Panasonic TZ202: Manual Focusing and Focusing Support

How Is Manual Focusing Supported on the Panasonic TZ202? - Overview | Panasonic TZ202 Manual Focus Methods | Locking Focus | Support for Manual Focusing | Conclusions | References

On this page, I describe how manual focusing works with the Panasonic TZ202 camera and how it is supported.

Note: For an overview of manual focusing methods, see page Manual Focusing Methods.


How Is Manual Focusing Supported on the Panasonic TZ202? - Overview

Depending on the needs of the photographer, the Panasonic TZ202 offers several methods of focusing manually:

The Panasonic TZ202 allows you to lock focus using the AF/AE button:

This button can be configured to either lock focus, exposure, both, do nothing or start AF; it can be configured as a toggle or hold button. I use this button, however, for locking exposure only (AE Hold).

Manual focusing is furthermore supported in several ways (but note that these methods can also be used for autofocus):


Panasonic TZ202 Manual Focus Methods

Manual Focus (MF)

To focus manually, first set Focus Mode to MF (using the Focus Mode button). Focus mode selection can also be assigned to any Fn or touch Fn button.

Focusing manually is done using the control ring at the lens. Some people say that this is intuitive and provides a focusing experience similar to an camera with manual focus. Others, however, say that the experience is rather "indirect", since focusing is "by wire," and turning the wheel is rather tedious because there are no stops at the end (which a manual lens provides). All in all, I have to agree with the latter. Panasonic should have taken a look at the Leica X Vario, which does manual focusing so well that is "feels" manual, even though it is "by wire."

The TZ200 displays a coarse distance scale, which helps a lot because I cannot remember, in which direction to turn the control ring (you have to turn it left for moving towards infinity...). The distance scale appears as soon as you turn the control ring and disappears a number of seconds after you stopped turning the ring.

On the Panasonic TZ202, manual focusing feels sluggish for me, and it has a hysteresis, that is, if you change direction, you have to turn the focus ring quite a while before focusing resumes. This is quite nerve-straining. I find it fairly cumbersome to turn the control ring while looking through the EVF on Sony the RX100 M4, because it is so small. This is much more comfortable on the Panasonic TZ200, which is quite a bit larger.

On our Sony cameras, I also observed that if I move the focus ring to and fro to find the optimal focus, the optimal focus point moves to different positions of the ring. So when you keep the hand on the ring all the time, the position of your hand changes over time for the optimum focus point, which may become quite awkward... The Panasonic TZ202 does not seem to show this behavior, that is, the focus point seems to stay fixed on the scale during turning the control ring. So, it is possible, as Panasonic demonstrates!

One more problem with manual focus on the Panasonic TZ202 is that at longer focal lengths you cannot find the "infinity position" for the control ring when there are no objects at infinity that you can focus on. With a mechanical manual focus, you simply turn the ring to the infinity position (or sometime to a different position). But here, the optimal position seems to be "shortly" before the "infinity marker" on the distance scale. Actually, the scale turns from white to read shortly before infinity, and the "infinity point" seems to be nearly at the transition between white and red (still a tiny bit in the white area). I do not know, what the camera wants to reveal to the user with this behavior... So, simply turning the focus ring to the "infinity marker" on the distance scale therefore delivers fuzzy results. Thus, it is nearly impossible to focus on stars at night, whereas it is possible to focus on the moon because there is something to focus on in the EVF or on the LCD screen. I found a somewhat similar behavior for the Sony RX100 M4 and on the RX10 M3, where it is much more pronounced because of the longer focal length.

Another problem that I have with focusing manually on the Sony RX100 M1 is that, being used to an EVF, I find it hard to recognize on the LCD screen when an object is in focus - even focus peaking and magnification do not help me much, particularly in bright light. The Panasonic TZ202, on the other hand, offers an EVF, and my first impression is that it does help, but that a lot of fiddling is required because of the sluggish behavior of the control ring.


AF+MF (aka Direct Manual Focus*) allows you to override autofocus manually. To use this function, first set focus mode to AF (using the Focus Mode button) and then activate AF+MF in the menu (Custom menu, section Focus/Release Shutter, screen 3).
*) I do not now whether Panasonic uses this term.

Note that AF+MF works only in one direction, not in two as on Sony cameras: You focus automatically and then override the focus manually by turning the control ring at the lens. Also note that when using AF+MF, manual focus support is available (for details see below), provided that you activated it in the menu. Here is the detailed procedure for using AF+MF:


Locking Focus

Focus Lock

Locking the focus at a certain distance for one or more shots is useful in a number of occasions, such as sports photos where AF is too slow, series of photos, etc. (one might debate whether this is a manual focus method, but it fits in here...). The Panasonic TZ202 provides the following options for locking focus:

While the technique of pressing the shutter-release button halfway down is easy to use, the coupling of exposure and focus lock can lead to problems. For example, when we take a picture of a landscape, and the image looks too dark, I point the camera lower to brighten the image up - but now the focus may be too close. The other way round, when I point the camera to the sky to darken the image, focus may not find a target.

