Review: Panasonic Lumix TZ18

 
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Published: May 23, 2011 11:00 PM
By Renaud Labracherie / Morgane Alzieu
Translated by: Catherine Barraclough
Panasonic's Lumix TZ series has been updated for 2011 with the eagerly anticipated TZ20 and the mid-range TZ18. The TZ18 has a 16x stabilised zoom lens, a 14-Megapixel CCD and a handy Intelligent Auto mode (iA) that makes this compact a piece of cake to use, especially for beginners. 

Handling

The Lumix TZ18 has a classic compact camera design and handling-wise it holds no surprises. There's a slight bulge on the right-hand side of the camera that's perfectly positioned for resting your middle finger on, even if it's a little too smooth and slippery to really improve grip. The product finish is fine, but nothing more, and the main controls are responsive and don't wobble or feel loose. The camera's interface is simple and user-friendly, with a mode-selection dial (PASM, iA, video etc.), a zoom control around the shutter-release button, a four-way arrow pad (flash, macro, exposure) and a QMenu button for easy access to the main picture settings (burst mode, ISO, image size, white balance etc.). One thing we don't like is the fiddly little switch for moving between shooting mode and playback, and it's a shame there's no video button to launch recording straight away.

Panasonic TZ18 test review
 
The LCD screen is disappointing, with a definition of just 230,000 dots and restricted viewing angles from above and below. The on-screen image glitches and judders when the light starts to fade, and soon loses clarity and sharpness indoors. What's more, the screen really doesn't do justice to pictures with lots of bright areas or extreme highlights, as these soon become saturated. Similarly, colour fidelity is way off the mark.

Responsiveness

The TZ18 is a very responsive camera. The autofocus is very fast at wide-angle settings and performs well at telephoto settings too. Plus, in low light, the TZ18 still manages to focus in under a second at all focal lengths. The camera takes a reasonable 1.5 seconds to start up, bearing in mind it has a 16x zoom lens to contend with, and photos are saved quickly.

Panasonic TZ18 test review

Picture Quality

The star feature of the TZ18 is obviously its 16x (24-384 mm) superzoom lens, which is actually quite good for a camera in this price range. Picture quality is sharp and accurate at wide-angle settings. Although the pictures are almost certainly processed on the fly by the camera to remove certain faults (vignetting, chromatic aberration etc.), we still spotted a few blips, including lens distortion that's visible at wide-angle settings and slightly less noticeable at telephoto settings. Similarly, telephoto shots visibly lack contrast. So while the TZ18 does as good a job as most other similarly priced superzooms (Sony HX7V, Nikon S9100 etc.), it's outdone by the likes of the Canon SX230 HS, with its more advanced image processing system.

Panasonic TZ18 test review

The Lumix TZ18 has a decent 14-Megapixel CCD. At 100 ISO, pictures are clean and sharp, and there's no significant loss in detail before 800 ISO. In this respect, the TZ18 actually does a better job than the higher-end TZ20, in spite of its more recent MOS sensor. At 1600 ISO, smoothing is heavy and very (too) visible and colours also seem to lose some of their intensity. At such settings, you'll be thankful of the TZ18's highly effective stabilisation system. 

Panasonic TZ18 ISO picture quality

Video

To make sure the TZ18 stays one step down the range from the TZ20, Panasonic has purposely restricted the video mode in this camera. Video is recorded in 1280 x 720 pixels at 30 fps and is saved in the out-dated M-Jpeg format. Needless to say, sound is mono rather than stereo. The TZ18 therefore clearly lags behind current market standards.

That said, the TZ18's optical zoom can still be used in video mode and can even be slowed down for smooth transitions. The continuous autofocus is also pretty handy. The results are acceptable when watched back on a Full HD TV, even if ghosting is clearly a problem with moving subjects.


3/5 Panasonic Lumix TZ18 DigitalVersus 2011-05-24 00:00:00

Pros

  • Picture quality up to 800 ISO
  • Responsiveness
  • Versatile zoom and 3 cm macro mode
  • Automatic white balance works well
  • Effective optical stabilisation

Cons

  • Low-definition screen with poor vertical viewing angles
  • 720p video mode with mono sound
  • Burst mode is slow with full-resolution shots
  • Pictures at 1600 ISO look heavily smoothed

Conclusion

The Panasonic Lumix TZ18 is a fairly decent superzoom compact (picture quality, responsiveness, etc.) that's seriously let down by a its poor-quality screen and video mode. In this price range, the Canon SX230 HS does a much better job.

OUR SCORE 3/5
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