Saturday, March 12, 2016

Just Purchased: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS40

I just purchased a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS40 pocket superzoom digital camera. It seems like it will be a good "secondary" camera for when I need to extend the focal-length range to capture the far-away images that I want.

I posted a few days ago that I was interested in several Sony pocket superzoom cameras, including the HX90. These cameras and the Panasonic ZS40 have seemingly identical specs, including a 1/2.3" 18-megapixel sensor. The Sony cameras all have a Zeiss 24mm-720mm f/3.5-6.4 lens, while the Panasonic camera has a Leica 24mm-720mm f/3.3-6.4 lens.

The cameras are way more similar than dissimilar. The differences are very minor. But the Panasonic ZS40 has two advantages over the Sony models: RAW capabilities and price.

Sony, for whatever reason, does not give you the ability to save in RAW format with their pocket superzoom cameras. Panasonic, however, did include that option on their model. RAW is almost essential when you're using a tiny sensor camera because the margin for error is thinner than with larger sensor cameras.

Costco currently has the ZS40 on sale for $200 (normally the camera is $350). For that kind of money you can't go wrong! It's significantly cheaper than the Sony models, which right now can run you more than double that price.

Why do I want a pocket superzoom?

I much prefer pocket cameras over DSLRs and compact interchangeable-lens cameras because the experience is much better. I'm much more likely to have the camera with me if it can fit into my pocket. Besides that, I'm inconspicuous with a pocket camera, and that might be the difference between getting the shot or not.

My "main" camera is a Sony RX100 II, which is nothing short of fantastic for it's size, but one limitation is a maximum focal-length reach of 100mm. Sometimes I want something just a little more telephoto. The Panasonic ZS40 will give me that (plus a little more on the wide-angle side).

The ZS40 will never replace the RX100 II. One reason is that the Sony camera has a wider dynamic range. Another reason is that the Sony has a two-stop practical high-ISO advantage. The RX100 II will get used when it can be used.

But sometimes the ZS40 will be the tool of choice because of the telephoto reach. It will be easy for me to have one camera in one pocket and the other camera in another pocket, both within easy reach.

It may seem odd that I would go with a camera with such a tiny sensor. But it shouldn't seem too strange because I've managed to get some good photographs with my Nokia Lumia 1020, which has a small sensor.

Besides that, the lens is just as important, if not more important, to image quality than the sensor, and the Leica lens on the ZS40 is a good one. A sensor will only perform as well as the lens attached to it, so a great lens on a mediocre sensor will produce good image quality. A mediocre lens on a great sensor will produce mediocre image quality.

The camera is supposed to arrive in the mail later this week. Once I have a chance to use it I'll be sure to post a full review.

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