Urban Landscape + Lifestyle Photography

The Panasonic ZR1 arrives, my first tests

Soda Dispenser, Rudy's Bar-B-Q - Austin, Texas

Soda Dispenser, Rudy’s Bar-B-Q – Austin, Texas

The Panasonic arrived last night. I ordered the Panasonic Lumix ZR1 several posts ago and even with free shipping, it got here in just one week. Everything was packed properly in a huge brown, generic box with the sticker that said it was a refurbished Panasonic product. A surprise bonus camera case and 2GB SD card was also included; these items were not mentioned in the Adorama product description. Nice. I popped the battery in the charger and a green light came on so I figured it was already charged. With the battery in the camera, the power level read 3 bars, fully charged. The camera is small and very light. Well built but has a hollow, aluminum shell feeling. Despite the 8x zoom, it easily fits in my front pants pocket.

With the ISO set at 80, its lowest value, I fired off some pictures. The image looked dark on-screen. The flash shots were also dull and exposed on the dark side. After a minute of use, the power meter ticked down a segment. I began to fear that this old refurb might have an old battery that no longer holds a charge. After a few more test shots I downloaded and started scrutinizing the images on my computer. ISO 80 was clean and basically noise free. Very nice, except the exposure was really dark and the colors were uninspired. Not an auspicious start. I began to have doubts. Should I return the camera to Adorama?

I continued testing and began to figure out the camera. This is a beginner’s camera. There are no P S A M dial settings. It tries to be intelligent, to anticipate the needs of a novice. My challenge, I need to out think the computer and reverse engineer its programming. I need to bend it to my will. I want to do long exposure low-light images at ISO 80. Not easy, I found. If this thing just had a darn Program or Aperture priority mode, life would be so much easier for an experienced user. For a beginner though, I think the behavior of the camera makes sense. There are definitely quirky things that are not fully explained in the manual. Oh and that dark exposure I got with ISO 80? If figured that out too.

After a couple of hours play. I cracked it. I figured out how to make it do what I want. I’ll explain all my findings in a future post. The “fully charged” battery was quickly exhausted. But this was, in my opinion, a bad design decision on Panasonic’s part. When you pop the battery on the charger, the light starts out green. OKay. I don’t know about you but I think it’s natural to have the light turn green when it is finished charging, not when it starts charging. The manual does not explain any of this and for your information, the green light turns off when fully charged.

Mexican Cokes, Rudy's Bar-B-Q - Austin, Texas

Mexican Cokes, Rudy’s Bar-B-Q – Austin, Texas

Today, I went to Rudy’s a famous BBQ chain here in Central Texas. I had my Panasonic Lumix ZR1 with me. Testing it out. Putting it though its paces. It’s another hot 100 degree Texas day and I must have been thirsty. The two images from Rudy’s are inexplicably beverage related. ISO 80 is lovely. No noise and the colors look pretty good too. ISO 100 and 200 also works nicely. ISO 400 is still usable but a bit rough, I think it will depend on the image and its exposure. The top image was shot at ISO 80 and the second image at ISO 400. ISO 800 maybe ok as a black and white. I’m going to have fun pushing this camera or maybe pushing myself to the limit. So what’s the purpose of buying this camera? I wanted to prove to myself that I can make good-looking images with an inexpensive point and shoot. Challenging myself by using more limiting equipment. We will see how I do.


Please make sure to click on the photographs to see a larger image and hover over the photos to see the exposure details.

I ordered my Panasonic ZR1 as a factory refurbished model from Adorama. I got it for $69.95. If you are thinking of buying this camera please use this link. You will get the same low price and I’ll get a small commission, which helps support this site.

4 responses

  1. I’m having the same experience with the Coolpix. Theoretically, I could out-maneuver it, but really, the answer is to use it in bright natural light on full auto. Bright light is the key. It does not work well in lower light levels. The meter is just not all that great. It’s got all the right settings. They just don’t work very well. The battery runs out quickly … and the flash recycles so slowly that although it works fine if it works fires, it is mostly useless. But I didn’t get the camera to use indoor. I got it to take with me places where I don’t want to endanger a more expensive (or larger) camera. Mostly, more expensive. I got a couple of spare batteries because I already deduced I would need them. It is optimally rated at 190 pictures. The way I use it, It’d be lucky to get half that. Fortunately, batteries were cheap. Good luck. Hope you win.

    August 31, 2012 at 1:09 am

  2. Thank you for the feedback on the Nikon Coolpix. Taking decent photos is good light should not be a challenge for most cameras. My challenge is to shoot in lower light conditions with the point and shoot. That’s the kind of photography I do. I usually do not shoot in good light and normally do not shoot as much in bright light, too….

    That’s going to be the fun challenge and partially may focus on these series of blog posts with the Panasonic. Please stay tuned.

    August 31, 2012 at 1:19 am

  3. Andy, I look forward to reading what you have to say about your adventures with this little point-and-shoot camera. I hope that you discuss the colors that it produces. The first photo in this post looked like the top of the center cup had washed out to a faded orange, but I wrote that off to the plastic image at the top of the soft drink dispenser had aged. The second photo in this post again had me wondering the same thing – I don’t remember the bottle caps on Coca-Cola bottles being orange. Maybe they are Longhorn commemorative bottle caps, but if so, that’s not Burnt Orange.

    August 31, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    • Gregg, it will be fun to see what it can do. I will certainly talk about the color too, though this can be a tricky topic since the color on people’s monitors can vary quite a bit.

      On my monitor, I do see more of a red color rather than an orange but I can’t vouch for my color accuracy though I have run a color calibrator on my monitor a while ago. I agree that the top of the center Rudy’s cup is washed out.

      August 31, 2012 at 7:53 pm

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