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Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 Gordon Laing, August 2006


 



 




Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 verdict

While the Lumix TZ1’s neither the slimmest nor sexiest compact on the market, it’s nothing short of remarkable to find a 10x optical zoom lens in there. The flexibility and convenience of having such a long reach in a relatively pocketable body cannot be underestimated. You’ll enjoy the kind of opportunist shots which only a long zoom can deliver, but at times when you’re unlikely or unwilling to carry a larger camera. Effective optical image stabilisation and a barrel which barely extends from the body are the icing on the cake.



Panasonic DMC-TZ1 lens


Of course packing the equivalent of a 35-350mm lens into a body only slightly larger than a pack of cards inevitably results in some compromises. The TZ1’s lens isn’t particularly sharp in the corners when zoomed-in for example, although it does perform surprisingly well in terms of geometric distortion and coloured fringing.

The Lumix TZ1’s biggest problem though is electronic noise which is visible in dark shadow areas even at its slowest 80 and 100 ISO sensitivities. As the sensitivity is increased, overly aggressive noise reduction also results in smearing and loss of fine detail compared to many rivals. This is a real shame, as alternative sensor and image processor combinations could deliver far superior results.

Ultimately while the sensor and image processing let down the camera overall, you won’t notice their artefacts unless you make large prints, examine images at 100% or shoot at high sensitivity. The latter is also quite avoidable too thanks to the TZ1’s effective image stabilisation, and as our Gallery shows, it’s possible to shoot at 80 ISO under many conditions and not worry about camera shake.

We also loved the genuine widescreen movie mode, especially with the TZ1’s TV output aspect ratio set to 16:9. Here it outputs a horizontally-squashed anamorphic video signal, just like a DVD, ready for widescreen TVs to stretch back into shape. It’s a great implementation.

Photographic enthusiasts may be frustrated by the lack of manual control, but careful selection of scene presets along with exposure compensation can deliver most of the creative results you’d be after.

Noise is the TZ1’s biggest issue, although again it’s mostly avoided at the lowest sensitivities and barely visible on smaller print sizes. It’s just not the camera for anyone who wants to make large prints, examine images at 100% or shoot at high sensitivities.

While higher than average noise levels along with little or no manual control reduces our overall ranking of the Lumix TZ1, the fact you’re getting a 10x optically-stabilised lens in a compact body is enough to earn it a Recommendation.

During our time with the TZ1 we found ourselves grabbing opportunist shots which those with average cameras simply missed out on. While super-zooms could match its reach, none could be slipped into a relatively small pocket – and that’s the TZ1’s unique selling point. While a better sensor could have made the TZ1 truly remarkable, it still delivers a highly compelling proposition for those who want the flexibility and power of a long zoom with the carry-everywhere convenience of a compact. Please visit our Compact digital camera Buyer's Guide for an update of the best buys around right now.

UPDATE: See how the TZ1's successor compares in our Panasonic Lumix TZ3 review and video tour


Good points
Huge 10x optical zoom for a compact
Optical Image Stabilisation
Good build quality
Widescreen videos with anamorphic TV output

Bad points
Noise levels high even at low sensitivity
Little or no manual control
Smearing on High Sensitivity mode
Ultimate image quality beaten by some compacts


Scores
(compared to mid-range compacts)

Build quality:
Image quality:
Handling:
Specification:
Value:

Overall:

15 / 20
15 / 20
15 / 20
18 / 20
18 / 20

81%
 

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All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2014 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

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