The Panasonic Lumix ZS19 is a fine digital camera of the point-and-shoot compact class. It is small, lightweight, and packed with features. It works well for me, but will it satisfy you? That depends on what you are looking for in a camera. A simple point-and-shoot will perform very well in most situations. My 6.0 megapixel Canon Powershot SD600, ancient now, takes fantastic photos and is solidly built. I wanted to step up to something better, while still retaining the size profile of a compact camera. It had to fit into a coat pocket, and so could not be much larger than a bar of soap. I also wanted a better zoom capability than my Canon’s 3x so that I could take acceptable pictures of subjects beyond ten feet in distance. Sometimes, when I snapped on a distant subject with the Powershot, it made everything in the photo look as if it was on the other side of the Atlantic. A DSLR would have given me great shots from a long distance, but it would have been much too large to fit into a jacket. So instead I would go with a so-called travel zoom, which is a compact camera with a telescoping lens that extends far out from the body.
My initial impressions of the ZS19 have been very favorable. Image quality on the 14.1 megapixel, 20x optical zoom ZS19 is generally fantastic, the 3.0 inch LCD is bright and sharp, and the controls are simple to use. The small Leica lens is superb. In portrait mode, bokeh is excellent. Onboard effects are plentiful, and most can be accessed via a small dial on the top of the device. I found that the zoom function was occasionally problematic. It was easy to overzoom on a subject because the control was a trifle jerky. The far older Canon’s zoom, by contrast, is silky smooth. Also, at extended ranges, a computerized “digital zoom” effect takes over on the Lumix, and the results can be either hit or miss. Panasonic promises 40x with the Intelligent Zoom function engaged, an impressive number, but don’t expect it to work out in every instance. 20x maximum is more realistic. Low light photos, as you could expect, are also spotty, sometimes okay, sometimes not. I also wish that the build quality was better. It isn’t that I expect the Lumix to break, it is not flimsy, but I just can’t help compare it to my rugged, all-metal Powershot. The ZS19 feels a bit plasticky.
At short distances, the image quality is very close what you would obtain from an entry-level DSLR, so if high quality close-up pictures, with an occasional distance photo, is what you are about, the ZS19 will be a great carry camera. If you need something more, such as if you are taking photos of the Grand Canyon, Paris in the springtime, the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, or simply want the highest quality images, a DSLR will provide everything you need, but it will be a much larger machine. There is also an intermediate class of digicams known as compact system cameras, or CSCs, which do away with mirrors and produce images comparable to lower-end DSLRs, in a smaller-than-DSLR package. However, many of these devices, with all but the shortest lenses attached, are still significantly larger than a compact point-and-shoot, and cost about as much, or more, as an entry-level DSLR.
The ZS19 sells for $249.00 at Costco, so do not pay any more for it than that, period. You will also have to get a proper carry case for it. The kit case is barely adequate. Battery life is sufficient, and no more. No charging unit is supplied, so the battery will have to charged while in the camera itself. Below are a few photos that I took with the ZS19.
Check out some of the photos I took with it here in an earlier post.
Marc De Santis is the author of the fantasy novel BloodLikeWine. He blogs at ConsolidatedPopCulture about whatever he pleases.