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A classy little camera with a stunning Leica lens!
on 7 April 2009
This really is a classy little camera. Sleek looking, quality lens and plenty of features.
I normally take my photos on a digital SLR - which cost over 3 times the price of this little beauty, but I like to carry a camera around with me whenever possible (on a walking or bike trip) so lugging a huge SLR with all of its lenses isn't really feasible. OK so this Lumix isn't as versatile as an SLR - there are no out-and-out manual settings on it, but it does allow you to have some forms of override and its compactness, small weight and quality of lens make up for this.
The quality of the pictures I have taken on it so far - whether at 25mm or 300mm have been quite stunning. The full range of the zoom (12x) has been used to take photos of flora and fauna. If you WANT to you can even get it to zoom in further (up to 21.4 times - that's the equivalent of over 500mm lens - though the quality does suffer).
The Leica lens is really crisp for a small camera such as this. Just over 10mega-pixels may be less than some of its rivals but the quality of the lens shines through and is plenty for really crisp shots. I've taken pictures of architecture, landscape, animals, flowers and portraits of people and been mightily impressed with all of these.
The first setting on the dial is "Intelligent Auto" which allows the camera to decide the best aperture/shutter-speed combination for each shot. I've set this and been more than happy with the results.
For those who like to have a little more control - the "Normal Picture Mode" allows you to take pictures while customizing the settings. You can change a large number of settings here including the format of the picture - from 4:3 to 3:2 or even 16:9; the ISO, quality etc. White balance and extra stop exposures are also available.
The third style is "Scene mode" - this allows you to choose the normal types of modes - portrait, landscape, small tulip (!) etc - but there are a myriad of them here - 25 in fact! - including "baby", "pet", "candle light", "party", "sunset" and "fireworks". These might all sound like gimmicks but they do actually work - though I haven't yet had the time or the inclination to try each of the 25 options yet! The booklet gives adequate details of all of these 25 different scene modes. The "My Scene mode" basically allows you to save your favourite scene for future use.
It allows features like a "black and white" or "sepia" setting if you prefer to do your image manipulation in camera rather than with photo software.
The 2.7 inch LCD is also really clear - although as always don't allow the sun to creep over your shoulder or the image will be hard to see.
Its shutter speeds go from 1/2000ths of a second to 8 seconds but it also has a "starry sky" setting which allows you to take photos in the dead at night of all the stars and moon (up to a whole minute if its necessary!) Try it out for really good results (you may have to experiment a bit for the best exposure).
The auto focus also works a treat - the "face-recognition" technology appeared to work in all of the situations I trialled it through - whether the "guinea-pig"* was central or to one side of the shot - near or far away. Likewise the "Optical Image Stabiliser" appears to work to stop that irritating camera shake.
As usual there are a number of flash options: Auto, Auto-red-eye, forced flash on, forced flash on-red-eye, slow sync, red-eye, forced flash off. All functions of the flash worked fine for me - the red eye reduction worked a treat.
If you want to use it very often for its "motion picture" facilities I'd probably advise you to go for the TZ7 instead (which is almost £100 more expensive) or a model in another range of compacts. I'm not saying it's bad - it's good enough for the odd moving sequence but don't expect camcorder quality.
One final thing I liked about this camera is that the booklet is on paper - no having to download all of it from a cd. You can actually carry around the little booklet with you wherever you go. And 90% of it isn't in a numerous other languages - this is the English version. And amazingly - it's a very good booklet. I don't have anything bad to say about it at all - it tells you exactly what you need to know!
If you are looking for a small compact camera with a super quality lens which goes through the whole range of wide-angle and telephoto which you can rely on time after time to give you excellent shots and allows a little manipulation of the exposure, then this is the baby to buy.
* No guinea-pigs were harmed in the writing of this review...