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Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 review -

The Panasonic Lumix FZ72, or FZ70 as it’s known in North America, is a super-zoom camera with a 16.1 Megapixel compact sensor and a whopping 60x stabilised optical zoom. That’s the longest zoom range currently available on a compact camera, so in a single bound Panasonic has leapt over the competition including Canon’s best-selling PowerShot SX50 HS and Sony’s Cyber-shot HX300, both of which sport lenses with a ‘mere’ 50x optical zoom.

Announced in July 2013, the new model fits into the FZ product line-up between the flagship FZ200 and the FZ60 / FZ62 with a zoom range more than double those models’ 24x range and significantly outreaching the other recent Lumix introduction, the budget 35x LZ30. The new mega-zoom will be received with joy and relief in equal measure from Panasonic followers, many of whom must have been wondering whether the company had given up the race for extended zooms on its FZ range. The new lens has range that starts at an ultra-wide 20mm equivalent, extending to 1200mm at the telephoto end and a maximum aperture of f2.8-5.9.

The big zoom is clearly the headline feature on the FZ70 / FZ72, but it has plenty of other features worth talking about. There’s a fixed 3in 460k dot LCD screen and a 0.2in electronic viewfinder, built-in flash and hot shoe, and twin stereo microphones with a built-in windshield to reduce wind noise. Continuous shooting is possible at 5fps with AF and 9fps with the focus and exposure fixed on the first frame and there’s a raft of video modes with both AVCHD and MP4 encoding offering both 1080i50 and 1080p25 modes among others. Impressively the FZ70 / FZ72 also allows you to record RAW files, a move no doubt to match the SX50 HS.

When Canon launched the PowerShot SX50 HS in September 2012 it was the World’s first camera with a 50x optical zoom. Since then several other manufacturers have followed suit and the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 is not short of similarly-priced competition. As well as the year-old PowerShot SX50 HS, I’ve tested the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 alongside Nikon’s latest super-zoom, the 42x P520. All three of these models are closely matched in terms of price and offer long zoom ranges, but beyond that there are numerous differences in handling, features and specifications that could make the difference between a camera that’s merely adequate and one you love shooting with. Read my full review to discover which of the three is the best all-round super-zoom for you.

Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 design and controls

With a 60x zoom, the expectation is that the Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 is going to be the biggest and heaviest FZ model to date and while I’d love to able to say that Panasonic has pulled off a minor miracle and squeezed the massive zoom into a more compact frame, that isn’t the case. Measuring 130 x 97 x 118mm the FZ70 / FZ72 is an altogether chunkier handful than the Flagship Lumix FZ200 which measures 125 x 87 x 110mm. As you can see from the dimensions, the FZ70 / FZ72 is bigger all round, but it’s not like you can slip any of these models into your pocket and I doubt that too many people will be bothered by the additional bulk. There’s a similar difference between the FZ70 / FZ72 and the Powershot SX50 HS and Nikon P520 with respective dimensions of 123 x 92 x 108mm and 125 x 84 x 102mm. Take a close look at those dimensions though and you’ll see that another picture emerges. Where the FZ70 / FZ72 is bulky in its class, the Nikon COOLPIX P520 is tiny. So if the FZ70 / FZ72’s size is a turn off, the COOLPIX P520 will look like a very attractive alternative.

The FZ70 / FZ72 weighs 606g with the battery and an SD card fitted, which compares with 595g for the PowerShot SX50 HS and 550g for the COOLPIX P520. The Lumix FZ200, incidentally, weighs 588g. So while it’s noticeably bigger, it doesn’t weigh significantly more than the competition. To put it in context, the 56g difference between the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 and Nikon COOLPIX P520 is about the weight of a golf ball.

The design is an evolution of the FZ body style with the same DSLR shape albeit slightly inflated, resulting in a larger, more comfortable grip with more space for controls on the top panel. The hump incorporating the built-in flash is bigger than on earlier models and is surmounted by a plastic grille that covers the wind shielded stereo mics, all located forward of the hot shoe. The only feature on the upper panel to the left of the hot shoe is a small flower-shaped array of holes for the mono speaker.

The main controls are all located on the right side of the top panel. The mode dial has the familiar array of PASM modes, in addition to a dedicated movie mode position, one custom position, panorama, Scene, Creative and intelligent Auto positions. As on other FZ models the on/off switch is located below the mode dial. Though it’s moving to buttons on compact super-zoom models like the TZ35 / ZS25, Panasonic is sticking with its long-favoured switch for the FZ70 / FZ72, which means you can’t turn the camera on to review photos by pressing and holding the playback button alone.

At the front of the grip is a nice big silver shutter release with a zoom collar surround. This is the only means of powering the zoom, the FZ70 / FZ72 lacks a secondary button on the lens barrel, as on the Nikon COOLPIX P520, which can be an advantage when trying to hold the camera steady at very long zoom magnifications. Moving back to the top of the grip, Panasonic has resisted the temptation to fill the new expanse of space with more buttons and in addition to the dedicated movie record button there’s a drive mode and focus button.

On the back panel a mechanical button to the left of the electronic viewfinder pops up the flash; this is the only control on the camera operated with your left hand (aside from the dioptre adjustment for the viewfinder itself), which Panasonic clearly believes has only one job to do – that of supporting the lens.

On the right side of the viewfinder, to the right of a button for toggling the screen and EVF and a programmable AF/AE lock button is the main command dial used for exposure control. In the area between the fixed screen and the elongated thumb pad are four buttons and a four-way controller; the topmost button toggles between AF, Macro AF and Manual focus modes, below that is the playback button then at the bottom are buttons for toggling the display overlays and the Q (uick) menu button which does double duty as a delete button.

The four-way controller functions are ISO, White balance, and Self-timer with the nine o’clock position allocated to a programmable Fn2 button (Fn1 is the AF/macro/MF button mentioned above). While it might seem unconventional, as opposed to having a second Fn2 button with the focus modes on the four-way controller, this is the same setup as on the FZ60 / FZ62.

Beneath a flap on the right side of the body you’l find a mini HDMI port for connecting to an HDTV and a combined USB / AV port for downloading photos and video and connecting to a standard definition TV via a composite video connector.

The combined battery and card compartment is located in the grip and accessed by a door in the bottom of the camera. It’s compatible with SD, SDXC and SDHC cards and the FZ70 / FZ72 also provides a generous 200MB of built-in memory, enough for around 30 best quality images or over five minutes of VGA video.

The FZ70 / FZ72 takes the same DMW-BMB9E battery as used in the FZ60 / FZ62 and the FZ47 / FZ48 before it, so if you’re thinking of upgrading to the longer zoom model from one of those you can use any spares you have. The BMB9E, physically quite a large battery, is rated at 895mAh and provides enough energy to power the FZ70 / FZ72 for 400 shots under CIPA conditions. That’s very generous and you’ll find yourself still shooting long after users of the Canon PowerShot SX500 HS, with a 315 shot limit, have had to replace their battery. With double the capacity of the Nikon COOLPIX P520’s 200 shot limit, the FZ70 / FZ72 looks even more impressive, but to be fair to the P520 its built-in GPS will be partly responsible for its relatively poor battery performance.

Remaining battery life on the FZ70 / FZ72 is indicated by a crude, but effective three-segment graphic in the top right of the screen or viewfinder which turns red when battery power is running low.

The FZ70 / FZ72 has a built-in flash which is activated by pressing a button on the top right of the rear panel. This operates a mechanical linkage which pops up the flash head. Physically, the flash assembly is much larger than on either the PowerShot SX50 HS or the COOLPIX P520. It’s hinged quite far back on either side of the hot shoe and consequently raises well above the lens, reducing the potential for red-eye and shadows on closer subjects.

In the PASM exposure modes the flash can be fired automatically when the conditions require it, or forced on; there are also Auto/Red-eye and Slow Sync/Red-eye modes. The red-eye modes fire a pre-flash to narrow the subject’s pupils and there’s also software correction available from the Rec menu.

