The perfect camera?

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3One of the examples I frequently use when talking about search engine results and personalization is the query “digital camera”. There is no “right” answer for this query. The right answer depends as much on the needs of the person asking the question.

This week, I found the answer to my own “digital camera” query: the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3. You can see some of my early experiments with the camera on flickr.

It has most of the key things I was looking for. In descending order of importance:

  • Leica lens. I’ve been a Canon guy for years. I never would’ve considered buying a digital camera from Panasonic except for the Leica lens.
  • 10x optical zoom. I do a lot of hiking and traveling and the 3x zoom on my PowerShot SD400 wasn’t doing it for me.
  • Optical image stabilization. This helps when taking pictures at night or with a high zoom. It’s better than digital image stabilization, which adds to processing time.
  • Compact size. The camera is not small, especially when compared with the SD400. But there’s only so much you can do about physics. It’s a lot smaller than a DSLR with a similar zoom lens.
  • Small shutter lag (0.0006 seconds) and shutter interval (0.7). And an incredible burst mode.
  • Gorgeous 3″ screen. The bright, high resolution screen shows off pictures beautifully.
  • 16:9 and 3:2 aspect ratios. In addition to shooting images in the square shape of TV screens and computer monitors, you can shoot images in 16:9 (the shape of HDTVs and movie screens) and 3:2 (film).
  • It’s stylish. It blends elements of the old and new. I especially like the mode dial.
  • 7 megapixels. A small upgrade from my current 5 megapixel.
  • Auto exposure bracketing. One click of the shutter automatically takes three pictures at different exposures.
  • Grid lines. My pictures often come out crooked and I end up having to straighten them in Photoshop. It’s more work and I lose resolution cropping and re-compressing them. With the gridlines, I can ensure that the picture is level when I take it.
  • World time and other travel features. I can switch time zones easily using an on-screen map. A “clipboard” feature stores pictures of maps, timetables and other reference information in a special part of memory that is easy to get to.

The on-screen displays and menu controls are well thought out and intuitive. There’s plenty of guidance to help you learn the camera’s features without referring to the manual. For example, a help screen is available for each scene mode.

A turn of the dial and the camera switches to “simple” mode. This eliminates most of the menu options and focuses on the core features. It’s great when one person is more technical and the other is not.

Then there are the “product manager has too much time on his hands” features: a baby mode that allows you to set your kid’s birthday and automatically stamp his age on each picture. The camera supports two babies and a pet. You can also do things like crop pictures in the camera, things which are probably better done on a computer.

What’s missing? Geotagging support. But I’m one of 10 people in the world who is asking for that.

The Achilles’ Heel of the camera is the PC software, which looks like it hasn’t been updated since 2001. Don’t waste your time installing it. Use Picasa or Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition. (Both are free.)

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About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is an analyst focused on the intersection of local, social and mobile. He is a principal analyst at reDesign mobile. Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He blogs at http://blog.agrawals.org and tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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  1. Pingback: Playing with my new camera « reDesign

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