Panasonic DMC-TZ40 Mini Review

I’d only had the Panasonic DMC-TZ40 for a couple of weeks before leaving for my Malaysia trip and in that time had played around enough to learn where the basic settings were and understand how the WiFi function could be used.

As the camera itself is an “old” and now discontinued model there’s not much point in a full review, so consider this as a way of me reminding myself just how little I paid and and just how good it was on the trip.

F1 Overtaking

One of the big reasons I bought the TZ40 was the Zoom, at 20x optical it was going to bring the action closer.  Now in practice that zoom works well on a clear sunny day when the shutter speeds can be drop to deal with the camera shake.  In practice newer generations of this camera and its competitors are going out to 30x zooms.  I’m not entirely convinced that this is a good thing given the difficultly holding the camera steady enough.


The best zoom point for the camera is in the middle of the range though, the above shots were “easy” grabs and most from this position in the stands to the corner (a few hundred metres) were sharp and clear considering the hazy conditions.


When working with closer faster moving subjects the same middle of the range zoom point coupled with the burst mode on the shutter got me what I really enjoy – closeup clear sharp pictures.  The success factors were again influenced by the ability to aim and stead the camera.  So much so that I feel investing in, or making a “grenade grip” or large handle grip is going to be on the cards.  That way the weight of the camera is better supported by the left hand while the right hand can guide the shots while triggering the shutter.

In short there’s not enough camera to hang onto solidly if you have larger hands, the same reason that makes the TZ40 a great travel companion is its downfall in these scenarios.


The huge amount of indirect light thanks to heavy cloud and haze cover did cause all of the automated functions some grief, the chrome finish of the Mclaren cars flaring out in most shots and confusing everything from shutter setting to focus points.  I think had I not been relying on so much Automation I would have tweaked the Aperture and Shutter settings to specifically suit, however while the high-resolution screen nthe rear of the camera is bright and very sharp the lack f size still makes discerning these sorts of issues impossible in the field.


More conventional livery wasn’t a problem though with the mix of colours and contrasts being well picked up.



There’s really no true substitute for a DSLR at capturing super detailed pictures, but to be very honest I travelled to Malaysia with under 6kg of clothes, electronics and camera, I certainly didn’t have the space (or will) to wrangle more stuff.

The Panasonic TZ40 bridges the chasm between “good” mobile phone cameras with all their foibles and the new-generation of mirror less interchangeable lens cameras.  The small external size packs a lot of useable features into a very pocket friendly package.

Overall I found the battery life to be very good, using a “power bank” to top-up the battery when walking around, having lunch and so forth extended the life and the change to the spare (at 199RM for a genuine battery)  was completed quickly and barely interrupted use.

I had initially been using a Patriot Class10 32GB SD card which was “fast” enough for our DMC-TS3 indestructible camera but when filled I went out and splurged on a 64Gb Sandisk Extreme in MicroSD form (with adapter) to allow sharing with the GoPro.  While on paper the specification difference between the two cards is not extreme it does play out in practice with the Sandisk card giving a faster save-time and consequently better burst mode performance.


At night the automatic Nightshot mode rarely faltered with the superbright lights and a colours captured clearly with minimal user effort.    Motion blur in stills as expected but very little evidence of shake.

Petronas Towers

In bright light colour and detail are good, again this is a point and shoot (and the images are resized) but the level of detail captured is more than adequate for decent prints.

Overall I quickly became comfortable with carrying and using the TZ40 – I got good results most of the times I pulled it from the pocket and by contributing more effort on my part even better results would have been attained.

For the price of these super-zoom compact cameras I have no idea why some people travel relying upon mobile phone cameras to capture memories.

Good things come to those who wait

I’ve never been an outstandingly patient person but sometimes when there’s money involved it easy to wait.

Back in early 2012 prior to our epic Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore trip we bought a Panasonic Lumix FT3 – the rationale was simple, it was small, rugged, waterproof and reviewed very well.  It usurped our Canon cameras at the time thanks to size and both the Canons were getting old.

