Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ30


    Photo Review 8.5
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    Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ30

      In summary

      Buy this camera if:
      - You’re looking for a pocketable super-zoom digicam with PASM shooting modes. 
      - You would like to record HD video clips with stereo sound.
      - You could use the built-in geotagging system.
      - You want good wide-angle coverage and competent image stabilisation for shooting both video and still pictures.

      Don’t buy this camera if:
      - You want to shoot raw files (the TZ30 can’t).
       - You require colour accuracy with auto white balance.

      Full review

      The seventh model in Panasonic's popular TZ series of slim and light, long-zoom cameras, the DMC-TZ30 features a 20x zoom lens covering the equivalent of 24-480 mm in 35 mm format. It also sports a redesigned MOS sensor with 14.1 effective megapixels and an upgraded GPS system that is supported by a DVD containing 1/25,000 scale maps of major regions worldwide.

      More of an incremental upgrade than an entirely new camera, the TZ30 has the same resolution as its predecessor, the TZ20, and essentially the same body design. Most changes to the new model are superficial, although it's slightly larger and heavier than the TZ20, mostly because of its longer lens. On the front panel, the only obvious change is shifting the AF-assist/self-timer LED to the opposite side of the lens, just next to the flash.

      Front view of the DMC-TZ30. (Source: Panasonic.)

      The control layout on the rear panel is largely unchanged, although the Exposure button now does double duty, accessing the Map function in playback mode. The 3-inch touch panel carries over from the TZ20.

      Rear view of the DMC-TZ30. (Source: Panasonic.)

      The mode dial on the top panel has received a minor redesign, with two Custom modes (C1 and C2) and a new Creative Control mode replacing the MS1 and MS2 and Cust settings on the TZ20. There's been a minor reshuffling of the grilles for the stereo microphones and speaker. But otherwise, nothing has changed.
       
       

      Top view of the DMC-TZ30. (Source: Panasonic.)

      Functions unchanged since the TZ20 include the iAuto and P, A, S and M shooting modes, GPS tagging, Power O.I.S. stabilisation, 3-inch/460K-dot LCD monitor and Full HD video recording capabilities. The ability to record 3D still pictures (but not video clips) is essentially the same as in the TZ20.

      The ‘Intelligent Resolution’ processing technology introduced with the TZ10 is also provided in the TZ30. This function can be used to improve the apparent sharpness of still images or, with the new Intelligent Zoom setting, increase the zoom magnification from 16x to 21x.

      What's New?
      The longer zoom lens represents the most obvious difference between the TZ30 and its predecessor, which itself also provided an increased zoom range over the camera it replaced. The step-ups are incremental, from 12x (25-300mm) in the TZ10 to 16x (24-384mm) in the TZ20 and now 20x (24-480 mm) in the TZ30.

      Like its predecessors, the TZ20 sports a Leica DC Vario-Elmar lens. It contains 12 elements in 10 groups and includes three aspherical lenses with six aspherical surfaces and two ED lenses. Nano Surface Coating is added to minimise the incidence of flare and ghosting.

      We're unconvinced increasing the zoom range provides quantifiable benefits for users beyond simply extending the ability to magnify distant subjects. The maximum lens aperture at full tele zoom has been reduced progressively from f/4.9 in the TZ10 to f/5.9 in the TZ20 and now f/6.4 in the TZ30.

      The minimum aperture remains at f/8 so by the time you've zoomed in about a quarter of the way, you've lost a couple of f-stops of maximum aperture. At full optical zoom, there are only three apertures to choose from: f/6.4, f/7.1 and f/8, which gives you minimal control over depth-of-field in shots.

      You also become highly reliant on the image stabilisation system when shooting at high zoom ratios and it has to work very hard to keep shots blur-free. Although the POWER O.I.S. is pretty good, in low light levels it we found it really struggled to keep subjects centred and sharp in the frame.

      Most other improvements in the TZ30 are incremental enhancements to features provided in the TZ20. They include:
       1. Improvements to the 14.1-megapixel High Sensitivity MOS sensor provide reduced noise and better clarity in images shot in dim lighting. Consequently, the top ISO setting in the new camera is increased to ISO 3200 and the High-Sensitivity Scene mode now supports a wider range of settings between ISO1600 and ISO 6400.

      2. A High Dynamic Range (HDR) function has been added to the Intelligent Auto (iA) mode to provide a wider tonal range in shots of subjects with wide brightness ranges.

