ZS1 offers: a compact body, a wide-angle lens with 12x zoom, and very good photo quality.


Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS1

The Good

Compact wide-angle lens with 12x zoom; good build quality; uncomplicated operation.

The Bad

Mixed performance; few manual features.

The Bottom Line

With a flexible lens in a pocketable package, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS1 is a pleasing point-and-shoot megazoom--both in design and photo quality.

The ZS1 looks and feels good. It's a sturdy, comfortable handful with a nicely rounded right side giving you a secure one-handed grip. Though it's not small or light enough that you'll forget it's on you, the fact that a camera with its wide, long lens easily fits in a back pants pocket or small handbag is awesome. Available in silver or black, its controls are simple and straightforward enough that out-of-the-box use shouldn't be a problem for most familiar with digital cameras. A Mode dial on top lets you easily slip between shooting options. Actually, if there's one design complaint it's that the dial spins a little too freely, and because you have to reach over it to press the shutter release and use the zoom ring, it frequently moves out of place. Otherwise, the remaining controls on back are relatively large, easy to use, and logically arranged.

Likewise, the menu systems are uncomplicated. A Q.Menu button 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 two tabs: one for setup and one for shooting features.

If you're trying to decide whether the ZS3 is worth $100 more to you than the ZS1, there are noteworthy differences. For starters, the ZS1's LCD, though only slightly smaller, has half the resolution. The ZS1 uses a different image processor that does not support HD video with stereo audio, HDMI output, or the ZS3's face recognition and Intelligent Auto in Movie mode features. There's also a one-touch movie record button to go with the HD video capture. Lastly, the ZS3 has a different sensor with a total pixel count of 12.7 megapixels compared with the ZS1's 10.3-megapixel sensor. However, both are 10-megapixel cameras, so the ZS3's higher pixel count basically allows you to get higher-resolution photos at 3:2 or 16:9 aspect ratios. Really only the HD video is important and to us it's worth the $100.

The ZS1 is primarily a point-and-shoot camera. 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 as well as the capability to set a minimum shutter speed from 1 second to 1/250. If you like scene modes the ZS1 has 27 of them as well as a MySCN option letting you associate one you use most often 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, but it maxes out at a resolution of 640x480 pixels. 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. Panasonic recommends using it for taking pictures of bus/train timetables and maps, which is made more useful by the wide-angle lens.

Performance is mixed from the ZS1. The time from off to first shot is an average 2.3 seconds. Shot-to-shot times are a longer wait at 2.5 seconds without flash and 2.8 seconds with the flash on. Its burst mode is fairly fast, too, at 2 frames per second. The bad news is shutter lag. In bright conditions it takes just shy of a second to capture a photo after pressing the shutter release. That's a time we usually get for dim lighting; most point-and-shoot cameras come in at roughly half that time in good lighting. In more challenging lighting the ZS1 takes 1.1 seconds, which is a more typical result for its class, but still high.

Photo quality is very good for its class. Things that megazoom photos typically exhibit--softness, barrel distortion, purple fringing--didn't seem to trouble the ZS1. Photos below ISO 200 were generally sharp with good detail with excellent color and exposure, though there was some highlight clipping. Photos had a slight graininess to them across all ISOs, but as usual, the higher the ISO and the larger you view the photos the more likely you are to see it. In other words, there's noise, but most probably won't see it unless they're looking for it. Between ISO 200 and 400, photos get a little fuzzier and softer from noise reduction, but detail is still fairly good. Everything taken with ISO 800 or ISO 1600 isn't particularly useful, so you'll want to be careful about taking handheld low-light shots without using the flash.

Video quality is good for VGA with monaural audio and you get use of the 12x optical zoom while you're recording.

If you want a pocketable point-and-shoot megazoom camera, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS1 is one of the best options around. Even with its few flaws, it comes out on top of the competition as long as you don't need semimanual or full manual controls. Again the decision between it and the ZS3 comes down to whether you want the HD movie capture, and if you don't, the ZS1 is a sound purchase.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot
Typical shot-to-shot time
Shutter lag (dim)
Shutter lag (typical)
Canon PowerShot SX110 IS
Canon PowerShot SX200 IS
Nikon Coolpix S630
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS1

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test digital cameras.


Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS1

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 7Image quality 7
Shopping laptop image
Get the best price on everything
Shop your favorite products and we’ll find the best deal with a single click. Designed to make shopping easier.
Add CNET Shopping