The Panasonic Lumix ZS80 / TZ95 is a superzoom compact camera that’s designed to be slipped in a jacket pocket or handbag and taken on your travels. Its lens has a focal length range equivalent to 24-70mm and there’s a viewfinder built-in along with a 3-inch touchscreen that can be flipped up for shooting selfies. It produces good quality results in most daylight situations and fits its billing as a travel-zoom camera very well, but avoid using the top ISO settings to ensure the best results.
- Very useful zoom range
- Tilting touchscreen
- Viewfinder built-in
- Small viewfinder
- Crop applied in view mode
- Small sensor
Inside the Panasonic Lumix ZS80 / TZ95 there’s a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor with 20.3million effective pixels. As on the ZS70 /TZ80, there’s a DC Vario-Elmar 4.3-129mm f/3.3-6.4 lens. That’s a 30x zoom which is equivalent to a 24-720mm lens on a 35mm camera.
We see focal length ranges like this so often now that we’re getting a bit blasé, but that’s a fantastically versatile optic. It means you can shoot landscapes or interiors one moment, portraits the next and then distant details immediately after. There are cameras with longer focal lengths, but it can be very hard to compose a shot at the longest point.
The SZ TZ range appeals to wide range of photographers and there are settings to suit all levels of experience. The mode dial, for example, has settings for Intelligent Auto, program, aperture priority, shutter priority, manual, Creative Video, Custom, Panorama Shot, Scene Guide and Creative Control. The Scene Guide mode has 24 different modes available for selection.
In addition, there’s a collection of filter effects that can be applied to Jpegs as they are shot.
Also, images can be saved in raw or Jpeg format, or both simultaneously. Plus, the maximum shooting speed is 10fps (frames per second), but this drops to 5fps with continuous autofocusing.
The standard sensitivity range is ISO 80-3,200, however using the extension option in the menu takes the range up to ISO 6,400. As usual, there are also Auto and Intelligent Auto settings.
Panasonic has given the ZS80 /TZ 95 a 5-axis hybrid stabilisation that’s useful for shooting stills or Full HD video. It doesn’t operate in 4K video or high-speed video mode.
In addition to being able to record 4K video, the camera can use its 4K video technology for the 4K Photo, Post Focus and Focus Stacking features. Helpfully, the 4K Photo mode has been upgraded to include auto marking which assists with finding the best frames to extract as stills.
The battery life is quoted as 380 images.
Build and Handling
The Panasonic Lumix ZS80 / TZ95 has a fairly solid-feeling body with a simple but effective grip on the front. The thumb rest on the back of the camera doesn’t have quite the same feel as the front grip and could use a little more texture. It serves its purpose, but I felt the need to use the supplied wrist strap ‘just in case’.
While the front plate and lens control ring are made from metal and give a sense of durability, the other controls and parts appear to be made from plastic.
I set the lens control ring to adjust exposure compensation but I left the rear dial around the navigation panel on the back of the camera in default settings. This gives quick control over exposure in shutter priority and aperture priority. The rear dial controls the selected parameter (for example aperture in aperture priority) while the lens ring adjusts exposure compensation.
In manual exposure mode, the rear dial adjusts the shutter speed but you can switch to adjusting the aperture with a press of the up navigation button.
The lens control ring has nice, smooth action and is completely silent in use. Meanwhile, the rear dial, which doesn’t feel as high-quality, moves in steps so you get some feedback about the adjustment being made.
Screen and Viewfinder
In addition to the 3-inch 1,040,00-dot screen on the back of the camera, there’s a 0.21-inch electronic viewfinder (EVF) with 2,330,000 dots. This is a little awkward to use with spectacles but is a huge bonus on a compact camera, especially in sunny conditions. It’s a little on the small side, but it would be hard to fit in a larger unit.
