Panasonic has a good track record of releasing decent superzoom cameras. Looking to fill the more budget-targeted gap, it has just lifted the lid on the Lumix LZ40: a 42x optical zoom bridge camera with a £229 price tag.
We got to check out the budget snapper ahead of its unveiling to see what we made of it. There are some immediate standout features such as the 22mm equivalent wide-angle lens - perfect for squeezing extra into those shots if you can't move further back from your shooting position. It's the second widest-angle camera in the Lumix lineup, behind the more advanced Lumix FZ72 superzoom model.
But multiply that 22mm by the 42x zoom and you'll get the LZ40's top-end 924mm equivalent zoom. That significant number can zoom right in and make those far-away subjects appear far closer-up in the frame. If you're a hobbyist, say a bird watcher, then this could be your ideal camera without breaking the bank.
The zoom doesn't travel particularly fast through the range, though, and in the dim light conditions that we got to see the camera its autofocus was sluggish to acquire focus. At the wide-angle it was far quicker, but still not a patch on the "Light Speed AF" devices - such as the Lumix TZ60 - that we also saw alongside the LZ40.
As we've not seen how the camera handles in better lighting conditions we can't be sure how much better it will respond. However, based on previous LZ models that we've seen, we'd anticipate such conditions to be preferable and faster. There are other limitations to be aware of such as the limited f/3.0-6.5 aperture range - which means less light will be available as you zoom in and the camera will have to compensate by boosting its settings, thus resulting in diminished image quality.
The LZ40 is all about simplicity. There are no full manual options, while the in-camera menus are kept to a minimum to avoid confusion. This is very much a point and shoot superzoom where you needn't worry about whether you'll be able to handle it or not.
Under the hood the LZ40 features a 20-megapixel CCD sensor, while no longer does the range rely on AA batteries as earlier models did - instead there's an included li-ion rechargeable battery said to be good for 320 shots per charge.
Build quality felt fairly sturdy to us, considering the budget price. Yes, the LZ40 is all plastic, but it neither looks nor feel cheap. It's just affordable - and that's exactly the way it should be.
Some of the higher-end features found elsewhere in the range also lack, such as no touchscreen or Wi-Fi features. But then we're not surprised or fussed. Given the £229 price point for the greater-than-900mm zoom we can't complain. The LZ40 locks down the core features that it needs to in this section of the market and while not mind-bendingly fast it's good enough for daylight shooting.