March 5, 2013

PANASONIC LUMIX DMC-TZ10


Not everyone wants to lug around a large and heavy, feature-rich camera and not everyone wants to settle for a compact camera that drastically cuts down on features. Panasonic seems to have sensed this when it launched the DMC-TZ7 last year. Now, about a year later, they have launched a new overhauled version of the same camera called the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ10.

This camera has got a 14.5 MP CCD, which can shoot at up to 12.1 MP resolution and comes with a powerful optical zoom of 12x. Panasonic also has an optimized digital zoom mode where the camera works to produce better image with digital zoom.

A new and improved image stabilization mechanism known as Power O.I.S. is also present in this camera. Perhaps the feature that instantly sets this camera apart from others is that it contains a GPS receiver to be able to Geo-tag photos and videos using a built-in database of over 5,00,000 landmarks. As is true with most digital cameras today, this one also features HD video recording at 720p with stereo sound. Let us take a look at how this camera actually performs.

Bundle


  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ10
  • Battery
  • USB 2.0 cable
  • A/V cable
  • Battery charger with power cable
  • Wrist strap
  • Manual
  • Software disc
Design and Build




The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ10 is a compact and slim camera with a solid metal body, which feels very strong and sturdy. It is not heavy, so you can easily hold it for shooting for a long time without experiencing fatigue. Since it contains a single flat proprietary battery, the right hand grip is relatively small and comfortable to hold. The camera is made with the right-handed photographer in mind, so almost all functions are located at the right. A wrist strap can be attached to the camera, which is useful for carrying it around.

The TZ10 sports a f/3.3-f/4.9 Leica lens, equivalent to 25-300 mm. This is a 25 mm wide angle lens with an optical zoom of a solid 12x, which is superbly fitted in the small size of the camera. Just to the left (from the front) of the lens, near the top, is the flash. The location of the flash is such that it tends to get covered by your fingers when you try to click a photo. Ideally, the flash should have been placed near the center of the camera. An autofocus sensor is present to the right of the lens as can be seen in the photo. That's about all that is there at the front, now let us take a look at the top.



This camera includes a GPS receiver, which is housed in the small protrusion at the top marked with the letters "GPS". To the left of this protrusion is the PC speaker to play back audio from the recorded contents; while to the right are two small sieves for left and right microphones for stereo recording of audio.

A mode dial is present at the top, just like it used to be in quite a few of older generation cameras. There are several settings in here to take care of all your shooting requirements. One of the modes is Intelligent Auto (iA), which is just like the Auto mode, where you do not have to fiddle with any settings and the camera decides them for you. Then there is the Scene mode, where you can choose from amongst 29 preset scene modes to shoot.




Aperture priority mode allows you to set the aperture from F3.3 to F6.3, while the shutter speed can be set from 1/2000 second to 60 seconds. The 60 second exposure should appeal to those who want to use long exposure photography, such as photographing faint objects in the night sky. Of course, you will need to use a driven equatorial mount for that purpose.





This camera also allows you to store two preferential scene modes in My Scene Mode 1 and 2, also situated on this mode dial. Custom mode option has three slots to store different preferential shooting settings in the camera for easy recall when needed. Clipboard function is yet another feature that retrieves photos added to clipboards, and this is useful especially while traveling when you can recall maps. You can choose Program mode too and if you want total control, choose Manual mode.

Next, there is the comfortably large shutter button with a zoom ring around it. The power switch is the last button on top. Rather unconventionally, the power button is a sliding mechanical switch, rather than a digital one as is usually found in most cameras and is therefore more prone to wear and tear, and we assume this may result in a lower lifetime.



The TZ10 has a bright and crisp 3-inch color LCD display with 460k dots and a wide viewing angle. To the right of the LCD, the different camera control buttons are present. Near the top, there is a mechanical sliding switch to switch between live (during shooting) and playback (view captured photos and videos). Beside this switch is a thumb-rest to place your thumb while holding the camera. There is a dedicated video record button present on this camera for video capture. 

This is a really good thing as you don't need to change modes if you want to suddenly make a video clip. The Exposure button beside this is actually the function button, which lets you access different functions (such as aperture, shutter speed, etc) depending on what mode you have set the camera to. Below this, you can see a set of five buttons to set Exposure Value, delayed shutter trigger, Macro mode, Flash ON/OFF and a MENU/SET button at the center to set these functions. The Display button at the bottom lets you set the amount of information displayed on the LCD

The frequently used functions can be quickly accessed using the Quick Menu (Q. Menu) button. The GPS LED is present besides the Display button to indicate when the GPS is on.



The camera can be connected to an HDTV using the mini-HDMI port situated on one side. Just beside this port is an AV Out port to connect the camera to an analog television.





The battery compartment is present below the camera and it is covered by a lockable door. The SD memory card slot is present in the same compartment and accepts SD HC memory cards too. A threaded tripod adapter is also present near the center and it is made of metal for longevity.


