Panasonic TZ35 £249
11th Mar 2013 | 13:10
Budget superzoom put to the test
Panasonic's TZ series of compact cameras has always been popular with enthusiasts, because they offer plenty of flexibility both in terms of manual controls and a large zoom range.
The Panasonic TZ35, known as the Panasonic ZS25 in the US, follows on from last year's Panasonic TZ25, but sees an increase in zoom ratio with a 20x optical offering. That gives it a very versatile range of 24-480mm in 35mm terms.
A 16.1 million pixel sensor can be found onboard that, according to Panasonic, combines with the Venus Engine for a high performance result. We've been impressed by the performance of TZ cameras before, so we're looking forward to putting this one through its paces.
Unlike the Panasonic TZ40, which sits at the top of the line, the TZ35 doesn't have added extras such as Wi-Fi or near field communication (NFC), but if you can live without those kind of options, then this "budget" version is a good idea.
Although it boasts the same zoom range as the Panasonic TZ40, the TZ35's pixel count is slightly lower, with the more expensive camera featuring an 18 million pixel sensor. Like its predecessor, the Panasonic TZ35 features a MOS sensor, while previous iterations used a CCD.
Another exciting feature of the Panasonic TZ35, which perhaps appeals to the all-round photographer, is its ability to shoot at up to 10fps in high speed burst mode, giving it fantastic potential for action, or fast-moving subjects. You can also shoot at up to 5fps with continuous autofocus.
Light Speed AF is also available, facilitated by the Venus Engine.
As with the previous camera, a number of creative filters can be deployed, but the ability to use them when shooting a Panoramic image is new. A total number of 14 filter effects can be found on the camera, presumably in a bid to compete with the likes of Instagram et al.
Full HD video recording is available at 50i, along with 25p in MP4 format. Power OIS (optical image stabiliser) is available in both stills and video recording, and is designed to help reduce blur caused by camerashake.
As well as Intelligent automatic modes, full manual control and semi-automatic control (aperture and shutter priority) is available. Unfortunately, the camera can't shoot in raw format. Unlike the Panasonic TZ40, the 3-inch, 460k dot screen isn't touch-sensitive.
Many of the specifications of the Panasonic TZ35 are very similar to the Panasonic TZ40, but it is available for less money than its sibling, priced at £299.99 in the UK (around AU$449) and US$299 in the US, where it's called the Panasonic ZS25. Let's see how it performs.
Build quality and handling
The design and build of the Panasonic TZ35/ZS25 is very similar to its predecessor. Despite cramming a whopping 20x optical zoom lens into the body of the camera, Panasonic has still managed to produce a sleek and pocketable compact.
With a small grip on the right of the camera, it is pretty comfortable to hold, especially when shooting one-handed. With all of the controls on the right-hand side of the camera, you can change the majority of settings with your thumb.
At the top of the camera is a mode dial, which gives immediate access to all the different key functions the camera offers, such as semi-automatic modes and manual modes (P/A/S/M) and fully automatic, art and scene modes.
It's nice to see a mode dial on a travel compact such as this, since with some other models, you'll need to do a fair bit of menu diving to access what you need.
Handily, there's also space for two sets of custom settings to be stored, which is useful if you find you're often using the same group of settings, ie high sensitivity or monochrome.
Also on the top of the camera is the shutter release, around which a zoom switch can be found. This is fairly quick and fluid to use, which is especially good news given the extensive zooming capability of the lens.
At the back of the camera is a familiar four-way control pad, which gives access to exposure compensation, flash settings, macro focusing and self-time. The centre MENU/SET button works as a confirmation button when combined with these other controls.
A Quick Menu is available, which is accessed via a dedicated button. This saves you having to delve into the menu to change key settings such as ISO or white balance. The amount of options available here changes, depending on the mode you're shooting in. For instance, in fully automatic mode, there's only a few different options available.
Just above the control pad is an Exposure button, which can be used when shooting in semi-automatic and fully manual modes. For instance, in aperture priority, hit the Exposure button to be able to alter the aperture.
While in fully manual mode, this button can be pressed to access both shutter speed and aperture settings - requiring either an upwards, downwards, or left or right push on the directional keypad to make the changes.
Although much of the operation of the Panasonic TZ35 is very similar to its predecessor, one change for the better is the manner in which images are played back.
Previously, you needed to move from playback mode to shooting mode, which could get a little frustrating if you forgot to push the switch back. Now, however, there's a single playback button that can be accessed no matter what the mode.
If you're familiar with Panasonic's G series of compact system cameras, then you'll be extremely at home with the menu operation of the Panasonic TZ35. It's reasonably well laid out, being separated into recording options (such as image size), motion picture options and general setup options (ie setting the clock).
You might find that if you use either fully automatic or semi-automatic with the Quick Menu that you rarely need to go into the menu, anyway.
In terms of performance, the Panasonic TZ35/ZS25 is reasonably similar to its predecessor. Start-up time is quick, and now that there's no playback mode switch, you're always ready to go as soon as the camera is switched on.
One slight worry is the battery life of the camera, especially considering this is a travel option. With reasonably moderate use, we've found that the camera can only just about last a day - we can imagine that if you're getting very snap happy on a family holiday, it might not even stretch to that.
Battery recharging is done by plugging the USB cable into the camera itself. This is becoming more common, but some people may not appreciate it and prefer to have a separate battery charger.
Focusing speeds are pretty impressive on the Panasonic TZ35, with most subjects acquired quickly and easily without too much hunting around. It seems a big shame that a camera with this much manual control doesn't enable you to change autofocus point though.
When the light starts to drop, the Panasonic TZ35 hunts around a little more to capture the subject, but overall the performance is very good.
