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Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ40 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : 300
inc VAT

Image quality isn't perfect, but tons of useful features add up to a superb all-rounder

Specifications

1/2.3in 18.0-megapixel sensor, 20.0x zoom (24-480mm equivalent), 198g

http://www.amazon.co.uk
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OVERLY SENSOR-TIVE

The other significant change over the TZ30 is a move from 14 to 18 megapixels. This is an extremely – we’d argue ridiculously – high resolution high for a compact camera with a tiny 1/2.3in sensor. The gains in detail are usually minimal and the increased noise levels are far more substantial. However, we’re relieved to report that our worst fears weren’t realised here. Comparing our ISO 100 studio test shots with the TZ30’s, there was a small increase in detail in text and other high-contrast details. It’s a credit to this lens that it’s able to resolve enough detail to live up to the 18-megapixel rating – at middle-range zoom positions at least. Comparing high-ISO test shots, noise looked different to the TZ30’s output, but it wasn’t noticeably worse. However, this also means that the TZ40 still lags behind its rivals for image noise.

In practice, photos looked superb when resized to fit a 1080p screen but zooming in or heavily cropping revealed their limitations. Image quality was inevitably at its best in bright conditions at modest zoom positions, but even then, subtle textures such as skin and foliage looked somewhat featureless, save for a light sprinkle of noise. It got progressively worse as the ISO speed increased in diminishing light – or when shooting at the long end of the zoom in overcast weather. However, the digital processing did a fine job of handling the rising noise levels, and it was only at ISO 1600 that noise reduction became really intrusive.

Panasonic Lumic DMC-TZ40 sample shot
These skin tones are a little scruffy and there’s not much definition in the grass, but it’s by no means a bad result

Panasonic Lumic DMC-TZ40 sample shot
Shooting in the shade at the long end of the zoom has pushed the ISO speed up to 800 here. There’s a lot of noise in the shadows, but again, we’re happy with this shot

Panasonic Lumic DMC-TZ40 sample shot
ISO 1600 is a step too far for us. Still, we appreciate how the camera identified a moving subject and raised the shutter and ISO speeds to avoid motion blur. This photo looks fine after resizing to around 1 megapixel

A key attraction of this kind of camera is being able to zoom right in to capture distant subjects. We were seriously impressed with the TZ30’s ability to maintain sharp focus throughout its zoom range, but the TZ40 wasn’t quite as crisp for telephoto shots. The two cameras appear to use exactly the same lens, so we’re not sure whether this is down to variations in individual samples or because the 18-megapixel sensor places higher demands on the lens. Either way it’s a little disappointing, but as with the noise issues, it’s only really a significant concern when heavily cropping photos or printing enlargements.

Panasonic Lumic DMC-TZ40 sample shot
Focus is good rather than great at the full zoom extension, and it deteriorates towards the edges

Panasonic Lumic DMC-TZ40 sample shot
There’s very little definition to the details in this telephoto shot…

Panasonic Lumic DMC-TZ40 sample shot
…and the 2x digital zoom that’s offered in Intelligent Auto mode is pointless

WELL ROUNDED

The things that made the TZ30 great are still intact. The video mode is top notch, with outstanding picture and sound quality, smooth autofocus and zooming, powerful optical stabilisation and a choice of frame rates including 1080/50p and slow motion capture at 720/100p.

GPS worked superbly, with clever power management so it doesn’t forget its position when you power off but doesn’t constantly drain the battery.

The controls are intuitive and quick to use, with full manual exposure control, touchscreen spot-focus and a Q.Menu button to access various key settings. It’s extremely responsive for photo capture, taking 1.5 seconds to switch on and shoot, and 0.8 seconds between each shot. Continuous mode ran at 10fps, or 5fps with updating autofocus between each shot. The increased resolution isn’t accompanied by a larger memory buffer, though. It could only maintain these speeds for six or seven frames before slowing, whereas the TZ30 managed ten to 12.

We wish that Panasonic had resisted the temptation to use an 18-megapixel sensor. We’d happily settle for less detail for the sake of less noise. Still, image quality is on a par with the TZ30, which makes it the right side of acceptable for general snapping. As with the TZ30, it’s the superb features and performance that really make this camera shine, and the new Wi-Fi functions fit in perfectly. We’re looking forward to testing the latest models from Canon, Fujifilm and others, but for now at least, this is the best pocket ultra-zoom camera we’ve seen.

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Basic Specifications

Rating*****
CCD effective megapixels18.0 megapixels
CCD size1/2.3in
Viewfindernone
Viewfinder magnification, coverageN/A
LCD screen size3.0in
LCD screen resolution920,000 pixels
Articulated screenNo
Live viewYes
Optical zoom20.0x
Zoom 35mm equivalent24-480mm
Image stabilisationoptical, lens based
Maximum image resolution4,896×3,672
File formatsJPEG; AVCHD, MP4 (AVC)

Physical

Memory slotSDXC
Mermory supplied12MB internal
Battery typeLi-ion
Battery Life (tested)300 shots
ConnectivityUSB, AV, micro HDMI, Wi-Fi, NFC
Body materialaluminium
Lens mountN/A
Focal length multiplierN/A
Kit lens model nameN/A
AccessoriesUSB cable
Weight198g
Size61x109x30mm

Buying Information

Warrantyone year RTB
Price£300
Supplierhttp://www.amazon.co.uk
Detailswww.panasonic.co.uk

Camera Controls

Exposure modesprogram, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual
Shutter speed4 to 1/2,000 seconds
Aperture rangef/3.3-8 (wide), f/6.4-8 (tele)
ISO range (at full resolution)100 to 6400
Exposure compensation+/-2 EV
White balanceauto, 4 presets with fine tuning, manual
Additional image controlsIntelligent Exposure
Manual focusNo
Closest macro focus3cm
Auto-focus modesmulti, flexible spot, face detect, tracking
Metering modesmulti, centre-weighted, centre, face detect
Flashauto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, red-eye reduction
Drive modessingle, continuous, self-timer, AE bracket, WB bracket, panorama, HDR