Panasonic DMC-ZS8 and DMC-ZS10: Questionable Value?

The New Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 and DMC-ZS10: Are they worth buying?

With the recent addition of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 and ZS10 to their popular ZS line of megazoom point-and-shoots, the company once again shows that it is in front of the pack when it comes to compact cameras with ultra-wide angle and long zoom lens.

The Lure of Ultrazoom Cameras

Consumers are always on the lookout for new products with new and better features. These days, camera manufacturers are no longer battling over megapixels. Instead, they are offering compact cameras with longer zoom. The latest product offering from Panasonic are point-and-shoot cameras with 16x optical zoom, namely the ZS8 and ZS10.

Panasonic DMC-ZS10 and ZS8 Features

The latest compact superzooms from Panasonic increase their zoom ranges to 16x. This range is equivalent to 24-384mm in the 35mm format. The ZS10 is designed with a 14.1MP MOS sensor. The lens is image stabilized and can record full HD 1080i movies in AVCHD format. Continuous shooting mode can fire 10 fps in full resolution. The ZS10 can generate 3D photos and it has a built-in GPS.

With an MSRP of $299.99, the ZS8 is $100 cheaper than the ZS10. The ZS8 is simpler than the full-featured ZS10 but it comes with the same 16x optical zoom and optical image stabilization. It is equipped with a 14.1MP CCD sensor and can shoot 720p HD movies in Motion JPEG format. Unlike the ZS10, it cannot generate 3D images and it does not have a GPS.

Both the ZS8 and ZS10 are equipped with the same 3-inch LCD screen. The ZS8 screen, however, has a lower resolution (230K pixels) while the ZS10 has a touch screen with 430K-pixel resolution.

Bells and Whistles Galore

The Panasonic DMC-ZS10 is impressive with its 24mm ultra-wide angle lens with powerful 16x optical zoom. It can record full HD videos with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and stereo sound. One attractive feature is the 3-inch touch screen which allows Touch Zoom, Touch Auto Focus, Touch Shutter, and Touch Playback. The touch screen operation can be used not only for shooting but also for playback. The user can drag the images across the screen or browse a collection of photos similar to flipping the pages of a book.

A built-in GPS allows images to be geo-tagged. Images and videos can be shared with friend and families using the Image Uploader feature.

Another innovative feature in the ZS10 is 3D image capability. The captured 3D image cannot be displayed on the camera’s LCD screen. However, it can be viewed on MPO-compatible televisions, digital photo frames and computers.

The Panasonic DMC-ZS10 really shines when it comes to burst shooting. It can shoot 10 fps in full resolution and 5 fps with continuous auto-focus.

As for the ZS8, it has basically the same optics as the ZS10. Image processing, however, is slower compared to the ZS10. With burst shooting, the ZS8 can capture up to 3 shots at best quality, with focus and exposure set with the first shot. The ZS10 can capture 5 shots with auto-focus on each shot. Without AF, it can do 15 fps.

Photo Quality

While the ZS10 is capable of shooting faster at high resolution, in terms of overall photo quality the ZS8 is marginally better. Photos come out very well for both cameras with sufficient light but with the ZS8 color noise is not as prevalent. With low light or high ISO, however, photo noise is very noticeable in both models. Under these conditions, photos are best left for smaller prints.

ZS8 and ZS10: Are they worth the price?

Notwithstanding all the hype they’re getting, many reviewers are not convinced that the ZS8 and ZS10 are much better than their predecessors. The Panasonic DMC-ZS10 is an update to the ZS7, while the DMC-ZS8 is an update to the ZS5.

The DMC-ZS8 is undoubtedly a fine ultrazoom point-and-shoot camera, but it doesn’t differ that much from the ZS5. The biggest improvement is the ZS8’s wider, longer lens. There is also an increase in megapixels and the LCD screen is slightly larger. The ZS8 has a 16x optical zoom, 14MP resolution, and a 3-inch LCD screen, compared to the ZS5’s 12x optical zoom, 12.1MP resolution and 2.7” LCD. These changes, however, do not contribute anything to improve photo quality. Unless you need a compact camera with a longer lens, there’s very little reason to upgrade from the ZS5.

Likewise, other than the longer and wider lens there is not much to differentiate the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10 from the ZS7. Unless you really need a compact camera with 16x zoom and a touch screen, you’d do well to stay with the ZS7 and save some money to put toward a high capacity SDHC memory card.

Another compact ultrazoom worth considering is the ZS6, which is essentially the ZS5 in the camera body of the ZS7. The ZS5 and ZS6 have the same lens, sensor and image processor. However, the ZS6 features a stereo microphone, mini-HDMI output, and 3-inch 460K pixel display, like the ZS7.

The Bottom Line

The Panasonic DMC-ZS10 is a good choice for a compact megazoom, as long as you are willing to pay more for extra features and faster performance rather than photo quality. However, unless you really need the extra zoom, the ZS5 or ZS7 is a better value purchase. The photo quality is better and the features are just as good.

Sure, bells and whistles are fine but when it comes to cameras, image quality is always a deal breaker.

Click here for more in depth reviews of the Panasonic DMC-ZS8 and DZ10.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5 review

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 review

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 review

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10 review

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