Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 Review

Camera Reviews Panasonic

Panasonic’s new 7.2-megapixel Lumix DMC-TZ3 point-and-shoot digital camera is heavy on the features with a large 3-inch LCD display and a 10x Leica DC Vario-Elmar optical zoom lens with MEGA O.I.S. image stabilization. The 10x optical zoom lens puts the TZ3 in the superzoom category and it’s a bit larger than most pocket point-and-shoots. However, in spite of the big zoom, it’s still small enough to fit into your pocket.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 Studio Test Images
studio_icon.jpg ISO 100 Sample >>
ISO 200 Sample >>
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 - China, Subway

    Pros

  • 10x 28-280mm (35mm equivalent) optical zoom lens
  • Quiet on / off and zoom operation
  • Large, crisp, 3-inch LCD screen
  • Good user manual
  • Impressive 3 frames-per-second capture rate
  • Minimal shutter-lag
    Cons

  • Not really a pocket camera
  • Confusing menus
  • Memory card goes in opposite than you’d think
  • Cheap feeling battery door
  • Too many buttons
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 - front and back


Introduction
The most impressive element of the Panasonic Lumix TZ3 digital camera is the 10x 28-280mm (35mm equivalent) Leica zoom lens. At 28mm on the wide end, it actually has a wide-angle aspect, something that isn’t common among compact digital cameras.. No one will be referring to the TZ3 as “cool” or “swanky” – this is a working-persons camera. But it does work well. I appreciated it during a newspaper work trip to Beijing, China where I needed a camera stealthier than the big digital SLR I usually use.

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  • Starriderrick says:

    Excellent, informative review.
    I am in the market for this type of camera. Leica optics are of interest to me, I found this review to confirm what I had heard. Great Glass!
    Thanks

  • JMeyers says:

    I took my TZ3 to the Canadian Rockies in July and carried it in my pocket all week with no troubles. The photos were fantastic. My buddies who were with me were jealous of the zoom. I loved the convenience, and sometimes while hiking pulled it out of my pocket with one hand, snapped a quick shot, and continued on my way while hardly breaking stride. My only complaints about the camera – you cannot zoom during videos and they are in Quicktime format. Videos are excellent quality though. Overall, wonderful camera.

  • Photo-John says:

    JMeyers-
    Thanks for commenting on our Panasonic Lumix TZ3 review. I used it a little before I sent it on the Nhat and I thought it was excellent, if a bit larger for a point-and-shoot. Although, to be fair, it’s a lot more powerful than your avergae point-and-shoot camera. Anyway, I wanted to thank you for your comments and ecnourage you to click on the Reviews link at the very top of the page or the “Write a Review” link up a bit from here and post your own review for the Panasonic TZ3. We need reviews from people who actually own the camera. And the user reviews are the best way for you to share your experience with the camera.

    Thanks!

  • Bear 740 says:

    I have seen some really personal picky reviews, but when you try to say that the SD card goes in with the label away from you so you cannot see what size SD card you using is pretty picky. If you do not know what card you have in your hand then I would suggest you go back to film and try not using a fantastic camera such as this. Also, who ever puts a camera in their pocket, and walks outdoors and gets a bit hot and sweaty will have condensation on the camera, not a good thing. Pocket-able cameras are simply named that because of the size, not that you would actually place it in your pocket for more than a few minutes because you have your hands full of something else. Yes, this camera will be heavier because it is a superzoom “pocket-able” camera and give me more zoom power over a 3 to 6X zoom any day. I have the TZ1 and it won camera of the year for P&S cameras for a reason, and I think the TZ3 will do the same. Just cannot find a better all around camera that can do it all.

  • Nhat (reviewer guy) says:

    Thanks for the nice comments everyone.

