Building on the previous DMC-TZ5, the new TZ6 offers a longer 12x optical zoom from a slightly wider 25mm viewpoint.
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Panasonic DMC-TZ6: Specification
- Zoom: 12x optical
- Resolution: 10Mp
- Sensor size: 1/2.5in
- Sensor type: CCD
- Max. image size: 3648x2736
- File type: JPEG
- Sensitivity: ISO80-1600 (ISO6400 in High Sensitivity mode)
- Media type: SD/SDHC, built-in
- Focus types: Normal, macro, continuous AF, Tracking AF, Quick AF
- Normal focusing: 50cm-infinity
- Close focusing: 3cm-200cm
- Metering types: Intelligent Multi, centre-weighted, spot
- Exposure compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3 step increments
- Shutter speed: 8-1/2000sec (max. 60sec in Starry Night mode)
- Flash: Built-in, 0.6-5.3m (Wide at ISO Auto), 1.0-3.6m (Telephoto at ISO Auto)
- Monitor: 2.7in TFT LCD (230,000dot)
- Interface: USB 2.0
- Power: Li-Ion battery
- Size: 103.3x59.6x32.8mm
- Weight: 206g (excl. battery and card)
The design bears a passing resemblance to the Samsung WB500
but the 12x optical zoom is slightly longer and the Panasonic can also crop in 2cm closer.
Panasonic DMC-TZ6: Features
Panasonic released the TZ6 at the same time as the TZ7 and there's minor differences between the two. Outwardly they're identical, except the slightly smaller screen on the TZ6, so it's not until you get into the features of each camera that you can see tell-tale signs of a slightly higher classification on the TZ7. The TZ6 has a slightly smaller sensor although they both run at 10Mp which means the TZ7 should have a slightly better ISO performance but drops the burst rate from 2.5fps in the TZ6 to 2.3fps in the TZ7. Of course this is superficial at best with only two frames difference over a ten second period but could count in some circumstances.
Some of the more sophisticated technological advances have also been omitted from the TZ6 such as face recognition which is a system that not only recognises people that you've committed to its memory but also displays their name alongside them. Also missing is the AVCHD video recording and an HDMI output instead opting for different VGA modes which have to channel through USB 2.0.
Enough of the comparisons though, the TZ6 is a perfectly competent camera in the features that it gives you and at around £40 less than its big brother, it could be worth looking at it.
The styling immediately reminds me of the recently reviewed Samsung WB500
as they both sport over-sized lenses on the front with a slim flash sandwiched between the small grip. A power switch, command dial and shutter release with the zoom rocker wrapped around it are all that adorn the top and it's becoming the norm these days to clad the top plate in as little as possible.
Mega OIS has been a staple requirement of Panasonic cameras for a long time.
A similar layout to the DMC-TZ5 but with the command dial back on the shoulder.
Panasonic developed the intelligent auto modes that are starting to sprout up on more and more compacts. It works by analysing the scene you're taking and adjusts the mode to take the best possible picture. Therefore if you close in on a flower or interesting lizard, the camera will detect what you're up to and change the shooting mode to macro. It is very clever but there's been some speculation on whether this is taking away from a photographers right to adjust a photograph how they want to. I think it's missing the point. This mode isn't for the type of photographer who wants to adjust their pictures. It's for the kind that haven't got a clue what an aperture is.
But that's cool, not everyone needs to know this kind of thing and if this is you, then you'll be perfectly happy with this mode. Users more advanced in photographic knowledge can still benefit from a large zoom, exposure compensation, MS mode which opens up the same in the menu as the red camera icon, which is as manual as the TZ6 gets, but also adds the scene selections. The scene modes are an interesting bunch. There are some really lovely modes on there such as pinhole mode, high sensitivity and hi-speed modes but they're let down by the resolution dropping to around 3Mp.
I really like the record/playback switch on Panasonic cameras. It means you can review your pictures without having the lens stuck out if you power up in playback mode. Flicking over to record will pop the lens out and start the camera up. There's still a Q Menu for quick access to your most used features such as image stabiliser, face detection, white balance, resolution and drive modes. These are all available in the main menu as well but it saves sifting through masses of options if you're in a hurry.
Panasonic DMC-TZ6: Build and handling
I like cameras with metal casings and the DMC-TZ6 doesn't fail to impress with its brushed metal front and back while the top plate is a shinier version. The screen sits flush to the body although the back curves out slightly to accommodate this feature. But then this camera isn't designed to be thin, it's designed to pack a powerful punch in the zoom range and certainly does this with a 35mm equivalent of 25-300mm.
A powerful 12x optical zoom starts at 25mm to a massive 300mm focal length.
The battery door is ok but could be a little more solid.