      3. The capabilities of the built-in GPS receiver have been extended through additional map data, which can be installed from a bundled DVD. The system can now automatically embed the location, latitude and longitude where a photo was taken in the EXIF metadata in each image file. (More information on this function is available below.)

      Interestingly, there have also been some retrograde steps. The fastest shutter speed has gone back to the 1/2000 second limit of the TZ10, instead of 1/4000 second, which was offered by the TZ20. The internal memory is reduced to 12MB.

      GPS Functionality
      By default the built-in GPS is switched off because picking up signals from satellites  consumes battery power. Switching it on sets the camera to seek out radio signals from the satellites and execute positioning. As in the TZ20, the camera must receive signals from at least three GPS satellites.

      Icons showing the status of the GPS are displayed on the LCD monitor. Once positioning is successful, the bars on the GPS icon glow blue to indicate the strength of the signal, the location is recorded and the place name is displayed on the monitor screen.

      Signals will be attenuated when users are inside buildings, under tree canopies, inside moving vehicles and also between tall buildings or deep valley walls. High-voltage power lines and mobile phones can interrupt the signal when they're in close proximity of the camera and if the camera is enclosed in a metallic bag or covered by a hand or other dense object, it will not be able to pick up signals,

      As well as recording the latitude and longitude coordinates where each shot or video clip was taken to the EXIF data (which allows them be pinpointed on social media internet maps), it provides real-time information of the place when taking photos. Country/region, province/state, city/town/village and landmark can all be displayed.

      Images with location names are sorted alphabetically in the virtual folder in the camera. Still missing is the ability to capture altitude data, which some travellers may require.

      If the displayed place name differs from your current location, you can easily update the positioning information by going outside and touching the GPS icon. The system will search for satellites and should display the correct data within two to three minutes.

      The GPS function can be used to automatically update the date/time information when you move to a different time zone. You can also adjust the place name for a landmark via the GSP Area Select function in the menu.

      Sensor and Image Processing
       Panasonic claims the image sensor in the TZ30 is an upgrade to the 1/2.33-inch type (6.12 x 4.15 mm ) Panasonic MOS chip found in the TZ20. As in the TZ20, it has 15.1 million photosites, of which 14.1 million are used for producing digital photos.

      Panasonic's Venus Engine FHD image processor appears to be unchanged in the new camera, although some upgrading must have occurred to enable to camera to support higher sensitivity settings.  Like the TZ20, the TZ30 is JPEG-only. It supports six image sizes, four aspect ratios and two quality settings. Typical file sizes are shown in the table below.

      Aspect ratio

      Size

      Resolution

      Fine

      Standard

      4:3

      14M

      4320 x 3240

      6.10MB

      4.13MB

      10M

      3648 x 2736

      4.61MB

      2.08MB

      7M

      3072 x 2304

      3.68MB

      2.32MB

      5M

      2560 x 1920

      3.14MB

      1.75MB

      3M

      2048 x 1536

      2.52MB

      1.29MB

      0.3M

      640 x 480

      0.20MB

      0.11MB

      3:2

      12.5M

      4320 x 2880

      5.63MB

      3.79MB

      9M

      3648 x 2432

      4.27MB

      2.84MB

      6M

      3072 x 2048

      3.63MB

      2.16MB

      4.5M

      2560 x 1712

      3.08MB

      1.67MB

      2.5M

      2048 x 1360

      2.44MB

      1.26MB

      0.3M

      640 x 424

      1.19MB

      0.12MB

      16:9

      10.5M

      4320 x 2432

      5.07MB

      3.37MB

      7.5M

      3648 x 2056

      4.06MB

      2.57MB

      5.5M

      3072 x 1728

      3.53MB

      1.99MB

      3.5M

      2560 x 1440

      3.01MB

      1.57MB

      2M

      1920 x 1080

      1.12MB

      0.58MB

      0.2M

      640 x 360

      0.17MB

      0.10MB

      1:1

      10.5M

      3232 x 3232

      4.57MB

      3.10MB

      7.5M

      2736 x 2736

      3.58MB

      2.34MB

      5.5M

      2304 x 2304

      3.05MB

      1.75MB

      3.5M

      1920 x 1920

      2.52MB

      1.34MB

      2.5M

      1536 x 1536

      1.27MB

      0.66MB

      0.2M

      480 x 480

      0.17MB

      0.10MB

      The TZ30 offers a wide range of continuous shooting modes, which are selected via the Burst function in the Rec menu. The Intelligent Burst mode captures frames at between two and 10 frames/second (fps), depending on whether the camera detects movement in the subject. Up to 100 frames can be recorded in this mode.

