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Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 front side

Nov 27th, 2011 - The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 is the successor to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5 from 2010. Panasonic has designed the Lumix DMC-ZS8 to appeal to those who are looking for a versatile and affordable compact camera that offers an extended feature set with long range zoom capabilities.

The highlight features of the 14 megapixel Panasonic ZS8 include; a 16x wide-angle zoom lens (24-384mm equivalent in 35mm terms) with optical image stabilizer, manual exposure control or user friendly Scene modes for point and shoot simplicity, 720p HD movie recording with sound, and a large 3.0-inch LCD monitor. Based on its feature set the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 looks like it offers good value for the money.

We have now had the opportunity to review the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8. To see how the camera performed, check out our Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 sample image gallery, together with the findings and conclusions from our review. We begin by providing a general overview of the ZS8, and then present more of the details.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8: Major Features and Overview

Panasonic Lumix ZS8: User Experience
Lumix DMC-ZS8: Sample Test Images
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8: Specifications

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 back view

Panasonic Lumix ZS8: Major Features and Overview

  • 14.1 megapixel effective resolution for lots of detail and larger prints

  • 16x optical wide-angle zoom provides a 24mm-384mm field of view equivalent in 35mm terms

  • Optical Image Stabilizer (Power-O.I.S) system to assist handheld shooting in low light conditions

  • 3.0-inch 230,000 dots LCD monitor with intelligent brightness adjustment

  • IA mode offers point and shoot simplicity employing intelligent scene recognition technology

  • 1280 x 720 HD movie recording at 30 fps with sound

  • Face Detection and Face Recognition AF / AE for accurate focus and exposure

  • Manual exposure control options including Aperture, Shutter Priority and Manual

  • 28 user friendly automatic Scene modes for capturing still images

  • Sonic Speed AF: the ZS8 focuses 49% faster than its predecessor the DMC-ZS5

  • Lithium-ion rechargeable battery (up to 340 shots per charge) and charger supplied
  • The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 offers an extended versatile zoom range while still being small enough to easily fit in a pocket or purse. The camera will appeal to family and travel photographers that are looking for ease of use combined with the ability to take control of settings when desired.

    The 16x optical zoom provides good telephoto coverage allowing the user to zoom in on the subject from far away, while the 24mm wide angle setting is perfectly suited for capturing group shots of people or scenic landscapes.

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 zoom range

    A shooting mode dial is located on the top of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 next to the toggle zoom lever / shutter release button, and provides for the selection of the following shooting modes: IA fully automatic mode, Program (P), Aperture Priority (A), Shutter Priority (S), Manual (M), Custom (CUST), Scene Modes (SCN), My Scene Modes (MS1 and MS2), and Movie mode.

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 shooting mode information

    As you rotate the control dial, the shooting mode options are superimposed on the camera's LCD monitor for easier confirmation.

    In IA mode the Panasonic Lumix ZS8 automatically takes care of all the settings using the camera's built-in intelligent scene recognition technology. Selecting IA mode activates the following built-in technologies:

    Face Recognition: You can set the camera up to recognize a specific person in the scene. Once registered, the Lumix ZS8 is able to recognize the person when they appear in the frame and the camera will then prioritize focus and exposure for that person accordingly. The faces of up to six people can be registered in the camera by first taking their portrait and then adding their name using the menu system.

    Face Detection: The camera automatically detects faces in the scene, preventing blurry faces that happen when the camera focuses on something in front or behind the subject, and helps prevent faces from appearing dark when shooting indoors or in back light situations.

    Auto Focus (AF) Tracking: Once you focus on your subject, AF Tracking automatically tracks it until you press the shutter.

    Power O.I.S. (Shake Detection): The built-in optical image stabilizer system is designed to prevent image degrading blur that can occur when shooting at slower shutter speeds and allows for hand held shooting under lower light conditions.

    Intelligent ISO Control: When the Lumix ZS8 detects subject movement it automatically raises the ISO sensitivity setting and shutter speed to prevent motion blur.

    Intelligent Exposure: The camera analyzes the scene as it is captured and adjusts brightness in areas that are too dark because of dim lighting, back lighting or the use of flash. The result is a more even exposure across the image.

    Intelligent Scene Selector: the camera automatically selects a Scene mode based on the subject and shooting conditions that are detected. The camera selects from one of the following modes: Scenery, Portrait, Macro, Night Portrait, Night Scenery or Sunset..

    Intelligent Resolution (I.R) Technology: gives a high resolution look to digital zoom images as well as ordinary images by applying in-camera image processing. This feature enables 20x Intelligent Zoom on the Lumix ZS8 that digitally extends the optical zoom magnification by 1.3x with little loss of image quality.

