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Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ6 (ZS1) - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 14/05/2009
Rating: Highly Recommended
Author: Joshua Waller
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Read reviews on: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ6


Introduction: Announced on the 27th of January 2009, the Panasonic Lumix TZ6 is one of Panasonic's new ultra zoom digital cameras, and features an impressive 25mm wide angle lens with a 12x optical zoom. The camera features a 10 megapixel sensor, a wide angle 12x optical zoom lens, a 2.7" screen that works in the sun,16:9 Aspect Ratio: 848x480 30fps video recording, optical image stabilisation and a pocketable metal body. The Panasonic Lumix TZ6 is available from around £210 which makes it good value for money. The camera is enclosed in a metal body and is available in black, and silver. The camera measures approx. 103.3 x 59.6 x 32.8 mm (excluding protrusions), and weighs approx. 206g. excluding battery and memory card.

Panasonic have this to say about the camera:

"The new TZ series packs a LEICA DC VARIO-ELMAR lens with 12x optical zoom into a compact body. This versatile photographic tool lets you shoot everything from sweeping vistas at the 25mm wide-angle setting to dynamic 300mm telephoto shots. And the lens system's exquisite rendering ability lets you capture even the subtle nuances of the sights and scenes in your travels."

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Casio Exilim FC100)


Front view - camera off.


Front view - camera on, hand grip, flash, focus assist lamp, lens.


Top: microphone, speaker, power switch, shutter release, zoom control, mode dial.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera (with no zoom).


Size comparison.

Specifications / Features:

  • 10 megapixels 1/2.5” CCD Sensor
  • Leica Wide Angle 12x optical zoom lens (equivalent to 25mm to 300mm)
  • MEGA O.I.S optical image stabilization
  • 2.7" LCD Display, 230K pixels (TZ7 features 3" screen with 430k pixels)
  • Face Detection, Digital Red-eye Correction
  • Intelligent Auto mode with Intelligent Exposure
  • Video recording: 16:9 Aspect Ratio: 848x480 30fps (TZ7 features AVCHD 720p video recording, a dedicated record button, and stereo microphone)
  • Continuous shooting: Full-Resolution Image 2.5 frames/sec Max. 5 images (2.3fps on TZ7)
  • HD Output : No (AV Output)
  • Red-Eye Reduction: Yes
  • ~3cm Macro mode
  • ISO : Auto /100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 (High Sensitivity Mode : Auto (1600 - 6400))
  • Scenes: Portrait, Soft Skin, Transform, Self-Portrait, Scenery, Panorama Assist, Sports, Night Portrait, / Night Scenery, Food, Party, Candle Light, Baby1, Baby2, Pet, Sunset, High sensitivity, / Hi-Speed Burst (Image Priority / Speed Priority), Flash Burst, Starry Sky, Fireworks, Beach, Snow, / Aerial photo, Pinhole, Film Grain, Underwater
  • Histogram available: In playback and record
  • Exposure bracketing: 3 shots upto +/- 1 ev
  • Optical viewfinder: No
  • Manual WB: Yes

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera (with 40mb built in memory)
  • Battery Charger
  • Li-ion Battery Pack (3.6V, 895mAh)
  • Battery carrying case
  • AV Cable
  • USB Connection Cable
  • AC Cable
  • Strap
  • Software CD-ROM

Average box contents - a large memory card would be nice, as would a case (for example the Lowepro Apex 30AW) and are both recommended purchases.

Menu system: The menu system is easy to use, logical, well layed out and easy to see thanks to the large 2.7" screen. The camera has a "Quick Menu" button on the back that gives you quick access to all the most commonly used options whilst taking photos (such as burst mode, iso, white balance, image size etc), and then the Menu can be accessed when additional settings need changing. The playback menu gives all the usual options such as a slideshow, and lets you edit the photo title, or put a text stamp on the photo. An explanation of the scene modes can be viewed by pressing the Display / Info button.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera lets you choose the image size (10m, 7m, 5m, 3m, 2m, VGA), and aspect ratio (4:3, 3:2 at 9mp, 6mp, 4.5mp, and 2.5mp, 16:9 at 7.5mp, 5.5mp, 3.5mp, and 2mp), and gives you two choices regarding how much compression is applied to the images. Higher quality images take a large amount of memory, so a high capacity memory card is definitely recommended, unless you're prepared to sacrifice image size to fit more pictures in memory. There is a very good choice of image sizes, aspect ratios, and compression options.


