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
Build and handling
The TZ30’s plastic body is virtually identical to that of its predecessor and is solid. There is a silver top panel offset by a main section that is available in black, silver, red or pearl. The TZ30 measures 104.9×58.9×28.2mm, and is just 25mm at its thinnest point.
Touchscreen operation adds another dimension to the camera’s handling. The user can touch anywhere on the back of the screen to focus and then fire the shutter.Those with stubby fingers may struggle a little with the touch menu on the side, but touch shutter is responsive. The screen is a little duller than equivalent units that are not touch sensitive, and requires a good clean to remove finger smudges for clear viewing, especially in bright sunlight.
The camera does not rely solely on the touchscreen, as there are buttons on the body, including a D-pad and quick menu access. One advantage the touchscreen has over using the buttons is the quicker zoom control between the extreme focal-length settings. Having used the camera in various situations, I found that the extra focal length in the TZ30 offers limited benefit over the 16x zoom in the TZ20.
Manual-exposure control is possible, with f/3.3-8 available at 24mm and f/6.4-8 at 480mm. Due to the 5.62x crop factor, there is less control over depth of field with a compact camera such as this. The camera lacks an exposure dial, with aperture and shutter speed instead controlled through
the exposure/map button and then the D-pad, from where exposure compensation can be dialled in.
Image stabilisation is much improved, and even at telephoto focal lengths speeds of 1/15sec are possible for blur-free, handheld results. Crucially, slower shutter speeds allow for lower ISO ratings. This is key for a camera with a compact imaging sensor, where the image quality quickly degrades
as the ISO rating increases.
The GPS maps are particularly fun to use, but the TZ30’s already modest battery life is further compromised when the function is on.