The maximum distance quoted for the flash at the wide angle lens setting and with the ISO sensitivity set to Auto is 13.5 metres. That’s a pretty impressive performance, generally the built-in flash units on bridge cameras aren’t that powerful and are only intended for use with reasonably close subjects or for fill-in. The Nikon COOLPIX P520 and Canon PowerShot SX50 HS, with maximum flash distances of 8 metres and 5.5 metres respectively are more typical, but as the figures for these models are also quoted using the Auto ISO sensitivity setting its difficult to make meaningful comparisons. Assuming the figure is given for the maximum default Auto ISO value, which for all three models is 1600 ISO, it’s fair to assume that the FZ70 / FZ72’s flash does in fact deliver around twice as much power as the other two models.

If you want a more powerful flash the FZ70 / FZ72 now provides the option to fit an external unit to its hot shoe. There are three Panasonic models available, the FL220, FL360 and FL500 with Guide Numbers of 22, 36 and 50 (Metres, 100 ISO) respectively. A nice upgrade over the FZ60 / FZ62.

Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 screen and EVF

The Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 is equipped with the same fixed 3 inch 460k dot TFT LCD screen as the FZ60 / FZ62, and that model’s predecessor, the Lumix FZ47 / FZ48. The 3in diagonal and 3:2 aspect ratio remains the same as before, so there’s thin black bars to the sides of 4:3 shaped photos or above and below 16:9 frames. It’s a fine screen and provides a bright contrasty view with brightness control as well as contrast/saturation and even colour balance controls available from the Setup menu.

The COOLPIX P520’s 3.2in 921k dot screen provides a crisper, more highly detailed view and Sony’s HX300 is also endowed with a 921k dot screen, but the PowerShot SX50 HS gets by with a 2.8 inch 460k dot screen and even Panasonic’s FZ200 flagship super-zoom is equipped with a 460k dot screen. While it’s nice to have a slightly more detailed screen, it’s by no means essential.

The lack of articulation is a different matter though. The PowerShot SX50 HS, Nikon COOLPIX P520, Sony Cyber-shot HX300 and Lumix FZ200 (though not the FZ60 / FZ62) all have something the FZ70 / FZ72 lacks and that’s a screen that can be folded out, up, down and forwards facing. While many may not even be aware of the respective resolutions flip-out screens are a feature people tend to feel strongly about, and most people are in favour of being able to angle the screen for easier viewing from low and high positions a well as keeping it out of the sun. Even if you’re not that bothered about being able to flip the screen, the side-hinged screens of the PowerShot SX50 HS and COOLPIX P520 can be turned inwards for protection when you’re not using them.

Of course the LCD screen isn’t the only, or possibly even the best way to compose shots on the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 which inherits the same 0.2 inch 201k pixel, 100 percent view EVF of the FZ60 / FZ62. That’ll come as a bit of a disappointment for those who were hoping for the higher resolution 1.3 million pixel EVF fitted in the FZ200, but that would of course have bumped up the price of the FZ70 / FZ72 as well as bringing it too close for Panasonic’s comfort to the physical specification of its flagship super-zoom, while at the same time out-zooming it with more than twice the range.

In terms of its specification, the FZ70 / FZ72’s EVF is in fact very similar to both the PowerShot SX50 HS and COOLPIX P520. In practice however, the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 and PowerShot SX50 HS viewfinders are pretty closely matched in terms of the size and brightness of their viewfinders, with the Nikon COOLPIX P520’s looking smaller and not quite so bright.

The FZ70 / FZ72’s EVF provides a reasonably detailed and stable image when neither the camera nor the subject are moving but, in common with the PowerShot SX50 HS and COOLPIX P520 things get a little jittery when panning or following moving subjects. One solution to this is to switch the Live view mode from its default 30fps refresh rate to the 60fps option. This results in a lower resolution display at double the refresh rate which produces a much more stable image, particularly when either the subject, the camera, or both are moving. Doubtless it will consume more power, but with a 400 shot CIPA rating you probably don’t need to worry too much and the improvement in the display quality (interestingly, the drop in resolution is barely noticeable) is well worth it.

Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 lens and stabilisation

The headline feature of the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 is of course its extraordinarily long zoom lens. With an optical magnification factor of 60x the zoom has a 35mm equivalent range of 20-1200mm. Obviously a lens of this power is going to get you very, very, close into even quite distant action, but the FZ70 / FZ72 also has an impressively wide 20mm equivalent ultra-wide angle that surpasses anything available from the competition.

60x is the biggest range you’ll find on any super-zoom currently available, but the FZ70 / FZ72 isn’t the only super-zoom with a 1200mm telephoto, the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS can match it, so if it’s a long telephoto you’re looking for, the FZ70 / FZ72 isn’t your only option, there’s also the Sony HX300 and Fujifilm’s FinePix SL1000. But what all these models lack is the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72’s 20mm ultra wide-angle; the telephoto range is impressive, but the wide angle is just as exciting and not something you’ll find on other models.

3.58-215mm at 3.58mm (20mm equiv)3.58-215mm at 215mm (1200mm equiv)

And if a 1200mm telephoto isn’t enough for you,the FZ70 / FZ72 is compatible with Panasonic’s 1.7x teleconverter lens accessory originally produced for the FZ100. With the DMW-L55E converter attached the FZ70 / FZ72’s maximum telephoto range is extended to a whopping 2,040mm. And, as with other FZ models there’s a range of digital zoom functions including I.zoom, Extended optical zoom and Digital zoom that can digitally extend the zoom. I.Zoom uses interpolation to double the zoom range, providing an effective maximum of 2400mm, at full 16 Megapixel resolution, the other digital zoom options provide reduced resolution results.

The FZ70 / FZ72 is equipped with Power O.I.S image stabilisation which moves the lens elements to compensate for camera shake and permit hand-held shots at slower shutter speeds. To test the stabilisation I zoomed the lens to its maximum 1200mm focal length and took a series of shots in shutter priority mode at progressively slower shutter speeds first with the stabilisation turned off, then with it turned on. As you can see from the crops below, the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 can shoot at shutter speeds as slow as 1/30 with the stabilisation enabled, a little over five stops slower than convention suggests is possible without it.

100% crop, 3.58-215mm at 215mm 100 ISO 1/30 O.I.S Off.100% crop, 3.58-215mm at 215mm 100 ISO 1/30 O.I.S on.

Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 shooting modes

The FZ70 / FZ72’s mode dial bears a close resemblance to the mode dial on the Panasonic’s flagship super-zoom the FZ200 and the same goes for its shooting modes. There are some differences, there’s only one custom position on the FZ70 / FZ72’s mode dial not two as on the FZ200, and the Panoramic shooting mode introduced on the FZ200 gets in own dedicated position on the FZ70 / FZ72’s mode dial. There are of course the usual PASM and intelligent Auto exposure modes a single Custom position marked C, SCN (with individual scene modes selected on screen), Creative Control effects and Movie mode.

Panasonic introduced Creative Control filter effects on the FZ47 / FZ48 and extended the range on the FZ150 with the addition of eight new options. The FZ70 / FZ72 adds a new one – Old Days, a variation on Retro, less warm and with a slight magenta cast, making fifteen in all. The full list is Expressive, Retro, Old Days, High Key, Low Key, Sepia, Dynamic Monochrome, Impressive Art, High Dynamic, Cross Process, Toy Effect, Miniature Effect, Soft Focus, Star Filter, and One Point Colour.

In some cases the titles of these effects are quite descriptive, others not so. Whether Impressive Art is impressive is really a matter of opinion, Dynamic Monochrome isn’t an HDR effect, but a high contrast monochrome filter. Cross process does look a little like the chemical process from which it takes its name and the star filter adds star bursts to specular light sources. High Dynamic claims to ‘produce the optimum brightness for light and dark parts’, but if you’re serious about dynamic range the HDR scene mode is a much better bet.

Creative Control filters can be applied at the time of shooting or subsequently in the camera from the retouch menu. The latter route at least means you get the option of also having an original unfiltered image – if you shoot using the effect there’s no going back (unless you shoot RAW+JPEG). Though one advantage of shooting with the effect that you don’t get if you apply it post is the option to further refine it by pressing the thumb wheel and adjusting sliders for exposure, depth of field and effect strength.

