printer-friendly reviews are for non-commercial use only
DCRP Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: June 12, 2006
Last Updated: February 13, 2008
If you want a camera with a lot of zoom power, but are frustrated with the bulk of a typical ultra zoom then the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 ($349) may be for you. The TZ1 packs a 10X optical zoom lens (with image stabilization) into a body the size of your typical compact camera. You'll also get a 5 Megapixel CCD, 2.5" LCD display, infinite continuous shooting mode, and a widescreen movie mode.
The TZ1 joins the DMC-FZ7 and FZ30 in Panasonic's 2006 ultra zoom lineup. If you're a bit confused about the differences between the models, this chart should be helpful:
Hopefully that helped a few people out there!
Ready to learn more about the TZ1? Our review starts now!
What's in the Box?
The DMC-TZ1 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
The DMC-TZ1 is the first Panasonic ultra zoom to have built-in memory instead of a bundled memory card. The camera has just 13.4MB of memory built in, which holds a measly four photos at the highest quality setting. That means that you'll want to get a memory card right away. The TZ1 uses Secure Digital cards, and I'd say that a 256MB or 512MB card is a good starter size. High speed cards are worth the extra bucks on Panasonic cameras, but you don't need to go overboard and buy a 150X card -- 50X has worked fine for me.
The TZ1 uses the new CGA-S007A lithium-ion rechargeable battery. This surprisingly small battery has just 3.7 Wh of energy inside, which isn't much. Here's how that translates into battery life:
The TZ1 turns in below average battery life numbers for an ultra zoom, with only one camera doing (much) worse. With that in mind, it's a very good idea to buy a spare battery. Be warned though, an extra battery will set you back about $50, though third party models are available for less. It's also worth mentioning that unlike cameras that use AA batteries, you can't use off-the-shelf batteries when your rechargeables dies.
When it's time to charge the battery, just snap it into the included charger. The charger plugs right into the wall -- no power cord is needed (though this may not be the case outside of the USA). It takes almost three hours to fully charge the CGR-S007 battery.
Panasonic includes a plastic lens cap and retaining strap to cover the TZ1's zoom lens.
Unlike the FZ-series cameras, there aren't too many accessories available for the DMC-TZ1. The most interesting one is the DMW-MCTZ1 underwater case (around $270), which lets you take the camera up to 40 meters underwater. The only other products available include an AC adapter (which costs a whopping $70), a soft leather case ($30), and a semi-hard case ($17).
It's worth mentioning that Panasonic's accessories tend hard to find here in the US.
PhotoImpression 5 for Mac OS X
Panasonic includes ArcSoft's camera suite with the DMC-TZ1. This suite includes PhotoImpression 5, PhotoBase, and Panorama Maker for both Mac and Windows. PhotoImpression (shown above) lets you view, enhance, and share images, all with a really slick interface. You can also use it to create PhotoBooks and Calendars. PhotoBase is a very basic photo organizer, while Panorama Maker does exactly as it sounds -- combines photos into panoramas.
Lumix Simple Viewer for Windows
Windows users get two additional products on the software CD. Lumix Simple Viewer (shown above) does just what it sounds like: it imports and views photos. You can't do any editing -- just rotation, printing, and e-mailing.
PhotoFunStudio for Windows
For slightly more complex tasks there's PhotoFunStudio (which is, again, for Windows only). This can do all the things Simple Viewer can do, with a few more bells and whistles like batch processing.
I'm not a huge fan of the manuals included with Panasonic cameras. Though they're complete, they're not user friendly at all.
Look and Feel
The DMC-TZ1 is a midsize camera that's smaller than nearly every ultra zoom camera on the market (save for the Kodak V610). The camera is made almost entirely of metal, and it feels very solid in your hands. Speaking of which, the camera is easy to hold an operate with just one hand. The important controls are well-placed.
|Images courtesy of Panasonic|
Like so many cameras these days, the TZ1 comes in multiple colors. It comes in silver, black, and I've seen a blue one as well (though I'm not sure if it's sold here in the States).
Let's take a look at how the TZ1 compares to other cameras in its class:
If the Kodak EasyShare V610 didn't exist then the TZ1 would be the smallest ultra zoom camera in the world. Unfortunately for Panasonic's marketing department, the V610 does indeed exist, though it's worth pointing out that it uses two lenses instead of one and lacks an image stabilizer.
