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Nowadays there are dozens of compact super zoom cameras to choose from - however, finding one that could plausibly fit into your pocket three or four years ago was a rarity. On its release in 2007, Panasonic's TZ1 was the smallest camera to offer a ten times optical zoom - although since that time it has been usurped by a number of newer models. Originally, the TZ1 was available to buy for £250, whereas nowadays you can pick one up for £50 on eBay.
Design & Appearance
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Available in silver, black, or blue, the TZ1 is comfortable to hold with a designated grip section on the right hand side of the body. The build quality is top-notch, and the metal construction makes a change from some of the ultra-plasticky cameras that i've used in my time. The metal body does make the camera a little heavier than some of its contemporaries (265 grams) - but it's not an overly weighty machine and can be carried around with ease. Overall, the TZ1 looks rather pleasant, and at 112 x 58 x 40 mm it will just about squeeze into a trouser pocket. Round the back there's a 2.5 inch LCD screen, which, although clear and glossy, struggles somewhat with reflections in sunny outdoor conditions.
The Optics & Manual Options
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So let's take a look at the main selling point of this camera - namely the 10x zoom lens. This 35 - 350 mm bad boy extends the entire length of its range almost silently and at a respectable speed. The glass is of a high quality, and although there isn't much distortion, I've noticed evidence of purple fringing at the longer end of the zoom. The TZ1's macro mode is qausi-effective, allowing the user to focus as close as around five centimetres of its subject, and there's dual image stabilisation, which, in my experience, I have found to work especially well. I usually like my cameras to have full manual controls, but unfortunately, the TZ1 is limited in terms of what you can fiddle about with. You can set the white balance and exposure compensation, but the lack of manual shutter and aperture settings means that the camera isn't one with which you can get especially creative.
Image Quality Camera Speed & Flash
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In terms of the image quality, the TZ1 is slightly unimpressive - images shot at anything over ISO 200 are quite noisy, so night time photography isn't this particular machine's forte. The Panasonic's Venus Engine II does attempt to employ noise reduction techniques, and although this helps with worst of the grain, it also results in smudged details. The full ISO range of the camera extends from 80 - 1600, and thankfully colours are vividly reproduced and natural looking for the most part. What's especially good about the camera is its speed - the TZ1 is quick off the mark with a fast start up, and there's very little evidence of shutter lag between shots. The TZ1's flash is for the most part effective, and has a range of 3.7 metres (2.4 metres when using zoom) - all the usual flash modes are present including auto and red-eye reduction.
Battery Life & Additional Features
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The TZ1 comes complete with a lithium-ion battery which performs to an acceptable standard before it needs replenishing. Obviously the amount of shots you'll be able to take will depend on the amount you use the flash and the LCD screen, although my rough estimate would be in the region of 200 - 250 photos. During my time with the camera I've found that the battery life could be significantly extended by dimming the screen down from the default level. The camera's main options can be scrolled through via a mode dial on top of the device - and whilst I appreciate the inclusion of this physical control, it can accidentally be nudged to an unwanted setting with a light knock. The rest of the options are engaged via the menu system, which is clear, nicely presented, and easy to understand.
Storage-wise, the camera takes a standard SD card, plus there's around thirteen and a half meg of internal storage to also use up. The additional features? well, the majority of modern digital cameras allow you to shoot video, and the TZ1 is no exception with a fluid and generally clear movie mode. The standard setting is the sub-HD 640 x 480 pixel resolution, although there's also an option to shoot in widescreen (16:9 @ 480 x 848 pixels). Sound can be recorded and the zoom can be used as well, and overall the image quality is pretty good.
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Although it doesn't have a wealth of manual options, the Panasonic TZ1 is an extremely well made and easy to use camera which features an attractive design. Its specs are starting to look a little dated (especially where megapixels are concerned) - however, for a beginner the camera would be a perfectly adequate travel companion (especially if you can pick one up for under fifty quid). It has to be said that the TZ1's photographic image quality isn't amazing, but for daylight use at lower ISO settings you won't notice the noise too much - three out of five dooyoo stars.
We bought this camera back in 2007 and have been very pleased with it.
On the negative side, it is bulkier than some smaller digitals. However, this is outweighed by the depth of features and the great quality pictures it takes.
I have to admit to being a complete novice when it comes to photography. I am definitely a 'point and shoot' kind of girl - and yet, even I have managed to get some great shots!
The camera comes with several settings - a 'simple' mode which is great for every day. There is also a normal mode, a macro mode for close-ups and a video setting.
There are a range of settings including night, fireworks, beach etc. In all honesty, I don't use these as much as I should but even by staying with the basics, I have been pleased with the results.
The zooms is good although it can get fuzzy and wobbly once you use the digital zoom. The screen is clear and easy to see. At 2.5 inches it is good enough to playback your shots.
I like this camera and have been pleased with the results. The video playback is good and comes in mp4 format so perfect for uploading to the internet.
The build quality is good and it seems solid. However, it is a little bulky and heavy - you couldn't keep it in a shirt pocket for instance!
I have this camera in silver (retails at around £75), which I prefer to the black, but both look good, although they are a little bulkier than some of the cameras about these days, and heavier, making the camera just a bit less convenient to carry around in your pocket.
I have been very happy with the product all round, the picture quality is excellent, it is very easy to upload photographs onto the computer once you have taken them and depending on which memory card you purchase (I would advise shopping around for these, as the best value can often be found online at places like ebay), you can happily take hundreds of pictures, and videos too, without worrying about running out of space. The video function is relatively easy to use and gives good results, although obviously not as good as a stand alone camcorder. The best thing by far about this product for me though is the battery life. It just seems to last forever, which means we have been able to take the camera on two week holidays without needing to take a charger, and even take numerous videos on a week's skiing and still have battery to spare. Playing videos back and looking through photos a lot are the things that use it up the most, but if you turn off the camera and turn it to the playback mode before you turn it back on that uses less power.
There are a number of modes that you can choose from, all handily situated on a dial at the top. There is a close up mode, normal, playback, video, and sports modes. These are excellent, capturing moving objects in excellent detail, and taking three pictures at a time, so you are more likely to get a good shot. Zoom is also easy to use. There are other settings that I haven't quite got to grips with, so I wouldn't say that everything is completely self explanatory and easy to pick up, but everything you are actually likely to need is.
Overall I would definitely recommend this product. I think there are smaller cameras about these days with better zooms and better definition, but for an everyday camera that is reliable, sturdy, easy to use and with amazing battery life, you can't go far wrong with the Panasonic Lumix DMC TZ1.