Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 Review

4.5
January 31, 2014 | Mark Goldstein |

Introduction

The Lumix DMC-TZ60 is Panasonic's new flagship travel-zoom compact camera for 2014. The TZ60 (also known as the ZS40) adds a 30x wide-angle zoom lens, lens control ring, RAW file format, focus peaking and an electronic viewfinder to last year's TZ40/ZS30 model. Read our Panasonic DMC-TZ60 review to find out if it's still the best travel-zoom camera...

The Lumix DMC-TZ60 (also known as the DMC-ZS40 in the USA) is Panasonic’s latest flagship travel-zoom camera, featuring a 30x 24-720mm lens, 18.1 megapixel high-sensitivity MOS sensor, an electronic viewfinder, a manual control ring, 50p Full HD movies, 5-axis image stabiliser for video shooting, built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and GPS connectivity, a 3-inch 920K dot LCD screen, Light Speed auto-focus system and 10fps burst shooting. The TZ60 also offers a 23-point multi-area autofocus system, focus peaking, P/A/S/M exposure modes, RAW shooting, Intelligent Auto and a variety of scene modes, and Creative Controls, Creative Panorama, Creative Retouch, Auto Retouch and HDR modes. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 / ZS25 is available in silver or black for £349.99 / $399.99.

Ease of Use

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 is slightly bigger and heavier than the previous TZ40 model that it replaces, bit it does now offer a longer 30x zoom lens (the TZ40 had a 20x lens) and also a built-in electronic viewfinder. The 30x lens is equivalent to 24-720mm on a 35mm camera, which provides an incredibly versatile focal range that will cover every subject from ultra-wide angle landscapes to close-up action shots. Even when set to 720mm, the lens doesn't extend too far from the front of the TZ60, making it look to all intents and purposes like a "normal" compact camera. This helps to make the DMC-TZ60 great for candid moments, as people assume that you're using just a standard point and shoot with a much more limited range.

At the other end the 24mm focal length provides a very wide angle of view that's perfect for land- and city-scapes. The 30x zoom lens makes this one of the most versatile compacts in terms of focal range, especially as it is coupled with Panasonic's excellent POWER O.I.S system, which helps to ensure that the majority of photos taken in good light are sharp. The TZ60's lens isn't particularly fast at either the wide-angle setting, with a maximum aperture of f/3.3, or the telephoto setting, with a maximum aperture of f/6.4, but given the focal range on offer, we feel this is a compromise worth making.

To help combat camera shake, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 has an anti-shake system, on this model the POWER O.I.S. variety. Turn it on and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 automatically compensates for camera shake, which is a slight blurring of the image that typically occurs at slow shutter speeds when the camera is hand held. When shooting video, the 5-axis HYBRID O.I.S.+ is automatically added to the POWER O.I.S. system, which effectively compensates for the camera's five types of movement – horizontal, vertical, axis of rotation, vertical rotation and horizontal rotation.

There are two different modes, Mode 1 is on all the time including image composition, and Mode 2 is only on when you press the shutter button. An Auto setting is also available if you're not sure which one to use. You don't notice that the camera is actually doing anything different when anti-shake is turned on, just that you can use slower shutter speeds than normal and still take sharp photos. The TZ60 has a respectable battery life of 300 shots. Note that the camera battery is rather inconveniently charged via the USB port, rather than a separate charger, so it's a good idea to invest in some extra batteries.

The DMC-TZ60 is a well-built camera with a high quality metal body that's covered in a tactile rubberised coating. The design is dominated by the 30x lens on the front, the large 3 inch LCD screen on the rear and the new electronic viewfinder. Given the overall size of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60, the integrated EVF is understandably rather small at just 0.2-inch, making it rather tiring to use for longer periods of time. If you think of the EVF as something to use in bright sunlight when the rear screen is difficult to see, or when you want to add some extra stability to the camera when using the full extent of the 30x zoom by holding it at eye-level, then you won't be disappointed. If you're expecting to use it for 99% of your shooting, then you will be.

Still, the EVF adds relatively little bulk or weight to the overall design of the TZ60, it displays quite a lot of information, including the ability to playback images and change the camera settings, and it even comes with a diopter control for glasses wearers. So in our opinion it's well worth having, if only as a backup to the main screen.

