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The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ70 ($299.99) is a bridge-style superzoom with an extended 60x contact lens. The 16-megapixel camera covers a 20-1,200mm equivalent field of view, so that it is possible to fully capture breathtaking wide angles without quitting the opportunity to hone in on distant subjects. The FZ70 cuts some corners going to its price, but despite having a low-res EVF and rear LCD and omitting Wi-Fi, image quality is pretty strong. It’s a good budget option because of this class of camera, but when you can spend a lttle bit more, the Canon PowerShot SX60 HS, our Editors’ Choice for superzooms with 50x or longer ratios, is a far more complete package.
Design and Features
The FZ70 ($249.99 at eBay) is comparable in proportions and form factor to a tiny SLR with a kit zoom attached, but its contact lens covers a wider breadth than any starter SLR lens can manage. It measures 3.8 by 5.1 by 4.7 inches (HWD) and weighs about 1.3 pounds when packed with a battery and memory card. It isn’t far off in proportions from other cameras in this class, even kinds with shorter lenses just like the 50x Olympus Stylus SP-100 (3.6 by 4.8 by 5.2 inches, 1.3 pounds).
The 60x lens covers a 20-1,200mm (full-frame equivalent) field of view with an aperture that starts at f/2.8 and diminishes to f/5.9 when zoomed completely in. It is the widest angle in the class-Canon’s SX60 HS comes close with a 21mm wide-angle lens-and the excess coverage at the wide angle must not be discounted when searching for an extended zoom camera. The Nikon Coolpix P600 also includes a 60x zoom ratio, but its 24-1,440mm contact lens doesn’t capture quite as wide of a field of view at its widest setting.
Many zooms in this class, like the SX60 HS and the P600, add a framing assist function. This is normally a button or lever that temporarily zooms out, in order that you can reacquire a topic you’ve lost an eye on. A box is put into the LCD or EVF showing you what the zoomed-in view captures, and releasing the button or flipping the lever again returns the zoom compared to that position. The FZ70 does not have this, and it’s really a shame, as it’s a function that’s very helpful when capturing images with such a narrow angle of view.
Controls are located at the top and rear plates. At the top you’ll locate a mode dial, with the energy switch located at its side, the zoom rocker and shutter release, and buttons to record movies, adapt the burst shooting mode, and adapt the active focus area when the FZ70 is defined to its 1-Area focus mode. Other focus modes include Face Detection, Tracking, and 23 Area (which automatically selects a focus point); by default they’re set via the programmable Fn2 button on the trunk.
Other rear controls add a mechanical release for the pop-up flash, a button to change between your rear display and EVF, and the programmable Fn1 button, which activates exposure and focus lock by default. There’s an AF/Macro AF/MF button that adjusts the focus mode, the typical playback and delete controls, and a four-way controller with a center Menu/Set button. Its directional presses are the aforementioned Fn2 button, and dedicated buttons to adapt the ISO, white balance, and self-timer. The ultimate rear control is a dial; it could adapt aperture, shutter speed, or exposure compensation according to the shooting mode. You will have to press it directly into toggle its functionality. That’s pretty typical for a Panasonic camera-the FZ1000 ($797.99 at Amazon) includes a control dial that behaves similarly-so you will want to take the time to note which function it’s set to adapt before turning it. Its function can transform from how you’ve set it if the camera switches into sleep mode.
The FZ70 uses Panasonic’s on-screen Q.Menu system for additional adjustments to shooting settings. It’s only active when the camera is defined to fully capture images (it doubles as the delete button when reviewing photos). It enables you to make quick adjustments to the picture output settings, adapt the flash output, set the video but still resolution, change the autofocus and metering modes, and adapt aperture, shutter speed, or exposure compensation. The menu runs over the top and bottom of the Live View feed, in order to still see what the lens will be able to capture while making adjustments.
You can frame images via the trunk LCD or eye-level EVF. The LCD is a 3-inch panel with a 460k-dot resolution. The display is adequately sharp for shooting, nonetheless it does fall a lttle bit short when reviewing images in comparison to a 922k-dot panel of similar size. Canon uses among those on the SX60 HS, and mounts it on a vari-angle hinge so that it can be looked at from above, below, or leading of the camera, in the event selfies are your thing. The SX60 HS also offers a sharp (922k-dot) EVF, which is noticeably nicer to look over compared to the 202k-dot EVF Panasonic uses in the FZ70. The disparity isn’t as large in true to life as it sounds in some recoverable format, but it’s simple to tell that the FZ70’s EVF doesn’t provide same degree of crispness as that of the Canon.
The FZ70 doesn’t include Wi-Fi or a GPS. The former is built-into almost every camera released today, and the latter isn’t uncommon on long zoom cameras that will tend to be utilized for travel. If transferring images on the run is a must, you can include an Eyefi Mobi memory card, but that increases the price tag on the camera. More costly models just like the weather-sealed Fujifilm FinePix S1 include built-in Wi-Fi. So when you account for the price tag on the Mobi card, the purchase price gap between your FZ70 and S1 isn’t quite as vast.
