Panasonic has coupled the ZR3's sensor to a Leica DC Vario-Elmar branded 8x optical zoom lens, which offers focal lengths spanning the range from a generous 25mm-equivalent wide angle to a useful mm telephoto. Importantly, the Panasonic ZR3's lens features a true optical image stabilization system, with which to fight blur caused by camera shake. The minimum focusing distance for the Panasonic DMC-ZR3 is just three centimeters at wide angle or centimeters at telephoto, when the camera is switched to either the Macro or Intelligent Auto mode. The Panasonic ZR3 has a two-step aperture, which can select between F3. There's sadly no optical viewfinder, with the Panasonic ZR3 instead opting solely for a 2. The Panasonic DMC-ZR3 has an point multi-area autofocus system which also includes a single-point "high speed" focusing mode.
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Panasonic has coupled the ZR3's sensor to a Leica DC Vario-Elmar branded 8x optical zoom lens, which offers focal lengths spanning the range from a generous 25mm-equivalent wide angle to a useful mm telephoto.
Importantly, the Panasonic ZR3's lens features a true optical image stabilization system, with which to fight blur caused by camera shake.
The minimum focusing distance for the Panasonic DMC-ZR3 is just three centimeters at wide angle or centimeters at telephoto, when the camera is switched to either the Macro or Intelligent Auto mode. The Panasonic ZR3 has a two-step aperture, which can select between F3. There's sadly no optical viewfinder, with the Panasonic ZR3 instead opting solely for a 2. The Panasonic DMC-ZR3 has an point multi-area autofocus system which also includes a single-point "high speed" focusing mode.
As with many digital cameras these days, there's also a face detection function, with Panasonic's implementation able not only to locate faces and then use the information when calculating both focus and exposure variables, but also to recognize the faces of specific individuals for labelling and prioritizing purposes.
The Panasonic Lumix ZR3 also has an implementation of autofocus tracking, which can monitor a subject as it moves around the frame, continuing to update autofocus as required.
Unusually, the Lumix ZR3 has a Travel mode which allows the user to specify a destination as well as the travel dates, with the camera then automatically organizing photos by trip. A whopping selection of twenty nine scene modes let users tailor the look of their images, useful given that the Panasonic ZR3 doesn't offer aperture-, shutter-priority, or fully manual modes.
Among the scene mode choices is a High Dynamic mode which increases dynamic range and offers three settings - standard, art or black and white. There's also an Intelligent Scene Selection function, which can automatically select from a subset of six commonly used scene modes. A five mode flash strobe includes red-eye reduction capability, and has a rated range of up to 5. A new Video Divide function allows in-camera movie splitting, letting users trim away the unwanted portions to keep just the parts of movies that they desire.
Unlike many cameras, the Panasonic ZR3 does allow use of its optical zoom lens during movie recording. There's also a useful 40MB of built-in memory. Connectivity options include a USB 2. Power comes from a proprietary Lithium Ion battery pack with ID-Security feature that prevents use of counterfeit or third-party batteries, and is rated as good for shots on a charge to CIPA testing standards.
Four body colors are available - silver, black, red or blue. Look and Feel. The Panasonic ZR3 cuts a modest, somewhat unassuming figure, with silver trim circling the lens barrel, and a silver accent running down the left of the camera body. Panasonic offers the ZR3 in four color choices -- deep black, silver, red, or blue -- catering both for those who want an understated look, and for those who prefer their camera with a little more dramatic flair.
The Panasonic ZR3 is quite compact, at 3. It's an unobtrusive companion on any excursion, but despite its light weight, the Panasonic ZR3 doesn't feel flimsy or cheap. A gently rounded grip runs down the left side of the Panasonic ZR3's front panel beneath the mode dial, and is accompanied by a small patch of textured dots on the thumb grip at rear -- the only significant ergonomic details on on its clean, pocket-friendly body.
The top of the Panasonic ZR3 features a sliding Power switch which is easy to operate and has a firm detent, so it's unlikely you'll accidentally turn the camera on or off. To its right sits a well-sized zoom lever with a responsive shutter button resting in the center. Rounding out the top is a Mode dial that provides access to six operating modes -- Intelligent Auto iAuto , Program Auto, two slots for user-assigned scene modes, the main Scene mode menu and a Notepad function.
