Review: Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-ZS8 in the garden and on the road
Sweet little Lumix performs like a master chef for a fast-food price
Is a $10 camera all you need to capture great garden photography while at home or travelling the world? The short answer is yes, absolutely.
For just about the price of a Big Mac extra value meal, I was able to score a Lumix DMC-ZS8 compact travel camera complete with a Leica 24 to 384mm lens in excellent condition. Admittedly, it was a very good purchase, but these “great buys” are out there if you are willing to take the time to search them out.
The Lumix ZS8 is a categorized as a travel camera, meaning it is the perfect single camera to take on vacations because it can technically handle almost anything you can throw at it while still being small enough to fit into your pocket or purse. The ZS8 fits all those requirements and more.
Getting the most out of your compact, point-and-shoot camera is key to successful photography. Take some time to check out my comprehensive post on Getting the Most Out Of Your Point-and-Shoot Camera.
Check out my earlier post on using the travel camera in the garden and my comprehensive post on Garden flower photography. If you want to see more images from the Lumix ZS8, please check out my Lumix ZS8 Gallery of images.
So many excellent compact cameras that were put away in drawers following the release of the iphone and other smart phones are sitting collecting dust and deserve to get a second chance at life. If you have one or two in a drawer or sitting on a shelf, why not give them a good workout in the garden where these cameras can really show off their stuff? You might be surprised how capable they are and how fun they can be to use.
Click on the link to see a complete list of Panasonic’s Point and Shoot cameras.
In my reviews of classic, older digital cameras, I like to use real world images from my garden and on the road to provide readers with the type of images they can expect from the camera if they own one or choose to track one down on the used market. For those of us who enjoy playing with older, digital cameras, I hope these reviews will pique your interest in high-end compact, DSLRs and other mirrorless cameras.
If you want more information on using your compact camera to photograph flowers in your garden, be sure to check out my comprehensive article on Garden Flower Photography.
When was the Lumix ZS8 released?
Back in 2011, when the Lumix ZS8 travel camera was released with a suggested retail price of just under $300 U.S., it was considered one of the leaders in its class competing with the likes of the Canon Powershot SX230 HS, the Nikon Coolpix S9100, Pentax RZ10, Samsung WB210, Sony Cyber-shot HX9V, including the Lumix flagship Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10 which came with GPS and a different sensor and better video, but is essentially the same camera.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS8 has a high resolution 14.1megapixel CCD sensor, with a 16X super zoom (ultra wide-angle 24-384mm (35mm equivalent) Leica lens and 1280 x 720 high definition (HD) video. All this wrapped in a high-build-quality, all-metal camera with a 3-inch TFT, LCD Display with 230K-Dot Resolution.
What’s all this jibberish mean?
It means the Lumix DMC-ZS8 was very good when it was released in the hey day of high-end compact digital cameras, and, if these results are any indication, this sweet little Lumix is still a very good camera today.
Is the Lumix DSC-ZS8 still good in 2024
How does the Lumix ZS8 measure up to today’s modern cameras?
Let’s not fool ourselves. Technology is constantly evolving, especially in the world of digital photography. Today’s cameras can be incredibly good. In fact, for many of us, the evolution of digital cameras including compact, high-end point and shoots have evolved well beyond many of our needs and wants.
That’s where these classic digital cameras fit in.
Older cameras suffer from smaller sensors, and slower focusing capabilities which might make getting a prized shot more difficult or the quality of the image substandard to today’s cameras if you like to compare images pixel by pixel. Shooting in less than desirable conditions will push the capabilities of these older cameras.
Bump the ISO up to 1600 to get a handheld photograph in the poor light of early morning or late evening and you might be disappointed.
By disappointed, I mean the image may not seem sharp as a result of digital noise – a grainy look that is not necessarily obvious until you move in close to the image on your computer. Today’s larger sensors can better handle low light and produce less grain. The result are images that look sharper.
If that really matters to you, than older cameras like the ZS8 may not be worth using.
For most of us who primarily use our images for social media or make prints no larger than 8X10” or 11X14”, the FZ8 and other compact cameras are more than sufficient to get the job done. Even if you are planning to create your own garden photo book (highly recommended by the way) these cameras, with proper techniques, will give you beautiful results.
Consider using a tripod and setting the ISO to 100 or 200 when lighting is not at its best and chances are you’ll be more than pleased with the results.
In fact, some fans of classic cameras will tell you that the CCD sensor on the Lumix ZS8 will give you better results than you are likely to get on more modern CMOS sensors. I have to admit the files coming out of this camera are very impressive when lower ISO settings are used and/or there is enough light to properly handhold the camera.
