Panasonic ZS70 Review
|Full model name:||Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70|
|Sensor size:||1/2.3 inch
(6.2mm x 4.6mm)
|Viewfinder:||EVF / LCD|
|Native ISO:||80 - 3200|
|Extended ISO:||80 - 6400|
|Shutter:||1/16000 - 30 sec|
4.4 x 2.6 x 1.6 in.
(112 x 67 x 41 mm)
|Full specs:||Panasonic ZS70 specifications|
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Panasonic ZS70 (Black)
- Amazon for $397.99
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Panasonic ZS70 Review -- Now Shooting!
by Mike Tomkins
Preview posted 04/18/2017
In early 2016, Panasonic catered to compact travel-zoom fans with the Lumix ZS60. Now, the Panasonic ZS70 follows in the footsteps of that camera, debuting a subtly-restyled body and a number of new features predominantly aimed at making the new model more attractive to selfie shooters.
Sporting 20-megapixel resolution and an impressively powerful Leica DC Vario-Elmar branded 30x optical zoom lens, the Panasonic ZS70 is nevertheless compact enough to slip in a pants pocket or small purse. And it doesn't skimp on features, either, courting enthusiasts with everything from fully manual exposure and a built-in viewfinder and 4K video capture to a raw file format, focus peaking and zebra-striping functions.
Want the full overview of the Panasonic ZS70? You'll want to click here for our complete rundown of what's new and what's not. Just want to know how it shoots in the real world? Read on for our first field test below!
Panasonic ZS70 Field Test Part II
Focus stacking, night shooting and videos: My real-world test comes to a close
By Mike Tomkins | Posted: 10/17/2017
Recently, I commenced my real-world review of the Panasonic ZS70 with a visit to the nearby Great Smoky Mountains for some daytime shooting. Now, it's time for a followup, and in my second field test of the ZS70, I headed downtown in my home town of Knoxville, Tennessee for an evening shoot, including both high-sensitivity and long-exposure shooting.
In my first field test, I noted the Panasonic ZS70's profusion of controls, most of which I liked, although I still find the zoom control a bit touchy, something I previously noted. And I praised both its reasonable daylight shooting performance and its impressively far-reaching 24-720mm equivalent zoom range, too.
This lens can be very fun and freeing to shoot thru, even if the photos you capture with it will have something more akin to smartphone image quality, rather than that possible even with quite affordable standalone cameras, thanks to the ZS70's tiny image sensor (relatively speaking, compared to interchangeable-lens cameras and enthusiasts compacts / long-zooms).
Unfortunately, in that first field test I also reminded myself that with a minute 1/2.3-inch image sensor and a high 20-megapixel resolution, noise (and the adverse effects of noise reduction) can prove to be noticeable even at base sensitivity, let alone once you crank the ISO up. With a native sensitivity range of just ISO 80-3200 equivalents, I wasn't expecting a lot from the Panasonic ZS70's night shooting chops, and nor would I have done with any other camera at this sensor size, even in an era of backside-illuminated sensors.
With that being the case, and not wanting to seem like a Debbie Downer, I decided to save a more fun feature for the second test, as well. I'll also be taking a look at the Panasonic ZS70's focus stacking functionality, which can combine multiple shots in-camera for a single output image with much greater depth of field. And I'll also be testing how the ZS70 performs in the video department, as well.
Trying out the Panasonic ZS70's Focus Stacking function
But first, let's come back to the focus stacking, because that's something a little fun and unusual, especially in a small-sensor compact camera like the Panasonic ZS70. It's inclusion once again reinforces the fact that, small sensor or not, Panasonic sees this camera as targeting enthusiasts. The typical consumer would never in a million years look for a feature like this, nor would they likely be able to make head or tail of an interface that, initially at least, feels a bit opaque.
Focus stacking is a new addition since the earlier Panasonic ZS60, and it can take a little finding when first you lay hands on the ZS70. To use it, you must first enable Post Focus mode, which by default is activated using the Function 2 button. Then you press the shutter button to capture a brief 4K video clip while the camera racks focus across the scene, typically capturing somewhere in the region of 50-100 frames per clip as it does so, in my experience.
After capturing a clip, assuming auto review is active, you're immediately given the opportunity to select which individual area of the image should be in focus. Tap on it, and if the camera was able to determine a focus lock for that specific area, you'll see the image refocus. (In actual fact, what's happening is that the video frame which is best-focused in this area is being shown.) And now, you can finally access the Focus Stacking function.
