Panasonic TZ60/ZS40

3rd Apr 2014 | 13:09

Panasonic TZ60/ZS40

Panasonic's flagship travel compact gets a 30x optical zoom and EVF

TechRadar rating:

4.5 stars

The TZ60 is a versatile camera that's ideal for taking on trips either for business or pleasure, and its huge zoom and focal range will appeal to both beginners and more experienced photographers.

Like:

30X Optical zoom; Built-in EVF; 18.1-million pixel sensor; RAW file shooting; Control ring around lens

Dislike:

No touch screen; Focus slow in low light; Noise is an issue at high sensitivities

Introduction

Ratings in depth
Design 4Features 5Usability 4Performance 3.5Value 4

The Lumix TZ60, known as the Panasonic Lumix ZS40 in the US, is the latest addition to Panasonic's respected range of travel compact cameras and it replaces the flagship TZ40 (known as the Panasonic Lumix ZS20). The TZ40 was by no means short on features, but for the TZ60, Panasonic has really looked at what's important to the travel photographer and made some significant changes and additions.

The top new features are the EVF (electronic viewfinder), a 30x optical zoom lens that replaces the already impressive 20X optical zoom of the TZ40/ZS30, a control ring around the lens, and the ability to shoot raw files. Image stabilization and AF speeds have also been improved.

As with the TZ40, Panasonic has used a Leica DC VARIO-ELMAR optic, but the focal length range is 4.3-129mm, giving a 35mm equivalent range of 24-720mm. Meanwhile the maximum aperture range is f/3.3-8. The new lens is constructed from 12 optics in nine groups, which can be operated as six groups when needed.

Panasonic has used essentially the same EVF in the TZ60 as it has in the Panasonic LF1. This is a 0.2-inch, 200,000-dot device, but the company has added a second lens to reduce chromatic aberration and improve overall quality. Its addition to the TZ-series camera will be especially welcomed by those traveling to bright, sunny locations where an LCD image is traditionally hard to see.

The TZ60 has a five-axis Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) system to compensate for five directions of movement or rotation. This system uses balls rather than rods to move the IOS element and in theory gives far steadier performance. Panasonic claims the hand-holdable shutter speed range is extended by 3EV. There's also a novel Level Shot function for video that automatically detects when the horizon will not be level and corrects accordingly.

TZ60

Like the TZ40, the TZ60 features a 1/2.3-inch 18-million-pixel sensor. Despite it retaining the same pixel count, the TZ60 has a new sensor and Panasonic claims it has worked hard to improve the overall image quality, especially at the higher end of the sensitivity scale.

As travel compact cameras, the TZ series need to be adaptable, enabling the photographer to shoot great landscapes and portraits plus everything in between. To this end, the TZ60 has an extensive collection of scene modes for use with specific subjects as well as Intelligent Auto, manual and semi-automatic settings such as aperture and shutter priority. These are accessed via the mode dial on the top of the camera. There's also space for two custom settings if you use certain set-ups regularly.

This means there are options for experienced and novice photographers and those who want the camera to do more of the work.

The TZ60 also retains the connectivity options of the TZ40, featuring both Wi-Fi and NFC. This means you can use a smartphone to remotely operate the camera and view the images you've shot. It's also possible to transfer images to a phone for sharing - something that especially appeals to travelers.

One disappointment with the TZ60's feature list is that the touchscreen of the TZ40 has been omitted. This is most likely to keep costs down, but it seems a shame as it can be very useful and speed up AF point selection and the like. The 3-inch 920,000-dot LCD is also fixed rather than tilting or articulated, so it doesn't offer any help when composing selfies, but it is possible to compose images on a smartphone screen when using Panasonic's app with the camera, connected via Wi-Fi.

It's also worth noting that the EVF and LCD screen both show approximately 100% of the scene, so there shouldn't be any surprises around the edges of images after you've captured them.