    The Lumix ZS8's shooting mode dial also offers a Custom (CUST) setting. It can be preprogrammed by the user to provide quick access to frequently used camera settings based on personal preference.

    The Panasonic Lumix ZS8 offers a number of convenient automatic 'Scene' modes. These shooting modes are designed to optimize camera settings in relation to the type of scene being photographed.

    To activate a Scene mode on the Lumix ZS8 you set the camera's shooting mode dial to the SCN position and then select the appropriate Scene mode from the menu displayed on the camera's LCD monitor.

    The Lumix ZS8 offers the following Scene mode options: Portrait, Soft Skin, Transform, Self-portrait, Scenery, Panorama Assist, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Food, Party, Candle Light, Baby, Pet, Sunset, High Sensitivity (for low light), High Speed Burst (up to 10 frames per second at 3MP), Flash Burst, Starry Sky, Fireworks, Beach, Snow, Aerial, Pin Hole, Film Grain, High Dynamic, Photo Frame, Underwater.

    It is possible to assign a Scene mode to each of the 'My Scene' settings (MS1 and MS2) found on the camera's shooting mode dial. Whenever you want to use the associated scene mode, you simply set the shooting mode dial to the desired MS position and the camera is ready to go.

    Unlike some other Panasonic Lumix camera models, the Lumix DMC-ZS8 does not offer a dedicated movie shooting button. Before you can record movies, the control dial has to be set to movie shooting mode.

    The main buttons and controls on the ZS8 are located on the back of the camera as seen below.

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 buttons and controls

    The Shooting / Playback mode switch is located near the top of the camera to the right of the LCD screen. To capture stills or movies the switch has to be set to the Shooting mode position, and for viewing your images or videos the switch has to be set to the Playback position.

    The Exposure button is used to change settings for Aperture or Shutter speed when using the camera's manual shooting mode options.

    Most of the features and settings on the Lumix ZS8 are controlled by using the the MENU / SET button. Pressing the MENU / SET button activates the camera's menu system, and you use the up, down, left, right buttons on the surrounding four way button control pad to scroll through and select from the camera's menu options.

    The buttons on the control pad also provide quick access to frequently changed functions. Pushing the up button on the control pad provides the option of adjusting exposure compensation settings (+/- 2 stops for brightening or darkening the image).

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 exposure compensation

    Pushing the right button on the control pad allows for the adjustment of the ZS8's flash settings, which include; Auto, RedeYe, Flash On, Slow-sync/RedeYe, and Flash Off.

    For close-up photography, the Panasonic DMC-ZS8 offers a macro close-up focusing ability down to 3cm from the subject when the lens is in the wide angle zoom range. The macro feature is automatically enabled in IA shooting mode, and can be manually selected by pushing the down button on the control pad.

    Pushing the left button on the control pad provides access to the Lumix ZS8's self-timer settings. Available self-timer options include a 2 sec or 10 sec delay before the picture is taken.

    The two bottom buttons on the back of the Lumix ZS8 include the DISPLAY button and the Q. MENU / Delete button. Pushing the Display button controls how shooting information is presented on the camera's LCD screen in both shooting and playback mode. Options include; image with limited shooting info, full image with no info, and image with Date and Time.

    Lumix ZS8 playback LCD screen

    For advanced shooters, the Panasonic Lumix ZS8 includes the option of a live histogram (set in REc menu) to assist in determining the best exposure (superimposed on the LCD screen in live view shooting mode as seen below).

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 live histogram

    The Panasonic Lumix ZS8 also offers the option of selecting a grid overlay display which superimposes a set of vertical and horizontal framing lines on the LCD monitor, in order to provide assistance in composition for situations like architectural and landscape type of photography.

    The Q.MENU / delete button is used to access the Panasonic Lumix ZS8's Quick menu when the camera is set to Shooting mode. The same button is used to delete images when the camera is set to Playback mode.

    The Lumix ZS8's Quick menu feature offers a faster way to change common camera settings. The current setting for each one of the Quick menu options is displayed in the Quick menu tool bar displayed on the top of the LCD screen.

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 Quick Menu

    The available functions that can be adjusted by using the camera's Quick menu vary by shooting mode.

    When P, S, A or M exposure shooting mode is selected, the Quick menu includes the following options: Burst Shooting, AF Mode, White Balance, ISO, Picture Size, and LCD Mode.

    In fully automatic IA shooting mode the Quick menu provides access to quickly changing the following settings; Colour Mode (Sepia, Standard, Happy or B&W), Burst Shooting (On/Off) and Picture Size.