To do so, you must now press the Function 1 button and select either Auto or Range-based merging from a menu overlaid on your scene. Auto Merging does just what it says on the can, attempting to determine the extent of your subject and then selecting and merging together the relevant frames to render it in focus. It won't simply generate an image with the full range of focus available, something which you can manually do in the Range Merging mode instead, if you wish.
In Range Merging mode, when you tap on the screen your selected focus area will turn green if a focus lock was achieved, or be shown with a red border if no focus lock could be achieved for that specific area. If there was a successful lock, any other focus areas which indicated a lock on the same video frame will be colored green, while any which failed to achieve a lock at all will be shaded white at the same time as the area you selected is indicated in green. And you can continue to tap on other focus areas to select further portions of your subject (or your first area, if prior attempts didn't yet detect a focus lock).
You can enable focus peaking in one of two colors (light or dark blue) or disable it altogether by pressing the Function 2 button. Pressing the Display button or its on-screen soft button counterpart will reset your selection if you accidentally tapped on the wrong areas and want to start over, and tapping on an already-green area will deselect it. And if you drag your finger across the screen, you can quickly select or deselect multiple points in one go. Once you've chosen the extent of your subject, you press the Menu / Set button or its on-screen soft button equivalent, and then answer a Yes or No prompt as to whether you wish to merge your chosen frames into a single still image.
The actual merging process varies depending upon your subject and how many focus areas you selected, but was typically no longer than 30 seconds or so, and sometimes significantly less. One extremely important thing to know about the ZS70's focus stacking function it is that it only works on static scenes shot from a tripod, as there's no image alignment performed during the process.
Even the tiniest bit of camera or subject motion is enough to prevent the function from working correctly, sometimes yielding some really weird-looking effects in foliage in particular. (In one test shot, my tripod wasn't quite steady enough, and shifted just microscopically during the exposure. The result was something akin to an acid trip in photographic form, or at least what I'd imagine one to look like.)
Another very important thing to note is that the function comes with a strong focal length crop. (It's actually just a touch stronger than the already rather limiting crop that's applied to 4K video recorded with the Panasonic ZS70. In real-world usage with a variety of macro and more distant subjects, I found the function only to be of moderate utility. And not only for the fact that induces such an extreme crop.
There are three other main issues I have with the function.:Firstly, the small sensor size means that depth of field is, much like that of your smartphone, already quite generous. If anything, you're more likely to struggle to achieve sufficiently narrow depth of field to blur your backgrounds how you'd like, rather than being concerned about having insufficient depth of field for a given shot.
And even for macro photography, where the function might seem more useful, stopping down to f/8 already gave the Panasonic ZS70's images almost as much depth of field as the focus stacked equivalents, but without the need for a significant reduction in resolution to 8.3 megapixels along with the strong focal length crop.
And finally, while in terms of noise levels, the Panasonic ZS70's 4K Focus Stacking function did do better than what I could manage using Photoshop and the frames from the 4K video file which is captured whenever using Post Focus mode, the actual quality of the merging wasn't great even for 100% static scenes. I frequently noticed strange artifacts along boundaries between near and far subjects, and these were sometimes bad enough that I didn't even need to zoom in on images to notice them. Simply using Photoshop's auto-align and auto-merge functionality generally produced a much better result overall. (And I'm sure with a little of work, Photoshop could've managed to clean up the image noise, as well.)
To make a long story short, I ended up with the feeling that while it's potentially useful if you really need to stack focus between a very nearby subject and a very distant one in a completely static scene, you're probably better off just shooting a few tripod-mounted frames at the camera's full resolution and then stacking them in Photoshop manually. And frankly, you'll probably find it a rare need in the first place, given the already-generous depth of field.
So what of that nighttime shoot? Well, I have to be honest, shooting with the Panasonic ZS70 in low light was not the fairly fun experience it could be in the daytime. For one thing, the Auto ISO function simply refused to roam beyond ISO 1600-equivalent. And when I manually dialled in ISO 3200 and 6400-equivalents, I saw why, because image quality takes a bit of a nose dive after that point, with minimal detail and lots of noise, as well as the after-effects of noise reduction.
