Last year's Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 featured a 16x zoom and a four step increase over the 12x zoom in thePanasonic Lumix TZ10.
The Panasonic Lumix TZ30 follows suit, delivering a 20x optical zoom. This gives a 35mm equivalent focal range of 24-480mm, a 25 per cent increase at the telephoto end.
Not that you can tell from the camera's comparatively slim proportions, of 104.9 x 58.9 x 28.2mm.
The substantial lens only barrels in and out of the body once the camera's switched on and off, thanks to some fancy folded optics. The rest of the time, you're left with a sleek-looking metal shell, the design of which has remained fairly consistent since the launch of the TZ-1 in 2006.
Over the years, each update to the TZ superzoom has delivered incremental improvements to the big zoom formula. However, the Panasonic TZ20 was a significant upgrade over the TZ10, introducing an exhaustive feature set that included touchscreen controls, 1080i recording and integrated GPS.
In terms of specifications, the Panasonic Lumix TZ30 is less of an upgrade over its predecessor. It shares many of the same features as the TZ20, including the aforementioned touchscreen LCD display, Full HD video capture and GPS.
Naturally, Panasonic has fine-tuned many of these functions for the new Lumix. HD video can be shot in 1080p at 50 frames per second rather than the TZ20's 1080 interlaced. The GPS has been updated to include an on-board map, too, and the camera now features a 3D shooting mode.
The sensor size remains unchanged at 1/2.33-inch, as does the resolution of 14 megapixels.
However, the new MOS sensor has been engineered to deliver an improved signal-to-noise ratio, promising cleaner images at all ISOs.
The Panasonic Lumix TZ30's standard sensitivity range is increased by one full stop, peaking at ISO 3200 compared to the TZ20's ISO 1600.
Last of the Panasonic Lumix TZ30's big additions is the overhauled autofocus system, borrowed from the Lumix G series of compact system cameras (CSCs) such as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX1.
Impressions during the test were good: it made light, precise work throughout the focal length range. To compensate for camera shake with the monster zoom, the image stabilisation system has been upgraded, too.
But these upgrades don't come for free. Priced at £350 in the UK or $350 in the US - where it's called the Panasonic Lumix ZS20 - the Panasonic Lumix TZ30 is more expensive than it's older brother. It sits in the same price bracket as the Samsung EX1 (TL500), Nikon Coolpix S1200pj and even the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT4.
Where detail is lost, however, it's invariably down to noise and the smudging effects of noise reduction. Luminance noise is visible throughout the ISO range. Viewing images at actual size (or 100%), some mottling is noticeable in blue skies shot at ISO 100.
Edges also start to look choppy from ISO 400, and at ISO 800, artefacts and colour noise become obvious.
In other words, the Panasonic Lumix TZ30 puts in a typical performance for a 1/2.33-inch sensor that boasts a resolution of 14 million pixels.
Despite there being some slight purple fringing around high-contrast subjects such as telegraph poles and trees against bright skies, the zoom delivered acceptable sharpness through the range.
There's some drop-off towards the edges, and there's always the nagging feeling that the image processing is masking some of the potential of the Leica lens.
The metering system produces generally well balanced exposures. It tended to bias readings towards mid-tone and shadow detail during the course of our test, meaning that delicate details in bright skies, pale flower petals and other highlights were sometimes lost to overexposure.
The Panasonic Lumix TZ30's HD video recording is more than capable. A one-touch movie button enables you to start shooting instantly, and full-time zoom and autofocus are available while you record.
The continuous autofocus can take a while to catch up, particularly at full zoom, but this function can be switched off.
Video shot in low light is a little noisy, and the stereo mics mounted just above the lens pick up the grind of the zoom motors in quiet situations (our test camera was particularly creaky as it approached the tele end).
The optical image stabilisation system is active when filming, though, which certainly helps when using the zoom at its maximum extension. Ultimately, the Panasonic Lumix TZ30 is an excellent compact camera for HD capture.
The Panasonic Lumix TZ30 is a fun camera to use. The GPS map feature is entertaining and works reasonably quickly. Pressing the DISP button while on the map screen enables you to view a stream of thumbnails that have been tagged with a certain location's data.
The Panasonic Lumix TZ30's Creative Control exposure mode features 10 preset effects, including High Key, Retro and Miniature, as shown here. Creative Retouch can be used to apply six similar treatments to previously captured images.
The success of any superzoom rests in the strength of the lens. The versatility of the 24-480mm equivalent on offer here is impressive. In macro mode, it can even get you within 3cm of a subject at the wide setting.
The Quick Menu button enables you to change key camera settings quickly on the LCD using the four-way pad, without having to dive into the main menu. This can help you react faster to picture opportunities.
The autofocus worked exceptionally well outdoors in good light during our test. When the camera was held at arm's length above the crowds at this spot, the AF system reacted quickly and enabled us to capture action that we couldn't see. There are four main AF modes on offer: Spot, 1-Area, 23-Area and Face Detection.
The Panasonic Lumix TZ30 features a dedicated 3D mode. This is more suited to static subjects such as this scene, where the camera takes a series of frames once you press the shutter release, and combines the images that will produce the most pronounced effect.
The Panasonic Lumix TZ30 at 4.3mm (24mm equivalent)
The Panasonic Lumix TZ30 at 86mm (480mm equivalent)
Overall, the Panasonic Lumix TZ30 leaves a good impression. The extensive zoom, excellent optical image stabilisation and spritely autofocus mean it's a responsive and easy to use camera.
We likedThe touchscreen won't be to everyone's taste, though, and the fact that you have to flick a small switch to shift from playback to record mode, rather than simply dabbing the shutter release, means that there can be a frustrating lag between reviewing shots and taking them.
The Panasonic Lumix TZ30 offers a flexible zoom range and extensive range of creative options in a compact body.
When it comes to dealing with noise, the Panasonic Lumix TZ30 is still left a little wanting. Weak battery life and lack of raw capture are disappointing, too.
The Panasonic Lumix TZ30 is quite an expensive camera, although when you take into account the raft of functions it starts to appear good value.Final verdict
Features are one thing, though - image quality is quite another. Although the Panasonic Lumix TZ30 is capable of capturing good pictures, we don't feel the camera's images match the high levels of performance it delivers elsewhere.
That said, it's a great all-rounder that gives you a versatile optical zoom, 1080p HD video capture and GPS in a robust body. Few compacts include such an efficient autofocus system, too. While it's a step up from the TZ20 in terms of performance and picture quality, it's possibly not a significant enough one to rush into upgrading.