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Panasonic Lumix TZ3 - Panasonic Lumix TZ3

By Cliff Smith



  • Recommended by TR
Panasonic Lumix TZ3


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The TZ3 is designed as a snapshot camera, and its features reflect this. It has several automatic shooting modes, offering different levels of user input, but no real manual options. The primary shooting mode is program auto, with a quick function menu that provides control over drive mode, white balance, ISO setting, aspect ratio, image size and compression quality. The second mode is the slightly simpler Intelligent ISO mode, in which an upper limit for the ISO setting can be selected, but the actual setting is chosen automatically by the metering system. The other main shooting mode is the simple mode, where the function menu is disabled and the main menu is cut down to only four items. As well as this the TZ3 has two scene mode options; there are 21 scene programs to choose from, and a different one can be assigned to each both settings, so it is possible to switch between two scene programs quickly.

The main feature is of course the big zoom lens. Like most of Panasonic's premium cameras, the TZ3 bears the Leica brand name on its optics, and as noted previously this doesn't mean that the lens is made by Leica. It's made by Panasonic, in a Panasonic factory, to a design approved by Leica. They were right to approve it though, because it is superb. With a maximum aperture of f/3.3-f/4.9 it's not the fastest lens on the block, but it makes up for it with outstanding optical quality and usability. The zoom action is very smooth, and is continuous rather than stepped as is more usual. The rotary bezel control is also quite responsive, so it is possible to accurately frame and compose photos.

Photographic options include the usual three metering modes (multi-zone, centre-weighted and spot), a range of colour adjustments including natural, vivid, cool, warm, monochrome and sepia, and a useful range of focus point options found on most high-end Panasonic cameras, including nine-point area mode, three-point and single-point high speed mode, centre area and spot focusing. Drive modes include high-speed and low-speed burst mode and a 2fps continuous mode.

The TZ3 has a couple of features designed for the traveller. The most useful is the ability to set world time zones, but then most cameras have this feature. The other is a Travel Time setting, in which you enter your departure and return dates, and the camera helpfully tells you how many days until departure, and once you're on holiday it tells you how many days until you return. I suppose it might be useful if you've forgotten to take your watch with you, and the hotel you're staying in has no clocks or calendars, but personally if I'm on holiday I don't want to be reminded that I have to come home again.


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.


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.


John aka NikonF7


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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