    Actually Bear740 – it’s a compliment to the camera that I had to be picky. When you have to be picky it shows that there isn’t a lot wrong with the camera and nothing is perfect. It’s funny you should mention going “back to film” because that is exactly why I said the card goes in backwards… when you load a film camera the lens points down and you see what you’re putting in the camera. I use the exact same principle when loading digital cameras. It’s not an issue of knowing what size card I’m loading but to me it makes sense to have the lens pointing down and the SD card label pointing towards me when I load the card. If not then it’s backwards.

    Anyway – the lens is awesome! thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Winston says:

    Other than the lack of panoramic function, the camera is my choice as a frequent traveller who prefers not to lug around a DSLR or even a prosumer.

  • Joke Bijl says:

    Is there anyone using this camera under water?

  • JPisello says:

    @Joke Bijl– I’ll let you know– I’m taking my TZ3 to the Bahamas next week where I plan to do some snorkeling. I’m normally a DSLR shooter but the work I’ve done with the TZ3 has so far left me pretty impressed. I’m leaving the Canon 20D at home for this trip, so I expect to give the TZ3 a real workout.

  • Camera Dude says:

    Excellent review! This review gave me the confidence I needed to buy this camera.

    One question I have for you though – what memory card do you think would work the best with this camera? What kind of memory card did you specifcally use? What is the write speed of this camera?

    Thanks!

  • PJS says:

    I have read that with the higher megapixel cameras using the Ultra II or III SD cards are better? Is this the same as SDHC?

    I want to buy a second compact flash card. I just use a 2GB now but want a back up.

    Please advise what is compatible and which is best?
    Thank you!

  • Photo-John says:

    PJS-
    Faster memory cards only make a difference if the camera’s transfer rate is fast enough to allow the memory cards to reach their own speed potential. It used to be the case that compact digital cameras were too slow to benefit from faster memory cards. I haven’t done any testing to see if this has changed, but I’ve seen reviews that report better performance with faster cards. Since the fast memory cards are gettng so cheap, it can’t hurt to buy a faster card. Those pro memory cards also come with file recovery software, in case a card gets corrupted or you accidentally format without saving your images.

    SDHC cards are another subject. Speed is one thing. SDHC stands for Secure Digital High Capacity. It refers to SD cards that have a capacity over 2 GB. I tested one of the first SDHC cards to be introduced and wrote a bit about the new cards. Here’s a link to that review: http://www.photographyreview.com/lexarsdhccrx.aspx

  • Ross says:

    Hi, It always takes a LONG time between when I press the button, and when it actually takes the photo. Do you know of a way to increase response time for taking quicker pictures?

  • Wizdad says:

    Thanks for the review. I own a TZ3 and enjoy using it. Two questions, though: Is there a way to use an external flash? And, on indoor shots, is there a way to make the photos appear like the viewfinder image? I tried to shoot with the flash off, since the viewfinder screen showed a good image, but the resulting photo was too dark. I look forward to receiving your comment.
    Wizdad

  • Photo-John says:

    Wizdad-
    Glad you enjoyed nhat’s review. He’s a real working pro, so I always appreciate what he has to say about a camera.

    The only way I can think of to use an external flash with the TZ3 would be to use a slave. You would either buy a small, external flash with a built-in optical slave that triggers the flash when the camera’s flash goes. Or, you would use a flash and an accessory slave unit from Wein or another company that makes slaves.

    You had the right idea, turning the flash off, if you want an image that looks like what you see on the LCD. However, the LCD brightens the scene so you can see it better. You will have to make sure your exposure allows enough light to make the scene as bright as the LCD. Sounds like you need a little basic photography principles instruction. You should register and start posting and asking questions on our forums: http://forums.photographyreview.com/

    A couple of other resources you might find useful are our Photography Exposure Primer, and our Digital Camera Histogram Guide.

    Hope that helps! Spread the word about our reviews, please!

