Compared to... Panasonic TZ1

Let's look first at how the TZ3 compares to its immediate predecessor, the DMC-TZ1. Unlike most such 'upgrades' the TZ3 has a completely different lens as well as a couple of extra megapixels, so it will be interesting to see if Panasonic has managed to maintain - or improve - image quality. In this section you'll find studio comparisons at each camera's lowest ISO setting and ISO 400. For the TZ3's higher ISO options see later in the review.

Studio scene comparison (TZ3 @ ISO 100, TZ1 @ ISO 80)

  • Panasonic DMC-TZ3: Program AE mode, ISO 100, Default Image Parameters,
    Manual white balance, +0.33 EV compensation

  • Panasonic DMC-TZ1: Program AE mode, ISO 80, Default Image Parameters,
    Manual white balance, +0.33 EV compensation
  • Lighting: Daylight simulation, >98% CRI
Panasonic DMC-TZ3
Panasonic DMC-TZ1
ISO 100, 1/80 sec, F4.4
ISO 80, 1/57 sec, F4.9
3,396 KB JPEG
2,272 KB JPEG

Having spend quite some time examining the TZ3's output next to the TZ1 there's good news, and there's bad news. The good news is that Panasonic (with Leica) has managed to produce an ultra-compact 28-280mm lens that is surprisingly, remarkably good. Edge-to edge detail is fantastic, distortion is low and there's marginally more resolution than the TZ1 on offer.

The images have a subtle, unprocessed appearance which at first glance looks very promising for post-processing; by comparison the TZ1 images look slightly over-sharpened. But look a little closer and you realize that the softness isn't just a lack of sharpening, but a distinct smoothing of fine texture which can only be a result of over-zealous noise reduction. The effect on the very finest low contrast detail is obvious when viewed at 100% on screen, but is considerably less of an issue at standard print sizes (or when viewed at lower magnifications on-screen).

You can easily give these images more bite with a bit of unsharp masking, but if you go too far you will start to see not only the noise reduction artefacts, but the noise they're trying to hide.