Panasonic TZ60, TZ55, LZ40, SZ8, 42.5mm f/1.2 Preview

January 6, 2014 | Mark Goldstein | Compact System Camera, Digital Compact Cameras, Lenses | 0 Comments |
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Panasonic has taken the wraps off four new Lumix cameras to coincide with this year’s CES. The new models are: the TZ60, a 30x travel zoom with Leica lens and promised March 2014 availability in the UK; the TZ55, a 20x zoom compact appearing the same month; the LZ40, a whopping 42x zoom surfacing in April 2014; plus the SZ8, a 12x zoom model, also available from March.

Panasonic UK’s new Product Manager for Lumix compacts Vic Soloman prefaced the unveiling by saying that despite the fact that widely reported GfK figures suggested a drop in compact camera sales compared to a year ago, it was “still a buoyant market”.

With Panasonic achieving a 16% market share in compact cameras priced £330+, “At the top end of the market Panasonic is a big player in fixed lens cameras,” Soloman added, with the TZ40 being listed as the number two best selling compact for October 2013, and the brand also holding the number 9 and number 12 positions. “Under £150 people tend to use their iPhones, and the low end, cheap market is disappearing. So we’re concentrating on £150+ and giving lots of value.”

A case in point, the TZ60 comes with a UK SRP of £399, and a suggested audience of those in their 30’s upwards. It features an 18-megapixel sensor with better tuning and noise reduction than its predecessor, according to Panasonic, and is available in either black or silver bodies. Described as ”an all-in-one travel compact”, the camera is notable for featuring a tiny, 0.2-inch electronic viewfinder – as found on the brand’s own LF1 camera, £349 on launch – with the similarities continuing via the provision of a lens control ring. The TZ60 further includes Hybrid OIS, providing up to three stops of stabilisation whilst using less power to do so, 10fps burst shooting, 240fps AF drive, a level gauge, built-in GPS, plus retractable, sliding lens mechanism providing an impressive 35mm equivalent focal range of 24-720mm. “We’ve kept the size down whilst keeping the quality the same as the previous model,” says Panasonic’s Soloman.

Asked why no touch screen featured on the new camera, Panasonic replied that touch screens were both more reflective than the standard LCD screen, plus would have added approximately £40 to the TZ60’s price tag. The screen on the TZ60 is the regular 3-inches.

Further additions to the TZ60 include focus peaking alert in MF mode, plus a greater number of compositional aids than the standard nine box ‘golden section’/Rule of Thirds type grid found on most compacts. For example, the new Panasonic offers users diagonal and radiating lines, plus tunnel and S-shape grids for greater creative flexibility. With its image stabilizer being of the 5-axis variety, the travel zoom offers built-in NFC, with the ability to read QR codes if using Panasonic’s image app. Supporting also GPS with GLONASS, there are Creative Control and Creative Retouch modes that add up to “Almost Photoshop in a camera”, according to the brand’s UK Product Manager, who added that lots of creative effects were also selectable in panorama mode too.

Finally the TZ60 weighs 240g with battery and SD card inserted. Battery life is approximately 300 shots from a full charge.

In summary, the TZ60’s improvements over the earlier TZ40 model include: a bigger zoom, improved IS and AF, built-in viewfinder, manual focus ring, more filter effects, increased compositional guides.

Next up, the TZ55 is described as a ‘volume lifestyle product’ for taking pictures of family and friends. Replacing the TZ35 ‘in the longer term’, this model is notable for featuring a flip up, 180° tilting LCD to enable the photographer to take ‘selfies’ and comes in a choice of black, white and red bodies. Weighing 250g with battery and card, the Wi-Fi incorporating compact features a 16-megapixel sensor, OIS, Fast AF, but no GPS or NFC connectivity. What is included however is a 24mm wide-angle lens, 4fps burst shooting, a soft skin mode, and a 3-inch, 460k-resolution screen.

In summary, the TZ55’s improvements over the TZ35 include a faster burst mode, 180° tilting screen, Wi-Fi, more effects filters, battery life improved to 350 images.

At a suggested UK price of £229, the TZ55 is “a lot of camera for your buck,” according to Vic Soloman. “Whereas the TZ60 is the camera Dad would choose, the TZ55 is perhaps the camera that Mum would choose.”

The third new compact in the 16 megapixel SZ8 replaces the SZ3 and comes with a suggested price tag of £150. As noted in our intro this is a 12x optical zoom model with a focal range equivalent to 24-288mm. It sports a 3–inch, 460k-dot resolution fixed LCD.

The differences between the new model and the earlier SZ3 are that the SZ8 boasts a bigger and higher resolution LCD, Wi-Fi connectivity, plus more creative controls including an HDR mode. The SZ8 weighs a pocket friendly 159g with battery and card.

“As it’s not very expensive the SZ8 could be a very nice first camera for the family,” suggested Panasonic UK’s Product Manager Vic Soloman.

Last but by no means least, the fourth new Lumix model in the LZ40 updates the previous LZ30 and is a 42x optical zoom bridge camera with a SRP of £299. Offering 20 megapixels, the camera is more obviously aimed at the hobbyist market and features a 22mm ultra wide-angle lens in 35mm terms, stretching to 924mm equivalent at the telephoto end. Boasting 320 shots per charge of its bundled lithium ion battery, the camera is described as offering ‘plenty of creative filters’ and naturally comes with a popular panorama mode too – increasingly a feature automatically found on smartphones. Weight is 524g, but there is no Wi-Fi connectivity provided.

“This is a great value camera that is incredibly well spec’d,” nonetheless believes Panasonic, who added that co-promotions with the National trust and the RSPB may follow its release in the UK. “There is a massive market as regards the ‘grey pound’ that we want to target.”

Chief improvements of the LZ40 over the earlier LZ30 include: 42x zoom (compared to its predecessor’s 35x), 20MP resolution (as opposed to 16MP), OIS (not merely electronic sensor shift), more effects filters on board, the guide number of the built-in flash improved, lithium ion battery rather than AA’s in use.

Footnote: Panasonic UK’s preview of its new releases also included an update on the Leica branded Lumix G-series 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH/Power OIS lens, the development of which was announced way back at Photokina 2012. With its construction of 14 elements in 11 groups and support for contrast AF, the lens has now been given a price tag of £1,300, though an actual on sale date hadn’t yet been set at our pre-Christmas 2013 meeting.

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