Panasonic is replacing its headlining compact camera for travellers, the 14.1 megapixel Panasonic TZ30 (ZS20 in the US) with the Panasonic TZ40 (Panasonic ZS30 in the US).
Although this new camera has the same Leica 20x zoom lens covering a focal length range equivalence of 24-480mm, it has a new 18.1MP High Sensitivity MOS sensor and a new Venus Engine that is designed with improving low-light images in mind.
This is backed up by an improved Power Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) system that works to correct accidental movement around five axes to enable sharper images in low light and at telephoto focal lengths.
A clever new feature in the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ40 called Level Shot has also been introduced to help improve video footage. This automatically corrects a sloping horizon by rotating and cropping the image.
However, because the pixel count of the sensor is significantly more than what is required for Full HD video, the resolution of the footage is not reduced. Panasonic is staying tight-lipped about how big a correction this system can make.
Perhaps one of the most interesting features of the Panasonic TZ40, however, is that it has an NFC (Near Field Communication) chip. This enables the camera’s Wi-Fi system to connect with other NFC devices such as a smartphone or tablet by just touching them together rather than having to follow a series of steps and searching for the correct network and so on. It’s a big step forward in making Wi-Fi connections easy.
As well as being able to transfer images wirelessly, a key benefit of connecting the Panasonic TZ40 to a smartphone is that the phone can be used as a remote viewfinder and controller.
Like the Panasonic TZ30, the Panasonic TZ40 has GPS technology built-in, but Panasonic has now also added GLONASS technology, the Russian equivalent for improved coverage.
Although the Panasonic TZ40 has a resistive touchscreen like the Panasonic TZ30, its resolution has been boosted from 460,000 dots to 920,000 dots, improving the image in the screen significantly.
This new screen is also multi-touch sensitive, so it can be used to pinch-zoom to magnify images and swipe through from shot to shot in review mode.
In a bid to expand the creative options available to the travelling photographer, Panasonic has added a Creative Panorama option to the Panasonic TZ40. This enables you to apply the digital filter effects found in the Creative Control mode to Panoramic images.
Build and handling
Apart from the improvements to the screen in terms of resolution and touch-control and the addition of NFC technology to connect to a Wi-Fi network, there’s not really a huge amount to report about the handling of the Panasonic TZ40 (ZS30).
The camera feels a little lighter than the Panasonic TZ30 (ZS20) it replaces.
At first we were unsure whether this was a good thing, since it makes it seem a little less solid, but a quick look over the body confirms that it has high build quality, so it should have a reasonably long life.
Panasonic has improved the TZ40’s battery life over the TZ30’s, taking it from 260 images to 300. Naturally we will be looking at this and seeing how much impact using the GPS system has when we get a full production sample in for review.
Sample Images and Early Verdict
We managed to get a brief hands on with the TZ40 at a Panasonic event in South Australia. Initial impressions are that the camera continues the great travel functions available in its predecessors.
The addition of effects to the panorama mode offers photographers the chance to get creative, with striking differences in the results depending on the filter chosen.
From early shots, image quality is good, with good colour reproduction, plenty of detail and relatively low noise. That said, we’ll reserve judgement until we get a much more thorough hands on.
It will be very interesting to see how the images from the new 18.1MP sensor compare with those from the 14.1MP device in the Panasonic TZ30. A jump of 4 megapixels is significant, and maintaining image quality in low light will have been a challenge.
We think that including NFC technology in the Panasonic TZ40 is a move that will help to make more photographers recognise the benefit of having a Wi-Fi-enabled camera. Fingers crossed that Apple puts an NFC chip in its next iPhone, which would make this a more widely available feature.
Panasonic’s TZ series started the trend for travel compacts, and its high-end model is the camera that sets the tone for the genre. We’re really looking forward to putting the Panasonic TZ40 through its paces when we get a full production sample.