Panasonic LUMIX DMC-TZ30: Worth Travelling With?

 
Panasonic LUMIX DMC-TZ30

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-TZ30

The LUMIX DMC-TZ30 is Panasonic’s latest camera in their travel zoom compact lineup. Supriya Joshi finds out its strengths and weaknesses.

Superzoom cameras come and go. Yet, only a few manage to create a strong impression on the minds of the audience. Announced in January 2012, the LUMIX DMC-TZ30 is Panasonic’s latest offering in their travel zoom lineup. All that matters, however, is if it is able to stand out from the crowd. After spending some time with this camera, I came to the following conclusions.

Features
The Panasonic TZ30 is a 14.1MP superzoom compact camera that features a CMOS sensor and 20x zoom (24–480mm equivalent). It also features Full HD video at 60fps in the AVCHD Progressive video and MP4 formats, with sounds recorded on Dolby Digital Stereo. The camera features full manual control as well as a range of semi automatic and automatic modes. There are 18 Scene Modes including a Panorama mode and a mode that allows you to make slow motion video. Additionally, there are two modes, Custom1 and Custom2, which is useful when you wish to shoot with a particular camera setting repeatedly, on different occasions.

The camera offers an inbuilt GPS system for image geotagging. The TZ30 allows one to see where they have shot a particular image by looking at a map within the camera. You can even see your position on the map. While the geotagging system works well, it also eats up a lot of battery life, and continues to run even when the camera is switched off.

Speaking about the battery, it is charged internally via the USB connector, which can be plugged into a socket or computer. This system of charging is fairly new to Panasonic; however, internal charging makes the process quite slow.

The camera’s lens comes with Nano Surface Coating, which the company claims will reduce chromatic aberrations like ghosting and flare. With maximum aperture of f/3.3, the lens is not the fastest in its category.

Handling
In spite of packing in an incredibly versatile 20x zoom lens, the TZ30 is lightweight and quite pocketable. I found no trouble shooting with just one hand.

The camera features a switch which separates the shooting mode and the image playback mode. I found this cumbersome as most cameras allow you to switch from image playback to shooting with clicking the shutter release button.

The touchscreen LCD has 4,60,000 dots—not the best, but it does a fair enough job. The LCD screen also works like the shutter-release button, as you can shoot pictures with a single touch.

Moreover, a touch zoom controller function allows you to adjust the focal length through a virtual zoom controller. This can also send the lens to a wideangle or telephoto length almost instantly. However, the LCD’s touchscreen is not very responsive and it takes a pronounced touch to actually make the function work. There is also no way of disabling the touchscreen if you do not want to use it.

Performance
So far, the camera sounds like a good package. Unfortunately, the one place it could have shined, it falters. Images are usable up to ISO 400, beyond which, they become quite noisy. A high amount of compression artefacts were also present, much more than what can be seen in competing models.

Interestingly, the camera shares its sensor with its much loved bridgesuperzoom counterpart, the FZ150, yet the FZ150’s image quality was quite good. This is because the TZ30’s JPEG engine is not doing a good job. There is a mode in the camera called i.Resolution which promises to improve sharpness and resolution, but it only makes the images look worse.

With that said, however, the camera has good dynamic range and colour reproduction. The autofocus ability of the camera is decent, and the image stabilisation works well, specially when used at the telephoto end.

The Scene modes work fairly well. The Creative Control mode, which offers 10 image filters, is a good addition. I particularly enjoyed using the Dynamic Monochrome mode. Moreover, these modes can be used while shooting video too.

The Full HD 1080 at 60p video is quite respectable, however the optical zoom action and image stabiliser noise is quite prominent, especially when shooting in quiet areas.

Conclusion
All said and done, the TZ30 just does not cut it. Considering how well its predecessor, the TZ20 did in the image quality department, we were expecting a lot more from this camera. If you can spend a little more, you can consider the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX20V, which has almost identical features, but superior quality.

The camera has a good dynamic range, but heavy compression artefacts at the same time. Exposure: 1/400sec at f/3.3 (ISO 200). Photograph/Supriya Joshi

The camera has a good dynamic range, but heavy compression artefacts at the same time. Exposure: 1/400sec at f/3.3 (ISO 200). Photograph/Supriya Joshi

Final Ratings
Features
3D mode, Full HD video, several Scene modes
24/30

Performance
Poor low ISO performance, heavy compression artefacts
21/35

Build Quality
Metal body, lightweight
13/15

Ergonomics
Simple menu system, separate shooting and playback buttons
13/15

Warranty & Support
Two-year warranty, limited service network
2/5

OVERALL: 73%

Value For Money: 2/5

Who should buy it? If image quality is of value, I would not suggest this camera to anyone.

Why? While the zoom range is versatile and the GPS capabilities competent, it really falters in the image quality department. Only someone who is serious about mapping their images on GPS can consider this camera.

Tags: Camera review, october 2012, panasonic compacts, panasonic tz30 review, Supriya Joshi, tz30 review