We've been toying with the Panasonic Lumix TZ40 compact camera - better known as the Lumix ZS30 Stateside - for a couple of weeks now and have found it to be a lot of fun. With its versatile 20x optical zoom lens able to deliver a 24-480mm equivalent the world is your photographic oyster. We've lemoned-up that proverbial oyster and, ahead of our full review, bring you an initial smattering of pictures to chew over.
Panasonic Lumix TZ40 image sample - ISO 400
The Lumix TZ40 introduces a new sensor which, at 18-megapixels, is higher resolution than its TZ30 predecessor's 14-megapixel offering. In small-sensor size terms - this is a 1/2.3-inch "high sensitivity" MOS sensor - that tends to be an alarm bell as too many pixels on a small surface area doesn't necessarily bode well for image quality.
What then of the TZ40's sensor - is it going to keep casual snappers and more pixel-peeping shooters content? On the whole we'd say yes, but to deem the TZ40 an improvement would be a bold claim that we think's a stretch too far.
Panasonic's Venus engine processes JPEG images well - no raw shooting to be found here - and the sensitivity ranges from ISO 100 through to ISO 3200. Panasonic hasn't gone overboard with excessively high sensitivity settings, safe in the knowledge that these wouldn't really add anything genuine to the user experience.
Panasonic TZ40 image sample - ISO 1000
High-sensitivity is always a hot topic though, so we've been testing the camera in a number of real world situations. We've snapped some herons across the banks of London's Regent Park's waters and, even at the ISO 1000 sensitivity, we were by and large impressed with the results.
Let's not lose sight of the fact this is a compact camera: yes there's some slight chromatic aberration revealed as purple fringes to the edges of subjects in some cases and, yes, there's picture processing which can produce mottled, artefacted edging to subjects' details, but there's a decent level of detail all settings considered.
Panasonic TZ40 sample image - ISO 1000, shown as 100 per cent crop
Just take a look at the shot cropped down to full size, as shown above. That's none too bad for an ISO 1000 hand-held shot and this is a £329 compact camera. If that's not enabling the masses then what is?
Another big mention has to go to the TZ40's optical image stabilisation system. It's ace. There's no two ways about it - even hand-holding the camera at a near-500mm equivalent and, so long as there's no sudden, jarring movements, it feels as though everything is being cradled into a still preview image. That tech is essential for a camera like this and, for our money, as good as it gets compared to any competitors. And there are plenty of those - think Canon PowerShot SX260 HS, Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR, Sony Cyber-shot WX300 et al and the TZ40 has plenty to prove itself against.
Panasonic TZ40 image sample - ISO 640
Image quality does certainly take some negative impact from that increased resolution however. It's unavoidable that more image noise creeps in, even at the mid-sensitivity ISO settings. Take a gander - well, more of a gull, but that'd make no sense - at this ISO 640 sample, cropped in to 100 per cent:
Panasonic TZ40 image sample - ISO 640, shown as 100 per cent crop
The greater amount of dark areas within this particular shot are ideal to show up the colour noise that's lurking - both in the bird's face as well as the surrounding water. It's not awful by any means, but then it's not great either and we'd say it's more abundant than it was in the TZ30. That's a direct correlation to a resolution increase right there: a bumped-up increase in image noise too. That'll be seen as a bit of a downer by many who would be considering an compact camera upgrade.
Still, on the whole the Lumix TZ40 offers plenty of goodies: the close-up macro mode works extremely well and a mere 3cms from the lens at the widest-angle setting, autofocus is super-fast, there's full manual control and a variety of in-camera filters too. There's even Wi-Fi and NFC (near field communication) Bluetooth for photo sharing all bundled into this little beaut, but more about that in our imminent full TZ40 review.
Panasonic Lumix TZ40 sample macro image - ISO 1600, shown as 100 per cent crop
In the meantime browse our image gallery to look through the initial selection of Panasonic Lumix TZ40 sample images. We've found this camera to be a real enabler - it's got a hugely versatile zoom and we think that paired with great optical image stabilisation will see photographers snapping cracking images from the word go.
It might not match up to larger-sensor, pricier competitors, but then that's not what the TZ40's pretending to be. This is a one-size-fits-all travel zoom that, from what we've seen so far - despite the increase in resolution compared to its predecessor that we'd rather have gone without - will keep its near competitors at bay.