Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ15

A 10x optical zoom with a 28mm wide-angle lens sets this point-and-shoot to be one of the favourites among travellers.


7.8
CNET Rating
8.4
User Rating

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Successor to the DMC-TZ3, Panasonic ramps up the specifications for its new flagship model, the TZ15. The sensor resolution has been increased from 7- to 9-megapixels, but still keeps the large 3-inch LCD display. A 10x optical zoom with a 28mm wide-angle lens sets this point-and-shoot to be one of the favourites among travellers. The TZ15 is also capable of capturing 720p HD-quality video. But if you are looking for a downscaled unit, you might want to consider the TZ11 (8-megapixel with no HD video recording) which was announced alongside the TZ15 at the PMA imaging show in January.

A rubber strip runs along the front left side of the camera for a better grip. (click for larger image)

Design

At first glance, our eyes were immediately attracted to the large lens barrel on the shooter. It's no wonder considering that it houses a 10x optical zoom. Unlike the FX36 (the current flagship model for the FX series), the lens shield for the TZ15 is made of plastic. We are not very confident of the protection it can offer, but if you are going to bring this point-and-shoot around in a hardy pouch, it should be fine.

The left side of the camera is slightly thicker due to the handgrip, whose function is further enhanced by a vertical strip of textured rubber. This is an improvement over the TZ3 (with a horizontally positioned rubber strip) because there is now more rubberised surface area for our fingers to grip.

A playback switch is located beside the thumbgrip on the rear, and this is convenient for switching between shooting and playback mode.

The top dial rotates between iA (Intelligent Auto), normal, scene, video recording and clipboard mode. However, do keep in mind that the dial rotates 360 degrees, and when it is in an inappropriate position, the shooting function won't be able to operate.

While its predecessor, the TZ3, weighs 257 grams (with battery and memory media), the TZ15 manages to shed a few grams and tips the scale at 240 grams with the battery and flash card. So ladies, you may want to take note if you don't want to weigh down your handbag.

The 28mm wide-angle lens with 10x optical zoom is definitely not small. (click for larger image)

Features

The closest point-and-shoot we think may be a competitor to the TZ15 is the Canon PowerShot SX100 IS which comes with 10x optical zoom, too. However, the 28mm wide-angle lens on the TZ15 gives it an edge over the Canon which is widest at 36mm only.

What we think may make the TZ15 a favourite among travellers is its wide-angle lens and long zoom range. Packed into a compact body, this shooter is a versatile performer on vacations, letting you capture vast expanses of landscape or closeup shots of foreign culture. You can also adjust how fast or slow you want to zoom by tweaking the amount of rotation on the zoom rocker. This is quite useful as occasionally we tend to zoom too much into our subjects.

There are three other zoom functions which we find handy. With Zoom Resume enabled, the camera will return to the last position the zoom lens was at before powering down. This is pretty handy when you are constantly shooting at a certain zoom range. A press on the E.Zoom button at the top of the camera will instantly zoom the lens to the max, while a second one will automatically downsize your image to 3-megapixels and activate Extra Optical Zoom, giving you a grand total of 16.9x optical zoom. This is achieved by concentrating only on the centre of the image. A third press on the button will return the zoom lens back to wide angle.

By choosing Multi-Aspect in Scene Mode, you can snap three pictures in different aspect ratios (3:2, 4:3 and 16:9) with a press on the shutter button. This is particularly useful when you are not sure which ratio will look best for your shot.

The 28mm wide-angle lens with 10x optical zoom is definitely not small. (click for larger image)

Like its predecessor, the TZ15 sports a 3-inch LCD display on the rear. However, the display resolution is improved to 460K-pixel resolution from 230K in the TZ3. By activating the intelligent LCD, the display will automatically adjust the brightness according to the surroundings. We like the High Angle LCD mode, which lets us hold the camera above eye level and still provide a good view for framing the shot.

The shooter comes with a dual playback function which lets you view two images side-by-side on the LCD display. This is useful when we need to compare the exposure for similar images.

While conventional digital cameras are capable of capturing video at only 640 x 480 pixels, the TZ15 is also able to record clips at 720p (1,280 x 720 pixels) HD quality. Next to the TZ15, only Panasonic's FX36 and Samsung's NV24HD are capable of 720p HD video recording. The file size that it generates is gargantuan, chalking up a total of 90MB for a 23-second clip. So if you are planning to utilise this feature a lot, don't rely on the meager 50MB internal memory. You may want to consider investing in a high-capacity flash memory card (SD, SDHC or MMC) instead.

Performance

Panasonic claims the Intelligent Exposure mode will "prevent blown highlights and blocked shadows". Which is true because even when faced with backlit or high-contrast scenes, the camera managed to properly expose the image for maximum details.

With Intelligent Exposure, the camera exposed for both the highlights and shadow regions. (click for larger image)

The iA mode was quick to detect different scenes and switch to the appropriate settings. Faced with people, the iA mode was fast to go into portrait mode. Boxes would appear around the face, indicating that the face detection function had been activated. It would continue to follow and track the faces even when they were moving. However, like all intelligent functions, the iA is not perfect. When it was brought into a dimly lit place with spotlights on the ceiling, it fluctuated between Fireworks and Night Scenery mode instead of Candlelight (which we had hoped).

The Quick AF was speedy in focusing on subjects at wide angle, and it performed well in dim lighting, too. However, when we zoomed in all the way, the focusing was a bit slow in seeking the correct focus point. But once it did, the focus stayed sharp even when we moved around.