The camera does boast an impressive anti-shake feature that can give you up to two stops of light-saving stability.
What does getting two stops of light mean?
It basically means that you can hand hold the camera and still get sharp photos even if the light is low. It’s in reference to the shutter speed. A low shutter speed means getting sharp images in low light is difficult because of camera shake when taking the picture. You gain the ability to take sharp images in low light by anti-shake features built into the camera as well as “fast lenses” that allow more light to hit the sensor.
Okay, so we know that the Lumix ZS8 is capable of taking good photos, but there are so many other factors that play a role in whether you fall in love with a camera or put it back in the drawer.
This camera is not going back in the drawer any time soon.
What are the pros of the Lumix ZS8
Quite frankly this camera is easy to love. From its impressive build quality, including the camera’s feel in your hand and the solid, tactile feel of the control buttons, to the simple yet effective menus that allow users to easily set up the camera to their liking. It all comes together in this sophisticated-looking little camera that has full manual controls.
Add to that:
• Two macro settings will get you in close to flowers, butterflies and other garden creepy crawlers.
• The quick menu button alone will set most of us free from having to search through menus looking for basic commands to get the shots we want. The Quick menu button in the bottom right on the back of the camera allows you to easily set burst mode, autofocus mode, white balance, ISO settings, file size and the camera’s back LCD mode.
• As already mentioned, the camera’s 24 to 384mm F3.4-6.4 Leica lens is reason enough to search out one of these cameras at a great price. It’s not a super fast lens, especially at the long end at F6.4, but, again, using a tripod or a monopod will go a long way toward achieving memorable images.
• The 13-year-old camera uses easy-to-obtain SD cards for memory and has a series of mode scenes (29 to be exact) that makes getting photographs in specific situations, whether portraits, shots of your children, pets, snow scenes and night scenes, or landscapes extremely easy.
• The flash on the camera is also a good performer and puts out plenty of light to use as a fill-in flash or a regular flash if you are working in a close distance.
• In addition to the 29 scene modes, the camera’s top function wheel boast two “my scene modes” that allows you to quickly go to your favourite scene modes whether that’s portrait mode, landscape mode… pet mode…
• The camera has Panasonic’s IA mode (intelligent auto) that looks at the scene and sets the proper scene mode to ensure proper exposure etc. This is excellent for quick shots on the move and beginner photographers who don’t want to get involved in learning the technical details of the camera.
• In addition, the camera has three custom modes that allow you to set camera settings that you can access easily. I have set up a high-quality custom feature where the settings are optimized for the highest quality image for landscape photography, a black and white custom feature, and a high-speed custom feature.
• A solid tripod mount right square in the middle of the camera’s bottom plate ensures a balanced mount.
… and some cons
• The small sensor (like all compact cameras) makes getting good images difficult in low light situations. Trying to photograph fast-moving hummingbirds was an exercise in frustration between the slow focus and movement caused by using lower ISO settings. You will never match the speed of high-end DSLRs or mirrorless 4/3rds sensors, but it is possible if you are patient.
• The camera does not have a RAW setting so everything is in jpeg format. RAW would have been nice to pull the most out of the camera’s impressive CCD sensor but the jpegs right out of the camera are very nice.
• No hot shoe for external flash.
• The camera feels comfortable enough in my hand, but it’s tiny size may not feel ergonomically correct for everyone. Always use the wrist strap in case you drop the camera.
Is a Lumix camera a brand to search out on the used market?
Although this review is for the 14.1 megapixel, DMC-ZS8, there are a number of Lumix cameras that were released using the same or a similar design. As the camera design evolved, Panasonic added larger sensors with more pixels and features, but generally kept the same impressive design.
I think it’s safe to say that all these Lumix cameras with this design are worth purchasing today. They are high quality cameras that feel substantial in your hand and are fitted with high quality Leica lenses.
Panasonic built compact cameras for Leica, while Leica provided lenses for Panasonic. The result is that the companies put out almost identical cameras and simply rebranded them for their buyers. In some cases, Leica released almost identical cameras to the Lumix brand for considerably more money.
The original buyers of these Lumix cameras saved a considerable amount of money by purchasing the almost identical Panasonic camera over the equivalent Leica model. Over the years, the Leica cameras have maintained their high prices based on the prestigious brand. The Panasonics have not fared as well even though they have held up extremely well. Now, the difference in prices between the Leica version and the Lumix has widened ever farther making now the perfect time to purchase one.
You know the old saying – buy low. It’s hard to imagine these cameras going much lower.