Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS30 Full Review - Cameras For Photographers
Specifications 2:

Also Known As:
Lumix TZ40

Type:
compact

Weight (inc. Battery) [?]:
198g

Wide Angle [?]:
24mm

Max. Focal Length [?]:
480mm

Zoom Range [?]:
x20

Sensor Size:
1/2.3"

Low Light Support [?]:
twilight

Image Stabilization [?]:
Optical

Raw Format Support [?]:
none

Manual Exposure [?]:
yes

Video Resolution [?]:
1080p

Optical Zoom In Video [?]:
yes

Stereo Sound [?]:
stereo

Battery Life [?]:
300 shots

Flip Lcd [?]:
none

Touch Screen [?]:
touch

Viewfinder [?]:
none

Freeze / Water / Shock - Proof [?]:
no

Dimensions (w-h-d) [?]:
108.3 x 58.9 x 27.7 mm

Macro Distance [?]:
3 cm

Built-in Wireless [?]:
Yes, with NFC

Built-in GPS [?]:
built-in gps

Direct Video Button [?]:
yes

Panorama [?]:
sweep panorama

Rank: [?]
53.1

Initial Price:
$399 (change: $80, 20%)

Last Price Change:
$10 (3%) (Apr 10th)

Last Lowest Price:
$428




Support this site by purchasing accessories for the Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS30:

Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS30 - Full Review

Last Lowest Price: $428
The cliché slogan is correct in the case of the Lumix ZS30 - it provides endless composition options.
zs30
    
Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS30 (photos: Panasonic)
Important Note: the ZS30 was replaced by the Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS40 (compare ).

The ZS30's Price Watch:



Strengths & Improvements


The ZS30 shows in a clear and undisputed manner how profound Panasonic's experience with travel zoom has become over the 7 years and 8 generations since the TZ1 was first introduced.

After a few days with the ZS30 I started getting the feeling that there's nothing it can't do. It seems that Panasonic packed almost every available feature into this compact camera - fit in your pocket? Check. Zoom like crazy? Check. Wide angle shots? Check. Macro? Check. Panoramas? Check. Manual controls? Check. GPS? Wi-Fi? Touch? Check, check and check.

I started forgetting it's a point & shoot and started asking myself why it doesn't also have the other features that my high-end LX7 has and it doesn't (there are also some the other way around). At this point in time they cost exactly the same, so why not? The answer came clear to me after not too long. They are very, very different cameras. The ZS30 just happens to bring with it all that Panasonic could load without blowing up its price. It's a highly equipped compact camera, up to the point where you might forget it is just that. So don't! Take it for a DSLR replacement and you'd be disappointed. Take it for what it is, and it will keep surprising you.

Having said that, I also started pondering whether they went overboard. I mean - I wonder who uses a configurable custom mode based on manual settings in a compact camera like this.

Build Quality & Handling


Let's start with the plain fact that this is a compact camera. It's not slim and tiny as a Canon ELPH, for example, but then again an ELPH doesn't pack a x20 zoom range, and the ZS30 still somehow manages to retain a physique small enough to fit in my front jeans pocket.

It has a surprisingly large grip, deep enough for my fingers to firmly lock into place, but also a slippery back with only 7 miniature thumb bulges which are supposed (unsuccessfully) to create friction. All in all, it's comfortable to hold and handle with one hand.

For all Panasonic devotees out there, the On/Off is no longer a switch but a recessed button instead. It takes some time to get used to that, and when you do, you'll find it a better solution, specifically so that it's not moved accidentally. Also - a giant leap for Panasonic - the shoot/review selection button was replaced by a play button. This change also implies a transition to the opposing doctrines in which the camera is shooting oriented - it always goes into shooting mode when you press or half press the shutter button. I can't emphasize enough how convenient and easy flowing this is as opposed to the previous alternative.

Buttons and Menus: The menus are cleverly divided into relevant sections, which makes navigation much easier. With so many menu options, this is very important in order not lose your way around them.

Some options are available quickly enough, with just a few button cliks, but others require some scrolling and selecting. For instance, the color mode is buried far down the menu, so if you like switching a lot to vivid, b&w or sepia, you'll have a great number of button presses on your hands.

Touch Screen The touch screen is in general a true added value. It enables focus and exposure selection with a single tap - so much quicker and easier compared to selecting a relevant focus point in the relevant menu option.

One small gripe in this regard - when holding the camera in two hands (for enhanced stability purposes, mostly) my left thumb sometimes changed the focus point accidentally, requiring that I stop composing, touch the center point of the screen to reset the focus point and then go on shooting.

It also makes viewing images intuitive - the way we all consider natural ever since touch screens overrided our lives, to the point which babies swipe their fingers across the screen without anyone teaching it to them.

However, the touch system in the ZS30 is half baked in some menus - it could be active in one menu level but unavailable in the next one, which is confusing and unintuitive.

