tz8

Given our gripes about the fiddly process of changing exposure mode settings, how does the much-vaunted Intelligent Auto (iA) mode perform? After all, this is the mode that the less experienced photographers who'll tend to buy this camera are likely to stick with. The answer is, pretty well.

Intelligent af

POINT AND SHOOT: 'Sonic Speed AF' is overselling it, but there's no doubt the AF features on this camera are fast and reliable (Click here for high-res version)

AF tracking is particularly effective - it just works – and the intelligent exposure modes generally do a good job, as our test shots reveal (note there is no manual focus option).

Intelligent exposure

SENSE OF EXPOSURE: Select iA (Intelligent Auto) on the mode dial for a more consistent and sensitive auto exposure than you normally get on compacts at this price (Click here for high-res version)

We did notice the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ8 has a tendency to over expose and blow out highlights on a bright sunny day, but this can easily be rectified by adjusting exposure compensation (rather hidden away on the rear mode dial, if you're wondering where it is).

As for the intelligent ISO control, we couldn't see any real benefit – use auto ISO, or adjust it yourself for the most reliable results. Noise is acceptable to 800, but we wouldn't go this high that often, unless flash isn't an option. You do lose detail and edge sharpness.

ISO 800

ISO PERFORMANCE: At ISO 800, as here, you lose detail, but it's not too bad – and better a noisy shot than no shot at all when you can't use flash (Click here for high-res version)

While the camera has a 12.1 megapixel sensor, it's still a small sensor, and you will get bad speckling and colour smearing over 800. That said, it's certainly no worse than similarly priced competitors.

Indoor

BENCHES ANONYMOUS: The metering generally copes well with more challenging lighting conditions though there is a tendency to blow out highlights, as with some of the benches here (Click here for high-res version)

The pop-up flash is a bit weedy, with limited options. As for the daftly named POWER O.I.S anti-shake technology, it works well, but is most effective when used with a firm grip when zooming right out – this camera is disarmingly light.

But this is not a major issue, and it's great that the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ8 gives you the advantages of a relatively long zoom lens without it overpowering the camera and making it feel awkward and bulky.

Despite our gripes about the PASM adjustment, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ8 is easy to live with. The 2.7-inch rear LCD is bright and colourful, and the menus are mercifully uncluttered and easy to read.

rear lcd

SHARP LCD: The 2.7-inch LCD is easy to read, with clear and logical menus

Shooting 720p HD movies is also very easy – just select movie mode on the top dial and press the shutter release – and the movie quality is good, as our test footage shows.

Exposure and colours are accurate and there's minimal distortion during movement.