That said, the TZ1 is still very small for an ultra zoom. It won't fit in your jeans pocket, but it will go into a jacket pocket with ease.
Enough chit chit -- let's start our tour of the DMC-TZ1 now!
The DMC-TZ1 is Panasonic's first ultra zoom camera to use a "folded optics" lens (see cutaway). Light coming through the front of the lens hits a prism and takes a left turn, where it goes through the rest of the lens elements, eventually hitting the CCD. Since the majority of the lens elements are going along the width of the body, the camera is able to stay slim and trim.
The lens here is an F2.8-4.2, 10X zoom lens with a Leica label. Yes, it's a little slower than Panasonic's other ultra zoom lenses, but it's one of the tradeoffs that comes with a camera like this. The focal range of the lens is 5.2 - 52 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 350 mm. The lens is not threaded.
Buried deep within the lens is Panasonic's "MEGA OIS" optical image stabilizer. If you've got a non-stabilized ultra zoom camera then you know the problem: blurry telephoto shots, caused by tiny movements of your hands. Sensors in the TZ1 detect this shake, and a lens element is moved to compensate for it. Thus, you can get away with sharper photos at shutter speeds that would be blurry on non-stabilized cameras. OIS systems give you a few extra stops of shutter speed flexibility, but don't expect them to stop a moving subject or produce a sharp photo with a 1 second exposure time.
Want to see how well the system works? I have two examples:
|Stabilization On (Mode 2)||Stabilization Off|
This turned out to be a rather extreme example... guess I had too much caffeine before I took these. Both shots were taken with a shutter speed of 1/8 second, and the difference is more than obvious. If you want more evidence, then check out this sample movie.
To the upper-left of the lens is the built-in flash. The flash here isn't terribly strong, with a working range of 0.3 - 3.7 m at wide-angle and 1.0 - 2.4 m at telephoto (both at Auto ISO). The flashes on Panasonic's other ultra zooms are twice as powerful, but ten again, they're bigger cameras. You cannot attach an external flash to the TZ1.
At the far right of the photo you'll find the AF-assist lamp, which is also used as a visual countdown for the self-timer. The AF-assist lamp is used as a focusing aid in low light situations.
The back of the TZ1 is actually pretty sparse. The main thing here is the large 2.5" LCD display, which takes up most of the real estate. The screen has 207,000 pixels, so it's nice and sharp. Outdoor visibility was about average in "normal" mode, and better than average if you use the Power LCD feature (described below). Low light visibility was excellent, as the screen "gains up" automatically, so you can still see your subject.
As you can probably tell, there's no viewfinder (optical or electronic) on the TZ1. Whether that is a problem sort of depends on if you actually use the thing. Some people like'em, others could care less -- so it's up to you.
To the right of the LCD is the Display/LCD mode button. Press it quickly and you'll toggle the information shown on the screen. Hold it down and you can activate two LCD modes: Power LCD and High Angle. Power LCD cranks up the brightness so the screen is more visibility in bright light. The High Angle feature allows the screen to be visible while you're holding the camera above you. I'm not sure how it works, but it does.
To the lower-right of the Display button is the four-way controller, which is used for menu navigation as well as:
I want to talk about those options that appear when you press the "up" button on the four-way controller. Backlight compensation is something you can toggle on and off while in "simple mode" -- use it if your subject has a bright light source behind them. Exposure compensation is the usual -2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments like on every camera. Auto bracketing takes three shots in a row with each shot having a different exposure. You can choose from ±0.3EV, ±0.6EV or ±1.0EV increments. White balance fine-tuning lets you adjust the preset or custom WB that you've selected in the red or blue direction, with a total range of ±10 (in 1-step increments).
The last thing to see on the back of the TZ1 is the Burst mode / Delete photo button. This activates the camera's excellent continuous shooting modes, of which there are three: low speed, high speed, and infinite. At the low speed setting, the TZ1 took three shots in a row (at the highest quality setting) at 2 frames/second. At the high speed setting the camera also took three shots in a row, this time at 3 frames/second. The infinite mode will keep shooting at 2 frames/second until the memory card fills up. Do note that you need a high speed card (50X or higher) in order to use this feature. It's worth mentioning that the LCD keeps up with the action fairly well.