Most of the effects provide a degree of control over colour settings and focus and, as on the PowerShot SX50 HS, you can select the size and position of the focus zone in landscape and portrait orientations for the Miniature effect. Press the dedicated record button on the top of the FZ70 / FZ72 and you can start filming video with any of the effects applied live. The Miniature effect demands a degree of internal processing which reduces the recordable frame rate to around 3.5fps, but instead of showing jerky motion in real-time, these clips are simply played back around eight times faster than normal speed, which further enhances the effect.

Obviously this means you’ll need to record for around eight times longer than you want the clip to last during playback – so if you want a one minute of accelerated Miniature footage, you’ll need to film for about eight minutes. You can see a one minute clip in the examples example of this below, which took eight minutes to film. But if you’re a real fan of Miniature effect movies, the SX50 HS version is a little more versatile, with the choice of three playback speeds

The Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 retains the 3D Photo mode which takes a burst of images while you move the camera around 10cm sideways, before automatically selecting two photos from the group and using parallax information to generate a 3D image. It’s a similar approach to that pioneered by Sony. Two files are subsequently recorded by the camera: a conventional two dimensional JPEG for normal viewing, and an MPO file which contains the depth information and typically measures around 2MB. When connected to an ‘MPO-compatible’ 3DTV over an HDMI connection, both files are interpreted into a single 3D image; through, unlike commercially produced 3D content, the images only contain depth which extends ‘behind’ the screen, rather than in front of it.

The Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 also includes the FZ200’s Handheld Night Shot and HDR modes; both of these stacking modes set the ISO sensitivity automatically. I’ve included an example of the HDR mode above. The ISO sensitivity and other exposure settings are automatic and I’ve compared the HDR mode shot here, which selected 1/100, f2.8 200 ISO with a shot taken momentarily later in Aperture priority mode shot with exactly the same exposure.The HDR mode is a big improvement on the single frame Aperture priority shot with greatly improved shadow detail as well as improved three-quarter tones and highlights. You can see a 100 percent crop from Handheld Night Shot mode on my Panasonic FZ70 / FZ72 noise results page.

FZ70 / FZ72 Panoramic shooting mode
3.58-215mm at 3.58mm Panoramic shooting mode original 4928 x 864 pixels

The FZ70 / FZ72 also includes the Panoramic Shooting mode introduced on the FZ200 and replacing the earlier Panorama Assist scene mode which provided an overlay to help you line up overlapping shots for stitching later on a PC. This is still the best Canon can do, and the lack of a Panorama mode on both the SX50 HS and COOLPIX P520 is a disappointment. In similar fashion to Sony’s Sweep panorama feature included on the HX300, the FZ70 / FZ72 takes a sequence of shots as you rotate the camera to capture a panoramic scene and then assembles them in-camera to a single image. You can hold the camera in portrait or landscape mode, you have to specify which in advance. Finished panoramas are a maximum of 8000 x 1080 pixels if shot in landscape orientation and 8000 x 1440 for portrait. Providing you keep on turning and keep the camera reasonably level the FZ70 / FZ72 will record a complete 360 view. If you’re a little uneven, or the subject makes it difficult to record overlapping images it will stop part way through and produce a panorama from what it has managed to capture – or you can press the shutter a second time to finish at a particular point. All in all it’s very simple to use and produces very good results, although as you can see in my example above, there’s an abrupt change of exposure when shooting into the Sun.

Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 movie modes

Given the similarity between the shooting modes on the FZ70 / FZ72 and the FZ200, you might expect the same goes for video modes, but that’s perhaps hoping for a little too much. As a video camera, the FZ70 / FZ72 actually has much more in common with the FZ60 / FZ62 shooting HD movies at 1080i resolution at 50 or 60 fps (from 25p or 30p sensor output) depending on region. There’s the option to encode movies as AVCHD files, in which case they’re saved in a ‘Private’ folder separately from the still image files, or alternatively using the MPEG-4 codec saved as a QuickTime .mov file along with the still images.

The AVCHD mode can record video in either Full HD 1080i or 720p, both at a rate of 17Mbit/s. The MP4 mode can record video in Full HD 1080p, 720p or standard definition VGA, at rates of 20, 10 and 4 MBit/s respectively. All three modes are encoded using progressive video at 25p or 30p depending on region, and all match the original sensor output of 25p or 30p respectively.

Using either of the AVCHD modes you’re looking at about 120 Mbytes per minute of footage, and as usual, European FZ72 versions are limited to clips no longer than 29 minutes and 59 seconds. Having not tested the FZ70 version I can’t say if Panasonic has implemented the same restriction or allowed it to record until the memory or battery runs out, but I’ll report back when I have more information. If you’re using the MP4 format, the clip length is limited to 29 minutes and 59 seconds (or a file size of 4GB) regardless of whether you’re using an FZ70 or FZ72. Finally, Panasonic recommends using an SD card rated at Class 4 or faster for recording movies.

Pressing the dedicated movie record button automatically sets the exposure for video recording, but switch the mode dial to the Creative Video position allows you to record movies in any of the PASM modes. What’s more, it’s possible to alter the aperture and shutter speed during recording, levels of control that are unusual in super-zooms at this price range. The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS offers only fully automatic exposure control or scene modes and the Nikon COOLPIX P520 is also restricted to fully automatic exposure.

It’s a little disappointing, though maybe not surprising, that the FZ70 / FZ72 lacks the new High Speed Motion video modes introduced on the FZ200 and this is one area where it lags behind the PowerShot SX50 HS and COOLPIX P520, both of which offer high speed, i.e. slow motion video recording.

Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 sample video 1: outdoors, sunny, handheld pan
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All of these clips were shot using the Lumix FZ 70 / FZ72’s 1080i50 AVCHD mode. The video quality is good and the stabilisation does a good job during the pan. The AF also copes well, particularly during that long journey from the ultra-wide angle end of the zoom range to the 1200mm telephoto. But at the maximum zoom the stabilisation produces a horizontal shimmering effect which is really unpleasant. You can reduce it by not moving the camera, but that sort of defeats the point. A better option might just be to limit your video zooms to shorter focal lengths where there’s less of a problem.
Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72sample video 2: outdoors, cloudy bright, tripod pan
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Stabilisation was turned off for this tripod-mounted shot. Aside from the severe flare at the beginning, the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 copes well with the into light section and the exposure on this clip. There’s a barely audible buzz from the zoom motor and, once again, the continuous AF does a great job, especially during the zoom. At 1200mm you have to be really careful about movement, even with the camera on a tripod. The jitter at the end of the zoom in is purely from my finger resting on the zoom control, things settle down when I remove it.
Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72sample video 3: indoors, low-light, handheld pan
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The Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 makes a good job of this interior low-light panning shot with a good quality low-noise result that maintains good exposure and AF control throughout. The colour looks a little desaturated, but the white balance is good and the stabilisation keeps things nice and steady.
Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72sample video 4: Continuous AF
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This coffee cup clip tests the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72’s continuous autofocus. With the camera zoomed in a little I’ve started shooting the close up of the coffee cup, then panned up to the bar and back again. To begin with the FZ70 / FZ72 performs well, though it’s a little slower with puling the focus back in on the first return to the cup. On the final pan back to the cup it fails to re-adjust the focus though.
Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72sample video 5: Miniature mode
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Finally, here’s an example of the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72’s Miniature mode in action with a 1 minute clip from 8 minutes worth of sunset played back at 8x actual speed.

Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72

handling

FZ models are swift starters and the FZ70 / FZ72 is no exception, it’s ready to take a shot in a little over a second after sliding the switch to the on position. Although the mode dial lacks the two custom positions of the FZ200 and FZ60 / FZ62, the FZ70 / FZ72 isn’t short on customisation options. The single C position on the mode dial offers the choice of three memorised custom setups via an on screen menu. So there’s only one fewer than on the FZ200, but you don’t have the convenience of being able to quickly switch between two custom settings using the mode dial.

