Hands on with the Panasonic Lumix TZ30 and FT4

Norfolk Island provided the scenic backdrop for Panasonic's launch of the TZ30 travel camera and the FT4 tough camera, as well as a range of camcorders and other Lumix cameras from the 2012 range.

Lexy Savvides
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Mini mode for a mini island

Norfolk Island provided the scenic backdrop for Panasonic's launch of the TZ30 travel camera and the FT4 tough camera, as well as a range of camcorders and other Lumix cameras from the 2012 range.

The Lumix TZ30 is the company's latest version of its travel camera, sporting a 20x optical zoom and built-in GPS unit. The Lumix FT4 can withstand drops of up to 2 metres, and is waterproof to 12 metres. As well as these flagship cameras, Panasonic also announced two slimline 10x optical zoom cameras, the SZ7 and the SZ1; the FH series, which includes one model with a f/2.5 lens; a full HD camcorder called the XC-900M; the HC-V10, which is an HD camcorder with 63x optical zoom; and two vertical camcorders, one of which is waterproof.

All photos in this gallery were taken on the Panasonic cameras, with no post-processing or adjustments, apart from cropping and resizing.

Lexy Savvides attended the Norfolk Island launch as a guest of Panasonic.

Norfolk Island is located in the Pacific Ocean, an island between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. One of the most iconic features of the island is its own species of pine tree, quite aptly called the Norfolk Pine.

This photo was shot at Emily Bay with the Lumix DMC-TZ30, using the camera's built-in miniature mode. The TZ30 will be available from April for AU$449, which is significantly cheaper than the 2011 model that debuted at AU$599.

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TZar in the house

Front on, the TZ30 looks much more stylish than last year's TZ20. The soft-touch front panel feels comfortable in the hand, and the grip is easier to hold. Panasonic claims that the new 14.1-megapixel MOS sensor reduces noise (a significant issue on the TZ20). As well as the sensor upgrade, the TZ30 boasts faster response times, full 1080/50p video recording and a 3-inch touchscreen.

There's also a built-in panorama mode that is much more refined than that found on previous versions — stay tuned for a sample photo later on.

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Toughen up

Meanwhile, the FT4 has only had a minor facelift from its predecessor, with its tough credentials largely unchanged. New features come in the form of the built-in shooting settings, which include a time-lapse function that takes shots at an interval of your choice. Manual controls to adjust aperture and shutter speed are also present.

Want to see how the FT4 copes underwater? Check out the video below. We did find that the lens had a tendency to get very smudgy, particularly when dunking the camera in and out of the water. Looks like you might need a lens cloth on hand with this one.

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Push the buttons

The buttons on the FT4 are all tough and mighty, to ensure that they withstand all the punishments that this camera will take. To make sure you don't lose track of it underwater, it comes in black, silver, blue and orange. There's also a range of floatation straps and cases that come as optional extras. The FT4 will be available in April for AU$449.

The companion model, the FT20, will cost AU$299, and is slightly less rugged, able to be dropped from a height of up to 1.5 metres, waterproof to 5 metres and freeze proof to -10 degrees Celsius.

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Newbies on the block

Next cab off the rank is Panasonic's newest Lumix models, dubbed the SZ series. These cameras have a 10x optical zoom with a 25mm wide-angle lens, and a particularly compact body. Like previous Lumix cameras, the SZ7 and the SZ1 have built-in picture modes, ranging from sepia to black and white to happy mode — yes, happy mode. The photo above was taken with this very setting, which saturates the colour palette.

The SZ7 will be available in March for AU$329.

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Take me high (dynamic range)

Moving back to the TZ30, it comes with a host of new creative filters (separate to the picture modes mentioned earlier). It includes automatic HDR mode, which snaps three shots at different exposures in quick succession and stitches them together in-camera. While we recommend using a tripod for HDR photography, the TZ30 performed pretty well when hand held, avoiding any shifts in frame from handshake.

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Panning for gold

Do you like taking panoramic photos but hate the arduous process of stitching all of those separate images together afterwards? The TZ30 takes care of it for you with its panorama-shot mode. From left to right or top to bottom, choose the orientation of your panorama and shoot away across the desired axis. It gives you onscreen guidelines to make sure that your shots don't go wildly out of the frame, and only takes a few seconds to put it all together. Click here to see the full-sized version.

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On deck

Not content with just cameras, Panasonic also took the wraps off its top-of-the-line consumer camcorder using its 3MOS sensor technology, the XC-900M. At the front is a manual ring that can be used to adjust settings such as the focus, while the lens features an f/1.5 maximum aperture and a 29.8mm wide-angle. There's a new 3D-conversion lens available that clips on to the front of the lens, and allows it to shoot in 3D plus zoom to 1.5x (digital only).

The XC-900M will be available for AU$1799 in April.

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Island life

A still taken directly from the sample video shot on the XC-900M, which you can watch below.

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Ye olde times

A look back at Norfolk Island's convict past; the TZ30's black-and-white mode automatically de-saturates the scene. Unfortunately, there are no tweaks available for the intensity, contrast or grain in the black-and-white mode.

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Toy town

The TZ30 also offers a toy-camera mode in its creative filters, which vignettes the corners of an image for a vintage feel.

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Sitting on the dock of the bay

At the local jetty at Kingston, ships can't actually come close because of the shallow water. Supply ships have to wait out at sea with goods ferried off by whaleboats.

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Small and mighty

This shot gives you a better idea of what the miniature mode can do, taken from one of the many lookouts on the island.

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Tree time

One of the oldest trees on the island would have looked a bit more classic if we could have adjusted the intensity of the black-and-white effect. This shot was taken on the SZ7, and, while still impressive, you can see hints of fringing even on the de-saturated version.

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Pining for sunset

The iconic Norfolk Pine sits on a cliff edge at Puppies Point, overlooking the sunset. Even though the sun was hiding behind the cloud cover, we still managed to get a nice shot by deliberately underexposing on the SZ7.

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HDR comparison

To give you some idea of what the HDR mode on the TZ30 looks like when compared to a standard shot, here is the regular photo (bottom) and the HDR photo (top). As you can see, the shadow detail, particularly on the tractor tyre, shows up a lot more on the HDR version, even if the colours don't pop as much as in the regular photo.

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