A problem with compact cameras is that not all of them are actually that small. Sure, they’re not as big as D-SLRs, but many fail to fit in a pocket, which is exactly where you’d keep a compact. The TZ60 bucks this trend while still managing to pack in a huge 30x zoom. Add a RAW shooting mode and the TZ60’s spec list is impressive – especially as it’s only marginally bigger than a smartphone.
Compacts are great for holidays, when you’re limited to the amount of kit you can pack, or for snappers who always want to carry a camera ready for when an opportunity strikes. So, how does the TZ60 perform? Let’s investigate.
Features & Build
The TZ60’s headline feature is its impressive 30x optical zoom. The actual focal length of the lens is 4.3-129mm, but this translates into a film equivalent of 24-720mm – a vast range that will cover landscapes through to portraits and go into long-lens territory like sports and wildlife. To combat the camera shake that would usually be a problem for the longer focal lengths, Panasonic has added a five-axis Optical Image Stabilisation system (OIS).
LCD screens can suffer from glare when used in strong sunlight, and for such conditions, there’s a tiny 0.2in 200k-dot Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) that displays the same exposure and picture information as the main screen. There’s no sensor to engage the EVF automatically, so instead you need to press a button to engage it.
The screen itself is a 3in model with 920k-dot resolution. An artificial horizon and composition grid are just two of the features that can be displayed on it, and you can also make use of 23 different AF areas which use Contrast AF to pinpoint subjects. There’s no hotshoe on the top plate, but there is a built-in flash to assist in dim conditions.
Both Wi-Fi and Near Field Communication (NFC) are included in the TZ60. These features enable you to control and trigger the camera remotely via a smartphone or tablet, and share images to the internet instantly via the same devices using the free Panasonic Image App. There’s also a dedicated Wi-Fi button on the rear which streamlines the whole set-up.
Offering an 18Mp sensor, JPEGs and RAWs can be captured at a maximum resolution of 4896x3672px. The TZ60 can shoot at an impressive 10fps for six frames in JPEG or four frames in RAW. The native ISO range reaches from 100-3200 but this can be expanded to a maximum of 6400 ISO.
There are 15 creative filters to play with including miniature and cross-processed effects. Wider locations can be captured in a vertical, horizontal or 360 format using the Panoramic mode. With an adjustment ring on the lens, users can precisely change the zoom or use it to manually focus. All of these features are impressive when you consider the slender dimensions of the TZ60.
At 110.6x64.3x34.4mm the TZ60 is very pocketable and it weighs just 240g – about twice the weight of a smartphone.
Performance & Handling
Getting started with the TZ60 is easy thanks to the top-plate mounted Mode dial that switches exposure modes without the need for entering a Menu screen. Refining additional settings takes longer. A small D-Pad on the rear has buttons for Exposure Compensation, Flash control, Self-timer mode and Focus mode (auto and manual focus). ISO sensitivity and White Balance all have to be adjusted by accessing the Menu screen, which is slower, but one solution is to take advantage of two custom mode ‘slots’ that are available on the mode dial. These can be pre-programmed with a specific colour temperature and ISO setting – useful should you need to switch between two setups when you’re in a hurry.
Changing settings like zoom or focus can also be achieved via the adjustment ring on the lens, and this speeds up handling too. Another feature that makes the camera fast to use is the command wheel surrounding the D-Pad. This makes it easy to scroll through images or settings.
One counter-intuitive feature was accessing the Burst mode setting. You have to click on the D-Pad, scroll down to the burst rate option and then hit the Display button to change frame rate. It’s okay once you know, but you wouldn’t get there without the manual. The EVF is welcome, though at 0.2in you really have to squint to see the display. But it’s a good option to have, especially in strong sunlight. Though the TZ60 boasts a full suite of creative modes courtesy of its MASP dial, it excels for point-and-shoot use, too. The Intelligent Auto (iA) mode performs well by assessing the scene and choosing the appropriate settings for you.
Although the dimensions are small, this compact isn’t difficult to use in the field. A small rubber grip on the front aids one-handed stability and the zoom rocker switch allows for fast reframing.
The inclusion of Wi-Fi opens up creative doors. Setting the TZ60 and App up takes less than 5mins, and you’re then ready to control the TZ60 remotely. You can use your smart device to zoom in/out, change exposure settings and trigger the shutter.
Although the TZ60 offers a 30x zoom, most users won’t have the need for such a long focal range. The best results came from the mid to long focal lengths and although the OIS system works well, trying to capture a picture at 720mm can prove a struggle as it’s hard to keep the subject lined up without a tripod.
Write speeds were okay, but not incredibly fast – a single RAW file took 2.5secs to write to our test card, while a JPEG took 2.3secs. In a 10fps burst, six JPEGs took 3secs, while four RAWs took 7.2secs.
Value for Money
At £319 the TZ60 is towards the top end of the compact market, but the spec sheet justifies it. Wi-Fi, NFC, GPS, a RAW mode and big zoom are all great features to have, but that’s not to say that the TZ60 doesn’t have its rivals.
A realistic competitor would be the Sony CyberShot HX60. It’s priced at £289, shares a 30x optical zoom but features a higher resolution of 20.4Mp. What it lacks though is the TZ60’s EVF and more crucially its RAW mode – to a photographic enthusiast a massive asset to have when editing pictures. Overall, this is an excellent compact that meets the needs of more serious photographers.
If you’re after a capable compact that won’t weigh you down and is easy to use, the TZ60 is a strong contender. The zoom range is huge and it offers plenty of manual and automatic modes to help you capture creative images. Remote shooting via a smart device and the ability to output RAW files are big advantages for a pocketable model, and this is a highly competent camera that offers much bigger features than its small size suggests.
- Street price: £197 (Secondhand as of July 2016)
- Resolution: 18.1Mp (4896x3672px)
- Sensor: 1/2.3in MOS
- ISO range: 100-3200 (expandable to 6400)
- Shutter: 4-1/2000sec & 15, 30sec sky modes
- AF system: Contrast-detect
- AF points: 23
- Focusing modes: Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual, AF Tracking
- Burst rate: 10fps
- Monitor: 3in, 920k-dot LCD
- Viewfinder: 0.2in 200k-dot EVF
- Image stabiliser: Hybrid OIS
- Flash: Yes Hotshoe: No
- Video: Full HD 1080 @ 50i
- Write speeds: 2.5sec (RAW)
- Storage: SD, SDHC, SDXC
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi & NFC
- Weight: 240g
- Dimensions: (WxHxD) 110.6x64.3x34.4mm
- Visit: www.panasonic.com/uk
This review was first published in the October 2014 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.