It seems to be selfie season, as Panasonic steps on board the flip-up screen compact camera express with the Lumix TZ55.
We had been allowed to preview the bigger-brother TZ60 model ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show 2014, but have had to wait a little longer to get our mitts on the TZ55. Was it worth the wait?
Where the TZ60 tries to do just about everything that a camera can, the TZ55 is a more casual offering, but also the model with a smaller footprint. In essence the TZ55 feels akin to last year’s TZ40 but with that quirky flip-up screen.
In the hand the model feels well built, more so than the TZ60 in our view, and that 24-480mm equivalent zoom moves swiftly through the range. Panasonic has opted for a 16.1-megapixel sensor at its core which means the resolution has gone down compared to earlier models. That should be a case of less is more, because fewer "pixels" crammed into a small space means more light can access.
Panasonic is known for making cameras that are fast, and coining speedy sounding autofocus names to showcase this fact. In the case of the TZ55 that is Sonic Speed AF, which we found to be quick even on the dimly lit show floor. The pre-production model we played with was a little ill-behaved in showing focus feedback on the screen, but we put this down to the early firmware, or pre-release nerves if you like.
One of our favourite features is the lens-based image stabilisation that really helps keep preview shots steadied even when zoomed in to the max. The maximum 480mm equivalent doesn't have a particularly bright maximum aperture available, but it will do the job in good light. Whether wide-angle or long zoom, the 20x zoom is a good balance of physical size to capability.
In addition to stills there’s 1080p video capture and Wi-Fi to share shots direct from camera. Although without a network available we were unable to test whether this feature has evolved over previous versions.
If you’re after a solid compact camera with plenty of zoom at the right physical scale then the TZ55 builds upon the earlier TZ40 with success. And that right there is a great starting point for this point-and-shoot. We expect big things from this little shooter.