The Lumix TZ80 / ZS60 is the natural successor to the TZ70 / ZS50, the previous flagship travel zoom from Panasonic. Forgetting about the TZ100 / ZS100 for a moment, the TZ80 / ZS60 remains the obvious choice for those looking to pack an awesomely long zoom range into a pocketable format.
Although the TZ80 / ZS60 retains the 24-720mm / 30x lens used in two previous generations and also sports the same 1.1 million dot electronic viewfinder, that doesn’t mean there’s little new on offer. The re-introduction of a touch screen makes a huge and wholly positive impact on handling and along with 4k video come the innovative 4k Photo and Post Focus modes.
Reversing the trend towards lower resolution sensors, Panasonic has hiked the resolution of the new sensor in the Lumix TZ80 / ZS60 to 18 Megapixels, up from 12 Megapixels on the earlier TZ70 / ZS50. As you’d expect, this has implications for noise performance, however, the TZ80 / ZS60 performs pretty well at the lower end of the sensitivity scale and produces acceptable results even in the middle of the range. It’s at the higher end of the range that there’ll be a more noticeable difference between it and models with lower megapixel counts, bigger sensors, or both. But the small sensor and high resolution has more of an impact on 4k video which suffers visibly from noise throughout the sensitivity range. Panasonic’s strategy of taking a 1:1 crop for 4k video may avoid moire and scaling artefacts, but the noise and dynamic range is obviously influenced on the pixel size, which on an 18 Megapixel / 1/2.3in sensor is very small indeed. Had Panasonic stuck with, say, 12 Megapixels, the individual pixels would have been a little larger and the crop for 4k video not as severe.
But once again, the presence of 4k video means the TZ80 / ZS60 enjoys Panasonic’s innovative 4k Photo, Post Focus and Live Edit modes, so it’s still useful on a camera of this class. Coupled with the 30x zoom, built-in viewfinder and touchscreen, the Lumix TZ80 / ZS60 remains a great choice and, as I said earlier, the obvious one for anyone seeking a pocketable compact with a long, long zoom. But it’s not the only choice, so keep reading to see how it stacks up against the competition.
One of the clear competitors to the Lumix TZ80 / ZS60 for the title of King of the Pocket Travel Zooms is Canon’s new PowerShot SX720 HS. If there was a memo about abandoning the chase for ever longer zoom ranges in compact ravel zooms Canon didn’t get it, and the SX720 HS extends the 30x range of its predecessor, the SX710 HS to a mammoth 40x. This starts at the same 24mm equivalent wide angle as the TZ80 / ZS60, but goes all the way to 960mm. The SX720 HS has the same focal ratio as the TZ80 / ZS60 – f3.3 at the wide angle setting, closing to a slightly smaller f6.9 at 960mm.
The PowerShot SX720 HS employs a 20 Megapixel sensor, against 18 Megapixels on the TZ80 / ZS60, so fairly similar there, except that there’s no RAW support on the SX720 HS and therefore no opportunity, as on the TZ80 / ZS60, to tweak images for the best results.
In terms of composition, the TZ80 / ZS60 scores over the SX720 HS with its electronic viewfinder and touch screen. The Canon model lacks a viewfinder and its screen isn’t touch-sensitive, it’s also slightly lower resolution at 920k dots compared to 1,166k dots on the TZ80 / ZS60. I reckon those two features alone should be enough to persuade many in the direction of the TZ80 / ZS60.
In terms of shooting modes, both offer the full PASM set as well as fully auto and a good range of feature modes and filters. The TZ80 / ZS60 has an edge in terms of full resolution continuous shooting with a 10fps (albeit for a limited 45 shots) against 6fps on the PowerShot SX720 HS. It also has a range of lower resolution continuous modes as well as 4k photo which effectively provides 30fps shooting at 8 Megapixel resolution.
Which brings us onto video. That the TZ80 / ZS60 offers 4k video will be a big pull for many consumers, but beware, the limitations of the smaller sensor and tiny pixels mean that 4k video on the TZ80 / ZS60 is far from noise-free, even at lower sensitivities. But even if you only shoot video in 1080p on the TZ80 / ZS60, you can still take advantage of its 4k capability to make use of the 4k Photo mode I’ve already mentioned for fast continuous shooting, and the Post Focus mode for effective focus bracketing. Beyond that, the PowerShot SX720 HS lacks manual exposure control for movies as well as any slow motion modes.
Overall, the Lumix TZ80 / ZS60 is a more sophisticated camera than the PowerShot SX720 HS. both offer a long zoom in a compact form factor with easy to operate automatic modes, but the Lumix also has plenty to offer the more ambitious shooter who wants to take control when it suits them. The Canon has more of a point-and-shoot ethos and that’s reflected in the price, depending on where you shop, the PowerShot SX720 HS is currently around fifteen percent cheaper than the Lumix TZ80 / ZS60. See my Canon SX720 HS review for more details.
There are also other options worth considering, especially if the quality of 4k video is important to you. Panasonic’s flagship TZ100 / ZS100, with its larger 1in sensor (four times the surface area of the TZ80 / ZS60’s sensor) produces better quality photos and videos with less noise, but comes at a comfortably higher price tag and with a shorter 10x zoom range; see my Lumix TZ100 / ZS100 review for more details. If you like the idea of a compact with a 1in sensor and are willing to sacrifice even more zoom range for a more affordable price point, look no further than Canon’s increasingly discounted PowerShot G7X. It may not reach anywhere near as long as the Lumix TZ80 / ZS60 and it also lacks a viewfinder and 4k video, but you are getting the bigger 1in sensor and a tilting screen for much the same price; see my Canon G7X review for more details. And of course if you’re happy with the 30x range, viewfinder and Lumix style, and can live without a touchscreen and 4k video, there’s always last year’s Lumix TZ70 / ZS50 to consider.
Overall though, the TZ80 / ZS60 remains a compelling option with a very capable zoom and a great range of features at a sensible price. 4k video may be over-ambitious for the tiny 1/2.3in sensor especially with its relatively high resolution, but it does equip the TZ80 / ZS60 with Panasonic’s innovative 4k Photo, Live Edit and Post Focus modes. Couple these with the built-in EVF, touchscreen and again that big 30x zoom, and you have a very capable pocket super-zoom that easily earns our Highly Recommended rating.