If you’ve ever owned a digicam you quickly come to realise that a long zoom lens is highly desirable – a ‘can’t do without’. Additionally, a long zoom lens that is optically stabilised, instead of digitally steadied, is the only way to head for maximum picture quality.
The Panasonic Lumix TZ1 answers both requirements. Its optically stabilised 10x Leica DC Vario-Elmarit optical zoom equates to a lengthy 35mm SLR focal range equivalent of 35-350 mm. The company describes it as ‘The World’s Smallest 10x Optical Zoom Digital Camera’? and, as an easily pocketable handful of 262 grams (with battery and card loaded), there’s no argument.
A long zoom lens is attractive but the surprise comes when you actually see how tiny the camera is in the flesh. .
The camera is simple to operate but, for the more demanding snapper, there is no provision for lens aperture or shutter tweaking, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for digital shooting smarts.
However the TZ1 is not a slacker when it comes to getting going: two seconds after power is turned on you can shoot the first shot; follow-on shots can be pulled in at about a second apart.
In some ways you could regard the TZ1 as a multi-purpose camera and its burst shooting mode supports this: you could conceivably shoot maximum size images at a continual three frames-per-second and keep shooting until the memory card is full. Another benefit is that you can now zoom while shooting a run of pictures in burst mode.
Another plus is that the camera operates quietly, with the noise of the zoom motor now much reduced.
Recognised as one of the best around, the image stabiliser system has two modes: mode 1 operates continuously; mode 2 compensates for camera shake only when the shutter button is pressed.
With the TZ1’s 5.0 megapixel picture capacity, expect to output sharp 29 x 22 cm prints. It will also shoot full frame 4:3 and 16:9 ratio movies at 30 fps.
A high ISO speed of 1600 can be accessed for ultra, ultra low-light shooting.
The camera has a unique feature in that the 6.4 cm LCD screen’s brightness can be increased by 40 percent and a special High Angle mode brightens the image further to help outside viewing.
For the raw novice the 18 scene modes (night portraits, party shots, fireworks etc) will make your shooting life easier. One of these modes will also be useful to underwater photographers; with the camera housed in an underwater marine casing this UW feature will restore natural colour to the shots.
The zoom lens’ performance is admirable, with no sign of barrel or pincushion distortion. A good result.
Image quality is on a par with cameras at a much higher ticket price and, if you can wrangle a deal at less than $600, you’ve got a great buy.
For such a small camera the lens range and image quality is a big appeal.