Panasonic's latest range of cameras contains several interesting and innovative models and one of the key entries is the Lumix DMC-TZ3. Billed as a 'travel camera', it packs in a great bundle of features for the roaming photographer, including a 10x zoom in a relatively compact package, along with both optical image stabilisation and intelligent ISO sensitivity. The only issue we had was some very noticeable barrel distortion, and slight colour inaccuracy.
- Sharp pictures, low noise, O.I.S and intelligent ISO work very well, big zoom
- Some fringing towards edges, very noticeable barrel distortion
The image stabilisation technologies combined with the large zoom and above average image quality make the TZ3 a great compact camera, particularly for travelers.
Price$ 769.00 (AUD)
The TZ3's 7.2 megapixel sensor performed well in most of our tests. Imatest awarded it a score of 1701 in its sharpness test, which is a brilliant result for a camera in this class. This was reflected in our shots, which exhibited great clarity and sharp, defined details. There was some fringing towards the edges of our shots, but this can be attributed to chromatic aberration, for which Imatest gave the TZ3 a score of .098%. This too is a strong result, slightly below what we see on most compacts. There was a small amount of haloing in areas of high contrast, but it wasn't serious, and the fringing we spotted won't have any noticeable impact unless you're making fairly hefty enlargements.
Our test shots did however reveal one other issue; extremely prominent barrel distortion. Our charts towards the edge of the picture were noticeable distorted and curved, as if they were being pulled out of the shot. This doesn't have an impact on the subject in the centre of the photo, but you'll notice it on any background elements around the rim of your pictures. We rarely encounter barrel distortion this prominent, and it was the one area where this camera really disappointed.
In our noise test, the TZ3 performed well, with Imatest giving it a score of .61% at ISO 100. This is a great result, and our shots showed little in the way of visible image noise at this level. Furthermore, this camera scaled well with higher sensitivities, producing usable photographs all the way up to ISO 800; a rarity from most compact cameras.
Its colour results weren't quite as impressive, but were instead about average, with an Imatest score of 8.44 in the colourcheck test. Everything looked a little oversaturated, with no single colour noticeably worse than others. Most good compacts score between 6 and 8 in this test, so the TZ3 is only just shy of being excellent.
While its picture quality is fairly good overall, where the TZ3 really stands out is its features. With its gigantic 10x zoom and dual optical and ISO image stabilisation technologies, it is an ideal camera for those who regularly take photos outdoors or on the run. Panasonic's O.I.S has always been one of the best optical stabilizations on the market and by adding Intelligent ISO they have only improved it. Intelligent ISO, when turned on, will automatically adjust the ISO sensitivity and shutter speed if it detects movement in the picture, in an attempt to capture a clearer picture. In our tests it worked wonderfully. Pictures out of a light plane window, with everything rocking backwards and forwards, turned out crisp and sharp. If you regularly find yourself snapping hasty, blurred pictures then this may be the camera for you.
Aside from these technologies, the TZ3 is a fairly traditional Panasonic camera. It's got all the usual bells and whistles, including ISO sensitivities up to 1250, white balance presets with a custom mode and a variety of spot and metering modes. The burst mode is excellent, operating at three frames per second and offering 21 scene modes, which should keep novice users happy. The interface is fairly well laid out, with all the key imaging options available at the top, within plain view.
Panasonic has stuck with their traditional control mechanism, which includes a five-way directional pad and a function wheel on top. It works well, and everything is within easy reach. The design is another area where Panasonic has really done a great job with this model. It is quite chunky by compact camera standards, but the fact that they have managed to cram a 10x optical zoom lens into a body this size is really impressive. It is definitely one of the smallest ultra-zoom models on the market.
Overall this is a great package. We were disappointed by the barrel distortion, but the crisp, clear pictures combined with multiple forms of image stabilisation make this a fantastic camera, particularly for travelers.
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