Performance


Focus, Zoom & Speed: The zoom in this camera is so large that I was often lured into taking shots of single objects from a distance, instead of my general inclination of shooting wide scenes.

On top of that, despite my aversion to digital zoom, the moderate x2 I.Resolution which extends the x20 optical zoom to x40 seems reasonable to use, especially if your photography needs sum up to on screen viewing.
The full optical zoom length takes just 3 seconds in or out, with the lens moving smoothly, without any discerned accelerations.

Autofocus is plenty quick. Its lag goes from negligible in good lighting conditions and wide angle to acceptable and even surprisingly functional in low light at full zoom. After focus is locked, there no further lag whatsoever - it seems that the image is taken simultaneous to completing the shutter button press.


Zoom Capabilities:


Images are shown from the shortest focal length (wide angle) to the longest (telephoto).
Digital Zoom is shown by 'x' factor:


Scroll your mouse over the thumbnails to view the images, then click on the images for full size versions.




Operation:

Image Stabilization: Such great zoom power requires a powerful image stabilization mechanism. Panasonic's Power O.I.S, along with its long-time legacy, simply delivers. So much so, that with some concentration and shallow breathing, I was able to shoot at full zoom (that's an equivalent of 480mm) at speeds as low as 1/5 or even 1/4 of a second and still get a sharp image.


Image Stabilization Capabilities:


Here's an example of the same image taken with and without image stabilization:

Scroll your mouse over the thumbnails to view the images, then click on the images for full size versions.




Battery Life: When using the ZS30's wireless connectivity and positioning features, its battery is good for a reasonable but somewhat disappointing 260 shots. When not using any battery drainers such as the flash, the wi-fi or the gps, you can easily do better than the officially promised 300 shots per charge.

Using those features heavily will set you back to much lower results and when your battery is empty, you'll find out that it can only be charged while in the camera, so charging a spare one while shooting is impossible. You can, however, charge it by connecting the camera to a usb connection, an option which I find very convenient.

Image Quality


Colors & Contrast: In spite of its super powers, this is where I was reminded that I had a compact camera in my hands. As I wrote before, forget that it's a compact and you'll end up being miserable, ever comparing it with sharp, noise free images of larger, better performing cameras.

While regular on screen viewing looks sharp and clean, zooming into the images reveals their true nature. They are, in a word, mushy. Noise is an integral element of the ZS30's output, there's no way around it. Not even using low ISO levels.

Also, in some cases, strong warm colors are too much for the small sensor to handle. For instance, fine color detail is truly scarce when zooming in on a orange, red or purple flower.

However - take it for what it really is instead of viewing its images at 100% magnification and you'll have endless, joyous surprises over its capacity to deliver clear, color rich, contrasty images in most conditions and in all focal lengths.

ISO Range: Once again, rating the ZS30's performance depends on the way you define it - as long as you see it as a compact camera, keeping in mind that it has no more than a 1/2.3" sensor in its interior, you'll appreciate what it can do.

For on-screen viewing, images are excellent all the way up to ISO 1600, although at that point noise is viewable and detail level is compromised. ISO 3200 is much worse and ISO 6400 is downright terrible.
Printing is recommended ISO's up to 400, with the exception of smaller prints at ISO 800.

Regarding the automatic ISO selection by the camera, I must note that the intelligent ISO mode (namely - 'I.iso') does a better job than 'Auto ISO' at taking movement into consideration and selects higher iso levels more easily, resulting in images with less blur, at the acceptable price of more noise. Another point worth mentioning is that unlike more advanced cameras, there's no apparent option to limit the automatic iso selection.


High ISO Performance:


See how the ZS30 performs in various ISO sensitivities:

Scroll your mouse over the thumbnails to view the images, then click on the images for full size versions.




High ISO Performance - 100% crops:


Here are full size crops of the images above:

Scroll your mouse over the thumbnails to view the images, then click on the images for full size versions.




Dynamic Range: The ZS30's small sized imaging sensor is no match for high contrast situations. Bright clouds are often blown out to detail-less white. The special HDR mode can be used, as seen below, but that's hardly a convenient all-time solution.


Dynamic Range Enhancement (in %):


See what effect different dynamic range settings have on the images:

Scroll your mouse over the thumbnails to view the images, then click on the images for full size versions.




White Balance: In this area the ZS30 truly excels - automatic white balance setting in incandescent light is true to reality. Of course, you might not like it since white is not white, but slightly warm - exactly the way it looks in those lighting conditions.

Under fluorescent light, auto white balance is very good as well - to the extent that it looks exactly the same as when you set the white balance manually - which means white is actually white.

Manual white balance setting is selectable from the quick menu so you can access it quickly, but I couldn't find any way of setting it other than going into the full menu, thus missing its target completely, since it's cumbersome to use - there should have been an option to set the manual white balance from the quick menu as well.

