Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7

Even though it's no longer the sole contender in the travel camera category, the TZ7 still stands far above its competitors. If it wasn't for the clunky mode dial and lack of manual controls, we would have no qualms about recommending the TZ7.


7.8
CNET Rating
9.2
User Rating

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About The Author

CNET Editor

Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.


It's hard work following in the footsteps of an incredibly successful camera. In the case of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7, it succeeds the Lumix DMC-TZ15, which struck a chord in the hearts of travellers everywhere looking for a compact camera with an extended zoom reach.

Alongside the TZ7 sits the TZ6, a slightly scaled back version of the camera we're reviewing here. The TZ6 does away with HD video recording in AVCHD Lite format, as well as a couple of other features you'll find on the TZ7 model.

Design

From the outset we can tell that Panasonic hasn't wanted to trifle with a winning formula as the TZ7 (at least stylistically) shares a lot in common with the TZ15. It has the same shaped body and lens barrel that slightly protrudes from the front as the TZ15, but a sleek and slimline metal grip on the right-hand side rather than the chunky plastic.

You can't miss the movie recording button. (Credit: Panasonic)

At the back, controls are similar to what we've seen before except for the addition of an instant-on movie record button. You can't miss this one as it's big and red. The rest of the buttons are a glossy silver, which are great for aesthetes but in practical use you might find yourself squinting in bright light to determine what each of them does.

Features

For the most part the TZ7 offers incremental updates to what we found on the TZ15. The zoom has been slightly increased to 12x optical and the megapixel count now sits at 10.1. The lovely 3-inch LCD screen remains the same with 460,000 dots. The most significant change is high-definition video recording in Panasonic's AVCHD Lite format rather than MOV, which featured on the TZ15. HDMI out is included on the side and a stereo microphone on the top of the camera.

The Leica lens is now a strikingly wide 25mm (rather than 28mm on the TZ15) with a maximum aperture of f/3.3 and you can push ISO up to 6400 in the settings. But in terms of settings, you won't get much at all — shooting modes are for point-and-clickers only, with automatic, intelligent auto or scene modes being your options. Manual controls are a big omission from the TZ7, and we don't see why such a fully featured (and fully priced) camera doesn't have a bit of extra oomph in this department.

Performance and image quality

Thanks to its size you don't really expect much speed and agility from this camera. Fortunately, it proves you wrong in most respects, being relatively quick at starting up in 1.5 seconds. Extending the zoom from one extreme to the other takes a good three seconds though.

Be prepared to make this message your new best friend. (Credit: CBSi)

Like we saw on Panasonic's underwater camera, the DMC-FT1, the TZ7 shares a similar mode dial, but this time on the top of the camera rather than at the back. It has a tendency to fall out of position, resulting in a rather annoying message status on the screen telling you it's not in its right place. You can even experience this problem when just carrying it around in your hand, and we hope Panasonic fixes this issue on the next iteration.

As for image quality, just like the TZ15, the TZ7 was capable of delivering some incredibly crisp, sharp images. On bright sunny days the camera could achieve some really nice, natural colours with even detail from all sides of the frame. Lens distortion was also a lot less prominent than we would have thought given the extensive reach of the 12x zoom, with only a small amount of barrel distortion being exhibited at the widest end.

Our sensitivity test showed the TZ7 was fairly good at keeping noise under control, with images at ISO 100 and 200 being virtually noise free. It's not really until about ISO 800 when visible grain starts to become noticeable at a reduced magnification.

Click image to enlarge. Note the grain that starts to appear from ISO 800 and above. (Credit: CBSi)

Now we turn our attention to movie mode on the TZ7. Its implementation is far from perfect — with the zoom during recording being incredibly slow. The camera often had difficulty obtaining focus too when filming, and the first model we tested exhibited a flickering band across the middle of the frame, on both the screen and the final recorded movie. We are waiting to receive another test unit from Panasonic to verify if this is an issue isolated to the camera we reviewed. The actual picture quality is quite nice though, with the camera exhibiting a similar tonal range and sharpness as its still images.

Conclusion

Panasonic appears to have another winner on its hands with the TZ7. It's not perfect by any means — most notably that frustrating mode dial and lack of manual control, for which you'll want to look at something like Canon's SX200 IS, with a similar zoom range and HD video recording. However, if you want a sturdy compact camera that can deliver excellent images, you won't be disappointed in the TZ7.

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SandraS3 posted a comment   

How can I download my movie files to my PC?

