Like earlier iterations of Panasonic's travel zoom range, the TZ30 boasts plenty of features that jet setters will find invaluable. This camera sits neatly in the hand, and there's a substantial grip on the front panel. Button placement is intuitive, with a relatively sparse but functional back panel holding all the controls you'll need. This includes the simple switch that toggles between playback and picture/video recording, as well as a four-way directional pad, through which you can access all of the main controls in the menu system.
At the top of the camera, a mode dial holds all of the shooting modes, including Panasonic's intelligent auto mode, as well as PASM control. There are the requisite 3D-shooting modes available, as well as a scene-selector option and creative filters. While not as extensive as those found on other brands, the Panasonic offerings improve with each generation. The TZ30 gets expressive, retro, high and low key, sepia, monochrome, an HDR-like filter, toy camera, miniature mode and soft focus.
If you're a fan of filters, the TZ30 has plenty to keep you occupied.
Elsewhere, the TZ30 comes equipped with a GPS unit, which lets photographers tag location information on shots. It's responsive, and locks on to a location target within 20 seconds, provided there's a clear view of the sky. We also like how the GPS settings are easily accessible from an option on the main menu, rather than buried underneath layers of other selections.
For travellers or anyone wanting to remember more closely the details of their photos, the TZ30 allows photographers to append the following criteria to the geotagged data: country/region; state/province/country; county/township; city/town/village; or landmark.
This camera also comes with a 20x Leica-branded optical zoom lens, which Panasonic claims is the world's slimmest camera with this amount of zoom. At 24mm wide angle, it's definitely got the chops to capture plenty of landscapes. There's also "real" HDR mode, on top of the filter mentioned before, which automatically stitches together several exposures in-camera, and an easy panorama mode.
Additional updates come in the form of the redesigned 14.1-megapixel high-sensitivity MOS sensor, which, combined with the new Venus Engine, means that the TZ30 can shoot at up to 10 frames per second. The TZ30 can be charged via USB, rather than having to remove the battery and charge it via a dedicated wall charger.
The 3-inch touchscreen still has a relatively low resolution of 460,000 dots, which pales in comparison to many of its competitors that possess bright, high-res panels. Like the earlier TZ20, the touchscreen implementation can be easily forgotten when you have a range of buttons at your disposal that achieve everything you need.
Connectivity is via mini HDMI at the side of the camera, as well as a proprietary mini-USB port.
|Canon PowerShot SX260 HS||Sony Cyber-shot HX20V||Panasonic Lumix TZ30|
|12.1-megapixel high-sensitivity CMOS sensor||18.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor||14.1-megapixel high-sensitivity MOS sensor|
|GPS built in||GPS built in||GPS built in|
|3-inch, 461,000-dot LCD||3-inch, 921,000-dot LCD||3-inch, 460,000-dot LCD|
|25mm wide-angle lens||25mm wide-angle lens||24mm wide-angle lens|
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The focusing system on the TZ30 is very good in all of its guises, from regular AF through to tracking subjects.
There are a number of burst shooting modes on the TZ30, which include an intelligent burst mode that automatically adjusts how quickly the camera takes photos, depending on the speed of the subject. There are also continuous AF modes, which allow burst shooting of 2 and 5 frames per second, and a 10-frames-per-second mode with focus fixed on the first frame. This final mode shoots 10 frames in a row before stopping to process them.
Panasonic rates the battery at 260 shots, though we found that it drained a lot more quickly when using resource-intensive tools like the GPS (as would be expected).
Last year's TZ20 impressed us with its quick shooting performance, but it was a disappointing low-light performer. Fortunately, the TZ30 has taken all of our reservations to heart, and improved on low-light performance without skimping on snappy shooting speeds. Low-ISO images are relatively smooth and clean all the way up to ISO 800.
Here's a shot taken at the full extent of the optical zoom (20x), with 100 per cent crop inset.
Overall image quality from the TZ30 is very good. There are hints of over-processing present on some images, particularly those zoomed in to a fair extent with the optical zoom. Colour rendition is excellent, with bright and punchy tones represented without being over-saturated.
Like any wide-angle lens, there is a fair amount of distortion at the wide end, which also extends to a drop-off in sharpness towards the sides of the frame. It's not particularly noticeable at reduced magnification, and would only be an issue if you were looking to make large prints or crop. There are also some issues with its high-contrast shots. There's a fair amount of chromatic aberration present, which mostly exhibits itself as blue fringing.
Macro performance, however, is very strong, and the macro zoom option works well.
Video from the TZ30 is impressive. Full HD video recording is now progressive, at 1080p in AVCHD format. The image is pretty sharp and the zooming action is smooth, while exposure stays consistent and even when the scene changes. Sound from the stereo microphone above the lens barrel is well defined and separated enough to give a good representation of the actual scene. Our only gripe with video recording is to do with the screen; it's pretty difficult to see in direct sunlight.
Exposure: 1/125, f/3.3, ISO 100
Exposure: 1/500, f/4, ISO 100
Exposure: 1/3, f/3.9, ISO 800
Exposure: 1/60, f/3.3, ISO 200
The TZ30 offers a 20x optical zoom and is an excellent camera for travellers, fitted out with all of the tools you could possibly desire. Unfortunately, it just missed the mark on overall image quality, which stops us from awarding it an Editors' Choice award. We also recommend investing in another battery if you're considering taking this out on the road, given that all the extra bells and whistles can drain the power pack pretty quickly.