Panasonic Lumix TZ70 (ZS50 in the US)
Upgrade of TZ60 with larger/fewer pixels, RAW and better viewfinder, but removed GPS.
This post is likely to be enhanced/edited over the next days and weeks
Eske Rahn 2015-04-25
Overall: Really satisfied. 10/10
The TZ60 took much beating due to the small pixels, And Panasonic answered that by increasing the pixelsize by a factor 150%, and thus reducing the pixelcount by the same to 12MP.
This is an obvious upgrade from Fujifilm F900EXR, that are beaten or on par in all areas, less triffles.
See my review of the F900EXR here. On which this review to some extend will be based.
Practically the whole plus-list could be repeated, and most of the cons are not there!!
Rather than repeating what others have already written, that I agree upon, I recommend to start with this 6 page review here
Note that he done some user errors initially, that he bash the camera for, but retracts in part 6
+ Very good signal to noise ratio in lo light for a superzoom. On par with F900EXR, and even better than my CX3, that was better than the F200EXR
+ The AF is SO SO much better than the F900EXR, TZ70 does better WITHOUT assist lamp, than F900EXR did with!!!
+ Reasonably fast camera. Not even using continuous mode but simply using the shutter, you can easily get 1.5 shots per second! (AF, good lighting)
+ 30x zoom in reasonable slim body. About 37.3mm (INcluding protruding parts to both sides, distance between two parallel plates), 34.4 mm for 95%
+ F3.3 at 24mm focal length (35mm eq.)
+ F6.4 at 720mm focal length (35mm eq.)
+ Panasonic have stepped back in the megapixel craze, and has given it 12Mpixels.
+ Active control rings, assignable.
+ Manual focus!
+ (S)hutter priority mode.
+ (A)perture priority mode. (IRIS, not just ND filters)
+ (M)anual control mode
+ Astonishing good image stabilizer. It is not hard to take non-blurred pictures at 1/4s and full 30x zoom, holding the camera at arm’s length between two fingers and firing the shutter with a third!!!
+ Three axis Level indicator (The CX3 only offered two)
+ Raw-file format offered
+ Really intuitive display of ‘allowed’ selections. Especially nice in A and S modes
+ Some functions can be assigned to two single one-click buttons fn1 & fn2
+ A bunch of features/filters/effects I haven’t dug into, and most likely will never even try…
+ Reasonable sun light legibility of display
+ Viewfinder, with optional autoselect
+ Good non-slip grip
+ General feeling of good hardware, though the bottom feels thin.
+ Good one and two hand grip for non-flash-usage.
+ Metal tripod mount
+ Lens protection build in
+ Quiet zooming – close to noiseless
+ Zooming during video allowed, and done slower and even more quiet than when taking stills.
+ OIS during video also.
+ FullHD and HD 60fps or 25P video offered
+ SDXC supported
+ High speed videos with reduced resolution HD 100fps or VGA 200fps
+ The Macro offers down to 30mm wide motive, 1/3387″=7.5micrometer motive per pixel. Better than expected – though far from the CX3.
+ Decent moon pictures at 30x zoom. Even in automatic mode – though some EV needed since the .moon is currently a ‘nail’ only.
+ Re-pressing the shutter cancels a preview. So preview-ON does NOT slow down consecutive shots. 😀
+ Four personal sets of settings can be saved for later usages. Last used setting remembered in P/A/S/M.
+ File-naming allows the usage of 6 digits, P###0###.*.
+ 24h setting, not only AM/PM
+ NFC for pairing with android device
The CONs, Software (Most are trifles. All easy to fix/improve)
– The Assist lamp, can not be kept off in iA /iIA+ modes!!! At the least this should be an option in iA+ This bug leaves the fully automatic mode practically useless to my typical usage…
– I really miss a time-out of remembering last used settings, say e.g. 1 hour. After that it is very unlikely that special settings are still relevant.