As on the FZ60 / FZ62, there are two programmable function buttons – the AF/AE lock button and the right button on the four-way controller. With the former configured as Fn1 you have a choice from three pages of functions you can assign to it including Photo Style, Quality, Metering mode, display guides, flash modes and Auto Bracket. The same goes for the Fn2 button. Of course the first of those is only an option if you don’t mind living without an AF/AE lock button.

These customisation options reduce the need to access the menu navigation and when you do there’s the Q Menu, recently redesigned for the FZ series, which provides direct access to frequently used settings. Apart from looking slicker, with smaller high resolution icons, the layout has been revised with options for each menu selection running horizontally rather than vertically. The number of options on the Q Menu runs to one more than can be accommodated on the screen, which means you can’t see the final metering mode option until you scroll to it and it has a different layout from all the others. This inconsistency isn’t the end of the world but having to hunt for things on a quick menu sort of defeats the object and many people will to assume it’s not there and head for the main menu.

As I mentioned earlier, the button layout is very similar to the other FZ models, but the larger size of the FZ70 / FZ72 means there’s more space between them and that makes it easier to find things without having to take your eye from the viewfinder. Speaking of which the provision of a button to toggle between the screen and EVF makes life a lot easier than on the PowerShot SX50 HS, where you have to cycle through the display options, or the Nikon COOLPIX P520 which only activates the EVF when the screen is in the closed position.

The FZ70 / FZ72’s 1200mm maximum telephoto provides some challenges for those not used to shooting with long lenses. Keeping the lens steady at 1200mm is difficult, but not impossible so long as you have the stabilisation enabled.

Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 focus

The Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 has four focus modes, 1-Area, 23-Area, AF Tracking and Face Detection. Face detection can detect up to 15 faces and lock focus on one of them. Multiple AF uses 23 areas to determine the best focus and there’s a single area AF option with a resizeable central AF area that can be moved around the screen.

Manual focusing is selected by pressing the AF/AF Macro/MF button on the rear panel and then using the rear dial to adjust the focus referencing a scale on the screen which magnifies if MF Assist is turned on. One of the problems with this is that the rear dial has three functions and you must first select the one you want (in Program mode the choice is program shift, exposure compensation and manual focus) by pushing it inwards. Rather than showing the currently selected mode the screen displays the mode that will be selected if you push the dial, so (until you get used to it) you have go a full circle just to get your bearings.

I actually found manual focussing using the MF assist magnified screen and distance scale readout quite tricky. If your subject is static and well lit and the camera is mounted on a tripod it can work, but don’t expect to be able to use manual focus as a substitute for AF hand-held in poor light. In AF tracking mode pressing the AF/AE lock on the rear panel locks and tracks the object within the central target area. Like Face detection, AF tracking holds onto subjects well in good light, but in poor lighting conditions and when subjects move quickly, it can slip off the target.

Like the FZ60 / FZ62 and FZ200, the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 supports face recognition. Up to six faces can be stored along with name, D.O.B. and a custom AF icon. Focus and exposure are prioritised on recognised faces which can be registered manually, or you can set things up so that the camera automatically registers frequently shot faces. It’s a feature that’s popular on Panasonic’s compact range and undeniably great fun to see the names of people appear below their faces when they’re recognised.

Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 Continuous shooting

The Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 ‘s continuous shooting features are accessed by pressing the Burst mode button just behind the shutter release. There are three full resolution burst speeds available – 2fps, 5 fps and 9fps – all use the mechanical shutter and all but the fastest offer a continuous AF option. There’s also a 10fps option at reduced 3 Megapixel resolution. Why would you pay the price of drastically reduced resolution to gain just a single extra frame per second? Well, because the burst limit for the full resolution 9fps mode is a mere three frames, which really only just qualifies it as a burst when you think about it.

Below I’ve included an example of the FZ70 / FZ72 operating at the best full resolution 9fps burst mode, as you can see, while the action is captured at a fast rate, the three-frame burst is so short as to be hardly worthy of the title ‘sequence’.

To test the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72’s continuous shooting I fitted it with a freshly formatted 8G Sandisk Extreme UHS-1 card and set it to the best quality 16 Megapixel resolution and the fastest 9fps burst. The FZ70 / FZ72 fired off a burst of three frames at exactly 10fps. While no one would argue that 10fps is a very respectable continuous shooting speed to have at your disposal, the brevity of the burst severely limits its usefulness, allowing you to capture an action sequence lasting around a fifth of a second.

And if you’re hoping for better performance at the slower continuous shootings speeds you’ll be disappointed. With the 5fps single AF mode selected the performance was similar – a three-frame burst in half a second, this time followed by a short pause and more frames at a significantly reduced rate of around 1fps.

This performance is more or less in line with the FZ60 / FZ62 (though the fastest full resolution speed is quoted at 10fps, not 9fps) and just as disappointing. The one consolation is that the 3 Megapixel reduced resolution Hi-speed burst mode delivers the promised 10fps for a 100-frame burst.

The PowerShot SX50 HS can fire a burst of 10 frames at a quoted rate of 10fps, but was closer to 14fps in my tests. That’s seven frames more than you’ll get from the FZ70 / FZ72, it’s still less than a full second of action, but a least you get a sequence worthy of the name.

The Nikon COOLPIX P520’s Continuous H mode shoots a burst of 7 frames at 7fps, providing a sequence covering a second’s worth of action. It has some other innovative and versatile options though, including a reduced resolution 3 Megapixel pre-shooting cache that starts recording at 15fps when you half-press the shutter. There are also reduced resolution 60 and 120fps options. The truth is, that while none of these models offer the kind of continuous shooting performance that you’d get with a mid-range DSLR, the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72’s is the least impressive of the three.

Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72

Sensor

The Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 has a newly designed 16.1 Megapixel MOS sensor that produces images with a maximum size of 4608 x 3456 pixels. Images can be saved as JPEG files at one of two quality/compression ratios; the best quality Fine setting produces images with a file size of approximately 5.5 to 7.5MB. Alternatively in a welcome upgrade over the FZ60 / FZ62 you can now record RAW files with or without a JPEG. The ISO range is 100-3200 with a High Sens scene mode that operates between 1600-6400 ISO and the shutter speed range is 4 – 1/2000.

To see how the quality of the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 measures-up in practice, take a look at my Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 quality and Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 noise results pages, browse my Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 images, or skip to the chase and head straight for my verdict.

Page 2

Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 vs Nikon COOLPIX P520 vs Canon PowerShot SX50 HS Quality JPEG

To compare real-life performance I shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72, the Nikon COOLPIX P520 and the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings.

The 20-1200mm lens on the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 was zoomed in to 24mm to match the field of view on the COOLPIX P520 and PowerShot SX50 HS at their 24mm maximum wide angle setting. Further down the page you can see results at approxiamtely 600mm and 1200mm (1000mm on the COOLPIX P520).

The image above was taken with the Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72. The camera was set to Aperture priority mode and f4 was selected as this produced the best result from the lens. With the sensitivity set to 100 ISO the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 metered an exposure of 1/640. The FZ70 / FZ72 was mounted on a tripod and image stabilisation was disabled. As usual for this test, the cameras were otherwise left on the default settings.

At its 24mm wide angle setting, the COOLPIX P520 has a maximum aperture of f3 and in Aperture priority mode increments in 1/3EV steps. It’s therefore not possible to set f4 so the closest alternative was selected and at f4.2 the COOLPIX P520 selected a shutter speed of 1/640 at 80 ISO. The Powershot SX50 HS metered 1/500 at f4 and 80 ISO.

Looking at the crops from the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72, overall the results are very good. There’s a little bit of noise texture in all the crops which is taking the edge of some of the finer detail but generally the level of detail is good and edges are sharp. In the first crop there’s enough detail to make out the door and windows in the chapel, but not in the stonework. In the second crop the lighthouse isn’t as distinct as it might be and the foreground detail is soft and a little noisy. The third crop from very close to the edge of the frame highlights the shortcomings of the 60x ultra-wide zoom with some evidence of colour fringing, distortion and softer detail. Back near the centre of the frame, though, the final crop shows a much better level of detail with clean lines defining the window frames and balcony dividers. Even on the final crop though, there’s a discernible level of noise which is preventing more detail from being displayed.

