Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9 review - Superbly conceived with Wi-Fi and a 10x zoom

Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9 review - Superbly conceived with Wi-Fi and a 10x zoom

The SZ9 could never be accused of being chunky, measuring 21mm thick. Panasonic has somehow squeezed a 10x zoom lens into that tiny space, giving a versatile 25-250mm effective focal length range. We shouldn't sound too surprised, though – it's the same design as last year's Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ7.

The SZ9 adds Wi-Fi to the mix. The accompanying Android app can control the camera remotely, complete with a live view feed and extensive control including exposure compensation, focus and flash settings. It's even possible to move the autofocus point by touching the screen – something that's impossible on the camera itself. Photos are saved to both the camera and the phone. The app can also browse photos stored on the camera and transfer them on demand. This works for videos too, but only if they've been recorded in MP4 format and not AVCHD. There's no iOS app, and Panasonic couldn't say if or when there would be one.

The SZ9 can also take photos with the camera's normal controls and automatically transfer them to the app as soon as they're captured. This is strangely absent from most Wi-Fi cameras, and is perfect for instant online sharing. The Android app happily ran in the background, copying photos for us to browse and share from the phone's Gallery app. Battery life may be an issue, though. Even with Wi-Fi disabled, it's rated at a meagre 220 shots.

Other destinations for on-demand and instant transfers include the Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Picasa, Flickr and temporary cloud storage. However, we weren't able to sign up to the Lumix Club service and configure these options. Instant transfers to a PC worked superbly, though. We expected to have to install a utility on the PC, but after joining our home Wi-Fi network and entering our Windows user name and password, we could simply select a shared folder and start copying. We were even able to send photos straight to a NAS. With so many Wi-Fi options it could be easy to get lost, but there are useful Connection History and Favourites lists to keep on top of things.

The other notable change compared to the SZ7 is the move from a 14- to a 16-megapixel sensor. This is a daft resolution for a small 1/2.3in sensor; as a result, noise was visible throughout our test shots. Brightly lit shots looked great when resized to fit a computer screen, but viewed up close, skin tones were a little grainy, subtle textures were glossed over and darker textures were replaced by a gloopy haze.

Low-light shots were inevitably much worse, with a syrupy mush of colour making details look vague even when resized to fit a screen. The Intelligent Auto mode took it upon itself to drop the resolution to 7 megapixels in some low-light shots, but to little avail.

We're none too impressed by Intelligent Auto mode's insistence on including digital zoom to extend the 10x optical zoom range to 20x. Details were already pretty vague without it, and with it they looked downright ugly. Intelligent Auto also includes an automatic HDR mode, taking two exposures and blending them to capture more highlight and shadow detail. However, shadows looked even messier, and with occasional weird double-exposure problems and eight seconds to process each shot, it's more trouble that it was worth. At least it can be disabled in the menu.

Otherwise, performance was excellent, taking less than two seconds to switch on and shoot, and 0.8 seconds between subsequent shots. Continuous shooting was at 5fps, although it slowed to 0.9fps after just three frames. The SZ7 was better here. The ability to refocus between shots in continuous mode is a rare treat at this price.

Videos were excellent too, with sharp details, flattering colours, smooth autofocus and effective stabilisation at the long end of the zoom. The AVCHD modes are odd, though, with both the 1080-50i and 720-50p encoding taken from a 25p source, so neither actually contains 50fps video. The MP4 modes are more accurately labelled.

We love the idea of a 10x zoom and sophisticated Wi-Fi functions in a slim metal camera for under £200. The SZ9's appeal is diminished by its sensor, though. Zoom function aside, image quality isn't much better than the best smartphones. With lots of other similarly specified cameras on the horizon, we'd be tempted to wait to see if any can deliver better image quality.

Source: http://www.expertreviews.co.uk/digital-cameras/1298242/panasonic-lumix-dmc-sz9

Title Post: Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ9 review - Superbly conceived with Wi-Fi and a 10x zoom
Rating: 100% based on 99998 ratings. 5 user reviews.
Author: hadhie s

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