Side-on view

As an upgrade to the TZ40, the TZ60 has much to offer. While there are several big new features, there are also some smaller, more refined changes and additions that will give the TZ60 broad appeal. The move to allow raw file recording will be particularly attractive to enthusiast photographers looking for a small, versatile camera that gives them plenty of control. Raw files offer the advantage of bespoke control over noise on an image-by-image basis.

Build quality and handling

The additions and changes noted above have affected the size and handling of the TZ60 if you compare it to its predecessor. Firstly, it's noticeably larger both in height and depth, but despite this increase in size it's still easily pocketable.

While the increase in size generally makes for a better and more comfortable shooting experience, the small flash on the front of the camera has been shifted close to the top right-hand corner of the camera's body. People with larger hands will need to watch out that they don't cover the flash with a finger when using the camera.

Rear diagonal view

The increase in optical zoom from 20x to 30x has only had a marginal effect on the depth of the camera, as Panasonic has cleverly developed a stabilisation system that moves out of the way of the lens barrel when retracted to retain the compact size.

A new control ring around the lens enables the quick adjustment of a variety of settings depending on the mode you're in. The amount of tension in the rotation is just right, enabling smooth and accurate setting selections that are unlikely to be accidentally knocked.

There's even the option to switch on a click sound effect for audible feedback, although after some initial amusement it quickly became annoying, so I switched it off.

On the back of the camera, the Q button gives direct access to the Quick Menu. This reveals a selection of options that are adjustable using the control ring. These include aperture, sensitivity, effects, aspect ratio, and white balance by default, but they can be customised depending on your preferences.

They can then be navigated using the left and right navigation dial keys. Once the desired option is selected the ring can be used to reach the value required.

Using either the large, bright LCD or the small viewfinder gives you a good visual representation of the image as it will be captured. They give a clear display of both the scene before you and the camera's settings and selected options.

LCD screen

We used the camera on a series of relatively bright British winter days, and the screen coped well, with relatively few issues with reflections. In brighter conditions the high gloss surface could prove difficult to view, but with the new EVF that's not an issue. The display is bright, detailed and well saturated when previewing and reviewing images as well as checking through menu options.

The absence of a touchscreen for fast, direct access to settings and AF point selection is disappointing, but to a certain degree this is compensated by the lens ring.

Menu navigation and usability take a leap forward with the addition of the lens ring, and it's well worth taking the time to familiarise yourself with it and customise the settings. It certainly improves the already excellent shooting experience and makes the camera very pleasant to control.

Viewfinder

The new 0.2-inch, 200,000-dot viewfinder is a welcome addition and, despite its small size, it's clear and bright. It's a marked improvement over the one on the Panasonic LF1 thanks to the extra optic which helps to reduce chromatic aberration and improve overall quality. You can also see and navigate the menu options through the viewfinder, which comes in handy in bright locations where the LCD image is hard to see.

Side view rear

Shooting guides such as the Rule of Thirds have been extended on the TZ60, with a new collection of curved and diagonal guidelines. These may seem a little gimmicky at first, but they make it easier to line up and capture abstract shots, and they work quite well with the Creative Controls (effects such as Dynamic Monochrome, Impressive Art and Cross Process accessed via the mode dial).

The TZ60's Wi-Fi and NFC functionality are both straightforward to use. The NFC option enables the camera and a smartphone with the requisite technology to communicate with a quick touch.

Connecting the camera's Wi-Fi system to a phone without NFC technology initially requires a little more work, since a QR code is displayed on the camera and this needs to be scanned by the phone. However, it works well and once this has been done, future connections can be made simply by recalling the settings.

Both connection systems allow you to control camera's settings and access stored images relatively easily, depending on the mode selected. While the app offers a good degree of adjustment, it's not possible to switch exposure mode or change white balance or sensitivity in Manual mode.

