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Panasonic Lumix TZ18 Digital Camera Review

Panasonic Lumix TZ18 Digital Camera Review - We review the Panasonic TZ18 which features a 16x optical zoom lens and 14Mp sensor.

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Category : Compact Cameras
Product : Panasonic Lumix TZ18
Price : £229
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Features
Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Panasonic Lumix TZ18

The Panasonic Lumix TZ18 (also known as the ZS8 in the US) is an update to the popular Panasonic Travel Zoom (TZ) series and features a new 16x optical zoom lens and 14 megapixel sensor, compared to the previous version's 12x optical zoom and 12 megapixel sensor.

Panasonic Lumix TZ18

Panasonic Lumix TZ18 Features

The camera has an impressive zoom range, providing 16x optical zoom from extra wide angle 24mm equivalent to 384mm equivalent, along with optical image stabilisation.

In Program (P) mode you can zoom from wide (24mm) to the full 16x optical zoom (at 384mm equivalent), at 14Mp. in intelligent Auto mode you can zoom from wide to 20x "intelligent zoom" at 14Mp, pressing the E.Zoom button again will zoom the camera to an equivalent of 42.2x zoom at 3Mp.

The camera has a large 3 inch screen, a good size mode dial and manual controls. There are very nice feeling on/off switch buttons and an easy to use record and playback switch that I always miss on other cameras as it works so well.

The TZ18 is the "little brother" to the TZ20 (known as the ZS10 in the US) - and offers 720p video compared to full HD on the TZ20. The TZ20 also features a 14Mp Live MOS sensor for high speed shooting at 10fps, upto 60fps at 3.5Mp, 3D photo mode, GPS and a higher resolution screen (460k vs 230k).

Panasonic Lumix TZ18

Key Features 
  • 14 megapixel CCD sensor
  • 16x optical zoom lens, equivalent to 24-384mm in 35mm equiv., f/3.3 - f5.9
  • Intelligent zoom extends the zoom to 20x at 14Mp
  • 3inch screen, with 230k pixels
  • 720p video at 30fps with mono sound
  • P/S/A/M modes
  • POWER O.I.S.(Optical Image Stabilizer)
  • Automatic screen brightness adjustment
  • ISO100 - ISO1600
  • 3cm Macro mode
  • Facebook and Youtube sharing



Panasonic Lumix TZ18

Panasonic Lumix TZ18 Handling

The camera is well built with a solid metal body and a good sized front hand grip, while the back has a raised bumps thumb grip that works well. The design will be very familiar to anyone who's used the TZ series, as it uses a very similar design that's been used ever since the first TZ1 came out 5 years ago with the top mode dial, on/off, shutter and additional function button still located in the same place (although it's changed from an optical image stabilisation mode button to an E. (Electronic) Zoom button).

As the old adage goes: "If it isn't broken, don't fix it" and in this case, Panasonic are doing a good job updating the camera every year with improved features such as increased optical zoom, enhanced video modes and additional scene modes and creative modes such as the useful HDR mode and full manual controls.

Menus: The TZ18's menus are logical and well laid out. The text is easy to read and the options are easy to understand the majority of the time. Occasionally the scene modes can take a little longer to access as they are represented with small images. You also occasionally need to wait for the pop-up text in order to find out what the mode does. 

Panasonic Lumix TZ18

Battery Life: According to CIPA standard the TZ18 is capable of 340 shots. I was able to take 320 shots before the battery went flat.

Speed: We tested the Panasonic Lumix TZ18 and compared it to the Canon Powershot SX220 and Nikon Coolpix S9100 and we have shown results below:


Panasonic TZ18 Canon SX220 Nikon S9100
Shutter Reponse <0.1 <0.1 0.05
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.4 0.35 <0.2
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.4 0.35 0.6
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 1.9 1.8 1.9
Shot to Shot (without flash) 1.3 1.9 1.4
Shot to Shot with Flash 2.5 3.0 1.7-2.0
Continuous Shooting (full resolution) 0.9 2.5fps 9.5fps (5 shots)

Results are very similar to the competition, although the TZ18 has the slowest continuous shooting of the three, as the SX220 and S9100 features back lit CMOS sensors that enable high speed shooting at full resolution. 

