Most ultra-zoom digital cameras are big and bulky, but the 10.1-megapixel, 12x Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 (*Est. $300) has a unique optical system that makes it one of the only pocket-sized ultra-zoom digital cameras. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 measures a minuscule 2.35 inches by 4.07 inches by 1.29 inches and weighs 7.2 ounces. Compared with more advanced ultra-zooms like the Canon PowerShot SX20 IS (Discontinued) and Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ35 (Discontinued), that's an inch (or more) smaller all around. The advantage in size comes with trade-offs in features. The 12x zoom lens has optical image stabilization but a relatively short 25 mm to 300 mm focal length range. There's no electric viewfinder, only the 3-inch LCD display, which is larger than most. And while the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 comes with an HD movie mode, it lacks RAW support, manual modes, a high-speed shutter and burst modes. However, reviewers say it's easy to use, with 22 scene modes, an intelligent ISO feature for reducing image blur, zippy performance, and good picture but slightly soft image quality.
CNET, DCResource.com, DPReview.com and Imaging-Resource.com provide the most thorough testing and reviews of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3. User reviews at Amazon.com help verify expert assessments and reveal potential problems with extensive use.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 places in CNET's top 10 ultra-zoom cameras. Lori Grunin praises its combined compact size and wide-angle zoom lens, and concludes that the ZS3 is a nice option for anyone not needing a lot of manual controls.
Review: Best Megazoom Digital Cameras: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 (Silver), Lori Grunin
"The DMC-ZS3 takes everything that was great about the TZ5 and improves upon it," writes Jeff Keller. He likes the wider, more powerful zoom lens, new image processor and HD movie mode. He concludes that it's a great camera for users who aren't interested in manual controls.
Review: DCRP Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3, Jeff Keller, May 25, 2009
The Panasonic DMC-ZS3 and its sibling, the DMC-ZS1, reign as joint winners in the compact super-zoom group test. These cameras provide the best mix of image quality, features and construction. The ZS3 has the added benefit of HD video, albeit with a higher price tag.
Review: Compact 'Super Zoom' Cameras: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 (DMC-TZ7), Editors of DPReview.com, May 14, 2009
Editor Shawn Barnett praises the Panasonic Lumix ZS3's compact size, image quality and ease of use. He is also impressed with its wide-angle lens, although he finds the facial-recognition feature to be "hit-or-miss."
Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3, Shawn Barnett, April 21, 2009
More than 600 customers weigh in on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3; most give it positive ratings. Complaints include a noisy zoom lens, poor image quality in low-light conditions, and hit-or-miss autofocus. Some users report issues with Panasonic's customer service.
Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3, Contributors to Amazon.com