Choosing a super-zoom camera (part 8) - Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ18 & Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20

3/26/2012 11:54:40 AM

Choosing a super-zoom camera (part 8)

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ18

2 stars

$284 VAT included

Panasonic achievement is enviable with TZ-series cameras, which invented the concept of big zooms in a compact body in 2006 and has dominated ever since. TZ18 is cheaper in two models and because of discount a few months, is it only cost £ 180.

Unfortunately, the 720p video recording in MJPEG format cost capacity a lot with mono sound, and clip length is limited to 8 minutes. This is disappointing, because other aspects of this video mode are excellent from its focus and smooth quiet zoom to its strong stability. HDMI is also absent and the 3in screen’s 230,000-dot resolution is quite low.

The controls are intuitive and effective, with the full complement of manual and automatic exposure mode. Menus are not pretty but we appreciate the text description appearance for each option. Performance is excellence in general use, takes only 1.3 seconds between shots. Continuous mode is quite hopeless, running at 1.1fps and lasting only 3 images.

The lens is the main attraction, with the sharp focus at photo corner throughout the 16x and 20x zoom range and no signs of chromatic aberrations. Unfortunately, Panasonic felt the need to advertise 20x zoom. It is helped by the Intelligent Resolution technology, but in our opinion, it is only plain old digital zoom. Compare 16x and 20x zoom photos, the latter is bigger but not more details, and exhibits blocky artifact around high contrast lines.

The automatic exposure is reliable, in which the camera choose the shutter speed and best ISO to get the light available. However, there is no way to avoid the noise output of this sensor. Even at ISO 100, noise reduction gave details a plastic appearance, and the high contrast and darker color are a little grubby. In the faster ISO speed, the noise reduction spoils fine details, makes TZ18 (and TZ20) stay at bottom in a image quality group test.

TZ18 is interesting to use but its photos and video is not commensurate with current standards.


Verdict. Reasonable price, but TZ line lacks of an update to take advantage of recent advances in sensor design

Ultra zoom camera. 14.1MP (4.320x3.240), optical zoom 16x (24-384mm), 3-inch LCD (230.000 pixels), SDXC slot (70MB internal), Li-ion battery, 58x105x33mm, 210g, 1 year RTB warranty.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20

3 stars

$350 inc VAT

TZ20 looks like the Swiss Army knife when we first see it. After 5 months, it still is one of the most feature-packed cameras now with 16x zoom, 1080p video, GPS radio, 10fps continuous mode, the 3D camera and 8x slow motion video - but it is no longer in a league of its own.

It is not the only ultra-zoom camera using touch screen - Canon Ixus 1100 HS also has a touch screen - but TZ20 use it more efficiently. It enables a powerful touch-for-spot focus function but most other functions can be accessed by using the old style buttons.

1080p video mode is a clear success, with fresh details and the silent autofocus and zoom. Taking alternating, where each image is made up of two sub-images separated 1/30 seconds, is not uncommon for the camera and giving smooth motion like the TV scene.

Excellent performance, it takes another second between shots. 10fps continuous mode lasts 12 images, while the other options shoot at 5fps with continuous autofocus for tracking moving subjects - best features of TZ20.

Unfortunately, the strengths of this camera unravel when image quality is added to the mix. Noise is difficult to ignore in light conditions at ISO 100, lost 16MP compact cameras in this month test. The noise reduction did well to hide it, but gave detail a painted appearance and still struggled to remove particles in the darker areas. When setting up low light or capturing in long distance requires fast ISO speed, details become extremely vague. This is particularly disappointing because nearly every other aspect of image quality, from sharp lens to automatic elite exposure, it's hard to be condemned.

Panasonic has proved wise with the ultra-zoom camera FZ-series and installation for the new models 12MP backlighting sensor. TZ Series is due to a refresh soon, and we will surprise if the company does not apply what we mentioned here. In a mean time, though Canon SX230 HS is a better choice.


Verdict. Outstanding video and performance, but the picture quality falls short of today's high standards

Ultra zoom camera. 14MP (4.320x3.240), optical zoom 16x (24-384mm), 3-inch LCD touch screen (460.000 pixels), SDXC slot (18MB internal), Li-ion battery, 58x105x33mm, 219g, 1 year RTB warranty.


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