    The Lumix ZS8 offers a variety of continuous shooting options. In Burst mode you can capture up to three full resolution images at a rate of 1.9 frames per second. The camera also offers a High Speed Burst Scene mode which allows you to shoot at 10 frames per second up to a total of 100 images at reduced 3 MP resolution.

    The Panasonic Lumix ZS8 provides a number of different Auto Focus (AF) modes to ensure that the camera focuses properly on the intended subject. Using the camera's Quick menu, it is possible to select from six different AF options to fit the photographic occasion. Choices include: 23-area (closest subject), 1-area, Spot, AF Tracking (follows subject), and Face Detection AF (focuses on people in the scene).

    With respect to ensuring proper colour in your photographs, the Panasonic Lumix ZS8 offers both Auto White Balance (AWB) settings or the ability for the user to manually set WB from a range of available presets including: Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Incandescent and Custom (set by taking a picture of a white surface under the given lighting conditions).

    The Lumix ZS8 offers an Auto ISO setting where the camera controls the camera's sensitivity to light depending on brightness levels. The ISO sensitivity range on the Lumix ZS8 can also be manually selected and goes from 100 - 1600 ISO which is fairly common for this class of camera.

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 at 400 ISO

    Taken with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 at 400 ISO

    The Lumix ZS8 offers six resolution settings to fit the intended use of the image. Using the camera's Quick menu you can select from highest quality recording at 14 megapixels for larger print sizes down to as low as 0.3 MP suitable for web or e-mail.

    A similar option exists for movie shooting, where you can choose from one of three different quality levels. HD 720p is best for TV viewing while VGA (640 x 480) is more suitable for web or computer viewing and offers longer recording times. QVGA (320 x 240) is the lowest quality movie setting offered.

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 Movie Menu

    The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 is able to record 720p HD video in the Motion JPEG format. The 16x optical zoom is available in movie recording, and is designed to suppress noise while zooming.

    The last tab on the Lumix ZS8's Quick menu is the LCD mode option which allows control over the brightness level of the camera's LCD monitor. In Auto mode the Lumix ZS8 will automatically vary the brightness intensity of the monitor to match viewing conditions. This feature can be disabled using the Quick menu tab, or you can adjust it so that LCD brightness boost is always on.

    Camera settings on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 can be adjusted in the Rec Menu. The following functions are available; Aspect Ratio (for TV, print or web), Picture Size (resolution), Quality (image compression quality), ISO Sensitivity, White Balance, AF Mode, Quick AF, Face Recognition, Metering, i.Exposure, Min. Shutter Speed, i.Resolution, Digital Zoom, Burst (Continuous shooting), Colour Mode, AF Assist Lamp (On or off), Stabilizer, Date Stamp, and Clock Set.

    The Panasonic Lumix ZS8 offers a number of playback options. Using the camera's Playback Mode menu, you can select to view individual images or movies, see images in a slideshow, playback images by date or using a filtered view.

    The Lumix DMC-ZS8 features a USB / AV connection socket located on the side of the camera behind a protective hinged door. Both a USB cable and an Audio / Video cable are included in the box.

    The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 comes supplied with a proprietary Lithium Ion rechargeable battery and battery charger. The ZS8 battery provides for about 340 shots per charge based on the manufacturer's specifications.

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 with DE-A65 battery charger (North America)

    One nice feature is that the DE-A65 battery charger (North America) incorporates an AC wall plug, so there are no extra cords to bring with you when traveling as with some competitors models. Having an extra battery for back up is always a good idea.

    In addition to the conventional secure digital SD / SDHC memory cards, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 accepts the newer SD format SDXC (SD eXtended Capacity), that provide both high capacity and fast data transfer speed.

    An optional marine case (DMW-MCTZ10) is also available for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 that allows for underwater photography.

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 in silver

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 Review: User Experience

    The Panasonic Lumix ZS8 falls into the category of being one of the smaller yet full featured cameras available on the market. Considering its user friendly operation combined with more advanced features, the camera lends itself well to travel and family type photography.

    Based on our tests with the Panasonic Lumix ZS8, the 16x optical zoom with optical image stabilizer delivers good image quality throughout the zoom range. The camera's intelligent resolution technology allows the zoom range to be extended digitally to 20x (480mm equivalent in 35mm terms), offering the ability to zoom in even closer on the subject from far away with little loss in image quality.

    The Lumix ZS8 is quick to respond making it easier to capture sudden, spur-of-the-moment photo opportunities. The Lumix ZS8 also features a short startup time of approximately 1.1 second.

