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Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 Ken McMahon, September 2013
 
 

Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 verdict

The Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 is a 16 Megapixel super-zoom with a jaw-dropping 60x stabilised optical zoom lens. That's the longest range available on any super-zoom camera and outreaches the hugely popular 50x Canon PowerShot SX50 HS, although to be fair Canon's model is now a year old and likely to be updated soon. However, don't make the mistake of assuming the FZ70 / FZ72 has a longer telephoto than other models. It has the same 1200mm maximum telephoto as the PowerShot SX50 HS, so the additional range is at the other end of the scale, providing it with an ultra-wide 20mm focal length, perfect for panoramic landcape shots and interiors.

The 16 megapixel MOS sensor is newly developed, but is no doubt a close relative of the 16 Megapixel sensor in 2012's FZ60 / FZ62. But unlike that model the FZ70 / FZ72 now offers RAW support. The new sensor and Venus Engine processor support similar shooting modes to the FZ60 /62, including PASM control, Intelligent Auto with scene detection and Creative Control Effects. Additionally the FZ70 / FZ72 includes the Panoramic shooting mode introduced on the FZ200.

Other features include built-in flash and hot shoe, 1080i50/60 HD movies, composite handheld Night Shot and HDR modes and a battery that lasts for 400 shots. But the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 lacks built-in GPS or Wi-fi, features that Panasonic has a great track record with and would have been a great addition to this model. That said, a 60x zoom range goes some way to making up for those ommissions and if you're looking for a super-zoom that outreaches anything else around, with ultra-wide angle and super-telephoto focal lengths within its grasp, the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 can't be beat. Before my final verdict, let's see how it measure up against the Nikon COOLPIX P520 and the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS.

   
 

 

Compared to Nikon COOLPIX P520

     
 
 
     
     

The Nikon COOLPIX P520 is an 18 Megapixel super-zoom with a 42x optical range and a 3.2 inch articulated LCD screen. There's three differences to begin with, but the most noticeable thing that sets these two models apart, to the casual observer at any rate, is size. For a super-zoom model the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 is on the large side, after all, it has a 60x zoom lens inside it. The COOLPIX P520 on the other hand is small. Neither of these cameras is ever going to fit in your pocket, but looking at the COOLPIX P520 you're just a little bit tempted to give it a try.

Both have plastic bodies, the shiny exterior of the COOLPIX P520 is attractive, but may not stand up to bumps and scratches as well as the more business-like exterior of the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72. So much for the external differences, on the inside the COOLPIX is fitted with an 18 Megapixel sensor, though in practical terms the extra 2 Megapixels over the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 is likely to make little difference and in my tests the image quality and noise performance of the two were quite closely matched.

The COOLPIX P520's 42x zoom lacks the reach of the 60x zoom on the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 at both ends of the range, but it's still a huge zoom and will more than do the job for most people. It also has a zoom rocker switch on the lens barrel, which the FZ70 / FZ72 lacks. But if you really must have the biggest zoom avaialable and value ultra-wide view angles as much as the super-telephoto focal lengths the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 really can't be beat.

The COOLPIX P520 has a slightly bigger screen than the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 and you can angle it in pretty much any direction you choose including forward-facing for self-shooting. The Lumix FZ70 / FZ72's screen is fixed in position, but its EVF is a little bigger and brighter than the COOLPIX P520's and it has a button for toggling the view between the viewfinder and EVF. Both models have a built-in flash, though the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72's is more powerful, plus you can fit an external flash unit in the FZ70 / FZ72's hot shoe; the COOLPIX P520 doesn't have a hot shoe, so you're limited to the built-in flash.

Both models of course offer PASM shooting modes, as well as scene modes and a range of effects, though the COOLPIX P520 lacks the FZ70 / FZ72's popular miniature mode. It also lacks its customisation options, with no custom settings position on the mode dial and only one programable function button. Though neither model excels at continuous shooting the COOLPIX P520 provides longer burst shooting at a slightly slower rate and more versatile reduced resolution burst modes. And if you like to shoot RAW, that won't be a problem on the FZ70 / FZ72, but the COOLPIX P520 lacks a RAW mode.

Both have a dedicated movie record button and allow you to make use of the optical zoom during recording. But the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 offers a wider range of movie modes in addition to full PASM control over exposure.The Lumix FZ72 runs for twice as long on a fully charged battery, 400 shots compared with half that number on the COOLPIX P520, but the latter has a built-in GPS receiver that can automatically tag images with positonal data.

Depending on where you are in the World, these two models are quite closely matched for price. If they're both on your wishlist you'll need to think carefully about which provides the best balance of features for you. The long zoom range, better customisation, hot shoe, RAW shooting and more versatile movie modes are strong selling points for the FZ70 / FZ72, for the COOLPIX P520 it's compactness, big flip-out screen and built-in GPS.

See my upcoming Nikon COOLPIX P520 review for more details.