  • zxcasd says:

    I feel that there are only two things wrong(or need to be improved) on the TZ3
    1) low light -> flash isn’t very strong, but you can boost up the ISO to 1600/(3200 for the sensitivie mode) but with noise
    2) optical zoom (and AF)during movie mode…. COMEON!!!.. TZ1 had this feature(although its optical zoom was much quieter due to the folded optics)….. keep it in

    hint: for the SD card…. if you get a 4GB and above, you have to get the SDHC standard…. cards labeled 4GB but not SDHC don’t comply to the standard and cannot be used here….. i personally have a SanDisk 4GB SDHC Class 2 (minimum write 2MB/s)….. the manual recommends at least 10MB/s, but my Class 2 card works:

    Burst mode(3fps for 7(low quality) or 5(high quality)), works well on my card… movie mode works ok too(but i havent tried fillng up 2GB(max file size for one video) or 22minutes continuous video, my card might not be able to achieve such continuous video) … and if you get a SDHC card, dont get those off-brands, they aren’t made that well and i’ve seen reviews of those cards losing their glued construction and breaking

  • Matias says:

    I’ve taken several photos with this camera and the results were terrible compared to what I got with my old Olympus Stylus 500.

    Below you’ll find some samples:

    http://i246.photobucket.com/albums/gg89/tutemano/tz3mal3.jpg
    http://i246.photobucket.com/albums/gg89/tutemano/tz3mal.jpg
    http://i246.photobucket.com/albums/gg89/tutemano/tz3mal2.jpg

    I would be glad if you could tell me which are the best settings for this camera to take good pictures (ISO at 100, Auto Mode, Intelligent Mode, etc.)

    Thanks

    Matias

  • Photo-John says:

    Matias-
    The three sample photos you linked to look fine to me. We’d have to see samples of what you were getting with your Olympus and you’d need to be more specific about what you do and don’t like. And this isn’t really the best place to do that. You should really post a question on our Digital Cameras forum. And you should also take a look at my Point-and-Shoot Digital Camera Tips article.

    I hope that helps. Post some of these samples on the forum and tell us what you see as the problem. Then we can give you some specific advice.

  • JEM says:

    Got this camera for Christams & have a few basic questions. I want to get another battery as a back up. Do I need to get a Panasonic brand? The battery I got with the camera doesn’t seem to have a very good life. I’m barely getting 100 photos before needing to recharge. What are the best memory cards to use for this camera?

  • Photo-John says:

    Jem-
    Congratulations on your TZ3. Its a super flexible camera and hopefully it will be great fo you. For questions about your camera you should post on the PhotographyREVIEW.com Digital Cameras forum. You’ll find a lot of information on that forum and you’ll get a better response as it’s really there for questions like yours.

    Thanks for the comment. I’ll be watching for you on the forum :-)

  • Dr. Param says:

    The Battery life is disappointing. I had to recharge the battery after every 50 shots. I am also worried when the flimsy battery door will come away. The tripod screw position is off centre and tilts when a table model short tripod was used. The audio even at full volume is hardly audible. The Panasonic sales outlet at the Sri Lankan Duty Free shop sells this otherwise EXCELLENT camera for a Duty Free price of Us$ 440/-
    It is a shame, Lumix makers allow this Dealer to discredit them and their products.

  • Hi
    Just bought this camera and on the same day found a serious bug. We tried 3 in the store they all do the same thing. In low light and without using the flash the camera defaults to -2 exposure setting. It doesn’t matter if you leave it set to “0″ or set it to +2 crazy. For example inside house at night with average lighting. Start the camera up set to macro mode. take photo at -2 0 +2 exposure they all look the same brightness. Note that initially when looking at LCD the the brightness does change with a change of the exposure setting but when the shot is taken the LCD changes to how it would look at the – 2 exposure setting. The photo when reviewed looks like it was taken with the exposure seting at -2… IS ANYONE ELSE HAVING THIS ISSUE, I have searched the net no firmware upgrade. Seriously thinking about taking this back. I need this functionality for working on electronic CCTS. Maybe a bad batch …

  • ML says:

    I purchased this camera a year ago, preparing for a trip through the Grand Canyon. I continue to be amazed at its ease of use and the many options that it offers me.
    Recently, my daughter lost her camera and I am now FORCED to think about whether or not to give her mine, or help her shop for a replacement, (she had a Canon). Normally I’d make a child suffer the consequences, but under the circumstances (she has borrowed my camera and has an affection towards it), I wonder if I should just treat myself to an upgrade? Hence the reason I’m here. Have there been refinements to an already superior product? I’ll have to read the news.
    You can’t go wrong with this camera. I have loved mine.

