Review: Panasonic Lumix DMCSZ3

This camera was actually purchased by my father for my wife in 2013 for a trip to France she would make in 2014. Other than being kept in the drawer where I keep all of my gear, I never really paid it much attention. But, after acquiring the Canon Elph, I decided to charge this up and take it for a spin.

As a photography enthusiast, there is one thing about the camera that just hits me like a great big bag of rocks – the lens. Leica. LEICA. Yes, ladies and gentlemen: that Leica. Leica, the legendary German company that makes what some say are the best camera lenses that have ever been made. Leica, the crème de la crème of photographic imaging. Leica, the company for which there is no camera in their product line that costs less than $1,000. Many everyday people will never see any Leica gear in their lifetimes. Do they live up to the hype? That is a debate that has raged on in online forums as long as the internet has existed. As it would seem, Panasonic had no credibility in the camera market when they chose to enter into it about ten years ago. Panasonic specializes in electronics of every kind, so they could make chips and photo sensors as much as they needed. But, who can make a lens that would really want to make a person buy one of their cameras? Enter, the legendary Leica. They make the lenses, Panasonic makes the electronics behind it. It’s the perfect marriage.

Featuring the Leica DC Vario-Elmar lens

But, moving back to the camera at hand, it packs a lot of value into a package that’s smaller than your wallet. Shooting photographs at 16.1 megapixels, for those that keep track of those measurements (that matters a lot less than most digital photographers claim), one can easily yield prints well beyond 11″ x 14″ if desired. As with all compact cameras, don’t get too excited about the megapixel count given that the actual image sensor is a very tiny 6.08 x 4.56 mm. The lens boasts a very respectable and versatile zoom range from 25mm all the way to 250mm. The maximum shutter speed goes all the way to 1/1600 of a second.

As can be seen, there’s a decently sized display on the back and not too many buttons. I don’t like having a lot of buttons. I hate that about Nikon – pretty near everything is a button. It’s like trying to cram the cockpit of a commercial airliner into a car – you could do it, but the result would be densely packed chaos.

Panasonic has done an admirable job of making everything automatic, though in my opinion it’s a bit over-engineered. There are so many creative modes and menu features that it is dizzying to look at. It’s even worse to spell out in a review.

The built in flash is decent enough – though on any camera, no matter how big or how expensive, one cannot expect much from the built in flash.

It does support charging over USB – this is a very nice feature. No external charger needed. Just plug it up to any USB port, or use one of the USB power blocks that came with your cell phone and plug it up, and you’re all charged up in a few hours’ time. In the case of my wife, we sent her to France with a European USB charger, so she could just plug up just like she would in America. On a camera like this flexibility really matters. Chances are, you will travel with it. And chances are, you’ll need to charge it.

And by the way, you will notice one thing on every camera I review here – I skip over the video features. Video doesn’t matter. Video doesn’t matter. Video doesn’t matter. Video doesn’t matter. Video does not matter! It’s photography, not cinematography. If you’re in to cinematography, they have video cameras for that. Video beyond what the average smart phone offers is just not very useful to the common photographer. YouTuber maybe, but not the photographer. Photography and cinematography are quite simply not the same thing.

But now that I’ve ranted on and indulged in my fetishes of the technical, let’s have a look at some images. These are all unedited, taken straight off the memory card. Considering they are done totally automatic, they are quite impressive. Indeed, I can scratch the “Leica experience” off of my “bucket list.”

I’m not happy with the fact that it doesn’t support RAW Images – but I discuss that elsewhere. That would make it look a little too much like a rebranded Leica.

Even so, it captures quite an impressive image. Certainly nothing to complain about.

But, you know what the best thing is to use this camera for? Shooting photos, not each other.

Vintage muppets glasses on display in my home office / man cave / photo and technology lair
The macro capabilities are better than you might expect. Color saturation is outstanding – perhaps a product of Leica glass.
A peony on the side of our house. I’m very happy with the auto focusing here.

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