Bottom - Battery (DMW-BCG10E, 3.6v, 895mAh), SanDisk Ultra II 4GB SD memory card, metal tripod mount.

Battery usage: Battery life is rated at 320 shots, according to CIPA standards (the TZ7 is rated at 300 shots) - I was able to take around 322 shots before the battery went flat, this is slightly better than average.

Memory cards: A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 1gb memory card, if you intend to take fine JPEG images, and preferably a 2gb memory card, or larger. The larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to go on holiday then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in, as you don't always know when you will next be at a computer. You can use SD or SDHC memory cards - I tend to use Sandisk Ultra II Plus USB SD memory cards as these let you plug the memory card straight into a USB socket making it easy to transfer images onto any computer, they are available as 1GB SD, or 2GB SD cards and 4GB SDHC cards. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Panasonic Lumix TZ6:

Find the latest prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 1gb (1000mb): £2, 2gb (2000mb): £4, 4gb (4000mb SDHC): £6, 8gb (8000mb SDHC): £10, 16gb (16000mb SDHC): £28
Need more help deciding what memory card to buy? Have a look at our guide to digital camera memory cards or our article what size memory card should I buy?

Speed: The camera is fairly quick to switch on and take photos, from off, to taking a photo in 2.6 seconds (with Quick AF on). Focusing seemed quick, except in very low light - this takes a little longer to focus depending on the subject, and focus at the telephoto end of the zoom was slightly slower. The playback mode is quick. The camera shutter response seemed instant when pre-focused responding in 0.1 seconds or less - and shot to shot time was fairly quick, with a delay of around 1.6 seconds between shots without flash. The flash recharge time added about a second delay allowing a shot to be taken every 2.5 seconds. Continuous shooting is quite good offering 2.5 fps for 3 shots at the highest resolution. An unlimited continuous shooting mode shoots at around 2 fps. The cameras menus seemed quick.


Back - 2.7" screen, photo / playback switch, 4-way controller, with middle Menu / OK button, display and quick menu / delete buttons.

Ease of use: The camera is very easy to use, with a logical menu system, and easy to access features. The camera has a number of modes such as "intelligent AUTO" and numerous scene modes so that you should be able to get good shots. The face detection focus can help capture photos of people and will automatically expose the photo so they subjects face is correctly exposed. The controls on the back of the camera are straightforward, and it's easy to switch modes using the clear mode dial, and mode switch. The menus are responsive and are also easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy to see clearly. The modes are easy to access, and a lot of the options can be accessed using the buttons on the back. It's also easy to see when photos are in focus using the zoomed review mode. The screen is very clear, and features a bright mode - it can also be used in bright sunlight.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The layout of the buttons and controls are good, with all button and controls reachable with your right hand. The zoom control and shutter release is very good. The mode dial is positioned well making it easy to switch modes with your thumb (a little too easy?), and the quick menu button gives quick access to your favourite settings. I thought the camera felt very good with a good (but small) thumb gip and the back and a good hand grip at the front. The camera feels very well made, with a robust metal body. The camera is easy to hold, fits into pockets, and looks good, with a premium styled body available in a couple of colours (black or silver). The on / off and play / photo switches both felt very pleasing when used, and should mean that you don't accidentally switch the camera on in your pocket. The tripod mount is made out of metal, and is positioned near the middle of the camera which is an improvement over the predecessor.

Image Quality: Here are some real world sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Outside, Macro, to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the Panasonic Lumix TZ6 Sample Photo Gallery!

Inside:

Heather and Flower (ISO100) Flash photo (ISO100)

Inside: The camera has very good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - there is almost no red-eye in the photo. It has a fairly good flash, and copes fairly well with group photos, although if the subject is too far away then detail can appear very low if the ISO setting goes above ISO400. There is some red-eye in group photos. On AUTO ISO, the ISO setting was quite low, and noise was acceptable. The camera did a good job at focusing most of the time in low-light, the LED illuminator helped focus.

