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Review: Panasonic Lumix TZ25
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ25 replaces the Panasonic TZ18 as the affordable camera in the Panasonic's TZ travel zoom range, with a price tag of £269.99/AU$288/US$249.99.
Panasonic's TZ compact cameras are known for their big zooms and even bigger feature sets. And the Panasonic TZ25 - also known as the Panasonic ZS15 - doesn't disappoint. What you get here is essentially a Panasonic TZ30 lite - although physically it's chunkier and heavier by a whisker than Panasonic's flagship superzoom.
Instead of the Panasonic TZ30's 20x optical zoom, the Panasonic TZ25 stretches to 16x - the same as last year's Panasonic TZ18.
The Panasonic TZ25's lens might not have the extreme reach (24-384mm equivalent, compared to the Panasonic TZ30's 24-480mm), but it does retain the same wide setting, which comes in particularly useful for indoor shots, group portraits and scenic shots.
The Panasonic TZ25 also sheds a little effective resolution in the sensor department - offering 12.1MP compared to the Panasonic TZ30's 14.1MP. This is a decrease from the Panasonic TZ18 too, which also delivered 14.1 million effective pixels.
However, instead of using a CCD sensor like its predecessor, the Panasonic TZ25 features a high-sensitivity MOS one, the same as in the Panasonic FZ150.
We'd accept a slight drop in overall resolution in return for cleaner images from a small 1/2.3-inch sensor every time.
What else do you get for your money with the Panasonic TZ25? A high-speed burst mode that captures 10 full res files (although focus is locked throughout), Full HD video recording in AVCHD or MP4 format and POWER OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation) that's said to be twice as effective as Panasonic's excellent MEGA OIS. Plus there's in-camera HDR, 3D photos and panoramas.
Stump up the extra little bit of cash for the Panasonic TZ30 and you get a touchscreen, GPS, progressive 1920 x 1080 Full HD video with stereo sound recording (the Panasonic TZ25 records mono 1080i footage) and an extra ED lens in the construction of the zoom.
Otherwise, the specifications of the two cameras are near identical.
Build quality and handling
It doesn't matter how technically adept a camera is if it isn't easy to use. Thankfully, the Panasonic TZ25 gets the balance between menu-based controls and physical buttons and dials just right.
The camera is comfortable to hold, despite only having a small grip lined with a shiny inlay and a remarkably ineffective dotted thumb rest. All the controls fall easily to hand, too.
The top-plate of the Panasonic TZ25 features a responsive shutter release enclosed by a zoom collar, plus a direct record button for movies and a small but nicely weighted mode dial.
In addition to P, A, S, M modes, this dial also includes Intelligent Auto, Scene Mode (17 to choose from here), 3D Photo Mode and My Scene Mode, which enables you to apply one of Panasonic's creative digital filter effects. Finally, there's also the option for storing complete camera setups as Custom modes.
The rear of the camera features the familiar Panasonic setup. A four-way control pad gives direct access to exposure compensation, flash settings, macro focus and self-timer, while the centre SET/MENU button confirms a selection and brings up the Panasonic TZ25's shooting or playback menus, depending on which mode the camera's in.
Rather than forcing you to rummage around the menus to change key shooting parameters such as ISO, white balance and AF mode, Panasonic has collected these in a Quick Menu. Tapping the Q.Menu button on the bottom of the Panasonic TZ25's backplate displays this drop-down overlay on the rear screen's live view.
This is an efficient way of getting to the functions that matter, although the lineup of options depends on which of the Panasonic TZ25's shooting modes you're in: Aperture Priority gives you seven options to choose from, while the Intelligent Auto mode gives you four.
An inset Exposure button is conveniently placed mid-body: press this while shooting in Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual modes to change aperture and/or shutter speed settings.
Most of the Panasonic TZ25's switchgear is quick and precise, and a reflection of the all-round high standards of build quality. The sliding on/off switch is fairly stiff, for instance, meaning that the camera is unlikely to spring into life while being carried in a bag or pocket.