The same accounts when you set the AE/AF Lock button for lock both exposure and focus. Since I currently use this button for locking exposure only, I do not have the second option (AF/AE Loxk button) for locking focus available.

When you use the AE/AF Lock button for locking focus only, the camera first tries to find focus and then locks it. Thus, you cannot lock the current state as I had expected. After focus was found, the focus frame turns green and the focus indicator (filled green circle) at the top right of the screen appears. And now it stays green all the time...

When you assigned an Fn button to the Focus Area Set function, you can activate this function, but it behaves a little bit differently from the normal behavior that I describe on page Focusing with 1-Area/Pinpoint Focus. The frame looks like a mixture of the one for 1-Area AF and Pinpoint AF, but in the end, you activate the MF Assist function. This is , of course, documented nowhere...

The third option, that is, using the Focus Mode function, has the advantage that it sets the manual focus to the same distance as AF set it before. Thus, for pre-focusing you can first use the AF to set the appropriate distance and then switch to manual focus. Of course, this works only in cases where AF finds focus (for example, it may not work for sky or macro photos). You can use this technique either to quickly focus at nearby objects such as playing children or sports people, or to focus at distant objects such as the sky. In the latter case, this replaces the missing "infinity" setting (or is a workaround for it...). Actually, I do not find this option practical, because you have to move the focus setting using the cursor keys (for example from AF to MF). A simple switch between AF and MF with just one button press would be more comfortable.


Support for Manual Focusing

The Panasonic TZ202 offers two tools that are meant to make manual focusing easier:

In the following, I explain these tools in more detail.

(Focus) Peaking

(Focus) Peaking is an approach to highlight contours that are in focus. In the Custom menu, section Monitor/Display, screen 4) you can set Peaking to "On and "Off". On the Panasonic TZ202, contours are highlighted

  1. in two different intensities (Detect Level: High, Low)
  2. in five different colors (Display Color: Blue, Yellow, Green, Red, White)

In contrast to other cameras, you get a stronger effect, when you set the Detect Level to Low. The display colors are in this case bright, whereas they are subdued, when the Detect Level is High.


Function Peaking in the Custom menu


The settings options for Peaking


If you select SET you will see the detail screens below.

Detect Level can be HIGH ...   Bright Display Colors for LOW   Selection of the Display Color (LOW)
... or LOW   Subdued ones for HIGH   Selection of the Display Color (HIGH)

Figures: Setting Peaking (top row), Detect Level, and Display Color in the Custom menu (Section Monitor/Display, page 4)


Figures: Peaking Colors red, yellow, and blue (from left to right; Detect Level: Low on the top, High at the bottom)

MF Assist (Magnification)

Manual Focus Assist (or MF Assist) magnifies an image section for a certain time as soon as you turn the control ring at the lens to focus manually, starting at a magnification of 3 x. If you turn the rear dial, magnification can be increased up to 6 x. Half-pressing the shutter button (or if you take a photo...), cancels magnification, and you have use the to control ring again to re-activate magnification. You can activate MF Assist in the Custom menu, section Focus/Release Shutter, page 3.

MF Assist (magnification) comes in two flavors (MF Assist Display):

You can set MF Assist Display to these options in the Custom menu, section Focus/Release Shutter, page 3 (just below MF Assist).

The four cursor keys allow you to change the position of the enlarged section within the image. Pressing the DISP. button resets the sections's position.

When MF Assist is On, an indicator of the magnification appears on the screen. As already stated, you can change the magnification with the rear dial. Magnification disappears after several seconds (undocumented as far as I know...).


Figures: MF Assist combined with Focus Peaking (Peaking Color red, not visible...) in full screen mode (center) and PIP mode (right); original view to the left



The EVF of the Panasonic TZ202 seems to improve manual focusing for me, compared with just having to use the LCD screen as on the Sony RX100 M1. There is still the sluggish behavior of the focus ring, though. But this seems to be a bit better than on my Sony cameras...

One instance for using manual focus are photos of the sky. Here, autofocus often cannot find a target, and therefore I set/lock the focus to/on infinity using the distance scale, which is much easier than on the M1, where you have to manually focus a distant target (or turn the control ring until you believe infinity has been reached...). I also use the "infinity" trick for situations when objects in the foreground might fool the autofocus (a fence, flowers, branches, people...).

Another instance are sports photos where autofocus is often far too slow. Here, focus lock can be an alternative to AF as well: Either you pre-focus, keep the shutter button half-pressed, and wait for "the" moment. Or you set the distance using AF and a suitable target at the expected distance, lock focus by switching from AF to MF, and then wait for "the" moment.

My main application for manual focus are close-up photos, because here it often happens that autofocus does not lock or finds the wrong target. Even the Center autofocus area, providing a "large spot" AF, is not of much help here. I tried the Flexible Spot autofocus area, which offers "spot AF" in three sizes (two small than the Center area) and after a few first uses got the impression that this would improve matters. But I have not yet really tested this... See page Close-Up Introduction and First Samples for details on taking close-up photos with the Panasonic TZ202.

Note: For a more general overview of manual focusing methods, see page Manual Focusing Methods.




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