Expert Recommendation

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Best Digital Camera Overall Under $800 with Manual Controls
Expert (53 Recommendations and 31 Compliments)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
May 28, 2010 Updated: June 3, 2010
Overview

For those who want versatility, portability, style and smarts in their personal camera, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2 will more than fill the bill. Built sturdy and lightweight, the G2 has the ability to swap lenses, compose with either the Swivel LCD screen or the digital viewfinder and has a processor fast enough to handle all of these functions and more.

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My Best In Class Pick
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2 (with 14-42mm OIS Lens)

With a dramatic move into the future of photography, Panasonic has developed the worlds first Micro Four Thirds camera that will satisfy the needs of all photographers at any level of expertise.

Starting with a lightweight body and a wide variety of external controls, Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-G2 can go anywhere you want to go and is ready to capture your important moments with a touch of the finger. Featuring a touch sensitive, rotating 3.0” LCD with live view, framing and previewing your images and videos is easy and fun. If you prefer to use a viewfinder, the G2 has a bright live view digital viewfinder that displays your settings and is activated by an eye-sensor to shut off the LCD screen to prevent glare.

For shooting video, with a simple, one-button command located just behind the exposure button, you can be shooting HD video in a snap, utilizing the IA feature as well as Panasonic’s own Mega OIS (Optical Image Stabilizer) to hold things steady. In fact, when in video mode, all of your still settings are applied until you make adjustments according to what you see on the viewfinder or LCD screen. You can even apply some of the seven My Color mode settings and preview them before taking video.

Whether you are a seasoned expert or a point and shoot photographer, the DMC-G2 has a wide variety of choices that ensure you are getting just the right exposure at just the right time. Using the Intelligent Scene Selector in the iA mode, you can choose your settings by simply touching the screen. Touch a distant subject and get landscape mode, touch a face and get portrait mode or touch a close object to get macro mode. Of course, there are the Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Program modes for even more decision making and creativity. And for every level of photographer, let the new Venus Engine HD II do the work of making your images look their best, even at low ISO’s.

For quick shooting and all inclusive focusing, choose from one of these AF modes. There is AF Tracking, 1-area AF, Face Detection AF/AE and 23-area focusing. The 45-200mm lens is recommended also for a wider range of shooting possibilities.

Nice choices when you have them, and you have them with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2, a smart choice for the future of photography.

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 (with 20mm Lens)

Except for it’s more compact size, no Mega OIS and requiring an optional viewfinder, the GF1 has many of the same attributes as the G2. The G2 also has a touch screen on its swivel LCD, items that keep it from being as compact as the GF1.

Comparison with Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7

No comparison. If you want an interchangeable lens camera with a tilt swivel LCD and a viewfinder, the G2 is the one for you. But if you want a camera with a lot of the great amenities you will find in the G2 but wrapped up in a smaller body with less bells and whistles, consider the ZS7.

Pros
  • +
    Micro Four Thirds
  • +
    HD Video
  • +
    Tilt LCD
  • +
    Viewfinder
  • +
    Touch Screen Control
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2 (with 14-42mm OIS Lens) is the Best Digital Camera Overall Under $800 with Manual Controls
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2 (with 14-42mm OIS Lens)
  • Best Price: $699
    Amazon See It »
Recommended with
  • Panasonic 45-200mm f/4.0-5.6 Lumix G Vario MEGA OIS Zoom Micro Four Thirds Lens for Panasonic and Olympus Micro Four Thirds Cameras
    $254.19 @ Amazon.com
  • Panasonic DMW-BLB13 Battery for Panasonic G Series Micro Four Thirds Cameras
    $43.72 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 28mm (25% wider)
  • Resolution: 12.1MP
  • Aperture Priority Mode Available: Yes
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Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
Best badge
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2 (with 14-42mm OIS Lens)
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 (with 20mm Lens)
3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7
Customer Rating
Price $699.99 $999.99 $449.99
Weight (with batteries) 15.1 oz 11.1 oz 7.7 oz
Colors Black, Red, Blue Black Silver, Black, Blue, Red
?
Sensor Size
18.0 x 13.5 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm 6.0 x 4.4 mm
HD Video Available Yes Yes Yes
Video Zoom Available (while recording) Yes Yes Yes
Image Stabilization Type Optical (lens shift) No Optical (lens shift)
Interchangeable Lenses Available Yes Yes No
Max Shutter Speed 1/4000 sec 1/4000 sec 1/2000 sec
Max ISO Setting 6400 3200 1600
?
Viewfinder Available
Yes No No
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LCD Screen Size
3.0 in. 3.0 in. 3.0 in.
Battery Type Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable
2
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 (with 20mm Lens)

Offering superior image quality and a lightweight body, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 continues to break ground with it’s Micro Four Thirds system design and compact styling.

