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Wednesday, 30 June 2010 06:25

Review: Panasonic Lumix TZ10 - an excellent snapper

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At first blush, the Panasonic Lumix TZ10 looks to tick all the boxes for an enthusiastic compact camera user. There's a generous 12x optical zoom, 10MP sensor, Leica lenses and an integrated GPS that can geo-tag your happy snaps as you shoot them. So, does the impressive spec sheet deliver where it counts? We took a TZ10 touring through Europe to see if it really is worth the $699 price tag.

The Lumix TZ10 is one of a new generation of compact cameras that go beyond the simple 'happy snapper' that fill the digital camera market. To be honest, most users will be satisfied with any number of cameras in the $200 - $400 range. But the TZ10 offers a feature that hasn't yet made its way to the mid and entry levels - a GPS receiver.

The geo-tagging feature was very easy to use. Once enabled, the current location was displayed on the LCD and added to the photo's EXIF data. Our principle complaint came from the GPS receiver's slow performance. It was often several minutes before the receiver had the correct location. This was annoying as it often meant that images were tagged with locations we'd already left.

One of the more useful options was that the TZ10 allowed us to set a holiday duration and location in the settings. That makes it easy to sort photos later when transferring them to a computer

Most of the TZ10's most commonly accessed options, such as the GPS or flash settings can be accessed from the Q.menu by pressing a button to the right of the 3-inch LCD display on the back of the camera. This was excellent for changing settings on the fly without having to fiddle with the more comprehensive, but complex, settings menu. 

Photos shot with the TZ10 were excellent. The focussing system recognises faces and specifically focusses on them to ensure that your family and friends don't look fuzzy. When zooming in, the OIS image stabiliser makes sure that shaky hands don't result in blurry images - important when using the 12x optical zoom at its limit. We shot the vast majority of our images using the Intelligent Auto setting that automatically detected whether we were shooting scenery, a portrait or other images.
On our tour, we shot many images in museums and other locations where using a flash was not permitted. Even in those situations we were able to take some great photos. Darkened rooms required a steady hand but we could shoot good images even when the exposure length was longer than usual as the stability control could compensate for small amounts of shaking.

As well as still images, the TZ10 can record video at 720p with stereo sound. Rather than having to fiddle with the options dial at the top of the camera, there's a button on the back of the camera so the video mode can be quickly enabled. Video quality was pretty good, using the TZ10's 'ANCHD Lite' mode. Motion JPEG can also be used.

As you'd expect from a camera in this price range, the TZ10 offers plenty of different shooting modes including a panoramic mode and the ability to change exposure levels. Some of the presets for images were interesting with 'Food' and 'Pets' amongst the usual options for portrait, landscape and various night shooting modes.

We found that the Panasonic Lumix TZ10's biggest weakness was battery life. Coming with a 3300mWh battery, we found that we could only take about 350 shots with the GPS enabled before the battery was exhausted. This was over a period of around seven hours. With the GPS off battery life increased significantly so users will need to balance the battery life and the need for the GPS. Perhaps if the TZ10 sacrificed some of its compact 75.3 by 117.6 by 88.9 and 370g body to accommodate some AAA batteries then at least carrying a spare power backup would be easier.

The Panasonic Lumix TZ10 is a very competent compact digital camera. It shoots great images, does everything you'd expect from a high-end compact and adds in-built geo-tagging. Other than less battery life than we'd like, it's certainly worth considering. The recommended price of $699 pits the TZ10 against entry level dSLR cameras. However, the street price can be as much as $100 below the RRP.

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