A new, intuitive control ring surrounds the lens which can be customised to change either the aperture, shutter speed, step zoom, exposure compensation, aspect ratio, ISO speed or white balance settings. Left at the default setting and used in conjunction with the control wheel on the rear, it makes it easy to alter the camera's principal creative controls.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60
Front Rear

There is a new, smaller handgrip on the front of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60, in our opinion a backwards step compared to the TZ40's much bigger grip, and a thumb-sized textured area on the rear for your right thumb. The DMC-TZ60 is well-made overall, although we still don't like the cover for the battery compartment and SD card slot, which feels a little insubstantial and is locked using a cheap plastic grey switch.

The Panasonic DMC-TZ60 actually has a 18.9 megapixel sensor, but only uses 18.1 megapixels so that it can offer four different aspect ratios - 4:3, 3:2, 16:9 or 1:1 - without having to change the angle of view. The Multi Aspect mode takes an image in all four aspect ratios simultaneously and lets you choose the best one.

There's a traditional shooting mode dial on the top of the TZ60 which has a positive action and lets you select the various shooting and scene modes. This dial is a typical feature of SLR cameras, and enables you to quickly change between the various modes. Interestingly there are two Custom modes available, C1 and C2, which can be used to provide quick access to different settings and allow some customization of the camera setup, very handy if you often use the camera for different subjects or situations.

The DMC-TZ60 offers advanced controls over exposure, with full manual (M), aperture-priority (A) and shutter-priority (S) modes on offer, which will instantly appeal to the more experienced photographer. The range of apertures on offer is rather limited by the lens (F3.3 - 8.0 at 24mm and F6.4 - 8.0 at 720mm), but the ability to choose from 60 - 1/2000th second shutter speeds and set both the aperture and shutter speed if you wish opens up a lot of creative potential.

The TZ40's rather awkward to use Exposure button, which in conjunction with the arrow keys on the navigation pad allowed you to change the aperture and/or the shutter speed if you were using the A, S or M shooting modes, has been replaced by either pressing up on the navigation pad to toggle between aperture and shutter speed, or using a combination of the new lens control ring and the rear control wheel - both methods are much more logical.

There's also very welcome support for the RAW file format, the first time on the TZ-series, which is the icing on the cake for serious photographers looking for a backup-pocket camera to their DSLR. Sadly, the DMC-TZ60 that we received for testing didn't include Panasonic's SILKYPIX Developer Studio 4.1 SE raw processing software, so we're unable to comment on this important function at the time of writing.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60
Front Top

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 features Panasonic's now well-established Intelligent Auto Mode. Panasonic have tried to make things as easy as possible for the complete beginner by providing this shooting mode, which allows you to point and shoot the camera without having to worry about choosing the right mode or settings. Intelligent Auto Mode automatically determines a number of key criteria when taking a picture, including selecting the most appropriate scene mode and ISO speed, and turning face detection (up to 15 faces), image stabilization and quick auto-focus on. Intelligent Exposure increases the exposure only in the under-exposed areas of the image, and Digital Red-eye automatically detects and removes red-eye. Intelligent Exposure can also be turned on in the Normal Picture mode (but strangely not Digital Red-eye).

AF tracking continually tracks a moving subject and keeps it in focus, without you having to hold the shutter button halfway down as on most other cameras. Face Recognition is a fun and genuinely useful feature which "remembers" up to 6 registered faces and then always prioritizes the focus and exposure for that person in future pictures - it even shows the name of the person on the LCD. Very useful for group shots where you want your loved ones to be the centre of attention. You can specify the age of the registered subject, stamp the age of the subject onto your photos, change the focus icon for a particular person, and playback only the photos that contain a certain face. The camera will even automatically switch to Baby mode if someone registered as less than 3 years old appears in the frame.

In practice the Intelligent Auto Mode system works very well, with the camera seamlessly choosing the most appropriate combination of settings for the current situation. The 7 available scene modes are Scenery, Portrait, Macro, Night Portrait, Night Scenery, Sunset or Handheld Night Shot, so obviously not all situations are covered by Intelligent Auto Mode, but it does work for the majority of the time. It makes it possible for the less experienced photographer to easily take well-exposed, sharp pictures of people, scenery and close-ups by simply pointing and shooting the camera. If you're feeling a little down, the Happy Mode boosts the color, saturation and brightness to give you a warm glow inside (but not a terribly accurate picture).

