Sunday, January 05, 2014

This Is Not a Review of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ40 Camera

"Photograph: a picture painted by the sun without instruction in art."

Ambrose Bierce

Ever since my camera died in 2011, I have not sought to replace it. Then last year, I married Cheryl and her Nikon D5000 and it was my first time handling a DSLR. I did not like it. It was bulky, it can't fit in my pocket, and I was forced to handle it as carefully as I would handle a porcelain kitten - and the thought of lugging it around when I go travelling sounds masochistic and sisyphean to me. It also takes too long to whip it out of its carrying case and remove its lens cap before I can shoot, making it terrible for brief candid moments that have tiny shooting windows. Needless to say, I wasn't terribly sorry when the wife sold it online.

When we decided to travel to Laos last month, I started looking into getting a new camera again and I find myself missing my old dead camera - a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ15. No respectable photography hobbyist would even look at a camera from this range. It has its problems - the chief of which, in my experience, was its poor performance in low light but for my purposes, it was perfect. I use the photographs I take to supplement my blogging pastime. Pictures I exhibit are at most presented at 640 x 480 pixels so that hides a lot of sins. I use my camera most when I travel so I mostly shoot in excellent light, but being on the road also meant it has to be able to take a lot of punishment (so it shouldn't be too expensive), portable, compact, and boasts a decent zoom. I enjoy a decent degree of control over my camera so most lower range point-and-shooters with their preset modes and mediocre picture quality do not impress. At the same time, I am also not skillful or knowledgeable enough to take advantage of the fine controls that DSLR's give to their users. So, I'm looking for a pretty niche in-between sort of camera.

I then looked up the descendant of my old TZ15 and found the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ40 - and lo, I found that it was perfect for my needs and skill level! It had everything I appreciated in the TZ15 but way, way better.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ40
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ40 with its 20x Optical Zoom LEICA DC Lens extended.

Initially, I tried looking for it in Kuching but after visiting countless photography and gadget shops, I found a total of just two Panasonic cameras in the entire city and neither of them were the TZ40. Everywhere I look I see Canons, Nikons, Olympi, Sonies and even Samsungs - but no Panasonic. So, I decided to order one from an online store based in West Malaysia. It arrived yesterday and I immediately started getting acquainted with it as soon as it was charged up.

Now, this is not a review of the TZ40. If you want that and want to find out what its exact specs are, you can look here, here and there. This is also not an exhibition of my non-existent photography talent but I thought I'd share some of the pictures I took while I test-drove its functions. Since the TZ40 has a full manual mode, I thought I'd try applying what I've read about apertures, shutter speeds and ISO's as well.

Baby Darwin on Bean Bag
Darwin at 122 days of life, sitting on a bean bag.

Sophie Watches
Sophie in a predatorial mood on the balcony.

Darwin's Eyes
Darwin's eyes in macro mode.

Sophie's Snoot
Sophie's nose in macro.

Sophie Sleeping
Sophie again, sleeping on the floor.

Balcony Scenery
The view from my 8th floor apartment overlooking Kuching. See that white triangle in the middle of the picture?

DBKU (Zoomed)
That's Kuching Utara's City Hall, taken at 40x zoom (20 optical plus 20 iZoom, which Panasonic claims is not your regular shitty digital zoom). And I took it without a tripod (I was literally just holding the camera in my hand and my elbows were not resting on anything either). The Power Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) tech that the TZ40 packs is really something. The image is a bit lossy, pixelated and smudged, but it still shows quite a lot of details.

Street Below (Toy Filter)
The TZ40 has some cool in-camera creative filters (which is basically a crude photo-editing software). Here is the street below my apartment in Miniature mode. There is also a Panorama function that allows me to take panorama shots as I pan the camera across a scenery - it sure beats me doing it manually on Photoshop.

Street Below (Long Exposure at Night)
A photograph of the view from my apartment at night with a 30 seconds exposure with the camera mounted on a tripod. However, I can only manually control the shutter speed up to 4 seconds. To access longer exposure time, I have to use the preset Starry Sky scene mode which only gave me the two options of 15 seconds and 30 seconds of exposure.

I just need to get myself decently familiarised with my new camera before my February trip to Laos. I can hardly wait.

My wife also has a Samsung Galaxy EK-GC100 smart camera which is a pretty decent compact but I find it a little bulky and less pocketable. What is worse is that it takes forever to start up (it needs to load up like your Desktop Windows or your smartphone) and the lack of physical buttons and dials further hampers the response time for quick on-the-go photography, even with its very intuitive interface.

Of course, any pointers on how I can improve my photography technique would be much appreciated.

Not a real photographer,
k0k s3n w4i


synical said...

I have the TZ30. Most I do with it is bring it with me to concerts and stuff like that.

Thought about the TZ40, but the difference between the two is minimal (can't remember what now), I figured I have a few more years...

k0k s3n w4i said...

synical: I think there really isn't much to choose between the TZ30 and the TZ40 unless you really wanted the GPS and Wi-Fi function that the TZ40 carries.

synical said...

Ah, that was it.

Have fun with the new camera :)

k0k s3n w4i said...

synical: Well the Wi-Fi enables me to remotely control my camera using my smartphone. I can set the camera on a tripod and then snap pictures of myself without having to do the timer thing and having to run into the frame before it goes off. It will be pretty useful next month when I go to Laos with the missus - particularly on hikes when we can't find anyone to do the snapping for us.