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My first ever digital camera was a Lumix and I loved it, I found it intuitive and it produced great photos compared to my film camera. Unfortunately it eventually got damaged and it was replaced. I was never that happy with its replacement so about 18months ago we decided to upgrade our camera again. My husband wanted another Panasonic and my memories of my original Lumix were still very rosy so I agreed with him and he decided on the Lumix DMC-TZ6 even though it was over £230 at the time.
The camera arrived in a box with the battery, a battery charger and a Disc for the manual. I think there was probably also a wire to connect it to the computer to download the photos but I always load mine up through the SD card in the printer I am not sure. The camera takes SD cards and I think it can also take SDHC but I have never tried one of these.
As soon as I saw the camera I took an instant dislike to it. It is black which I really dislike as I prefer silver or coloured cameras as I find them easier to spot in the depths of my handbag but I persuaded myself that colour wasn’t important. I then picked the camera up and got another shock, it weighs a ton (well not quite a ton but at over 220g it felt heavy). I also thought the camera seemed bulky at 10cm x6cm x3.5cm at its deepest part. I have fairly small hand and I didn’t feel it sat very comfortably when I held it but my husband found it much easier to hold than our previous, smaller, camera.
The battery and SD card are accessed through the base of the camera and the spring-loaded flap feels very robust and the lock never slides open by accident although it isn’t stiff to use either. The base of the camera also has the tripod point which is nicely centred and the internal screw is of good quality metal and we have never had any problems with cross-threading the tripod.
The camera boasts 10megapixles and a 12x Optical Zoom so we were hoping to achieve some good shots and immediately started to get to grips with our new toy. Turning the camera on is very simple, a slide switch on the top produces a reassuring whirr as the Leica Wide-Angle lens comes out of the front and the large display screen illuminates at the back. I really like the screen, it is 5.5cm x 4 cm and it is bright and clear. I have found it very easy to use except on the brightest of days when it becomes a little harder to see. However I do holiday a lot and have been to some hot, sunny places in the last 18 months and have probably only encountered a problem about half a dozen times. The screen displays the image of the photograph about to be taken and then the captured image for a few seconds; to view this image again there is another simple slide button.
Like most digital cameras the screen is also the location for a lot of information and it is where you can make most of the adjustments to the settings. All of the functions are accessed via the menus which are navigated by a set of directional silver buttons and a menu set key to the side of the screen. These keys also control things like the availability of the flash and the deletion of photographs. I find it useful to always have the display screen showing the information about the shooting mode but it is easy to cancel that and to just show the image or grid-lines if you prefer.
There are a lot of different menus depending upon the shooting mode that is selected but there is enough information or clear symbols to make them very self-explanatory and easy to change. I particularly like how quick and easy it is to swap between the different picture qualities as I take a lot of 3m pictures for review sites, eBay etc. as it is much quicker to load them but I prefer good quality photographs for my own use. This camera has been heavily used for the last year and a half and the screen is still in excellent condition. It has not scratched at all and there are no rogue pixels or bright spots either. I do usually carry the camera in a case but sometimes it is just in my handbag or a drawer and it is still perfect.
Getting ready for the Shot
Taking basic photographs with this camera is child’s-play. There is a dial on the top which provides the various shooting modes. Selecting iA sets the camera into Intelligent Auto mode and it uses the setting that seems to be most appropriate for the photograph being taken. This setting uses Auto-focus, face Detection (including Red-eye reduction) and auto-exposure. I find that this gives very good results for the majority of pictures but sometimes it is preferable to have a bit more control. The only problem with the dial is that it can easily be knocked out of position so I might suddenly get it out of my bag for a quick shot but I miss it as I have to quickly turn it back to the correct location.
The camera has what is called “Normal Picture” mode. I rarely use this as I can’t see much benefit over the iA mode except that it does allow me to use a Forced Flash On, iA only gives the option of Auto Flash of Flash Off whereas occasionally I will want the flash on, maybe due to bright sunlight and shadows or odd back lighting.
Manual setting allows more control of the camera, including changing exposure times. I must admit that my photography knowledge doesn’t really extend as far as using some of the setting in this part although I do use the Burst Mode which allows the shutter to be held down and several photographs are taken in rapid succession. As a cycling fan I find this really useful when taking photographs of races as I can never be quite sure when the cyclist will appear around a corner behind their cars.
Scene Mode allows you to select a particular scene type and the camera then produces the setting s that will produce the best results. There are over 25 settings to choose from. The ones I have used most often are Sunset, Snow, Fireworks and Night Portrait. In general these have produced good results although they do require a steady hand due to the longer shutter speed. Although the camera does offer Image stabilisation these modes can still incur some camera shake if you are not really careful. Swapping between the scenes is really easy using the direction keys.
Once you have selected a mode a small symbol appears on the screen to remind you what you have selected. There are a couple of special effect in this Mode as well including Black and White Film mode and Pinhole. I have tried these but I find it more effective to play around with the photos using software afterwards if I want so I don’t bother with them now. There is a panorama assist mode, my husband has used this several times and produced some fantastic photographs and he says it is very easy but I haven’ tried it.
The camera can take motion pictures and also records sound. I have used this a few times, particularly for Fireworks and parades at Walt Disney World. The results are passable but I have found them a bit grainy and they do use a lot of memory on the SD card and seem to cause problems when transferring them to my computer so it is not something that I have a lot of experience with.
The final feature on the dial is Clipboard. Unfortunately I have no idea what this is or how it works and I never read far enough through manual to find out.
After setting the required Mode the next job is to actually take the photograph. The operation button is next to the Mode dial which is ergonomically very convenient for me. Holding the slightly bulbous end of the camera and pressing the button can be done easily without too much force and little shake. The flash is located in front, just below this button but I do not find that it gets obstructed whilst pressing the shutter.
The zoom on the camera is operated by a dial that is located around the shutter button which means that you can easily adjust the zoom and then take the photograph without any significant movement of the finger. The zoom operation is very smooth. This is also used when using the Digital macro setting when trying to take close-up shots for extra detail. Although this claims a 12x optical zoom I have never been particularly impressed with the quality of the photos using the zoom. I have used cameras that have 10x zoom and their pictures have been much better than using 10x on this Lumix.
The lens is advertised as a Wide-angled lens. I am not sure that I have ever noticed any great difference between the area covered by my old camera and by this one but I may be doing something wrong!
Recharging the battery is a quick and simple process; the battery is removed and placed in the charger for a couple of hours. My first Lumix had a charging cradle which I found really convenient but unfortunately that wasn’t the case for this one.
Overall this camera has proved to be solid and robust. Even the loop for attaching the strap is sleek and secure feeling. The whole camera feels like it is very good quality.
I have found the battery life very good. I love to take lots of photographs and use the flash a lot but it takes several hundred before it needs recharging. The controls are very simple to use and there are lots of options to help to capture the perfect photograph. The majority of the photographs that I have taken have been good but I have never been overly impressed, I don’t think they are any better than the ones taken with the previous, much cheaper, camera that we owned. I feel that photographs taken in low-light levels are particularly poor in comparison. I think I disliked this camera on sight and although I use it and appreciate some of the features it has never been a favourite. I like my compact cameras to be light, compact and easy to slip into a pocket and this camera just doesn’t tick these boxes.
It is a good camera that does the job but I think I would prefer a larger Digital SLR or a smaller Compact camera rather than this bulky offering. I must say though that my husband loves it and finds it a great travelling companion so I think it is just me who has a problem with it.