01-11-10 - Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3

We took a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 on vacation; here's a mini-review. It's a bit smaller and lighter than the S90, just enough to be pocketable comfortably. The ergonomic design is much better than the S90 in most ways. It's got a nice protruding rounded grip area like a classic film camera. The mode dial is programmable so you can put your favorite modes on it and then just turn the dial and not have to muck about in menus.

The auto mode is very impressive in terms of taking any situation and shooting a decent snap. It handles low light, high motion, shaky hands, etc. all very well. The images that come out of it seem to be generally quite grainy compared to the S90, but I think the difference is just that the main difference is that the Panasonic is not doing so much noise reduction in the firmware (obviously the sensor is smaller too). If you do some software noise reduction the images step up nicely.

One thing I didn't anticipate is how awesome the long optical zoom is. It does 12X optical zoom which is pretty amazing for an ultracompact. With the good auto-stabilization, it means you can just crank up far zooms and snap shots and get closeups I've never been able to shoot before. Very cool.

But the biggest win by far is the amazing HD video capability. It records 720p AVCHD in real time (AVCHD is just a limited profile of H264 in a different package; the MTS or M2TS files can be played directly by MPC or VLC). When I first saw that it had a dedicated button for start/stop video I thought "that's dumb, that should just be a scene mode" , but oh how wrong I was. Video is fucking *awesome* and it's sweet to just have it on a button so you can record video at any moment without mucking about with scene modes. We shot a few videos and they're just so much more fun and interesting than stills. In fact I can hardly bear to look at still any more, it's like a paradigm shift, I want video of everything now.

One annoyance is that neither MPC nor VLC have an option to play back video rotated 90. I don't want to decode and re-encode just to rotate 90, I want my damn player to do it after the fact. The result is that the videos we made with the camera held sideways are fucked.


Sly said...

"""One annoyance is that neither MPC nor VLC have an option to play back video rotated 90"""

MediaPlayerClassic + Ffdshow + Avisynth for the win!

I use MPC + FFDshow for reading all my videos.

In Ffdshow one can set several preset depending on the video (using its name, resolution...). So I've one preset to read my "normal" camcorder videos, and another one for reading my rotated videos. I simply rename rotated videos to *_.mp4, and I set the rotated preset "autoload condition" on filename: "*_.mp4"

Sly said...

And the missing but important information:

in my FFDshow rotated preset, I activate avisynth, and put in the big text area (which is the source of the Avisynth script): TurnLeft. Done!

Dave Moore said...

Don't forget to blame the camera as well. It knows which orientation it was in when the movie was started, it should just encode it in the correct orientation.

B. Landers said...

VLC does have a rotate, though I don't know if it is to your suiting.

Not sure what build you have, but for 1.0.3 it's under:

Tools > Effects and Filters > Video Effects > Transform (Rotate 90 degrees)

nothings said...

Don't forget to blame the camera as well. It knows which orientation it was in when the movie was started, it should just encode it in the correct orientation.

But maybe you want it rotated like that?

The normal solution (seen with still images, at least) is to just encode the rotation as file metadata and let you decide what to do in post-processing.

Unfortunately that's a total lose in practice, because some viewers use that to "unrotate" the image, and some don't, so you have people sending images to each other and going "I don't know what you're talking about, it looks fine to me". There's a kind of optional information a spec that's tolerable, but this isn't it.

And let's not forget to hold our noses at Windows Picture and Fax Viewer on XP (I dunno about later ones), which lossily rotates the actual image if you use the "viewer" rotation controls.

cbloom said...

So I upgraded my VLC from 0.9.4 to 1.0.3 and indeed there is now a rotate option, but it takes like a million clicks to get to, there's no numerical entry box to put in an angle only a fucking graphical widget, AND of course my videos don't play right anymore. They skip and stutter and show weird artifacts in the new VLC. Yay video on windows.

slyid said...

How's about the AviSynth solution? It would be completely automatic depending on the filename or some other parameters - ideally it would use meta added by the camera, but I don't think that's possible yet :(

cbloom said...

Sly, can you post or email me the exact settings for that?

slyid said...

Unfortunately the Ubisoft proxy is quite severe and it blocks lots of stuff in communicating with the outside world (which is why I'm to use OpenID instead of my Google Account to post this message) ; so I cannot create a online tutorial right now.
I'll try to send your fully pictured step-by-step through email. Here are the main parts:

- Install MPC http://mpc-hc.sourceforge.net/download-media-player-classic-hc.html
- Install FFDshow http://ffdshow-tryout.sourceforge.net on the right
- Install AviSynth: http://sourceforge.net/projects/avisynth2/files/

- In MPC, Option, External Filters: add FFDShow Video decoder (and the Audio Decoder at the same time) and mark them as "prefered" on the right
The window should look like this:
You can either select the FFDShow "raw video filter" or the video decoder whether you want to use FFD or an external codec for decompressing the video (I prefer to use FFD to do everything).

- When your video is playing, right click in the picture, filters, ffdshow video. That should open this window: http://img362.imageshack.us/img362/6607/capture11192008233120um5.gif

- On the left, activate AviSynth. And type in the big text area: TurnLeft (or TurnRight depending on how you handled your camera).

- Still in the FFDShow parameter window, go in preset and create a preset for the rotated videos:
Using the "Preset autoload condition", one can set such conditions in the following window:

cbloom said...

Word up Sly - that works awesome.

A few niggles :

you have to close & reopen MPC a few times during that process to make it reinitialize as you change settings.

At the bottom of presets make sure "automatically load presets" is checked, and in the list of filters make sure AVISynth is checked.

Unfortunately it's a pain in the ass to set up on multiple computers, and god help me the next time I have to rev some of these media components. >:|

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