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Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 Digital Camera Review

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 Digital Camera Review - Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 review

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Category : Compact Cameras
Product : Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1
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Sporting the most compact 10x zoom lens to date, the Panasonic LumixDMC-TZ1 has a lot to offer. In this review, Gary Wolstenholme take a look at whether it delivers.

Specifications
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1
  • 5.0 megapixels
  • 1/2.5inch image sensor
  • Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 10x optical zoom lens
  • Focal length 5.2-52mm (35mm equiv 35-350mm)
  • Shutter speed, 8-1/2000 sec (Starry sky mode 15, 30, 60sec)
  • Optical image stabiliser
  • ISO Sensitivity, Auto/80/100/200/400/800 (High sensitivity mode : 800 / 1600)
  • Dimensions (W x H x D) 112 x 58.1 x 40.2 mm
  • Weight 262g with battery and SD memory card
  • Li-ion battery pack (3.7V, 1000mAh)
Build and handling
The Lumix TZ1 is surprisingly small for its specifications, the folded optics design, which turns a right angle inside the camera, is the first of its kind with such a large zoom range. A chunky handgrip helps to provide a secure hold of the TZ1. Even though this grip adds to the overall size of the camera, I feel it is necessary. When using such a long lens on such a small camera you need all the help you can get to keep it steady.

The metallic finish has a quality feel and the camera a bit of weight to it. It feels well-balanced which will also help with the use of this camera's telephoto capabilities.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1Display screen
The obligatory 2.5inch screen fills about two-thirds of the back of the camera. A tough piece of transparent acrylic material protects the screen from knocks and scrapes, although its reflective, shiny finish can make the screen more difficult to see in bright conditions. Other than that the screen is bright, clear and sharp.

Autofocus
Just like with many other compacts with a large zoom range, the autofocus performs brilliantly at the wide end and less well at the telephoto end. The camera locks onto static subjects instantly throughout the zoom range, but struggles tracking moving subject at the telephoto end, even when using one of the 'high-speed' modes.

Five AF-area modes are selectable in the menu, the default automatically chooses from nine separate areas across the frame. Other modes include a high-speed mode that is limited to three areas across the centre of the frame and three variations of central autofocus modes including high speed and spot.

Battery life
I managed to squeeze just under 200 shots out of the Lumix TZ1 before the battery gave up. Some of these shots were taken with the built-in flash, and most had the optical image stabiliser enabled. There is no optical viewfinder provided so the screen cannot be turned off whilst shooting to save batteries.

Memory card
The TZ1 uses SD memory cards which fit into the slot beside the battery. The following are write speeds for Jpeg quality settings using a Sandisk Extreme III card.

Quality setting Time taken to write to card
5 megapixel Jpeg fine 2.0secs
5 megapixel Jpeg normal 1.9secs

I also timed the delay between shots for this camera in the single shot mode.

Quality setting Shot-to-shot delay
5 megapixel Jpeg fine 1.46secs
5 megapixel Jpeg normal 1.32secs

Menu and controls

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1Often used controls are all located on the top of the camera, within close range of my index finger and thumb, with the zoom control located around the shutter release. The combination of these well-placed controls and the chunky handgrip makes using the camera with one hand a breeze.

Located on the top is the mode dial, which allows you to select from the normal, macro, simple, scene, movie and playback modes. The normal mode allows for simple point-and-shoot photography with more advanced features, such as exposure compensation selectable from a menu.

In simple mode, the options are limited to their most basic and are designed to be user-friendly for digital camera novices. Three resolution settings, full resolution (which is called enlarge), a setting for 6x4inch prints and email quality are selectable. Other options include whether you want the camera to beep or not and an option to set the camera's built-in clock.

18 different scene modes are provided including portrait, soft skin, scenery, sports, night portrait, night scenery, self portrait, food, party, candle light, fireworks, starry sky, baby, snow, high sensitivity and underwater which cover almost every common photographic scenario. When the appropriate mode is selected, the camera automatically sets the exposure and white balance settings for you.

Zoom lens
Having a 10x zoom lens in a small camera like this is a major selling point, ranging from a moderate wide angle of 35mm through to a super telephoto 350mm equivalent focal length.

During the first third of the range the zoom creeps along quite slowly but then speeds up suddenly for the rest of the range which took me a while to get used to. The slow speed at the short end means it can be frustrating if you wish to quickly recompose your shot, and because it speeds up suddenly, I repeatedly found myself sailing past the focal length I wanted.

Macro mode
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1
The macro mode allows you to take pictures from just over 2.5cm away from your subject when using the wide end of the zoom. A crop of the image to the left, shown at
100% to show the level of detail captured.

Vibration Reduction

To test the optical image stabiliser, I took shots of this artificial flower at a shutter speed of 1/15sec at 2x zoom, camera shake is clearly present with the image stabiliser inactive. When Mode one is activated, images show some improvement, but they are not completed corrected for movement. Switching to mode two improves things dramatically, producing an acceptably sharp shot.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1
Full frame
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1
O.I.S. off
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1
O.I.S mode 1
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1
O.I.S mode 2

Image Quality
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1
The auto white-balance is very accurate on the Lumix TZ1. The TZ1 produces accurate colours
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 Above - I found the autofocus in the TZ1 a little slow compared to some other cameras, especially at the long end of the zoom range.

Left - The TZ1 has coped well with the high contrast in this scene, keeping shadow detail and only burning out the highlights on the overcast sky.

Detail
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1
This busy scene was taken using a tripod to determine the level of detail this camera can produce. A 100% crop of the image shows the level of detail captured by the Lumix TZ1

At the wide end of the zoom the Lumix TZ1 records a very impressive amount of detail, images are clear and sharp with excellent contrast. I had been a little disappointed by images taken at the tele end of the zoom, I decided to take a couple of images of this scene to compare.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1
The same scene as above, but taken at maximum zoom. The first noticeable difference is the drop in contrast. A closer look at the image reveals a soft, misty appearance.

The images above show exactly why I was disappointed with images taken at maximum zoom, I expected a lot better from the Panasonic.

Noise
The following images illustrate the amount of digital noise apparent at each ISO setting.
The image to the right is the full image. The crops below are taken from where the green square is.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1
ISO80
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1
ISO100
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1
ISO200
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1
ISO400
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1
ISO800
 
Just like with the Panasonic Lumix FX-01, I am quite surprised a the levels of noise present at the lowest sensitivity setting, and at each higher setting. At ISO400 and ISO800 it seems the noise reduction has kicked in, removing the unsightly blobs of chroma noise that are apparent at ISO200. This unfortunately is at the expense of detail in the image.

Verdict
The Lumix TZ1 does offer a lot of features. The 10x zoom, compact body and large clear LCD screen are the kind of features that will get you to part with your hard-earned cash when looking at the camera in a shop.

Unfortunately it also has its less obvious weak points. I was surprised by the levels of noise at all ISO sensitivities, and the image quality at the long end of the zoom is less than I expected from a 'Leica' lens. The drop in contrast and soft ethereal look the images have is less than satisfactory for me.

If however the compromises made are worth it for you, this is the only camera of its size with a 10x zoom, then nothing else will do.

In summary the positive points of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 are:
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1Compact size.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1Chunky hand grip.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1Optical image stabiliser is effective.

The negative points:
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1Softness at long end of the zoom.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1Noise levels.

Click here to see photos taken with this camera by ePHOTOzine members

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