As a left-eye user, I find I have to use my left hand to shield the view to the left of the camera. However, in other respects, the viewfinder provides a good view with a nice level of detail. Conveniently, there’s an eye sensor that activates the EVF when you hold it to your eye. That’s much better than having to press a button to switch between using the EVF and the main screen.
The 3-inch screen is on a tilting bracket that can be flipped up through 180-degrees for selfie shooting. This also gives a clear view and doesn’t suffer excessively from reflections. It’s also touch-sensitive and is very responsive to a tap of your finger.
Happily, you can navigate the menu and make selections using touch-control.
As usual, there’s a Quick Menu that gives a speedy route the most commonly used features. This uses Panasonic’s usual style with the options arranged along the top and bottom of the screen. You just scroll along to or tap on the option you want and then select your desired setting. It works well enough, but I find a grid arrangement quicker to use.
Generally, the ZS80 / TZ95 produces attractive images. The default Intelligent Multiple metering system does a decent job of handling exposure in most situations. However, it’s worth taking a peep in the viewfinder just to check everything is OK under bright overcast skies, as it can occasionally be hard to be certain of the exposure when you’re looking at the screen.
The autofocus (AF) system is also dependable. Some superzoom camera AF systems struggle at the longest end of the lens, but not so the ZS80 / TZ95’s. It gets most subjects sharp.
Panasonic’s stabilisation system comes into its own at the 720mm end of the lens. You still need a steady hand to get the composition you want, and the image seems to circle slowly around the frame, but it helps you get sharp shots. I found I got consistently sharp results at 1/30sec, which is good going.
The Lumix ZS80 / TZ95 has a selection of Photo Styles but the Standard setting is a good choice. It’s suitable for a wide variety of subjects and produces pleasantly vibrant colours.
Similarly, the Auto White Balance system usually delivers natural-looking images.
There are AWBc and AWBw settings that are designed to retain some warm or cool notes in artificial light, but I didn’t notice much of a difference when I used them.
There’s a good level of detail visible in images shot throughout the focal length range. However, you can expect the corners to look a little softer than the centre at the 24mm end of the lens. It’s not something that leaps out at you but you may notice it if you zoom into peep at the pixels.
Noise is controlled well but I’d recommend sticking to ISO 1600 or lower. The results at ISO 3200 are OK if you only want to post images on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram etc, but they’re not suitable for making large prints.
A little chromatic aberration can creep in at the telephoto end of the lens, even at the centre of the frame, but it’s easily removed with many editing software packages.
On the video front, the ZS80 / TZ95 captures good quality 4K video. However, it’s disappointing to see a change in the framing when movie mode is selected. If you press the video record button in another mode, the image is cropped so you need to compose your shots with this in mind.
Panasonic’s Lumix ZS or TZ series kickstarted the trend for travel zoom compact cameras and it has proved a popular genre. Its combination of a pocket-friendly size and a long lens makes it attractive to anyone travelling and expecting to encounter a range of subjects.
The ZS80 / TZ95 isn’t the smallest compact camera around, but it’s not the largest either. And it’s a versatile beast with a zoom lens that doesn’t go too far for the sake of a headline. As is often the case with cameras with small sensors, the best results are captured in good light. But in all probability, the ZS80 will be used in bright conditions on holidays, so that’s not a major problem.
The screen and viewfinder are both very good for a camera of this size and style. You can get better image quality if you spend more money and opt for a camera with a larger sensor and a narrower zoom range, but the Panasonic Lumix ZS80 / TZ95 produces pleasing results.
Canon PowerShot SX740HS
The Canon SX740 HS combines a 20.3Mp 1/2.3 type back-illuminated CMOS sensor with a Digic 8 processing engine and a 4.3 – 172.0mm f/3.3-6.9 lens. In 35mm camera terms, that lens is equivalent 24 – 960 mm. That’s a wider range than the Panasonic Lumix TZ95/ZS80, making it even more versatile. However, the images from the Panasonic camera stand-up better to close scrutiny.