Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS30 review: Feature-filled and fun to use

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It charges via USB using a somewhat proprietary version of Micro-USB. While the cable is easy to come by, it's not the same type of Micro-USB widely used with mobile devices.

Wi-Fi and GPS
Panasonic's Wi-Fi implementation in earlier cameras was fairly dreadful. It was confusing to set up and use, didn't offer many features, and required you to sign up and register your social networks with its Lumix Club service for sharing straight from the camera. That last part is still true, but Panasonic's really improved everything else about the experience.

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If you have an Android device with NFC, you'll be able to get the most from the ZS30. Open up the Android app on your smartphone and simply tap the left side of the camera to the back of your device and the two will connect to each other via Wi-Fi. From there you'll be able to control the camera remotely and view and transfer photos and videos from the camera to your device. You can also tap to send individual photos from the camera to your phone.

The camera's Wi-Fi can also be used for other things including direct uploads to social networks. However, you have to sign up for a Lumix Club account and register all the services you want to use on there. Frankly, sending images from the camera direct to your device is easy enough that I would skip Lumix Club and just upload from your smartphone (or tablet).

For iOS users, you get much of the same functionality via Wi-Fi. But without NFC you'll have to input the Wi-Fi password for the camera into your device's wireless settings and there's no tap-to-send feature. You can read all about what's available on Panasonic's site.

The ZS30 also has built-in GPS. Using it is fairly simple thanks to a dedicated spot in the menu system. Once you've turned on the receiver -- it can be done from the Q.Menu or main menu -- you can have the camera retrieve the information for your current location. The addition of support for GLONASS (Global Navigation Satellite System) seems to have improved connection speed and accuracy, which makes having the feature that much more valuable.

Once locked, the ZS30 can display country, state, city, and landmark information and continues to update itself every minute. The ZS30 has the capability to copy map data for a particular city to an SD card from a bundled map DVD; detailed maps are included for about 90 countries worldwide on a scale of 1/25,000 or more precise.

Of course with the Wi-Fi and GPS, touch screen, zoom, burst shooting, and HD movie capture there's a lot here to drain the camera's small rechargeable battery. I strongly recommend picking up an extra battery if you're going to be traveling with the ZS30 or even just taking it out for a day of shooting.

General shooting options Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS30
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto,100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Incandescent, Custom
Recording modes Intelligent Auto, Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, Custom 1 and 2, Panorama Shot, Scene, Creative Control
Focus modes Face Detection AF, 1-point AF, 23-point AF, Spot AF, AF Tracking, Touch AF
Macro 1.2 inches (Wide); 3.3 feet (Tele)
Metering modes Multi, Center-weighted average, Spot, Touch
Color effects Standard, Black & White, Sepia, Vivid, Happy (only in iA mode)
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Six shots

As Panasonic's highest-end compact megazoom, the Lumix DMC-ZS30 has no shortage of shooting options. For automatic shooting there is the company's Intelligent Auto (iA), which combines an ever-growing number of technologies to get the best results. If you're looking to just shoot quickly without thinking about what mode would be best, it's fairly reliable in good lighting. In general, you're better off taking some control, and for that you get aperture-priority, shutter-priority, and manual shooting modes.

Apertures are f3.3-8.0 wide and 6.4-8.0 telephoto. Shutter speeds go from 4 seconds to 1/2,000 second (a Starry Sky scene mode gives you 15- and 30-second settings). To use them, you press the Exposure button on back, and change the settings with the directional pad. (A thumb dial would've been nice, but space is already pretty tight.) There are also two Custom spots on the mode dial for setting up three custom setting configurations. There's a Program mode, too, should you want to adjust things like ISO, white balance, and exposure compensation (not done with the Exposure button, mind you, but the directional pad), but not worry about shutter speed and aperture settings.

There are also 18 scene modes that include the usual suspects like Portrait, Scenery, and Food, as well as an Underwater mode for use with a waterproof housing, and another for high-speed video. The high-speed video options include 120fps at 720p resolution and 240fps at VGA resolution.

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Not to be outdone by Sony, Fujifilm, and others, the ZS30 has a pan-and-shoot panorama mode; a Handheld Night Shot that takes 10 pictures in a row and then combines them into one to reduce motion blur and noise; and a multiexposure HDR option. Panasonic also lets you turn on both the HDR and HNS modes for use when you're shooting in iA. That way if it detects low-light conditions or a backlit subject, it can use those options instead of you having to switch to them manually.

And if that's not enough, a Creative Control mode gives you 14 filters and effects to experiment with. About the only thing that isn't available is raw image capture. If that's a deal breaker for you, check out the Fujifilm F900EXR, which is the only camera in this class that has that feature.

If you're looking for a travel zoom with Wi-Fi, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS30 is one of the best options available right now. Pixel peepers might find fault with its picture quality, but for me it doesn't have any real deal breakers and it's well suited as a family compact amera that can be used by advanced and casual snapshooters.