Features and Performance

The TZ10 has a 14.5 MP CCD that is capable of shooting image size up to 12.1 MP. This is a multi-aspect CCD, which means you can opt to shoot in either 4:3 or 16:10 aspect ratio, depending on the resolution.



Without zoom



With zoom

Thanks to the Power O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilization), you no longer need to worry about having shaky hands. This camera also supports a feature called Intelligent Resolution Technology and Intelligent zoom, which tries with some success, to improve the photo quality by sharpening and boosting details when using the digital zoom of up to 1.3x.



Five Rupee coin shot from a distance of 3 cm with an exposure of 1/30 sec at ISO 125 in fluorescent light


With the macro mode, you can shoot subjects as close as 3 cm from the lens with autofocus.



Flowers shot from a distance of 3 cm with an exposure of 1/200 sec at ISO 80 in normal daylight

While the details are captured, the photograph fails to come out as anything but ordinary.

Hi-Speed Shutter mode was used to snap speeding vehicles. We tried several times, but it was not possible to get a clear picture of the moving vehicle.


Night mode was used to snap this shot under sodium lights. The shutter speed was automatically slowed down to 1/4 second at ISO 800. The photo looks normal at first glance, but a closer look shows a lot of graininess, as is expected of photographs with high ISO value.

ISO sensitivity modes of 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 can be selected in Programmable mode in addition to the Auto ISO mode. In general, you get good results up to ISO 400, but noise increases noticeably with anything above that, especially in dark shooting conditions.

ISO 100


ISO 200


ISO 400


ISO 800


ISO 1600


You can see that the sharpness decreases and noise increases as the ISO value is increased. What you see above is a 100% magnified portion of the photo, so it is normal that the noise is magnified as well. Thus, the image quality at ISO 800 and ISO 1600 is still better than many of the cameras we have previously tested.

One of the cons of this camera is that it lacks a full automatic mode. Even in the Program AE mode, you can neither select the shutter speed nor can you select the aperture size. You cannot even manually focus the lens.


Fringing and chromatic aberration is very noticeable in this 100% cropped photograph section taken at 12x optical zoom.

Here are a few more shots taken in daylight.


Shutter speed is 1/250 second and ISO 80


Shutter speed is 1/500 second and ISO 125


Shutter speed is 1/400 second and ISO 80


Shutter speed is 1/125 second and ISO 80

As noted earlier, the camera supports recording at full HD video. Movies are recorded in 720p at 30 FPS in AVCHD Lite format. You can even choose different scene modes during video shooting. Video quality is good with natural colors and crisp picture quality and sounds. The channel separation between audio channels is surprisingly good even though the microphones are placed so close to each other. Autofocus and optical zoom functions work even during video shooting. Zooming is silent during shooting, so you will not hear the zoom motor make any noise.

One of the distinguishing features of this camera is the GPS receiver in it. The receiver can be turned on or off by the user to conserve battery. When we tried to use the GPS, it did not work for most of the times we used it. When it did not work, we tried to get it to work using the Info function, but it would not detect a single satellite in the sky.

There are other notable features such as Smile Shutter, which detects the subject's smile and clicks photo automatically at the right moment. Face Detection can detect up to ten individual faces in a scene and make appropriate settings to get the best shot. Red Eye removal eliminates that issue in photos. The good thing is that you have the option to save the original as well as the fixed photo, just in case.

The camera takes around 1.8 seconds to start and a fast 1.6 seconds between shots at full resolution. Focusing is quick and the different types of focusing options let you choose how the autofocus would work. A problem with the camera is that you cannot focus manually, but have to rely on autofocus.

Overall, the image quality is good. The colors are not too saturated and seem to be just right, rather than being vivid and noise levels have been kept low. The focusing is not always accurate, especially when there is not enough lighting, but it is fast whenever it works well. The camera is very easy to use, primarily due to the lack of manual controls, if any, so anyone without a photography background can easily master it in minutes. The battery takes around 2 hours to charge and is supposed to last for around 300 shots according to the spec sheet. If you use GPS, the battery drains really fast and will provide you less than a third of that backup time.

he design is not as we would normally associate with a camera (it looks mechanical), but a lot of attention has been given to its ergonomics. Image quality is very good, with natural colors retained, though small amount of fringing exists. Same goes for the 720p HD video recording with stereo sound. You can store two of your own settings for shooting modes by using MS1 and MS2 preset modes. You can store three custom settings as well. Manual mode lets you set your own custom settings and is for those who are not satisfied with the camera on autopilot.

One of the cons of the camera is that it does not manual focus, thus you have to depend on the autofocus of the camera at all times. Macro mode requires the subject to be at a distance of at least 3 cm from the camera lens. The GPS feature seems to be gimmicky at best and we had a hard time trying to get it to work.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ10 has got a rather expensive price tag ofRs.

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