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DCRP Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: April 7, 2007
Last Updated: February 13, 2008
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 ($350) is the follow-up to the popular TZ1, a camera that I enjoyed so much, that I bought one as a gift for my dad. That camera offered a big 10X zoom, optical image stabilization, super fast performance, and decent photo quality in a compact body. It wasn't perfect, but it was definitely the best compact ultra zoom on the market.
Earlier this year Panasonic announced the TZ3, and it brought with it a host of improvements. They include:
That's not too shabby, eh? And while it's not sold in the USA, I should mention the TZ3's little brother, the Lumix DMC-TZ2. It's the same camera, but with a lower resolution CCD, smaller LCD, and better battery life.
Oh, and one more thing before we go on. The TZ3 has a much higher resolution CCD than its effective pixel count would let you believe (8.5 total MP, 7.2 effective MP). This lets you shoot at 28 mm, regardless of what the aspect ratio is. Contrast this with cameras like the DMC-LX2, where the focal length was different with each aspect ratio.
Okay, enough blabbing on my part -- let's start the review of the DMC-TZ3 now!
What's in the Box?
The DMC-TZ3 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
Like the TZ1 before it, the Lumix DMC-TZ3 has a tiny amount of memory built into the camera -- 12.7MB to be exact. That's basically nothing, so you'll want to buy a memory card right away. The TZ3 supports SD, MMC, and the new SDHC memory cards, and I recommend a 1GB card as a good starter size. It's worth buying a high speed card (rated at 10MB/sec or above) as well, as the camera takes advantage of them.
The DMC-TZ3 uses the same CGA-S007 lithium-ion rechargeable battery as its predecessor. Despite having a larger LCD, Panasonic actually managed to improve the TZ3's battery life compared to the TZ1. Here are their battery life numbers, as well as some from the competition:
A couple of observations to make about battery life. First, The TZ3's numbers are about 8% better than the TZ1's, despite the former's power-hungry LCD. In the compact ultra zoom category, the TZ3's battery life is well above average. If you add in midsize models, it falls below average, though buying one of those sort of defeats the purpose of having a compact ultra zoom.
The usual caveats about proprietary batteries apply here. First, they're really expensive -- an extra CGA-S007 battery will set you back at least $30. Secondly, if you're ever in a jam, you can't just pop in some off-the-shelf batteries to get you through the day like you could on an AA-based camera.
When it's time to charge the battery, just place it into the included external charger. It takes about two hours to fully charge the CGA-S007 battery. I should add that this is my favorite type of charger -- it plugs directly into the wall.
One of the minor annoyances on the TZ1 was its clumsy lens cap. Well, those days are over, as Panasonic has added a built-in lens cover to the TZ3. Yay!
The TZ3's monstrous underwater case; Image courtesy of Panasonic
There aren't too many accessories available for this point-and-shoot camera. Probably the most interesting is the DMW-MCTZ3 underwater case ($220), which lets you take the TZ3 up to 40 meters underwater. To power the camera without draining your battery you can pick up the DMW-AC5 AC adapter (priced at a whopping $70). Last, but not least, we have two camera cases: the DMW-CT3 leather case (around $45), and the DMW-CHTZ3 semi-hard case ($14).
Lumix Simple Viewer for Windows
Panasonic includes several software products with the camera, though only one of them is Mac compatible. The first one is Lumix Simple Viewer, which does just what it sounds like: it imports and views photos (including via slideshows). You can't do any editing -- just rotation, printing, and e-mailing.
PhotoFunStudio for Windows
There's also PhotoFunStudio, though to be honest, it doesn't do a whole lot more than Simple Viewer. There still no real editing functions. For that, you'll need...
ArcSoft PhotoImpression for Mac
... ArcSoft PhotoImpression! While it has a rather quirky interface, this software can do just about everything -- and it works with Macs. You can edit photos (adjusting color/sharpness/lighting), reduce redeye, design creative projects (making calendars, photo books, etc), and more.
ArcSoft PanoramaMaker for Mac
Another piece of the ArcSoft suite is PanoramaMaker, which helps you combine photos that you've taken side-by-side into a single panorama. It's easy to use, and the results can be really impressive. Just a tip for those of you interested in panoramic shooting: bring a tripod.
Word must have gotten out that I haven't cared for Panasonic's camera manuals, as the one that comes with the TZ3 is vastly improved over previous books. While there's still a lot of fine print and big ugly tables, the overall style of the manual is more user-friendly.
Look and Feel
From the front, the DMC-TZ3 looks like a sleeker version of its predecessor. The lens design is different (obviously), but the overall shape is quite similar. Only when you look at the back will you see the big difference: the LCD display.
The TZ3 is made almost entirely of metal, and it feels quite solid in the hands. There are a few cheap plastic parts, namely the battery/memory card slot cover and the tripod mount. A lot of cameras with huge LCDs have nowhere to put your thumb (except for on the screen), but you'll have no such problem on the TZ3, as there's a thumb rest available to the upper-right of the display. On the whole ergonomics were quite good, with my only "beef" being that my thumb sometimes bumped the exposure compensation button accidentally.
|Images courtesy of Panasonic|
It seems like everybody has to offer their camera in at least one color, and Panasonic is no exception. You can find the TZ3 in silver, black, or blue.
Alrighty, now let's take a look at how the TZ3 compares to other ultra zooms in terms of size and weight:
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
Canon PowerShot S3 IS
4.6 x 3.1 x 3.0 in.
42.8 cu in.
410 g Canon PowerShot TX1
3.5 x 2.4 x 1.1 in.
9.2 cu in.
221 g Casio Exilim EX-V7
3.8 x 2.4 x 1.0 in.
9.1 cu in.
150 g Fujifilm FinePix S700
4.2 x 3.0 x 3.2 in.
40.3 cu in.
306 g Kodak EasyShare V610
4.4 x 2.2 x 0.9 in.
8.7 cu in.
160 g Nikon Coolpix S10
4.4 x 2.9 x 1.6 in.
20.4 cu in.
220 g Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8
4.4 x 2.8 x 3.1 in.
38.2 cu in.
310 g Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1
4.4 x 2.3 x 1.6 in.
16.2 cu in.
234 g Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3
4.2 x 2.4 x 1.5 in.
15.1 cu in.
232 g Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H7
4.3 x 3.3 x 3.4 in.
48.2 cu in.