And so I enter the third month of my One Month, One Camera (OMOC) project for this year. To see previous posts in the project, head here.
The premise is very simple – use just one camera for a whole month.
Perhaps easy for some, but as hundreds of cameras have passed through my hands in the last seven years, this kind of cameranogamy presents a genuine challenge.
In January, I used a Canon Digital IXUS 870 IS (nicknamed The Golden IXUS due to its colour) from 2008.
It has a 1/2.3 inch 10MP CCD sensor, and its lens started at 28mm. I was highly impressed with the little IXUS and really enjoyed using it.
For February I went with a 2004 FujiFilm FinePix F810.
This camera has a 6MP “Super CCD HR” 1/1.7 inch sensor, and the lens starts at 32.5mm. Whilst the Fuji is a classy camera and very capable, we just didn’t quite have the right chemistry, and I didn’t have the same tinge of sadness come the end of the month as I did in January.
With March approaching, I confess I gathered together a few possible candidates.
The one I’ve chosen is a different brand again, but one I’m pretty comfortable with, Panasonic Lumix.
The camera is a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ2 (TZ meaning Travel Zoom), now 12 years old as it’s from 2007.
Let’s quickly summarise the essentials –
Sensor – 1/2.33 inch 6MP CCD
Lens – Leica designed DC Vario-Elmar 28-280mm (how long?!)
Memory – SD card
Cost – £10 plus postage
With my great experiences with my Lumix LX3, GF1 micro four thirds, and a humble 4MP LZ1, I wanted to try something from the TZ series to see if it could offer some of the delights of the LX3, on a much smaller budget.
My LX3 cost £75, still great value, but I could buy seven of these TZ2s for the same cost.
Build and handling – The TZ2 has a mostly metal body with a classy, sturdy feel. The relatively large lens housing gives the impression it’s more serious than “just” a basic point and shoot. In fact I was surprised that the TZ2 is very similar in size to the LX3 – I thought it would be quite a bit smaller.
The handling is noticeably better than the LX3 out of the box, its front handgrip giving enough curve to get a hold of, combined with a pleasing contour plus raised dot grips where your thumb rests at the rear.
Also, the controls below the thumbgrip are positioned far enough out of the way so you’re not pushing them accidentally. Very neatly done Panasonic – this certainly isn’t a given with all compact cameras!
I might add a touch of grip tape to the rear, just because I like cameras to feel super secure in my hands, but it’s certainly not essential, unlike with the LX3.
Operation and use – All buttons have a positive feel and are logically placed and labelled. I like the dedicated on/off switch, with the familiar cross pad for menu navigation, and each button of the cross pad having its own function too. All in all, logical, intelligent, well placed. What more do you want?
The menus are also logical, and very similar, unsurprisingly, to its LX3 and GF1 siblings.
There’s also a “Func” (I’m assuming short for Function, rather than a nod to James Brown) which instantly brings up the most often used settings – continuous shooting, white balance, ISO, aspect ratio (an impressive choice of 3:2, 4:3 or 16:9, like the LX3), MP/picture size and picture quality.
None of these are buried obscurely in the main menus anyway, but again it’s an intelligent addition to have a further shortcut to those most used.
Also in the main menu I was pleasantly surprised to find colour modes (a range of colour like Natural, Vivid, Warm, as well as B/W), slow shutter (you can set the minimum shutter speed the camera will try to use – 1/8s, 1/4s, 1/2s or 1s) and Zoom Resume, where it remembers the position the lens is zoomed to, even if you switch off.
This feature was added to the LX3 with a firmware upgrade and is very handy. With that camera, the 24mm widest zoom is often too long so I have it at 35mm by default, which the camera recalls and zooms to when you switch it back on, making it in effect a 35mm prime lens if you don’t touch the zoom control.
On the TZ2 this feature might not be quite so useful as the widest 28mm is a focal length I’m comfortable with from my Ricoh GRD III, and the Golden IXUS I used in January. I could just leave the TZ2 at 28mm and treat it as a prime lensed camera.
But I might experiment with setting the zoom to “2x” which I assume is around 56mm, for a photowalk or two and treat it like the 55mm primes I’m so used to from using 55/1.8 M42 Takumars for years.
Finally the main mode dial has a bunch of scenes I’m not interested in and I expect I’ll only use the standard Auto mode, the Macro mode for close ups (down to 0.05m), and the Play mode to view photos.
It does have a setting with a heart symbol, which is a very simple mode for beginners. Credit to Panasonic for including this, so virtually anyone can enjoy the performance of the TZ2 without needing to delve into its range of functions or understand too much about how it makes pictures.
Oh and image stabilization is always handy to have when I’m in lowly lit ancient churches so I can gain a couple of stops of shutter speed rather than bump up the ISO.
Beyond that, there’s not much more to say about the Lumix TZ2, other than already we have the kind of chemistry that Fujifilm lacked.
Personally I don’t think it’s especially hard to design a camera with the photographer in mind. So I expect to pick up virtually any digital compact from the last 20 years and be able to set it up and start shooting in a matter of minutes. When there are too many obstacles, buttons and menus, it puts me off straight away. Which happened with the FujiFilm, but didn’t with the Canon IXUS, or the Lumix TZ2.
The photos in this post were made with the TZ2, and my initial impressions of those are very favourable too.
Not really a surprise, given that I liked the photos from the older and simpler 4MP Lumix LZ1, so they were in theory going to at least as good as those.
More photos and field reports in the coming weeks.
What’s your experience with Panasonic Lumix cameras? Have you ever used/owned one of the TZ series?
Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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