Panasonic Lumix ZS8
14.1 megapixels; CCD sensor; 16x optical zoom; 24mm wide-angle; Optical image stabilization; 720p HD video; 3-inch LCD; Venus Engine VI processor; Captures to SD/SDHC media cards; Rechargeable lithium-ion battery
The Panasonic ZS8 is a camera worthy of this venerable travel zoom line. It replaces last year's excellent ZS5, complete with a few spec boosts, like a mighty 16x zoom ratio, 14.1 megapixel resolution, 3-inch LCD, and 24mm wide-angle lens. The longer zoom and increased pixel count don't appear to have hurt image quality, which is great, and the lens' extra versatility should make it even more useful as a carry anywhere. We're not ready to give it a full-on 'A' rating, however, mainly because of the market context this year. Most compact zooms are speed demons with full HD video and respectable high ISO/low light performance. The ZS8 looks somewhat quaint by comparison, but most importantly, it costs almost as much as some of the decked-out competitors. Hopefully the price will fall significantly throughout the year, making it a better overall value. Note: we don't particularly recommend the step-up ZS10 model. It uses a different sensor and runs into some image quality problems; if you're going Panasonic, we recommend the ZS8, or either of last year's models (ZS5 / ZS7).
We're mindful that the extended zoom range and increased megapixel count might lead to some image quality issues, but overall, we expect that the ZS8 will be one of the best values for a mid-priced compact zoom this year.