Panasonic is lauding the Lumix DMC-TZ30 as its most advanced photo and video-shooting compact camera to date but, while its image and video quality is impressive, its performance in low light lets it down slightly.
Look and feel
The TZ30 isn’t the slimmest of compacts but it’s not heavy, nor does it feel bulky. The design is simple and sleek and comes in black, white, brown silver or red models.
The camera comes with a 24mm wide-angle Leica DC lens and a new 14.1MP high-sensitivity MOS sensor paired with Venus image processing engine to produce sharper, cleaner images.
The 3-inch LCD display is touch-screen enabled but not terribly precise or responsive. In playback mode, touch controls can be used to flick through images and, when shooting, users can tap to select focus points or use gestures to zoom in and out, but it’s often easier to stick to the usual controls.
These consist of a dial to select a shooting mode, a four-way control pad for quick selection of key settings, plus separate buttons for the display, menu and exposure controls. Beside the shutter button is a separate button for recording video, so no chance of mixing those two up.
Panasonic have stuck with an on/off switch for the TZ30, which means the camera is a lot less likely to go off in your bag or pocket, but there’s also a switch to go from playback to shooting and vice versa. This is less of a convenience and more of a bother as it feels like it takes too much time to go from one to the other.
There’s no denying that the TZ30 takes beautiful images with vivid colour and great detail. Where this camera really excels is in daylight, and far-away outdoor shots are easily captured thanks to the 20x optical and 40x digital zoom.
With ISO settings stretching to 3,200, the TZ30 works well enough at night-time or in low light situations, but these are the images that let it down somewhat. In particularly dark situations, the flash is fairly weak and will only let you capture subjects at close range while everything else remains dark and noisy.
Features and settings
For users that don’t like to play around too much adjusting settings, the new Lumix cameras are great as the intuitive Intelligent Auto mode does a really good job of selecting for you. There are also custom settings modes where users can select a range of settings they can store and access any time.
Panasonic have dubbed their auto-focus technology Light Speed Auto Focus, and I must admit it is really fast and offers continuous shooting of up to 10fps. Overall, the camera performance is quick both when shooting and in between shots.
Video recording on the TZ30 is high quality full-HD with stereo sound. Optical zoom and responsive auto-focus are enabled when shooting, and there’s also a high-speed mode for shooting in slow motion. The camera also comes with a HDMI port, so viewing video directly from camera to TV screen couldn’t be simpler.
Aside from these practical features, there are also a number of creative elements to the TZ30 that will keep experimental users pleasantly occupied. A 3D shooting mode works similarly to the panorama mode where the camera directs you to hold the shutter and move it from side-to-side, but the results were far from exciting.
Other creative modes let users change the look of their images by enhancing colours and details, lending them a vintage look, or processing the image to look like tilt-shift photography. Users can also retouch images in-camera, either with an auto function or using six treatments.
Perhaps the most gimmicky feature of the TZ30 is the GPS functionality. This records the image location with geotags and lets users view their gallery on a map. The map data is supplied on a disc that comes with the camera, but this has to be stored on an SDHC card and can take up valuable gigabytes of space, which some users may not think is worth it.
The Lumix TZ30 certainly does take great images and video quality is excellent and easily accessed via the HDMI port. However, if you’re shelling out €404 for a camera, the disappointing performance in low light could be a deal breaker, and a cheaper model with similar functionality, like the DMC-SZ1, might be more appealing.
That said, anyone who travels and goes sightseeing a lot could come home with some really wonderful outdoors shots using the TZ30. Its fast performance means it won’t waste your time and its battery life will keep you powered up for all the sights. And that GPS map might just come in handy, then, when you’re showing off all the places you’ve been.
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