– It would be nice if the manual focus stopped at infinity(!) Currently we got “To infinity and beyond” from Toy Story
– It would be really nice if the large control ring reacted on the SPEED it was turned, so you could make coarse adjustments quickly, and fine adjustment slowly. It would make it MUCH better for MF.
– With all the controls this camera offers if wanted, it would be nice to allow the user to select the level of noise-reduction/sharpening. But as RAW is offered, this is not a huge issue, but a bit silly it has been omitted.
– The focal lengths are stored as integers in the metadata, giving several the same values, stupid, but very common, though decimals ARE possible in standard EXIF.
– It is not stored in the EXIF what ‘program’ was used iA/P/A/S/M… I guess that is what the setting we see in Win8 as “Exposure program” is for…
– Six digits should suffice, but rather confusing with the forced zero in the middle of the filename: P###0###.*
– Even using the large control ring for zooming (I recommend that), it is still a bit hard to get a specific zoom, there are about 44 steps of zoom over the entire 30x range (54 on the 10.7x zoom CX3).
– The measured brightness is not stored in the exif-metadata, like the F900EXR did.
The CONs, Hardware (No show-stoppers. But would be nice to fix for next version)
– All the camera body’s edges would benefit from being smoothed/slanted making it more pocketable
– The buffer for Continuous/Burst modes could have been larger.
– The tripod mount isn’t centred, off by about 20mm, potentially blocking the battery/SDcard door.
– The battery/SD cover is locked by a tiny latch, I’m sure will be really hard to operate with cold fingers or gloves. To make it worse there is no spring, so you need to manually lock after close!!
– The eye-detector for automatic turning the viewfinder on/off is placed wrong, so might fail to detect the head due to false light, unless you use the left eye and squeeze the nose into the display…
– A touch screen is an elegant way to use auto-focus, this is allowed through WiFi and smartphone/tablet interface only.
– The USB-connector is an outdated type, only seen on cameras, please swirch to USB-C or at the least micro-USB, so standard cables could be used.
A simple suggestions for change of default settings to get the most out of your camera
1) Set the large control ring for zoom
Use std zoom-lever for coarse zoom, and the ring for fine adjustments, (Leave the small Control dial default, e.g. for Manual Focus).
The large ring is accurate, but slow, the small dial is easy to turn multiple times.
2) In the iA modes, set “iHandheld Night Shot” to OFF, this will give correct focal lengths in display and meta-data
(Otherwise they will be 11% too large in all normal iA shots – Bug!)
You can still select “Handheld Night Shot” explicitly from SCN-mode when needed.
No camera is perfect, but if you need a lot of zoom in a compact body and want RAW, I think this is the best you can get.
General notes on Compact SuperZoom Cameras
There are no free diners in the universe. This goes for Compact Superzoom Cameras (CSZCs) as well.
This means you will need to use a CSZCs a little different from what you are used to from other CCs.
Rather than cropping the taken image, you should generally try to zoom in and take another shot (where possible).
Here is the whys
It is (currently?) not possible to make a compact lens with a large zoom range, that also has a wide aperture.
And if the camera needs to stay reasonable small (less than about 35mm thick), it can (currently?) not be done with a large sensor area.
If you have a small aperture and a small sensor area, you can not have a large number of pixels, both due to Rayleigh diffraction and the signal/noise ratio in poor light.
And with a modest number of megapixels, you can not make extensive cropping (a.k.a. “digital zoom”)
As for all images in here, click to enlarge
But as can be seen, this means that the TZ70 has an Aperture that is inferior to the F900 by 3 to 12% at 450 to 500mm equivalent, Otherwise better or on par within 2%
The TZ70 offers a very neat way of displaying the selected settings, that will be familiar to traditional photographers. Here from the manual:
And also a nice pair of rings to select among ‘allowed’ values within the automation:
I can only recommend to set the large control ring to ZOOM, and NOT the MF as you might initially think.
There are two reasons for this
1) You get a much better control of the zoom-level, than with the standard +/- control.
