Panasonic’s latest top-end travel compact features a Leica lens with 20x optical zoom, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Tim Coleman investigates what is below the surface
Images: The TZ30’s 20x optical zoom enables a tight crop of the statue. Left: 480mm, right: 24mm
Cameras at this level are announced so frequently that there is often little to choose between one model and its replacement. That cannot be said of the TZ30, though, as there are significant improvements in several areas over its TZ20 predecessor.
One of the more eye-catching changes is the new Leica lens. While the 16x zoom in the TZ20 is great for a wide range of uses, the 20x zoom of the TZ30 provides an even greater reach. It is equivalent to a 24-480mm range (4.3-86mm with 5.62x crop factor), and offers a 2x digital zoom, which extends the range to 960mm. Flare is reduced via the use of Panasonic’s Nano Surface Coating technology.
Crucially, the optical image stabilisation (Power OIS) has been improved. Without good stabilisation, handheld shots taken at telephoto focal lengths are mostly unusable, so it will be interesting to see how it performs.
Like the TZ20, the TZ30 has a touchscreen through which the zoom and shutter release can be operated. The display and handling are similar to the company’s Lumix G-series touchscreen models.
Another feature handed down from the G series is ‘light-speed’ focus, which has a claimed focus speed of 0.1sec. This is fast for any camera, let alone a pocket-sized compact. Whether this possible for all conditions is another matter.
The 1/2.33in (6.16×4.62mm) sensor of the TZ30 has the same 14.1-million-pixel output as the TZ20. However, the sensor has been redesigned and is claimed to have a 65% reduction in its signal-to-noise ratio. This type of noise is added by the camera’s electronics and is typically noticeable in shadow areas. Furthermore, the new Venus Engine is claimed to give improved noise reduction. Perhaps it is through these improvements that Panasonic feels confident enough to extend the ISO range by 1EV to a maximum ISO 3200.
Shooting modes include intelligent auto (iA), HDR, panorama shot and 3D. The 3D mode is recorded at the widest focal length and at the most open aperture of f/3.3, and by panning the horizontally.
Marketed as it is for travel, the TZ30’s GPS function has been developed. A disc is included with the camera containing 1:25,000-scale maps of 90 countries. Once loaded to the memory card, a mapping feature can plot the route taken by the photographer, along with place names and landmarks.