I’d also harboured the idea of buying a Super Zoom compact as well, setting my heart on a Nikon S9200 – a model barely released – and ultimately it just wasn’t available during our trip at a price I was prepared to pay.

The FT3 has travelled with us, we’ve lost the original battery and the two no-brand ones are getting a bit tired, it’s got scratches and scrapes from falls but it just keeps on going.  It’s spent 6 weeks in Vanuatu, snorkelling and trekking, finally the humidity taking a toll and the camera suffering condensation internally, but a few days in the sun have that all cleared up once more.

So now with the Malaysian F1 looming and my budget trip planned I was revisiting the idea of a new camera.  There’s nothing wrong with the old FT3 – except the super tough brief meant Zoom was sacrificed and for F1 where the action is a little further away Zoom would be good.

Enter the search for a new Super Zoom compact.  Again size was an important factor, and immediately I looked into the Nikon and Canon offerings, The Nikon S9500 or Canon SX280HS immediately sprang to mind but after reading a few reviews I was forcing myself into a bigger choice, there are quite a few good compact super zooms out on the market, but my own budget (No more than AUD300) meant that I’d need to be doing some bargain shopping to get what I wanted.

Since the advent of digital cameras there’s been a yearly new-model cycle – when I was looking for the S9200 I was looking to buy at the start of a model cycle, but this time with my availability lesson learnt I was going to buy an End-of-Model runout.

So off the the various retailers I went, knowing the basic specs and models meant I was really just trying to identify the camera that felt nice in the hand and fitted the budget.

Lumix TZ-40
Panasonic Lumix TZ-40

In the end it was another Panasonic – the Lumix DMC-FZ40 that fitted the best.  Not only had it consistently reviewed well but it also felt nice in the hand.  The familiar user interface helped push it over the line.

I paid AUD293 compared to the RRP of AUD399 (saving over 25%), got all the features I wanted and have it ready to travel.  There were a couple more surprises in this – firstly I bought from a Bricks’n’Mortar retailer during a “sale”, secondly online discount resellers simply were not price competitive.  In fact if you took into account the risks of getting non-Australian stock, which may or may not have the Panasonic International Warranty that we get here then buying online was at least 10% more expensive!

Sure all the 2014 generation Super Compacts have taken a bigger step forward, the lenses are now pushing out towards 30x (from the ~20x of the 2012-2013 generations) but are they that much better?  The replacement for the TZ-40 is the TZ-60 – with a launch RRP of an eye watering AUD549 is a great camera I’m sure but I doubt it’s over AUD250 better!   The price difference is roughly half my ticket costs!

The 2011 Lumix DMC-FT3 with the 2013 Lumix DMC-TZ40
The 2011 Lumix DMC-FT3 with the 2013 Lumix DMC-TZ40

So what’s it like?

Well I wouldn’t go as far as saying I love it, I’ll save that for the day when I am truly blown away by a camera, but for the most part the reviews are honest.

The Panasonic Lumix TZ-40 does everything well, just like all the other “numbers driven” super-zooms there’s flaws with the premise and the performance, but there’s a lot of camera in a tiny price.

Unlike a lot of reviewers I must have a steady hand technique as I’m able to use the full zoom to capture distant scenes, it’s not the easiest I admit, the same amount of zoom on the 300D is easier to shoot with thanks to the bulk of the camera providing stable grip points,  but using a mini-tripod or adapting a GoPro grenade grip would work really well.

The iPhone app is a little clunky but for tripod mounted shots, it’s workable.  It would be good if later versions of the App saved the images into their own Camera Roll rather than blending with the rest of the photos in the iPhone.

Image App Tile
A 3-shot tiled image made by the Panasonic Image App.

The composite picture above shows some of the zoom capabilities, all shots taken from the same point, letting the iA mode do it’s own thing.

Naturally I’ve only taken a few pics so far, and the real test starts in two weeks when I hit Malaysia.