As is fairly often the case, the app is also a bit limited when it comes to sharing, as images have to be transferred to the phone before they can be shared on social network sites. However, you can create collages from the images that you've taken, which is a fun, if limited, feature.

As with the TZ40, the TZ60 features GPS and GLONASS for geo-tagging your pictures. If you're worried about this feature draining battery life then there's also the option to geo-tag directly from the Panasonic Smartphone app.

Performance

One fear when using very long lenses is that it will be hard to hold the camera sufficiently steady. Thankfully, Panasonic's image stabilization system does a fantastic job and it makes a handheld shot at the 720mm equivalent length possible. What's more, it doesn't just enable you to capture any old image – the picture has good resolution with plenty of detail.

Side front view

This system does exactly what Panasonic claims and images can be shot handheld at up to 3EV slower shutter speeds than normal, marking a 0.5EV improvement over the TZ40. Naturally, a steady hand is still required at the maximum focal length, but the ability to capture wildlife at a distance becomes a reality, especially with the extra support of a lightweight monopod.

Focal fear

Another fear for a lens with such a huge focal length range is that the quality and sharpness will dip across the frame. Our images show that while there is a drop in visual quality at the furthest reach of the telephoto optic, contrast and definition is still retained well. With the help of a little support from a tripod or wall, capturing a good usable image is definitely within grasp.

In fact, our tests show that the new 30x zoom lens of the TZ60 is capable of producing better results at 720mm than the TZ40 at its 480mm maximum focal length.

Side view

In addition, the TZ60's autofocus (AF) speeds are relatively fast across the focal range. At wider focal lengths AF is fast and accurate, and while you can miss a shot or two with fast-moving subjects, the system generally finds and locks onto its target quickly in normal daylight conditions.

Above the mid zoom point and further towards the maximum zoom length AF speeds are slower but still acceptable, and there's a good hit rate. In lower light or low contrast situations, the AF system can search and miss the subject completely in Intelligent Auto mode. Happily, selecting the right AF option for your situation helps, with options for Single Shot, Tracking and Area AF.

The camera's metering is more than capable of evaluating exposure differences in scenes when in semi-automatic modes. We found that just a touch of positive exposure compensation was required when shooting some landscape and urban scenes during this test. On the flip side, the TZ60 has a slight tendency to over-expose people, especially if a fill-in flash is used. Again, dialling in -0.3EV of compensation quickly corrected this in our tests.

Bird's eye view

The colour and tone of images are generally good, with only a slight tendency to over-saturate. Overall the TZ60 produces punchy and attractive pictures with good contrast. However, when photographing people this over-saturation can be a little problematic, but not insurmountable.

Noise is handled well by the TZ60 across its sensitivity range. In our lab tests, noise proved well-controlled from ISO 100 right through to low light sensitivity settings such as ISO 6400. Using the camera's Auto ISO setting between ISO 100 and 800 proved successful in real world shooting, with the camera perfectly balancing shutter and sensitivity values when shooting in aperture priority mode.

As you reach ISO 6400, signs of colour noise are just about apparent and in JPEG images there's a definite sign of smoothing to help combat the signs of noise, although its not excessive. Shooting raw files allows you to adjust noise reduction to suit the subject and to get more detail if it's required.

Image quality and resolution

As part of our image quality testing for the TZ60, we've shot our resolution chart.

For a full explanation of what our resolution charts mean, and how to read them, check out our full explanation of our camera testing resolution charts.

Examining images of the chart taken at each sensitivity setting reveals the following resolution scores in line widths per picture height x100:

JPEG

Test table

The full ISO 100 resolution chart image.

ISO 100

ISO 100, Score: 24. Click here to view the full resolution image.

ISO 200

ISO 200, Score: 22. Click here to view the full resolution image.

ISO 400

ISO 400, Score: 20. Click here to view the full resolution image.

ISO 800

ISO 800, Score: 18. Click here to view the full resolution image.

ISO 1600

ISO 1600, Score: 18. Click here to view the full resolution image.

