We tested the camera’s ability to produce accurate colors by using it to photograph an industry standard color chart. The chart, manufactured by color gurus GretagMacbeth, shows 24 colors from around the spectrum. Imatest analyzed the images of the chart and output the following depiction to show the variations in color. The inner vertical rectangle of each tile shows the ideal colors from the original GretagMacbeth chart, the outer frames show what the Panasonic TZ3 produced, and the inner squares show the ideal color corrected for luminance by the software.
Colors are generally close to what they should be, but to get a better idea of how correct or erroneous colors are the following graph is provided. It shows each of the 24 colors around the spectrum. The ideal colors are shown as squares and the TZ3’s colors are shown as circles. The line connecting the shapes shows the degree of error and saturation can be determined by the direction the camera’s color is moving. The outer edges of the frame are oversaturated while the center is undersaturated.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 performed extremely well. Hardly any of its colors are very far from where they should be. Its saturation is nearly perfect too at 101.3 percent. The camera’s 5.17 mean color error score is one of the best we’ve seen from a compact digital camera, and so is the overall 11.61 color score.
Generally the automatic white balance setting is better than the presets, although the manual white balance setting most definitely trumps this one. There aren’t presets for flash and fluorescent light. The auto setting produced an image that was too blue when the flash was fired but actually did quite well under fluorescent light.
The presets didn’t perform as well as they should. Under cloudy outdoor light, the auto setting was more accurate. The same can be said of the other presets. The only preset that performed better than the auto setting was tungsten light, and both tungsten and auto weren’t very accurate anyway. The presets should generally be avoided. Either chance it with the auto setting or be sure with the custom setting.
**Still Life Sequences
***Click to view the high-resolution images.*
The Panasonic TZ3’s 7.2-megapixel resolution is an upgrade from previous slim ultra-zoom models. We tested the TZ3’s resolution to see how effective it is at capturing all the details and nuances in our industry standard resolution chart. Using the TZ3, we photographed the chart at various exposure settings and uploaded the pictures to Imatest imaging software.
The software analyzed the images and selected the sharpest one, which was taken using an aperture of f/4.7 and a focal length of 20mm and the lowest ISO setting of 100. More descriptive numerical resolution results are output as units of line widths per picture height (lw/ph), which describes the number of alternating black and white lines of equal thickness that the sensor can detect across the frame without blurring them together.
The 7.2-megapixel TZ3 resolved 1729 lw/ph horizontally with 1.7 percent oversharpening and 1635 lw/ph vertically with 1.65 percent undersharpening. The earlier TZ1 oversharpened images, so this seems to have been addressed and fixed in this model. The TZ3 performs better than average for its pixel count and certainly better than its Lumix sibling, the 7.2-megapixel Panasonic FX50. That camera read 1342 lw/ph horizontally and 1232 lw/ph vertically.
Good news for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3: its 7.2 megapixels capture a good amount of detail, which puts it above average comparable digital cameras.
Noise – Auto ISO*(4.95)*
In the bright lighting of our studio, most cameras should automatically choose the lowest ISO setting possible. The TZ3’s automatic ISO setting instead chose ISO 200 and produced more noise than it should have in such nicely lit conditions. Think your bright outdoor pictures are perfectly clean? Think again – or use the manual ISO settings.
Noise – Manual ISO*(9.93)
*We tested the noise levels by photographing the resolution chart at each manual ISO setting in optimal lighting. Imatest analyzed the images and determined what percentage of each image was degraded to noise. The results are shown below: the horizontal axis shows each ISO setting and the vertical axis shows the noise level.
The noise is generally quite low. Even at the highest ISO 1250 only 1.7 percent of the image is speckled with noise, as opposed to 4 or 5 percent in many other compact digital cameras. There is a reason for this though. The TZ3 applies an in-camera noise reduction system between ISO 200 and 400, which accounts for the slight dip in noise on the chart.
The in-camera noise reduction has its drawbacks. When looking at the solid colors of the image up close, it looks like areas have been smoothed over, sacrificing details. Overall though, the noise reduction has a positive impact on high ISO images. Shots of faces taken with the TZ3 would bode well because of the smoothing and lack of color-noise.
