ZS3/TZ7 with Teleconverters

 


It may seem strange to want to add a teleconverter to a small “travel cam” like the ZS3, but as they say, “what can be done will be done”, and soon after its release there were posts on the DPR Panasonic forum about making adapters for the SZ3 for mounting teleconverters. 


I first tried a teleconverter on the ZS3/TZ7 just by using a stack of step-rings in a test setup, and I took some shots indoors, as posted in May 2009 on the DPR Panasonic forum here:

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1033&message=31899503


Shortly after that I did some outdoors tests with TCs as posted on the DPR Panasonic forum here:

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1033&message=31958767

At 8m I found the Olympus C180 gave a magnification value of about 1.60x, but at 30m the value increased to 1.69x, giving an effective FL of 507mm. The magnification value of the Olympus C210 at 30m was 1.84x, giving an effective FL of 552mm, but its IQ was lower than that of the C180.


For a permanent adapter I used a lightweight thin-walled metal tube from an old pair of broken Zeiss binoculars that proved to be just the right size after I filed off the inner thread.  I used this adapter with a 55-52mm step-ring cemented at the front to enable my Olympus C180 teleconverter to be directly screwed on.  I chose the C180 as being the most suitable for the ZS3 because of its small size, light weight, 1.7x power and good central IQ.


I’ve listed other options for adapters for the Panasonic ZS/TZ series here.


The moon with stacked TCs

I used the above setup to take a shot of the moon, but in this case I had the C180 stacked in front of an Olympus C210 teleconverter, which has the same thread size as the C180. Details about these and other TCs can be found under the section “FZ35/38 and teleconverters” which can be accessed from the navigation menu above.  I posted this moon shot on the DPR forum in June 2009 at:

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1033&message=32366942


Comparison of ZS3/TZ7 with ZS7/TZ10

More recently, I had the opportunity to test the C180 on a ZS7/TZ10 and to compare it directly with my ZS3/TZ7.  For this test I used the power pole and tripod setup at 30m distance that I had used in previous testing of my other cams.  Shots were taken within a few minutes of each other using the C180 on each cam at maximum zoom (300mm).


I compared the images side-by-side and magnified them so as to be able to see any differences in IQ.  I compared the ZS3/TZ7 image at 200% against the ZS7/TZ10 image at 188% so as to give same-sized images on the screen.  The reason for the different magnification is that the higher megapixel count of the ZS7/TZ10 produces a slightly larger image when viewed at full size.  In theory, when viewed slightly reduced in size to match the ZS3/TZ7, it should have a corresponding slight increase in sharpness/detail compared to the ZS3/TZ7 image.  The comparison images are shown below (click on the image for the full size):




As can be seen clearly in the fine low-contrast grain of the wood on the pole, rather than showing slightly greater detail, the ZS7/TZ10 image shows areas of “smearing” where all detail is lost, compared with the ZS3/TZ7 image.  Also, looking at the black cable in the lower right-hand corner, there is more CA (red/green) along the edges in the ZS7/TZ10 image as well as more noise.  There is also a slight colour difference, with the ZS3/TZ7 being closer to what I saw as being the actual colours.


What seems to be happening is that because of its higher pixel density the ZS7/TZ10 requires more severe noise reduction, and the way this NR is implemented in the cam results in some areas being heavily “smoothed”, which can destroy low-contrast detail, while in other areas residual noise remains.  In addition to this, the ZS7/TZ0 showed more CA, at least in this case.


Conclusion

In this test the ZS3/TZ7 gave distinctly better IQ than did the ZS7/TZ10.  While the ZS7/TZ10 has the GPS feature and is said to have improved video, neither of those features are important to me, and because I am more concerned with IQ at the pixel level it means that I intend to retain my ZS3/TZ7 and not replace it with a ZS7/TZ10.



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