Panasonic DMC-TZ15

      Photo Review 8.8

      In summary

      A long-zoom digicam with a slim, pocketable body and above-average imaging performance.Panasonic’s new 9.1-megapixel DMC-TZ15 digicam is the latest in its ‘Travellers’ Zoom’ series of cameras. Replacing the 7.2-megapixel TZ3, it introduces a swag of new features that will appeal to point-and-shoot photographers who want a slim camera with a long zoom lens. The TZ15’s body is marginally smaller and lighter than its predecessor but just as pocketable and equally well-built. . . [more]

      Full review


      Panasonic’s new 9.1-megapixel DMC-TZ15 digicam is the latest in its ‘Travellers’ Zoom’ series of cameras. Replacing the 7.2-megapixel TZ3, it introduces a swag of new features that will appeal to point-and-shoot photographers who want a slim camera with a long zoom lens. The TZ15’s body is marginally smaller and lighter than its predecessor but just as pocketable and equally well-built.


      The Leica DC Vario-Elmar lens covers the same 10x optical zoom range as the TZ3’s and tucks neatly into the camera’s metal body. Almost three quarters of the rear panel is covered by a huge 3.0-inch ‘intelligent’ LCD screen, which has a higher-than-average resolution of 460,000 dots. No viewfinder is provided.


      An ‘Intelligent’ LCD function measures ambient lighting and automatically adjusts the LCD’s backlighting to provide the best readability. Brightness levels can be varied through 11 steps, providing more control when shooting outdoors in bright sunshine. The refresh frame rates are also varied when shooting in low-lit situations. A special High Angle mode makes the LCD screen easy to view when the camera is held high for shooting over a crowd.

      The TZ15’s control layout is almost identical to the TZ3, although the shooting/playback mode selection is now a slider switch on the top right corner of the rear panel instead of on the mode dial, the Function button is replaced by a Quick Menu button, which allows quick access to a similar range of camera settings via icons on the LCD. The quick review button on the arrow pad is replaced by a close-up button.


      A minor rearrangement of top panel controls sees the power switch repositioned between the mode dial and shutter button and the Easy Zoom button moved further back. Pressing this button extends the lens to the full 10x optical zoom position. A second press adds Extra Optical zoom, which further extends the zoom range to 16.9 times at the expense of image resolution. A third press returns the lens to its widest position.
      The zoom lever is now pressure sensitive and provides two zoom speeds: low and high. A new Zoom Resume function stores the magnification setting in memory when the power has been turned off, allowing users to re-set the focal length quickly when the camera is switched on again.
      The TZ15’s mode dial, which sits mid-way along the top panel, has only six settings: iA, Normal Picture, Scene 1, Scene 2, Motion Picture and Clipboard.
      The iA mode pulls together five automated functions:
      – Mega O.I.S. optical image stabilisation, which detects and compensates for camera shake.
      – Intelligent ISO Control, which automatically selects the most appropriate sensitivity setting, depending on the ambient light level, distance to subject and subject type detected.
      – Intelligent Scene Selector, which chooses the most appropriate shooting mode for the subject and will engage one of the following scene pre-sets: Portrait, Scenery, Macro, Night Scenery, Night Portrait or movement.
      – Face Detection, which can identify up to 15 human faces in a scene, automatically focuses on the nearest face and sets exposure and flash levels accordingly.
      – Quick AF activates continuous autofocusing, which keeps the subject in focus without requiring the photographer to half-press the shutter button.
      The two Scene modes provide the same banks of 23 pre-sets, allowing photographers to set a different mode in each. For example, you could have the Party mode in SCN1 and the Fireworks mode in SCN2. In line with previous Panasonic digicams, there are two Baby modes to allow parents to record the name and birthdays of two children separately.
      Long exposures are only supported in the Starry Sky scene mode, which allows up exposures of up to 60 seconds. The ISO is locked on 100 in this mode to prevent unwanted image noise and dark-frame subtraction noise processing doubles the overall image capture time. Exposures of up to 8 seconds are possible in other shooting modes.
      The Clipboard mode is useful for photographing timetables, maps and other items that combine text and graphics. This allows you to take up to 146 shots at 1M size and store them in memory for reference. The shots can be displayed on the camera’s LCD or copied to a memory card for printing. Standard playback modes, like playback zoom, are usable with Clipboard shots.
      The TZ15’s menu has been redesigned to present settings in black, sans-serif type against a white background. Colour highlights are used for easy identification of selected settings but the overall menu style is unchanged. Menus on the new camera are just as easy to read and logically arranged as on earlier Panasonic digicams and the display is bright, clear and responsive. It also supports a wide enough viewing angle to allow the camera to be held above your head but it becomes difficult to read in bright, direct lighting.
      The battery and card compartment sits behind a lockable plastic door in the camera’s base. The TZ15 has approximately four times the internal memory of its predecessor and accepts SD and SDHC cards. The tripod socket is plastic lined and located at the opposite end of the base panel.
      Like its siblings, the TZ15 includes a couple of handy functions for travellers. A special Travel Date section in the setup menu lets you record departure dates and destinations to ensure pictures taken on a trip have the correct local times recorded in their metadata. This function works with the World Time function, which lets you log in the local times of both your home and your destination. A graphical map makes finding time zones easy.

