Panasonic TZ7 quick review with images...

Started Mar 9, 2009 | Discussions thread
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Ming Thein
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Panasonic TZ7 quick review with images...
Mar 9, 2009

Hi everybody,

I've gotten a TZ7 for review and many forumers have expressed interest in hearing some initial thoughts, so here goes:

The TZ7 doesn’t raise the pixel count that much over its predecessor – with a total of 12.7 MP, and 10.1 MP useable due to the sensor being larger than the image circle of the lens, allowing it to use the very edges, and offer different formats (3:4, 3:2, 16:9) which all have different horizontal fields of view – for instance, 16:9 is almost as wide horizontally as a 23mm lens.

Zooming during movie recording is back (lost after the original TZ1) and the lens mechanism is silent. Stereo mics complete it but are of questionable usefulness.

Build quality and handling

Just as nice as we're used to, but the compartment (plastic) color doesn't quite match the body color. It's a hair thinner than the TZ3 too, but the grip isn't as pronounced. IS mode button is gone. There are no programmable fn buttons: this means playback mode is on the switch only. This is NOT a shooting priority camera! Also the mode dial is very loosely held and constantly changes position too easily when taking out of a pocket/ bag etc.

Lens:

I expected a lot out of this lens, given the quality of its predecessor – however, it appears that the extra bit on each end has had some impact on the optical quality. While the wider half of the range – up to about 200mm, I think - is still pretty good - good resolution and microcontrast even into the corners, above 200mm there is some noticeable softening going on. And you can't pick your aperture since there are no manual controls. I think diffraction softening may have something to do with it – the f4.9 maximum aperture at full tele is quite close to the diffraction limit of a 12.7MP, 1/2.33” type CCD. Venus IV takes out CA and distortion, as we're used to on the LX3.

Autofocus performance

The TZ7 adds focus tracking – first seen on the LX3 - to the previously available options (face detect, continuous, single point, multi point high speed, single point high speed (wide area), and manually selectable point). It isn’t as fast or tenacious as a DSLR, but it’s pretty impressive for a compact. Overall focus performance was snappy, though for lower contrast subjects at the long end of the zoom some hunting occurred. Macro mode allows focusing down to 3cm.

Movie mode

The TZ7 is the first compact to offer the AVCHD Lite codec; it’s quite a bit cleaner and smoother than motion JPEG. Not only does it record full 720p HD, the camera also has twin microphones to provide stereo sound; though these are so close together I'm not sure how useful they are. I'd recommend using AVCHD as motion JPEG occasionally showed some odd artefacts at the edges of the frame, though this could just have been our sample. You can also zoom during recording, and focusing is continuous. No complaints here - one of the better pocket movie compromises I've used.

I would post a screenshot of the MJPG artefacts but I want to verify it's common to all cameras first. Too easy to start rumors this way...

LCD and image review

It has the same LCD as the LX3 - 460k px and 3". No complaints again. The record review mode has a new option that zooms into the focus point used – handy for checking sharpness. Again, I'd like to point out that this isn't a shooting priority camera. Panasonic needs to fix this. Flashing highlight warnings would be nice, too.

Metering performance

Surprisingly good, but there's the 1sec limitation again without switching to a scene mode. Better that the camera lets us decide how slow we want to go. AWB was great though - much better than even the LX3. It can even correctly adjust for mixed halogen-fluorescent light.

Image quality

At lower ISOs, it's crisp and vibrant, with minimal NR artifacts. It'd be nice to have adjustable parameters like sharpening, but color settings is all you're going to get. Edge softness is largely gone. To be honest, the camera feels somewhat dumbed down - there's only on or off for intelligent exposure, which you'll want to avoid if you're going to be editing because it can leave big haloes when pushed. RAW would of course be nice.

Noise

Noise handling is definitely better than its predecessors, but NR strength isn't adjustable. No more red bleeding (at least not that I can see). I'd put the comfortable limit at about ISO 400, 800 in emergencies and don't use 1600. DR is about 7-8 stops at base ISO.

Compared to LX3 at 100%:

I'd say it's about a stop down. Note the difference in WB performance. Both were set to AWB.

Battery life

The battery is smaller than previously - 895mAH. Expect around 200ish images per charge.

Conclusion

I had high expectations - it mostly met them, and goes one better than the TZ3 (sorry, can't comment on the 5/6). But the lack of shooting priority in any form will stop me from buying one - it's far too easy to miss shots because the mode dial is in the wrong position, or the camera is in playback mode.

And now for some images (I think EXIF should be intact):

Your DR torture test

More on my flickr page if anybody's interested.

Well, that's about it for now. If you've got questions I'll do my best to answer them before I have to return the camera...

Cheers
Ming

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