ISO Noise Test: Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels (ranging from ISO 100 - ISO1600), manual ISO settings (ISO: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600), and further ISO settings upto ISO3200 / ISO6400 in high sensitivity mode.

Below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops, viewable at 100%, from the image taken at different ISO settings, compared with the 9 megapixel Canon Powershot SX110 IS and 12 megapixel Fujifilm FinePix F100fd.

Canon Powershot SX110 IS (9mp) Panasonic Lumix TZ6 (10mp) Fujifilm FinePix F100fd (12mp)

ISO Noise Test Photos - Flash is off. Canon Powershot SX110 IS on the left, Panasonic Lumix TZ6 in the middle, Fujifilm FinePix F100fd on the right. Any tonal difference is due to white balance or lighting / metering differences.

Canon Powershot SX110 IS (9mp) Panasonic Lumix TZ6 (10mp) Fujifilm FinePix F100fd (12mp)
 
ISO80 - Actual Pixels ISO80 - Actual Pixels  
ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels (1s, Nightmode)
ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels
ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels
ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels
ISO1600 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - Actual Pixels
ISO3200 - Actual Pixels (2mp) ISO3200 - High sensitivity mode. (3mp) ISO3200 - Actual Pixels

Noise results: Slightly less noise than it's predecessor the TZ5, and also slightly less noise than the Canon Powershot SX110 IS. Images are also quite sharp, although noise is more noticeable than the Fuji F100fd. ISO settings up to ISO400 are good.

Image Stabilisation: The Panasonic Lumix TZ6 features real image stabilisation, called Mega Optical Image Stabilisation. This feature helps reduce image blur due to low light or long zoom photography. With image stabilisation switched on the images are much sharper and clearer, and are much more likely to come out blur free, especially in low light, when using the zoom or when using slow shutter speeds.

IS Off
ISO800, 1/4
IS on
ISO800, 1/4
Thumb Thumb
Actual Pixels Actual Pixels

Outside:

Liverpool shops (ISO80) Trees (ISO80)

Outside: The camera has nicely saturated colours - colourful but not overly saturated. There was very good detail, and the camera took a number of pleasing images outside, with good contrast, although there was some chromatic aberrations and purple fringing in areas of high contrast. In general 'normal' quality jpeg artefacts are not easily seen, however areas with strong contrasts benefit from use of the highest quality setting. Images are slightly soft, but nothing too worrying. Noise is evident in most photos, mainly in dark areas, however, this was mainly noticeable when "pixel peeping" and viewing the images at 100% on the screen, when printed at A4 this noise was barely visible.

Zoom: This lens provides a 12x optical zoom starting at 25mm equivalent which is great for wide angle shots (useful indoors, and at parties etc), and the camera zooms to 300mm allowing photos of distant objects. I've included examples below to show what the zoom is capable of. Digital zoom basically takes a crop of the centre of the frame and enlarges the image, degrading image quality, and is therefore best avoided, unless you use this camera's easy zoom feature. The easy zoom feature lets you zoom in further if you select a smaller image size.

Wide-angle Roughly 3x Optical Zoom Full Optical zoom

Exposure: The photos of the clock tower are exposed well with detail in the dark areas - however the sky is slightly over exposed - exposure in other photos was generally very good. Vignetting was not noticed in these photos. It can be useful to under expose images with bright backgrounds (eg; sky) with use of exposure compensation.

Lens noise and zoom: The lens makes very little noise, and gives you around 35 steps between wide and telephoto - this gives very good control over how you frame your subject.

Other Image Quality issues: Purple fringing / Chromatic aberration was ocassionally seen in areas of high contrast.

Macro Lens Performance:

Timex Watch Macro Actual Pixels (ISO100)

The camera can take macro photos where the subject is roughly 3cm away from the lens in macro mode. Colour and detail is very good. The camera has manual white balance which can help get better shots in artificial lighting.

Video mode: The camera features a very good video mode - it records 16:9 Aspect Ratio: 848x480 30fps videos with sound as MOV files and has fairly good compression allowing you to record long videos. The video mode does let you use the optical zoom whilst recording, sound is also recorded even when using the zoom.