Compared with the crops from the Nikon COOLPIX P520 the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 crops show a slightly larger area with smaller details as the COOLPIX P520 has a higher resolution 18 Megapixel sensor. But the COOLPIX P520 crops don’t show any more detail than those from the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72, and in fact the first crop from the COOLPIX P520 looks a little softer, particularly the grassy area in the foreground.The second row of crops looks very similar, but at the edge of the frame the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72’s lens appears to have a slight advantage over the COOLPIX P520’s which looks a little more distorted and blurred. Remember, the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 is zoomed in from its maximum 20mm wide angle here, whereas both the COOLPIX P520 and PowerShot SX50 HS are right up against their wide angle limit. In the fourth crop taken from near the middle of the frame the tables are turned though, and the lens and sensor combination on the COOLPIX P520 produces a slightly sharper result with marninally more detail. It’s a small margin though and generally, there isn’t a great deal of difference between these two models at the wide angle end of the range.

The crops from the 12 Megapixel Canon PowerShot SX50 HS show a larger area with smaller detail than either the 16 Megapixel Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 or the 18 Megapixel COOLPIX P520. They’re also sharper and more detailed. In all of the PowerShot SX50 HS crops edges are more crisply defined and you can make out finer detail, in the chapel stonework of the first crop, The lighthouse and foreground roofs in the second, the less distorted sharper detail of the window, tile and brickwork at the frame edge and pretty much everywhere in the final crop. The SX50 HS’s sensor and lens outperform the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 at this focal length.

Further down the page, I’ve compared results at the mid-range focal length and the maximum telephoto, so read on to see how these three models compare when zoomed in. Alternatively, you can see how the RAW files from the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 compare with those from the PowerShot SX50 HS in my Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 RAW results, or see how these models compare at higher sensitivities in my Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 Noise results.

Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 vs Nikon COOLPIX P520 vs Canon PowerShot SX50 HS Quality at approx 600mm

For this next test I zoomed all three cameras in to an equivalent focal length of around 600mm. With the exposure mode in Aperture priority, each camera was set to the widest available aperture. As usual, the crops are taken from the areas marked by the red rectangles.

As before, the area and size of the detail in these crops varies because of the different sensor resolutions with the 18 Megapixel Nikon COOLPIX P520 showing the smallest area with the largest detail, followed by the 16 Megapixel Lumix FZ70 / FZ72, then the 12 Megapixel PowerShot SX50 HS.

Two things strike me about these mid-range crops taken at around the 600mm focal length. The first is that the crops from the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 look better and are more consistent than those taken from the wide angle image. The second crop, taken from close to the frame edge has none of the distortion and bluriness of the one from the 24mm crop and generally the level of detail and sharpness is good, though there’s still a noticeable texture in these crops.

The second thing is there’s less difference between the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 crops and those from the COOLPIX P520 and PowerShot SX50 HS. In the first crop, the FZ70 / FZ72 comes off worst, with both the other models producing a more detailed image, but there’s very little to chose between the three of them in the second and third crops (the PowerShot SX50 HS does slightly better in the second crop, but worse in the third). In the final crop all three would be evenly matched, but the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 is let down by a clumpiness that covers the crop but is most visible in the top half.

Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 vs Nikon COOLPIX P520 vs Canon PowerShot SX50 HS Quality at approx 1200mm

For this final test I zoomed all three cameras in to their maximum focal length – 1200m on the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 and PowerShot SX50 HS, 1000mm on the COOLPIX P520. Again, the exposure was left in Aperture priority mode and set to the widest available aperture – f5.9 on the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 and COOLPIX P520 and f6.5 on the SX50 HS. As usual, the crops are taken from the areas marked by the red rectangles.

These crops appear in order from left to right across the frame, so the first and last are from the frame edges with the middle two closer to the centre. Interestingly, the first crop from the FZ70 / FZ72 is markedly better than either the COOLPIX P 520 or the PowerShot SX50 HS. There are a couple of holes or screws in the metal rail that are more detailed and the edge of the rail and the white frame behind it are more cleanly defined.

The edges are cleaner in the second crop from the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 as well, but here the clumpiness is once again in evidence. The same goes for the third crop – sharper edges, but more clumpy grain from the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72. In the final crop the FZ70 / FZ72 doesn’t have the advantage it had in the first one and it’s actually quite difficult to see much of a space between these three crops in terms of quality.

It’s always interesting to see how the performance of a camera varies at different focal lengths and what these three sets of results show is that the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72’s lens performs better at the longer focal lengths than the wide angle ones. That’s good news if you plan on doing a lot of shooting in the mid to long 600-1200mm range and if you don’t, why would you be considering a camera with a 60x zoom lens? At the wide angle setting, the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 produces results of a similar quality to the COOLPIX P520, but both are outclassed by the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS.

Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 vs Nikon COOLPIX P520 vs Canon PowerShot SX50 HS Quality RAW

To compare real-life RAW performance I shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 and the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings. The Nikon COOLPIX P520 doesn’t have a RAW shooting mode.

The 20-1200mm lens on the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 was zoomed in to 24mm to match the field of view on the PowerShot SX50 HS at its 24mm maximum wide angle setting.

The image above was taken with the Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72. The camera was set to Aperture priority mode and f4 was selected as this produced the best result from the lens. With the sensitivity set to 100 ISO the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 metered an exposure of 1/640. The FZ70 / FZ72 was mounted on a tripod and image stabilisation was disabled. As usual for this test, the cameras were otherwise left on the default settings. At its 24mm wide angle setting the Powershot SX50 HS metered 1/500 at f4 and 80 ISO.

At the time of writing, support for the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 RAW file format was not available in Adobe Photoshop, so for this comparison I’ve processed the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 images in SilkyPix Developer Studio 5 for Panasonic. All the application settings were left on the default settings with the exception of noise and sharpening. Sharpening was set to Pure detail mode with Outline emphasis set to 100, Detail emphasis to 75 and False outline control to 40. All noise reduction and noise cancellation controls were set to zero. I processed the PowerShot SX50 HS files in Adobe Camera RAW using the following settings: Sharpening at 70 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile. These settings were chosen to reveal the differences in sensor quality and isolate them from in-camera processing. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts, while the zero noise reduction unveils what’s really going on behind the scenes.

The use of different RAW processing applications makes it impossible to make comparisons between these two sets of crops, but it is possible to draw some conclusions form the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 RAW files processed using Silkypix. The absence of noise reduction and noise cancellation has resulted in crops with quite a high degreee of noise and, while the high level of sharpening has resulted in sharper edges, the clumpiness is also exagerrated.

All the same, it ought to be possible to squeeze a slighly better result from the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72’s RAW files than the in-camera JPEG processing delivers and the RAW option is a welcome inclusion.

Now see how these models compare at higher sensitivities in my Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 Noise results.

Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72

Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 vs Nikon COOLPIX P520 vs Canon PowerShot SX50 HS Noise RAW

To compare RAW noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 and the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS within a few moments of each other using their RAW modes at each of their ISO sensitivity settings. The Nikon COOLPIX P520 doesn’t have a RAW shooting mode.

The 20-1200mm lens on the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 was zoomed in to 24mm to match the field of view on the PowerShot SX50 HS at its 24mm maximum wide angle setting.

The cameras were set to Aperture Priority exposure mode with the ISO sensitivity set manually.

The above shot was taken with the Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 in Aperture priority mode. The camera was mounted on a tripod and tonal enhancement features were left on their default settings. The Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 RAW file measured 19.9MB and, as usual, the crops are taken from the areas marked by the red rectangle. The aperture on the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 was set to f4 and at its base 100 ISO sensitivity setting it metered an exposure of 1/2s. The Powershot SX50 HS metered 0.8s at f4 and 80 ISO.