Featuring a 12.1mp imaging sensor, HD recording in AVCHD Lite format, both IA and Mega OIS and a variety of manual settings to help you realize your creative potential, the GF1 is an excellent camera that is revolutionizing picture taking. With new advances changing how we take and view still and video images, the GF1 stands out as an innovator in interchangeable lens system design, giving you a compact camera that is chock full of the kind of tools photographers will be using for years to come.

With a dedicated movie mode button located right next to the exposure button, a dial for manual, aperture priority, shutter priority, program and 16 different scene modes within easy reach and a pop up flash, operating the GF1 is both easy and fun, giving you the controls right where you want them for quick and creative image management without having to scroll through an endless array of menu’s.

For live view, the optional external viewfinder is a must have. Just slide it into the hot shoe and you will be able to compose your images live for perfect capture everytime.

And when you’ve successfully taken your images, enjoy the Included PHOTOfunSTUDIO 4.0 HD Edition Software for image management and video editing. This program makes the tedious and time-consuming task of managing your output a fun part of the whole picture taking experience.

Pros
  • +
    Lightweight
  • +
    Compact
  • +
    PHOTOfunSTUDIO 4.0 HD Edition Software
  • +
    Lots of lenses available
Cons
  • -
    Optional viewfinder only
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 (with 20mm Lens) is one of the Best Digital Cameras Overall Under $800 with Manual Controls
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 (with 20mm Lens)
Recommended with
  • Panasonic DMW-LVF1 External Live Viewfinder for Panasonic GF1 Micro Four Thirds Interchangeable Lens Camera
    $128.55 @ Amazon.com
  • Panasonic DMW-BLB13 Battery for Panasonic G Series Micro Four Thirds Cameras
    $43.72 @ Amazon.com
  • Panasonic 45-200mm f/4.0-5.6 Lumix G Vario MEGA OIS Zoom Micro Four Thirds Lens for Panasonic and Olympus Micro Four Thirds Cameras
    $254.19 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 1.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: No
  • Resolution: 12.1MP
  • Aperture Priority Mode Available: Yes
More
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Website Reviews (3 reviews)
  • Highly Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Excellent by CNET.com
3
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7

If a compact camera with all of the technology Panasonic has created lately is what you’re after, this latest version of the “TZ” series is a great choice.

Built solidly with a 14.5-megapixel CCD, a high-quality LEICA DC VARIO ELMAR 25mm ultra-wide-angle lens with a 12x optical zoom and AVCHD Lite HD movie recording capability, The DMC-ZS7 stands head and shoulders above the competition. That’s because the minds at Panasonic have engineered and reengineered their technology to bring you a high-speed, high-performance Venus Engine HD and the updated POWER OIS.

Add 28 scene modes, a high dynamic mode, face detection and the new Happy mode and this is truly a point and shoot camera that will be a treat to have along on vacations, at parties or out on the trail. And speaking of trails, the ZS7 has a GPS built in to provide latitude and longitude markings so you can add the location when posting your images for friends to view and enjoy.

This is truly a versatile camera that rises to the cutting edge, a camera that will be with you wherever you go in search of interesting photos, without all the weight and accessories of a DSLR.

Pros
  • +
    PHOTOfunSTUDIO 5.1 HD Edition
  • +
    12x zoom
  • +
    Power OIS
Cons
  • -
    No viewfinder
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 is one of the Best Digital Cameras Overall Under $800 with Manual Controls
Where to buy
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7
Recommended with
  • Panasonic DMW-BCG10 ID Secured Battery for Select Panasonic Cameras
    $29.00 @ Amazon.com
Specifications
  • Zoom: 12.0x
  • Wide-Angle Lens: 25mm (40% wider)
  • Resolution: 12.1MP
  • Aperture Priority Mode Available: Yes
More

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