Moving from shooting mode to playback mode is also achieved through the use of a switch on the back of the camera. It's a shame that Panasonic persists in making you have to physically flick a switch to move from playback to shooting, as it disrupts the otherwise smooth flow of operating the camera.
There were a couple of other operational weak points with our Panasonic TZ25. The zoom collar, although light and precise during shooting, became much less snappy while magnifying the image during playback.
The LCD screen also exhibited a nasty green tinge when viewed from above or below, although the various brightness options available, including High Angle for shooting with the camera held over your head, are welcome.
In terms of raw performance, the Panasonic TZ25 is in tune with the Panasonic TZ30. Start up to first shot takes around 2.2 seconds, while zooming from one end of the lens to the other takes 2.5-2.8 seconds. Starting up the Panasonic TZ25 in playback mode is less impressive, taking over three seconds to display the first shot.
On a full battery charge, we managed to shoot just 191 full-res JPEGs and around five minutes of Full HD video. While we accept that we're not running a CIPA standard test here, we did push the camera in a way that's close to how it would be used: ducking into menus, sporadically using the flash, using the zoom extensively and playing back images.
Recharging the Panasonic TZ25's battery has to be carried out while it's still in the camera, via USB. Your mileage may vary where this is concerned. On the one hand it's convenient, meaning you need to carry just a single cable with you when you travel. However, it's not exactly a fast process, and it does mean you can't use the camera while the battery's charging - unless you pack a spare.
Like the Panasonic TZ30, focusing is swift and sharp. As with most compact cameras, low contrast subjects such as evening clouds and trees in mist cause the lens to hunt for focus and eventually give up. But its performance is generally excellent in this area.
Continuous shooting is equally as nippy. While the Panasonic TZ25's smaller buffer means that it falls short of the TZ30's ability to capture up to 10 full-res images at 10 frames per second, it can still capture up to four pictures at the same speed before it pauses.
More importantly, photos and video captured by the Panasonic TZ25 are excellent, showing good levels of saturation and contrast, and plenty of detail.
Because it lacks the reach and resolution of the Panasonic TZ30, pictures of distant subjects lack the detail and bite of those from the more expensive Lumix. However, the Panasonic TZ25's lower pixel density means that texture and detail holds up better in low light and at higher ISOs.
In fact, images are relatively clean up to ISO 800, although there is some patchy colour in shadows at this setting, and detail is soft. The pictures are far from unusable though.
There's a noticeable drop off in quality at ISO 1600, and at ISO 3200 saturation is considerably weaker, edges are mottled and fine detail is masked by yellow blotches and the characteristic smear of noise reduction.
Image quality and resolution
As part of our image quality testing for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ25, 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 Lumix DMC-TZ25 is capable of resolving up to around 24 (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:
ISO 100, score: 22 (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: 20 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 1600, score: 18 (Click here to see the full resolution image)
ISO 3200, score: 16 (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.
Signal to noise ratio
These results show that the Panasonic TZ25's JPEG files have a similar signal to noise ratio to those from the Panasonic TZ30, Canon PowerShot SX260 and Samsung WB750, coming out top at ISO 200 and ISO 1600, bottom at ISO 3200 and in the middle at the other settings.
Image results for dynamic range are less prone to fluctuations than those for signal to noise ratio, with the Panasonic TZ25 consistently taking second place at all sensitivities, behind the Samsung WB750and ahead of the Panasonic TZ30 and Canon PowerShot SX260.
As well as offering an Auto ISO function, where the camera selects the appropriate ISO for the lighting conditions, the Panasonic TZ25 also features an Intelligent ISO setting. This also factors in any movement it detects to ensure you get sharp (albeit sometimes noisy) pictures - which is useful for photographing fast-moving kids.
The Power OIS does a sterling job at keeping pictures sharp at telephoto focal lengths. AF Tracking can be quickly activated for moving subjects, too.
Intelligent Auto mode has made a good fist of matching the camera setup to this tricky exposure. Given the drizzly, dank conditions, the colours are very lively without looking artificial. Purple fringing is evident along the edges of the backlit leaves and tree trunk, some of which is obvious when the image is viewed at normal size.