At the time of writing, support for the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 RAW file format was not available in Adobe Photoshop, so for this comparison I’ve processed the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 images in SilkyPix Developer Studio 5 for Panasonic. All the application settings were left on the default settings with the exception of noise and sharpening. Sharpening was set to Pure detail mode with Outline emphasis set to 100, Detail emphasis to 75 and False outline control to 40. All noise reduction and noise cancellation controls were set to zero. To reduce distracting colour balance differences between the crops I set the white balance in Silkypix to 4350K to match the PowerShot SX50 HS processing.

I processed the PowerShot SX50 HS files in Adobe Camera RAW using the following settings: Sharpening at 70 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile. These settings were chosen to reveal the differences in sensor quality and isolate them from in-camera processing. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts, while the zero noise reduction unveils what’s really going on behind the scenes.

While the use of two different applications to process the RAW files rules out a comparison between these two models it is possible to draw some conclusions from the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 RAW crops. With the absence of noise processing, even the base 100 crop from the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 looks quite noisy. The clumpiness is more evident than in the JPEGs and there’s a speckling of colour noise across the crop. The noise increases in a fairly linear manner with each 1EV step up the sensitivity scale, but starting at a relatively high level at the base ISO sensitivity means noise levels quickly become difficult to manage. Of course they’re not being managed here at all, and it’s only fair to point out that the Silkypix sharpening algorithm applied with higher than normal settings isn’t helping. That said, whatever RAW processing software you’re using it looks like managing noise levels from the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 is going to be a challenge.

Now head over to my Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.

Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 vs Nikon COOLPIX P520 vs Canon PowerShot SX50 HS Noise JPEG

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72, the Nikon COOLPIX P520 and the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS within a few moments of each other using their best quality JPEG settings at each of their ISO sensitivity settings. RAW results will follow on the next page.

The 20-1200mm lens on the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 was zoomed in to 24mm to match the field of view on the COOLPIX P520 and PowerShot SX50 HS at their 24mm maximum wide angle setting.

The cameras were set to Aperture Priority exposure mode with the ISO sensitivity set manually.

The above shot was taken with the Panasonic Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 in Aperture priority mode. The camera was mounted on a tripod and tonal enhancement features were left on their default settings. The Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 JPEG file measured 6.2MB and, as usual, the crops are taken from the areas marked by the red rectangle.

The aperture on the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 was set to f4 and at its base 100 ISO sensitivity setting it metered an exposure of 1/2s. At its 24mm wide angle setting, the COOLPIX P520 has a maximum aperture of f3 and in Aperture priority mode increments in 1/3EV steps. It’s therefore not possible to set f4 so the closest alternative was selected and at f4.2 the COOLPIX P520 selected a shutter speed of 0.6 at 80 ISO. At f4 and 80 ISO, the Powershot SX50 HS metered 0.8s.

The base 100 ISO crop from the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 is not noise-free.The flat colour of the wall has a quite visible graininess and its also present in the text panel where it’s rendering the text a little fuzzy. That said, you’d need to be pixel-peeping these crops at 100 percent view to notice it.

At 200 ISO there’s a little more noise, but the processing has ramped up to deal with it, resulting in a slight softening of detail. The text, which was barely readable in the 100 ISO crop has suffered a little bit as a consequence. Then at 400 ISO, as you’d expect, there’s another increase in noise accompanied by more processing softening the details yet again. Now the edges of the memorial panel are beginning to crumble a little too. Overall though, there’s a good balance between noise and processing and, at anything other than 100 percent viewing, 400 ISO produces perfectly acceptable results.

At 800 ISO though, we’re into different territory with the combined effects of noise and processing producing a very impressionistic result. 800 ISO images look fine at smaller sizes, but at anything approaching full size the lack of detail is noticeable. And although the 1600 and 3200 ISO images have graduated from the impressionistic to a coarse tapestry look, the FZ70 / FZ72 maintains good white balance and saturation at these high ISO sensitivites making them fine for use at smaller sizes.

The Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 has a base sensitivity of 100 ISO compared with 80 ISO on the COOLPIX P520 and PowerShot SX50 HS. For best quality results and given enough available light, the base ISO sensitivity is what you’d ordinarily be shooting at (it’s what’s used for my outdoor quality tests). If you compare the 80 and 100 ISO crops for the COOLPIX P520 you’ll see that there is a real difference with the 80 ISO crop showing less noise. The same goes for the PowerShot SX50 HS and I mention this just to point out that, for comparison purposes you should compare the base 100 ISO crop from the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 with the 80 ISO crops from the other two models.

So how does the base 100 ISO crop from the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 compare with the 80 ISO crop from the COOLPIX P520? It looks to me like the COOLPIX P520 has lover levels of noise at 80 ISO. That, plus the larger detail produces a better result than the 100 ISO crop from the FZ70 / FZ72. At 100 ISO the noise levels are similar and in fact there’s not much to choose between these two all the way up the sensitivity range. The COOLPIX P520 has the advantage of a 6400 ISO and even a mono 12800 ISO setting which is useful for very low light shooting, just don’t expect too much in terms of detail.

Compared with the PowerShot SX50 HS there’s likewise less noise in the SX50’s 80 ISO crop, but the 100 ISO crop too looks cleaner. In fact in the 100 to 400 ISO range the PowerShot SX50 HS produces visibly less noisy images with clearer detail. Beyond that it maintains an advantage, but like the FZ70 / FZ72 the noise makes these settings unsuitable for full-sized reproduction.

I should also mention that the Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 has a Hand Held Night Shot mode which takes a fast burst of images at auto ISO and conbines them to produce a low noise resut. I’ve shown an example of this, shot at 400 ISO at the end of the table. While it can’t be compared with the 1600 ISO result from the PowerShot SX50 HS’s Handheld NightSene mode, it does produce a less noisy image than the single-shot 400 ISO setting.

To find out how much of a role processing plays in keeping noise at bay in these crops take a look at my Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 RAW noise results page to see just how much noise is present behind the scenes. Or head over to my Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.

Handheld Night Shot 400 ISOHandheld NightScene 1600 ISO

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 Review

Features Handling Performance Verdict Specification

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 was announced in July 2013 and is a bridge camera which has a 60x optical zoom lens. At the moment this is the most amount of zoom you'll find on a digital camera. If this isn't enough for you there is an optional tele conversion lens, shown below, which means the zoom can be extended further to 102x! The FZ72 is available now for approximately £330.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 has a 16.1 megapixel high-sensitivity MOS sensor and a 60x optical zoom lens, a 35mm equivalent of 20-1200mm. The zoom can be extended in two ways - there is Intelligent Zoom which extends to 120x equiv and a tele conversion lens which extends to 102x. To help keep images as sharp as possible there is Power OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation)

To make picture taking as easy as possible there is an Intelligent Auto (iAuto) mode which automatically adjusts the camera settings based on the detected scene. There are also many scene modes to choose from or for full control over your shooting there are full manual controls - you can also shoot in RAW. There is a HDR mode and you can also shoot panoramas. In continuous shooting the FZ72 can record at up to 9 fps. To help composition, particularly when shooting with lots of optical zoom, there is a 0.2 inch EVF (Electronic Viewfinder). Videos are recorded in full 1080p HD and includes a new Wind Shield Zoom microphone that helps prevent wind noise.