 

Lexy Savvides posted a reply   
Australia

Hi Sandra,

There's a couple of ways to import movies from your camera. You can use the included PhotoFunStudio software that came with your camera, and it should be able to find the movie files from your memory card without any hassle.

Here is the link to the software in case you have lost the installation CD http://panasonic.net/avc/lumix/photofunstudio/index.html

If you just want to simply store the files, they are located in a particular file structure within the memory card. Navigate to the root directory of the memory card in Windows Explorer, and go down the following folder structure to get to the videos.

Private > AVCHD > BDMV > Stream

You should now see the videos you have filmed. It's best to transfer the entire contents of the BDMV folder to a specific location on your PC, as there's extra file information about your videos that might be needed later on.

 

rugdoc285 posted a comment   

The Good:Great zoom easy operation

The Bad:Bought 32gb SDHC card it won't recognise yet Pentax and Sony do

I've bought 2 32gb SDHC card supposedly class 6 Lumix tells me card is locked(it isn't) but friends Sony Cybershot and anothers Pentax Optio W20 both recognise my cards straight away. Panasonic should advise that Lumix will only work with thier cards if thats the case.

 

Buller posted a reply   

The TZ7 only supports up to 16 Gb SDHC, read the manual.

Denzil
9
Rating
 

Denzil posted a review   

The Good:The zoom, the wide angle lens, the quality of photos, the size and weight, battery life.

The Bad:No manual controls!!!

First of all, when i bought the camera i was very surprised that there was no manual controls. My old £80 Kodak had full manual controls! But to be fair, i dont feel to annoyed. I can force the camera to a low ISO to reduce noise, or force it up to a fast shutter speed, and it does the rest of the settings itself, and normally it does it well. I now have a DSLR for 'full control' but this is still my everyday camera.

The zoom is very good. The wide angle lens is amazing. I put the photo format to 16:9, and with the 25 mm lens it produces stunning results. The video is very high quality, i have put an example of it on youtube from when i tried the TZ10 (but they have the same video quality):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2vxn6NVqow

I would recommend it. There is nothing wrong with it. Just sometimes when you see that sunset or that landscape you wish you could take full control of the camera and do what you want, but 99% of the time the camera does it perfectly. (that 1% means it is 9/10 not 10/10)

 

Jack posted a comment   

Great camera for "point and shoot" and the zoom is, well, zoomelicious!
The battery is a different story - it has a very short life between the re-charges and this is a real pain — all I seem to be doing is recharging this camera at the moment. Think twice before purchasing as the battery is forever running out of juice and the price of getting a spare one is up there!

 

Jack posted a comment   

Great camera for "point and shoot" and the zoom is, well, zoomelicious!
The battery is a different story - it has a very short life between the re-charges and this is a real pain — all I seem to be doing is recharging this camera at the moment. Think twice before purchasing as the battery is forever running out of juice and the price of getting a spare one is up there!

 

Philscbx posted a comment   

The Good:This is Leica copy down to every detail

The Bad:I ordered 6 of them, the wait for B/O's is bad.

There's not one thing I can think of that I would change. It has taken the coolest videos not possible otherwise.
I set it on a Gorilla flex tripod, and it's perfection.
There's plenty of manual controls for spot metering to exposure.
I have over 10K in pro Canon gear, and I don't want anymore features in a compact to make it more complicated.

The slow zoom is for a reason, you will make people sick real quick with fast zoom in playback on the larger screen.
No one professionally does this. Smooth slow zoom is perfect.

 

Denzil posted a reply   

I totally agree about the zoom, i dont see why people complain about it. With fast zoom then you have a horrible amateurish feel to the video, and you hear the zoom extending. The zoom is silent, and if you know you want big zoom before filming i just zoom to 12 X in photo mode and go to video mode which saves having to zoom in slowly.


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User Reviews / Comments  Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7

  • SandraS3

    SandraS3

    "How can I download my movie files to my PC?"

  • rugdoc285

    rugdoc285

    "I've bought 2 32gb SDHC card supposedly class 6 Lumix tells me card is locked(it isn't) but friends Sony Cybershot and anothers Pentax Optio W20 both recognise my cards straight away. Panasonic sho..."

  • Denzil

    Denzil

    Rating9

    "First of all, when i bought the camera i was very surprised that there was no manual controls. My old £80 Kodak had full manual controls! But to be fair, i dont feel to annoyed. I can force the cam..."

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