The Lithium-ion battery that came with the TZ15 promised 330 shots on the specs sheet. Compared with its predecessor, which is capable of only 270 shots, this is quite an improvement. This could be due to the new Venus IV image-processing engine which Panasonic claims will reduce power consumption, thus improving battery life. This is good news for frequent travellers who may have problems finding a suitable electric point to charge their devices.

The flash output is well-balanced with the surroundings. Even in dim surroundings, our subjects were properly exposed together with the background. This is one feature that we really like because for most compacts, the camera will tend to expose for the subjects only.

The startup time for the point-and-shoot was a quick 1.74 seconds in our Lab tests. Time to first shot, however, was a tad slower at 3.3 seconds. Shot-to-shot time was acceptable at 2.4 seconds because the camera would retain the focus on the subject even after a shot was taken. The time taken between shots with the flash turned on was a little bit longer, but still acceptable.

Notice the rich amount of picture details in the highlight and shadow area. (click for larger image)

Image quality

The dynamic range on TZ15 is impressive. In a high-contrast image, the shooter managed to generate an image rich in details without blowing the highlights or blotching the shadows.

We can probably credit the new Venus IV image-processing engine for producing relatively clean images even at high ISO sensitivity. At ISO 800, we detected a slight hint of noise in the darker region. The image got a tad blotchy when we further increased the ISO to 1,600, but was still acceptable for making prints smaller than A4 size.

White balance was also accurate under different lighting conditions. The automatic white balance managed to detect a mixture of candlelight and tinge of fluorescent lamp, producing accurate colours.

The camera comes with two night scene modes — Starry sky and Night landscape. The former will automatically set the ISO to 100 and let you choose an exposure time (15, 30 or 60 seconds). This mode gave us a noise-free image of a night scene, which is usually quite rare in a compact camera.

Click for larger. (Credit: CBS Interactive)



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SherpaSherpa
9
Rating
 

SherpaSherpa posted a review   

The Good:Loving it

The Bad:Nothing

Just bought one and loving it. If you know few basic skills photography such as how to frame it, right direction from the sun light, colors, etc. you get really crisp and beautiful photos, I mean professional looking photos. I have been using Canon's 40D DSLR camera and it is too bulky to carry on bike rides or mountain bike rides. So I needed a compact but really good good one and this camera seems to have fulfilled my expectation. I am a semi pro photographer.

 

Belinda posted a comment   

I've had two of these cameras now and I cannot report anything good about the quality of picture. I've missed out on so many great photo opportunities with my baby boy simply because of this crap camera. Very disappointed and definately will not recommend panasonic lumix cameras to anyone.

 

ThaneH posted a reply   
New Zealand

erm ... this doesn't sound right ...this is a GREAT camera ... is it perhaps possible that you have it on a setting that is giving you sub-optimal results? I ask only because when I first started using this camera i found the menus and settings a little bit fussy.

 

pete posted a comment   

The Good:Great clear shots with little effort

The Bad:none

Great camera,i bought a 550d cannon recently as well,but when i compare the shots with my panasonic i wonder why i bothered

 

Chris posted a comment   

The Good:Excellent, the more I ask of it the better it gets

The Bad:None

Suddenly I can't load the picture on my laptop via USB. Any suggestions?

Sam P
10
Rating
 

Sam P posted a review   

The Good:Amazing camera, best thing short of an slr

The Bad:Nothing

it takes great pictures with amazing quailty, massive screen and loads of settings to make sure the picture is always perfect.

 

Rizny Ismail posted a comment   

The Good:It's a great piece of technology compact into a small camera.

The Bad:Nothing major to mention as long as you use the right modes for the right pictures.

I've used this camera for almost a year and find it value for money with some great technological features. You need to study the various modes to be used at different times of photo shooting which will enhance the picture or video quality. I've been doing some comparisons with other cameras available in the market and I'm yet to find something that matches the features of the Panasonic Lumix TZ15.

I'm enjoying every bit of my photography.

 

GOB posted a comment   

I purchased a DMC-TZ15 last November and part of the deal was I received a digital photo frame. I've sent the form with the original receipt and have I've yet to receive the frame. Emails to Panasonic go unanswered. I need the receipt for tax purposes but it looks like I've lost that too.
My advise is DON'T TRUST PANASONIC.

 

TheWorldTourist posted a comment   

The Good:quality combined with point and shoot versatility

The Bad:autofocus appears slower at the far end of the zooming

I am giving it a 9/10.
The lens quality, the range from wide angle to tele, the function to record video, and lots more...all in a compact size. It is a very good for traveling. I have used this camera for over a year now and have done quite a lot of photos. You can see them in www.TheWorldTourist.com

Camera Salesperson
9
Rating
 

Camera Salesperson posted a review   

The Good:Great pictures(anytime of the day) great quality vids, compact for high Zoom, OIS

The Bad:hard to get waterproof housing for

dont know what they are saying about turning of the extra zoom, as all you do is not press the little button and it wont extra zoom


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User Reviews / Comments  Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ15

  • SherpaSherpa

    SherpaSherpa

    Rating9

    "Just bought one and loving it. If you know few basic skills photography such as how to frame it, right direction from the sun light, colors, etc. you get really crisp and beautiful photos, I mean p..."

  • Belinda

    Belinda

    "I've had two of these cameras now and I cannot report anything good about the quality of picture. I've missed out on so many great photo opportunities with my baby boy simply because of this crap ..."

  • pete

    pete

    "Great camera,i bought a 550d cannon recently as well,but when i compare the shots with my panasonic i wonder why i bothered"

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