*With the studio lights dimmed to 60, 30, 15, and 5 lux, we set out to determine how functional the camera is in imperfect lighting situations. We photographed the color chart in these low light conditions and ran them through Imatest software, which output the following pictures with the same tiles as in the color section above.
The Panasonic TZ3’s images are well-lit and accurate with the mean color error staying under 7.5. This is fantastic! The mean percentage of noise stayed under 2 percent, which is also pretty incredible for such dim conditions.
Long exposures are possible on this camera, but only at ISO 100 in the Night Scenery and Starry Night shooting modes. We test all of our long exposure tests at ISO 400, and this camera’s longest exposure at this setting is only 1 second. Thus, we’re skipping this portion of the low light review.
Nevertheless, whether you’re at a candlelit restaurant, fireworks show, or evening party, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 should provide well-lit, clean, and accurately depicted images.
We test the dynamic range of digital cameras by photographing a backlit Stouffer film step chart at different ISO settings. The Stouffer chart has a row of rectangles ranging from extremely bright to extremely dark. The ISO sensitivity directly correlates to the dynamic range of the image. Generally, the higher the sensitivity is boosted, the less detail and tones captured. Below is a chart showing the manual ISO settings on the horizontal axis and the number of exposure values captured on the vertical axis.
Surprisingly, the dynamic range actually increases from ISO 100 to 200 which is very uncommon. This was tested several times but the results came out the same every time. Both the 100 and 200 settings garnered excellent results at or above 8 exposure values. After 200 though, the dynamic range takes a steep dive and then continues its shallow dip into the lesser end of the range. The lesson to take from this test: if you want interesting photos with lots of dynamic range, limit your ISO selection to 100 or 200.
Startup to First Shot (7.3)
The Panasonic TZ3 takes its sweet time starting up and extending its lens before snapping its first shot. The official time came to 2.7 seconds, so have your camera on long before the action happens.
There are three burst modes on this digital camera. The high burst mode snaps 5 pictures in 1.5 seconds with each shot coming 0.4 seconds after the previous one. The low burst mode took the same 5-shot burst but at a more leisurely pace with each shot coming a half-second after the other. The infinite burst mode snapped pictures at the same half-second pace but recorded until the memory card was full. It’s unclear why Panasonic even includes the low burst when the infinite moves at the same pace and records for much longer.
This camera’s metering and auto focus system are slow. It took them 0.6 seconds to get their acts together and snap a picture. When the exposure is locked, though, things are snappy and the shutter lag is hardly measurable.
It took the camera 0.4 seconds to process one shot. When the burst mode was activated, the camera took an extra 1.1 seconds to process its images.
Video Performance *(5.36)*
Bright Indoor Light - 3000 lux
Under the same lighting we performed the color test, we shot footage of a video test chart. The colors weren’t as accurate as they were in still images; the mean color error shot to 13 and saturation to 116.4 percent. The average amount of noise remained fairly low at 0.385 percent of the image. This is actually quite good when compared to other compact digital cameras; most movie modes perform far worse than the still recording modes.
*Low Light - 30 lux *
The image became much softer when the lights were dimmed to 30 lux. Colors suffered with a mean color error of 15.4. The inaccuracy of the color is one thing, the awful saturation is even worse. It dropped to only 63.2 percent, making the colors look extremely dull and lifeless. The average amount of noise jumped considerably to 1.26 percent of the image, more than in any of the still images even at the highest 1250 ISO setting.
Footage of the video test chart was loaded into Imatest software and analyzed much the same way still images are analyzed. The results are output in the same line widths per picture height (lw/ph) measurement too. The Panasonic TZ3 resolved 267 lw/ph horizontally with 17.3 percent undersharpening and 545 lw/ph vertically with 5.6 percent undersharpening. These numbers aren’t great and should still keep the camcorder market healthy.
(100 % crops)
*After being cooped up in the testing lab, we took the TZ3 outside to shoot action on the street. The 30 fps movies weren’t quick enough to capture perfectly smooth motion; moving subjects looked a little jerky especially when exiting the frame. Images have good contrast but are a bit overexposed. Subjects looked a bit soft, perhaps due to focus, although this softness can be seen in the studio footage of the test charts.
Like most modern point-and-shoots, the Panasonic Lumix TZ3 lacks an optical viewfinder. Instead, the camera is equipped with a well-endowed 3-inch LCD screen. The LCD has a 100 percent field of view that enables users to accurately compose a frame when using the monitor; images shouldn’t cut off at the top or bottom the way other LCD viewfinders often do. The downside to a camera without a viewfinder is that users are forced to frame their photos using the LCD, which is a drain on battery power. To compensate, Panasonic includes Power Save and Auto Review modes that allows users to change the increments for how long the LCD or camera stays on.
The TZ3’s 3.0-inch color TFT LCD screen is one of the primary upgrades from the TZ1’s 2.5-inch LCD screen. Panasonic also upped the screen resolution from 207,000 pixels to 230,000 pixels, which is the current industry standard.
Thanks to the large screen size and sufficient resolution, TZ3 will instantly get a nice view of their images following the shot. The images can be magnified by 16x, allowing users to check focus on-the-spot. A group of people huddled around the camera should be pleased with the large screen, though it does solarize slightly when viewed off-axis. The monitor showed significant solarization, however, when viewed at extreme vertical angles. Overall, the LCD is a nice feature with its large size, ample pixel resolution, and 100 percent field of view.
The TZ3's off-center, capsule-like flash will effectively light foreground and background subjects, just not evenly. The foreground of images tended to be blown out, overexposing subjects relatively closest to the camera. The flash has an effective illumination range of 1.96 feet – 13.77 feet (0.6-4.2m) in wide shooting and 11.81 inches – 9.18 feet (0.3-2.8m) in telephoto in auto ISO. The camera can sufficiently light most situations, although users may be disappointed by the uneven coverage.
Equipped with flash functions for Auto, Auto and Red-eye Reduction, Slow Sync and Red-eye Reduction, Forced On and Forced Off, the Panasonic TZ3 covers basic flash functions. Unfortunately, the camera does not have a soft flash mode that many point-and-shoots offer, which would have greatly benefited the TZ3’s overpowering flash.
The TZ3's long zoom lens is the camera's most heavily marketed feature. The Leica-branded DC Vario-Elmar lens offers 10x optical zoom, well beyond the standard 3x optical zoom of most point-and-shoots on the market. The barrel extends in multiple sliding tiers to keep the body compact. Travelers should be wary though: the extending lens’ crevices are perfect for sand to get stuck in.
Panasonic also adjusted the focal range on this camera. While the TZ3 and the older TZ1 both carry 10x zooms, the TZ3’s lens extends from f/4.6-46mm (equivalent to 28-280mm in traditional 35mm film format), while the TZ1’s optics provide a more-magnified 35-350mm equivalent focal range.
To assist the TZ3’s far-reaching zoom lens, Panasonic included optical image stabilization to reduce blur. Panasonic’s Intelligent Image Stabilization system - tagged MEGA O.I.S. - is an optical stabilization system designed to reduce handshake. The camera also offers Intelligent ISO Control, which boosts sensitivity to freeze moving subjects.
The zoom lens focuses at a range of 1.64 feet in normal mode and 6.56 feet – infinity in telephoto mode. With an aperture range from f/3.3 – 11, the lens provides ample depth of field for portraits or landscapes. The lens is constructed of 11 elements in 9 groups with 3 aspherical lenses, 4 aspherical surfaces, and 1 ED lens.
Model Design / Appearance*(7.25)*
The Panasonic TZ3 isn’t the thinnest camera around, but then again, who said you have to be thin to be beautiful? The TZ3 has some curves to it and still retains an attractive look. The stainless steel body maintains a clean design that should make any owner of this compact camera proud. All the buttons, despite placement, are engrained well into the body with tight seals, supplying a reassuring click upon depression. The camera has an overall luxurious appeal, more in the vein of a four-door sedan, than a sporty two-seater.
The Lumix TZ3 is offered in silver, black, or blue camera bodies to suit the style and personality of the consumer.
**Size / Portability ***(6.0)*
Measuring 4.20 x 1.47 x 2.37 inches, the Panasonic TZ3 isn’t the smallest or largest compact camera around. The camera bridges the gap between a pocket-friendly point-and-shoot and a higher zoom compact camera. The TZ3 isn’t made to go clubbing with and won’t fit comfortably in a pants pocket. It is, however, portable enough to fit comfortably into a jacket pocket. The camera’s tight seals and covered port system will allow it to be securely transported.
At 8.16 ounces (about half a pound), the TZ3 is heavier than many point-and-shoots because of its metal exterior, but it is still light enough for any traveling backpacker. Its size and weight lends itself to active vacationers rather than socialites who like their cameras as tiny as their cell phones.
The Panasonic Lumix TZ3 handles well, especially compared to other point-and-shoots. The slopping right hand grip on the front of the camera and a small bump on the back provide sufficient support, especially for one-handed shooting and self-portraits. Handling would have received higher marks if Panasonic had included extra rubber gripping, but hey, we can’t always have it all. As usual with point-and-shoots, left-handed photographers will be out of luck. The lens is flush to the edge of the camera, making it difficult for users to place their left fingers there without obstructing the field of view.
Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size*(6.25)*
The Panasonic TZ3’s control buttons are a mixed bag. Panasonic gets brownie points for including an effective mode dial for easier access to scene modes and a secure Off/On switch. The placement of those buttons, however, is all wrong. The shutter which is typically located on the far right side of the top for easy control by the index finger is located further left. In its place is the tiny optical image stabilization button. While an important feature, the optical image stabilizer does not deserve the most valuable plot of real estate on the camera - particularly since most users will never adjust it. The mode dial is also awkwardly placed at the center, another deviation from typical point-and-shoots, which have the mode dial on the back or at the corner of the LCD screen.
The top buttons are well portioned, while the back button controls could stand to gain some size, especially the small four-way multi-controller. While some compromises are expected from the large 3-inch screen, the unusual button layout could hinder usability.
The Panasonic TZ3’s menu system is easy on the eyes. With an effective color scheme (red for record, green for play) and easy-to-read font, the menu interface makes navigating the camera’s functions simple.
When the mode dial is set to the record mode, the camera displays two tabbed menus: (1) Rec (for Record for exposure and focus controls), and (2) Setup (for camera settings). The menu uses a combination of text and icons. There are one-too-many text abbreviations that might have users scratching their heads. For instance, a user might have to stop for a second to realize that "Col. Mode" really means "Color." The menus also display icons that require the user to flip through the manual to decipher. For example, users are supposed to know that an icon of six squares with an arrow on top represents the Fine Quality setting.
Below is the record menu.
The Setup menu is self-explanatory with clearly labeled functions. Users can easily navigate through the menu via the four-way controller.
Refer to Playback Mode section for the full listing of playback options.
Ease of Use*(7.75)*
The Panasonic TZ3 is a fairly easy to use camera right out of the box. With a target audience of advanced point-and-shooters, the camera fairs well for its handling and easy-to-read menu system. Improvements to the button placement and menu abbreviations would make a future edition of the camera a superior compact ultra-zoom.
Panasonic’s auto mode is called Simple mode, represented by a heart shape on the mode dial. As the name implies, the basic auto mode limits manual control so that users can shoot spontaneously without having to consider exposure details or the like. Simple mode uses fixed settings: auto white balance, Intelligent ISO , multi-pattern metering, and one-area AF.
**Movie Mode ***(7.0)*
The Panasonic Lumix TZ3 offers a good amount of control for recording videos. The camera captures QuickTime Motion movie files with sound in standard 4:3 aspect ratio or at wide 16:9. Users have the option to change file size and record at a standard 640x480, email resolution of 320x240, or a wide 848x480 resolution at either 10fps or 30fps, up to 2GB.
The TZ3’s movie mode provides smooth video recording with the option to change white balance setting and metering modes. Unfortunately, users cannot change the zoom or the focus once recording has started. Users can, however, set zoom and focus before video capture begins. There are no built-in editing movie functions like splicing, but users can record videos in black-and-white or sepia.
Drive / Burst Mode*(7.5)*
For those times when you spontaneously spot Bon Jovi at the library, a fast drive mode is necessary to catch as many pictures as possible. The Panasonic TZ3 offers three types of drive modes to take photos in succession. Users can access High speed, Low speed, and Free shooting (as Panasonic calls it), through the Record menu, Intelligent ISO, Macro, or Scene 1 and 2 menus.
With the exception of zoom, users can change most of the control options (such as image quality, white balance, and metering) in the drive modes. Burst speed is reliant on image size/quality and ISO sensitivity settings. ISO 400 or higher slows down the consecutive shooting - most likely due to the application of additional high ISO noise reduction. The camera’s High and Low speed shooting allows for full resolution shooting at 3fps or 2fps, respectively, at Fine or Standard quality. The Free mode allows for unlimited consecutive shooting at 2fps until the memory is full. A counter is displayed on the monitor, indicating the remaining storage space.
The benefit of the Panasonic TZ3’s updated 3-inch screen is that users can check out their photos on the spot. The playback mode can be accessed in two ways. First, users can view photos using the "Rev" (Review) button on the four-way controller, which accesses a limited playback mode, but offers quick access to view a photo while still in Record mode. Second, when the mode dial is set to Play, a full range of editing tools is available.
Users can view their images as 9 thumbnails, 25-thumbnail, calendar view, or as singles. As single photos, users can magnify images up to 16x, so they can check for focus and blinking eyes. Playback mode also includes built-in editing functions such as trim, rotate, and dual display, which gives a preview of two photos side-by-side.
There are also a good amount of options for the built-in slideshow feature. Users can alter duration, transition effects, and audio clips attached to individual photos. The TZ3, overall, acts as a nice photo viewer.
Custom Image Presets*(8.0)*
With a healthy dose of 21 scene modes, the Panasonic TZ3 covers the basics with presets like Portrait and Landscape and then adds some interesting modes, including Aerial Photo and Underwater modes (to be used with an optional underwater housing case).
Panasonic also updated the scene modes with the addition of Sunset and Pet modes. The Pet mode is an interesting feature. Like the Baby1 and Baby2 scene presets, the camera documents the age of the child or animal after setting the subject’s birthday to the camera’s built-in clock/calendar. While EXIF data with time stamp information is already attached to every image, the pictures in Pet and Baby modes spell out the exact month and day of the subject’s age, such as "2 month, 19 days."
Users can access scene modes through Scn1 and Scn2 positions on the mode dial. Each preset mode is represented with an icon. Additional text descriptions of the modes - and even reminders - appear when necessary. The camera defaults to the last selected shooting mode before the user turned off the camera. The extensive list of presets is dispersed between two scene modes (Scn1 and Scn2). It’s not really necessary to have two scene modes, but the duo of settings reduces the number of buttons users need to push before getting the easy preset button mode that has their preferred combination of camera settings.
Manual Control Options
As with most point-and-shoots, the Panasonic Lumix TZ3 offers manual control of white balance, ISO sensitivity, metering, and AF settings. However, the camera does not offer control over shutter speed or aperture like higher-end compacts or SLRs.
Users have a fair amount of control over the auto focus system. With both single and continuous focus, users can switch between five settings: spot focusing, 1-area focus, 1-area high speed, 3-area, and 9-area. The camera is capable of focusing normally at 1.64 feet and beyond. Zoomed in, the camera can accurately focus at 6.56 feet to infinity or 1.96 feet to infinity when zoomed out.
The camera also offers a Macro focus mode, located on the top mode dial, for close up photos. With a focal range of 3.28 inches to infinity in telephoto macro mode, the camera effectively captures details at close range.
In practice, the TZ3's auto focus system worked well in wide, normal, and macro shooting. The camera handled low light and low contrast scenes effectively, and was able to track moving subjects well in ample lighting.
Like the majority of point-and-shoots, this 10x optical zoom camera does not provide a manual focus setting. This is unfortunate since the TZ3's large screen would offer an ideal focusing window.
The Panasonic TZ3 offers basic exposure control. It has a standard exposure compensation range of +/- 2 in 1/3 steps. With live preview, even beginners will be able to identify the exposure modes. As a safety net, there is also a bracketing option that takes 3 frames in succession at +/- 1 in 1/3 steps.
Like the lack of manual focus, the camera does not possess manual exposure or aperture or shutter priority modes.
The Panasonic Lumix TZ3 offers a well-rounded metering system. The metering options are multi-pattern, center-weighted, and spot at 1, 3, or 9 points.
The Lumix camera offers a strange mix of white balance options. It has the basics - Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, and Shade - but leaves out a fluorescent setting, a key setting that most point-and-shoots offer. Despite its lack of a fluorescent mode, the auto white balance still produced decent results under fluorescent lights.
The camera does offer a few advanced features. Uses can view white balance functions with the live preview without having to set it. The TZ3 also allows users to set white balance manually.
One of the TZ3’s biggest upgrades is its new Intelligent ISO system. Marked by the "I" icon on the mode dial, the Intelligent ISO system detects motion and sets the ISO and shutter speed accordingly, making the function ideal in fast-paced situations such as shooting sports or trying to capture running kids. With Intelligent ISO, the camera can focus at 0.16 feet from the subject in Macro or at 6.56 feet in Telephoto mode. There is a limit of ISO 400, 800, or 1250 when using the Intelligent ISO system.
Other ISO options are Auto (at 200 ISO), 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1250 at full resolution, a higher sensitivity setting that comes with the updated Venus Engine III processor. The TZ1’s ISO topped out at 800 (in auto mode), making the TZ3 more flexible in low-light.
**Shutter Speed ***(0.0)*
The Panasonic TZ3 has automatic and manual shutter speed controls. Users can manually select from the following preset slow shutter options in the main menu: 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, and 1 second. For automatic settings, the camera has a range of 8 to 1/2000 of a second or longer exposure settings of 15, 30, or 60 seconds in Starry Sky Mode. Like most self timer settings, the shutter speed is set for either 2 or 10 seconds, enough time for the photographer to jump into a group photo.
The Lumix TZ3 selects the aperture automatically. In wide shooting, the camera captures at f/3.3 – 8.0 (in 2 steps), allowing enough light to pass for accurate exposures at ISO 400 or more. In telephoto, however, the camera captures a limited f/4.9 – 11.0 (in 2 steps) that might have users boosting ISO sensitivity to compensate.
**Picture Quality / Size Options ***(7.75)*
The Panasonic TZ3 has plenty of picture options, which are accessed through the main menu. Picture size depends on one of the three selected aspect ratio options:
Image size options are selectable by the user on the TZ3. Users can select files sizes up to its full 7-megapixels or a smaller resolution for e-mailing or uploading to the Web. Users also can choose between JPEG Fine or Standard picture quality for compression.
**Picture Effects Mode ***(7.5)*
Panasonic TZ3 users who want to experiment with shooting will be able to do so with the camera’s picture effects modes, available for still and video recordings. Color modes include Standard, Natural, Vivid, Cool, Warm, Black and White, and Sepia. This allows a user to shoot in black-and-white without having to convert color after capture through a computer editing program. There isn’t a dedicated contrast or hue mode, but the camera does offer the Vivid option to intensify color.
The Panasonic TZ3 comes with a motley crew of programs. The Lumix Simple Viewer 1.2E is an extremely basic organizer with a split-screen design. The left side of the screen displays thumbnail views of the photo collection, and the right side shows an enlarged view of the selected photo and extensive EXIF data. Photos can be divided by Latest Pictures, My Favorites (that can be selected in the camera) or by Date Folder. There is a Rotate function and Enlarge options for full-screen slideshows, but the program lacks other editing functions such as crop or red-eye fix, typically found in other basic software. While the program’s design is nice, it isn’t worth installing because of its limited capabilities.
Users are better off using the other ArcSoft programs that come in the box. A better alternative is PhotoBase 4.5 that organizes photos and provides basic editing functions. Users can view pictures in Thumbnail, Details, or List view. The graphic icons could be bigger but the important ones are included on the top tool bar. The PhotoBase software even includes a Batch button for size conversion and renaming multiple pictures. The other icons open programs including the PanoramaMaker 3 stitching program, PhotoImpression 5 for projects and prints, and PhotoStudio for more extensive image manipulation tools.
Jacks, Ports, Plugs*(5.0)*
The Panasonic TZ3 has a plastic hinged door on its right side to keeps its ports safe. Below the door is an AV Out port for television connection and DC In port for USB computer connection. We prefer to see rubber port covers on compact point-and-shoot models, since they're generally more effective in keeping out dirt and moisture.
Direct Print Options*(7.0)*
For users who want to bypass the computer altogether, the PictBridge-compatible Panasonic TZ3 comes with a convenient Print Mode feature, a dedicated print button on mode dial. Users can easily connect the camera to a PictBridge-compatible printer via a USB connection. The camera gives options for the number of prints, sizes, and layout. *
*The kind of battery the camera uses is an important consideration, especially for the active traveler, for whom this camera is targeted. The Panasonic TZ3 uses a Li-ion battery (Panasonic CGA-S007A), arguably the kind that lasts longer than standard AA batteries. The battery shoots at a reported 270 shots per charge, with enough power to juice a good shoot. The downside to using this camera’s Li-ion battery is that the owner would need a compatible electric port to recharge the battery. Li-ion versus AA is really a individual preference. *
*The Lumix TZ3 is compatible with SD, SDHC, and MMC media. The camera also carries 12.7 MB of internal memory, which is enough to store 2 still 4:3 images at full resolution. The memory media shares a slot with the batteries.
Clipboard – Because this camera if marketed to the world traveler, the Panasonic TZ3 comes with a new Clipboard feature that captures text and graphics with image stabilization and high zoom, ideal for keeping timetables and maps stored on the camera. The Clipboard shoots at a fixed 4:3 aspect ratio and can record 5 seconds of audio, enough time to record "¿Donde está la cerveza?" attached to a map of the city. The Clipboard feature stores the images on the 12 MB of internal memory so that users can easily access the important information through the mode dial.
*Dual Display *– The Dual Display features displays two images side-by-side on the screen for easy comparison.
*World Clock / Travel Date *– This feature helps the globe trotter remember what day it is. With the world clock and travel date information, users can keep their photos accurately documented with correct time zones. The camera returns to a default Hometown clock once the travel date has expired.
Optional Underwater Housing – The Panasonic Marine Case (DMW-MCTZ3) can be purchased for an additional $259.95 to protect the camera during underwater shooting. The optional marine case weighs more than 7 pounds and allows for 120 feet of submergence.
With a price tag of $349, the Panasonic TZ3 is a good value for a select niche market of consumers looking for a small point-and-shoot with a longer, stabilized zoom lens. There are plenty of image-stabilized, 10x optical zoom cameras out there, but none retain the point-and-shoot simplicity and basic design of the TZ3. It competes with tiny, itsy-bitsy point-and-shoots that don’t offer the high zoom, and heavier, SLR-styled compacts; however, no other camera currently offers its feature set in a point-and-shoot design.
Currently selling for close to $300 online, the TZ3 is a strong value for point-and-shooters looking to upgrade to a longer lens.
Panasonic Lumix TZ1 – Bargain shoppers may also be interested in the Panasonic Lumix TZ1, which has similar features but not the high price tag. As the predecessor to the TZ3, the TZ1 carries a 5-megapixel count, less than the TZ3’s 7.2 megapixels. The TZ1, last year’s version of the TZ3, is fitted with the same 10x Leica lens with optical image stabilization. Although the TZ1 was introduced at the same initial price, it can now be found online for less. Users will have to forfeit the TZ3’s higher ISO settings of up to 3200 (at lower resolution) from the TZ1 maximum of 1600 ISO (at lower resolution) and a smaller 2.5-inch LCD screen versus the TZ3’s 3-inch display. The TZ1 is a viable option for consumers who want to 10x optically stabilized zoom lens, but don’t care about the newer Intelligent ISO Control or Clipboard feature.
Fuji FinePix S700 – At $100 less than the Panasonic TZ3, the Fuji FinePix S700 carries a 7.1-megapixel count, similar to the TZ3. Both are fitted with 10x optical zoom, but the Panasonic has optical image stabilization, while the Fuji camera only has digital picture stabilization. The Fuji S700 has a smaller 2.5-inch LCD versus the Panasonic TZ3’s 3 inches. The biggest difference between the two cameras is the look of the camera and handling. The Fuji camera has an SLR-styled body with a larger hand grip, while the Panasonic camera is more compact for portability.
Nikon Coolpix S10 – The 6-megapixel Nikon S10 had an introductory price of nearly $400, but Nikon has marked it down to the same price of the Panasonic TZ3 at $349. With the Nikon S10, users will gainWi-Fi capabilities, face priority, and a swiveling, but smaller 2.5-inch LCD screen. Both have 10x optical zoom with optical image stabilization, or as Nikon calls it, sensor-shifting "Vibration Reduction." The Nikon S10 also records video but lacks the wide 16:9 shooting of the Panasonic TZ3.
Kodak EasyShare Z712 IS – The 7.1-megapixel Kodak Z712 IS camera touts a higher 12x optical zoom lens. As the "IS" indicates, the Kodak camera comes with image stabilization and comes with a $300 price tag, $50 less than the Panasonic TZ3. The Kodak camera has a smaller 2.5-inch LCD but a higher ISO sensitivity of 1600 at full resolution – greater than the Panasonic’s 1250 ISO at full resolution. The Kodak Z712 IS is also a radical departure from the Panasonic TZ3 in terms of looks. The Kodak compact camera features a hand grip for extra hand support, while Panasonic point-and-shoot is built for portability.
Canon PowerShot TX1 – As Canon’s first digital still camera with high definition video capabilities, the TX1 is a tough competitor of the Panasonic TZ3. While the Panasonic TZ3 can shoot video in wide format, it lacks the high definition quality of its Canon rival. Both cameras have the 10x optically stabilized zoom lens and comparable megapixel count; the Panasonic TZ3 with 7.2MP, and the Canon TX1 with 7.1MP. The Canon with a maximum sensitivity of 1600 ISO compared to Panasonic’s 1250 ISO at full resolution. The Canon camera has a whopping introductory price tag of $499, also carries face detection and a smaller, but more versatile, 1.8-inch flip out LCD screen.
Who’s this Camera For? **
Point and Shooters – The Panasonic TZ3 is made for advanced point-and-shooters who may be looking for a longer zoom upgrade from their first digital camera. Basic users will also enjoy its automatic features, while mature point-and-shooters will also benefit from more control options.
*Budget Consumers *– The Lumix TZ3 falls in the mid-range, $300 category. It definitely isn’t the cheapest camera around since there are basic automatics that sell for about $100, but the TZ3 is a well-priced camera for a 10x optical zoom.
Gadget Freaks – Gadget lovers won’t be too impressed with the Panasonic TZ3, since other cameras offer similar features. The one thing that might grab their attention is the fact that the long lens camera can go underwater with the help of an optional marine housing.
*Manual Control Freaks *– Not so much. While the Lumix TZ3 has some controls for shooting aspect ratio, white balance, shutter speed, and ISO sensitivity, the camera lacks Shutter Priority or Aperture Priority or full manual modes. Those who lust for full control should consider other compacts that offer more manual options.
Pros / Serious Amateurs – Serious hobbyists or professionals would have better luck with higher zoom compacts or SLRs, but they might consider the Panasonic TZ3 as a back up camera for vacationing.
As the follow-up camera to the TZ1, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 offers many improvements. Panasonic added an Intelligent ISO Control system, Clipboard function, wider focal length and higher ISO sensitivity. The Panasonic TZ3 fills a niche market of travelers who long for a high zoom that is still compact. This 10x zoom camera with optical image stabilization meets the need of advanced point-and-shooters who are looking for an upgrade to their first digital camera. With the option to purchase an underwater casing, the travel-friendly TZ3 is ideal for capturing photos in a variety of conditions. In terms of image quality, the TZ3 is far superior to its predecessor, displaying impressive color reproduction, wide dynamic range, and solid video performance. For consumers looking for a portable, automatic camera with a long, optically-stabilized lens, the TZ3 is one of the best values on the market.
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Karen M. Cheung
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