So after 21 days of March, I’ve cut my One Month, One Camera (OMOC) time with the Panasonic Lumix TZ2 short.
There’s nothing more I can learn about it, and as we talked about recently, I feel I’ve thoroughly proved to myself that you can enjoy photography for next to nothing.
It’s time to revisit one of my core favourite cameras for the next few photowalks – whether this becomes a whole month I’m not yet sure.
Before that though, a summary of what I enjoyed about the little Lumix TZ2 (plenty!), and what I found frustrating (very little!).
The TZ2 is well built, and an excellent size for a compact. It fits in a trouser pocket but has enough curves to handle well. I added a little grip tape to to aid this further, as I do to most cameras now.
(Why is it only Ricoh who seem to make the grip of their compact cameras curved and rubberised so the handling is amazing right out of the box?)
I like that the TZ2 went as wide as 28mm (equivalent), and I found a way to work out where 35mm and 50mm were quite easily when I wanted those focal lengths (I like to know what focal length I’m at!)
Add in the Lumix’s Zoom Resume function which remembers what focal length you were at when you switch the camera back on, and it’s very straightforward to treat the camera as a 28mm, 35mm and 50mm camera all in one.
The lens performed well and image stabilisation helped me gain a couple of stops in terms of how slow a shutter speed I could confidently use without blur.
The menus and controls are all intuitive – I didn’t need the manual to work anything out.
Helpfully it has a b/w mode so I could compose in b/w, even though there are no contrast or saturation adjustments so I needed my usual Snapseed b/w processing afterwards – no great hardship and the same for all three compacts in this OMOC project this year.
The JPEGs were small enough to quickly download and process, and a 1GB card was more than enough for any of my photowalks, so everything in this area was kept lean and simple.
Not a limitation, but I personally have no need for anything beyond perhaps 70mm in a lens in a compact camera, and even that is hardly ever. 95% of the time I’m at 24-35mm. So the ridiculously long zoom range (10X optical) of the TZ2 was wasted on me.
The main and probably only limitation of the TZ2 is its capabilities in the generally low lit churches I often frequent.
At its widest, 28mm, the maximum aperture is f/3.3. Also I didn’t want to go beyond ISO400 to keep the images fairly clean.
Furthermore, whilst you can limit the maximum shutter speed to avoid hand held blur (to 1/8s, 1/4s, 1/2s or 1s) the absolute maximum is 1s.
There were a number of times when the camera was at ISO400, f/3.3 and 1s, and still the numbers were displaying red, telling me there was not enough light for this exposure.
When I used it more often at 35mm, which has a maximum aperture of f/3.7, the frequency this occurred obviously increased.
The other cameras I’ve used have either a faster aperture, a greater maximum shutter speed, or both, and I can’t recall many occasions where I couldn’t make an image at all.
I would usually risk 1s, even 2s, and lean on a nearby wall or pew, and this combined with image stabilisation would reap a usable shot. But I didn’t get the chance to go beyond f/3.3 and 1s with the Lumix.
Something like my Ricoh GRD III has a maximum aperture of f/1.9 and maximum shutter I think of 180s (yep, three minutes!) but it’s unfair to compare a higher end camera that cost £600 new with a consumer zoom that cost probably a third of that.
To be fair to the TZ2, this is not an issue unique to it either, and in any outside conditions its exposure range was more than adequate.
My main aim in using the Lumix TZ2 this month was to see if it could realistically compete with the two cameras I’d used previously in this project – the Canon Digital IXUS 870 IS and FujiFilm FinePix 810.
I would rate it above the Fuji overall, especially in terms of enjoyment, ease of use, size and handling. The Fuji has far more manual control, if you need it, and really could in the right conditions produce a pretty special image with that Super CCD sensor. But I just didn’t really bond with it.
Compared with the Canon, the Lumix handles better and was easy to connect with. I do really like Lumix cameras. But overall I’d take the Canon – it’s significantly more compact, has greater options in lower light, and delivers impressive colour images straight out of camera too.
Overall so far I’ve kept the Canon, and given away the Fuji. The Lumix will be going the same way too, not least of all because I already have its more expensive and obviously higher spec sibling, the LX3.
The TZ2 remains a very capable camera with very decent handling, is plenty of fun, and an absolute bargain for the £10 I paid.
If you come across one (or the near identical but higher MP TZ3) for less than £20 they’re well worth a go and will surprise you with their performance.
Thanks for looking.
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