    The Lumix ZS8 is a good performer In terms of metering and auto focus, with the exception that under bright lighting conditions the camera does have a tendency to loose some highlight detail in favour of maintaining detail in the shadow areas of the image. An example would be loss in sky detail when capturing a landscape scene.

    The high ISO sensitivity capabilities of the Lumix DMC-ZS8 are a little disappointing versus competitor's models. Images captured at 400 IS0 and above exhibit a fair amount of digital noise (grain like effect). While suitable for small print sizes, web or email use, the high ISO image quality from the ZS8 does not lend itself to producing larger sized prints. We would recommend setting ISO manually, and try and keep it between 100 and 400 ISO.

    If you do a lot of low light shooting you may want to spend a little more and consider the Canon Powershot SX230 HS, a camera that provides better high ISO capabilities and 1080p HD movie recording with stereo sound, although offers a slightly shorter 14x zoom range.

    At lower ISO sensitivity settings the Panasonic ZS8 is capable of delivering good image quality with plenty of detail. The 720p HD movie quality delivered by the camera is also good, and the ability to use the optical zoom while video recording is a very nice feature.

    Taking advantage of the camera's extended scene mode options, or using the manual exposure settings, allowed us to get the desired results that might not have been possible by simply using basic iA automatic mode.

    Although the 3.0-inch LCD screen offers below average 230K resolution, we found no real issue with composing and playing back images on the camera's monitor.

    We recommend the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 to those that are looking for a user-friendly solid compact digital camera that offers good image quality combined with an extended telephoto zoom range, and that can be easily brought with you wherever your travels take you.

    If you are looking to buy the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 we suggest checking out the deals at Amazon

    Panasonnic Lumix DMC-ZS8 in black

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 Image Samples

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8: Specifications

    Sensor Type 1/2.33-type CCD sensor / 14.5 Total Megapixels / Primary Color Filter
    Effective Pixels 14.1 Megapixels
    Optical Zoom 16x
    Focal Length f = 4.3 - 68.8 mm (24 - 384 mm in 35 mm equiv.)
    Aperture Range F3.3 - 5.9 / Multistage Iris Diaphragm (F3.3 - 6.3 (W) / F5.9 - 6.3 (T))
    Extra Optical Zoom (EZ) 18.9x (4:3 / 10M), 22.5x (4:3 / 7M), 27.0x (4:3 / 5M), 33.8x (4:3 / under 3M)
    12 elements in 10 groups
    (3 Aspherical Lenses / 6 Aspherical Surfaces / 1 ED Lenses)
    Image Stabilizer System Power O.I.S. (On / Off)
    Focus Distance Normal: Wide 50 cm - infinity / Tele 200 cm - infinity
    Macro / Intelligent Auto / Movie Recording: Wide 3 cm - infinity / Tele 100 cm - infinity
    AF Assist Lamp Yes
    AF Modes Normal / AF Macro, Zoom Macro, Quick AF, AF Tracking Continuous AF (only for motion picture)
    AF Type Face / AF Tracking / 23-area / 1-area / Spot
    Face Recognition AF Yes
    Release Time Lag (Approx.) 0.007 sec
    Shutter Speed Still: Approx. 8 - 1/1600 sec
    Starry Sky Mode: 15, 30, 60 sec
    Intelligent ISO Control IA Mode when shooting stills
    Intelligent Scene Selector Photo (Portrait, Scenery, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Sunset, Macro)
    Red -Eye Reduction Digital Red Eye Correction (Red-Eye Removal) for stills
    File Formats Still Image: JPEG (DCF / Exif 2.3)
    Motion picture: QuickTime Motion JPEG
    Mode Dial Settings Intelligent Auto, P, A, S, M, Custom, SCN, My SCN2, My SCN1, Movie
    Still Photo
    Scene Modes
    Portrait, Soft Skin, Transform, Self-portrait, Scenery, Panorama Assist, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Food, Party, Candle Light, Baby1, Baby2, Pet, Sunset, High sensitivity, Hi-speed Burst (Image Priority / Speed Priority), Flash Burst, Starry Sky, Fireworks, Beach, Snow, Aerial Photo, Pinhole, Film Grain, High Dynamic (Standard, Art, B&W), Photo Frame, Underwater
    Movie Scene Modes None
    Continuous Shooting Full-Resolution Image, 1.9 frames / sec
    Max. 5 images (Standard Mode), Max. 3 images (Fine Mode)