Conclusion

Image Quality: Image quality is very good - with excellent colour, and high levels of saturation, contrast and detail. Noise levels were average (with slightly better results than it's predecessor), and results were good at ISO400 or below and prints made from this camera looked excellent, and detail was very good. There was some red eye in group photos, and purple fringing was occasionally seen. The camera did a good job focusing most of the time, even indoors, thanks to the focus assist lamp. There was no noticeable vignetting (darkened corners) despite the wide angle lens, nor did I notice barrel or pincushion distortion in photos. There is a very good range of image sizes, aspect ratios, and a good choice of compression options. Auto white balance, metering and exposure seemed to be very good, and manual white balance can help with photography in artificial lighting. Optical image stabilisation helped keep shots blur / shake free in low light helping the camera get a higher shot success rate than cameras without. The camera has a good video mode that lets you use the optical zoom while recording. (9/10)

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is compact considering the 12x optical zoom, and the stylish metal body is available in silver or black. The camera feels very well built, with pleasing switches, and is fairly comfortable to hold. It features things you may not need such as face detection, intelligent Auto, but it turns out that these can be useful features. The camera has a very good 2.7" screen that works well even in the sun. The camera is easy to use, thanks to numerous scene modes, and clever auto modes, and provides quick access to the most commonly used options. The layout of buttons and controls is very good. The camera speed is good, with an average switch on time, quick focusing time, excellent shutter response, quick playback mode, quick menus, and quick continuous shooting mode, and a quick flash recharge time. The camera has a wide range of features that should suit most people, such as face detection focus, red-eye reduction, numerous scene modes, excellent video mode that allows the use of the zoom whilst recording, excellent macro mode, an ultra wide angle 12x optical zoom lens with image stabilisation, manual white balance and numerous photo options etc. The camera also has good battery life. However, if you want HD video recording you'll need to look at the more expensive TZ7. (9/10)

Value for Money: The Panasonic Lumix TZ6 is priced at around £210, this may seem expensive, however, when compared to the competition, there are few compact 10x or 12x optical zoom cameras available with a wide angle lens, and the range of features that this camera has at this price point. Other cameras worth considering include the Panasonic Lumix TZ7, Canon Powershot SX110 IS, SX200 IS, Olympus Mju Stylus 9000, Samsung WB500, and if you're looking for something slightly smaller with a wide angle lens then have a look at the Ricoh CX1. (9/10) See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: The Panasonic TZ6 improves on a few key areas, and makes an impressive camera even better, the camera now offers an even wider 12x optical zoom lens with image stabilisation, all in the same compact body and it will still fit in your pocket. Image quality is excellent, with lower noise than the TZ5 and excellent detail. The camera provides an abundance of features, and has a very good 2.7" screen. The camera features a very clever "Intelligent Auto" mode and makes using the camera easy, and fun, and provides an abundance of scene modes for beginners. For those looking for more creativity the camera features manual white balance, exposure bracketing, rapid continuous shooting, a histogram, and other image options. Add in an impressive widescreen video mode that lets you use the optical zoom whilst filming and you have a very impressive all-round package, all squeezed into a stylish, metal camera. The camera has one of the best lenses available in a pocket zoom camera, and is one of the cheapest available, what more could you want? Highly Recommended.

Panasonic Lumix TZ6 Rating: Highly Recommended (9/10)
Available for £210 - or Get the best price below!

What I like:

  • Very easy to use
  • Compact and stylish metal body
  • Very good build quality and switches
  • Very good image quality - excellent colour
  • Wide angle 12x optical zoom lens with optical image stabilisation
  • Intelligent ISO / Exposure / Intelligent AUTO mode will automatically set ISO, Shutter speed, Subject type etc
  • Very good 2.7" screen - works well in sunlight
  • Impressive detail at ISO80 - ISO200 with ISO400 results good
  • Excellent macro mode
  • Quick performance - 2.5fps continuous shooting
  • Focus assist lamp
  • Good video modes (16:9 aspect ratio, allows use of the optical zoom, 30fps etc)
  • Metal tripod location improved over TZ5

What I don't like:

  • Some noise visible at ISO100 (but good results upto ISO400)
  • Slightly weak flash, some red-eye
  • Some purple fringing

Additional Test Images are viewable in the Panasonic Lumix TZ6 Sample Photo Gallery.

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