Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3
Written by Gordon Laing
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 verdict
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 is without a doubt one of the most flexible compact cameras on the market today – and one which has few if any rivals. It may not be the slimmest compact out there, but manages to pack in a genuine 10x optical zoom lens complete with image stabilisation and a 28mm equivalent wide angle.
As we said in our review of its predecessor, 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.
Panasonic has improved on the earlier TZ1 though by equipping the new TZ3 with genuine wide angle capabilities, and what you lose at the long end is more than made up for what you gain at the short.
Considering the constraints the optics have to work in, they’re also remarkably good. Geometric distortion and light fall-off are kept to a respectable minimum, while coloured fringing is virtually non-existent. The overall contrast may fall-off as you zoom-in, but this is par for the course with many super-zooms and easily corrected in software afterwards.
While the TZ3 boasts a couple of new modes though, it remains, like its predecessor, pretty much automatic only. Exposure compensation along with a wide variety of scene presets allow you to get reasonably creative, but if you want manual control over the aperture and shutter, then look elsewhere.
Like other Panasonic compacts, noise also becomes an issue at lower sensitivities than we’d like and you should really stick at 100 or 200 ISO for the best quality. As our results pages show though, it arguably performs better than the higher-end Lumix FZ8 in some noise tests, so it’s not all bad news.
So before wrapping-up, how does the TZ3 compare to other models?
Compared to Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1
Since the new TZ3 is such a unique camera, the most appropriate comparison is against its predecessor. Panasonic’s made several key improvements including the wider coverage and a larger 3in screen, along with implementing the useful Function option of the LX and FZ series, which presents quick access to common settings.
On the downside, the focal ratio is slower, as is the startup time thanks to the TZ3’s extending lens. The inevitable increase in resolution from 5 to 7.2 Megapixels also doesn’t make a huge difference, but the lens coverage, screen and functionality easily add up to make the TZ3 a worthy successor to one of our favourite compacts of 2006. See our Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 review for more details.
Compared to Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8
The FZ8 is arguably the next model up from the TZ3, in terms of optical range anyway. It’s a much more serious looking camera, styled like a DSLR, although much smaller and lighter. That said, it actually feels less substantial than the TZ3. In its favour the FZ8 boasts a longer 12x optical zoom range, although starting at an equivalent of 36mm, it’s not as exciting to use as the TZ3 in practice. The TZ3 also boasts a bigger screen, although the FZ8’s arguably looks better.
The big difference between the two models in terms of functionality is manual control. The FZ8 offers full control over its aperture and shutter, making it the preferred choice for the photographic enthusiast. That said, the TZ3 holds up well in comparisons and could end up ultimately being the better choice for many people. See our Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 review for more details.
It’s hard to find cameras to compare the Lumix TZ3 against because it simply represents a unique proposition on the market. After all, while there’s plenty of super-zooms with stabilisation, none can squeeze into a trouser or coat pocket like the TZ3.
The lack of manual control can be annoying for enthusiasts, and the performance at 400 ISO is, like other Panasonic compacts, nothing to be proud of. But these are about the only downsides to the TZ3. Leave your creative options to various scene presets and limit the sensitivity to 100 or 200 ISO and you’ll enjoy some great-looking photos.
The earlier Lumix TZ1 was one of our favourite compacts of 2006 and Panasonic has improved on it with the TZ3. The noise levels and manual controls may not be any better, but the wider optical range, bigger screen and quick access to what settings you can change, make it a worthy successor.
We also feel our final sentence of our earlier TZ1 review equally applies here: it’s a highly compelling proposition for anyone who wants the flexibility and power of a long zoom with the carry-everywhere convenience of a compact. And by improving on its predecessor, the TZ3 earns itself our Highly Recommended rating. It may not be perfect, but it sure is good.