Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ8 Saint John NB
Saint John, NB
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ8
With its optically stabilised 5x zoom lens plus priority and manual exposure controls, the DMC-LZ8 is perfect for photography enthusiasts on a budget. The plastic body is chunky, partly because it accommodates two AA batteries, but there's little else in the way of compromise.
An Exposure button provides easy access to shutter speed and aperture via the navigation pad, while a Quick Menu button does the same for ISO speed, white balance, resolution and focus mode. Half-pressing the shutter button in priority and program-exposure modes reveals all the exposure-related settings onscreen, including the ISO speed to be used in Auto ISO mode. This lets experienced photographers use the automatic mode confidently, switching to manual when necessary. There are lots of advanced options in the menu, including noise-reduction strength, but it's disappointing that an enthusiast-friendly camera such as this lacks manual focus.
The largest aperture is f/3.3 for wide-angle shots and f/5.9 for telephoto, which means the LZ8 captures less light than most compact models. The optical image stabilisation compensates for this, allowing longer exposures before blur sets in. However, cameras with both stabilisation and an f/2.8 aperture are better still.
Start-up time was a little slow, taking 3.5 seconds to take its first picture, but from then on shooting was fast at 1.9 seconds between shots and 1.5fps in continuous mode. The use of AA batteries limited flash photography to a shot every five seconds, though. Image quality was excellent, with sharp details right into the corners of photos, expertly judged exposures and vibrant colours. Noise reduction suppressed both noise and details at ISO 400 and above, but low-light photos were better than average at this price.
The DMC-LZ8 is similar to Canon's A720 IS for features, performance and quality, and it's hard to choose between them. However, where there are differences - zoom range, aperture size, manual and macro focus and start-up speed - the A720 has the edge.
8 megapixels (3,264x2,448), 5x optical zoom (32-160mm), 2.7in LCD, SDHC slot (20MB internal), 2x AA batteries
Author: Ben Pitt