  • 16.1 megapixel MOS sensor
  • 60x optical zoom lens (35mm equiv: 20-1200mm)
  • Power Optical Image Stabiliser (OIS)
  • 3.0 inch 460k dot LCD screen
  • 0.20 inch (202k dots equiv.)
  • Full manual controls with RAW shooting
  • Full 1080p HD video recording
  • ISO 100-6400
  • 1cm minimum focusing distance
  • 9 fps continuous shooting
  • HDR mode
  • Panoramic mode
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 is like most bridge cameras - it has the look and feel of a DSLR camera. There is a chunky rubber hand grip and a large part of the camera is rubberised on the rear where your thumb sits. It has a plastic, yet solid feel and there is also a mode dial on the top. The FZ72 is not as big and heavy as you may expect it to be either! When using the camera with the teleconverter it becomes quite heavy on the front, so makes composing your shots a little harder, and a tripod is recommended. The FZ72 has a dedicated button for accessing continuous shooting, which sits on the top with the movie, record and focus buttons. The focus button lets you use the d-pad to choose the exact point which you wish to focus on. There is also an ample set of buttons on the rear of the camera. There are a couple of function buttons which can be changed to your own personal preference from a wide number of choices. There are also buttons to change the focus mode, ISO and white balance. The 3.0 inch screen has a decent 460k dot resolution. The screen is bright and colourful, but if you're struggling to see the screen you can used the 202k dot EVF. Although not a particularly high resolution, it is good enough to compose shots and makes darker scenes appear much brighter. To switch between the EVF and LCD screen there is a button to press. The FZ72 has a simple to use, easy to navigate menu system. To quickly change picture settings, such as image size, quality, exposure compensation etc. there is a q.menu button. Battery life is rated at fantastic 400 shots according to CIPA test results, plenty for a least a day or two of shooting. We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.
Shutter Response   0.1 secs
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response   0.2 secs
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response   0.6 secs
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo   1.2 secs
Shot to Shot without Flash   0.7 secs
Shot to Shot with Flash   3.2 secs
Continuous Shooting - 2 fps mode   1.8 fps
Continuous Shooting - 5 fps mode   5 fps
Continuous Shooting - 9 fps mode   8.8 fps
Continuous Shooting - H mode   9.5 fps
Continuous Shooting - flash burst   2 fps
When shooting with the flash, it is a little slow to recharge. Continuous H mode is restricted to 3 megapixels, but the other continuous shooting modes all record in full 16 megapixel resolution. The fps mode slows after 3 shots, flash burst slows after 5 shots and the 9 fps mode is limited to just 3 shots.

Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Sample Photos - The FZ72 produces superb pictures that are well exposed and have excellent colour reproduction. When shooting portraits, skin tones are decent and free of red-eye when using the flash.

Lens Performance - Detail is good at both ends of the lens, there is a little purple fringing but it is generally kept to a minimum. To get the sharpest pictures possible when using the lens at its longest you're well advised to use a tripod if possible. The lens has a minimum focusing distance of just 1cm, this allows you to get really close for excellent macro shots.

ISO Noise Performance - Noise is minimal and remains so throughout ISO 100, 200, 400 and 800. Detail suffers a little at ISO 1600, with much softer images produced at ISO 3200. ISO 6400 is available but only in High Sensitivity mode where image size is restricted to a minimum of 3 megapixels

White Balance Performance - The Auto White Balance (AWB) copes excellently under both our incandescent and fluorescent lights. The incandescent preset takes an image with a slight colour cast under the incandescent lights. There is no fluorescent preset.

Panorama | 1/250 sec | f/8.0 | 3.6 mm | ISO 100

Panorama mode - Panoramas have a good level of detail - the bright sunshine in our examples has caused a slight stitching issue, but stitching is generally decent. 

With Teleconverter 1 | 1/200 sec | f/5.9 | 215.0 mm | ISO 100 With Teleconverter 2 | 1/500 sec | f/5.9 | 215.0 mm | ISO 250
The two images above have been taken using the optional Panasonic DMW-LT55 teleconverter which extends the zoom to 102x. Image quality remains quite good and gives to the option to shoot subjects so far in the distance that are barely visible to the human eye!

Digital Filters - The FZ72 is packed with photo styles and creative controls so you can take a wide range of creative pictures. There are many examples above.

Video - Below is a video recorded in full 1080p HD. We have upload a video which uses the optical zoom during recoding on the ePHOTOzine Youtube page, as you can see when zooming in the focus is fairly quick but the video quality does reduce a little.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 is available for approximately £330. In terms of optical zoom you won't find any cameras at the moment that have more. The nearest you'll find are the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS at £320, Sony Cybershot HX300 at £330 and Fujifilm FinePix SL1000 at £240 all with 50x optical zoom, or the Kodak Easyshare AZ521 with 52x optical zoom.

You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 packs a number of features that will appeal to many users, highlights including the 60x optical zoom lens, 1cm minimum focusing distance, 9 fps continuous shooting and HDR shooting. There are plenty more features that will help justify the £330 price tag. The 9 fps continuous shooting mode is a little misleading, it only takes three shots, but if you want to shoot for longer you can switch to some of the slower modes. The camera has a small sensor, so image quality isn't the best, but when you're getting a camera with so much zoom, it is to be expected. Lots of optical zoom Feature packed Excellent battery life Decent image quality Plenty of buttons for the experienced user Teleconverter available for additional zoom Shooting slows down after just a few shots in some of the continuous shooting modes The number of buttons may overwhelm a novice Video quality suffers as you zoom in
FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
VERDICT  
ManufacturerPanasonic
Lens
Max Aperturef/2.8 - f/5.9
35mm equivalent20mm - 1200mm
Optical Zoom60x
Image Sensor
Pixels16.1Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4608
Pixels (H)3456
Sensor TypeLive MOS Sensor
Sensor Size1/2.3 inch
Sensor Size (width)No Data
Sensor Size (height)No Data
Aspect Ratio
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution460k dots
Touch ScreenNo
Focusing
Min Focus1cm
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Spot
  • Face Detection
  • AF Tracking
  • Multi
  • Centre
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/2000sec
Shutter speeds longest60sec
Bulb modeNo
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
  • Program Variable
Metering
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Multi Pattern
  • Centre Spot
ISO sensitivity100 - 6400
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Shade
  • Flash
Exposure Comp+/-3
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting9fps
Video
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
Video FPS50i, 25p
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Interface
HDMIYes
USBUSB 2
Wi-FiNo
Storage
Card Type
File Type
Power Source
Battery TypeLi-ion Battery Pack
Battery Life (CIPA rating)400shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsBattery Pack, Battery Charger, USB Cable, Shoulder Strap, CD-ROM, Lens Cap, Lens Cap String
Dimensions
Weight562g
Width130.2mm
Height97mm
Depth118.2mm

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Panasonic DMC-FZ70P Service Manual

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 Review - Image Quality

All pictures were taken at full resolution unless otherwise stated. A full resolution JPEG records an image around 6Mb. Drop it down to the normal compression setting and it records around 4Mb. You can record in raw which pumps out 18Mb of information. If you shoot in raw, you need to download the Silkypix raw conversion software by following the instructions that are buried in the instruction manual on the enclosed CD. We then converted to TIFF which increased the file size even more to 45Mb.

Noise

We recorded the JPEG ISO test shots at third stop intervals to try and gauge where the no9ise starts to come in. We also shot the standard ISO settings in raw to see if there's any change made by the processor as it makes the adjustments for JPEG.

The level of detail in the raw images can definitely be appreciated in low ISO. Images are sharper in JPEG, but that's the processor's doing. No noise is showing through at either setting, though. Shooting in raw is great for seeing where a camera sensor starts to fail, because the processor has no input. So because of that, we begin to see noise show through at ISO 200 in the raw pictures, but not the JPEG.

It is noticeable in JPEG by ISO 400 and the stepped shots show it showing up by ISO 320. After that it's a downward spiral with the processor trying it's best to remove the noise, but it can't cope after ISO 800. Raw images really suffer from ISO 400 or higher with lots of colour JPEG artefacts littering the image. By ISO 1600, the raw shots are taking a real hammering with a colour casting over the entire frame.

When comparing to the raw image, the noise reduction software does a great job of removing noise. It still manages to get through, though which is a shame. And it starts to come through relatively early. We can see instances of it at ISO 400 and it steadily gets worse. Not as bad as it could be. In fact, we do check these results at full magnification of the image. At normal viewing size, the pictures look ok throughout the stages. So the argument could be made that if you're not going to enlarge or print the pictures, you could easily knock the ISO up to help in low light and not worry too much. IN fact, you could probably use it up to around ISO 800 in JPEG without worrying too much.

   
   
   
   
   

Focal Range

The focal range of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 is simply stunning. 20Mm at it's widest and rushing out to a nostril flaring 1200mm. The most stunning thing about this new technology is that the Power OIS can cope with it. We got lovely, sharp images from the full telephoto while hand holding the camera.

