Time Machine: Yesterday's looks, today's brains.
Panasonic's 5-megapixel DMC-TZ1 comes with something rare on a compact camera: a lens cap! Pop off the lens cap, and you're greeted by a big, bright Leica OC Vario-Elmarit 1:2.8-4.2/5.2-52 Aspherical 10x zoom lens (35mm equivalent: 35mm-350mm f/2/8-4.2) which bulges proudly from the textured silver body. Add a pronounced finger grip and an array of dials and buttons on the top and reverse and you've got a digital camera with the timeless feel of a compact rangefinder.
As a modern digicam, the TZ1 sports a 2.5-inch LCD instead of an optical viewfinder, and also shoots video at up to 848x480 at 30 frames per second anywhere in the camera's zoom range (you can't change focal length while recording). Panasonic also includes the fun "Flip-Book" mode for making stop-action animated movies without sound.
(Click here to view stop-action video)
Test results from the Pop Photo Lab show the 10x zoom lens to have Slight Barrel distortion at 35mm (.21%), Imperceptible Pincushion at 175mm (.09%), and Imperceptible Barrel at 350mm (.02%). Color Accuracy is Extremely High (Average Delta E: 8.37, ISO 80, AWB). Noise is Moderately Low at ISO 80 (2.1), and 100 (2.0) Moderate at ISO 200 (2.9), 400 (2.9), and 800 (2.7). Resolution is Extremely High at ISO 80 (1570), and ISO 100 (1545), and Very High at ISO 200 (1481), ISO 400 (1421) and ISO 800 (1358).
The camera has 18 Scene modes, including Starry Sky (low-light long exposures up to 60 seconds), Fireworks, Night Scene, Aerial, Beach, and Snow. Photographing a small child? Shift to Baby 1 and 2 modes to soften the flash. High Sensitivity boosts the ISO range to 1600.
The DMC-TZ1 also has two audio modes to help you remember the details behind your snapshots: Record five seconds of audio that begins just after the photo is taken, or you can annotate your photos with voice notes in playback mode.
At full resolution, the TZ1 can burst three shots in one second, or shoot until you fill the SD card at 1.5 frames per second, without flash, in Unlimited burst mode.
The TZ1 has two Optical Image Stabilization modes. Mode 1 stabilizes both the LCD display and the captured image, while Mode 2 only stabilizes the captured image.
The LCD display can be adjusted for bright sunlight, and also for "High Angle" when you have to hold the camera up high to frame your subject. In capture mode, you can switch from displaying just the focus brackets, camera settings, camera settings plus live histogram, and compositional grid.
The only thing this camera lacks is true Aperture and Shutter priority, and full manual modes. Aside from this, Panasonic has produced a modern classic. If the next version manages to wrangle in the noise a bit, and includes manual controls, this camera could be legendary.