There's plenty more to see on the top of the DMC-TZ1. Toward the left side of the photo are the microphone and speaker. To the right of those is the mode dial, which has the following options:
As you can see, the TZ1 is a point-and-shoot camera -- there are no manual exposure controls available.
Before we go on, I want to mention the scene modes. First, why are there two scene mode spots on the mode dial? It's simple: each spot remembers your favorite scene mode so you can easily get to them. The starry sky scene lets you choose a shutter speed of 15, 30, or 60 seconds -- you can use the night scenery mode for shorter long exposures (I know that sounds weird). The baby mode lets you select the birthday of two babies, and their current age will be saved in the EXIF headers of the photos you take in this mode.
The high sensitivity mode boosts the ISO to between 800 and 1600, and the results aren't pretty. I would probably avoid using this feature altogether.
To the right of the mode dial is the zoom controller, which is wrapped around the shutter release button. The controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about 2.6 seconds. I counted well over thirty stops in the 10X zoom range.
Next up we have the power switch, with the OIS button above that. There are two modes for the OIS system: Mode 1 and Mode 2. In Mode 1 the system activates as soon as you halfway press the shutter release, which makes it easier to compose your photo. In Mode 2, the OIS system doesn't activate until the photo is actually taken, which is more effective at stopping blur than Mode 1. You can also turn the whole thing off, which is advisable while using a tripod.
On this side of the TZ1 you'll find the I/O ports for USB + A/V out (one port for both) as well as DC-in (for optional AC adapter). The ports are covered by a fairly sturdy plastic door. Unfortunately, the TZ1 doesn't support the USB 2.0 High Speed standard -- only the slow "Full Speed" version is supported.
Nothing to see over here! This is the lens at the full telephoto position, by the way. As you can tell, it hardly sticks out of the body.
We end our tour with a look at the bottom of the camera. Here you'll find a plastic tripod mount as well as the battery/memory card compartment. The battery/memory compartment is protected by a plastic door (with a lock) of average quality. You should be able to swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod.
The included CGA-S007 battery is shown at right.
Using the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1
It takes just one second for the TZ1 to "warm up" before you can start taking pictures. That's one of the perks of having a lens that doesn't need to extend!
There's a live histogram in record mode
Like Panasonic's other recent cameras, autofocus speeds were very snappy, especially when the high speed modes (described below) are used. If you use the "regular speed" focus modes, you can expect to wait between 0.2 and 0.4 seconds for the camera to lock focus, with slightly longer delays at the telephoto end of the lens. The high speed AF modes basically cut those numbers in half. Low light focusing was excellent.
I did not find shutter lag to be a problem, even at the slower shutter speeds where it sometimes occurs.
Shot-to-shot speeds were excellent, with typical delays of about one second.
To delete a photo after it is taken you must first enter Review mode by pressing down on the four-way controller. At that point you can remove the photo by pressing the delete photo button.
Now, here's a look at the resolution and quality choices on the TZ1:
Now you know why it's a smart idea to buy a memory card right away.
The TZ1 does not support the RAW or TIFF image formats.
It's also worth mentioning that if you use any image size except for the highest one that you get a little more zoom power. This feature, called Extended Optical Zoom (explained in my FZ30 review), can boost the total zoom as high as 12.5X without any reduction in image quality. The catch is that you have to be using a resolution of 3MP or lower, which limits what size prints you can make.
The camera saves images with a name of PXXXYYYY.JPG, where X = 100-999 and Y = 0001 = 9999. The camera will maintain the file numbering, even as you erase and switch memory cards.
There are two menu systems on the TZ1. One is used only in "simple mode" and it's quite stripped down (to say the least). The other is the menu you're used to seeing on Panasonic's other cameras. Here's what's in the simple menu:
And that's it!
And now, here's what options are available in the full record mode menu:
The TZ1 has several autofocus modes, including two high speed options. The catch with the high speed modes is that the image on the LCD freezes briefly while the camera is focusing.
The flip animation feature lets you take up to 100 shots in a row and then throw them together into a 320 x 240 movie up to 20 seconds long. You can choose from a frame rate of 5 or 10 frames/second. This feature can be used for making "stop motion" animation.
