Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7 Review
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The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7 is easy to recommend to anyone looking for a compact, pocketable point-and-shoot camera that takes great photos with the added bonus of HD video. Although the DMC-TZ7 no longer has the travel zoom market to itself, with the likes of Canon, Olympus and Samsung all recently launching rival models, it's still the leader of the pack, mainly thanks to the the new 12x zoom lens and improved video recording. The lens in particular is a real triumph, providing both an ultra-wide 25mm angle of view and a 300mm telephoto setting that really will cover virtually every photographic situation that you'll encounter. The icing on the cake is the apparent lack of distortion at ether end of the range, no mean feat for such a small folded optic. We suspect that Panasonic are performing some behind-the-scenes processing to help out in this department, but who cares when the images looks this good? The inevitable increase from a 9 to 10 megapixel sensor doesn't make any real-world difference and thankfully hasn't come at the expense of image quality, with the TZ7 maintaining similar noise performance as the TZ5 at comparable ISO speeds. I'd be happy to use ISO 100-400 for most photos, with ISO 800 reserved for low-light situations, on a par with most of its main competitors. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7 dealt extremely well with chromatic aberrations, macro performance is improved, and the dependable Mega OIS anti-shake system is present and correct.
The DMC-TZ7's video mode may offer the same 720p, 1280x720 pixel resolution as the TZ5, but Panasonic have made some real advances here. The new AVCHD Lite mode almost doubles the recording time in HD quality compared with Motion JPEG, although 3rd-party software support for playback and editing is patchy to say the least. You can still use the very effective 720p Motion JPEG mode though if you want to edit your video. There are also big improvements in sound quality, with much less background noise and the ability to clearly make out individual voices, even in a crowd. You can use the zoom lens during recording, although this is tempered somewhat by the slow zoom speed and awkward continuous auto-focusing, with the subject often being blurred before becoming sharp again as the camera tries to refocus. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7 is definitely not a replacement for a dedicated HD video camcorder, but it undoubtedly provides some of the best HD movies that we've seen from a compact camera, making it perfect for more casual users. The HDMI port makes it easy to connect the TZ7 to a HD TV, although we would have liked to see a suitable cable included in the box.
In summary, the DMC-TZ7 is the best travel-zoom camera yet. Even the annoyingly loose Shooting Mode dial and slightly higher launch price don't detract too much from what is simply a fantastic camera. One of the best compacts of 2008 just got even better...
|Ratings (out of 5)|
|Value for money||4.5|