      There are two AF burst modes, one recording at 2 fps and the other at 5 fps for up to 100 frames. You can also set the camera to record at 10 fps for up to 15 frames with focus, exposure and white balance locked on the first frame.

      There are also two high-speed burst modes (40 fps and 60 fps), which capture reduced image sizes. Capacities are 50 and 60 frames, respectively. Finally, the camera can record up to six frames with flash (five when the self-timer triggers the shutter). Image size is also reduced in this mode.

      Video
      Like the TZ20, the TZ30 can record Full HD video clips (1920 x 1080 pixels) in AVCHD format using Dolby Digital Stereo Creator.  The iA Mode is available in movie recording and the P, A, S and M shooting modes can also be used along with most Scene pre-sets and settings stored in the MS1 and MS2 user memories.

      AVCHD movies can be recorded with embedded GPS data when the GFS and GS settings are selected. Location data is not embedded when the PSH, FSH and SH modes are selected. Although the user manual states QVGA movies can only be recorded to the built-in memory, we were able to record clips at this resolution on a memory card.

      Video format

      Aspect ratio

      Picture Mode

      Picture size
       (pixels)

      Bit/frame rate

      Recording time/8GB card

      AVCHD

      16:9

      PSH

      1920 x 1080

      approx. 28 Mbps

      29 minutes 59 seconds

      GFS

      1920 x 1080

      approx. 17Mbps

      FSH

      1920 x 1080

      GS

      1280 x 720

      62 minutes 10 seconds

      SH

      1280 x 720

      62 minutes 10 seconds

      Motion JPEG

      FHD

      1920 x 1080

      30 fps

      33 minutes 20 seconds

      4:3

      HD

      640 x 480

      82 minutes 20 seconds

      VGA

      320 x 240

      3 hours 46 minutes

      Movie recording can be initiated in all shooting modes except 3D. The camera can re-focus continuously  while a clip is being recorded if the Continuous AF setting is set to On. When it's Off, focus is fixed at the start of a clip. The camera defaults to the Off setting in the Starry Sky and Fireworks modes.
       When shooting with the AVCHD recording format you can take advantage of the Active Mode for image stabilisation. Designed to subdue shaking that occurs if you record while walking, it's most effective when the lens is zoomed out to the wide position. It's switched off for Motion JPEG recording.

      A wind cut filter is available for suppressing wind noise in all recording modes. Pressing the shutter button while recording an HD video clip causes the camera to capture one 3.5-megapixel still frame with an aspect ratio of 16:9. Still frames can't be captured while recording VGA  or QVGA movies – or in the High Speed Movie mode.

      If the burst function has been switched on, up to 40 frames can be recorded per clip with focus locked on the first picture. If the Touch Shutter is switched on, inadvertently touching the Touch Shutter will record one or more JPEG images.

      Playback and Software
       Most playback functions are unchanged from the TZ20. However, the TZ30 provides an uploading tool for posting still pictures and movie clips to image-sharing websites.

      The Lumix Web Uploader tool is Windows-only and in compatible with operating systems from XP on. Although you don't need to upload the pictures to a computer before sharing them, the camera must be connected to a computer to access the internet.

      The software disk supplied with the review camera contained Panasonic's PHOTO funSTUDIO 6.1 (HD Lite Edition plus a shortcut to a 30-day trial download of Super LoiLoScope. The former is compatible with Windows and Mac OS 9.2.2/OS X (10.1 to 10.6); the latter is Windows only.

      Performance
       Subjective assessments of both still photos and video clips from the review camera showed them to be similar to those from the TZ20. Image files straight from the camera were slightly soft and low in contrast and benefited from unsharp masking post-capture. Most colours were accurately recorded and saturation was restrained for a small-sensor digicam.

      Exposure metering was generally accurate and the review camera was able to handle a relatively wide subject brightness range without producing blown-out highlights. The autofocusing system was fast and accurate under most lighting conditions and we only encountered hunting in very low light levels.

      Imatest showed resolution to be below expectations for a 14-megapixel camera. Resolution was highest at ISO 100, with a gradual decline as sensitivity was increased, dropping sharply between ISO 1600 and ISO 3200. The graph below shows the results of our tests.

       
       The performance of the lens was similar to the TZ20's across the range of focal lengths we were able to test. Our Imatest testing also revealed some edge softening at wider apertures, where resolution was usually highest. Diffraction took effect at around f/6.3 for all focal lengths. The graph below shows the results of our tests.