There's also a setup menu, which is accessed from the record or playback menu. The items here include:
Well that's enough menus for one day, so let's move on now to our photo tests!
The DMC-TZ1 did a very nice job with our usual macro test shot. The subject is very sharp (not to mention a little grainy) and the colors look good. The TZ1's custom white balance mode handled my studio lamps with ease.
You can get as close to your subject as 5 cm at wide-angle and 1 m at the telephoto end in macro mode on the TZ1.
First, I must apologize for how crooked the original image turned out -- my tripod broke that night. That said, the TZ1 performed well with the night scene, taking in plenty of light (using the night scenery mode). The buildings are sharp, noise levels are reasonable, and purple fringing was fairly well controlled.
Since I can't control the shutter speed I don't have a night ISO test for you. I do, however, have one that I took in the studio later in the review.
Ahh, redeye. Compact cameras tend to have their share of this annoyance, and the TZ1 is no exception. While your results may vary, more than likely you'll have to deal with this at least occasionally.
There's very mild barrel distortion at the wide end of the TZ1's 10X zoom lens. While the test chart shows some vignetting (dark corners), I did not find this to be a problem in real world photos. Something else that wasn't a problem was corner softness.
Okay, now it's time for the ISO test. The test scene you see above is taken here in my studio, and it's comparable between cameras. You can view the crops below for quick comparisons, but you should definitely look at the full size images as well if you're interested in taking high ISO shots on the TZ1. Do note that I did not test the ISO 1600 setting here.
Noise levels look pretty clean through ISO 200. At ISO 400, details start to get washed out and muddy. Still, you should be able to make a 4 x 6 inch print at that setting, especially after a trip through something like NeatImage. The ISO 800 shot is pretty muddy, and even small prints will be mediocre.
Overall, the image quality on the DMC-TZ1 is very good. Photos were well exposed, with pleasing colors and sharpness. Purple fringing, which is often a problem on ultra zoom cameras, was well controlled here. Noise levels are a bit higher than I would've liked, though. Not horrible by any means, but higher than they should be on a 5 Megapixel camera. When shooting I'd try to keep the ISO at 200 or lower if you'll be making larger-sized prints, with the option to go up to ISO 400 if you know your prints will be on the small side.
Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look at our photo gallery, printing the photos if you can, and then decide if the TZ1's photo quality meets your expectations.
The TZ1 has a very good movie mode. There are two high resolutions to choose from: a "normal" 640 x 480 setting, plus a widescreen (16:9) 848 x 480 setting too. Regardless of what resolution you choose, you can keep recording at 30 frames/second until the memory card is full. Sound is recorded as well.
You cannot record at the two highest resolutions to the built-in memory -- a memory card (preferably high speed) is required. A 1GB SD card holds about ten minutes of video at the highest quality settings. For longer movies you can cut the resolution to 320 x 240, or the frame rate to 10 fps (which is not a good idea).
The DMC-TZ1 is one of the few cameras that lets you zoom while recording a movie. The lens moves slowly, so the motor noise isn't picked up by the microphone. The optical image stabilizer is active as well.
Movies are saved in QuickTime format, using the M-JPEG codec. A capture of the first frame of the movie is saved as JPEG along with the video clip.
Here's a widescreen (!) sample movie for your enjoyment:
Click to play movie (16 MB, 848 x 480, 30 fps, QuickTime format)
Can't play it? Download QuickTime.
The DMC-TZ1 has a pretty standard playback mode. Basic playback options include slide shows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail mode (with up to 25 images per screen!), audio captions (10 seconds), and zoom and scroll. As you'd expect, the camera is PictBridge-enabled for direct printing to a compatible photo printer.
The zoom and scroll feature (my term) allows you to zoom in as much as 16X (in 2X increments) into your photo, and then scroll around. Everything's nice and snappy on the TZ1.
Photos can also be viewed on a calendar, shown above.
The camera lets rotate, resize, and crop your photos in playback mode. You can also change the aspect ratio of a photo to 4:3 or 3:2 (but not 16:9).
One feature that I always appreciate is the TZ1's ability to delete a group of photos, instead of just one or all.
