Over the course of the last year, a once unheard of segment in cameras took off so fast that virtually all camera manufacturers launched a product. This segment we are referring to is the travel compact or travel zoom. It is virtually a compact camera with a rather large zoom lens. Last year, one of the best cameras in this class was the Panasonic DMC-TZ20. Today, we take a look at the DMC-TZ18, which launched around the same time as the TZ20. Read on to know how it fared against the worthy competition present in the market, these days.

Connectivity option located at the side

Connectivity option located at the side

Design and Build Quality
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ18 is very similar in design to the TZ20 and one would be hard pressed to find any physical difference between the two. The only real difference is the removal of the GPS feature and the quick access video recording button, both of which are located at the top of the TZ20. Apart from this, the shape and layout, including the design of both the cameras are pretty much the same.

This camera is a bit larger than most compact cameras available in the market, but the size keeps in line with other travel compact cameras. The front and the back have a matte black finish, while the lens and the sides of the camera are finished in silver. The buttons, too have a silver finish giving it a stylish look. Apart from the lens in the front, which occupies most of this area, the other noticeable features found on this area are the LED flash and the AF assist.

The display is not that great

The display is not that great

The rear of the camera features the large 3-inch display, along with the controls. The buttons at the back, include a toggle switch for navigating between playback and shooting modes, an exposure button, a four way navigational pad that is located around a menu/ set button, the display option as well as a Quick Menu button. The top of the camera features control options, such as a shutter release button housed next to the zoom rocker, the E.Zoom button, on/ off switch and the mode dial.

The connectivity option for this camera is located on a bay at the side, which is the USB port. The flap for the bay in which the USB port is housed feels sturdy and features a spring loaded mechanism, which if slightly open, closes. The battery is located in a bay underneath the camera and this area also houses the memory card. The battery bay has a locking mechanism, which helps in securing the battery from accidentally popping out. This is a good design implementation, especially if the camera is used a bit roughly. Sturdiness is a big plus point of this camera, as it feels as though it can withstand more than a few accidental drops. The buttons are well built as well making the overall build quality good. Rounding up the design and build quality, this is a stylish point and shoot camera that is well built and feels like it can battle the wear and tear of daily use.

Features
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ18 boasts of a load of features with the highlighted one being the impressive zoom features. The camera features a 16x optical zoom, along with an Intelligent zoom that reaches up to 20x, but the quality of the image may drop, while in this mode. This zoom can also be used, while capturing videos. The ability to zoom, while video recording is a feature that is not found on many point and shoot cameras. So for Panasonic to add it, is a good thing, and it helps especially while shooting videos, since it allows one to get up close to a subject easily.

The top features the mode dial as well as shutter release button

The top features the mode dial as well as shutter release button

This camera features a 14.1MP CCD sensor that measures 1/2.33 inches. This is a common size sensor found on most compact cameras these days. However, when Panasonic announced the Lumix TZ20, this model was launched at the same time. The TZ20 featured a MOS sensor as opposed to a CCD sensor found here. The image quality of a MOS sensor, in most cases tends to be superior than a CCD sensor.

The interface of the camera is well designed and for a camera that has semi manual as well as manual shooting modes, this camera is fairly easy to use. Beginners would not have any problems with this camera, as there is no real learning curve to it. All options can be accessed using the mode dial at the top, which is assisted by the Menu/ set button at the back. The display of this camera is not one of the best we have seen and images onscreen lack the amount of clarity expected.

16x optical zoom found on this point and shoot

16x optical zoom found on this point and shoot

Apart from the difference between the sensors, there are some notable absentees found in this camera, as compared to the TZ20. As compared to its sibling with higher specifications, this camera lacks the GPS functionality, touchscreen capability as well as the ability to record videos in 1080p at 30fps. The screen in comparison has half the resolution of the TZ20. Overall, this is a scaled down version of the TZ20, but it does offer some similarities, such as the 16x optical zoom, as close as 3 cms during macro shooting as well as a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 of a second.

Like most point and shoot cameras available in the market, this camera features a scene mode. But unlike others, the scene mode found here is loaded with presets that allow one to capture images in different environments and effects. Videos shot from the camera can be recorded in HD at 720p. This is not such a great addition, as most cameras in this price range record videos in full HD at 1080p. Media can be stored on this camera by using SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards. The TZ18 features 23 points of auto focus, allowing one to capture photographs easily with the desired area being in focus.

Performance
The performance of this camera was tested on a number of factors. To start off, this camera is lightweight at just 210g with the battery and memory card. Though this camera is on the larger side, one can easily grip it and click pictures using a single hand. The slight addition of a handgrip assists in the handling of the camera.

Navigating through the interface is great, as there was no lag noticed while toggling through the different options. However, we noticed an issue when a picture was zoomed into; panning through it was a bit time consuming.

ISO sensitivity test

ISO sensitivity test

ISO Sensitivity Test
During the ISO sensitivity test, we noticed that at ISO 100 there was no noise noticed at all. ISO 200 onwards, a slight amount of noise emerges, but this is nothing that should concern anyone. At ISO 400, the noise levels rise drastically and from there on in the proceeding ISO sensitivities, the noise levels rise making images unusable.

Aperture priority test

Aperture priority test

Aperture Priority Test
In the aperture priority test, we observed that at the widest aperture, F/ 3.3, there was only a slight amount of depth of field. The widest aperture level on this camera is not that much and hence a lot of light does not reach the sensor.

Zoom test

Zoom test

Zoom Test
In this test we noticed that at 16x zoom, which is the maximum optical zoom found on the camera, there was no blurring noticed. This allows one to get really close to the subject without the fear of images losing focus as the image stabilizer handles the cameras zooming capabilities well.

Performance Continued
In outdoor shots, the camera excels and one can click images without worrying about the accuracy of colours. Another good thing noticed during outdoor shots was that there was no colour fringing noticed as well. However, the same cannot be said about indoor shots as colours appear completely off. This is noticed especially with red, making it appear orange. Green, too appears a little garish, while yellow looks dark. The indoor performance of the camera is not good at all. The colours, however do look accurate on the camera’s monitor, but when transferred on to a PC, the colours are not the same.

While clicking macro shots, a lot of depth of field was noticed and there was a significant amount of clarity in the subject that is in focus. The video recording capabilities of this camera are really good and there were no issues noticed during playback as well. However, the same issue was noticed with the colours appearing off indoors. The flash of this camera is really good and can easily light up an area of 15 feet. Panasonic bundles an 895mAh battery with the camera and the brand rates it at approximately 340 shots.

Verdict
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ18 is priced in India at a'n MOP of Rs.15,500. This camera does well in its design and has features that can stand up to the competition, especially since it features an incredible zoom capability as well as manual functionalities. As for the performance of the camera, it does really well in outdoor shots as well as macro photography. However, the camera fails badly when it comes to indoor images and this should detract any potential buyer.

Matte finish found on this compact camera

Matte finish found on this compact camera

Another thing we did not fancy about the camera was its price and one can get the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 for around Rs. 1400 more and that camera offers better image quality in all environments and comes with a host of other features, which include GPS, 1080p video recording, a display that has touchscreen capabilities, among other interesting features.

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