ZS70 Long Term Review

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Jack Tingle
Jack Tingle Senior Member • Posts: 1,038
ZS70 Long Term Review

Long Term Use of the Panasonic Lumix ZS70 Travel Zoom
by Walter J. Tingle

Used from June 12th, 2019 to date, or 3 years.

The ZS70/TZ90 is a fun, capable camera. Used within its limitations, it is all the camera many people will ever need. It is one large step up from a cell phone. It is slightly sabotaged by the high expectations raised by its success and by overly optimistic specs.

It’s been fun trying to get the most out of a very cheap camera.

I use it more than half the time. Particularly as my, “Always have a camera on you, because remember that time you didn’t?” camera. The whole kit fits into a tiny, ancient Samsonite World Sport blue nylon camera bag, Model #25. The bag is about 8” on it’s longest size and has outlasted several generations of cameras.

My comments below have been kept proportional to the camera type, cost and design goals. This is not a GX85.

• Compact
• Light weight
• Cheap. In my case, very cheap, $224.10 (including tax) from Amazon Warehouse.
• Tilting, touch sensitive monitor screen
• Built in flash
• Well-laid-out controls
• Good autofocus (except see below)
• Good metering & metering pattern options
• Panasonic’s good firmware, particularly the video options
• Long 30x (24-720mm FF eq.) zoom lens with fair optical quality
• Decent EVF
• As with all small electronic cameras, buy extra batteries.
• Manual focus is acceptable, but takes some getting used to.
• 20 Mpx sensor is over-pixelled (pixels too small), likely hurting the high ISO noise performance.
• Autofocus on subjects like flying birds and airplanes is unusable.
• The memory card specification is for a fast UHS-I card. A UHS-II card would have been much better.
• /sarcasm on. The built-in flash is perfectly positioned underneath your right middle finger when you grip the camera naturally. /sarcasm off.
• The camera/battery door is too close to the tripod socket. Only a very small Arca-Swiss plate will fit without blocking the door.

Some specifics:

In my case, very cheap, $224.10 from Amazon Warehouse. There was no detectable damage. There are currently two similarly priced cameras on Amazon Warehouse (vs. current new $397.99 list price.)
I never intended to buy this camera. I have a similar Canon SX720HS which was perfectly fine for what I needed. I couldn’t resist the seeming bargain price. It is a slightly better camera than the 720 in all respects except compactness. The 720 is tiny and pocketable. (Note that the SX730HS and SX740HS are not, due to the added flip screen.)

Panasonic’s good firmware, particularly the video options. The camera appears to use the same basic firmware as their contemporaneous interchangeable lens cameras. If I’m taking video, I tend to grab this camera first. Just don’t play it back. (See below.)

It has a long 30x (24-720mm FF eq.) zoom lens with fair optical quality. The long end of the zoom is at or beyond the limit of what can be normally handheld, even with the stabilization. 20x would have made more sense. The user can simply not use the last bit, or use a beanbag/monopod/tripod. No harm, no foul.

The 20 Mpx sensor is over-pixelled. The resulting small pixels likely hurting the ISO noise performance. A 12 Mpx sensor would have made more sense with the rest of the camera. Tests with a paper copy of the 1951 US Air Force resolution test chart says 6-8 Mpx. Such bold claims of “Huge Megapixel Resolution” resolution have been called “marketing megapixels.” To be charitable, the Sony IMX147 sensor is ubiquitous and may have been used simply for low cost 4K.
The fix is to simply not count on those excessive megapixels in anything but perfect conditions. Under ideal conditions, you can see a small difference between the 20 Mpx setting and the 10 or 5 Mpx setting. Under most conditions, you really gain very little at 20 Mpx.
Here’s an example using SOoC jpegs. These were tripod mounted at maximum zoom (720mm FF eq.) Speed was 1/1600th of a second. Aperture was f/6.4, wide open. ISO was 400. Conditions were clear, bright and windy. Range was roughly a kilometer, with no visible haze.

Which is best? 744 is the 20 Mpx version, 748 is the 5 Mpx. Raw file sizes are all the same.

I rather like the middle one, myself, but it’s mostly esthetics. It’s arguable that the averaging used for 10 Mpx washes out the noise a bit better than the 5 Mpx version, but I don’t really believe that. The 20 Mpx version seems to show shadows in the brickwork slightly better. The waveriness is likely thermal or wind distortion.

Here's the original scene at 20 Mpx. The blowups are of the lower right of the main tower.

As with all small electronic cameras, buy extra batteries. I can go through three on a day of heavy shooting. And I don’t do video much. I buy good quality batteries, but not OEM.
Compared to the Canon SX280HS, which Canon Engineering botched the electrical design on, this is no problem at all. It could go through 5 batteries in a day. A shame, because it was a nice little camera. In some ways better than this or the SX720HS.

Memory Card.
The memory card specification is for a fast UHS-I card. A UHS-II card would have been better. With a 64 Gb SanDisk Extreme V30 UHS-I card installed, playback of complex 4K features sometimes hangs the camera. Slower cards are worse. The camera really needs a UHS-II card for things like Post-Focus and 4K sequence playback. Recording is not affected. Stills and 1080p video are not affected by the card choice.
The problem persists across various cards. It’s not the card. The card I normally use provides an amazing 120 Mbps in a fast UHS-II card reader, compared to 160 Mbps for a cheap UHS-II card.
I’m told some ZS70s and the ZS80s do not have this problem. Maybe this is why this particular camera wound up in the Amazon Warehouse.

Like all small zoom cameras, the zoom mechanism is delicate. I’ve babied this one and have thus far not had any problems. It has gotten a bit balky with age.
The D-pad wheel is inconsistent, probably due to wear. This is apparently a known problem with many Panasonic cameras. It’s tolerable on this camera. Some Dust-Off, harshly applied helps a little.
The mechanical shutter has recently failed, but it’s failed open, so I just continued using the electronic shutter like I mostly do anyway.

I bought it on a whim and I’m glad I did. I’ll miss it when it’s gone.

If this seems interesting to you, buy one (or the successor ZS80/TZ95) and try it out. It’s a decent little camera, basically, a tiny GX85 or ZS200.

 Jack Tingle's gear list:Jack Tingle's gear list
Canon PowerShot SX720 HS Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70 Olympus OM-D E-M10 II Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm 1:4-5.6 Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm 1:3.5-5.6 II R +5 more
Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70 (Lumix DC-TZ90)
20 megapixels • 3 screen • 24 – 720 mm (30×)
Announced: Apr 19, 2017
Jack Tingle's score
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bad for good for
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Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS70 (Lumix DC-TZ90)
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