Big zoom compact strives to provide the best of both worlds
Last year Panasonic amazed us by shoehorning a 10x zoom into its TZ1 pocket camera; 12 months on and the latest attempt, the TZ3, maintains this impressive range and its predecessor’s price but ups resolution from five to 7.2 megapixels.
Light sensitivity has also been given a boost – from a maximum ISO1600 to IS03200 here.
The fact that the zoom starts at a wide 28mm going all the way up to a film-camera equivalent 280mm also provides greater flexibility than its competitors currently offer.
And all this from a camera that while perhaps not the cutest around, at least doesn’t resemble a house brick.
The big lens doesn’t mean the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 is slow to get going either; flick the on/off switch and you’re ready for the shot in a couple of seconds.
Shooting at the telephoto end of such a long zoom requires some form of image stabilisation, and Panasonic has included one of the more reliable varieties, built into the optic itself.
This means the image relayed to the camera’s large 3in screen is impressively steady when zooming in fully, and an on-screen indicator helpfully details at what point in its range you are. Operation of the zoom feels smooth and fluid, allowing you to glide from one end to the other in just three seconds.
The TZ3 is also user friendly, with fully automatic functionality and a range of common shooting and playback options accessed via a mode wheel atop the camera. Give this a twist while the unit is activated and a ‘virtual’ version momentarily appears on screen so you don’t have to take your eye off your subject when choosing a setting.
In terms of images, the TZ3 delivered some of the sharpest most vividly coloured shots we’ve seen from a compact in recent months – at the wide end of the zoom, that is.
At maximum telephoto there was by contrast a degree of softness, but not so great as to make the image unusable.
While its styling is a tad underwhelming, the TZ3 still holds its own as the best compromise for those wanting an impressive zoom range yet a camera that slips comfortably into a pocket, and as such comes highly recommended.
Vista compatible: N/A
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Good points 10x optical zoom Compact and pocketable Good value for money Bad points Styling a tad underwhelming Overall With such a large zoom providing fantastic flexibility and delivering colourful shots, there’s little to fault on the TZ3.
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