Beneath that point, though, I thought image quality was in most respects pretty decent for the sensor size up to ISO 400-equivalent, and reasonable at ISO 800-equivalent. A good amount of detail was lost by ISO 1600, but even this sensitivity was fairly usable in terms of noise levels and their tradeoff against detail. And ISO 1600 was sufficient for shooting handheld around and a little after sunset, or if I stayed near reasonably strong city lighting while shooting at wide-angle. Really, my biggest image quality concern here or at lower sensitivities was that the Panasonic ZS70 consistently turned in muddy blacks when shooting at its default settings -- even right down at base sensitivity.
But if I zoomed in more than a little or strayed into more modest light, the Panasonic ZS70's image stabilization system simply couldn't handle the shutter speeds as low as 1/5th second that the camera was choosing in its attempt to avoid raising the sensitivity. Probably 50% or more of my shots in these conditions showed slight to significant blur from camera shake, when simply raising the sensitivity might still have yielded a usable shot, at least for very small print sizes.
Long story short, if image quality isn't your main concern, or you plan on not shooting much in low light, and mostly relying on flash for nearby subjects and long exposures for everything else when you do, then you will probably be OK with the Panasonic ZS70. But if you're wanting a good handheld, low-light shooter, you should look to something with a larger sensor -- perhaps Panasonic's own LX10 or LX100.
The Panasonic ZS70 shoots 4K videos, albeit with a catch
And what of video? Well, the Panasonic ZS70 is relatively rare among small-sensor compacts for the fact that it offers 4K video in-camera. But just as for the 4K Photo modes like Post Focus, this comes with a pretty extreme sensor crop, which limits its usefulness in the real world, at least for subjects where backing up and reframing isn't an option. If you can live with that limitation, though, 4K content is pretty decent for such a relatively compact camera with a powerful zoom lens.
It's certainly not going to rival footage from a larger-sensored camera, and noise is readily apparent even at base sensitivity just as for stills, but there's definitely more detail in the ZS70's ultra high-def clips than in the high-def ones. If you want to shoot something wider-angle, you'll want to opt for Full HD footage instead, and disable the image stabilizer function to shoot with almost the full sensor width. And if you do so, image quality will still be pretty reasonable for a small-sensor camera at base sensitivity.
There are also a couple of high-speed video modes on offer, which can be fun for short clips. They're both recorded silently, as is typical for slow-motion footage, and are captured either at HD resolution with a 120 frames-per-second capture rate, or at VGA resolution with a 240fps rate. That means a 4x slow-motion effect for HD footage, or an 8x slow-mo effect for VGA footage. Image quality for the latter is decidedly iffy, as you'd expect for such a low resolution, but the HD footage is actually pretty reasonable and really slows the action down considerably. Just remember to shoot on a tripod if you're zoomed in much, as camera shake can prove quite distracting. (And keep your clip lengths down, as slow-mo footage can go from interesting to tedious quite quickly if unedited.)
One weird issue which I noticed several times with the Panasonic ZS70 does bear a quick mention, though. If you plan on shooting much stabilized footage, you may want to get used to starting capture a little before the crucial moment. The reason for this is that several times, I noticed that the rotational motion induced by my pressing either the video or shutter buttons caused the image stabilization system to suddenly and somewhat drunkenly tilt the footage, as compared to the real world. This always corrected itself within a second or two, but could prove rather distracting if you were unable to edit it back out. (And the only way to edit it would be to zoom in and crop just a little.)
And so I come to the end of my second and final Panasonic ZS70 field test. (Apologies for the fact I'm missing night sample videos above; I've misplaced them and will shoot some more imminently with which to replace them.)
Speaking personally, would I buy this camera? If I'm honest, probably not, but that's because I'm not the target customer for a camera like this. I've grown too dependent on larger sensors for their image quality, and I would personally favor less zoom reach for a larger sensor in a pocket-friendly design.
But if your priorities are different from mine, and you prefer being able to bring your subject up close even if that means a tradeoff in detail and noise levels, well... I have to say that by small-sensor camera standards, the Panasonic ZS70 offers a wealth of features, reasonable ergonomics and acceptable image quality in a fairly compact package.
Panasonic ZS70 Review -- Overview
by Mike Tomkins
Preview posted: 04/18/2017
Much like the ZS60 before it, the Lumix ZS70 sports a far-reaching 30x optical zoom lens in a pocket-friendly body, weighing just over 11 ounces (322 grams), ready to shoot with battery and memory card.
At the heart of the Panasonic ZS70 sits a new 20.3-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch High Sensitivity MOS sensor and the company's Venus Engine image processor. Although its resolution has been increased just fractionally from the 18-megapixel sensor of the ZS60, that change is unlikely to be noticeable in the real world, and doubtless has more to do with taking the ZS70 across the psychologically-important 20-megapixel threshold, satisfying fans of bigger-means-better megapixel ratings.
