Equipment Review: the Panasonic Lumix TZ30 as a cycle touring camera

I decided some weeks ago that neither my Nikon D90 nor my Canon Ixus were quite right for our forthcoming tour of Spain.  The D90 is wonderful, but it’s heavy and while it does fit in my barbag, it entirely fills it leaving no room for anything very much else.  The Ixus 75 has been a faithful friend, but Jacqui wants it more often than not now, so it seemed time to find a stable mate for it.  Having a camera each will hopefully result in more pictures being taken.

I looked at a number of options before deciding on the Panasonic Lumix TZ30.  I almost went for a new iPhone on the grounds that it carried the advantage of being a single, multi-purpose phone, musicmaker, web browser, stills camera and video camera all in one.  I still like that idea, but baulked at the cost at this time.  I looked at ‘system’ compacts, but turned them down, mostly again on cost.  They are blooming expensive.

I decided the DMC-TZ30 would fill the bill for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I was sure I wanted a compact I could fit into the barbag with lots of room to spare.  I like the idea of having easy access to the camera while cycling.  The TZ30, like the Ixus, can be carried out of its case in the barbag or a waistcoat pocket on the road. Easy access makes for more photos in my experience.

Secondly, I was attracted to the superb telephoto zoom on the Lumix. Covering 24 to 480mm in old money, it promises you great flexibility on the road in a tiny package.

Thirdly, I wanted something competent with a good combination of ‘point and shoot’ friendliness and user controls.  The Lumix has everything from  ‘intelligent Auto’ (which is very impressive in use), through scene modes to Aperture or shutter priority and full manual control.

Fourthly, and decisively, I fancied something with GPS onboard and location tagging of photos. Again, reviews suggested the Lumix GPS worked as well as any on a camera.

Finally, I want to get into video, and the Lumix seems to be a more than competent video performer.

So, after a couple of days of road testing what are my initial thoughts? I like it!  (Just as well given the money!) The GPS works, and works reasonably quickly, albeit at quite a cost in terms of battery life.  I sense that it might be necessary to carry a spare battery on the road, or to turn the GPS off and on as you travel – to my mind, defeating the point of having it to a considerable degree.

In use, the Lumix is a pleasure.  Quick and responsive and with lots of options and control for the user.  As I hoped the zoom lens is its best feature in many respects.

The camera sits nicely in a pocket or barbag compartment and inspires confidence every time you pick it up.  It is not however perfect for the job of a cycle tourer.  For example –

It’s not waterproof and it does not seem all that robust.  However, neither did the Ixus and it has proved bullet-proof in use.

The manual is anything but friendly and I would have been a bit at sea were it not for the help of some excellent tutorials on YouTube.

Compatibility with my Apple iMac and iPad is a bit hit and miss.  In fact the data card has to be removed from the camera and used with Apple’s card reader to import photos into the iPad.

Batteries have to be charged in the camera, with a full charge taking 260 minutes.  Not ideal, unless like us you are hotel-based on tour.

All of this part, I am well pleased with my Panasonic Lumix TZ30 and look forward to happy snapping in spain in the coming month.

UPDATE September 2013: I have abandoned the TZ30 and passed it on to the family. Why? While all of the above is true and it is a small, but very powerful package, finally the lack of a viewfinder proved to be a deal breaker for me. Somehow, not being able to see without fiddling with my reading glasses kills off my creative side.  It’s a pity, but the TZ30 travels well, but tends to get left in my bar bag too much to be successful.  A great and rather expensive pity.

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