A travel camera with a good zoom was what I wanted, something with a longer reach and generally wider scope than my phone camera. After studying the sub-£200 camera market I chose this TZ55 over other models for one main reason, the articulated screen. Cranky? Yup, that's me, but there is a rationale. Not selfies, I'd rather dig my eyes out with a rusty fork. But I hate to hold a camera up in front of my face and the TZ55 gives me the option to frame a shot at waist level, or with the camera on a table in front of me - you get the idea. Flexible, stealthy, inconspicuous. Also, being able to angle the screen at will enables me to minimise the sort of glare and reflections that can sometimes make LCD screens virtually unusable in outdoor situations.
CONSTRUCTION & LAYOUT
The camera feels reassuringly solid in the hand, the screen hinge seems sturdy enough, and overall any reasonable person would think it well made. I especially like that there's no flimsy pop-up flash mechanism, something many compacts are cursed with. It's not really slim but it slips into a jacket pocket easily enough, or even into a trouser pocket if you don't wear skinny jeans. I don't, nobody would thank me.
It's inevitable that a pocket camera with a wide range of facilities and functions is going to have a cramped button layout unsuitable for clumsy sausage fingers, space is very tight. So until my fingers are fully accustomed to where controls are I'll be looking carefully before pressing anything. I think that would have been true whichever camera I bought.
The days when I would pore over A4 photo prints are far behind me now, they are gone with the snows of yesteryear. Nowadays I view photos on my phone, tablet, and laptop, and sometimes email them to friends and family. For those purposes the TZ55 produces excellent shots, and if you're the sort of keen photographer who demands more you wouldn't consider this camera anyway, not least because it cannot save RAW files, only compressed JPEG format.
The 16 megapixel sensor is fairly typical in the price range. There's no good reason for such a high pixel count except that marketing has vanquished reason. The camera makers want us to believe that more pixels = better quality but things are not really so simple. A "Full HD" 1080p TV screen, which can have a diagonal measurement of sixty inches or more, actually has a resolution of just 2.1 megapixels, and the 3 megapixel photos I took with my first digital camera back in 2001 are still very viewable, so you might ask yourself who's kidding who. But when I've finished grumbling about spurious complexity I have to say I'm very satisfied with the photos the TZ55 produces, and they are what any camera is about.
Like most of its peers the TZ55 has a plethora of user options, and I've only dipped a toe in those waters. So far I've mostly used it in Program AE mode, which allows me to set ISO 400 to reduce noise, whereas the IA (Intelligent Auto) mode changes the ISO setting for its own purposes. There are so many modes, even a quasi-manual one, that it will take me a long time to fully explore the possibilities.
Reading reviews here on Amazon and elsewhere during my lengthy pre-purchase research I found a lot of people complaining the TZ55 is slow. But that's not at all what I've found, and on the contrary I find it to be fast. It switches on and is ready to shoot in under 2 seconds, menu operations are very quick, and I can only think some improvements must have been since this model was launched a year ago. It would be much more convenient to use if it had a touchscreen, and I often find myself poking futilely at the screen because I am so used to devices responding to finger touches, but I knew about that limitation before placing my order so cannot complain.
The image stablisation is better than I'd hoped for, and I've had some long zoom shots that should have been impossible without a tripod. At greater than 10X zoom I've sometimes found the focus takes a while to settle, even in quite bright light, and on those occasions there's no alternative but to wait for it to sort itself out. In fairness though, the focus is usually very fast indeed, and overall the camera is a joy to use.
The TZ55 can connect via mini-HDMI to a TV, or via NFC, Wi-Fi, or USB to another device.
There is a Panasonic Image App available from the Google Play store and I installed that on my Moto G Android phone. Of course there is a similar app for iPhone. To establish a direct Wi-Fi connection to a phone is straightforward, the easiest way being to point the phone at the QR code the TZ55 will display and let the connection occur automatically. An alternative method is to connect via the network using the router's WPS facility, and this is also quick and easy. The problem I found with the TZ55's Wi-Fi arrangements is that it doesn't seem to remember them, so every time I want to use my phone with the camera I have to go through the setup procedure. Probably, undoubtedly, this is because I'm doing something wrong, but I do feel other people will be caught out as well.
Once the Wi-Fi connection is established Image App shows thumbnails of the camera's stored photos on the phone screen. At this stage the photos have not been stored on the phone, but you can select and copy across the ones you want, it's just a matter of touching Select on the screen and then the individual photos you want to transfer. As is so often the case, the process is easier to perform than to describe. In addition to transferring photos (and videos) Image App gives remote control of the camera, in fact to an extent I found surprising. It doesn't only show what the camera lens sees and allow you take stills or video, it gives control of zoom, focus method, and other parameters. But it can't move the camera :)
USB connection of the TZ55 seems to have irritated one or two reviewers. Along with the mini-HDMI socket the USB socket, alas a mini 8 rather than the more commonplace micro type, is concealed behind a flap or door on the side of the camera. That rubbery door gives an instant impression of cheap nastiness, I have to say, and I don't like to open it at all for fear of it falling off. When the supplied USB lead is connected to a port on a PC then if the camera is OFF the battery will charge, and when the camera is turned ON a USB Mode screen will be shown, the two options being PictBridge and PC. Select PC, and LUMIX will appear as a spare drive letter in Windows Explorer. Nothing could be easier, I think, nothing at all.
I've mentioned a few quibbles with the TZ55. The horrid USB compartment door, the sometimes uncertain focus, my doubts about the Wi-Fi arrangements, and I still think Panasonic should have fitted a touchscreen. But I bought from Amazon largely because they have a refreshingly sensible attitude to returns, and I'm not returning my new camera. I like the TZ55, and I think I chose well.