Performance and Conclusions
Performance and Conclusions
The FZ70 begins and captures an in-focus image in about 1.2 seconds, which is fast for a camera with such an extended contact lens. Its autofocus system can be quite speedy; at the wide end of its zoom range it locks and fires in only 0.1-second, and slows to just 0.4-second. Compare this with the Nikon P600, which starts in an acceptable 2 seconds and focuses in 0.2-second at wide angles, but slows to at least one 1.7 seconds when locking focus at its maximum focal length.
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There are several different burst shooting modes. At full resolution the FZ70 is with the capacity of capturing photographs at 9 fps, but with one giant caveat. Whether or not shooting in Raw or JPG, the FZ70 is bound to capturing three images at that speed. There’s a 5fps mode with continuous autofocus that’s also limited by three shots before slowing, and a 2fps mode with continuous autofocus that manages 5 shots at that pace. Many superzooms capture quick bursts of images; the Samsung WB2200F ($594.95 at Amazon UK) is with the capacity of capturing photographs at 6.9fps, nonetheless it pauses after 7 shots.
I used Imatest to check on the sharpness of the FZ70’s lens. At its widest angle it exceeds the 1,800 lines per picture height we use to call a photography sharp, but only by 7 lines. Imatest checks an SFRPlus test chart and computes a center-weighted score that provides more importance to the guts third of the frame. The FZ70 scores well in this area, however the middle third (1,591 lines) and outer third (1,429 lines) certainly are a little soft. The lens gets better as you zoom in a bit; at the 70mm equivalent it scores 1,882 lines, with even performance over the frame. Nonetheless it does suffer at longer focal lengths; at 110mm it shows 1,759 lines and at 200mm it scores 1,732 lines. Images certainly are a little soft if viewed at full resolution, but look fine at the sizes that are generally shared online. They’re actually clearer when compared to a competing model that scores higher on a single test, the Olympus SP-100 (2,604 lines), which processes its images in a manner that washes away texture and detail.
Imatest also checks photographs for noise, that may sap detail and introduce unnecessary grain at higher ISO sensitivities. When shooting JPGs the FZ70 keeps noise under 1.5 percent through ISO 400, and shows just 1.6 percent at ISO 800. I took a close look at images on a calibrated NEC MultiSync PA271W and was pleased to see that image detail was strong, even at ISO 800. At ISO 1600 things get yourself a little muddy, nevertheless, you can still find out the average person lines in the foreign bank note that’s part of our ISO test scene, but those lines have run together at the very top ISO 3200 sensitivity. The Canon SX60 also controls noise through ISO 400, but its JPG output lags just behind the FZ70 regarding detail, but you need to look closely at side-by-side comparisons to start to see the difference.
The FZ70 also captures image in Raw format. I viewed its output using default develop settings in the most recent version of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. There is no in-camera noise reduction put on Raw photos, so they capture somewhat more detail. Unless you mind some grain, the FZ70 is useable through its top ISO 3200 setting. I’ve included pixel-level crops from our ISO test scene in the slideshow that goes together with the review in order to check the JPG and Raw detail for yourself.
The FZ70 records video in AVCHD or MP4 format at 1080i60, 1080p30, or 720p60 quality. Despite not supporting 1080p capture, the footage is crisp, but there is some proof rolling shutter when panning quickly. The lens can zoom and the camera can refocus while recording footage, however the sound of the lens relocating and out is audible on the audio tracks track. When zoomed completely in, handheld footage is surprisingly smooth, but a wobbly effect due to the image stabilization system provides footage a wobbly look. Static subjects seem to be to shake simply a bit, however the dramatic handshake you’d expect from a lens that zooms to at least one 1,200mm is absent. The sound of the stabilization system working can be audible on the soundtrack, and the FZ70 does not have a microphone jack, so you need to live with the in-camera mic.
Other ports add a proprietary USB connection and mini HDMI. The FZ70 supports standard SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards. A dedicated wall charger is roofed, that is a plus for just about any camera apt to be used when travelling-if you put in a second battery, you may charge one and never have to stop shooting, which isn’t a choice with cameras that want you to charge the battery in-camera.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ70 has among the longest zoom lenses you will discover in a camera anywhere, and doesn’t skimp on the wide-angle coverage with 20mm equivalent when zoomed completely out. Despite images that certainly are a tiny bit soft, its high ISO image quality and autofocus speed are incredibly good, and slightly much better than our Editors’ Choice Canon PowerShot SX60 HS. However the FZ70 isn’t the full total package just like the SX60; the Panasonic lacks Wi-Fi, includes a low-res EVF and rear LCD, and skips from the framing assist function that is pretty useful when trying to keep an eye on a moving subject at maximum zoom. Unless you mind passing up on some features, the FZ70 is an extremely capable long zoom camera, especially at its price. If you cannot justify the $550 price tag that Canon has mounted on the SX60 HS, but want a camera with some more bells and whistles compared to the FZ70 offers, the Fujifilm FinePix S1 is a solid alternative because of speedy focus and a weather-sealed design, but that 50x shooter continues to be a little steep because of a $500 MSRP.