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  1. #1

    Aptmunich's Avatar
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    My Holiday Gift review Part 1: Panasonic TZ-3
    In a new series of posts, I've decided to share my thoughts on some of the gifts I've bought for the holidays, in case anyone here is considering them as well!

    To start things off, I'll be taking a look at the Panasonic Lumix TZ-3 digital camera.
    The TZ3 is a present for... me! So I shouldn't actually have it yet But seeing as how it would be a shame to miss all the great scenery in the run-up to christmas, I've declared it an "early christmas present".

    Pre-purchase research:
    I spent quite a while researching cameras before opting for the TZ3. Standout features that I considered decisive are:
    - The 10x zoom
    - 28mm wide-angle
    - Pocketable compact form factor
    - Decent overall image quality
    - Affordable price



    Image quality:
    The overall image quality is very good. It's no DSLR, but even quick snapshots look quite impressive. A lot of fuss is made about the aggressive noise reduction that the Venus III chip in this camera uses. However, in most shots, it's not an issue at all - unless you like looking at 100% crops of your pics.

    The optical image stabilization works very well and really makes the 10x zoom useful, even without a tripod. If you need a bit of extra zoom, you can also reduce the resolution to 3 megapixels, which will give you some additional (non digital) zoom.

    Speed:
    Startup time is great, almost as quick as snapping open the lens on my K750i cameraphone, so I'm not worried about missing shots while waiting for the camera starting up. The TZ3 is usually very quick to focus, but occasionally hunts a bit at 10x. The flash recycle time seems fairly good as well, though I've only taken a few flash snapshots so far.


    Controls:
    All the controls and menus feel really well thought out, and there's nothing on this camera that is hard to get to, unlike the controls on some other digital cameras. I think this a point that's often overlooked on cameras and mobile phones: A good menu system can make the entire package that much more enjoyable.

    There are no manual controls on the TZ3, and I think that's the only feature that I might miss at some point.


    Mac-compatibility:
    - iPhoto recognizes the camera fine and imports the images and metadata with no problems.
    - The movies can also be editied directly in iMovie 08 without any conversion.
    - For some inexplicable reason, Panasonic decided to make the TZ3 "Full Speed USB" (= 11Mb/s) and not USB 2.0 (up to 480Mb/s). I was planning on using my cheap USB 2.0 card reader instead, however when I pop in the SD card from the camera, it shows up as "not formatted" under OS X. Connecting the USB cable to the camera directly works fine though, and it isn't really that slow at all.
    I'm guessing this is an incompatibility with the Sandisk SD card and the card reader and not with the way the camera formats the card though.


    Build quality:
    Before ordering the TZ3, I was considering the Ricoh R7 as an alternative. But it feels so flimsy and cheap when you actually get it in your hands that I quickly crossed it off the list again (think cheapo plastic Gateway laptop) . The TZ3 on the other hand feels really solidly built (think Macbook Pro solid): Nothing squeaks or creaks, the lens feels very solid and the optical zoom motor purrs along smoothly. The metal controls and huge screen have a very high-value look and feel to them, and the camera feels very good in your hands.
    It is fairly weighty though, so consider that if you'd prefer something very light.


    Extra note: 28mm
    I love the fact that this camera starts at 28mm: Wide angle shots really let you capture a slightly different perspective on things and look great on widescreen computer monitors.


    Overall:

    I'm very pleased with the camera. It's extremely versatile and very capable camera. The lack of manual controls is a bit of a downer on an otherwise splendid package, but for me it's an acceptable compromise.




    Update:
    I almost forgot my favorite feature! Tele-macro mode:
    By setting the dial to "macro" and zooming all the way to 10x, the camera goes into a special "tele macro" mode, that lets you get some very interesting shots with a nice depth of field effect - very cool! Here are two (poor) examples of what I mean:





    Sample shots:

    I haven't really had the time to go out shooting yet, but here are some snaps I took on my way to university yesterday morning:






  2. #2

    RiDE's Avatar
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    Very nice!!!! Great review! I actually just bought this exact same camera 3 weeks ago... I love it! If you haven't already, check out the SCN1 and SCN2 modes, they have a few more settings that make the lack of manual controls even more easy to swallow. Great camera!

  3. #3
    MacHeadCase
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    Thumbs up
    Great idea and a super review, Apt!

  4. #4

    Aptmunich's Avatar
    Member Since
    Mar 09, 2004
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    Aluminium Macbook 2.4 Ghz 4GB RAM, SSD 24" Samsung Display, iPhone 4, iPad 2
    Quote Originally Posted by RIDE View Post
    Very nice!!!! Great review! I actually just bought this exact same camera 3 weeks ago... I love it! If you haven't already, check out the SCN1 and SCN2 modes, they have a few more settings that make the lack of manual controls even more easy to swallow. Great camera!
    Thanks!

    The Scene modes are very useful, and I like the fact that you have two settings, so you can save two favorite scene modes on the dials...
    but there sure are a lot of them! I'm still trying to work out which ones will let me achieve the look I'm going for.

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