Panasonic DMC-ZS3: Really Fast Shutter And Great Color
(Seattle, WA, USA)
I am reviewing my Panasonic DMC-ZS3. I received it as a gift from my father in March 2010 (used through present day - 07/23/10), and I assume he bought it offline. He knew I was about to go on a trip to Africa to kick it with some meerkats, so he knew I would be taking a lot of close-up pictures of wildlife in action, and mainly chose this camera for its 12X zoom.
For this purpose, the camera worked brilliantly, most of the time. I ended up with some truly professional-looking wildlife shots, close-up portraits of individual meerkats, that were all in pristine clarity.
The Panasonic DMC-ZS3 has a feature where you can hold the shutter down continuously to take a rapid series of images for as long as you want - and that was really helpful when trying to capture the animals in motion.
Another feature that really shone was the video feature - I didn't expect to use it at all, but it was so easy to access it and switch back and forth between photos and videos that I tried it on a whim during my first encounter with the meerkats.
Later in the day, I reviewed the video I'd taken, and I was absolutely floored by the quality. I could see individual hairs on the meerkats, I could see the clouds of dirt they were stirring up as they performed burrow maintenance, and it was like I was really there!
It was gorgeous, and I used it many times during that trip when it was simply easier to take one big video rather than a thousand photos. Plus, the video allowed me to record the sounds of the meerkats - the audio quality wasn't as good as I would have liked it to be (pretty quiet), but I don't have another camera's audio capability to compare it to, so maybe it was pretty standard.
The "intelligent" modes on the Panasonic DMC-ZS3 were not something I expected to use or to work well, but I was surprised at what a good job those functions did when it came to automatically adjusting the exposure when the light changed or I moved the camera, and auto-focusing when I moved or the subjects moved.
I still prefer to have a little more active control over my photography, so they aren't features I'll use all the time, but for beginners or for people who don't want to fiddle with options and still get great shots - it would be perfect.
The color quality of the Panasonic DMC-ZS3 at baseline
was gorgeous - I took a lot of photos of dramatic thunderstorms over red dunes at twilight, and the tones and contrast and accuracy of the colors was just amazing.
There were some times of day (early morning, overcast; pre-twilight just after the sun goes down) where some of my pictures didn't turn out as well as I wanted. I hate to use the flash, so probably that had something to do with it - anyway, some of the pictures of the animals I took from a distance (or zoomed in from a distance) in that type of light turned out a little less crisp than usual, and it was easier to screw up and get blurry shots that were a little too contrasty/saturated.
In general, the camera was really easy to use, intuitive, and filled with features that would appeal to a wide variety of people - you can do some editing, labeling, organizing, and so forth, and you can choose from a big selection of presets like baby mode, pet mode, underwater, etc., if that's your sort of thing.
Oh, and it's fast. REALLY fast. Basically no lag between shots, and no lag when starting up. I took some of the best pictures of my life with this camera during my two weeks in Africa. At home, I've taken a bunch of crisp, clear indoor shots in both natural and artificial light.
I took some surprisingly good close-up shots of still objects in REALLY low light, like nothing but candles, and I was thrilled with how much depth and texture came through in those images.
I took a lot of self-portraits in semi-low indoor light, and they turned out really well. I've successfully used this camera at a beach, a baseball game, and one night I had way too much fun sticking the camera out of my car window and keeping the shutter open for ages, making lots of awesome cityscapes decorated by neon lights.
The only other thing I can think of to mention is that I really have no idea how well and if the various stabilization modes worked - I never did a controlled test. I'm not even sure if I used one or not, but whatever I did, my images came out pretty well, so the only thing left to figure out is whether one of the other modes performs better than the other.
Overall, I think the Panasonic DMC-ZS3 is best for outdoor shots, close-ups, action - but I think someone who did indoor photography would have just as much success as I have.