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Old Jul 2, 2006, 12:47 PM   #1
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I have owned a Nikon D50 for some months and of course, find that camera superb. However, recently on a holiday, I did get fed up carrying the ‘bag of lenses' thing around everywhere, so picked up the new Panasonic TZ1 as a compact to compliment my D50.

Overall, I like the TZ1. It is a good ‘snappers' camera and that 10x zoom just helps to either frame the subject properly or to reach out and grab a subject that the run of mill 3x compacts just can't manage.

It is a point and shoot and does NOT have manual controls, which can be frustrating to anyone who is use to such controls and is a total inconsequence to those that are not. Bottom line, see the camera for what it is (portable and efficient) and not for what it is not (a DSLR !!!!).

The camera comes with several shooting modes (i.e. sport, landscape, portrait) and to get the most out of the camera, these should be used, rather than just leaving it on Auto. The dial has two positions reserved for the user to put favourite scene modes. I have Sport and Landscape set on mine, so switching to those modes is dead easy.

The camera gives +/- 2 E.V. and this is a super (and common) feature to fine tune exposures to prevent such things as blown highlights and one that all camera owners should ensure they understand. Using my DSLR has conditioned me to considering E.V. every time I want to shoot something in either strong or poor light.

Image quality: Very good, the colours are punchy but still very natural (I have my colour set to ‘standard‘ in the menu). This is particularly obvious when photographing flowers. The picture is quite sharp, with textures nicely captured. Grass in particular looks good.

Zoom: The long zoom means that extensive cropping is less likely, so the final file will contain more detail than might otherwise be the case (over cropped shots on x3 zooms often look terrible). It is a 10x zoom and the reviews that I have read state that it operates best at out to about x8 and I would agree with that.

Metering: is generally accurate and for those shots with excessive brights and darks in them, the EV can be used to help exposure. Reflections in water are well controlled.

ISO: this is only a small sensor, so too much cannot be expected. Reviews generally say that up to ISO 200 is OK and then after that, image quality drops off. Again I would agree and so would it appear would the camera, since it's programming does not race to jack up the ISO without due cause. In sports mode, I got f4.2 at 1/200 and this produced an ISO of 160 (the image looked good), while on another occasion, I got f4 at 1/125 to give ISO 100. On another occasion, I got f7.1 at 1/400 producing an ISO of 100. Remember, these are automatic modes working this out. The camera keeps away from high ISO unless absolutely necessary and since there are no manual controls, effective photographing of sport etc needs good light.

Macro: nice detail

Purple fringing: I did find some but it was only in the trickier shots and seemed to inhabit the edge of the picture, rather than being throughout the image.

Image Stabilisation: This is very good, if I bin a picture, it is usually because it is badly composed (i.e. my fault), not because it is blurred. At max zoom, handheld at F4.2, giving 1/200 and ISO 80, I photographed the steel cable that secured a neighbours aerial on their chimney. The individual steel stands of the cable were crisply shown.

The dynamic range seems quite good. In one photograph of a rose flower, I got good strong, vibrant colours from the main flower and then the much lighter outer petals looked superbly elegant with their slightly darker veins within the petal showing through with a real gentle subtly.

The LCD is quite good, but I have noticed that sometimes, a colour can look slightly off, but once it is on the computer monitor, the colour is bang on and a true reflection of the colour of the actual subject.

Battery: Considering that it has to drive that LCD all the time (no optical viewer), the battery is a strong performer, easily enough for a days shooting.

Auto Focus: is fast for a compact and there is little sign of shutter lag. The camera can bang off 3 shots in a second, which is useful. Last week, I was on a local whale trip and saw Basking shark (you only ever see their fins). My D50 got loads of pics, but I was really surprised that my TZ1, also got a good few pics as well, it was easy to frame the sharks fin on the LCD and the fast focus got quick ‘lock ons' - though I can't imagine it easily capturing birds in flight, which is one reason why I use my D50.

Indoors: in normal sized living rooms etc, the TZ1 and its flash can cope to give natural looking pictures. For anything else, the flash is not powerful enough and the ISO starts to move up to 400 (noisy). Indoors and without flash, White Balance (WB) needs to be manually adjusted - but this is par for the course with most cameras anyway.

Conclusion: For my serious shooting, I would want to rely on my D50, simply because it is so responsive (fast), it has manual control and the large sensor consistently gives a superb image, but for everything else, I would be more than happy just to have the TZ1 with me, it can probably cope with 80% of my total photographic demands. Image stabilisation, long zoom and natural colour reproduction are its greatest strengths and it is certainly more fun than a traditional x3 compact.
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Old Jul 3, 2006, 3:06 PM   #2
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I tried a few more shots today, using a church that I often use when testing cameras. It wasn't exactly a fair test because it was evening and light levels were low - but not that low !!! (typically speeds of 1/30 using the zoom).

At wide (using landscape scene mode), it took a nice picture of the church. Exposure was very good with stonework looking right and the sky correctly recorded.

At full telephoto (standard auto shooting) it took a nice picture of the mid steeple, clock and nearby tree.

So I was surprised when I moved to the alarm box. Stabilised lenses normally give me a fairly sharp image of the box and the text shown on the box face - though this is at extreme range and is a challenge for cameras. On both my shots, the auto settings were f4.1 speed 1/30 and ISO 125. Both shots looked washed out and the resolution was simply not in the image. The results were so odd that I will make it my business to go back and re-test. Anyway, the x10 image was worse than the x8 image, which tends to support an independent review that I read which basically said that the zoom works best at out to x7 or x8. I was also surprised that the cam is so reluctant to move up to higher ISO's.

I don't think that this is a cam for shooting at max zoom and then going to max magnification on the review screen (or heavy cropping), I am doubtfull that there is enough resolution in the picture to do that. What I think the zoom does do, is to allow the user to get much closer to the subject and therefore frame it properly, so that later on, cropping is not required and a decent image will result.

I also photographed the weather vein (and top tip of the steeple) this of course is against a sky and is a difficult shot for cameras. Again the exposure was perfect, I did not see any purple fringing and the large expanse of sky looked relatively clean. There was some noise there - but really only for those people who see noise !!!! And I imagine that a print would look good.

Overall, I would say that this camera is for those who want a x10 zoom AND something that counts as pocket sized. I have seen other x10 / x12 perform better, BUT, they haven't been pocket sized …. And there is your choice.
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Old Jul 3, 2006, 9:33 PM   #3
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Excellent Norm. That is one of the most practical reviews of a camera I have seem. Looking forward to seeing pictures...Fred
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Old Jul 5, 2006, 10:48 PM   #4
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I was in the same situation, looking for a pocket camera/companion to my Nikon D-50. I tried thethe Panny TZ-1, but because I do a lot of low light level shots, I returned it and have bought the Fuji F-30, which is a better "fit" for my needs.

Here is a sample photo.

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