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Panasonic Lumix TZ60 / ZS40 Gordon Laing, January 2014

Panasonic Lumix TZ60 / ZS40 review-in-progress

NEW! Panasonic Lumix TZ60 / ZS40 sample images

The Panasonic Lumix TZ60, or ZS40 as it's known in North America, is the latest version of the company's hugely popular travel zoom camera. Announced in January 2014, it once again comes exactly one year after its predecessor, the best-selling TZ40 / ZS30, and like that model the TZ60 / ZS40 becomes the first of the new crop of pocket super-zooms to reach the market.

The most important specification of any super-zoom camera is its range and after two generations employing the same 20x / 24-480mm equivalent lens, it's not surprising to find this is the first specification to receive an upgrade on the TZ60 / ZS40. So the new model now sports a 30x range equivalent to 24-720mm, allowing it to zoom 50% closer than its predecessor. The resolution has mercifully stuck at 18 Megapixels with a 1/2.3in sensor, and there's still 1080p video, built-in Wifi with NFC, and GPS with GLONASS support.

There is however one other headline feature beyond the extended zoom range and that's a built-in electronic viewfinder. It's the same tiny 0.2in / 200k dot panel as the Lumix LF1 squeezed into a corner (albeit with improved lenses), but it does give the flagship TZ / ZS a key feature that's absent from rivals - an important difference too since Sony has offered an identical 30x range in its HX50V for the best part of a year. The TZ60 / ZS40 is also more sophisticated than its predecessor with a customizable control ring around the lens, focus peaking and support for RAW. I had a chance to try out a sample at a Panasonic press briefing, so scroll down for my hands-on report!

Panasonic Lumix TZ60 / ZS40 review

Panasonic Lumix TZ60 / ZS40 Hands On Preview

Panasonic invented the concept of a pocket super-zoom camera, but now shares this lucrative market with most of the big names - Canon and Sony in particular being big rivals. As such when it comes to the annual update of its best-seller, the company has to dig deeper into the mine of features to come up with a specification which remains in-front of the competition.

Photo by Gavin Stoker

The extended zoom range from 20x to 30x doesn't come as a surprise - indeed it's a necessity to compete with Sony's HX50V - but it's the rest of the specification that really has me interested, as rather than trying to find new things to squeeze into a small body, Panasonic has repitched its flagship TZ / ZS as an altogether higher-end proposition.

It's the first of its pocket super-zoom rivals to support RAW and focus peaking, and Panasonic has also lifted the neat lens control ring of its LF1, LX7 and Canon's S series. These make it an altogether more satisfying camera for enthusiasts, but it's the inclusion of an electronic viewfinder that really differentiates it from the competition as there's simply not another pocket super-zoom which sports one. It may be the same tiny view delivered by the Lumix LF1 (albeit with reduced aberrations thanks to new optics), but there's no denying how useful it can be when bright light is shining on the screen or you're after better stability when shooting long or at slow shutter speeds. Panasonic also claims faster AF and more effective image stabilisation.

But the longer zoom range (even with OIS optics which slide out the way when powered-down) and the inclusion of an electronic viewfinder have resulted in a larger body, which measures 111x64x34.4mm and weighs 240g with battery. In your hands it's noticeably bigger than the earlier TZ40 / ZS30 which measured 108x59x27.7mm and weighed 198g, although to be fair it is comparable to Sony's HX50V at 108x64x38mm and 272g.

It's fairest to compare the TZ60 / ZS40 against the HX50V and impressively it manages to be 3.6mm thinner while sporting the same optical range, and only 2mm wider despite including an electronic viewfinder. The new Lumix doesn't however sport a hotshoe, which allows the HX50V to mount an external EVF along with other accessories.

Sadly Panasonic has also sacrificed the TZ40 / ZS30's touch-screen in order to hit a price point, and for me this reduces its overall desirability, although equally I know many photographers who could care less about this capability. But with the joint-longest zoom range of its peers, and the only one with a built-in viewfinder, focus peaking and support for RAW, the Lumix TZ60 / ZS40 looks set to become another popular camera.

It should be available in early 2014 at a price of around 399 GBP.

Panasonic has also launched the more affordable Lumix TZ55 / ZS35 with a 20x zoom, 16 Megapixels and a new screen which can flip out and round; it doesn't have GPS or NFC, but it does have Wifi. It'll cost around 229 GBP.

Then there's the budget Lumix SZ8 which succeeds the SZ3 with a longer 12x zoom, bigger screen and Wifi for around 150 GBP, and finally the 42x LZ40 which upgrades the LZ30 with a higher resolution 20 megapixel CCD sensor, optical stabilisation and a Lithium ion battery that can be recharged over USB for approximately 229 GBP.

I've started testing a final production TZ60 / ZS40 and will gradually add new content to this page as my review progresses. In the meantime I've already completed a page of 35 Panasonic Lumix TZ60 / ZS40 sample images!

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