To access additional high speed shooting modes on the Panasonic Lumix TZ18, you can select high speed shooting in the scene modes. This allows 5.5fps to 10fps shooting at 3Mp, or alternatively you can select high speed shooting with flash, and this allows a shot to be taken every 1.3 seconds at 3Mp.

Panasoninc Lumix TZ18 Performance

The Panasonic Lumix TZ18 produces images that have good colour and good detail. Here are some sample photos you can enlarge:

Panasonic Lumix TZ18 Sample Photo Panasonic Lumix TZ18 Flowers
Giraffe, Chester Zoo
 
Yellow Flowers
 

ISO and Noise Performance

ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
 
ISO100 Noise Test ISO200 Noise Test ISO400 Noise test
ISO100 ISO200 ISO400
ISO800 Noise test ISO800 Noise test  
ISO800 ISO1600  

Noise is visible in ISO100 shots and increases as the ISO setting increases, with ISO400 shots showing more noise than expected compared to similar cameras. ISO800 shots are quite noisy, while ISO1600 shots are overly noisy making them quite poor even if resized for the web, as the noise is so dominant that it remains when the image is resized. The results at the highest ISO setting of ISO1600 looks very similar to the results you would get from a competitor at ISO3200, even more so if you compare it to cameras using a backlit CMOS sensor. As long as you stick to the lowest ISO settings results are good.

Wide Angle Photo 16x optical zoom
Wide-angle - note the furthest red car. Full 16x optical zoom
 
20x intelligent zoom 42.2x zoom
20x Intelligent zoom (14Mp) 42.2x zoom (3Mp)

The optical zoom provides a good zoom range. This is further extended using the "Intelligent Zoom" - this is intended to process the image, sharpening detail, however when viewing the images at full size, it's easy to see that it is using digital zoom and is simply providing an easier way to magnify an area (unfortunately at the expense of image quality).

Some of the creative modes and photographic features are shown below:

Toycam Black and White Grain
Toy Camera
 
High Contrast Black and White Film Grain
 
HDR Mode Scene Mode HDR Art Mode
HDR 
 
HDR Art

The creative modes can make some otherwise boring shots more memorable. The many scene and creative modes available are: Portrait, Soft Skin, Transform, Self-Portrait, Scenery, Panorama Assist, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Food, Party, Candle Light, Baby1, Baby2, / Pet, Sunset, High sensitivity, Hi-Speed Burst (image priority/speed priority), Flash Burst, Starry Sky, Fireworks, Beach, Snow, Aerial, Pinhole, Film Grain, High Dynamic (standard/ art/ B&W), Photoframe, Under Water. The camera also has a number of colour modes, including, interestingly a "Happy" mode: Standard, Natural, Vivid, Black & White, Sepia, Cool, Warm, Happy.

Some other shots here show good colour, however there is some noise when viewed at 100%:

Ribbon Scooter Photo
Normal shot
 
HP Scooter
 

White Balance

AWB - Tungsten Tungsten preset - Tungsten AWB - Fluorescent

Auto white balance does not feature a preset for Fluorescent - as you can see above it doesn't seem to be needed as the results using auto white balance under fluorescent lighting are excellent. In fact you get better results using the auto white balance under incandescent / tungsten lighting rather than using the Tungsten preset.

Macro Performance: The camera allows you to be 3cm away from your subject, this produces good macro results with lots of detail.

Macro photo Portrait with Flash
Macro Watch Portrait with flash
 

The portrait shot came out well, red-eye was reduced by using the portrait scene mode. 

Video Mode

The video quality is good recording 720p HD Video up to 15min with mono sound, and the optical zoom can be used while recording.

Value for Money
The Panasonic Lumix TZ18 costs £229 and is up against competitors like the Canon Powershot SX220 HS priced at £230 with high speed shooting, 12 megapixel sensor and 14x optical zoom lens. The Nikon Coolpix S9100 is another to consider priced at £249 with high speed shooting, 12 megapixel sensor and 18x optical zoom lens and the new Olympus SZ-10 priced at £199, with high speed shooting, 16 megapixel sensor and 18x optical zoom lens. 

