Thanks for you clearification Gordon about the noise I was hearing.
I've already packed up the item for RMA back to the seller.
If I have time before UPS picks up the box, I'll reload the battery and carefully review the noise factor and keep a steady shot, while paning from one subject to the other, to isolate where the noise seems to be strongest.
Funny thing is my first Lumix TZ1, which I never noticed any noise factor, especially back in the editing room, didn't seem to give me any trouble. I still have it, and it pretty beat up.
Your differentiation between AF and actual zoom motor noise obvsiously comes from your experience reviewing cameras and able to disect these features right off the bat.
I do remember two distinct noises: 1) click, click, click - which could be the auto focus; and 2) zoom motor. I do specifically recal that zoom motor though. It was funny, because all of the noise was happening all at once, it was a big invitation to listen to it, and since it started getting my attention, I noticed the motor bog down at the end points of the zoom zone. Meaning, when you "unzoom" and reach the end of the unzoom range, the zoom motor like hits the end and wines a bit as you try to continue unzooming or vise versa.
In other words, the system may be using physical boundaries to determine the end points of the zoom range. Where as a sensor would be more sophisticated where the sensor detected the zoom point, and prevented any further motor action at that point. Where from what I experienced, the zoom allowed the user to hold down on the zoom lever, and come to a "grinding" hault. The funny part is if the battery is low, and mine was (right of the box) the grinding hault noise sounds really pathetic.
Regarding my TZ1 - yea, I recall noise when zooming - but it is probably because of the sand or grit and use factor I've put it through, and was probably appropriately heard during the zoom, and stopped. Funning thing, is that I don't recall it being as pronounced as on the TZ7/ZS3 (okay, I'm getting confused with these model numbers).
I will add, regarding the TZ1 and zooming, that I eagerly bought the TZ or TZ3, thinking they were going to be improvements over the TZ1. However, for some strange reaason, Panasonic eliminated the ability to zoom during record on those later models. So they lost my interests, and is probably why I've held onto my old TZ1.
Another thing, regarding zoom noise. I did notice the ZS3 had stereo microphone system, and that increased audio ability, could also enhance all audio, even that coming from the camera itself. I wonder if this is why we never really saw dramatic improvements in the audio recording department for these compact (pocket) style cameras. I'm wondering if the requirment to "insulate" the mechanisms inside, forbade such increased audio recording performance?
By the way, after I realized my model number confusion in purchasing the TZ10/ZS7, I took another careful look at the outlet's advertisement for the TZ10 and in fact they were not available - claiming a March arrival date.