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Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7

Panasonic's new Lumix not only has it all, but its price brings it into range for even casual photographers.
The native format of the CCD image sensor is the standard 4:3 ratio, but you can change it to either 3:2 or 16:9 aspect ratios if you are shooting for specific display destinations. Since these settings only result in limiting the use of the full image sensor, you may do better to simply use the full 4:3 format and crop your shots in the computer.

The FZ7 picture size, which relates to the final quality of the image, can be set at one of six settings, ranging from full quality 6-megapixel to the smallest size of .3-megapixel. At the same time, you can select either low- or high-quality JPG files. For the very highest quality images, the camera can be set to save TIF format files, which result in image files as large as 15MB each.

I found the placement of the controls logical and all within easy finger-reach. There are even dedicated buttons to turn image stabilization on and off, and to switch between automatic and manual focus. Boot time, which includes initial focus, was less than 3 seconds, and shutter lag after auto-focus was almost non-existent.

I took some shots using a tripod, only to find that accessing both the battery and memory card requires removing the camera from tripod head. The camera comes with a lens shade, which may be necessary for some shooting situations, but using it makes the camera feel bulky even if it doesn't add any appreciable weight.

The LCD is bright and easy to see in almost every lighting condition. For those times when you want your eye to the camera, the optical viewfinder is available at the touch of a button.

If you don't mind carrying a full sized camera (one you can't realistically put in a pocket), the FZ7 is a great choice. It's $400 price tag puts it within competitive range of most point-and-shoot digicams with less zoom range and far fewer features.