Edge to edge sharpness at the wide-angle setting seems good although there's some loss in the corners of the frame. We did see some pin cushion on straight lines, but it's not much and there's bound to be some distortion with a lens this wide.

Sharpening

JPEGS are sharp enough from the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 to begin with and the same can be said about the raw files if kept in focus. At low ISO, the pictures do improve slightly with a standard sharpen in an editing suite. Anything over that and the black & white noise exacerbates to noticeable levels.

   

File Quality

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 has 2 different image quality settings available, with Fine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

16M Fine (6.06Mb) (100% Crop) 16M Normal (4.07Mb) (100% Crop)
   
16M RAW (18.8Mb) (100% Crop)  
 

Chromatic Aberrations

We certainly expected to find chromatic aberration in the pictures and we weren't disappointed. However, what we did notice is that it only occurs in very high key images with harsh contrasting lines and only at the extreme edges of the frame. In the everyday shots, we couldn't find any instances of it, but the studio shots with bright light did exhibit it.

Macro

Not only can the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 zoom into things terribly far away, it can also focus on things terribly near. The macro mode has a close focus of 1cm at 20mm. That's near enough to make even the boldest ladybird get worried. Edge definition does start to dissipate early when you get very close, but it's good to have it there. The great thing about the macro mode is that it works throughout the zoom range. That doesn't mean you can zoom to 1200mm and still focus at 1cm, it's a minimum of 150cm but the compression you get is brilliant. The background gets completely thrown out of focus.

Flash

Without the flash activated, we found that there's an obvious vignette in the corners of the frame. This dissipates when the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 is zoomed in. Using flash suppresses it, but it's still clearly seen.

   

And here are a couple of portrait shots. Because of the high vantage point of the flash unit when activated, red-eye isn't an issue. However, there's a red-eye reduction mode in the flash options along with a red-eye removal mode in the Main menu. Using the latter will erase any problems you may get.

Forced On (100% Crop)
   

Night

Because of the manual modes available on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72, it's possible to use a tripod and set up a long exposure on Manual. That way, you can use ISO 100 and be noise free. We also wanted to see what the Program and Night scene modes would do for us.

The  Night scene mode gave the best result in terms of colour reproduction. The warmth of the sunrise was captured better than what the program mode managed. There's also slightly more detail in the darker areas. Should you decide to want more detail in a shot like this, you could always use the HDR mode.

   

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 Operating Instructions Manual

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 Review | Photography Blog

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 (also known as the FZ70) is a digital bridge camera with a 16.1 megapixel high sensitivity MOS sensor, FullHD video, Power OIS and a 20mm wide-angle lens that telescopes out to an unbelievable 1200mm. That's a 60x zoom and is currently the longest in the industry. In this in-depth review, we test how the camera performs at these extreme lengths. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 costs around £365.99 / $399.99 and is available in any colour as long as it's black.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 is the size of it. We half expected a camera the size of a mid-range DSLR with a zoom that size on it. However, it's not actually that bad. Sure it's a little bit bigger than a bridge camera that features a smaller zoom range, but that's to be expected. The design has been given a rework with smoother corners, a chunkier grip and adverse angles on the top where the hotshoe is located. Couple that with the built-in microphone and speakers on the top of the pop-up flash and it looks quite futuristic.

Typically, for a bridge camera, the controls and buttons are slightly more over-sized than what you'd see on a digital compact camera. But then that's what happens when you have more estate to play with. The large command dial sits on the right shoulder nestling against the Live View Finder (LVF). The power switch sits under it. Surrounding the command dial as if defending the shutter release are the direct video, continuous shooting and focus option buttons.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72's zoom is operated by the rocker switch around the shutter release. Panasonic should really have thought about placing a separate zoom switch on the side of the lens barrel. It's a lot easier to use when supporting the lens at full zoom.

Front Rear

That's not to say that it's difficult to use and we found through testing at full zoom that we generally got sharp pictures as long as we kept the ISO setting to auto and let the camera do its thing. It's programmed to keep the ISO as low as possible and the Power OIS (Optical Image Stabiliser) will ensure that it does. Panasonic use two different types of OIS: Mega and Power. The Power OIS is fitted to the FZ72 because it's twice as good at suppressing shake than Mega OIS. It's designed to help with low light such as night scenes without a flash, but can also help with high zoom ranges due to the reduction in light from the narrower field of view.

For the keen photographer there are a number of features that will appeal. The command dial on the top plate of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 has manual PASM modes. The back of the camera has an AF/AE lock button for creative light or focusing techniques and you can also record in raw, JPEG and both at the same time. There's a hotshoe for fitting external flash and an LVF (Live View Finder) for holding the camera up to your eye as you would with a DSLR or CSC. This brings the camera into your centre of gravity and stabilises it which is useful if you have the zoom at full length.

Top Side

Typically on a camera of this price range and filled with this amount of tech, the build quality is very good. It's solid to hold and feels great. As we mentioned previously, the grip is a little more chunky than we normally find on a bridge camera and while we think that it may simply be a happy accident, it certainly helps when shooting as you feel that you've got more to hold onto. Bigger is certainly better with a bridge camera.

Despite the plastic exterior, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 feels solidly built. The battery door is strong with little play when it's fully opened. The spring loading of the door is powerful and it snaps open. Thankfully a lock is provided to prevent it opening by accident. The tripod bush is located just next to the battery compartment and is slightly off-centre. We'd normally poo-poo that idea but it's obvious that it's been done to make room inside for the lens.  The tripod bush is made of metal, which is great. Let's face it, with a zoom lens like this, you'll want to take your time to use a low ISO.

We dived into the menu systems and immediately melted. Panasonic are known for the simple, straight forward layout and design of their menu systems. Usually black lettering on white, or similar. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72's Q.Menu has a black layout with blue fading on the sub-menus and dark yellow a highlighter. The Main menu is even prettier with detailed clip art images as the menu titles (camera for shooting, camcorder for video and a spanner for set-up). The dividing line from menu title to sub-menu is red unless you're actually at the title stage, in which case it turns yellow. There are six pages to the shooting menu alone, but the options are clearly labelled to be understood easily. There shouldn't be any problem with knowing what each setting does

Front Pop-up Flash

From a cold start, the typical start up time of a digital compact camera is around 2.5sec. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 blows all that out of the water. We switched the camera on, focused it and took a picture in 1.3sec. That's an astonishing time and moving into DSLR territory. There are five continuous shooting modes. The slowest is the 2fps (frames per second) mode. It's a continuous mode and not a burst. It does start off faster at the beginning, but it slows a little after around 4-5 sec. We managed to get 17 images in a ten second period which is an average of 1.7fps. It does shoot at 2fps for the first 4 seconds before that noticeable drop in speed.

Next up is a 5fps burst mode. It rattles off the initial images, then slowly plods along at a continuous rate of around 1fps. Unusually, we only recorded 4 images taken over a 1sec period. Both these settings come with a continuous AF option.

Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

Scream if you want to go faster because the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 has a 9fps setting at full resolution. However, in our tests, the camera stopped after 3 frames. This is where it gets a bit pedantic about what the manufacturers are labelling their products with. You see, the camera takes three photographs in around 0.3sec. That means if the camera DID take nine photographs, it would manage it in one second. That means it's a 9fps SPEED, not a 9fps RESULT. It's a bit misleading and either the buffers should be bigger to cope with nine frames of information, or they should find another way to display it. If you want 9fps, you need to choose the next setting, but that only records at 3 megapixels.

Because the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 uses a power switch and not a power button, you can't preview images you've taken without switching it on first. The image will be full size in the screen with no information around it, so you can see it in all it's glory. You can press the DISP button to bring up various amounts of information such as the file size, number and picture style. Press up and you can enter a Retouch area which allows you to add the digital effects to the picture if you forgot to do it while taking the shot. Pressing the DISP button again will add a little more information to the screen before scrolling back to no information.

In the box, you get the camera, a dedicated lithium ion battery with charger, CD software that features PHOTOfunSTUDIO 9.2 and a trial version of LoiLoScope video editing software. There's also a neck strap, lens cap and a basic owner's manual to get you started.

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