Panasonic TZ200 first impressions

Travel compacts are very versatile, practical cameras. The idea is that you get a camera small enough to slide into a jacket pocket, but a zoom range long enough to cope with practically any subject you might encounter on your travels.

The trouble with most travel superzooms, though, is that they use small sensors. The camera is small and relatively affordable with a massive zoom range – up to 30x or more – but the payback is a small sensor that doesn’t deliver any better quality than your smartphone, and sometimes less.

That’s where the ‘old’ Panasonic TZ100 scored a hit. It used/uses a much larger 1-inch sensor to deliver much better image quality. The compromise? Well, there are two. First, the bigger sensor comes with a smaller zoom range, though the TZ100’s 10x zoom range is still great. Second, these cameras cost more.

Anyway, Panasonic has launched a new travel compact in the same vein as the TZ100 – but the TZ200 sports a longer 15x zoom range.

It really does look like it does everything. It offers a 24-360mm equivalent zoom range, with image stabiliser, plus 4K video and Panasonic’s 4K photo modes, which let you capture 8-megapixel images in 30fps burst and ‘post-focus’ images where you can pick your focus point later.

You can compose your pictures on the rear touch-screen, but there’s also an electronic viewfinder for when the light is too bright to see the screen.

I think Panasonic has pushed the zoom range too far and at its 15x maximum zoom the sharpness just isn’t there.

HOWEVER (there’s usually a ‘however’ in my posts), I found the zoom a little slow, the touch-screen navigation a little fiddly and the image quality – frankly – a bit iffy at full zoom. I’ve suspected for a while that Panasonic applies different image processing for long-zoom shots to overcome inherent lens softness, and I’m even more sure about it now.

The other ‘however’ is the price. At £729 (yes, really), it’s pretty stiff, and I’m not convinced this camera is good enough, or nice enough to use to carry it off. Sorry, Panasonic.

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