This last option saves low resolution images to the camera's internal memory, and doesn't seem particularly worthy of valuable Mode dial real-estate. Frankly, I never found much use for it at all. On the back of the camera, clustered to the right of the 2. Beneath the Four-way Controller are two smaller buttons, for changing display modes and entering the quick menu, which brings a series of camera functions to the top of the camera's display so you don't have to dig into the more expansive main menu system.
For the most part, the controls on the Panasonic ZR3 are well executed. The shutter button is fairly comfortably within reach shooting single-handed, but with the rear panel dominated by the LCD panel, controls here are quite close to the edge of the camera, and so require use of both hands.
The dedicated Movie Record button is a nice touch, since it allows you to quickly start movie recording without switching modes, but it's quite small and flush with camera, so it's harder to turn on than it should be. Both the display and quick menu buttons are also on the small side, but they're raised off the body of the camera, and so not terribly difficult to activate even if -- like me -- you're cursed with sausage-link fingers.
One of the highlights of the Panasonic ZR3 is its Leica DC Vario-Elmar-branded 8x optical zoom lens, which folds away quite unobtrusively when this svelte Lumix is powered down. When you turn the Panasonic ZR3 on, the lens extends almost three quarters of an inch, and adds a further half inch when zoomed to the mm-equivalent telephoto position.
At the other end of the range, it offers a 25mm-equivalent wide angle -- useful for fitting in more of your subject when shooting in tighter confines. Intelligent Zoom is a form of digital zoom -- that is to say, it takes data from the sensor and interpolates the missing data required to save the image with larger overall dimensions.
Thanks to some clever processing and it's relatively modest magnification level, though, images don't appear to suffer much for its use. The Panasonic ZR3 also offers a traditional 4x digital zoom function, which will take you out to mm equivalent or 1,mm equivalent when using Intelligent Zoom -- but with an accompanying decrease in resolution and detail. Panasonic also offers an Extra Optical Zoom function, which operates only at resolutions below the ZR3's native 14 megapixels, and simply crops the central portion from the image sensor.
Since there's no interpolation involved, there's no loss in detail, and the function does allow you to frame, focus, and meter as if you had the extra optical zoom range available. In terms of subject detail, there's no advantage over simply cropping the image in post-processing, however, and once an image is saved with extra optical zoom in use, there's no way to restore the data that was cropped and discarded, if you later discover you've accidentally cut off part of your subject.
Extra Optical Zoom boosts the effective telephoto to mm equivalent at 10 megapixels, mm at 7 megapixels, mm at five megapixels, or mm at resolutions of three megapixels or below. While Intelligent Zoom and digital zoom can be disabled, Extra Optical Zoom is always active when the Panasonic ZR3's resolution is set to anything below its native 14 megapixels.
All photos in this series were taken from the same position. The 25mm wide angle above left will help you fit in your subject when you can't simply take a few steps back, while the mm zoom above right should give enough reach for most shooting situations. Enabling Intelligent Resolution above left boosts perceived sharpness a little, at the expense of some added noise.
Intelligent Zoom above right combines this with a modest 1. The digital zoom function takes you out to mm equivalent above left , or 1,mm equivalent when using Intelligent Zoom above right , but with a fairly dramatic drop in image quality compared to the uninterpolated source image. The lens on the Panasonic ZR3 is composed of nine elements in seven groups, with four aspherical elements, and offers a two-step aperture. The lens is optically stabilized, and this stabilization is available for both still and movie recording.
Some cameras with optical stabilization limit its use only to still image capture, and require use of digital stabilization for movie capture. Panasonic's Power O. You can also turn it off completely. Unfortunately, Panasonic buries the stabilization function in the Record menu, so you'll have to dig a bit to change it, even though it seems like a more useful function to put in the quick menu than some of the other items listed, such as the video format. The stabilizer is automatically switched on for you in iAuto and certain scene modes.
