Panasonic seems to be one of the standouts in an otherwise fierce price war currently waged in the digital market. Although a little pricey, the TZ3’s feature list says it all.
Able to capture a 7.2 megapixel JPEG image measuring a maximum 3072×2304 pixels in the 4:3 aspect ratio, the TZ3 can deliver 35×26 cm prints or, if you like to shoot loosely composed pictures and resize them later on, it affords the elbow room to indulge your artistry. And more: the camera offers the option to shoot in 3:2 or 16:9 wide screen ratios as well.
The lens is a Leica DC Vario-Elmar 10x optical zoom, equivalent to a 28-280 mm lens on a 35 SLR. However the maximum lens aperture is f3.3, a little slower than some competitive digicam models, making it less able to shoot in low light.
A 10x zoom is of little use if you can’t hold the camera steady. Panasonic supplies the goodies with its excellent Mega optical image stabiliser that can be called upon on to steady handheld shooting. Even the slightest handshake is detected and compensated for, at a sampling frequency of 4000 times/second. This not only assures sharp zoom and macro shots but also allows shooting in dimly lit rooms or shots taken without a flash.
Backing this up is an intelligent ISO mode which ‘kicks up’ the CCD’s sensitivity to allow the use of faster, less blurry shutter speeds. The only downside to this arrangement is the likelihood of increased visual noise in the picture.
There is no optical viewfinder but the large 7.5 cm LCD screen almost engulfs the camera’s rear and gives a useful shooting view. Helping improve the view is a pair of modes: one gives a bright display if you hold to the camera at a high or a low angle; the other lets you boost the screen’s brightness by 40 per cent if you shoot in sunny outdoors conditions.
A truly novel and useful feature is the camera’s ability to record clipboard info, like map sections or a train timetable; these clips are written to a special section of the internal memory, regardless of the presence of a memory card. Think of it as a digital notepad.
Look ‘n’ feel
Although the stylish stainless steel body houses a powerful, retracting 10x zoom, it is a slim beast, measuring only 37 mm thick, easily pocketable and holdable.
External controls are minimal but more than sufficient for all shooting chores. The top mode dial gives access to normal still shooting but offers full 4:3 or 16:9 ratio screen video capture at 30 fps.
The TZ3 is a real performer with a usefully fast shooting speed that lets you pull in single shots as quickly as you can press the button.
Image quality is as good as I’ve seen in a digicam, with full colour depth and sharpness.
Exceptional feature list helps aim this camera at discriminating photographers.