ISO 3200

ISO 3200, Score: 16. Click here to view the full resolution image.

ISO 6400

ISO 6400, Score: 12. Click here to view full resolution image.

Raw

ISO 100

ISO 100, Score: 24. Click here to view the full resolution image.

ISO 200

ISO 200, Score: 24. Click here to view the full resolution image.

ISO 400

ISO 400, Score: 22. Click here to view the full resolution image.

ISO 800

ISO 800, Score: 20. Click here to view the full resolution image.

ISO 1600

ISO 1600, Score: 18. Click here to view the full resolution image.

ISO 3200

ISO 3200, Score: 16. Click here to view the full resolution image.

ISO 6400

ISO 6400, Score: 14. Click here to view the full resolution image.

Noise and dynamic range

We shoot a specially designed chart in carefully controlled conditions and the resulting images are analysed using DXO Analyzer software to generate the data to produce the graphs below.

A high signal to noise ratio (SNR) indicates a cleaner and better quality image.

For more details on how to interpret our test data, check out our full explanation of our noise and dynamic range tests.

Here we compare the Panasonic TZ60 with the Panasonic TZ40, Sony HX60v, Olympus Stylus SH-50and Canon PowerShot S120

JPEG signal to noise ratio

Panasonic TZ-60 JPG Signal to noise ratio

These results show that the Panasonic TZ60 JPEG files have a strong signal to noise ratio indicating that its images are fairly clean at the low to mid sensitivity settings. It improves on the performance of theTZ40 and compares well against the Olympus Stylus SH-50 and Canon S120, although the Canon S120 beats the competition for much of its upper sensitivity range.

Raw signal to noise ratio

Panasonic TZ-60 raw Signal to noise ratio

The signal to noise ratios of the TIFF images (after conversion from raw) from the Panasonic TZ60 beat the Canon PowerShot S120. These results show that while noise is apparent above ISO 800 it is well controlled.

JPEG dynamic range

Panasonic TZ-60 JPG dynamic range

JPEG results for dynamic range compare well against the Canon PowerShot S120, Panasonic TZ40 andOlympus Stylus SH-50, although the Canon S120 beats the competition by around 0.5EV at some of the higher sensitivity settings. The graph shows that while results are close at ISO 400 and 1600, the TZ-60 beat the TZ-40 at all other sensitivities.

Panasonic TZ-60 TIFF dynamic range

Across the complete sensitivity range the Panasonic TZ60 beats the Canon PowerShot S120, with the gap between the two extending dramatically above ISO 800.

Sample images

Panasonic TZ60 Sample image

At a 35mm equivalent of 24mm the lens has a good wide field of view, making it perfect for capturing landscapes. The overcast sky has fooled the camera into underexposure here, although this type of condition is problematic for many cameras. Click here to see the full resolution image

Panasonic TZ60 Sample image

The optical zoom is excellent, as demonstrated in the above image taken at the same location as the image above. As well as showing the extent of the zoom at it's maximum reach, this image demonstrates the camera's ability to resolve detail and capture tonal graduation; this is really highlighted in the fine detail of the stone work behind the statues. Click here to see the full resolution image

Panasonic TZ60 Sample image

Images contain plenty of detail, but in overcast conditions the camera tends to underexpose by about a stop. Click here to see the full resolution image

Panasonic TZ60 Sample image

Color reproduction is bright and well saturated, making images direct from camera instantly pleasing.Click here to see the full resolution image

Panasonic TZ60 Sample image

With a selection of 15 filters under the creative control mode you have plenty of artistic choice. Effects such as Dynamic Monochrome (seen here) and High Dynamic produce some excellent results. Click here to see the full resolution image

Panasonic TZ60 Sample image

The overcast weather of a British winter's day tends to make the camera underexpose, however dial in +1 of exposure compensation and the shadows are lifted, enabling dynamic black and whites. Click here to see the full resolution image