Macro focusing. Able to focus down to just 3cm, the Panasonic ZR3 can almost create the illusion that coarse beach sand consists of small boulders, although it can be tricky focusing so close without casting a shadow on your subject. The Panasonic ZR3 is ordinarily capable of focusing as close as 1. In AF Macro mode, the full zoom range is available, and minimum focusing distance varies between 0.
In Macro Zoom mode, the lens is fixed at the wide angle position, yielding the same 0. There are also several auto focus modes on offer in the Panasonic ZR3, including face detection, 11 point, AF tracking, one area high speed, one area and spot.
The Panasonic ZR3 is well stocked with scene modes, with a generous selection of 29 scene types on offer. If you're confused as to the influence of a particular mode, a press of the Display button in the Scene Mode menu will call up an info screen, providing a brief description of what the mode does. It's a shame that this explanatory assist isn't offered anywhere else in the Panasonic ZR3's operation.
Each allows you to select one of the 29 available scene modes, and then recalls that scene mode immediately when selected with the Mode dial. It's a useful idea, saving you time browsing the Scene Mode menu for your most commonly-used modes. Compared to a Program Auto exposure above left , the Landscape scene mode above right has slightly higher contrast and saturation.
It also fixes focus at infinity, and disables the flash. The Aerial Photo scene mode above left is similar to Landscape mode, but boosts contrast and saturation a little further. The Pin Hole scene mode above right drops saturation and sharpness, adds a vignetting effect, disables i.
Resolution, and sets focus to infinity. Standard above left pulls detail out of shadow areas, while aiming for a reasonably natural look. Art above right boosts saturation for a punchier look. By contrast, the Film Grain scene mode offers a contrasty, grainy black and white image, by locking the sensitivity at ISO equivalent.
Panasonic's iAuto mode is available for both stills and movies. In addition, when face recognition is enabled, iAuto mode can recognize a Baby scene type when the face of an infant is detected in the scene. For movie recording, iAuto recognizes a more limited selection of scene types, including Portrait, Scenery, Low Light and Macro.
The iAuto function works as advertised, with the icon on the LCD switching as the scene changes. It doesn't remain on the screen though, only flashing briefly when it changes, and so can be a bit tough to know how the camera's reacting and if it's choosing the appropriate mode. You can set some parameters for how iAuto mode will operate. Finally, the Program Auto mode provides access to all available camera settings, but doesn't allow direct control over aperture or shutter speed.
Both iAuto and Auto modes offer the ability to tweak the look of images, courtesy of a Color Mode function in the Record menu, but the precise selection differs depending on the operating mode.
In addition, iAuto mode enables a "Happy" mode, which boosts saturation, while Auto mode offers Natural, Vivid, Cool, and Warm color modes. Intelligent Auto mode includes scene recognition capability, and here selects i-Scenery mode above left , yielding a similar result to the Landscape scene mode shown previously, but uses a slightly shorter exposure. Compared to the Program Auto exposure above right , the result is a contrasty, saturated image that loses shadow detail in areas such as the tree trunk.
HD Movie Capture. The sales pitch for AVCHD Lite is that it not only delivers higher quality footage than Motion JPEG video, but does so with a considerably lower file size, allowing you to store more video on your memory card. The colors were crisp and there was very little pixelation, even under some challenging conditions.
Plus, the file sizes were indeed much smaller than comparably long video recorded at the same resolution, using Motion JPEG compression. HD movies. That is, until you import the video files onto computer. Panasonic does bundle its PhotofunStudio HD edition software for viewing and doing some light editing on your AVCHD files, but the software isn't much of an organizer or an editor, and is pretty cumbersome if you want to do any serious work with your photos or videos.
Helpfully when filming distant subjects, the Panasonic ZR3 can use both its 8x optical zoom lens and its optical image stabilization function during video recording and there's very little pickup of the zoom motor or stabilization mechanism on the Panasonic ZR3's monaural microphone.
It also offers an HDMI output, allowing you to view your videos on the big screen, which you'll most assuredly want to do. Face Recognition.
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR3 Operating Instructions Manual
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR3 user manual
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