 

Compared to Canon PowerShot SX50 HS

     
 
 
     
     

The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS and Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 are quite closely matched in terms of size and weight (the FZ70 / FZ72 is a little bigger all-round and a few grams heavier) and have quite similar styling. The SX50 HS's 50x zoom matches the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 with a 1200mm telephoto, but the latter goes significantly wider at 20mm equivalent compared with 24mm on the SX50 HS - so that extra 10x gets you an ultra wide angle lens option. The other thing to bear in mind with the lens is that at the maximum 1200mm focal length the PowerShot SX50 HS stops down to f6.5, where the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 only goes down to f5.9. It's a small difference, but will allow slightly faster shutter speeds and marginally shallower depth of field on the FZ70 / FZ72.

The Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 has a 16 Megapixel sensor compared with the 12 Megapixel SX50 HS. But while those additional pixels might allow you to produce a bigger print, the lower resolution sensor in the SX50 HS produces better quality results with less noise. So it's worth asking yourself just how much of a difference that higher resolution is going to make to you.

The PowerShot SX50 HS has a relatively small 2.8 inch 460k dot LCD, the same resolution but slightly smaller than the 3 inch screen on the FZ70 / FZ72. But like the COOLPIX P520, the SX50 HS's screen can be angled in any direction including forwards for self-shooting and inwards for protection, a big advantage over the fixed screen of the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72.

The FZ70 / FZ72 features a greater abundance of physical controls than the SX50 HS and provides more customisation options. There are no fewer than three programmable Fn buttons, as well as a switch for focus mode selection. In its favour, the SX50 HS offers two custom positions on the mode dial against the FZ70 / FZ72's one, and buttons for helping frame your subject when fully zoomed in, which is a big help when operating at the upper limits of the zoom range.

Both cameras have a dedicated movie record button and are able to use their optical zooms during recording. The Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 offers a best quality 1080i50/60 option compared with 1080p24 on the SX50 HS. The FZ70 / FZ72 offers PASM exposure control for movie shooting, but on the SX50 HS the options are limited to fully auto or a selection of scene modes. The SX50 also provides two high speed movie options, while neither is HD resolution, the FX70 / FZ72 lacks the High Speed Motion video modes introduced on the FZ200. Both cameras have a standard hotshoe as well as the built-in flash, but neither offers built-in GPS or Wifi features.

One other thing to consider is the SX50 HS's age. Released in September 2012 its price has now fallen to the point where you can pick it up considerably cheaper than the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72. Look beyond the numbers - the differences in zoom range and sensor resolution - and these models are quite closely matched with the SX50 HS offering the key advantage of a flip-out LCD screen, albeit slightly smaller than the FZ70 / FZ72's. Also expect a successor to the SX50 HS before Christmas 2013.

See my Canon SX50 HS review for more details

 

Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 final verdict

The Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 raises the bar once again for super-zooms with a massive 60x optical zoom. Panasonic has stuck with the same 24x zoom lens for several generations of its FZ range, so perhaps it's not surprising that they've leapfrogged the competition so spectacularly. What may surprise many is that rather than extend the maximum telephoto over what's currently available from Canon, Sony and Fujifilm, the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 adds the extra range all to the wide angle end with an ultra-wide 20mm equivalent focal length. This is a pretty smart move as that 4mm on the wide angle end is actually a lot more useful and makes a much bigger difference than 240mm on the telephoto, particularly given the availability of an optional 1.7x teleconverter lens.

In other respects the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 shares a lot of similarities with what's now the next model down in the range, the 24x FZ60 / FZ62. The body is bigger and heavier to accommodate the new lens and, though the sensor is redesigned, like the one in the FZ60 / FZ62 it shares the MOS design and 16.1 Megapixel effective resolution. The FZ70 / FZ72 also now has a wind-shielded built-in microphone, RAW shooting, a hotshoe and Panoramic shooting and there are other minor differences like one fewer custom position on the mode dial and and extra Creative control effect. If you can live with a shorter, but nonethelss pretty impressive 24x zoom as well as those other differences, it's certainly worth considering.

It's easy to dismiss the constant striving for ever longer zoom zoom ranges as nothing more than a numbers game and in the past I've praised Panasonic for stepping back from it and concentrating on other features. But there's no denying that sometimes it's good to be able zoom in really close and equally useful to have the option of an ultra-wide angle of view. By significantly extending the range at both ends, Panasonic has produced a super-zoom truly worth of the name and of Cameralabs' Recommended award. Given the company's track record I'm disappointed not to see built-in Wifi and GPS included, and for those reasons it falls short of our highest award, especially as Wifi will almost certainly be included on the successor to the SX50 HS, although whether Canon chooses to upgrade its 50x range is another matter.



Good points
Massive 60x optical zoom.
Excellent Power O.I.S. stabilisation.
20mm ultra-wide angle.
Raw mode.
400 shot battery life.
3 Programmable Fn buttons.

Bad points
Fixed LCD screen can't be flipped out.
No built-in GPS or Wifi.
Poor 3-frame burst shooting.
Stabilisation artifacts on movies at max zoom.




Scores

(relative to 2013 super-zooms)

Build quality:
Image quality:
Handling:
Specification:
Value:

Overall:

17 / 20
16 / 20
17 / 20
17 / 20
16 / 20

83%
 

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