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Panasonic Lumix TZ3 review

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Panasonic Lumix TZ3
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  • Lumix DMC-TZ3 7.2 Megapixel Compact Camera - 4.60 mm-46 mm - Black (3" LCD - 10x Optical Zoom - 3328 x 1872 Image - 848 x 480 Video - PictBridge)

Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

Back in March last year I reviewed the then-new Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ2. It was one of a pair of models being promoted by Panasonic as the ideal travel cameras, tough and versatile with 28-280mm-equivalent 10x zoom lenses. The TZ2 is a six-megapixel model, and I assumed that it would be more popular than its more expensive sibling, the 7.2-megapixel TZ3, so beset as usual by too many cameras and not enough time, I neglected to review that model. It turns out I was wrong though; the TZ3 has been much more popular than the TZ2, and I've had a number of people ask me to review it, so nearly a year late and probably just in time for it to be replaced by the TZ5, here at long last is my review of the Panasonic TZ3.

When it was launched, the TZ3 was in the vanguard of what is now becoming a whole new sector of the digital camera market, the high-zoom compact. Unfortunately it wasn't the first one to find that particular niche though, since it is already occupied by the people who invented it; Ricoh. Whenever somebody emails me asking about the TZ3, it is nearly always because they are trying to decide between this camera and the excellent Ricoh Caplio R7, and it's easy to see why. Both cameras have 7MP sensors, both offer wide-angle lenses with longer zoom ranges and image stabilisation, and both have scored high marks in most objective reviews. However there is a big difference in pricing. The TZ3 is currently selling for around £230, which is pretty expensive compared to the £160 currently being asked for the Ricoh R7.

As with the almost identical TZ2, the initial impression of the TZ3 is very positive. Measuring approximately 105.0 x 59.2 x 36.7 mm it is quite a large camera by modern compact standards, and is very solidly made, as befits a camera designed for travel. It weighs a substantial 257g with battery and card in place, so while it will fit into a larger pocket you'll certainly know you're carrying it. This is the sort of camera belt pouches were invented for. The large size, the shaped handgrip and the thumbgrip on the rear make it a very comfortable camera to hold. The controls are sensibly arranged for easy one-handed operation, with the mode dial, power switch and shutter button with its rotary-bezel zoom control all being positioned on the top plate. This means that despite the large three-inch 230k LCD monitor there is plenty of room on the back for your thumb. My only criticisms of the design are that the D-pad and accompanying buttons are rather small, and the silver-on-silver labelling is difficult to make out. Also, I found that the main shooting mode dial, which stands out on the top plate, is quite easy to jog especially when taking the camera out of your pocket or bag. Several times I went to take a shot only to find that the camera was in playback or movie mode.

Carmen

October 8, 2008, 11:30 pm

I have owned a TZ3 since about August 2007. I took it on Safari with me to Kenya in Sept '07. It is a superb camera. The lens is amazing and allowed me to get some excellent shots of the wildlife that would have been beyond most compact cameras. It really is a fantastic compact. Comparing my shots from the TZ3 to my dad's from his Ricoh Caplio R6, there was no contest, the quality of the pictures was far superior in every mode EXCEPT macro where the Ricoh excels and the TZ3 struggles a bit.





A wonderful camera. On the strength of my experience with the TZ3 I have just purchased a Panasonic FZ28 to increase my photographic creativity, but I would not hesitate to take my TZ3 anywhere I wouldn't want to carry the bigger camera as I know the images will be superb still.

Doug Sinnott

March 23, 2009, 5:58 pm

I also have a Panasonic compact,a FX35,and it takes great pictures,even close-ups!


It makes you wonder sometimes why we bother with big,heavy DSLR's,as my little FX35,although there's not many manual controls,delivers sharp,well-exposed photos time after time,if left to it's own devices,so why complicate things by interfering!


I often leave my Nikon DSLR(when I can be bothered to use it) on the automatic "P" setting anyway,(as do many "Pros" if they were truthful)which seems to work fine.


And the FX35 is so small,but beautifully made,a truly pocketable companion for holidays,etc.


However,your FZ3 looks very tempting,with its bigger screen and zoom lens,and a Panasonic,but looks only marginally bigger than the FX35,so I'm seriously considering looking for one on Ebay at a good price.


I see you have an FZ28 as well.


I also have an FZ18,with it's bigger lens,and I took it,and my little FX35,on a recent cruise holiday,and found,for sheer convenience,the FX35 was often the camera of choice,and the pictures were superb.


Even the 4x zoom lens was not too much of a handicap,as often the prints could be cropped to make up the limited lens power,but were still good quality.


Plus the extra wide 24mm setting was useful for church interiors,etc.


Panasonic do seem to be the current masters when it comes to compacts,combining Leica lens quality,excellent build quality,and capable of sterling photo quality.


I have been a keen amateur photographer for 45 years,using and owning many cameras,from a Zenit E Russian "brick",which had a geat Helios lens,to several 35mm SLRs then on to digital cameras,and I really now want is something light and portable,as the days of carting heavy camera bags,stuffed with lenses,a flash gun,etc.when I am on trips, are over for me.

NikonF7

October 13, 2009, 6:23 am

I've had my TZ3 for a long time now, and still love it. I rarely carry my Nikon D70 DSLR now.





I love the video mode despite the much-maligned inability to zoom during video shooting. Great for anything from a short clip to a 2GB file. You should spend at least 4x$5 for extra Chinese batteries on eBay, and 2x$15 for 8GB SDHC Class 6 cards to use this camera with fewer worries.





The sound is OK for most non-musical purposes but I wish it were better. Here is a continuous 75+ minute clip driving on a remote road/trail in Nevada, in the snow at night: ****** http://vimeo.com/6939153 ******





To post it under 500MB, I degraded the beautiful 848x480 10fps original to 320x240 at 5fps, and Vimeo then compressed it to a stupid 400x300 size. The video artifacts are not on the original MOV or the AVI.





10fps (vs its normal 30fps) conserves file size and increases the light gathering. The MOV file was 1.06GB vs the 2GB limit, so you might even get a 2h20m clip if you hacked external power.





I'm not sure if newer point/shoots with their smaller HD video pixels can duplicate the low-light, long duration performance of the TZ3 at 848x480 WVGA.





RAD Video Tools (free, uncrippled, from a company selling videogame development tools) is great for doing the MOV to AVI conversion. I hate MOV files like everyone else, but any good free file converter like RAD eliminates that problem.





Regards,





John aka NikonF7

Druid

January 7, 2013, 12:42 pm

I loved this camera while it lasted but after 3 years service it has packed it in and when turned on gives me the message that the dial is in the wrong position. With 3 DVD players, 2 CD players and now this camera giving up the ghost after an average of 3 years work I wonder is a lot of our modern tech - esp laser operated machines - not adequately tried and tested.

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