    High-speed Burst Mode: Approx. 5.5 frames / sec (Image Priority), Approx. 10 frames / sec (Speed Priority)
    (recorded in 3M for 4:3, 2.5M for 3:2, 2M for 16:9, 2."5M" for 1:1)
    Exposure Program AE, Aperture Priority AE, Shutter Priority AE, Manual
    Exposure Compensation 1/3 EV step, +/-2 EV
    Backlight Compensation Yes (Only in Intelligent AUTO Mode)
    ISO Sensitivity Auto / i.ISO / 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600

    High Sensitivity (1600-6400)
    Auto (AE) Bracketing 1/3 ~ 1EV step, Max +/-1, 3 frames
    Real-Time Histogram Yes
    Recording Aspect Ratio 4:3 / 3:2 / 16:9 / 1:1
    Image Size Still Image

    4:3 Aspect Ratio:

    4,320 x 3,240 pixels (14M)
    3,648 x 2,736 pixels (10M EZ)
    3,072 x 2,304 pixels (7M EZ)
    2,560 x 1,920 pixels (5M EZ)
    2,048 x 1,536 pixels (3M EZ)
    640 x 480 pixels (0.3M EZ)

    3:2 Aspect Ratio:

    4,320 x 2,880 pixels (12.5M)
    3,648 x 2,432 pixels (9M EZ)
    3,072 x 2,048 pixels (6M EZ)
    2,560 x 1,712 pixels (4.5M EZ)
    2,048 x 1,360 pixels (2.5M EZ)
    640 x 424 pixels (0.3M EZ)

    16:9 Aspect Ratio:

    4,320 x 2,432 pixels (10.5M)
    3,648 x 2,056 pixels (7.5M EZ)
    3,072 x 1,728 pixels (5.5M EZ)
    2,560 x 1,440 pixels (3.5M EZ)
    1,920 x 1,080 pixels (2M EZ)
    640 x 360 pixels (0.2M EZ)

    1:1 Aspect Ratio:

    3,232 x 3,232 pixels (10.5M)
    2,736 x 2,736 pixels (7.5M EZ)
    2,304 x 2,304 pixels (5.5M EZ)
    1,920 x 1,920 pixels (3.5M EZ)
    1,536 x 1,536 pixels (2.5M EZ)
    480 x 480 pixels (0.2M EZ)
    Movie Recording 4:3

    VGA: 640 x 480 pixels, QVGA: 320 x 240 pixels, 30 fps (Motion JPEG)

    HD Movie
    1,280 x 720 pixels, 30 fps (Quicktime Motion JPEG)
    White Balance Auto / Daylight / Cloudy / Shade / Incandescent / White Set

    Selectable at Portrait, Soft Skin, Transform, Self-portrait, Panorama Assist, Sports, Baby, Pet, High Sensitivity, High-speed Burst, Pinhole, Photo Frame, High Dynamic)
    Quick Menu Yes
    Image Parameters Standard, Natural, Vivid, Black & White, Sepia, Cool, Warm, Happy (only in IA Mode)
    LCD Monitor 3-inch TFT Screen LCD Display (230,000 dots)
    Field of View : Approx. 100%
    Power LCD Mode, Auto Power LCD Mode, High Angle Mode
    Composition Guide Line Yes (2 pattern)
    Self Timer 2 sec / 10 sec
    Playback Mode Display Normal Playback, Slideshow, Filtering Playback (Picture Only, Video Only, Travel, Category, Favorites), Calendar Playback
    In Camera Cropping and Resize Yes
    Menu Languages English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Russian, Chinese (Traditional), Chinese (Simplified), Dutch, Thai, Korean, Turkish, Portuguese, Arabic, Persian, Japanese, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Greek
    Built-in Flash Auto, Auto / Redeye Reduction, Forced On, Slow Sync. / Redeye Reduction, Forced Off

    Flash Range: 0.6 - 5.0 m (Wide / ISO Auto), 1.0 - 2.8 m (Tele / ISO Auto)
    Recording Media Built-in Memory 70MB, SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card, SDXC Memory Card
    Microphone Yes (Mono)
    Interface AV Output (PAL / NTSC), USB2.0 High-speed
    Battery power ID-Security Li-ion Battery Pack (3.6V, Minimum: 895 mAh) (Included)
    Battery Life 340 pictures (CIPA Standard)
    Dimensions 104.9 x 57.6 x 33.4mm
    Weight Approx. 210 g with Battery and SD Memory Card
    Included Software PHOTOfunSTUDIO 6.0 QuickTime, Adobe Reader, Super LoiLoScope (trial version)
    Included Accessories Battery Charger, Battery Pack, AV Cable, USB Connection Cable, Hand Strap, CD-ROM

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