No matter what other cameras you own in your life, there’s always the scenario for a compact, do-it-all setup. Cameras like the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS60 are quite remarkable for how much they can pack into such a compact frame. These cameras aren’t a replacement for your other top-end camera gear, but they do allow you to travel light, with the addition of a super zoom lens.
Lots of features to cover in this little compact camera. Let’s dig in and see if the Panasonic isn’t just a great all-rounder, but can handle individual situations in a high-quality way.
I have to admit that I am quite smitten with the design of this camera. A tough, polycarbonate construction, which at only 4.4 x 2.5 x 1.5 inches and about the size of a smartphone, feels like a great camera solution. Some of you may be thinking, why don’t you just use a smartphone camera, but the benefits here are far better image quality and much finer control of stills and video.
Clearly, one of the standout features is the 30X zoom which is 24-720mm on a full-frame lens. It also has the stamp of Leica, to give it that extra zest of quality. The geeky side of me loves the fully retractable nature of the lens. A standard feature on these types of cameras, but it still never ceases to impress.
The rear of the camera has a three-inch touchscreen display for functionality such as tapping focus points and reviewing footage. The downside here is that the screen is fixed in place, not fully articulated, but you can’t have everything. There’s also a small electronic viewfinder, which can be choppy at times, but at least it can be a good backup if you’re shooting in very strong sunlight.
As for the basic internal workings, the camera is wrapped around an 18-megapixel sensor, providing 4K Ultra HD video and Panasonic’s rather useful 4K photo facility. This allows eight-megapixel images to be extracted from 4K video footage, with a range of options for prerecording to capture those special moments. There’s also a five-axis optical image stabilization system with in-camera controls such as post focus for adjusting and sharpening images.
The external features of the camera include a lens mounted control ring which can provide operation over things like exposure. Very handy once you get used to its functionality. The rear of the camera has a logically laid out set of buttons, which provide access to all the menu features and also four function buttons that can be configured to your liking.
The top of the camera has a mode dial, the shutter and power switch, and a dedicated button for video recording. There’s also a small built-in flash, but this can be seen as just an added bonus more than anything.
Lots of features packed into the tin. Therefore, let’s see how the camera works in reality.
The LUMIX DMC-ZS60 in Use
First off, the long zoom range lets you go relatively wide from 24mm up to an impressively long 720mm. The built-in stabilization system has the most benefit at the telephoto end of the range, keeping everything in sharp focus, but images do start to suffer from diffraction at the furthest zoom range.
As long as the lens is fed enough light, images come out with a good degree of contrast, well exposed, and rich in color. Images are at their best around 100-200mm, but there are really no complaints at either end of the zoom range for this price point.
The autofocus system is fast to snap into place, using its proprietary Depth-to-Defocus system. In general use, it’s quick to snap into focus on a subject and unless the subject is moving very quickly, the camera does provide a good degree of ‘hits’ without too many throwaway images.
The one caveat with a small camera such as this one with a huge zoom range is that the sensor has to be small. This means ISO performance is reduced, so low-light performance isn’t the best. Past ISO 400, images start to become noisy and noise reduction starts to smooth off the edges of detail. The small aperture size of f/3.3 at the widest and f/6.4 at the telephoto end also add to the lack of lowlight ability.
The lack of lowlight functionality is also apparent with 4K video. The autofocus starts to wander in low-light conditions and video does suffer from rolling shutter, especially when shooting subjects in motion. In general, the video quality is on a par with what you would find from a 4K smartphone and definitely beaten out by bridge cameras which have a larger sensor.
In other words, for general use and as long as you’re feeding the camera enough light, the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS60 can produce good quality stills and video. You just have to be aware of its limitations. Basically, this camera is a generalist rather than a specialist.
How Does It Compare?
The ultracompact, do-it-all zoom camera is nothing new. Variations of these little beasts have been around for some time, which means there’s plenty of choice for the consumer. One such option which is comparable to the Panasonic is the Canon PowerShot ELPH 180. The Canon sports a 20MP sensor, a smaller zoom of 8x, and video quality of 720p. It too is a general all-rounder like the Panasonic, comparable in features, but also suffers from the same low-light caveats.
Both cameras are reasonably priced, with the Canon being the most cost-effective. The Panasonic has arguably the better lens and the extra zoom range definitely give scope for more creativity. In reality, both cameras pack a lot into the box and are good value for money.
|Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS60||Canon PowerShot ELPH 180|
The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS60 has a lot of functionality packed into its small footprint and the huge zoom range is definitely fun to use. However, the small sensor holds it back, most notably in low-light conditions. The size and features on the camera are the standouts, meaning the compact convenience is the main attraction here.
This will always be the case with a camera that tries to do everything well. However, if you want a travel light camera with a huge zoom range and is a cut above what you can get on a smartphone, then the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS60 is definitely worth looking into.