Sure your smartphone will make do when you’re in a pinch, but nothing beats having a dedicated pocket-able camera in terms of usability and picture quality. While we have to admit that smartphones cameras have come a long way, nothing can change the fact that the vast majority have small sensors. Furthermore, the optics and lens system may not match up to the better compact cameras.
For those who've not considered such details, a larger sensor is better because it is able to capture more light (and as a result, more imaging detail) than a smaller sensor, and thus is able to produce photographs with better dynamic range and less noise. A better dynamic range means that more detail is captured in the brightest and darkest areas of the photograph, and it’s never a bad thing to have too much detail. Consumers are often fooled by large megapixel numbers, but an 18-megapixel smartphone sensor will always be outperformed by an 18-megapixel compact camera sensor because the larger compact camera sensor is able to capture more light.
So while it may seem like a good idea to just travel with your smartphone for your holiday, you might probably be disappointed with the quality of your pictures. That’s why superzoom compacts are still in the market; they offer larger sensors and most importantly, long-reaching optical zoom. All mobile phones use digital zoom, which is just manipulating the non-zoomed photo and causes image quality loss. So even if you manage to get 'closer' to the action, with a mobile phone it’s all at the expense of image quality.
So it’s no surprise that Panasonic has seen it fit to update their travel superzoom line with the Lumix DMC-TZ60. The camera features 30x optical zoom coupled with a new electronic veiwfinder. So will the Lumix DMC-TZ60 have a place in your back pocket for your next trip? Let’s find out.
The first thing we noticed about the Lumix TZ60 was that it is chunkier than its predecessor, the Lumix TZ40. It will still slip into the back pocket of your jeans, but you might have some trouble trying to slide it into your front pockets. We feel that a slight increase in dimensions is pretty worth it though, in exchange for an increase in optical zoom capability (the Lumix TZ40 had 20x optical zoom, while the Lumix TZ60 has 30x optical zoom).
For some reason the Lumix TZ60’s design reminded us of the Sony RX100 Mark II, with its straight lines and boxy look. While the Lumix TZ40 sported some bumps and ridges in its design, the Lumix TZ60 has gone for a more masculine look by eliminating some of the curves found on the Lumix TZ40. Gone is the large rubber finger grip on the front; instead the Lumix TZ60 has a thin, raised strip of rubber. We found that the rubber strip worked just as well as the Lumix TZ40’s finger grip though we suspect some may prefer the larger rubber grip found on the predecessor instead.
The Lumix TZ60 also takes a page out of its prosumer compact sibling, the Panasonic LX7’s book, by including a control ring around its lens barrel. You can assign and adjust settings such as aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation, which streamlines the changing of certain settings, so you don’t have to access the sub-menus to make changes. For example, turning the ring while shooting in aperture-priority mode will adjust the aperture value, which feels more intuitive and comfortable since your left hand will be on (or near) the lens barrel when you shoot.
Turning the camera around reveals a 3-inch, 920k-dot LCD display. But what’s surprising is that the Lumix TZ60 has ditched the touchscreen display in favour of a standard display and an electronic viewfinder (EVF), which is just above the display. Similar to the EVF found on the Panasonic LF1, the viewfinder is just 0.2-inch large but is capable of displaying all the information that can be found on the main display such as aperture value and shutter speed. In fact, you can even playback images on the viewfinder and it also comes with a dioptre for those of you who are wearing glasses.
The viewfinder is handy when you’re shooting in bright sunlight and it’s difficult to see the main display, but due to its small size it does get tiring when using it for long periods of time. The viewfinder does suffer from lag and ghosting however, so using it for anything other than still figures or landscape photography may not be ideal. And since the viewfinder does not have an eye sensor, you will need to press the LVF button to toggle between the main display and the viewfinder. The lack of intuitiveness, which is basically a cost control measure, may turn off some users. While having an EVF may sound useful on paper, we found the handiness of it to be quite limited; fortunately it provides a 100% field of view so it's easy to frame what you see.
The Lumix TZ60 comes with a more substantial thumb rest on the rear, which does help with your grip though we wished the rest was more pronounced. The control dial on the rear comes outfitted with a clickable scroll wheel this time around, making it easy to scroll through the various controls and settings as opposed to clicking away at a four-way d-pad.