Back in 2006, Panasonic launched what it claimed to be the world’s smallest compact with a 10x optical zoom, the Lumix ZS1 / TZ1. This was arguably the camera that started the now-popular travel zoom compact category, and Panasonic has contributed consistently to it over the years with very well regarded models.
Panasonic Lumix ZS70 / TZ90 Full Specification, Performance, Features And Review
Now, the new Lumix ZS70 (known as the TZ90 outside the US) appears to update the former of those two models, without quite dethroning the latter as the flagship model in the series.
This immediately gives it a handful of competitors, such as the Sony Cyber-shot HX90V and Canon PowerShot SX710 HS, but with 4K video and the addition of a viewfinder the ZS70 / TZ90 retains plenty of appeal.
- 1/2.3-inch High Sensitivity MOS sensor, 20.3MP
- 24-720mm f/3.3-6.4 zoom lens
- 3.0-inch tilting touchscreen, 1,040k dots
In place of the ZS60 / TZ80’s 18MP High Sensitivity MOS sensor, the Panasonic ZS70 / TZ90 arrives with a new 20.3MP sensor, which is designed with the same back-illuminated construction as before. This works with the camera’s Venus processor to deliver an ISO range of 80-3200, which is extendable to a setting equivalent to ISO6400 for when there’s no alternative.
You can capture raw images in addition to JPEGs, and full manual control over exposure is provided through the camera’s mode dial. 4K video recording to the UHD resolution of (3840 x 2160) is also present, as is the 4K PHOTO option that enables the extraction of 8MP images from captured footage.
The lens covers a 30x optical zoom range that’s equivalent to 24-720mm in 35mm terms, and is accompanied by five-axis Hybrid O.I.S. technology to help keep things stable at longer focal lengths and in low light.
The camera’s tilting screen still measures 3 inches, as on the TZ80, but it can now tilt around a full 180-degree angle to face the front. Its resolution of 1040k dots is pleasingly high, and the fact that it responds to touch makes setting the focus point and keying in certain settings simple.
Just above the screen sits a 0.2-inch viewfinder, still something of a rarity at this level, with 1,166k dots and a magnification of 0.46x in 35mm terms. What’s particularly welcome to see is an eye sensor next to it, as this automatically lets the camera know when to switch between the two, as the user’s face approaches or moves away from it.
All images and videos are whisked away to SD, SDHC or SDXC cards, and you can transfer images wirelessly through the camera’s built in Wi-Fi too. NFC isn’t present, however, and nor is GPS. You can, however, charge the camera via its USB port, which is convenient when travelling.
Build and handling
- Rubber grip and thumb rest
- Lens control ring
- Metal used for front plate and control ring
The Lumix ZS70 / TZ90 varies in design from the ZS60 / TZ80 about as much as it does on the spec sheet – in other words, only in small ways.
Panasonic has opted to drop the more defined texture of the ZS60 / TZ80’s grip and swap it for something that’s easier on the eye and nicer to touch. The grip itself, however, doesn’t appear to be sculpted in a logical way to support the user’s hand.
Unlike the Canon PowerShot SX730 HS, for example, on which the grip follows the natural curvature of the middle finger when the camera is held conventionally, the grip here does not. A slight indent to its side does make things a little more comfortable, but it’s still far from ideal.
You can also use the dial to scroll through images and zip through menus, among other things. This dial travels well, although its looseness is little less convenient when its up, down, left and right sides are pressed, as it can slip a little. Like the buttons around it it responds with a certain hollowness when pressed, but this is fairly typical on such a camera.
The LCD screen moves easily enough when pulled away from the camera’s body, but it stays in place when adjusted. The fact that you can grab the screen at any point along its base also makes this action far more convenient than on some other cameras, where you may only have a small groove in which to slip your thumb.
- Light Speed AF with Depth-from-Defocus technology
- Pinpoint, tracking and face-detection options
- Touch AF
While the ZS70 / TZ90 doesn’t appear to offer the same blisteringly fast focusing speeds as its compact system cousins, focusing speeds are speedy enough for most situations, particularly when capturing static subjects.
In good light the 49-area option brings subjects into focus quickly enough, and while these speeds drop a little in moderate lighting they’re still perfectly respectable. If you define the focusing point in advance and light levels are good, however, focusing speeds are typically stronger.
The camera’s AF tracking system generally adheres very well to subjects as they move around the scene, and when you combine this with the camera’s continuous AF system it’s possible to get subjects moving at a moderate pace in focus with little hassle. It can lose the subject at times, but this is true of many similar systems.
- 10fps burst shooting (5fps with AF-C)
- 1/16,000 sec maximum shutter speed (with electronic shutter)
- Time Lapse shooting
The Lumix ZS60 / TZ80 takes just over a second or so to fully come to life, which is pretty much in line with expectations for such a model when you consider its zoom. You can also turn the camera on to view images without extending the lens by pressing the play button, although the delay here is considerable (and is also the case when turning the camera on and immediately pressing the play button).
The camera appears to use the same 0.20-inch viewfinder as the ZS60 / TZ80, which presents details with 1.166k dots. In such a small camera we can only reasonably expect so much, and it’s worth remembering that many rival models do not offer a viewfinder at all. Still, it’s at nowhere near the level of those inside the company’s compact system cameras.
It is usable, and the fact that your face is pressed against the body when you’re using it helps with stability too, but you’re more likely want to use the LCD in most conditions.
Adjusting the LCD screen all the way around to face the front flips the interface without any delay, and this also brings a comprehensive level of control over image capture. The virtual buttons for these are somewhat on the small side, but if you just want to capture selfies without any fuss you should find the system works very well, with effective face detection and a clear timer on display.