Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 Review
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 Exposure
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Very good overall color and hue accuracy, with minor oversaturation of some colors, and slight undersaturation of others.
Saturation. The Panasonic DMC-TZ3 oversaturates red, blue, and some green tones very slightly, but undersaturates bright yellows and some yellow-greens. Compared to other cameras, this is very tame, hardly worthy of the term "oversaturation," as most will think the TZ3's colors a bit dull compared to other consumer models, but we found its colors pleasing on a wide range of typical subjects. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.
Skin tones. Here, the TZ3 performed well, with only slight warmth. 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.
Hue. The Panasonic TZ3 showed very small color shifts relative to the correct mathematical translation of colors in its subjects, and overall had more hue-accurate color than most consumer cameras we test. Hue is "what color" the color is.
| See full set of test images
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Good color with the Auto and Manual white balance settings, though warm with Incandescent setting. Above average positive exposure compensation required.
|Auto White Balance
|Incandescent White Balance
|Manual White Balance
Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was fairly neutral in Auto white balance mode, while the Incandescent setting had a warm cast. Manual mode was the most accurate. The TZ3 required a +1.3 EV exposure compensation boost to get a good exposure, slightly above average for this shot. Overall color with the Manual white balance setting is quite good, though the blue flowers are quite purplish. (Many digital cameras reproduce these flowers with a dark, purplish tint, so the DMC-TZ3 struggled a bit here.) Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.
Good color and exposure, though slightly high contrast in harsh lighting.
|Auto White Balance,
|Auto White Balance,
Outdoors, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 performed pretty well, with good exposure in the outdoor far shot. The camera required less than the average amount of positive exposure compensation on the portrait. Default contrast is on the high side in harsh lighting. The DMC-TZ3 captured good color outdoors, without too strong of a warm cast. Overall, pretty good results here.
High resolution, 1,400 ~ 1,500 lines of strong detail.
|Strong detail to
1,500 lines horizontal
|Strong detail to
1,400 lines vertical
Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,500 lines per picture height horizontally, and to about 1,400 lines vertically. Extinction didn't really occur, though lines began to merge around 1,800-1,900 lines. 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 images overall, with only minor edge-enhancement on high-contrast subjects. Noise suppression limits detail in the shadows.
|Good definition of high-contrast
elements, with some minor
|Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of
Marti's hair here.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 captures reasonably sharp images with good detail definition, with just slight enhancement artifacts visible on high-contrast subjects such as the crop above left. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.
The crop above right shows fairly low noise suppression, with darker areas of Marti's hair showing limited detail. However, quite a bit of fine detail is visible in the strands of hair here. 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.
ISO & Noise Performance
Low to moderate noise at the normal sensitivity settings, though a jump in noise with strong blurring at the higher settings.
|ISO 100||ISO 200||ISO 400|
|ISO 800||ISO 1,250|
Noise levels are low to moderate at the Panasonic DMC-TZ3's lower sensitivity settings, with much higher noise at ISO 800 and 1,250 (as you'd expect). Noise pixels are brighter at the higher settings, and while the grain pattern and noise reduction eliminates some of the finer details, the TZ3 does a good job of holding on to luminance information and keeping chroma noise in check. There's actually a surprising amount of detail up to even ISO 800 for this class of camera, but there's a dramatic increase in noise and blurring due to noise reduction at ISO 1,250.
Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with strong overall detail, but slightly high contrast and limited shadow detail. Somewhat limited low-light performance, but still capable of capturing bright images in near darkness.
|Default Exposure||+0.3 EV||+0.7 EV|
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 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 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. Though some areas look a little dark at +0.7 EV, I preferred it to the image at +1.0 EV, which had too many blown highlights for my preference. Marti's face was a tad dark with the default exposure. (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.)
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 Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 has somewhat limited low-light shooting capabilities, but can still capture bright images at low light levels as long as a night scene mode is used. Fireworks scene mode allows exposures up to two seconds, Night Scenery up to 8 seconds, and Starry Sky up to 60 seconds. The sensitivity is fixed to ISO 100 in all night scene modes. Using Starry Sky mode, the camera was able to capture bright images down to the 1/16 foot-candle light level (about 1/16 as bright as average city street lighting at night). In other modes, the minimum shutter speed is limited to one second, which means the ISO sensitivity must be increased to maintain a bright image at lower levels, resulting in increased noise. The DMC-TZ3 was able to focus down to the lowest level we test at (1/16 fc) without the aid of its focus assist lamp. Do keep in mind though, that the very long shutter times necessary 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.)
NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.
Coverage and Range
Slightly dim exposures at the default exposure setting; the camera required average exposure compensation for flash exposures. Typical range for a compact.
|28mm equivalent||280mm equivalent|
Flash coverage was uneven at wide angle; and though it was more even at telephoto, the intensity drastically decreased. Indoors, under incandescent background lighting, the Panasonic DMC-TZ3's flash underexposed our subject a little at its default setting, requiring a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment to get bright results. Slow-Sync flash required only +0.7 EV exposure compensation, and resulted in a strong orange cast.
ISO 100 Range. At wide angle, flash shots at ISO 100 remained fairly bright out to a distance of about 8 feet, decreasing in brightness from that point on. At full telephoto and ISO 100, even the 6-foot shot is a little dim, and the images darken from there.
|Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range|
Auto ISO 640
Auto ISO 500
Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. In the shot above, the DMC-TZ3 seems to perform exactly as Panasonic says it will, producing good exposures at the rated distances with its ISO set to Auto, although it did have to boost ISO quite a bit to 640 at wide angle, and ISO 500 at telephoto. Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims.
Good print quality, great color, good 11x14 inch prints. ISO 400 images are soft but usable at 8x10, ISO 800 shots are still good at 8x10.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 had enough resolution to make good looking 11x14 inch prints. 13x19 inch prints were reasonable, but slightly soft. In a rather unusual twist, higher ISO images from the Panasonic TZ3 look better onscreen than they do printed. ISO 400 shots are soft but passable at 8x10, noticeably better at 5x7. At ISO 800, quality is still okay at 5x7, not as good at 8x10. Comparing ISO 800 to ISO 1,250, the ISO 1,250 images actually look better than the ISO 800 shots.
Though shadows look somewhat plugged in these prints, they do lack chroma noise, which appears as speckles of color in prints from other cameras. Colors are muted across the ISO ranges, but consistently so. It's a pretty good performance, yielding at least good 4x6 inch prints from the standard ISO range we tested, but the quality-to-size ratio does fall off rather quickly compared to some competing models.
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 Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)
The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 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-TZ3 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.