       Lateral chromatic aberration was higher than we found with the TZ20 and mainly within the 'moderate' band. In the graph below, which covers the range of focal lengths and aperture settings we were able to measure, the red line marks the boundary between 'negligible' and 'low' CA, while the green line separates 'low' and 'moderate' CA.

      We found these results a little surprising since there wasn't much coloured fringing evident in most test shots, although it was often visible in longer exposures and high-contrast situations. Clearly some in-camera processing is applied to reduce the inherent CA levels in the lens.

      Long exposures at night were noise-free between ISO 100 and 400 but noise became increasingly visible thereafter. Test shots became slightly soft from ISO 800 on as a result of high-ISO noise-reduction processing, which is applied by default. Slight blotchiness could be seen at ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 but image quality was better than average for a small-sensor digicam.

      Shots taken with the High Sensitivity mode (ISO 6400 equivalent) were very soft, blotchy and noise affected. Resolution was also reduced to 2048 x 1536 pixels with the 4:3 aspect ratio. The performance of the built-in stabilisation was quite impressive as we seldom had shots affected by camera shake, regardless of the lens focal length setting.

      Flash exposures were under-exposed at  ISO 100 and 200 but evenly-exposed across the rest of the ISO range. Image noise was relatively low in flash shots at ISO 1600, although some softening could be seen, which increased at ISO 3200.

      Auto white balance performance was similar to the TZ20, an anticipated result, since nothing has changed in this area. The Auto setting failed to correct the inherent orange cast of incandescent lights but came close with fluorescent lighting. Manual measurement delivered natural colours.

      Close-up capabilities were generally good. The lens will focus to 3 cm from the subject and the Macro Zoom mode allows you to apply up to 3x digital zoom magnification without a noticeable loss of image quality. Flare was minimal with strong backlighting.

      Digital zoom shots were slightly softer than those from the TZ20, probably because of the higher magnification the new camera provides. Slight barrel distortion was evident at the wide end of the zoom range.

      Video quality was similar to the clips we shot with the TZ20, which isn't surprising as nothing much has changed here. However, the longer zoom range made hunting more of an issue, particularly with low-contrast scenes.

      Our timing tests were carried out with a 32GB SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC U1 card, one of the fastest on the market. The test camera took almost two seconds to power up and extend its lens.

      Capture lag times depended on the AF mode selected, with the Quick-AF setting producing average lag times of 0.3 seconds and the normal modes averaging 0.5 second delays. Pre-focusing reduced lag times to 0.1 seconds, on average.

      For single-frame capture of Large/Fine JPEG images, it took 2.5 seconds, on average, to process each image file. Shot-to-shot delays averaged one second without flash and 4.4 seconds with.

      The standard continuous shooting mode captured 10 Large/Fine JPEGs in 1.6 seconds.  Processing was completed  within 2.4 seconds of the last shot. Performance times for the high-speed burst modes (which reduce image sizes) were the same as we found with the TZ20.
       
      Buy this camera if:
      - You’re looking for a pocketable super-zoom digicam with PASM shooting modes. 
      - You would like to record HD video clips with stereo sound.
      - You could use the built-in geotagging system.
      - You want good wide-angle coverage and competent image stabilisation for shooting both video and still pictures.

      Don’t buy this camera if:
      - You want to shoot raw files (the TZ30 can’t).
       - You require colour accuracy with auto white balance.

