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Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ30 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : 300
inc VAT

Beaten for image quality in low light, but in almost every other respect this is the best pocket-sized ultra-zoom camera available

Specifications

1/2.33in 14.0-megapixel sensor, 20.0x zoom (24-480mm equivalent), 206g

http://www.amazon.co.uk

Panasonic invented the pocket-sized ultra-zoom camera with its TZ series, but last year’s Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 was outgunned by rival cameras offering bigger zooms and better image quality, especially in low light. This year’s TZ30 appears on the surface to be barely any different to the TZ20, but in fact it’s a much better camera.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ30

The most obvious change is a bigger zoom range. It still starts at a wide-angle 24mm (equivalent) focal length but now stretches to 480mm – a 25 per cent improvement on the TZ20. A few pocket-sized cameras go even further – the Olympus SZ31MR and SZ-12 currently hold the record with their 24x (25-600mm) zooms – but by any normal measure this is a huge zoom for such a slim camera.

Panasonic’s Leica-branded lenses tend to produce extremely sharp images, and this one is no different. Whereas the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS‘s focus trailed off a little at the long end of the zoom, the TZ30 was razor sharp throughout the zoom range and right into the corners of frames, with barely any chromatic aberrations. The camera applies heavy digital sharpening to make the details pop, but it’s used to accentuate the lens’s sharpness rather than to make up for a lack of it.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ30 sample shot
Focus is extremely sharp for telephoto photography, too – there’s a small hint of chromatic aberrations on the windsurfer’s legs but the writing on the board is legible. There’s some noise on the yellow sleeves, though, despite the ISO 100 sensitivity – click to enlarge

Panasonic had a change of tack last year by moving from 14-megapixel to 12-megapixel sensors in its bulkier ultra-zoom FZ cameras. The accompanying improvement to noise levels and image quality in general was enormous. As such, it’s disappointing that Panasonic has stuck with a 14-megapixel sensor for the TZ30. In fact, it’s a 15-megapixel sensor, of which a slightly cropped 14-megapixel area is used to capture the image. It’s an updated sensor to the one in the TZ20, though, and noise levels are much improved. Low-light shots at ISO 1600 were a little grainy and smudged, and exhibited yellow blotches here and there, but they were a vast improvement on the grimy messes produced by the TZ20. Brightly lit shots were much cleaner too. There was still a little noise in shadier parts of the image but much less than before. This improvement is clearly welcome, but it’s more important how the TZ30 compares with its rivals. Here, its image quality in low light was above average but not up to the standard of the Canon SX260 HS.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ30 sample shot
Image quality in low light could be better, but it’s fine for small prints or when resized to fit a screen – click to enlarge

Most GPS-enabled cameras offer a choice of having the GPS radio on all the time (which drains the battery) or only on when the camera is on (which means that a lot of shots aren’t correctly tagged). The TZ30 manages the GPS radio’s power automatically to deliver the best of both worlds. It also managed to calculate its position when used indoors – something few other GPS cameras we’ve tested can do. Photos can be viewed on a map directly in the camera, although this requires 6.3GB of map data to be copied from the supplied DVD to an SDHC card. You can choose to copy only the regions you need, but Western Europe still weighs in at 2.5GB. It isn’t the most attractive map, either, and switching between map and photo views is a little clunky. Still, this is one of the best implementations of GPS we’ve seen on a digital camera.

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Basic Specifications

Rating *****
CCD effective megapixels 14.0 megapixels
CCD size 1/2.33in
Viewfinder none
Viewfinder magnification, coverage N/A
LCD screen size 3.0in
LCD screen resolution 460,000 pixels
Articulated screen No
Live view Yes
Optical zoom 20.0x
Zoom 35mm equivalent 24-480mm
Image stabilisation optical, lens based
Maximum image resolution 4,320×3,240
Maximum movie resolution 1920×1080
Movie frame rate at max quality 50fps
File formats JPEG; AVCHD, MP4 (AVC)

Physical

Memory slot SDXC
Mermory supplied 12MB internal
Battery type Li-ion
Battery Life (tested) 260 shots
Connectivity USB, AV, mini HDMI
HDMI output resolution 1080i
Body material aluminium
Lens mount N/A
Focal length multiplier N/A
Kit lens model name N/A
Accessories USB cable
Weight 206g
Size 61x105x30mm

Buying Information

Warranty one-year RTB
Price £300
Supplier http://www.amazon.co.uk
Details www.panasonic.co.uk

Camera Controls

Exposure modes program, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual
Shutter speed 15 to 1/2,000 seconds
Aperture range f/3.3-8 (wide), f/6.4-8 (tele)
ISO range (at full resolution) 100 to 3200
Exposure compensation +/-2 EV
White balance auto, 4 presets, manual
Additional image controls i.Exposure
Manual focus No
Closest macro focus 3cm
Auto-focus modes multi, centre, flexible spot, face detect, tracking
Metering modes multi, centre-weighted, centre, face detect
Flash auto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, red-eye reduction
Drive modes single, continuous, self-timer, HDR, sweep panorama

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