2) The MF with the large control ring requires a really large number of turns, making it very impractical in usage. The small control dial works fine with this, as you can easily make multiple turns with a finger.
So what is 30x zoom really? The 1/900th of an image is so much it is hard to grasp, but here is an example of a nearby scenery walking the dog.
Sorry WordPress got a bug, not supporting the EXIF-rotation flag of uploaded files generating low resolution versions. The full images are shown correctly if you click to enlarge!!
[EXIF: 24mm.eq, F3.3, 1/250s, Iso80], [EXIF: 720mm.eq., F6.4, 1/125s, Iso80]
Note that it was quite windy (and slightly rainy), so it struggles a bit with the edges of the moving wings. (It was on automatic, I ought to have reduced the shutter time)
Here are some examples from a rainy day in my garden. (Did not even notice the blackbird 55m away before after posting it, was aiming at the pile some 10m further away)
[EXIF: 24mm.eq, F3.3, 1/100s, Iso80], [EXIF: 720mm.eq., F6.4, 1/60s, Iso400]
And with what looks like random beams of wood, is actually a simple way to keep the Automower out of some of the flowers in the lawn.
[EXIF: 24mm.eq, F3.3, 1/60s, Iso80], [EXIF: 720mm.eq., F6.4 1/100s, Iso400]
As the motives are rather fixed, it would perhaps have been clever to select a lower iso.
A sunny day, with an aeroplane a little over 11Km away, almost straight up. Plus Info taken from flightradar24.com in collage with a crop:
[EXIF: 800mm.eq, F6.4, 1/250s, Iso80]
Approximately 6 pixels per metre motive.
Note that best macro is NOT on full wide, both for Automatic and MF, zoom to first 2x (still says “0.03m to ∞” in range). There is a second stop also shown as 50mm, but it has a limit of 0.05m.
[EXIF: 47mm.eq., F4.0 1/80s, Iso80], [EXIF: 47mm.eq. F8.0 1/60s, Iso320]
Note the difference between the two, the first in on automatic, the other I have used the Shift to get a minor Aperture, and thus larger DOF, more suitable for this motive.
The TZ70 is VERY good at doing AF almost as close as can be done with MF, here is how the minimum obtainable width varies with the zoom, and yes, the two peaks are there, tried a lot of times in disbelieve!
So as can bee seen the best macro is not at full wide, and I would recommend to use the 50mm equ. as this gets you more distance to the motive (and more DOF), unless you really need the extra light from the wider aperture, or wants the very shallow DOF.
It can also be seen that the magnification is almost the same size 9-10cm between 135mm equ. and 720mm equ. zoom (with respective minimal motive distance of 29cm and 170cm) so choose the most comfortable working distance. If the motive is an animal, the 170cm might be really nice to not have it escape, though of course harder to keep the motive in the frame hand-held.
You can take images during the video, and although they are almost as big as a nomal picture, they are not only in 16:9 (almost, lass 2 pixels, see below), but in a quite worse quality.
NOTE: If you take stills during video, the video quality will be severely deteriorated too while doing so, took a number of stills mainly in the first part of the above video, and it looks MUCH worse than where I did not! See this excerpt from the user guide.
Compare these two, especially notice the foliage, I guess due to the narrow aperture used on the image during video.
[EXIF: 28mm.eq., F5.6 1/125s, Iso80], [EXIF: 25mm.eq. F3.3 1/500s, Iso80]
So as can be seen, even in the 9MP mode, this function is not very good, you could (almost) just as well create it from the video (function build in during playback).
The quality is only slightly worse, and you don’t risk shaking the camera or adding handling noise (and the images are ½MB not 4MB), and deteriorating the video image quality. But the EXIF is gone (except the time-stamp),
[EXIF: 28mm.eq., F5.6 1/125s, Iso80], [EXIF: **EMPTY**]
But as can be seen there IS a difference, the extract from the MP4 is slightly more bleak, and with slightly less details.
