Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Which Camera?

You may have read my earlier post about my Samsung CL-65 (actually 2 of them). For Christmas 2010 my wife surprised me with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7.

I'm really torn between the 2 cameras and I wanted to stop and recap the capabilities and differences of them.

First I'll list the capabilities and differences and then discuss them. Please note that this is not intended to be a comprehensive analysis but rather the capabilities and differences that are important to me. You may have different objectives.

UITouch screenTraditional buttons
GPS frequencyContinuous~ Every 5 minutes
Optical zoom5X12X
Lens designInternalTraditional
Process to record videoTouch screen navigationOne button
MediaMicro SDSD
ChargingUSBRemove battery
ConnectivityBluetooth, Wi-Fi, DLNANone
Overall size3.94 x 2.4 x .754.07 x 2.35 x 1.28


While the Samsung's "gee whiz" touchscreen is fun at first, eventually you will find yourself bumping it when you don't intend to and changing something. If you're lucky you'll realize what it is and undo the change. If you're not lucky, ... You will eventually get to where you struggle to find a way to hold the camera for a long time with it turned on where you don't bump the touchscreen. This is especially problematic when you're waiting on the GPS to acquire satellites.


While we're talking about the GPS, there are significant and undocumented differences in the way each of these cameras' GPS works. The Samsung's GPS wakes up when you turn the camera on and starts trying to acquire satellites. If it is a "cold" GPS start it'll take a couple of minutes, sometimes longer than you want. If it is a "hot" GPS start, it'll take up to a minute. It could be better but it's actually good enough. Once it acquires the satellites the Samsung seems to continue updating the location. If you go look at this Picasaweb album you can actually track my walking around.

Panasonic's site says "By simply turning on the GPS function, the location data and time are automatically updated." Don't believe everything you read on the web.

The Panasonic actually keeps waking up the GPS periodically even when the camera is turned off. This should reduce the satellite acquisition time. Should is the operative word. If you store the Panasonic in a location where it can't acquire satellites all this does is run the battery down. What I did find significant was that the Panasonic only updates the GPS about every 5 minutes even when the camera is turned on. Look at this Picasaweb album and you'll see the pictures clustered where the Panasonic updated its GPS. The photos show only two locations although I clearly walked all around the house and yard.

This is apparently by design by Panasonic to reduce power consumption. There's even an icon on the screen that tells you this once you understand the issue.

You can force the Panasonic to update its GPS but that's not practical when you're walking around taking shots.

You can see this in several users' reviews on Amazon here and here.

For the trolls out there I am running Firmware version 1.2 on the Panasonic.

Optical Zoom

The numbers say everything. When you need to get up close and personal take the Panasonic.

Lens Design

The Samsung has a clever design that allows the lens to be completely contained within the compact size of the camera. The Panasonic has a traditional lens that protrudes as soon as you power on the camera and extends when you increase the zoom.

Process to Record Video

This gets back to the whole touchscreen UI issue but it is a real example. With the Samsung, you have to touch the mode section on the touchscreen and then select movie mode. This is hard to do one-handed.

On the Panasonic there is a dedicated button that starts taking video when you push it. "Piece of cake" as one of my former co-workers used to say.


The Samsung takes a micro SD and the Panasonic takes a standard SD. They're close enough to the same price now as to not matter and almost all micro SDs come with a micro SD to SD adapter.

But that's just the point. The micro SD requires you to keep up with one more adapter and I can't see that much size advantage especially when you compare it to the battery. Yeah both cameras present removable drives to your computer when attached via USB but still ...


Why can't everything just charge off of a mini-USB? I know the EU has selected micro-USB and even that'd be Ok.

Both of these cameras charge using proprietary techniques. The Samsung at least uses a USB-powered cable but it's specific to this camera. To charge the Panasonic you have to remove the battery and put it in a charging shoe that plugs into the wall. While it will accept 110V or 240V it only has a US plug so that will require an adapter when I go abroad.


While the Samsung sounds like it has a definite advantage don't judge too soon. According Samsung's user guide Bluetooth connectivity is limited to "you can send photos only to mobile phones or PDAs" so you can't Bluetooth transfer them to your laptop. Using the Wi-Fi I've only been able to connect with no security or WEP security (isn't that the same thing?). Samsung's customer support couldn't help either. And DLNA, you get bonus points if you know what that is.


The two cameras are almost identical size in every dimension except depth where the Panasonic is slightly more than .5 inches thicker. You'll quickly see how much this matters when you try to slip it into the pocket of last year's jeans. Enough said.


I don't know. I like them both and am using them both. My general thinking is that if I'm going to be outside where the GPS can acquire satellites the Samsung is my preference. But if I need a long reaching zoom or quick video it's the Panasonic.

1 comment:

ShelterRock said...

Thanks for the update... Been wanting to see a good comparison... think I like the Panasonic... always like the zoom.... and 12x is DYNOMITE!!