      SPECS

       Image sensor: 6.12 x 4.51 mm High Sensitivity MOS sensor with 15.3 million photosites (14.1 megapixels effective)
       Image processor: Venus Engine FHD
       Lens: Leica DC Vario-Elmar 4.3-86mm f/3.3-f/6.4 zoom lens  (24-480 mm in 35 mm format)
       Zoom ratio: 20x optical, up to 4x digital
       Image formats: Stills - JPEG  (DCF / Exif 2.3); Movies - AVCHD, MP4, QuickTime Motion JPEG (on High-speed Video); 3D - MPO
       Image Sizes: Stills - 4:3 aspect: 4320 x 3240, 3648 x 2736,  3072 x 2304, 2560 x 1920, 2048 x 1536, 640 x 480; 3:2 aspect: 4320 x 2880, 3648 x 2432,  3072 x 2048, 2560 x 1712, 2048 x 1360, 640 x 424; 16:9 aspect: 4320 x 2432, 3648 x 2056,  3072 x 1728, 2560 x 1440, 1920 x 1080, 640 x 360; 1:1 aspect: 3232 x 3232, 2736 x 2736, 2304 x 2304, 1920 x 1920, 1536 x 1536, 480 x 480; Movies - 1920 x 1080 & 1280 x 720 at 50 or 25 fps, 640 x 480 at 25 fps, 320 x 240 at 220 fps
       Shutter speed range: Approx. 15 - 1/2,000 seconds
       Self-timer: 2 or 10 seconds delay
       Image Stabilisation: POWER O.I.S. (On with Active Mode (Only for Motion Picture) / Off)
       Exposure Compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps
       AE Bracketing: 1/3 - 1 EV step, Max. +/-1 EV, 3 frames
       Focus system/range: Contrast-based AF with Face, AF Tracking, Multi (23-area), 1-area, Spot and Touch Area modes; range: Wide 50 cm to infinity / Tele 200 cm to infinity; macro to 3 cm
       Exposure metering/control: TTL metering with Intelligent Multiple, Centre Weighted & Spot modes
       Shooting modes: Intelligent Auto, P, A, S, M, Custom (x2), 3D Photo, Scene (Portrait, Soft Skin, Scenery, Panorama Shot, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Handheld Night Shot, HDR, Food, Baby1, Baby2, Pet, Sunset, High Sensitivity, Through Glass, Underwater, High-speed Video), Creative Control (Expressive, Retro, High Key, Low Key, Sepia, Dynamic Monochrome, High Dynamic, Toy Effect, Miniature, Soft Focus)
       ISO range: Auto, i.ISO, ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200 plus ISO 1600-6400 in High Sensitivity Mode
       White balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Incandescent, White Set, White Balance Adjustment
       Flash modes/range (ISO auto):
       Sequence shooting: Max. 10 frames/second for up to 10 shots
       Storage Media: Approx. 12MB of internal memory plus expansions slot for SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards
       Viewfinder: No
       LCD monitor: 3-inch  TFT Touch Screen LCD Display with 460K dots, AR Coating
       Power supply: Li-ion Battery Pack (3.6V, Minimum: 895 mAh); CPIA rated for approx. 260 shots/charge
       Dimensions (wxhxd): 104.9 x 58.9 x 28.2 mm
       Weight: 184 grams (without battery and memory card)

      TESTS

       

      SAMPLES

       Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.

       Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.

      4.3mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/250 second at f/5.6.
       
       

      86mm focal length, ISO 160, 1/600 second at f/6.4.
       
       

      Digital zoom; 86mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/125 second at f/6.4.
       
       

      Macro mode; 4.3mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/60 second at f/3.3.
       
       

      Macro Zoom mode; 4.3mm focal length, ISO 125, 1/60 second at f/3.3.
       
       

      15-second exposure at ISO 160; 5mm focal length, f/5.
       
       

      10-second exposure at ISO 400; 5mm focal length, f/4.5.
       
       

      8-second exposure at ISO 1600; 5mm focal length, f/6.3.
       
       

      4-second exposure at ISO 3200; 5mm focal length, f/6.3.
       
       

      High Sensitivity mode; ISO 6400 with 5mm focal length; 1/4 second at f/3.6.
       
       

      Flash exposure at ISO 100 with 28mm focal length; 1/60 second at f/5.4.
       
       

      Flash exposure at ISO 400 with 28mm focal length; 1/60 second at f/5.4.
       
       

      Flash exposure at ISO 1600 with 28mm focal length; 1/60 second at f/5.4.
       
       

      Flash exposure at ISO 3200 with 28mm focal length; 1/60 second at f/5.4.
       
       

      Panorama mode; 4.3mm focal length; ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/6.3.
       
       

      Telephoto shot at ISO 160; 86mm focal length 1/200 second at f/6.4.
       

      Crop from the above image enlarged to 100% to show coloured fringing.

       

      Dynamic range coverage; 4.3mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/4.7.
       

      Strong backlighting; 6mm focal length, ISO 400, 1/1q15 second at f/5.6.

       

      Still frame from 1080p Full HD video clip with focal length at around 14mm.

       

      Still frame from 1080p Full HD video clip with focal length zoomed in to the 86mm focal length.

      Rating 

       

      RRP:  AUD$449; US$349.99

      • Build: 8.5
      • Ease of use: 8.5
      • Autofocusing: 8.5
      • Image quality: 8.0
      • Video quality: 8.5

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