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Old Monday 3rd April 2006, 06:19   #1
eliaszuniga
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Review of Panasonic FZ7 ultrazoom point and shoot

FZ7 Review:

While certainly not a camera for professionals, Panasonic’s new FZ7 can be a wonderful addition to the birder on a budget. I recently (March 21, 2006) purchased one new from www.beachcamera.com for $346.00 I’ve bought equipment from them before, and had another pleasant experience. Anyway, on to the equipment itself…

Like I said earlier, the FZ7 will not provide professional grade photos of birds – only an SLR can do that. It is a 6 megapixel “ultra zoom” with 35 mm equivalent of 36-432 mm in an increasingly crowded market segment. (Competitors include Canon’s S2 (and upcoming S3) and Sony’s H1 (and upcoming H2 and H3), and even Kodak’s P850.) While all three are image-stabilized 12X zooms, what really sets the camera apart from the others (at least for birders’ sake) is the EZ zoom feature. This is essentially in-camera cropping of the image to provide more “optical zoom,” much as one would crop an unwanted section of a photo in Photoshop or something similar. This enables the camera to go from 12X zoom at 6 megapixels to 16.5X at 2.5 megapixels. (35 mm equivalent of 590 mm!) Even at this reduced resolution, the pictures are certainly good enough for on screen viewing, or for 4X6 photos. NOTE: EZ Zoom is not the much maligned (and justifiably maligned, IMO) digital zoom, which greatly degrades the image quality when used. While many may favor the cropping that can be done in post processing on a computer at home, EZ Zoom may be preferable because it helps you better frame the bird and lets the camera’s auto settings (white balance, focus, etc.) adjust to the zoomed in bird. (There are conversion lenses available that can increase the zoom even more, (and degrade picture quality somewhat) but I’ve not tried them.) Even when fully extended, (at almost 600 mm), the built in optical image stabilization (better than digital stabilization) works very well and makes it easy to have blurry pictures nearly non-existant. Other features of considerable interest to birders are that the startup time is quite fast, and that it has many manual and automatic/scene mode settings. Since I’ve only had it for 10 days, I’ve not yet begun to use anything but the automatic settings. The focus works very well even at the telephoto end, whereas I had trouble with the autofocus of Canon’s S2 when I tried it at a store. It also has a great battery life – I took it on a three hour birdwalk today, took over a 150 photos, and the battery still showed “full.” Another possible benefit (though much more subjective) of the FZ7 is its size; although it is an ultrazoom, it is still relatively small, but just a little larger than its predecessor, the FZ5, and much smaller than its more expensive sibling, the slr-sized FZ30, the FZ7 is certainly small enough to take on a three hour birdwalk along with your full size binos. (The FZ30, by the way, has the EZ Zoom up to 19X!)

In general, this camera has received generally mixed reviews, the main criticism being its noise. I have found the noise to be perfectly acceptable, especially in the morning light which is when I use it the most. Unless the bird sits up for you from a few feet away, in perfect light and in a perfect pose, you probably won’t get a Wildbird cover with it. What it will do, however, is provide an excellent log of the birds you see throughout your birding day, and help you record those you don’t know for easy later identification. Considering its price, its potential, and the equivalent cost of similar equipment in the SLR market, the FZ7 is a wonderful value. I score it an 8. For great reviews on it, check www.dcresource.com and www.dpreview.com. I'll include here some photos of a hawk at 1x and 16.5x to give you an idea of the zoom, as well as a nice one of a Western Bluebird, all taken today all without retouching. (Unfortunately, the hawk has bad backlighting, but you can at least get an idea of the zoom.)
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Old Tuesday 4th April 2006, 19:19   #2
RAH
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eliaszuniga
FZ7 Review:

... the EZ zoom feature. This is essentially in-camera cropping of the image to provide more “optical zoom,” much as one would crop an unwanted section of a photo in Photoshop or something similar. This enables the camera to go from 12X zoom at 6 megapixels to 16.5X at 2.5 megapixels. (35 mm equivalent of 590 mm!) Even at this reduced resolution, the pictures are certainly good enough for on screen viewing, or for 4X6 photos. NOTE: EZ Zoom is not the much maligned (and justifiably maligned, IMO) digital zoom, which greatly degrades the image quality when used.
This sounds like a nice camera, but from your description, "EZ Zoom" sounds exactly like digital zoom. In fact, your description seems to me to be just about the definition of digital zoom - in-camera cropping, with a resulting picture of lower resolution. If Panasonic is claiming something new here, I don't see it. My feeling is that yes, this is "justifiably maligned."
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Old Tuesday 4th April 2006, 22:19   #3
normjackson
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Thanks for the mini review eliaszuniga.