The DMC-TZ60's built-in GPS system allows you to seamlessly geo-tag your photos (latitude and longitude co-ordinates are stored in the EXIF data, plus the local time) and then sort and display them using geo-friendly websites such as Google Earth and Google Maps. The DMC-TZ60 has a built-in database of over 1 million known landmarks around the world, which it uses to try and tag each image if enabled, and the GPS system has been further enhanced by incorporating GLONASS technology, a Russian GPS system which offers improved coverage. In addition you can choose which specific information is set for your photos, with Country/Region, State/Prov/County, City/Town and Landmark the available options. The TZ60 offers the ability to view your tagged photos on a map in the camera, with 90 detailed country maps supplied on a DVD which can be copied to an SD card, although it's a little simplistic compared to the internet options.

The GPS can be manually turned on or off - when enabled, it continues working even when the camera is switched off. There's also a special airplane mode which only keeps GPS on when the camera is switched on. The GPS Info option shows you exactly which satellites are being used and importantly when the signal lock was last obtained, with the option of manually updating the positioning process. This last option is important because the DMC-TZ60 has a tendency to keep using an old position if you, say, catch the London tube and travel a few miles underground, in which case it needs to be manually updated. Other than this idiosyncracy, the TZ60's GPS receiver works a lot better than previous GPS-capable cameras that we've reviewed, saving accurate positioning information for most of the images that we shot in built-up central London, making this camera much more useful for urban photographers. The main downside of the TZ60's GPS is the subsequent drain on battery life, with the camera only managing just over 225 shots with GPS turned on instead of the 300 that it can manage without.

The Wi-Fi functionality (IEEE 802.11 b/g/n) lets you use your smartphone or mobile device to remotely change the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60's settings (focus setting, exposure compensation, ISO, WB and Photo Styles) using the LUMIX App. You can even operate the 30x zoom and fire the shutter button remotely, while the auto transfer function automatically backs up your photos onto a tablet, smartphone, PC, web service, AV device or Panasonic's LUMIX Club Cloud Sync service. The DMC-TZ60 also features NFC (Near Field Communication) technology (the same technology that's used for mobile payments), which allows you to connect the camera to a compatible internet enabled device or another TZ60 by simply tapping them together.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60
Side Lens Extended

Completing the top of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 are the Off/On button, responsive zoom lever, tactile shutter button, holes for the stereo microphone and for the speaker, and the one-touch Movie Record button. The TZ60 offers stereo sound which used in combination with the Wind Cut menu option makes a real difference to the sound quality in movies.

The TZ60 can record HD video at 1920x1080 pixels at 50p (FHD: 28Mbps / AVCHD) (Sensor output is 50fps), 1920 x 1080 pixels at 50i (FHD: 17Mbps / AVCHD) (Sensor Output is 50fps), or 1280 x 720 pixels at 50p (HD: 17Mbps / AVCHD) (Sensor output is 50fps). In the MP4 format it offers 1920 x 1080 pixels at 25fps (FHD: 20Mbps / MP4), 1280 x 720 pixels at 25fps (HD: 10Mbps / MP4) and 640 x 480 pixels at 25fps (VGA: 4Mbps / MP4). There's also a High Speed mode that shoots 1280 x 720 pixel movies at 100fps or 640 x 480 pixels at 200fps.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60's various movie options are sensibly stored in an easy to understand Motion Picture menu. Stereo sound is recorded during capture, helped by the wind cut function. You can also use the zoom lens during recording and really make the most of that 24-720mm focal range. The Level Shot function automatically detects the horizon in the frame and and keeps it even in the recorded movie even if the camera is tilted - very clever. On the negative side, you'll find that the lens zooms more slowly than when shooting a still image, and if you choose continuous auto-focus, areas of the video will be blurred before becoming sharp again as the camera tries to refocus. The HDMI port allows you to connect the TZ60 to a high-def TV set, but only if you purchase the optional HDMI mini-cable.

