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Image stabilization

The MEGA O.I.S image Stabilization system used on the TZ3 (and all other Panasonic models) works, and it works well. There are two modes: Mode 1 (IS on all the time) and Mode 2 (IS is activated at the moment the exposure is made). Mode 1 makes framing easier - the IS system steadies the preview image. Mode 2, which minimizes the amount of movement needed by waiting until the actual moment you press the shutter, is generally more effective. The examples below pretty much bear out our experiences; that mode 2 is more effective at extremes (such as the second example, where we're shooting at almost 5 stops slower than recommended), but that if you're nearer the correct shutter speed mode 1 is just as useful.

We continue to be surprised by the effectiveness of Panasonic's OIS system, particularly Mode 2, which is a real saving grace when you consider the 'love it or hate it, but you can't ignore it' nature of its high ISO output. If you take 2 or 3 shots in borderline cases (beyond the 2 stop 'safe limit') you are almost always going to get one 'keeper', though obviously a lot of this depends on how steady your hands are in the first place.

Unfortunately the lack of control over shutter speeds means we can't do our usual IS effectiveness test in full, below are a couple of fairly representative samples from around 30 sets taken at various focal lengths (the upper set are clickable if you want to see the full image).

1/25th second, hand-held, 212mm (equiv.)
IS off IS mode 1 IS mode 2
1/10th second, hand-held, 280mm (equiv.)
IS off IS mode 1 IS mode 2

Image Parameters

Although the TZ3 doesn't offer a great deal of control over the image you shoot it does offer a range of 'color modes'. As well as a few basic color effects (cool, warm, sepia, black and white) there are two alternatives to the standard processing defaults; Vivid (increased saturation and contrast) and Natural (lower saturation. The former is great for getting 'poppy' out of camera results in dull conditions, the latter is actually pretty well suited to post-processing.

Standard Vivid
 
Natural  

Aspect Ratios

Despite its 7.2 megapixel headline resolution the TZ3 actually has a rather unusual 1/2.35" 8.5 megapixel sensor, which is larger than the largest standard (4:3) picture size. This allows the TZ3 to offer wider aspect ratios without sacrificing the angle of view. The idea is that no matter which aspect ratio (4:3, 3:2 or 16:9) you choose you're still getting the equivalent of a 28mm lens if you measure the angle of view using the diagonal (actually the horizontal angle of view is increasing and the vertical angle of view is decreasing). It's a small, but nice touch that means you aren't losing as much as you would if the camera simply chopped a bit off the top and bottom of the frame.

4:3, 28mm equiv. 3:2, 28mm equiv.
 
16:9 28mm equiv.  
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