The advantage that "EZ zoom" has over normal digital zoom is that it is simply a crop so there is no in-camera interpolation of the image. There is hence no unnecessary increase in file size and you are not tied to a camera's resizing algorithm which is probably inferior to the one you'd use in your photo editing package (found that with FZ1).

The advantage of the crop being done at the picture taking stage rather than later is not so obvious. Clearly all else being equal, one would rather be able to postpone the crop to the post processing stage. However, at the picture taking stage, maybe having the field of view reduced closer around the subject aids the camera in achieving correct focus and exposure. And maybe by having the user viewing at the greater magnification they will have a better view of their subject (as well as being made more aware of camera shake ). Previously some folks have used the digital zoom setting in precisely this way, but then have had to zoom back out again afterwards to leave the digital zoom range.

If Panasonic announced this facility as some sort of huge breakthrough (don't know if that's true) maybe their marketing guys have been overexposed to the Leica camera marketing guys
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Old Wednesday 5th April 2006, 12:56   #4
RAH
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Quote:
Originally Posted by normjackson
The advantage that "EZ zoom" has over normal digital zoom is that it is simply a crop so there is no in-camera interpolation of the image. There is hence no unnecessary increase in file size and you are not tied to a camera's resizing algorithm which is probably inferior to the one you'd use in your photo editing package (found that with FZ1).
Ah, I understand... Yes, the absence of interpolation does make it more acceptable. Perhaps in certain tricky lighting/focus conditions, it might help as described.
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Old Wednesday 5th April 2006, 13:25   #5
duster
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I bought an FZ7 last month. So far it's everything I expected it to be and it does all it claims well. It is noisy though, over 100ASA but I've not had a problem. You can get noise reduction programmes: I've tried "Neat Image" which works well but inevitably softens detail, however, you can apply the noise reduction selectively. I purchased, on E-Bay, a new(!) Nikon 1.5X teleconvertor which increases the (35mm equiv) zoom to around 610mm. You'll need a tripod for this though, even with the anti-shake function. I also found that this teleconvertor just fits into the accessory tube. It doesn't screw in but is a good slide fit and when bound with (black) plastic tape is perfectly secure.

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Old Wednesday 5th April 2006, 16:37   #6
normjackson
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The Pemaraal adaptors for the FZ7 are available now which might be a good choice for use with one of the more heavy conversion lenses :
http://www.pemaraal.com/fz7ac.html
Your remedy with the Nikon, Duster, sounds a good one; I much prefer the price too.
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Old Wednesday 5th April 2006, 17:30   #7
duster
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Even better, the Nikon lens was £50! and if you really wanted an alloy tube then SRB would likely make one up.

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Old Saturday 6th May 2006, 19:15   #8
Kasha
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Angry

Quote:
Originally Posted by normjackson
The Pemaraal adaptors for the FZ7 are available now which might be a good choice for use with one of the more heavy conversion lenses :
http://www.pemaraal.com/fz7ac.html
Your remedy with the Nikon, Duster, sounds a good one; I much prefer the price too.
I have an FZ7 and want to buy a TCON17 . Anyone know whether this camera requires a special TCON17 (C X,etc.)?
Does this have threads & if so, what is the exact adapter & model # I would need to screw it onto the 52mm threads on the camera? Any help is appreciated.
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Old Saturday 6th May 2006, 21:44   #9
duster
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Fz7/tcon

Try this for info on the TCON17 and other lenses.

http://www.cs.mtu.edu/~shene/DigiCam...Telephoto.html
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Old Saturday 6th May 2006, 21:48   #10
duster
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Fz7/tcon

Further to my last post. My FZ7 does not have a 52mm thread on the camera. The little tube that comes with the camera has a 52mm thread on the front. The special extender tube, made of metal is, I understand, the same. The rear fitting (onto the camera) is, I think, 53mm as a 52mm ring is too small. Easiest way to fit The TCON would be to by the extender and an appropriate step ring.
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