We've been impressed by the picture quality of cameras in the TZ range before, and we're pleased to say that the Panasonic TZ35 is no different. Images display a good level of detail, excellent colour with plenty of punch.
We have found that on occasion, there is some example of image smoothing when viewing images at 100%, but this shouldn't be an issue when printing at normal sizes or viewing online.
Clearly, one of the key selling points of the Panasonic TZ35 is its extensive zoom range, with a 20x optical zoom on board. Images taken at the furthest reach of the telephoto optic look good, resolving lots of detail, and giving lots of flexibility when shooting a variety of subjects.
The camera's Power OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation) does an excellent job of preventing blur from camera shake when shooting handheld, even when shooting at the furthest reach of the telephoto optic.
When shooting at high ISOs, such as ISO 1600, there is noticeable smoothing, especially when looking at the image at 100%, but again, this is less noticeable when printing at normal sizes, or publishing the image online.
As is increasing in prevalence, the Panasonic TZ35 has quite a wide selection of digital filters, and again if you're familiar with the Panasonic G series of compact system cameras you will have seen these filters before.
As always, whether you like them is down to personal preference, but there are some here that we really enjoyed using, particularly Dynamic Monochrome and Cross Process. Many of the filters are also customisable, so there's plenty of scope to get really creative.
Unlike the G series of cameras though, the Panasonic TZ35 doesn't shoot in raw format, so should you decide that you don't like the filter down the line, you're pretty much stuck with it.
The screen on the back of the camera is generally a good performer, not suffering too badly from glare or reflection. However, if it's very sunny, it can be difficult to see at times.
One useful setting is the Monitor Luminance option, which can be reached from the Quick menu. This enables you to change the brightness of the screen depending on the angle you want to shoot from, which is especially handy when shooting over the head (at concerts and so on). Use Auto Power Monitor for everyday situations.
Image quality and resolution
As part of our image quality testing for the Panasonic TZ35 review, we've shot our resolution chart.
If you view our crops of the resolution chart's central section at 100% (or Actual Pixels) you will see that, for example, at ISO 100 the Panasonic TZ35 is capable of resolving up to around 20 (line widths per picture height x100) in its highest quality JPEG files.
For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.
Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:
Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.
ISO 100, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 200, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 400, score: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 800, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 1600, score: 12 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 3200, score: n/a (Click here to see the full resolution image)
Noise and dynamic range
We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.
A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.
For more more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.
JPEG signal to noise ratio
These results show that the Panasonic TZ35's images produce a very similar signal to noise ratio to the Sony HX20V, Panasonic TZ25 and Canon PowerShot SX260 HS, though they are slightly weaker than the Samsung WB850, throughout the sensitivity range.
JPEG dynamic range
Results for dynamic range are a little more spread out than those for signal to noise ratio, with the Panasonic TZ35 coming in stronger than the Sony HX20V and Canon PowerShot SX260 HS at every ISO setting. The TZ35 shows a very similar dynamic range to the Panasonic TZ25 throughout the sensitivity range, while it's similar to the Samsung WB850 at lower ISOs, before the Samsung overtakes it at ISO 400 and 800. At ISO 1600 and above the TZ35 overtakes the Samsung and the TZ25.
The Panasonic TZ35 is an excellent option for travelling and holiday photographers, producing images with plenty of detail and excellent colour reproduction.
Skin tones are represented accurately in this portrait, with the camera capable of producing a good exposure in slightly tricky shade conditions.
Macro focusing is quick and accurate and can be accessed from the four way directional keypad. This helps with frame-filling shots of close-up subjects such as flowers.
Cross Process is one of the digital filters available. It is also customisable, with four different colour variations available.
The Expressive filter is an interesting choice for landscape scenes, producing high contrast and unusual colour variations.
The Panasonic TZ35's optic is very flexible for shooting wide angle scenes. This is shot at the widest angle of the lens.
Shot at the furthest reach of the 20x optical zoom, and handheld, the TZ35's Power OIS has done an excellent job of preventing blur from camera shake.
Dynamic Monochrome is one of the best creative filters available on the TZ35, providing a high contrast black and white shot.
The TZ35 can shoot panoramas, which requires a simple sweep across the scene with the camera. For the first time, creative filters can also be applied to the scene if required.
Sensitivity and noise images
Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.
What camera should I buy? your options explained
Although the Panasonic TZ35/ZS25 isn't as highly specced as its bigger brother, the Panasonic TZ40, it still represents an excellent camera, and for many it will be the more appealing option of the two.
We haven't had a TZ40 in for a full review yet, but the TZ25 was actually a better deal in terms of picture quality and performance than the TZ30, so it's possible that the same will be true of the latest duo.
If you don't need GPS or Wi-Fi and some of the other desirable, but ultimately costly, benefits of the TZ40, this is a very good camera indeed.
Cramming a 20x optical zoom into a body as slim as the Panasonic TZ35 is no mean feat, and makes this an extremely flexible option for the travelling and everyday photographer.
Unfortunately, battery life doesn't seem to have improved too much from its predecessor. We'd also like to be able to change the autofocus point.
Panasonic has made some small, but much needed, changes to the Panasonic TZ35 when compared to its predecessor. Here we have a camera that arguably is the best compromise between functionality and price for the holiday and casual photographer, offering a huge zoom in a nicely sleek body.
If you're a beginner, this camera is very much suited to you, with its fully automatic and creative modes appealing to the novice. Equally, if you're a bit more at home with manual controls, the ability to change settings such as aperture and shutter speed is excellent.
It's a little bit of a shame that there's not even further control for the advanced photographer, such as the ability to change autofocus point or shoot in raw, though.
Overall, this is a very good camera that should be one of the top considerations for those looking for the ideal travel compact that offers just a little bit extra than the bog standard options available on the market.