As always the lens design has been provided by Leica but manufactured by Panasonic. This is a common practice by all the manufacturers who incorporate a third party lens system such as Sony/Carl Zeiss and Samsung/Schneider. All other parts of the camera feel solid thanks to the good build quality although I think the battery bay door could be stiffened up a little bit more.
Along with the VGA video capability, the TZ6 also loses out on stereo audio and wind cut which is a bit of a shame for any video enthusiasts.
It's a pretty solid camera with a secure lens and firm buttons. The switches for the power and flicking between record and playback need a fingernail behind but aren't uncomfortable to operate. I used the command dial a couple of times and found myself knocking the dial out of alignment forcing the camera to flag up that no mode was selected. I think a slightly stiffer command dial is necessary and a more responsive zoom lever. A couple of times I found myself having to wildly flap the zoom lever to get it to work which was unfortunate.
Panasonic DMC-TZ6: Performance
A really good colour reproduction from the Panasonic including skin tones and pastels.
There are two different types of continuous shooting, called burst and unlimited. Burst mode shoots three images in under one and a half seconds while the unlimited is slower at 0.9fps in normal mode. Looking at the times recorded on the stop watch, they confirm Panasonic's results of 2.5fps for three images in fine mode. This can be extended to five frames if you drop down to standard mode.
Looking at the colour test chart, all three primary colours are saturated although blue more so than the red and yellow. Saying that, I do like the warmth of the yellow and orange. Earth brown and forest green look richer than a lot of compact camera results I've seen lately. There's also some colour coming through on the pastel tiles and the mono tones are nicely balanced.
In fact the colour test chart from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ6 is one of the best I've seen, especially in recent times. Incidentally, you can adjust the camera as to how it records colours offering options such as Cool, Warm and Normal which is different to Standard for some reason.
For the landscape shot, I set the white balance to cloudy which has warmed the image nicely and there's plenty of detail in the paving and balance beam despite what looks suspiciously like noise at this ISO100 setting. Metering has coped nicely with the shadow areas and there's no fringing on any contrasting areas, even the branches overlapping the sky which is a great result.
Good detail and no colour fringing is marred by slight noise in low key/mid range areas.
In macro, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ6 can get in as close as 3cm which shows the claw marks at my wedding ring.
I took a macro shot of my wedding ring in natural light and the camera has picked up all the scratches it's obtained over the long, long years. There's a little burn out on the highlight from the window, which I'm not happy about, but it's exposed well and the white balance has coped nicely.
I like the portrait images for the colour reproduction, skin tones and detail in areas such as the hair. Adding flash has bleached areas of the forehead and filled in the shadows. However it's created it's own shadow on the wall which is unfortunate.
Portrait mode gives a good result with nice skin tones and detail in the hair.
Adding flash has given a different colour to the skin and bleached parts of the forehead.
The beauty mode smoothes out blemishes or minor flaws in the skin to make it a more appealing image.
In the scene menu, there's a Beauty mode which smoothes out blemishes and gives a more even image. It works quite well and even eliminates a vast amount of noise flecks that are appearing in the low key areas.
Shutter lag sits at a reasonable 0.08sec which is the standard response for digital compacts in the ePHOTOzine test. Start up time from switching on to taking a picture is just under 3.5sec which is pretty good as it shaves off half a second from many compacts.
Panasonic DMC-TZ6: Noise test
I think it's worth remembering who the camera is aimed at before discussing the noise levels on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ6 images.
It's aimed more towards the happy snapper than the enthusiast and that should be kept in mind as happy snappers are less likely to be bothered by noise at low levels. It's definitely present even at the low ISOs but only very mildly.
It doesn't become an issue until ISO400 and this is really only because of colour invasion. This invasion is present at ISO200 but becomes more aggressive on the higher setting. By ISO800 detail is starting to be lost and at the final setting of ISO1600 black flecks and purple spots smatter the image sporadically.
Luckily this is the final setting unless you use the Starry Night mode whereby you can get a maximum setting of ISO6400.
Panasonic DMC-TZ6: Verdict
The ISO80 test.
The ISO1600 test.
Following on the design of the TZ series means you get an amazing sized zoom lens built to Leica specification and a metal body for extra ruggedness. As a lower end version it means that the menu systems are a little bereft of feaures but then I think Panasonic have loaded it according to the target market.
Getting these users into this type of camera could bring them into more serious photography which isn't a bad thing.
Colour quality is good and I like the portrait images, macro and landscape test shots. It's a shame about noise but then I'm always disappointed with cameras of this classification. One real surprise was the complete lack of colour fringing on the landscape test.
If you're looking for a medium sized camera with a big zoom and good colour reproduction then get this camera.
Panasonic DMC-TZ6: Plus points
Good build quality
Nice colour rendition
Nice macro image
Panasonic DMC-TZ6: Minus points
Noise at all levels
Slack command dial
Flash can look unnatural
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ6 costs around £270 and is available from Warehouse Express here:
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ6