**The back of the TZ1 has a large LCD screen on the left side and a few buttons on the right side. The screen is 2.5 inches across when diagonally measured and has a Panasonic logo at the bottom. The top right corner of the camera has a little lip for thumbs to rest on; on the back side of the lip there are nine plastic bumps that keep the thumb from slipping. The bottom right corner of the back is crammed with buttons – compared to the rest of the back face. The multi-selector is made of five separate buttons and is placed in the very bottom right corner. The center button is labeled Menu/Set. The four directional buttons have icons on them for features they access when outside the menu system. The top button accesses exposure compensation, the right picks the flash mode, the bottom is the review/set button, and the left activates the self-timer. There are only two small buttons to the left of the multi-selector. The top button changes the display on the LCD when pushed quickly. When this button is held down, the camera’s high angle LCD mode is activated. The button below this accesses the burst mode in recording and deletes pictures in playback.
**The left side shows a few screws holding the camera together and a hinged plastic door housing the two ports. This door is a nice change from the usual flimsy rubber covers.
**The right side is fairly devoid of features except for an eyelet in the center to attach the wrist strap.
**The left side of the top showcases the Panasonic logo. To its right is a single hole for the microphone with four holes below it to act as the speaker. The large mode dial is positioned just right of the middle of the TZ1. The mode dial has icons to represent the following modes: Movie, Macro, Normal Picture, Playback, Simple (auto), Scene 1 and Scene 2. The dial protrudes a tiny bit from the back so that users can turn it easily. To the right of the dial is the shiny shutter release button with the zoom switch surrounding it. The large lens barrel protrudes from the left side of the top and the handgrip sticks out on the right side, so the TZ1 has a balanced look. The shutter release button isn’t at the front edge of the handgrip like it is on many cameras. Instead, it is placed on the main portion of the camera body. To the right of the shutter release is a small circular button that cycles through the optical image stabilization modes. Beneath it is the small power switch.
**The bottom was difficult to see because the camera was mounted and tethered to a table. From what I could see, there is a standard tripod mount beneath the lens, all the way to the edge.
**Optical viewfinders are fast becoming obsolete on point-and-shoot-styled digital cameras, as evidenced by its omission on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1. Instead, the TZ1 uses the LCD screen for composition and image review. This is what most consumers want anyway. It has a big-screen view and 100 percent coverage of what is recorded – things that a small optical viewfinder just can’t deliver.
**The Panasonic TZ1 is equipped with a 2.5-inch polycrystalline TFT LCD screen that has 207,000 pixels. Its 100 percent view of the frame makes it a worthy replacement of a viewfinder, although it does have some viewing angle issues. The screen can be viewed horizontally at almost any angle, but the vertical view is awful. To fix this, Panasonic included a High Angle LCD mode that can be selected via its designated button. When the High Angle mode is selected, the screen is washed out when viewed straight on but can be viewed vertically and horizontally – but still not at a very wide angle. Panasonic claims that the TZ1 is the world’s first digital camera with the High Angle LCD mode. While that is true, other compact models offer better viewing angles without the push of a special button. Pushing the LCD Mode button also accesses the Power LCD mode, which brightens the image by 40 percent for better viewing in direct sunlight.
****The built-in flash is skinny and placed far from wandering fingers, which is nice. When the right side of the multi-selector is pushed, the following modes are available: auto, auto with red-eye reduction, slow sync with red-eye reduction, on and off. In many cameras, users have to dig through menus to access the red-eye reduction function, so it’s a plus that the red-eye reduction modes are easily accessible and located with the rest of the flash modes. The Panasonic TZ1 fires two slow and distinctive flashes in the slow sync with red-eye reduction mode. Overall, the coverage looks fairly even. The TZ1’s flash can reach from 0.98-12.14 ft. at the widest focal length and 3.28-7.87 ft. in telephoto with the automatic ISO setting. When the High Sensitivity mode is enabled, the flash is effective at a much longer distance: 2.62-18.7 ft in wide and 3.28-12.14 ft in telephoto. Overall, the range is average at best and a bit disappointing for a camera that flaunts its focal range.
**Perhaps the most marketable aspect of the Panasonic TZ1, other than its size, is its 10x optical zoom lens that extends from 5.2-52 mm or an equivalent 35-350 mm. This is quite a lot of zoom for a relatively skinny camera. Panasonic claims that this is the longest zoom to come on such a thin model. The Leica DC Vario Elmarit lens uses folded optics to fit its 12 elements, 10 groups, and 3 aspherical lenses in the diminutive camera body. The lens does extend from the camera body when powered on, but is still quite small considering its 10x zoom. The camera offers an "extended zoom" feature that works similarly to Sony’s Smart Zoom function. The TZ1 uses the entire 1/2.5-inch CCD to "zoom" in on a subject; this is only available at a reduced resolution of 3 megapixels or less.
The lens is supported by Panasonic’s MEGA optical image stabilization, which has two modes. The first mode operates continuously and the second mode only stabilizes the image when the shutter release button is pushed; the latter mode saves a little more battery power. The image stabilization modes can be selected with the button atop the camera. Near it is the zoom switch, which surrounds the shutter release button. The switch isn’t incredibly sensitive and the lens itself moves rather strangely. For instance, no matter what pressure is applied the lens moves slowly at first, then speeds up rapidly toward the middle of the zoom range. We’ll see if this issue is unique to the pre-production model we’re looking at or if it is consistent with all production models of the TZ1. Despite all this movement, the Leica lens on the TZ1 is quiet.
Design / Layout
**Model Design / Appearance
**The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 is thin compared to other ultra zoom cameras, but thick compared to other compact models. The TZ1 is a little more than an inch and a half thick, and it’s even thicker where the right hand grips the camera. The stepped grip has a bumpy highlight in the middle with the TZ1 logo. The camera’s design is very rectangular, perhaps to allude to its widescreen capabilities? The TZ1’s metal body has a plain look with a very simple design. Its relatively traditional aesthetics are made a little more interesting with the silver and black color offerings.
**Size / Portability
**The TZ1 measures 2.29 x 4.41 x 1.58 inches and weighs just over a half pound without the battery. When fully loaded with the lithium-ion battery and the memory card, the camera weighs 0.58 lbs. The camera looks quite portable at this size, although it isn’t ultra slim or super light-weight. A wrist strap attaches to the right side for easier portability.
**The pre-production TZ1 models at PMA did not lend themselves to an accurate assessment of the camera’s handling or feel, so we will have to take a hard look at this when we conduct our full review of the TZ1 in the coming months.
Still, handling on the PMA models was comfortable considering the circumstances. There are bumps on the back of the camera that act as a thumb grip. The front has a hand and finger grip contoured and etched from the body.
Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size
**There aren’t many buttons on the camera body, which is a nice feature for consumers who are intimidated by their presence. Oftentimes when a camera doesn’t have many buttons, it compensates with ridiculously long menus but that isn’t the case with the TZ1. It is just a simple camera in terms of available options. The buttons that are on the body are crammed toward the bottom and are a bit small. The most important button, the shutter release, is big and comfortable though.
**MenuThe menus aren’t as long as anticipated, considering the lack of buttons on the camera body. Still, they require quite a few taps of the multi-selector. The menus are organized into folder-like tabs showing the recording and setup menus. The system is complemented by a few live views – white balance and color effects – and rather large text. Unfortunately, the text is in all capital letters which can drive some users crazy and isn’t the most readable format. The patriotic red, white and blue colored menus have page numbers in the top right of the screen (i.e. 1/3 for first out of three). The following is the recording menu.
The biggest problem with the menus is the indistinct icons used in them. For example, all of the AF Mode options are depicted as icons so users have to guess which one is which. Text does not appear when users scroll over the icons either. The setup menu is much more text-based, thank goodness.
Within the playback mode, the following menu options appear.
All in all, the menus are easy to navigate with the five-buttoned multi-selector, but the overabundance of capital letters may drive you to insanity.
**Ease of Use
**The automatically oriented TZ1 is quite easy to use. It has a look that is inviting to beginners because of its plain face and lack of buttons and clutter. This Panasonic Lumix’s only drawback is its use of icons. Consumers who are not familiar with the Panasonic setup may not know that the heart icon on the mode dial represents the Simple mode – and they may not know that the Simple mode is Panasonic’s most automatic mode. It’d probably be more helpful if the heart was replaced by the actual text: "AUTO".
**As stated in the previous section, the automatic mode on the TZ1 is titled the Simple mode and represented by a heart icon on the mode dial. It is more intuitive to call the automatic mode just what it is, but to its credit it does simplify things – maybe even a bit too much. The menu in the Simple mode is dumbed down not only in the availability of options but in its presentation. The text is larger and the menu is more colorful. It isn’t a pretty color scheme though; the menus are teal and hot pink – like my cousin’s wedding colors in 1992 (which even then were years out of date). The menu almost insults the user’s intelligence. It shortens the options to the following.
Indeed, this replaces the frames and frames of recording and setup menus. Its tacky looks may be hard on the eyes, but it is simple in just about every other way.
**The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 has a movie mode that shoots QuickTime clips at several resolutions. 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 are available at 10 or 30 fps. Also available at those speeds is a widescreen-optimized 848 x 480 pixel setting. The best part of the movie mode is that the 10x optical zoom lens works, as does the MEGA optical image stabilization system. The zoom moves slowly the whole time in movie mode, but it remains quiet. The TZ1 records monaural audio, but its quality isn’t that great. Fortunately, the image looks much better. The image stabilization works continuously in the movie mode and looks great, compensating for normal camera shake that is often visible at the telephoto end of the zoom. Movies taken with the Panasonic Lumix TZ1 should look smooth.
**Drive / Burst Mode
**The burst mode on the TZ1 isn’t all that impressive. It can take 2 frames per second for an entire 3 images at the highest resolution. When the quality setting is nudged down to Standard instead of Fine, the camera can take up to 5 images at 3 frames per second. The burst mode can be activated by its own burst/delete button, but the self-timer is only activated by pushing the left button on the multi-selector. 2 and 10-second options are available. Buried in the little heap of menu settings is the Flip Animation mode, which is a distant cousin of the burst mode and some sort of relative to the movie mode. With it, users can snap up to 100 shots and then play them back at a rate of 5-10 frames per second. While this isn’t great for recording real action (it doesn’t record at 5 fps!), users can stage and shoot their own action flicks. Then they can watch them complete with fast forward, rewind and play.
**Like many other playback modes, users can scroll through individual pictures or frames that contain many images. The 2.5-inch LCD screen can display 9 or 25 thumbnails per frame and even has a calendar display that shows the first image taken on each date. Pictures can be magnified up to 16x, so it is easy to see the purple splotches of noise on the pictures or to check focus. Images automatically rotate to be right-side up no matter what angle the camera is being held at. Users can mark favorite images and can attach up to 10 seconds of audio with each photo. Users can also resize, protect and trim their pictures. A DPOF Print setting lets users scroll through images and select which photos and how many of each to print. There is also a slide show option that isn’t fancy, but certainly does its job in displaying photos and videos. Movies can be played back with the rewind, fast forward, play and stop options.
**Custom Image Presets
**There are two scene mode positions on the dial, which may be confusing to some. The same options are available in both positions: Portrait, Sports, Food, Scenery, Night Scenery, Night Portrait, Fireworks, Party, Snow, Soft Skin, Starry Sky, Candlelight, Self Portrait, Beach, Aerial Photo, High Sensitivity, Underwater, Baby 1 and Baby 2. The reason for having two positions is this: users can save the Party mode on SCN1 and Beach on SCN2 if those are the most frequently used modes. If there was only one position, users would have to do a lot of scrolling to reach the beach scene mode. One of the highlights is the function guide that explains what all of the scene modes are for. For example, the Aerial Photo mode is "for taking pictures through an airplane window." The explanation even adds, "Please turn off the camera when taking off or landing." The other highlight of the scene mode menu is the dancing ballerina animation that is next to the High Sensitivity mode. Speaking of that mode, it works well, illuminating subjects without the flash, but it won’t make anything larger than a 4 x 6-inch print. Its resolution is greatly reduced so that it can reach the ISO 800-1600 settings.
**Manual Control Options
**There is no manual mode and there are hardly any manual control options. A few can be found within the menu system, but the Panasonic TZ1 is certainly not chock full of manual control.
*The Panasonic TZ1’s auto focus system has a little bit of lag to it, even with all of its options. In the AF Mode section in the menu, a host of icons appears that translate to the following: 1-point, 1-point high speed, 3-point high speed, 9-point, and spot. Normally, the camera can focus from 1.31 ft. at its 35mm wide focal length and 6.56 ft. in telephoto; that shortens to 0.16 ft. in macro wide and 3.28 ft. in macro telephoto. Users can activate the continuous auto focus or turn it off in the recording menu. Surprisingly, the continuous auto focus seemed to take longer to focus than just pressing the shutter release button down. For dimly lit places, the Panasonic TZ1 shoots out its AF illuminator to assist the system.
*On the automatically oriented Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1, there is no such thing as manual focus.
**The Panasonic TZ1 keeps things easy with only a small handful of exposure modes on the mode dial: Simple, Normal Picture, Macro, Scene 1, Scene 2 and Movie. Available in most modes is the exposure compensation, which has the standard +/- 2 EV steps in 1/3 increments. The exposure compensation can be found via its very own on-camera button complete with a live view of the selected exposure value. There is also a real time histogram that users can access and use to gauge exposure. In the Simple mode, the exposure compensation button acts as a "backlight compensation" function, somewhat like an automatic exposure compensation.
**The TZ1 has plenty of metering options, but the menu lists them all as icons so a briefing from the user manual may be necessary. Most digital cameras have three metering options of spot, center and multi. This model has them too, but it calls them Spot, Center-weighted, and Intelligent Multiple.
**The Panasonic Lumix TZ1 has a wide range of manual ISO options from 80-800. This is more than many compact digital cameras have, but is quickly becoming the norm. This is a welcome change to digital cameras, as more consumers want to take pictures in less than optimal lighting without the unnatural look of most in-camera flash exposures. There is an automatic ISO option available too. In the scene mode selections, there is a High Sensitivity mode that accesses 800-1600 ISO settings to illuminate subjects in dim lighting. In this mode, the camera also uses its optical image stabilization system to reduce blur. This worked well for snapping shots of the rotating race car track at the Panasonic booth. There is never good lighting at trade shows, so to snap a shot of a moving object and have it not blur is quite good. Unfortunately, the high sensitivity scene mode only operates at a reduced resolution of 3 megapixels. This is an attempt to keep some of the noise out of the picture. Higher ISO settings yield more noise than lower ones. Furthermore, past Panasonic models have yielded more noise in general when compared with other competing models. Let’s hope we’re surprised by the TZ1; stay tuned for the full review.
**There isn’t a live view of the ISO selections in the menu, but there is one for the white balance modes. The following options are available: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Halogen, Custom and White Set. To customize the white balance, users must follow onscreen directions that prompt users to frame something white and press the Menu/Set button. In the preset modes, there are white balance adjustments that step +/- 10 toward red or blue (warm or cool), but it is easier to just set the manual white balance. The adjustments aren’t available in the auto mode, which is unfortunate since our preliminary look at the camera’s automatic white balance setting under the challenging sodium vapor bulbs at the convention center yielded extreme inaccuracies and caused black objects to look purple and red objects to appear as muted pink.
**The Panasonic TZ1 has shutter speeds ranging from 8-1/2000th of a second. This range is automatic, of course, as the speeds generally cannot be chosen by the user. There is an exception to this though; there is a Slow Shutter option in the recording menu that lets users choose 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, or 1-second speeds. This acts like a shutter priority mode but only for longer exposures.
**The aperture is automatic and cannot be manually selected, but shows up on the screen next to the shutter speed for users’ viewing pleasure. The aperture is either opened or closed in the lens; it’s a two-step system. In the widest focal length, the aperture is f/2.8 or f/5.0. In the telephoto end of the lens, the aperture is either f/4.2 or f/7.1.
Picture Quality**/ Size Options
**This digital camera has more image size options than most models – by far. Pictures can be taken in three formats, the standard 4:3, the 4 x 6-inch print-optimized 3:2, and the widescreen-friendly 16:9. There are choices for each of these options.
All of these are offered in JPEG Fine and Standard compression. The aspect ratio, image size, and compression can all be easily found near the top of the recording menu.
**Picture Effects Mode
**The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 has some color effects in the recording menu: Cool, Warm, Black & White and Sepia. The black & white mode appears to involve gray tones and the sepia mode looks more orange than brown. There are live views to see all of these interesting color effects, but there are no live views for the more subtle picture adjustments. Natural, standard and vivid options are available, but it is harder to see their effects when entering and exiting the menu so much to change them.
Connectivity / Extras
***Flip Animation Mode – *This feature is buried within the recording menu, which is too bad. It should have its own position on the mode dial or at least be placed somewhere a little less inconspicuous. With this mode, users can snap up to 100 shots and play the pictures back at speeds of 5 or 10 frames per second. This unique mode isn’t made for top-quality films or great image quality, but it would definitely keep the kids busy on a Saturday afternoon.
*Panasonic includes a fat portfolio of software with the TZ1. The CD-ROM has ArcSoft PhotoImpression, PanoramaMaker and PhotoBase programs as well as Lumix Simple Viewer and Photo Fun Studio software.
*Jacks, Ports, Plugs
*A port door sits on the left side of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1. Beneath this plastic hinged door are two jacks – one for a power adaptor and the other for USB / A/V cables. The A/V function can be optimized for European or American standards with the NTSC and PAL options in the setup menu.
*Direct Print Options
*The Panasonic TZ1 does not have a designated button for printing, but does have PictBridge compatibility and a DPOF setting that lets users choose which pictures to print and how many copies to make of each. The actual command to print can be found in the playback menu.
*The TZ1 has a lithium-ion battery that comes with its own charger. The battery can take about 250 shots per charge, which is average. Many new digital cameras offer 400-500 shots per charge, but there are just as many that go cheap on the power supply and only offer 100-200 shots.
*The memory card is loaded into a slot under the same door as the battery. The Panasonic TZ1 accepts SD and MMC cards, although the MMC media does not support the movie mode. The TZ1 comes with 13.4 MB of internal memory. This isn’t much as it only saves four full-resolution images.
**The Panasonic Lumix TZ1 is priced fairly at $349. When considering manual control and image flexibility, it isn’t a steal, but for an optically stabilized Leica-approved 10x zoom lens in a pocketable frame, it is extremely affordable. The TZ1 is positioned in its own little niche of the digital camera market; there are no other point-and-shoot-styled cameras that offer double-digit optical zoom with image stabilization. Because of this, the Panasonic TZ1 is setting the standard with its price point. So for the combo of skinny camera and long zoom lens, the TZ1 is it. However, if consumers are looking for an expansive focal range but don’t care about the flat, compact surfaces, there are plenty of other models that have such features with more manual control for a competitive price.
**Who It’s For
***Point-and-Shooters –* Beginners will appreciate the less intimidating look of the TZ1 with its few on-camera buttons. They will also appreciate an easy to use camera that has 10x optical zoom.
*Budget Consumers – *The Panasonic TZ1 is fairly priced, but isn’t an amazing deal. Budget consumers may want to pick the TZ1 up only after their local electronics store has a sale, there’s a rebate available and they’ve got a coupon.
Gadget Freaks – These consumers certainly won’t be attracted by the TZ1’s looks but will enjoy the flip animation mode – if they can find it.
Manual Control Freaks – These consumers will shun the TZ1 because of its lack of manual control altogether. The TZ1 keeps things simple and takes over most control opportunities.
Pros / Serious Hobbyists – With its lack of manual control and hardly any on-camera buttons, these consumers probably won’t even know if the TZ1 is a camera or a camera phone.
**The Panasonic Lumix TZ1 is an inch and a half thick and has a Leica-approved 10x optical zoom lens that folds into the camera body when powered down. The folded optics is just one solution that manufacturers have tried in order to tack more zoom onto smaller digital cameras. The Nikon S4 is thin and gets 10x optical zoom by a strange flipping lens mechanism. The Kodak V570 uses dual lenses to achieve 5x optical zoom in a body almost half the thickness of the TZ1. Panasonic’s zoom lens works quickly and quietly and even works in both still and movie recording modes. This versatility will be a plus for point-and-shooters who are just looking for some decent zoom on an easy to use interface. The 5 megapixel TZ1 has a 2.5-inch LCD screen with a hyped High Angle mode. Panasonic claims that this is the first digital camera with a High Angle LCD mode. This may be true, but most manufacturers include wide viewing angles on LCD screens all the time instead of designating it as a function only available when activated. The other gimmick on the TZ1 is its highly marketed high sensitivity mode that uses optical image stabilization with high ISOs to reduce blur in images captured in low light. Sounds great – except for the fact that the resolution is greatly reduced in this mode and image noise is abundant. Overall, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 has great features for point-and-shooters who want the combo of a fairly flat and compact camera body with a fully functional 10x optically stabilized zoom lens.
Meet the tester
Emily Raymond is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.
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