The Panasonic Lumic ZS15 / TZ25 marks a bit of a change in the strategy of Panasonic’s high end pocket super-zoom range. Previously the top two models have shared the same optics, with feature differences to differentiate them in terms of price and performance. But retaining the 16x optical zoom of its predecessor and opting for a 12.1 Megapixel CMOS sensor makes the ZS15 / TZ25 a very different model from both last year’s ZS8 / TZ18, not to mention the 2012 flagship model, the ZS20 / TZ30.
Primarily the differences between the ZS15 / TZ25 and its predecessor centre around excellent image quality and improved video and continuous shooting capabilities. With a 16x stabilised optical zoom range, 1080i AVCHD video, a decent-sized 3 inch LCD screen and an expansive range of shooting modes including manual control, versatile high speed drive modes, panoramic and 3D photo capture, the ZS15 / TZ25 is a very capable and desirable pocket super-zoom well suited to those on a tighter budget.
Where it gets really interesting though is comparing it against the flagship ZS20 / TZ30. The cheaper ZS15 / TZ25 may be considerably out-featured by its pricier sibling, but by employing a lower resolution sensor from the highly regarded FZ150, it actually delivers cleaner image quality. For this reason, it could be the preferred choice if you can live without the broader feature-set of the ZS20 / TZ30. Here’s how they compare…
Compared to Canon PowerShot SX240 HS
Starting with the obvious, the one big advantage the PowerShot SX240 HS holds over the Lumix ZS15 / TZ25 is its longer zoom range. Both cameras start out at similar wide angles (the ZS15 / TZ20 is marginally wider) but the SX240 HS goes all the way to 500mm equivalent leaving the 16x ZS15 / TZ25 back at 384mm, quite a difference and a factor for sports and wildlife photographers.
Both cameras have 12 Megapixel sensors and there’s not a lot in it in terms of image quality to justify picking one over the other. For video, the SX240 HS can boast the 1080p24 HD mode so beloved of film makers compared with 1080i on the ZS15 / TZ25 using AVCHD encoding. Both models allow you apply effects lile miniature mode during movie shooting but the SX240 HS can also offer a Super Slow Motion Movie mode.
The continuous shooting performance of the PowerShot SX240 HS has taken a massive leap putting it ahead of the ZS15 / TZ25 in terms of burst size (10 vs 4 frames) at 10fps, though it still lags behind the Lumix ZS15 / TZ25 in terms of fast reduced resolution modes. And although neither model has a built-in GPS receiver, the PowerShot SX260 HS provides all the same features as the SX240 HS but with a built in GPS at a slightly higher price. If you want GPS on the Lumix you’ll have to look to the ZS20 / TZ30 – a higher specification model with a price tag to match.
See my Canon PowerShot SX240 HS / SX260 HS review for more details
Compared to Panasonic Lumix ZS20 / TZ30
The nature of the relationship between Panasonic’s two top travel zooms has changed since last year. They now offer different zoom ranges – 20x vs 16x – and though both now employ CMOS sensors there’s a difference in resolution with the ZS20 / TZ30 employing a 14 Megapixel sensor and the ZS15 / TZ25 opting for a lower resolution 12 Megapixel sensor. The ZS20 / TZ30’s longer zoom is unquestionably an advantage, but the higher resolution sensor is not as while it delivers bigger images, the quality and high ISO noise performance is not as good as the ZS15 / TZ25.
Although the ZS15 / TZ25’s 3 inch screen has been upgraded from 230k to 460k pixels, it can’t compete with the touch screen on the more expensive model and the ZS20 / TZ30 also offers unrivalled GPS functionality. Other models like Canon’s PowerShot SX260 HS (identical to the SX240 HS, but with GPS) and the Sony CyberShot HX20V / HX30V have GPS, but the Lumix ZS20 / TZ30 outdoes those models with a location database and basic mapping. The ZS15 / TZ25 also lacks the ZS20 / TZ30’s 1080p50/60 video mode and stereo mics, and its continuous shooting may look similar but, crucually, the 5 and 10fps modes provide a much smaller burst of frames than the more expensive model.
Any one of these might be the feature that swings you in favour of the ZS20 / TZ30, but then again, the ZS15 / TZ25 provides the same range of stills shooting modes as the ZS20 / TZ30 and its image quality is a little better.
See my Panasonic Lumix ZS20 / TZ30 review for more details.
Panasonic Lumix ZS15 / TZ20 verdict
Putting the comparisons to one side, the Lumix ZS15 / TZ25 has a lot to offer with a 16x stabilised optical zoom, a 12.1 Megapixel sensor that produces excellent image quality and good high ISO performance, 1080i HD video with AVCHD encoding, and a range of shooting modes that go all the way from fully manual to Intelligent Auto including versatile high speed continuous shooting and fun creative modes plus panoramic and 3D capture.
By contrast with earlier models, the ZS15 / TZ25 is much more than a cut down version of Panasonic’s flagship pocket super-zoom. It has its own distinct character and provides a mix of features that, when looked at in their own right make for a compelling offering for anyone looking for a powerful pocket super-zoom that’s priced significantly below the flagship models from Canon, Sony and Panasonic itself. It may lack the ZS20 / TZ30’s expansive feature-set, but by delivering the core capabilities you need with decent image quality at a good price, it easily earns our Recommended award.
16x stabilised zoom in slim body.
Versatile high speed continuous shooting.
Excellent image quality.
1080i video with AVCHD encoding.
In Camera USB battery charging.
(relative to 2012 Super-zooms)
18 / 20
17 / 20
16 / 20
16 / 20
16 / 20