With such a large optical zoom on the front of the camera it would be surprising if the performance wasn’t affected in some way at the top end. In the case of the TZ8 it leads to the focus being a lot more temperamental. This can be quite frustrating, especially when the subject isn’t static for long periods, but once locked on the images are almost always sharp and well exposed. This means that if a soft image is returned it’s generally due to user error rather than the camera, which returns a number of red, flashing error messages to keep the photographer informed.
When the camera does decide the conditions are at optimum levels the images returned are superbly sharp, putting a number of similarly specified cameras to shame. With a multi-zone focusing system the frame quickly becomes filled with green squares, making it clear which portion will be concentrated on. When in manual mode a half press of the shutter also gives an exposure preview, which is a handy way of determining if the settings adopted are beneficial or detrimental to the end image quality. When stepping away from taking full control of the camera the iAuto mode is quite useful at the wider angle of the focal length, but zooming fully in can add an unnecessary delay to snapping the shot. For those who would like to avoid changing too many settings the Program mode is perfectly serviceable when utilizing the zoom at advanced lengths.
Colour quality is impressively balanced when on the standard, automatic settings and in bright sunlight, not straying too far into the overly vivid territory. There can be a slight magenta cast on occasions, but it isn’t noticeable enough to spoil the images. In lower light the pixel smoothing comes into effect to keep the noise levels down to a minimum, making the colours a touch less graduated than in perfect conditions. Fortunately the smoothing isn’t overly aggressive as to ruin any detail, keeping just on the right side to maintain sharpness. At the wider angle dynamic range keeps things balanced enough to maintain a consistent exposure across the majority of the image, from the brighter areas to the shadowed corners.
The Panasonic TZ8 isn’t a pleasant surprise, as its predecessor the TZ7 has similar pedigree, but an impressive continuation of previous form. The only criticisms are slight and infrequent, making the end performance of this compact some of the most balanced available on a compact currently on the market.