Panasonic TZ60 Sample image

The High Dynamic filter produces images which are instantly striking, muting color and boosting contrast.Click here to see the full resolution image

Panasonic TZ60 Sample image

The wide angled zoom enables you to quickly take abstracts at close quarters. Click here to see the full resolution image

Panasonic TZ60 Sample image

The camera dealt well with this bright and high contrast scene. We dialled in +1 of exposure compensation to lift the shadow on the buildings, which has resulted in the slight highlight burn out. Click here to see the full resolution image

Noise and sensitivity

JPEG

Panasonic_TZ60_100

Panasonic_TZ60_i100

ISO 100 (Click to see full resolution image)

Panasonic_TZ60_200

ISO 200 (Click to see full resolution image)

Panasonic_TZ60_400

ISO 400 (Click to see full resolution image)

Panasonic_TZ60_800

ISO 800 (Click to see full resolution image)

Panasonic_TZ60_1600

ISO 1600 (Click to see full resolution image)

Panasonic_TZ60_3200

ISO 3200 (Click to see full resolution image)

Panasonic_TZ60_6400

ISO 6400 (Click to see full resolution image)

RAW

Panasonic TZ60 ISO 100

ISO 100 (Click to see full resolution image)

Panasonic TZ60 ISO 200

ISO 200 (Click to see full resolution image)

Panasonic TZ60 ISO 400

ISO 400 (Click to see full resolution image)

Panasonic TZ60 ISO 800

ISO 800 (Click to see full resolution image)

ISO 1600 (Click to see full resolution image)

ISO 1600 (Click to see full resolution image)

Panasonic TZ60 ISO 3200

ISO 3200 (Click to see full resolution image)

Panasonic TZ60 ISO 6400

ISO 6400 (Click to see full resolution image)

Verdict

The Panasonic TZ60 is the Swiss army knife of compact cameras, offering something for everyone, with features that will satisfy those taking anything from travel to family shots. The huge zoom capability coupled with the improved image stabilisation provides a good quality and usable focal range that works well when capturing landscapes, portraits and more.

Changes in design size and weight make the TZ60 feel like a more premium product than the TZ40. This is reinforced by the addition of the lens ring, which gives the camera a very traditional feel in use, although it's a shame that the touch screen has been removed.

AF speeds are improved when compared with the TZ40. However, in some, but not all instances there can be a bit of a delay between focus and shutter firing.

Connectivity options are straightforward and easy to use, with the ability to control your camera remotely from your Smartphone coming in as a definite bonus. Once you've got your images on your smartphone it's easy enough to share them, just unfortunately not through the app.

Most importantly of course, image quality is great. The TZ60 produces nice, vibrant images that look great directly from the camera, and with the option to capture raw files as well, this gives great creative control to those wanting a little more from their images.

We liked

30x optical zoom coupled with the excellent image stabilisation makes this a versatile travel compact that suits most situations. The electronic viewfinder is also a tremendous addition that makes it easier to shoot in the bright, sunny conditions that a travel camera will often be bought to capture.

We disliked

The lack of touch screen takes away the convenience of touch focus and shutter that featured on the TZ40.

Verdict

Panasonic's TZ series started the trend for cameras aimed specifically at travellers and holidaymakers and it has been held in high regard. The compact camera market has been tough over recent years and manufacturers have put more effort into creating feature-rich models that compete with the TZ line.

However, Panasonic has thought carefully about how to improve on the TZ40 for the TZ60 and it is an excellent camera as a result. It has options that will appeal to novices as well as more experienced photographers, along with features that make it a versatile camera that's ideal for taking on trips either for business or pleasure.

The camera's huge zoom range provides a focal length range that many SLR photographers would wish for, making it ideal for shooting a wide range of subjects, from interiors to landscape and portraits to distant details. In addition, the viewfinder is a major bonus, making it easier to compose images in some situations.

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