In this Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ70 review, Jon Devo tests the follow-up to one of the most popular cameras of 2014, the TZ60. This new compact travel zoom has some key upgrades, including a 12.1-million-pixel sensor with larger pixels for greater light capturing capabilities.
Hands-on First Impressions
Panasonic essentially invented the concept of the ‘Travel Zoom’ – a small, pocketable camera with a large zoom range – with the original TZ1 back in 2006. The TZ70 is the latest in the series, and is based on last year’s popular TZ60, retaining its best features including the very useful 24-720mm equivalent zoom lens, round-lens control ring for changing exposure settings, and Raw format image recording. However, it adds improvements in three key areas. The sensor is still the same size – a relatively small 1/2.3in type – but its resolution has dropped to 12-million pixels, for better high-ISO image quality. The built-in electronic viewfinder is significantly higher resolution, at 1,166k dot compared to the TZ60’s 200k-dot. The rear LCD also gains a slight boost in resolution, up to 1,040k dot. Not huge changes perhaps, but they all promise to make the TZ70 a better camera. It will be available in March with an RRP of £349.99.
Ever since digital cameras first appeared, the trend has been towards higher and higher resolution sensors with each generation. Indeed it’s very rare indeed, although not completely unheard of, for a manufacturer to reduce the sensor resolution in a new model. But that’s precisely what Panasonic has chosen to do here, replacing the 18.1-million-pixel unit found in the TZ60 with a 12-million-pixel sensor.
The rationale is that the new sensor should give better image quality at higher ISO settings, and therefore in low light conditions. We’re looking forward to testing this, as it would help address one of our main criticisms of the TZ60, which was relatively poor high-ISO image quality. We don’t think many buyers will miss the extra megapixels, especially in an age where most images are shared over the internet at much lower resolutions anyway (and 12MP is easily enough for an A4 / 12″ x 8″ print). Panasonic seems confident that buyers will accept this too.
1,166k dot Electronic Viewfinder
The TZ60 was the only camera in its class with a built-in electronic viewfinder, and while it was small and low resolution, it provided a welcome means of composing images in bright light. The TZ70’s 1,166k dot EVF is a huge improvement in terms of resolution, and this is immediately apparent when you look through it. One very welcome addition is an eye sensor, which allows automatic switching between the LCD to the EVF when you bring the camera up to your eye.
The EVF is still not very large, but for photographers who like to compose images through an eye-level viewfinder it’s an absolute godsend, and very much a rarity in this class. We think it makes the TZ70 one of the most interesting cameras in its class for enthusiast photographers.
The rear LCD screen is also new, with a slightly increased 1,160k-dot resolution but the same 3″ size. It’ll be interesting to see whether this brings any other benefits in terms of improved visibility in bright light. The camera has also received a subtle but effective cosmetic refresh, with a top plate that’s stepped in height beside the exposure mode dial. We like the two-tone silver version, but the camera will also come in an all black finish.
The TZ70 maintains most of the other key features and specs from its predecessor, most notably the 24-720mm equivalent lens, which is incredibly versatile given that this camera will fit in a jacket pocket. Naturally the lens includes optical image stabilisation, and a 240fps autofocus sensor drive promises rapid focusing. The lens isn’t very fast in terms of maximum aperture, ranging from f/3.3 at wideangle to just f/6.4 at full telephoto, which means that high ISOs are often needed, especially given the fast shutter speeds needed to avoid blurred images at the long end of the zoom. This will make any high ISO image quality improvements particularly welcome.
The camera also offers Raw format image recording, another feature which was unique in this class to the TZ60. This gives all the usual advantages, most notably the ability to adjust the white balance and noise reduction after the event. There’s a decent degree of manual control on offer too, with the top-plate mode dial offering PASM settings along with a couple of user-customisable ‘C’ positions. Exposure settings can be changed using the smoothly-rotating control dial around the lens, which again is a feature more normally seen on enthusiast-oriented zoom compacts. These should make the TZ70 more interesting to enthusiast photographers than its competitors.
Naturally the camera also features built-in Wi-Fi for connection to a smartphone or tablet, allowing easy image sharing and remote control of the camera. The TZ70 also includes NFC for easy setup of the connection, simply by tapping the camera and smart device together; for devices without NFC, quick setup can be accomplished via a QR code displayed on the camera’s LCD. Naturally video recording is on offer at FullHD (1920 x 1080 px) resolution – Panasonic’s ongoing shift to 4K hasn’t yet trickled down to this level of camera.
Like most updated models these days, the TZ70 counts as an iterative refinement of its predecessor, with no particularly huge changes compared to the TZ60. This isn’t a bad thing, as we rather liked that camera, and considered it pretty much the best in its class when we reviewed it last year. Crucially, the changes that Panasonic has made all promise to address weaknesses we identified with the TZ60 – most notably its relatively poor high ISO image quality and its low resolution electronic viewfinder. These updates should bring welcome improvements in terms of image quality and usability to what was already a fine camera.