Timing & Performance
We praised the TZ1 for it's generally snappy performance, but were less impressed by the slightly sluggish shutter lag. The good news is that, give or take a few minor differences here and there, the TZ3 offers the same responsiveness but shaves a considerable chunk off the shutter lag too (in this case the 'lag' is actually video lag on the live preview, so you're seeing events a fraction of a second after they occur).
The only slight disappointment is that the startup time has increased by the best part of a second (the lens extends a bit more slowly), but this is more than balanced out by the improved shutter lag, speedy focus and reduced shot to shot time. We did find that the focus slowed down noticeably in low light at the long end of the zoom, and that at the near limit of the focus range there was more hunting than we'd like (macro focus is also a fair bit slower, especially in low light), but in 'normal' use the focus speed is amazing.
All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 3072 x 2304 Fine JPEG image (approx. 3,100 KB per image). The media used for these tests was a 1.0 GB Sandisk Extreme III card.
|Power: Off to Record||2.5|
|Power: Off to Play||Image displayed||1.8|
|Power: Record to Off||All activity ceased||2.1|
|Power: Play to Off||Lens extended||2.2|
|Power: Play to Off||Lens already retracted||1.3|
|Record Review||Image displayed||0.9|
|Mode: Play to Record||Lens already extended||0.8|
|Mode: Record to Play||Lens already extended||1.1|
|Play: Magnify||To full magnification (16x)||~0.9|
|Play: Image to Image||Time to display each saved image||0.5|
|Play: Thumbnail view||3 x 3 thumbnails||0.9*1|
|Zoom from Wide to Tele||28 to 280 mm (10x)||2.7|
|Half-press Lag (Focus time)||Wide angle, High Speed (3 point) Autofocus||~0.3 *2|
|Half-press Lag (Focus time)||Wide angle, High Speed (1 point) Autofocus||~0.2 *2|
|Half-press Lag (Focus time)||Wide angle, 9-point Autofocus||~0.4 *2|
|Half-press Lag (Focus time)||Telephoto, High Speed (3 point) Autofocus||~0.4-0.7 *3|
|Half-press Lag (Focus time)||Telephoto, High Speed (1 point) Autofocus||~0.3-0.6 *3|
|Half-press Lag (Focus time)||Telephoto, 9-point Autofocus||~0.8 *3|
|Pre-focus Lag (S1>S2)||LCD live view (OIS mode 1 or off)||~0.09|
|Pre-focus Lag (S1>S2)||LCD live view (OIS mode 2)||~0.15 *4|
|Full-press Lag (0->S2)||LCD live view, wide angle, High Speed AF||~0.5|
|Off to Shot Taken||LCD live view||~2.8|
|Shot to Shot||Flash off||~1.3|
|Shot to Shot||Flash on ( red eye reduction on / off)||2.5 / 3.0|
|*1||5x5 thumbs takes another 3.0 secs|
|*2||Average figures. In some cases the focus is down as low as 0.15 seconds (high speed modes), if there is any hunting (low light, macro mode) it can stretch to 0.6 seconds (non high speed mode)|
|*3||Telephoto focus speed is generally excellent, with the high speed modes usually working in less than 0.4 seconds. If the focus struggles to find something to lock onto the hunting can stretch to well over 1.5 seconds, though this is rare.|
|*4||As we've seen with previous Lumix models the use of mode 2 image stabilization increases shutter lag - in this case by around 0.06 secs.|
Continuous drive mode
As with all recent Lumix models, the TZ3 has three continuous drive modes; High (H), Low (L) and No Limit (∞) - it's worth noting that the TZ2 doesn't have any continuous shooting modes. In our tests the High mode averaged 3.0 frames per second, but as usual there is a limit to the number of frames you'll get in a burst. The good news is that this figure has risen to a slightly more useful 5 (the TZ1 could only manage 3), irrespective of the file size.
There is a two second or so delay after each burst as the files are written from the buffer onto the card. The Low option offers the same but at 2.2 frames per second. The No Limit option - as its name implies - lets you shoot indefinitely at around 2.1 frames per second, regardless of file size / quality.
File writing / playback performance
The TZ3 is around the average for its class when it comes to reading or writing to the card; a full 7MP / Fine image (3.1 MB) takes around 1.2 seconds to write to the card (~2.4 MB/s), and about 0.5 seconds to display in playback mode.
Battery life has never been one of Panasonic's strong points where ultra compact cameras were concerned, though the Venus III processor seems to help, and the TZ3 offers a small improvement over the TZ1, despite the higher resolution and larger screen. The small 3.7v, 1000mAh rechargeable battery is good for about 270 shots per charge (CIPA standard), which isn't bad for a camera without an optical viewfinder (and is fine for a day's shooting), but isn't exactly class-leading either.
You can pick up a second (non Panasonic) battery for around $20 - I've seen higher capacity ones on offer too, which should extend your number of shots per charge slightly. It's also worth noting that the TZ2 offers slightly better battery life still (300 shots, CIPA standard).