And there is a few extra pixels at the edges of the still in video (extra room for VIDEO-OIS I guess?), and a tiny vertical stretch of the video.
I did some extra tests on some technical paper, and stills as well as stills during video have correct 1:1 pixel aspect ratio, But inside the video the subject is stretched to 101% vertically, so normally not noticeable.
The images during video are for some odd (technical?) reasons saved two pixels short as 4000×2248, or 16:8.992 (16:9 would be 2250)
I took over 500 stills in Fine+Raw plus a short 1min FHD video, Quick-AF and OIS active and power save to 10 minutes, At least 30 power On/Off cycles and the battery still displays as “Full”… I practically never uses Flash nor AF-Assist-Lamp, so they where not active in this.
The TZ70 can be remotely controlled by a phone/tablet through WiFi.
It is far from an ideal solution (and the software is a bit messy IMHO), but it offers some interesting functionality.
Primarily the ability to do touch-based AF-point selection, that is a really nice feature, that any modern camera ought to have build-in these days.
But could also be handy as a substitute for old days wired shutter release, for long exposures, where the self-timer might not catch the right moment, or 10 sec is too short.
It requires you to connect your phone/phablet to the camera (and thus disconnect any WiFi net you were using)
Password protection of the connection is offered, but they should have found a simpler and more elegant solution than the QR or manually entering currently offered.
As they default to password OFF anyway, it would have been SO much simpler to by a single tap by the user in the app using the unprotected connection send over an encrypted password, and then make the necessary changes on both sides, breaking the connection and reconnecting on the protected connection….
As a phone by default assumes it can access the internet over an established WiFi connection, you loose all internet access while connected, thus making the Help in the program unavailable(!)
Of course you can most likely change your phones settings to NOT use WiFi for internet while you control the camera, and then remember to switch back the setting afterwards…. That is very very far from ideal nor elegant…
When lighting condition are such that the display is hard to see, an EVF can be handy. But it is so small that I have rarely used it.
It can be used to easily see the framing, but at that size (and my non stellar vision), I can not tell for sure if things are in focus or not!! So I can’t use it with MF, but for AF usage only, it is nice.
I’m sure when I get more used to the camera, and got the placement of all controls ‘in the fingers’, I will use the EVF more, for now I still need to look at some of the controls to use them.
ADD: After several months I can see that I actually do not use the EVF. Perhaps it is because I use glasses, and it is too small to use with glasses (the increased distance), and despite the diopter setting isn’t really good enough for my eyes without glasses.
Lo light examples and Picture sizes
I have made a separate post comparing lo light abilities of F900EXR and TZ70 here
The conclusion on picture sizes is that the ONLY benefit of choosing lower than 12MPixel modes are the space saved storing the images.
There are NO pixel-binning improving the quality/reducing the noise.
Last used setting remembered in P/A/S/M.
This is both a blessing and a pest, in current implementation….
It is great that my selections are remembered if the camera is turned off for a few minutes in the same situation (either by automatic power save or manually).
BUT if I have taken some very special shots, and turned the camera off, and then want to reuse the camera hours or even days later, it is really unlikely that I want these special settings.
So I would really wish for a setting for “Remembered selections time-out”, an hour would be good for most I guess.
If the settings you have used are really odd, you see it right away, but what if you have selected say iso 3200. Then it might look OK at first, until after several shots you notice that some areas are burnt out, and the automation chose a very fast shutter time…. You might even have missed the motive before you realise it.
in M mode it is not a problem, as you are setting everything anyway. But in P, and to some extend A/S it is.
So for now I simply sacrificed the primary of the four saved modes (“C1” on the mode dial) as a copy of the P mode, with everything in “auto” and EV=0. Which is about the same as turning the remembering off (which is not a selectable option either BTW)
Confusion on actual zoom range in iA modes and the [iHandheld Night Shot] setting
The camera undoubtedly have 30x optical zoom.