By default, the camera doesn't give you a lot of information about your photos. But press the display button and you'll get more information, including a histogram.
The TZ1 moves through photos quickly, with a delay of about a second between images.
How Does it Compare?
If you want a compact ultra zoom camera then you really only have two choices: the dual lens Kodak EasyShare V610 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 that I reviewed here. Having used both cameras quite a bit, I know which one I prefer -- the TZ1. While it has a few annoyances, it's a good choice for those who value portability over manual controls and expandability. If you want to know what I really think about the TZ1, this statement should sum it up for you: I bought one as a birthday gift for my dad.
The DMC-TZ1 is a midsize camera (though compact for an ultra zoom) made almost entirely of metal. The TZ1 comes in silver, black, and possibly blue bodies. The camera is well put together and can easily be operated with one hand. The camera's folded optics lens design allows the camera to stay slim -- the lens barely extends out of the body at the telephoto setting. While it's not as fast or as powerful as the zoom lenses on Panasonic's FZ-series cameras, the TZ1's 10X zoom range is more than enough for most people. Like Panasonic's other cameras, the TZ1 has an optical image stabilization feature which helps reduce the annoying effects of "camera shake". The camera has a big, bright 2.5" LCD display that's visible in low light situations. There's also a handy "high angle" feature for when you're holding the camera above your head. It's worth noting that there's no viewfinder of any kind (optical or electronic) on the TZ1.
The TZ1 is a point-and-shoot camera, with the only manual control being for white balance. The camera has plenty of scene modes, from the useful (night scenery) to the not-so-useful (baby mode). If you're really just starting out with digital cameras then the ultra easy-to-use Simple mode may be for you. The TZ1 has an especially nice movie mode, with the ability to record at two resolutions (848 x 480 or 640 x 480) at 30 frames/second (with sound, of course) with the ability to use the optical zoom while filming.
Camera performance was excellent. The TZ1 starts up in a second, focuses very quickly (especially if you're using the high speed AF modes), and there's no shutter lag to speak of. Low light focusing was very good, thanks to the camera's AF-assist lamp. If you've got a high speed SD card then you'll be able to take full advantage of the TZ1's great continuous shooting mode, which lets you shoot indefinitely at 2 frames/second. The one downer in the performance department is battery life: the expensive CGA-S007 battery lasts for 250 shots, which is below average these days.
Photo quality was very good in most respects. The TZ1 took well exposed photos with accurate colors and pleasing sharpness. Purple fringing was well controlled. My only real image quality complaints are with regard to noise and redeye. As has been the case for most recent Panasonic cameras, noise levels are a bit higher than average. The photos are still printable at large sizes through ISO 200, and at smaller sizes at ISO 400. Above that, detail goes downhill rapidly, which is why I'd avoid both ISO 800 and the high sensitivity mode. Being a compact camera, it's not too surprising that redeye was a problem as well.
There are a few other things worth mentioning. There's very little built-in memory on the TZ1 -- just 13.5MB. The camera doesn't support the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, so transferring photos and movies will be sluggish. The flash is on the weak side when compared to other ultra zoom cameras, as well. Finally, I'm not a big fan of plastic tripod mounts like the one on the TZ1.
All-in-all, I liked the DMC-TZ1 quite a bit -- despite its flaws. If you want an ultra zoom camera that isn't a burden to carry around then the TZ1 should be high on your list.
What I liked:
What I didn't care for:
Some other ultra zoom cameras to consider include the Canon PowerShot S3 IS, Fuji FinePix S5200 and S9000, Kodak EasyShare P850, V610 (the only other compact ultra zoom), and Z612, Nikon Coolpix S4, Olympus SP-500 Ultra Zoom, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H2 and DSC-H5.
As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the DMC-TZ1 and its competitors before you buy!
Want to see how the photo quality turned on? Check out our photo gallery!
Want a second opinion?
Read other reviews at CNET Asia and Megapixel.net.
Feedback & Discussion
If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation or technical support.
To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.
Home | News | Digital Camera Reviews & Info | Forums | Buyers Guide | Shopping | FAQ | About | Advertising
All content © 1997
- 2012 Digital Camera Resource Page LLC (R)
All trademarks are property of their respective owners.