On paper, linear resolution has risen by just a touch less than 6% over the earlier model, for final image dimensions of 5,184 x 3,888 pixels, up from 4,896 x 3,672 pixels in the earlier camera. And the slight increase in resolution will likely bring with it an equally slight reduction in performance and increase in noise levels. That's borne out by a reduction in the longest shutter speed in Artistic Nightscape mode from 60 seconds in the previous model to just 30 seconds in the ZS70, as well as the removal of the earlier ZS60's ultra-swift 40 fps super-high speed capture mode when shooting with electronic shutter.
But the new sensor isn't the big story here. Instead, it's the addition of a new articulation mechanism that allows the Panasonic ZS70's 3.0-inch, 1,040k-dot display to be flipped upwards by some 180 degrees, allowing for selfie shooting from in front of the lens while being able to preview your framing and pose. This change brings with it a little added heft, with height and depth both increasing by around 0.1 inch (~3mm), and weight by some 1.4 ounces (40g).
And simply flipping up the newly-articulated display, whose underlying panel is unchanged from that of the ZS60, will automatically put the Panasonic ZS70 into Self Shot mode to help you get the best possible results. Various functions are available for selfie capture, including a 4K Selfie mode, as well as in-camera beauty retouching with 10-step control over skin softness and slimming functions.
Nor is that all on the creative front. There are also new face and buddy-shutter functions in the ZS70, as well as two more custom white balance modes. And the addition of a new focus stacking function will make it easier to get the results you're looking for from macro shots, as well. Panasonic has also removed standard-def VGA movie capture from the spec sheet, or at least limited its availability solely to high-speed recording. And that, save for a 19% increase in battery life when using the LCD but an 11% decrease in battery life when using the viewfinder, is about it for the changes as far as we can see.
In other respects, the Panasonic ZS70 looks to be a whole lot like its predecessor. For a small-sensor, pocket-friendly compact it's still reasonably swift, yielding a manufacturer-rated full-resolution burst speed of five frames per second with autofocus between frames, or as much as 10 fps without. On its front deck, the ZS70 boasts a far-reaching Leica DC Vario-Elmar-branded 30x optical zoom lens which provides everything from a generous 24mm-equivalent wide angle to a very powerful 720mm-equivalent telephoto. Maximum aperture falls from f/3.3 at wide angle to f/6.4 at telephoto. As in earlier models from the series, it has a 12 element, nine-group optical formula.
Also retained from the earlier ZS-series models is the Panasonic ZS70's five-axis image stabilization system, which helps to reduce the impact of blur from camera shake -- something that will be pretty important towards the telephoto end of the lens' range. And like the ZS60 before it, the Lumix ZS70 also sports a 49-point Light Speed AF system which relies on Panasonic's clever Depth from Defocus technology to speed focus acquisition. Also provided are both face and eye-tracking functions.
On the rear panel of the Panasonic ZS70, you'll still find an electronic viewfinder based around a 0.2", 389k-dot dot LCD panel with a field-sequential design. What this means is that every pixel switches between red, green and blue colors alternately at high speed, providing full color information at every pixel location and thereby increasing the perceived resolution to a 1,166k-dot equivalent, according to Panasonic. If you prefer to frame at arm's length, the now-articulated LCD monitor is still a three-inch, 3:2-aspect type with a resolution of 1,040k-dots.
As with its predecessors, the Panasonic ZS70 boasts integrated 2.4GHz Wi-Fi connectivity with which to get photos onto your Android or iOS smartphone or tablet. And it also boasts 4K video capture at a rate of 30 frames per second in MP4 format, as well as Full HD video at 60 fps.
The Panasonic ZS70 shipped from late May 2017 in black or silver for a list price of about US$450.
Panasonic ZS70 Field Test Part I
All the zoom your pocket will fit, now selfie-friendly too!
Panasonic has plenty of experience in the pocket-friendly, long-zoom market
Panasonic knows more than a little about the latter, as the company has been offering pocket-friendly long-zoom cameras for more than a decade now, ever since the launch of the Lumix TZ1 all the way back in early 2006. Along the way, the company redubbed the TZ-series as the Lumix ZS-series in the US market, although closely-related models still remain available in overseas markets under the earlier Lumix TZ badge.
Buy the Panasonic ZS70
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Panasonic ZS70 (Black)
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