The DMC-TZ60 has a 3D Mode option. When selected, the camera instructs you to pan 10cms from left to right, during which it takes 20 consecutive shots at high-speed, another benefit of the high-speed sensor. It then automatically selects the best 2 shots from the sequence to create a 3D image. You can only view the results on a 3D TV (the TZ60 records standard MPO files), and although it isn't as effective as images taken with Panasonic's 3D Micro Four Thirds lens or the Fujifilm 3D W3, for example, it does create quite a convincing effect which particularly suits subjects that are close-up to the camera.

The Intelligent Resolution feature performs two main functions - it either makes a standard image look like a higher resolution one by processing the contour areas, texture areas and smooth areas individually, or it digitally boosts the zoom magnification from 30x to 60x with minimal loss of quality and no reduction in resolution. In both cases, it's easy tell which image was taken with Intelligent Resolution turned on and which ones with it turned off, particularly if viewing onscreen at 100% magnification, as our test shots on the Image Quality page show. The difference isn't quite so apparent on a print up to A3 in size, but we're not convinced enough to recommend it except when you really need the extra reach - it undoubtedly improves on the digital zoom, but not so much that we'd regularly use it.

In addition to the new EVF, there's a large 3 inch LCD screen with a high resolution of 920K dots, which coped admirably with the majority of lighting conditions, even being nice to use in low-light. There's a clever function called High Angle, accessible from the Quick Menu, which essentially brightens the LCD screen when the camera is held over your head so that it is perfectly viewable, which is great for shooting over the heads of a crowd. The Intelligent LCD function automatically detects the current lighting conditions and boosts the LCD backlighting by up to 40% when shooting outdoors in bright sunshine, helping to keep the screen visible. Rather strangely, though, the DMC-TZ60 doesn't retain its predecessors touchscreen capabilities, something that we sorely missed on this new model.

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Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

The main menu system on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 is accessed by pressing the Menu/Set button in the middle of the navigation pad. There are five menu options, Record, Motion Picture, GPS, Setup and Wi-fi. Most of the camera's main options, such as white balance, image quality, auto-focus mode and ISO speed, are accessed here. Due to the large LCD screen and restricting the number of on-screen choices to five, the various options and icons are very clear and legible.

The DMC-TZ60 now incorporates a Focus Peaking function that makes manually focusing much easier. The level can be set to High or Low and three colours are available (blue, yellow and green). You can clearly see the focus peaking in action in the EVF and LCD screen, and also via a smartphone or tablet when using the remote view mode.

On the rear of the camera is the Q.Menu button which provides quick access to most of the principal controls, including ISO speed, image size, image quality and white balance (there are 9 settings in total). You can still access all of these options from the main menu system too.

The start-up time from turning the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 on to being ready to take a photo is quite quick at around 2 seconds. Zooming from the widest focal length to the longest is very slow at around 5 seconds, but focusing is very quick in good light thanks to the Light Speed AF system (fastest focusing speed of 0.1 seconds), and the camera achieves focus most of the time indoors or in low-light situations, helped by the focus-assist lamp. Note that the camera does struggle to lock onto the subject at the tele-photo end of the lens in low-light situations.

It takes about 1 second to store an image, allowing you to keep shooting as they are being recorded onto the memory card, with a delay of 0.3 seconds between images. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 has an impressively quick Burst mode which enables you to take 10 frames per second for 6 shots with the focus fixed according to the first frame at the full 18 megapixel resolution. There are also slower 5fps or 2fps burst modes which offer continuous auto-focusing during the burst, and faster 40fps and 60fps options that drop the megapixel count to 5 and 2.5 respectively.

Once you have captured a photo, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 has a good range of options when it comes to playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can instantly scroll through the images that you have taken, view thumbnails (up to 30 onscreen at the same time and in a special Calendar view), zoom in and out up to 16x magnification, view slideshows, delete, protect, crop, resize and copy an image. You can also select favourite images, sort images into categories, add a text stamp, add a soundclip and set the print order. Face Recognition plays back only the photos that contain a certain face. The Display button toggles detailed settings information about each picture on and off, such as the ISO rating and aperture / shutter speed, and there is a small histogram available during both shooting and playback. When taking a photo, pressing the Display button toggles between the detailed information, the detailed information plus gridlines to aid composition, and no information at all.

Entry Tags

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