      Sensor & Image Processing
      The sensor on the TZ15 is Panasonic’s new “1/2.33-inch” chip, which measures 6.3 x 4.6 mm and is marginally larger than the “1/2.35-inch” chip in the TZ3. With an effective resolution of 9.1-megapixels, its photosites are smaller than the earlier model. However, this appeared to have little impact on image quality.
      Panasonic has updated its image processing chip for its latest batch of digicams and the TZ15 comes with the new Venus Engine IV processor. This chip offers several significant improvements, including more accurate detection and better correction for its Mega O.I.S. and Intelligent ISO Control functions plus faster overall response times and better power management. Panasonic claims a release time lag of around 0.008 seconds and shutter intervals of 0.9 seconds for the new camera.
      Improved noise reduction is also provided through two-step processing, which works separately with luminance and chrominance signals. Independent circuits handle high- and low-frequency noise allowing the camera to support ISO sensitivities up to 1600 with minimal bleeding at colour interfaces.
      Like its predecessor, the TZ3 supports 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9 aspect ratio recording for still images and 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios for video clips. Compression ratios are slightly lower than average for a point-and-shoot camera. Typical file sizes are shown in the tables below

      Aspect ratio






      3456 x 2592




      3072 x 2304




      2560 x 1920




      2048 x 1536




      1600 x 1200




      640 x 480





      3552 x 2368




      3072 x 2048




      2560 x 1712




      2048 x 1360





      3712 x 2088




      3072 x 1728




      2560 x 1440




      1920 x 1080



      Movie clip recording is supported with a maximum recording time per clip of 15 minutes and an overall maximum capacity of 2GB and high-speed (10MB/sec. or greater) memory cards. Recording times vary with different ‘Picture Mode’ settings. The table below gives typical recording times for a 1GB memory card at the various resolutions and frame rates.

      Aspect ratio

      Picture Mode


      Recording time/1GB card




      11 minutes

      10 fps VGA

      32 minutes 50 seconds

      30fps QVGA


      32 minutes 50 seconds

      10 fps QVGA

      1 hour 35 minutes


      30fps 16:9H


      4 minutes 8 seconds

      15fps 16:9H

      8 minutes 18 seconds

      30fps 16:9L


      9 minutes 20 seconds

      15fps 16:9L

      28 minutes 10 seconds

      Video clips can be played back directly from the memory card on TV sets with built-in SD/SDHC card slots. An optional cable (DMW-HDC2) is required to view video clips recorded in the 16:9H mode on a high definition TV set with a 1080i terminal.

      The review mode is entered by moving the slider on the top right corner of the rear panel down from record to play. Playback options are straightforward and include zooming in to 2x, 4x, 8x and 16x by toggling the zoom lever. You can move the magnified section on the image with the arrow pad buttons. The horizontal buttons can also be used to scroll backwards and forwards through shots.
      Individual pictures can be deleted one-by-one or in groups of up to 50. Favourite pictures can be tagged for protection. Indexes of 12 or 30 thumbnails can also be displayed and a new Dual Display mode allows tow shots to be displayed vertically on the LCD screen for comparison.
      Slideshows can be played with music and the camera has four pre-loaded music tracks plus an auto setting that selects the best match for the video. Transition effects are included in each setting and you can opt for a slideshow with neither soundtrack nor effects. Pictures can also be allocated into categories with the automatic classification located in the Category Play setting. This matches the subject to one of the scene pre-sets and lets you view, for example, all portraits or all landscape shots.
      The TZ15 also supports calendar viewing, which shows thumbnails of pictures taken on a particular day. For shots recorded with the Baby or Pet scene modes, a Text Stamp containing the date and name of the subject can be applied to the picture. This facility is also available for travel shots, which can be imprinted with date and destination. (Titles can be input and edited via the Title Edit section in the Play menu. Up to 30 characters can be used in a title.)
      Shots can also be copied between the internal memory and a memory card. Finally, the aspect ratio of shots can be changed with the Aspect Conv. Section in the Play menu. This lets you change 4;3 shots into 3:2 format for printing on snapshot-sized paper. You can also rotate pictures for playback and tag shots for DPOF automated printing.

