Panasonic's new Lumix DMC-TZ6 has got the lot, including 10.1 megapixels, a 25mm super-wideangle 12x zoom, image stabilisation and a smart metal body slim enough to fit into your back pocket. But, at around £240, is it worth the money?
Smart though the TZ6 is, £240 is pretty pricey for a compact these days. But it doesn't take long to figure out that this camera is something rather special. The build quality and finish really are top-notch and well up to Panasonic's usual high standards, with metal knobs and switches, and a clear, logical layout.
It's the lens that's the star, though. Superzooms usually suffer much more from optical aberrations than standard zooms, but the TZ6's lens is practically flawless. There's not much distortion, hardly any chromatic aberration, the detail is unusually sharp right into the corners of the frame, and it holds up well at the maximum zoom setting, when most superzooms' pictures begin to turn into mush.
What's more, although the TZ6 has 'only' 10.1 megapixels, whereas most of its rivals now have 12, it doesn't seem to matter. Our resolution test indicates that the TZ6 resolves an unusual amount of detail for a 10-megapixel camera and is just as good as a 12-megapixel one.
This is all topped off with great picture quality. Colours look natural and the 'vivid' mode produces really bright, saturated pictures. There's a neat 'intelligent ISO' function too, which appears to selectively adjust the ISO in different parts of the scene when faced with really high contrast levels. It's not as effective as Fujifilm's new EXR sensor, but it's much better than nothing, and adds extra detail both in the shadows and the highlights.
Finally, Panasonic seems to have really got to grips with image processing. If you compare the TZ6 with an earlier model like the DMC-TZ3, you can see there's much less noise and smudging, even though the resolution's higher.
It's time to get picky. The 69mm (2.7-inch) LCD screen is good but could do with being bigger. If you want a bigger screen, though, you'll have to fork out another £60 or so for the DMC-TZ7, which has a 76mm (3-inch) screen with twice the resolution and a fancy high-definition, 720p movie mode.
Also, the mode dial is rather light and lacks firm click-stops, so that it keeps moving out of position when you put the camera in your pocket and take it out again. And all the 'intelligent automation' does your head in after a while, as you can end up with no clear idea of what the camera's doing and why, and whether you ought to be doing something about it or not.
Our review camera also had a playback glitch that sometimes produced a corrupted display and even crashed the camera, but this may have been an early production issue, so it's perhaps unwise to set too much store by that.
Panasonic's TZ-series superzoom cameras just keep getting better and better. The pricier Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7 has a better LCD and a higher-quality movie mode, but, for regular stills photography, the DMC-TZ6 is better value by far, offering fantastic flexibility, great image quality, a superb build and finish, and pocketability too.
Edited by Charles Kloet