The Panasonic Lumix TZ30/ZS20 introduces a 20x optical zoom lens and improved image quality. Will this be the best all-in-one travel zoom for 2012? The What Digital Camera Panasonic Lumix TZ30 Hands-On First Look Review...

Replacing the popular TZ20, the latest Panasonic Lumix TZ30 (ZS20 in the USA) promises better image quality and faster autofocus, offers a longer zoom range and hands-on touchscreen use. What Digital Camera gets the hands-on with the latest Lumix DMC-TZ30.

Panasonic Lumix TZ30: At A Glance

–   20x optical zoom lens (24-480mm equivalent)
–   New 14.1-megapixel MOS sensor
–   Light-speed autofocus (0.1s focus acquisition)
–   Touchscreen LCD
–   1080p50 HD movie mode
–   Full manual and auto shooting modes
–   GPS (Global Positioning Satellite)
–   10fps burst mode (5fps with continuous focus)

Panasonic Lumix TZ30: New 20x Zoom Lens

The TZ30’s inclusion of a 20x optical zoom lens closes the gap between compact and superzoom (the 24x zoom Lumix FZ150 is the largest that Panasonic offers). The TZ30’s wideangle 24mm extends to 480mm at its longest zoom setting, increasing upon the TZ20’s 16x optical zoom lens.

It’s a promising start. One of the biggest things to separate compact cameras from Smartphones these days is the inclusion of a decent lens and worthy zoom.

The TZ30 also includes optical image stabilisation in order to keep shots steady – an essential when shooting at such extended focal lengths. At the extended focal lengths the TZ30 has improved stabilisation performance compared to its predecessors, Panasonic claims.

Panasonic Lumix TZ30: New 14.1-Megapixel Sensor

Although the TZ30’s 14.1MP MOS sensor is the same resolution as that found in the TZ20, Panasonic is keen to highlight that it’s a brand new sensor.

According to Panasonic the TZ30’s has a 65% improvement signal-to-noise ratio, which should result in better quality, lower-noise images compared to the previous TZ20 model. A top-sensitivity of ISO 3200 provides one full stop of increased sensitivity, and by the provided figures this setting ought to be better than the TZ20’s ISO 1600 setting… The proof, as they say, is in the pudding – final shots will follow as soon as team WDC gets hold of a final sample model.

A Multi-Process Noise Reduction algorithm is designed to suppress larger noise areas and small noise in dark image areas for a smoother, sharper final image. Intelligent Noise Reduction also targets soft gradations differently to subject edges in order to reduce the more prominent image noise found in skies and similar subtle gradient, open-space areas.

Panasonic Lumix TZ30: Light-Speed Autofocus

Pinched from the Lumix G-series Compact System Camera range, the TZ30 benefits from a super-fast 0.1second focus acquisition time. From what we’ve already seen it’s far quicker than many compacts out there, able to snap into focus at the blink of an eye.

All this is down to an improve refresh rate (now 120 frames per second compared to the TZ20’s 60fps) that provides more frequent information to the contrast-detection autofocus system.

Panasonic Lumix TZ30: Hands-On Touchscreen Controls

Again taking a leaf out of the G-series range, the TZ30 also introduces a 460k-dot LCD touchscreen. It brings a full hands-on experience into play, making the likes of touching a subject on screen for area-specific focus realised with, quite literally, a touch of the screen.

But the TZ30 doesn’t rely on such controls – the inclusion of a rear d-pad, Q.Menu (Quick Menu) and main mode dial on top of the camera ensure it’s down to the user’s preference whether the camera is used like a standard compact or in conjunction with the touch-capabilities. A mixture of the two makes for light work when it comes to focusing, for example.

Panasonic Lumix TZ30: 1080p50 HD Movie Mode

Thanks to the new and improved AVCHD II standard it’s now possible to capture movie files in full 1920×1080 resolution and at a 50p capture. And that’s just what the TZ30 offers – full, progressive capture at the touch of a button.

Like the TZ20 before it, the TZ30 is able to zoom during movie capture and continuously autofocus – a set of key features that make this model all the more ‘hybrid’ in addressing the wants of both still and movie shooters.

Panasonic Lumix TZ30: Multitude of Modes

In addition to full manual control, there’s the usual mix of intelligent Auto (iA) and Scene modes, plus Panorama Shot for capturing, as the name suggests, panoramic images through 180degrees. Creative Control can be set for pre-shot adjustments, while Creative Retouch can add effects such as Soft Focus, Retro and Miniature (among others) to your shots.

Perhaps more impressive is the 10 frames per second burst mode. As if that wasn’t fast enough, the TZ30 can achieve 5fps with continuous autofocus activated – something that not many other compacts can manage.

As per the TZ20, the TZ30 also includes GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) technology. The twist with the latest release, however, is the inclusion of a mapping feature. A DVD included in the box comes loaded with 1:25,000 ratio maps of a variety of cities from around the world. It’s possible to load this data onto the camera.

Panasonic Lumix TZ25: The TZ30’s Sister Model

Also announced is the Panasonic Lumix TZ25. Similar in many respects to the TZ30, the TZ25 has a 16x optical zoom and a 12-megapixel sensor. There’s no touchscreen ability, GPS has been removed from the feature list and less video modes include 50i capture (not 50p as per the TZ30).

All this trimming will cut out a sizeable portion of cost, too, so expect the TZ25 to retail at a more attractive price-point.

At the moment there’s no final word on pricing or availability. More info as and when we have it.