There’s no denying that you do get a lot of camera for your money though. The big selling point is that big zoom range. The 10x zoom lens has a focal length range equivalent to 28-280mm, incorporating genuine wide angle and a decent telephoto in one fairly compact package, and providing enough versatility to cope with panoramic landscapes, distant highlights and anything in between. It incorporates Panasonic’s proprietary MegaOIS optical image stabilisation system, which as we’ve seen on previous models is one of the best on the market. Since few people will pack a tripod on their holidays (unless they’re like me, of course), image stabilisation is essential for a camera with such a long telephoto capability. The lens is also fairly fast for a big zoom, with a maximum aperture of f/3.3 – f/4.9, although it’s a bit slower than Canon’s 36-360mm lens on the SX100 IS.
Apart from the obvious increase in sensor resolution the TZ4 has several other improvements over the TZ2. The LCD monitor is still 2.5 inches but now has a resolution of 230k dots. It is nice and bright with a good refresh rate, but the normal angle of view is rather restricted compared to some other recent cameras, approximately 45 degrees in either direction, which is a problem if you’re holding the camera above your head to shoot over a crowd. There is a high-angle setting available in the menu, but it only increases the downward angle by a few degrees. Maximum sensitivity is also increased from 1250 ISO to 1600 ISO.
The TZ4 is designed to be a snapshot camera. The main mode dial has only four main shooting options, including Panasonics’s Intelligent Auto mode, in which the camera automatically selects the appropriate scene mode for the subject. As well as this there is a standard auto mode in which all menu options are available, and two scene mode settings, allowing rapid switching between two pre-selected choices from the 22 available scene programs.
Like a lot of compacts the TZ4 has both a main menu for major camera settings, and a shooting menu allowing quick access to frequently used options such as IS mode, drive mode, AF area, white balance, ISO and picture size. The main menu holds some useful options, including a selection of colour modes, three different aspect ratios (4:3, 3:2 and 16:9) and three light meter modes (spot, c/w and multi-zone). The control layout is concise and logical, the menus are quick and responsive and the camera is very easy to operate.