Gaming laptops are traditionally full of compromises.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60 compact camera
Panasonic's Travel Zoom camera, the Lumix DMC-TZ60, offers a 30x optical zoom lens in a package that can easily fit in your pocket
- Small size
- 30x optical zoom
- Versatile usage scenarios
- Image quality can vary depending on zoom level
- Wi-Fi implementation isn't great
- Charging is via cable rather than a dedicated battery charger
Panasonic's latest Travel Zoom camera, the TZ60, offers a massive optical zoom of 30x in a body that can easily slip into a pants pocket. It's small camera with lots of versatility and it ticks almost all the boxes requires of a travel camera. Its image quality is a little soft overall, but more than decent for sharing on the Internet or viewing on a big-screen TV.
Price$ 549.00 (AUD)
While many of us can get away with using a smartphone’s camera for most everyday snaps, a compact camera like Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-TZ60 can offer you all the versatility that a smartphone lacks, and in a size that’s not much bigger than a phone. Primarily, it provides better image quality in many scenarios, and it allows you to either get up really close to your subject for macros, or to zoom in very close to a distant subject. However, it will cost you a fair lot of dollars.
Note: Go straight to the second page of this review if you want to see sample images.
Small body, large lens
Physically, the Lumix DMC-TZ60 is so compact you don’t even realise that it has a lens capable of an optical zoom of 30x. It’s a little pocket rocket in this respect, and with focal range of 24-720mm, you can go from a nice wide angle to an absurd close up of a far-away object. Switched off, the camera has a thickness of about 35mm and length of 112mm. This makes it easy to carry around in a pants pocket. When you switch it on, the lens barrel comes to life and extends a further 33mm by default, and to 60mm when it’s at full zoom. There are three levels to the lens barrel that make it look like a Babushka doll of sorts as each level is revealed and contracted in the on/off sequence. There is a built-in lens protector that works automatically.
But the large lens isn’t the only thing that’s interesting about this little camera: it also features a built-in, non-pop-up flash, and it even has a built-in electronic viewfinder (EVF). The EVF is a small one, but it displays all the settings you need and gives you a view of your scene when the conditions are too bright to be looking at the 3in LCD screen on the back. These are all features that are welcomed when travelling, too, and coupled with the small body, they show just how much Panasonic has thought about making this travel zoom range of cameras even more convenient for their target market.
The all-black body is basically streamlined apart from the jutting lens, and it has a familiar array of buttons and dials present at the back and along the top. You can use this camera in intelligent auto mode and let the built-in processor handle all the exposure details itself, even going as far as laying multiple exposures to produce an optimal picture, or you can make use of manual and semi-manual modes to take control of the settings when you want to get a little more creative. In manual mode, for example, you can use the thumb ring at the back to change the shutter, and the ring around the lens at the front to change the aperture. You have to go into the settings if you want to change the ISO speed, but anything above 800 isn’t ideal.
A sensor with an 18-megapixel resolution sits behind the lens, and it captures reasonably clear and vibrant images that show up well on a Full HD screen, and they are also more than perfect for sharing on social media sites and dedicated photo sites such as Flickr. You can crop photos a little and still retain good detail, but you must be disciplined when cropping because if you go in too close, the image will lose definition noticeably. You won’t want to view images at their native size; in many cases, they will look muddy.
The lens has an aperture of f/3.3 at its widest angle, and it gets smaller as the lens is zoomed, all the way to f/6.4. In dim lighting conditions, you will want to keep the lens as wide as possible so that you can benefit from the largest aperture size. Zooming in greatly when the light isn’t sufficient will cause a few problems, firstly from the aperture getting smaller, and then if the camera uses a slow enough shutter, it will have the effect of introducing blur into your picture.
When used at its maximum zoom, small movements in the camera’s body, even if you are holding the camera very still, can move your framing off noticeably, and, as already mentioned, can also cause blurring. If you have one of those mini triopds to hand while travelling, then it will be of major benefit to you as a stabilising factor when using the long zoom, even during the day.
Ease of use and image quality
There are plenty of user aids in this camera that can help you in lining up and framing your images. The most prominent is the level indicator, which you can use to make sure that your camera is straight both on the horizontal and vertical planes. Furthermore, if you press the Fn button on the back of the body, you can get access to a host of on-screen guides that show you how you can frame your photos for the most eye-pleasing results .This includes plenty of rule-of-the-thirds overlays, and also tunnel guideline overlays.
In terms of quality, the images look sharpest in the centre and when taken at a wide angle. Images lose definition at the maximum zoom point, and they can also look quite muddy at the edges. Overall, though, the results from this camera are pleasing, and, as we mentioned earlier, are great for viewing on Full HD screens and posting to social media. The Intelligent Auto mode can be used to good effect most of the time, and it sometimes captures better details than a semi-manual mode in the same scenario.
Note that at wide angles, pictures can look noticeably skewed. You might want to zoom in a little and re-frame your shot to avoid this (as long as it doesn’t compromise your intended shot). The camera allows you to hit almost every zoom point from one to 30, though you have to dab at the zoom rocker with a deft touch in order to hit the zoom level you want.
Next page: Other features, conclusion, and sample images.
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