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
Image: Panorama shot makes use of the fast burst mode, stitching numerous frames together to create a wide vista
Like the TZ20, the TZ30 reaches 22 on our resolution charts up to ISO 200, as we would expect from a camera of this type that has approximately 14 million pixels. Panasonic’s claims of reduced noise appear to be merited. Although the TZ20 and TZ30 perform similarly up to ISO 400, the TZ30 does better at higher settings. This is because the effects of luminance noise are controlled more effectively in the newer model, with improved image quality at ISO 800 and above. Chroma noise in the form of small yellow blotches is apparent from ISO 800, and in some cases at ISO 200.
Viewing images at 100% shows the quality of detail typical of a camera with this size of sensor. JPEG compression reduces noise, but this results in detail that is smudged and ‘grainy’ at all ISO ratings, and especially so at ISO 800 and above. However, for prints up to 10x8in, the quality of detail is much less noticeable.
Colour modes are limited to standard, vivid, b&w and sepia settings. In standard mode, natural colour rendition is as good as the TZ30’s predecessor. The greens of a landscape are pleasant, while the sky leans towards cyan rather than blue. Those photographers who are fussy about good saturation and the dynamic range of their images would do best to stick to ISO 100 and 200 – any higher and images start to look flat and dull. That said, this is not unusual for a camera at this level.
AF speeds are near instant in high-contrast light, and shutter lag is minimal. In lower-contrast light, the AF assist lamp helps focusing for close-range subjects no end, and a successful focus is achieved after approximately 0.8secs. Offering continuous AF for a 5fps burst is no mean feat, and this worked well when I captured sequences of white-water rafting.