If Intelligent Auto has a weakness, it's that it too readily selects HDR mode when it detects backlighting. Here's a before and after example of the effect it produces. It can help boost a flat scene such as this, but portraits can look overcooked, particularly in low light.
Macro mode gets you to within 3cm of a subject when the lens is at its widest setting. At this distance you need to be aware of where the light is coming from - it's easy for the camera's shadow to cover part of the frame.
The Panasonic TZ25's lens is capable of resolving some very good levels of detail. None of the subtlety in this bloom has been lost, and the AF system has locked onto the right spot. As with the Panasonic TZ30, there are four main AF modes on offer: Spot, 1-Area, 23-Area and Face Detection.
Metering is generally good, although it's underexposed this pale wall a little. A comparatively large live histogram can be overlaid over the image to monitor for problems like this, while exposure compensation can be quickly activated by tapping up on the four-way control pad.
The Auto White Balance proved reliable throughout the test, striking a good balance between the warm backlight here and the approaching blue storm clouds. When shooting HD footage and moving from daylight to tungsten-lit locations, the Panasonic TZ25 quickly adapted to the changing conditions, too.
Panasonic TZ25 at 4.3mm (24mm equivalent)
Panasonic TZ25 at 68.8mm (384mm equivalent)
Sensitivity and noise
Full ISO 100 image, see the cropped (100%) versions below.
Despite lacking some of the Panasonic TZ30's high-end trimmings, the Panasonic TZ25 offers a range of desirable features and excellent responsiveness.
In fact, in terms of picture quality and performance, the Panasonic TZ25 represents better value for money than its higher priced stablemate - particularly if you don't need the GPS functionality.
The Panasonic TZ25's versatile zoom range, quick focus and creative shooting options are all excellent.
The battery life proved underwhelming during our tests, and USB recharging isn't for everyone. Having to physically switch between shooting and playback can be tiresome, too.
The Panasonic TZ25 is a camera that has something to offer photographers of all abilities. If you're a beginner, dial in Intelligent Auto. This point-and-press mode gets it right more often than it gets it wrong, matching the camera settings to the shooting situation with a fair degree of accuracy.
It is a little too keen to unleash HDR mode when it detects backlighting, though - at one point, even a pale wall behind a portrait sitter set it off - and this adds several seconds to the image processing time.
More advanced photographers will welcome the control that the P, A, S, M modes bring to a camera with such potential, although the aperture range is a little narrow at the full telephoto zoom setting (f/5.9-6.3).
Overall, the Panasonic TZ25 is a fast performer with lots of genuinely useful features, and it's capable of producing smooth, attractive images. It represents very good value, giving both the Canon PowerShot SX260 HS and the Samsung WB750 a run for their money.
Updated: EE 4G tariffs leaked – and they're not shocking
The prices for EE's eagerly anticipated 4G tariffs have leaked online, with a source claiming they'll come in multiple flavours.
Update: Stuff has now removed its article from its website, tweeting this explanation: "Our EE story (now unpublished) was an anonymous tip-off – always a bit flaky. EE called and said our facts were wrong" - questionable sources will always be questionable.
Speaking to Stuff, the source revealed that users wanting a slice of the 4G action would have to fork out a £5 monthly access fee on top of a 3G tariff, with that fee lowered to £3 for business users - whether that includes any data allowance or just the chance to have a 4G connection we don't know.
Apparently customers will be able to choose from 1GB, 8GB, 16GB and a massive 128GB of data a month, however be warned as the 128GB package is likely to cost a staggering £160 per month – ouch.
All will be revealed tomorrow
And it looks like EE is set to announce its 4G tariffs tomorrow, after sending a tweet to a follower on Twitter saying "the tariff information should be available by the 23rd October."
We hope this is correct, as we've been waiting a while for the pricing of the UK's first 4G network, with fingers firmly crossed that it won't be eye-wateringly expensive.
EE's 4G launch devices have already been announced, with customers able to choose from the Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE, HTC One XL, Huawei Ascend P1 LTE and iPhone 5, with the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 LTE and Nokia Lumia 920 coming in a few weeks time.