Video Quality: Videos out of the ZS30 look very good. Autofocus and zoom during video are fast enough - almost to the point of making them a non-issue.

The wind cut feature, whose symbol is gloriously displayed at all times on the screen, isn't good enough. Even weak winds are easily audible.

The most common problem with videos in compact cameras is present here as well - the zoom engine can be heard when operated during video. Fortunately, the autofocus mechanism is silent.


Optical Zoom During Video:





A rather incredible feature provided by the ZS30 is an automatic video level correction - when it works, it's nothing short of amazing - balancing the horizon in the movie clip as if your hands are level at all times.

There's also a very cool slow mode at 1/4 in HD and 1/8 in VGA. If it matters to you - slow mode is available in mp4 format only with no sound (as can be expected) and no zoom (why?).


Slow Mode - 1/4 speed






Slow Mode - 1/8 speed






Advanced Features


Wireless: Panasonic put in a serious effort to make connectivity an integral part of the ZS30 experience. Wireless connection to your PC, to the web or to your phone are all available with the latest addition of NFC - making transferring images as simple as bang-two-three.

You can also control the camera with your phone via Panasonic's app. I showed this feature to a few people and the response was identical - an initial jaw drop followed by a pause and a raised eyebrow - what is it good for?
If Panasonic added a time lapse option to their remote control app then it would suddenly all make perfect sense.


Lumix ZS30 Remote Control






Sweep Panorama: Panorama seems to work very well. Note that you get much better proportions if you sweep the camera across the view on its side. In order to do that you need to set the sweep direction which secretly hides behind the right side of the four way controller (the one marked with the flash icon).


Sample Panorama:







Continuous Mode: Unlike some other companies, stripping features off their non-fancy cameras (hhhmmm, Canon), Panasonic spares nothing in regards to the ZS30's continuous shooting speed. It's capable of taking 10 full resolution photos per second after focusing once. More importantly, it can shoot 5 full resolution photos with continuous autofocus. Additionally it has higher rates of 40 and 60 frames per scond at reduced resolutions.


Continuous Mode:


Here's an example of the ZS30's continuous mode:

Scroll your mouse over the thumbnails to view the images, then click on the images for full size versions.




Macro: The ZS30 can go in pretty close to any object, but not all the way. It stops being able to focus at the 3cm mark, which means you can get great pollen shots of your flowers but not like other cameras can (some can actually get pollenated at point blank).

Taking into account the zoom power and the body size of the ZS30, its macro mode is nothing less than impressive. On top of that, use its tele macro (macro mode with full zoom) and you get bit less magnification power, but much nicer, shallow depth of field.


Macro Capabilities:


Here are examples of the ZS30's macro mode:

Scroll your mouse over the thumbnails to view the images, then click on the images for full size versions.




Artistic Filters: The ZS30 includes 19 built in effects, including my beloved dynamic monochrome effect, which is best combined with the 1:1 aspect ratio to create truly artistic (rather than instagram artistic) photos.


In-Camera Effects:


The ZS30 offers these creative effects, see what they look like:

Scroll your mouse over the thumbnails to view the images, then click on the images for full size versions.




The Competition


Everyone has been offering compact zooms for several years now, and the roles and positioning of each participant is pretty much stable, except for that of Sony's, perhaps.

Nikon has the no-bells-no-whistles S9500 (compare ), which offers less and costs about %25 less. It's a fine camera with a goo effort by Nikon to win the battle by extending its zoom from x20 to x22, but it's just not a thrilling one.

Canon holds the good-performer part with their latest SX280 (compare ), which is a bit close to the ZS30 in terms of the package it includes, but doesn't quite match it in the gizmo department.

Sony shot forward lately, leaving the rest of the bunch to quarrel in the x20-x22 zoom range. Their new HX50V (compare ) has a x30 zoom in an almost similarly sized body. If any other poses a true threat to the ZS30 - the HX50V is it.

Score:


Image Quality: 8
Performance: 9
Build & Handling: 8
Advanced Features: 9
EyalG's Total: 8.5

Last Lowest Price: $428




Rank:

Automatically compared to similar cameras, based on specifications:

Low Light:
 

Wide Angle:
 

Zoom Range:
 

Weight:
 

Other Features:
 

Price:
 

Total Rank:
53.1


 
Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS30 Eyal Gurevitch July 28, 2013 $428 53.1 100

Compare the Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS30 with Similar Cameras:

Other Tools:

  • Use the Compare Tool to compare the ZS30 to other cameras.
  • See where the ZS30 is placed on the Feature Graph.
  • Find similar cameras using the Feature Finder.
  • Related Posts:

    Related Pages:

  • See the list of all Compact Zoom Cameras .
  • See the list of all Super Zooms .
  • See the list of all High End Cameras .
  • See the list of all Touch Screen Cameras .

  • Please support this site - order the ZS30 here:    B&H | Amazon | Adorama