Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 Review
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 Exposure
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Good overall color and hue accuracy, slight oversaturation in bright reds and blues. Slight undersaturation in yellow and green.
The TZ1 does oversaturate red and blue tones, but undersaturates bright yellows and yellow-greens. We found its color pleasing on a wide range of typical subjects though.
Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc. Here, the TZ1 performed well, with only slight warmth.
The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. The TZ1 showed small color shifts relative to the correct mathematical translation of colors in its subjects, but overall had more hue-accurate color than most consumer cameras we test.
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Auto white balance was neutral but Incandescent had a warm cast. About average exposure compensation required.
|Auto White Balance +0.7 EV||Incandescent WB +0.7 EV|
Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was neutral in Auto white balance mode, while the Incandescent setting had a warm cast. The TZ1 required a +0.7 EV exposure compensation boost to get a good exposure, about average for this shot. Overall color is a bit dark and yellow here, making the blue flowers very dark and purplish. (This is a very common outcome for this shot.) Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulb, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the US.
Good color balance overall, with fairly bright colors. Heightened contrast under bright outdoor conditions.
|Auto White Balance, 0.3 EV||Auto White Balance, Auto Exposure|
Outdoor shots showed good exposure accuracy, though with notably high contrast under harsh sunlight. Overall color looked pretty good, with bright reds and blues that nonetheless didn't look too overdone.
High resolution, 1,200 lines of strong detail.
|Strong detail to 1,200 lines horizontal||Strong detail to 1,200 lines vertical|
Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,200 lines per picture height, with extinction at around 1,350. (The camera produced slight color artifacts at lower line frequencies though, visible in the full-sized res target shots.) Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.
Sharpness & Detail
Reasonably sharp outdoors. Significant blurring of detail from noise suppression in areas of subtle contrast.
|High-contrast elements are somewhat blown out and a little soft. Some edge enhancement shows in the shadows and in high contrast areas.||Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur detail in areas of subtle contrast. It's quite dramatic here.
Outdoors, the Panasonic TZ1's images are sharp with just a little softening in the corners. There's evidence of edge enhancement, however, with obvious halos around darker objects. (Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.)
Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears. The crop at far right shows this dramatically, with nearly all of Marti's hair showing limited, blurry detail, though individual strands are visible where a lighted strand passes in front of a darker shadow area. Though chroma noise is well-controlled here, this is among the poorest performances we've seen at ISO 100, a textbook example of out-of-control noise suppression. ISO 80 is nearly identical (see below).
ISO & Noise Performance
Significant noise suppression at the normal sensitivity settings, with even higher noise and strong blurring at the higher settings, especially at ISO 800.
|ISO 80||ISO 100||ISO 200|
|ISO 400||ISO 800|
The TZ1's lower ISO settings produced low to moderate noise, but that was only due to the significant noise suppression efforts after capture. As noted above, better than average in this respect.) However, starting at ISO 400, image noise begins to dominate areas of fine detail. At ISO 800, blurring makes the images unusable for most purposes.
Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with good overall detail, but high contrast limits both highlight and shadow detail. Limited low-light capabilities, but sensitive enough to capture bright images under typical city street lighting.
|+0.0 EV||+0.3 EV||+0.7 EV|
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)
The TZ1 had a hard time with the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, producing very high contrast with washed-out highlights and deep shadows. Shadow detail is limited, with the effects noise suppression very evident in the form of smudged detail in deep shadow areas. The camera required a slightly less than average amount of positive compensation at +0.3 EV, making its metering a bit more accurate than most in this particular test. (In "real life" though, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.)
The Panasonic TZ1 performed poorly on our low light test, but with good color from the Auto white balance setting. At the lower ISO settings (80 and 100), images were barely bright at one foot-candle, which is about as bright as average city street lighting at night. With each increase in ISO, another 1/4 footcandle of brightness was observed, but even at ISO 800, only 1/4 footcandle was bright. The camera's autofocus system was able to focus down to about 1/8 footcandle unassisted. Keep in mind that the long shutter times here absolutely demand the use of a tripod or other camera support to get sharp photos. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)
Coverage and Range
A useful flash range, and moderate orange cast with incandescent lighting. Our standard shots required +0.7 EV compensation.
|35mm equivalent||350mm equivalent|
|Normal Flash, High Intensity||Slow-Sync Flash, High Intensity|
Flash coverage was rather uneven at wide angle. In the Indoor test, the TZ1's flash underexposed our subject at its default setting, requiring use of +1.0 EV to get reasonably bright results. Even here, the exposure is a little dim, with a noticeable orange cast. The Slow-Sync flash mode also needed +1.0 EV, though it resulted in more even lighting (and a stronger orange cast).
At ISO 100, flash power started falling off at the 9 foot test distance at wide angle but falloff began about the 8 foot test distance with telephoto.
|Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range|
Auto ISO 400
Auto ISO 125
Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We also capture two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of their claims. In the shots above, the TZ1 seems to perform exactly as Panasonic says it will, producing good exposures at the rated distances with its ISO set to Auto. While the range is rather limited, the good news here is that the camera isn't significantly boosting its ISO. This would produce greater flash range, but at the cost of higher image noise. In Auto ISO mode, the TZ1's flash photos are very clean and free of image noise.
Good print quality, great color, good prints at 11x14 inches, usable ones at 13x19. ISO 400 images are soft but usable at 11x14 inches. ISO 800 images are decent from 5x7 to 4x6, but not usable at 8x10.
Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Panasonic i9900 studio printer, and on the Panasonic iP5200 here in the office. (See the Panasonic i9900 review for details on that model.)
The Panasonic TZ1 produced crisp prints at 11x14 inches, and somewhat softer but still acceptable ones at 13x19. As always though, the real test of print size came at the higher ISO settings. Here, the TZ1's ISO 400 images were soft at 11x14 inches, acceptable at 8x10 and great at 5x7 and lower. ISO 800 images were a little too soft at 8x10 to recommend anything but 5x7 or smaller.
Color-wise, the Panasonic TZ1 did pretty well, with bright but natural-looking color and good-looking skin tones.
The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 Photo Gallery.
Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...
Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ1 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.