      The test camera’s LCD screen was clearer and easier to view in bright sunlight than most digicams we’ve reviewed so far and overall camera performance was above average. The AF system was reasonably fast and accurate and showed little tendency to ‘hunt’ in low light levels. The image stabilisation system also performed well across a wide brightness range.
      Imatest showed overall resolution to be very slightly below expectations for a 9-megapixel camera, but relatively good for the size of the camera’s sensor. We obtained the best Imatest figures at shorter focal length settings, as shown in the graph below and there was only a small difference between centre and edge resolution.


      Resolution tailed off as the camera’s sensitivity setting was increased, as shown in the graph below.


      Imatest showed colour accuracy to be consistently good, with only minor deviations in hue and saturation. Overall saturation was only slightly above the normal level. Lateral chromatic aberration was consistently very low and we found no evidence of coloured fringing in outdoor shots. However, the camera suffered from the limited dynamic range problems that best small-sensor digicams.
      The auto white balance setting had the usual problems with incandescent lighting but produced good results with fluorescent lights. Both pre-sets over-corrected slightly but the manual measurement system removed all colour casts. Close-ups were competently handled by the test camera and digital zoom shots were relatively artefact-free, although slightly soft.
      The flash required at least ISO 200 to illuminate an average-sized room. Flash exposures were generally well-balanced but image noise was apparent at ISO 800 and obvious at ISO 1600. Shots were visibly softened and slightly blotchy at the highest sensitivity setting.
      We measured an average capture lag of 0.65 seconds, which reduced to less than 0.1 seconds with pre-focusing. The camera took just over two seconds to power-up and about the same time to shut down. Shot-to-shot times averaged 2.3 seconds.
      In continuous shooting mode, the standard burst setting recorded three 9M JPEGs at intervals of 0.4 seconds. With the ‘unlimited’ burst setting, shots were captured at intervals of just over 0.5 seconds, with no evidence of slowing in a burst of 10 shots. It took eight seconds to clear the buffer memory.





      Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.


      Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.


      Close-ups with different brightness ranges.


      Digital zoom.


      The shots above and below show the test camera’s limited dynamic range. While the foreground is correctly exposed, no detail is recorded in the clouds due to highlight clipping.


      A wide angle shot.


      A shot taken from the same position as above with the full tele zoom setting.


      A 60-second exposure with the Starry Sky scene mode.


      Short exposure at ISO 100.


      Short exposure at ISO 1600.




      Image sensor: 6.3 x 4.6 mm CCD with 10.7 million photosites (9.1 megapixels effective)
      Lens: Leica DC Vario-Elmar 4.7-47mm f/3.3-4.9 zoom lens (28-280 mm in 35mm format)
      Zoom ratio: 10x optical, up to 4x digital, up to 16.9x Extra Optical
      Image formats: Stills ““ JPEG (Exif 2.21); Movies ““ QuickTime Motion JPEG with sound
      Image Sizes: Stills ““ 4:3 aspect: 3456 x 2592, 3072 x 2304, 2560×1920, 1600×1200, 640 x 480; 3:2 aspect: 3552 x 2368, 3072 x 2048, 2560 x 1712, 2048 x 1360: 16:9 aspect: 3712 x 2088, 3072 x 1728, 2560 x 1440, 1920 x 1080; Movies ““ 4:3 aspect: 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 at 10/30 fps; 16:9 aspect: 848 x 480 at 10/30 fps; HD (16:9): 1280 x 720 at 15/30 fps
      Shutter speed range: 8 to 1/2,000 sec; 15, 30, 60 sec in Starry Sky Mode
      Image Stabilisation: Mega O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabiliser)
      Exposure Compensation: +/- 2 EV in 1/3 step increments
      Focus system/range: TTL autofocus; range 50 cm to infinity; macro to 5 cm
      Exposure metering/control: Intelligent Multiple, Centre Weighted, Spot metering; Program AE plus 23 scene pre-sets
      ISO range: Auto, ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
      White balance: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Shade, Halogen, White Set
      Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, red-eye reduction. Forced-on, Slow sync. Forced-off; range 0.6-5.3 metres
      Sequence shooting: 2.5 fps for up to 5 images (Standard Mode) / Max. 3 images (Fine Mode) recorded in 2M for 4:3, 2.5M for 3:2, 2M for 16:9
      Storage Media: 49.2MB of internal memory plus SD/SDHC expansion slot
      Viewfinder: none
      LCD monitor: 3.0-inch polycrystalline TFT LCD with 460,000 dots
      Power supply: rechargeable lithium-ion battery; approx. 300 shots/charge (CIPA standard)
      Dimensions (wxhxd): 103.3 x 59.3 x 36.5 mm
      Weight: 214 grams (without battery and card)





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      Rating (out of 10):

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      • Ease of use: 8.5
      • Image quality: 8.8
      • OVERALL: 8.8