For pictures taken in e.g. P mode the dial displays 24mm to 720mm in 35mm equivalents, and that is what is stored in meta data as well.
On the lens it says 4.3-129mm so using a factor 43/240 this matches the integer values found in the EXIF (except for 70mm).
For pictures taken in iA (or iA+) mode (with [iHandheld Night Shot] set to the default ON) the value displayed is 25mm to 800mm.
Ordinary pictures show an identical part of the field of view, and the actual focal lengths are stored as 4mm to 129mm (as in P-mode).
So what are these strange numbers!?!?!
(In the “Digital zoom”-range the EXIF gets 1440mm and the digital zoom EXIF is set from 1 to 2, rather than the true 720mm and 1x to 4x for both crop&stretch modes)
Here are a couple of random garden examples a windy day. Full wide and full tele.
And they are close to identical (except the different focusing)
The answer lies in the [iHandheld Night Shot] setting! When set to ON the iA-modes also includes automatic selection of the scene mode “Handheld Night Shot“, that has EXACTLY the crop&stretch feature we are looking for to explain things. Just like old fashioned “Software I.S.” it cuts of the sides and stretch the image to allow for movement between multiple shots.
Here a “P” versus “Handheld Night Shot” example of a random raisins box on my table, with an added measure. The camera resting on a speaker at the same distance 5m, and on the last actively added jitter. It does not seam to matter if you move it or not, the crop seams constant.
[EXIF: 720mm eq., F6.4 1/2s, Iso400] 2x [EXIF: 800mm eq., F6.4 1/4s, Iso1000]
Note that the width of the images is 246mm/223mm/223mm or a ratio 1.1, matching the factor 800:720. (The factor used varies with the selected zoom, see table above)
So the answer is that the value in iA focal length (with [iHandheld Night Shot] set to the default ON) should be seen as
“You would at least get the portion an XXmm lens would give“
But strangely they store this maximum focal length in the EXIF also, rather than the real one actually used from the chosen scene-mode, this is a firmware bug!!
As the value is wrong in all but one case, It would be a LOT let confusing if they used the true optical value, and then let it be wrong on the display in the (rare) cases the iA choose “Handheld Night Shot”…
1) Allow AF assist OFF also in “IA+” (OK to still force it in “IA”) – this is almost a bug, and not a suggestion…
2) Add a setting to select that when the AF fails, a single click on some key, could switch to MF-mode. (Outside iA modes)
Yes you can access it thought the quick menu, but that could be extra clicks.
3) Add a time-out setting for remembering last used values, I would like e.g. one hour
4) Use the correct 35mm focal length(!) with iA, also when [iHandheld Night Shot] is set to ON
5) It would be nice If you could somehow NAME the custom selected settings saved.
Currently they are just called “C1” and “C2-1” to “C2-3”, and you have to remember what you saved as those. Selecting mode C2 offers a quick overview of the main customisations though:
6) Clever usage of existing information.
If I take a picture of something where the AF had worked just fine, and I then immediately zoom in, beyond what the AF can handle (e.g. poor light).
Then a very good guess would be that the focus distance is the same as the previous zoom. So a little simple calculus could come up with a good suggestion or starting point for MF.
7) The control ring is inactive in Playback – if zoom is selected in record-mode it feels natural to use it for zoom in playback
An utterly strange decision, that simply does not make sense in any way, stated in the user guide:
“When the power is supplied from an electrical outlet using the supplied AC adaptor, [Time Lapse Shot] is disabled”
This is EXACTLY the scenario when you would like to supply the camera when it is on ?!?!?!?
This ought to be fixed in a firmware upgrade….
I would have loved if all the automation had the logic sort of turned up side down.
Rather than “Automation limit options” why not turn it up side down to “My selections limits the available automation”. If I INSISTS on some setting or other, let the automation try to make the best of it assisting me.
This is beginning to take shape after some editing from the initial version. Though more might still come…
Original was posted here