Panasonic Lumix TZ18 Verdict

The Panasonic Lumix TZ18 continues the tradition of providing an excellent zoom range in a compact camera, this time with a wide angle 16x optical zoom lens, without appearing to compromise on image quality as image quality is good at both wide and telephoto. The image quality is good, however I found the screen on the back showed images slightly brighter than they appeared on the computer, causing me to try and adjust the exposure unnecessarily on the camera. Images showed more noise than I would have liked to see, however the overall image quality and usability of the camera is very good and the solid design of the camera makes it well worth considering.

ePHOTOzine Recommended Award
The Panasonic Lumix TZ18 improves on the predecessors and brings more zoom and delivers good image quality.
Panasonic Lumix TZ18 Pros:
16x optical zoom lens starting at 24mm wide
Good design and build quality
Easy to use menus
High quality video with optical zoom
Built in optical image stabilisation
Good macro performance
Excellent auto white balance

Panasonic Lumix TZ18 Cons:
"Intelligent zoom" is just another name for digital zoom
Continuous shooting not as quick as the competition
Screen appeared overly bright at times
Noise noticeable in shots, higher than expected

FEATURES
HANDLING
PERFORMANCE
VALUE
OVERALL

Panasonic Lumix TZ18 Specification


Price £229
Contact www.panasonic.co.uk
Lens 16x optical zoom (24-384mm equivalent, f/3.3 - f/5.9)
Resolution 14.1 Megapixels
Sensor size 1/2.3 inch
Sensor type CCD Sensor
Max. Image size 14mp 4320x3240
Aspect ratio 4:3, 3:2, 1:1, 16:9
Monitor 3.0in TFT LCD monitor, 230000 pixels
Shutter speed Still: 60 - 1/4000 sec / Starry Sky Mode : 15, 30, 60sec
Focusing system Contrast detection AF
Focusing modes Normal/ AF Macro, Zoom Macro, Quick AF, AF Tracking / Continuous AF (only for motion picture)
Focus distance Normal: Wide 50 cm - infinity / Tele 200 cm - infinity / Macro / Intelligent AUTO/ movie recording: Wide 3 cm - infinity / Tele 100cm - infinity
File types Still Image: JPEG(DCF/Exif2.3) / Motion picture: QuickTime Motion JPEG
ISO sensitivity Auto / i.ISO / 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 / High Sensitivity mode (ISO 1600-6400)
Metering modes Intelligent Multiple / Center Weighted / Spot
Exposure compensation 1/3 EV step, +/-2 EV, Auto (AE) Bracketing: 1/3 ~1EV step, Max +/-1, 3 frames
Continuous High-speed Burst Mode: approx. 5.5 frames/sec (image priority) / approx. 10 frames/sec (speed priority) / (recorded in 3M for 4:3, 2.5M for 3:2, 2M for 16:9, 2.5M for 1:1)
Image stabilisation Yes - optical image stabilizer
Movie mode 1,280x720 pixels at 30 fps in Motion JPEG format
Media type Built-in Memory, SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card, SDXC Memory Card
Interface Hi-Speed USB 2.0
Power ID-Security Li-ion Battery Pack (3.6V, Minimum: 895mAh) (Included) / AC Adaptor (Input: 110-240V AC) (Optional)
Box Contents Panasonic Lumix TZ18 Camera, Battery Charger, Battery Pack, AC Cable, AV Cable, USB Cable, AC Cable, Hand Strap, CD-ROM
Size 104.9 x 57.6 x 33.4 mm
Weight 188 g (excluding battery and SD memory card)

The Panasonic Lumix TZ18 costs £229 and is available from Warehouse Express here: Panasonic Lumix TZ18

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Photographs taken using the Panasonic Panasonic Lumix TZ18

WreckedFountainBougainvilleaBoat at MykonosmykonosFire!Spring in Devonyucca plant
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