Two of the big success stories of the past year have been Panasonic's Lumix TZ2 and TZ3. In a market saturated with tiny over-powered 3x zoom compacts, the 6-megapixel TZ2 and the 7-megapixel TZ3 offered a unique specification, with a relatively large but ergonomically designed body, a high quality Leica-branded 10x optical zoom lens and a range of easy-to-use automatic functions. Both cameras sold very well, especially the higher resolution TZ3, so it's no surprise that Panasonic has followed up with two new TZ models, the 8.1-megapixel TZ4 and the 9.1-megapixel TZ5. I'm hoping to get the TZ5 in very soon, but for today I've got the TZ4, which replaces the TZ2 in Panasonic's lineup.
The TZ series are sold as travel cameras, and they are well suited for that task. Like the other models in the range, the TZ4 has a very robust all-metal body and is clearly designed to survive a few bumps and bangs. It is somewhat larger than the typical pocket compact, but the shape of the body with its large textured handgrip is very comfortable and secure to hold. It is actually a couple of millimetres smaller and few grams lighter than the TZ2, measuring 103.3 x 59.3 x 36.2 mm and weighing in at 208g empty or 234g including battery and memory card.
There are a few more high-zoom compacts on the market than there used to be, but it's by no means a crowded field. The main competition for the TZ4 is undoubtedly the excellent Ricoh Caplio R7 (£150), but the ever-formidable Canon has also entered this area of the market with the impressive PowerShot SX100 IS (£230). The TZ4 is currently on sale at around £250, which looks a little expensive compared to its rivals.