  • Photo-John says:

    ML-
    You should upgrade! :-)

    There have been two subsequent Panasonic TZ models, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ4 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5. They were both introduced this spring. They still have the Leica 10x optical zoom with 28mm wide-angle and optical image stabilization. They also have Panasonic’s latest processing – Venus Engine IV. So they should be faster and have better image quality. Some of the other feature upgrades are Intelligent Exposure, Intelligent ISO, Intelligent Scene Selector, and Face Detection. I reviewed the Panasonic Lumix FX35 this spring and got to try out those new features. I’m not easily impressed and I really liked some of those new options.

    Also, please post a review for your TZ3. The foundation of this site is user reviews from people just like you. Here’s a link to the Panasonic TZ3 yser review page: http://www.photographyreview.com/cat/cameras/digital-cameras/6-to-7-megapixel/panasonic/PRD_385907_5648crx.aspx

    Thanks for reading our review and posting your comment!

  • Patia says:

    ML, I’d treat yourself! :-)

    I recently bought the TZ5 and am really enjoying it!

  • Patia says:

    Oops, I mean TZ4.

  • Pingback: Olympus and Panasonic: New Micro Four Thirds Standard

  • kittnluver says:

    I’ve misplaced the user book for the TZ3. While recording video, is there a way to pause? Thanks

  • Photo-John says:

    kittnluver-
    We try to include a link a downloadable version of the camera manual in every pro review. Those are always at the end of the review under “Other Resources.” Looks like the link for the manual in this review isn’t working, though. So I dug up the page on the Panasonic site for you. If you go to this page there’s a link to download the manual:

    Panasonic Lumix TZ3 Support >>

  • Michael Leong says:

    Just bought the TZ3 at a clearance sale last week. Today bought a 16gb Sandisk Ultra II card and it works well. A compatible battery, I found one for a very good price, will be getting a few soon just for standby. Check it out (http://www.sabahoceanic.com/epages/sabahoceanic.sf/en_US/?ObjectPath=/Shops/sabahoceanic/Categories/DigiC/Panasonic)

  • NikonF7 says:

    I’ve had my TZ3 for a long time now, and still love it. I rarely carry my Nikon D70 DSLR now.

    I love the video mode despite the much-maligned inability to zoom during video shooting. Great for anything from a short clip to a 2GB file. Spent at least 4x$5 for extra Chinese batteries on eBay, and 2x$15 for 8GB SDHC Class 6 cards.

    The sound is OK for most non-musical purposes but I wish it were better. Here is a continuous 75+ minute TZ3 video clip I took driving on a remote road/trail in Nevada, in the snow at night: ****** http://vimeo.com/6939153 ******

    To post it under 500MB, I degraded the beautiful 848×480 10fps original to 320×240 at 5fps, and Vimeo then compressed it to a stupid 400×300 size. The video artifacts are not on the original MOV or the AVI.

    10fps (vs its normal 30fps) conserves file size and increases the light gathering. The MOV file was 1.06GB vs the 2GB limit, so you might even get a 2h20m clip if you hacked external power.

    I’m not sure if newer point/shoots with their smaller HD video pixels can duplicate the low-light, long duration performance of the TZ3 at 848×480 WVGA.

    RAD Video Tools (free, uncrippled, from a company selling videogame development tools) is great for doing the MOV to AVI conversion. I hate MOV files too, but a converter like RAD eliminates that problem.

    Regards,

    John aka NikonF7 here aka JB737 on Vimeo

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