The Panasonic TZ80 is a compact camera for people who want to have it all. It has a huge 30x optical zoom, but is very small and can even shoot 4K video.
Its bullet-point list of features is pretty impressive. At £329, though, the Panasonic TZ80's images don’t exactly blow us away. This is a camera for people who want to go on holiday and be sure their camera can snag virtually any shot without making you trek up mountains just for the right framing. It’s not for photo snobs.
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The Panasonic TZ80 is a fairly plain camera. It comes in either all black or the low-key two-tone silver and black version I’m using here. It looks quite a lot like the older TZ70, but this newer camera has 4K video and a touchscreen.
It is smart enough, but this is not a camera that smacks you in the face with a very obvious, deliberate style. Build is similarly pragmatic. The front plate of the Panasonic TZ80 is metal, but most of the parts you’ll touch day-to-day are plastic.
These include the top plate, the rear panel, the shutter button and the mode dial: all plastic. I’ve been using the TZ80 alongside the slightly more expensive TZ100, and that comes across as a significantly higher-end camera.
The Panasonic TZ80’s handling is perfectly good, though. There’s a sculpted rubber grip on the front that teams up with a rubber thumb grip on the back to give you a firm hold.
Manual control is surprisingly good too, for a camera small enough to fit in larger pockets. There’s a smooth manual control ring as well as a rotary dial around the D-pad. If you’re using aperture or shutter priority modes, these dials will control the same parameter. You can take your pick of which to use.
In the full Manual mode, the lens ring controls lens aperture and the rear dial alters shutter speed. I imagine the TZ80 will appeal to those who’ll use the Auto mode a lot of the time, or one of the priority modes at a push, but the option for more control is there if you want it.
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The Panasonic TZ80 has virtually all the features that puritan photographers tend to complain about cheaper cameras lacking. An EVF is the main one.
Camera EVFs are finally getting towards maturity, and while the TZ80 doesn’t have a viewfinder that’ll make you forget your DSLR's one, how little it impacts the size of the camera is impressive.
This is a 0.2-inch 11166k-dot viewfinder, which equates to somewhere around 480 x 800 pixels in more traditional resolution terms. That resolution is very similar to that of the 1040k-dot rear screen, so switching between the two feels fairly natural.
The Panasonic TZ80 lets you do this without pressing any buttons. A small IR transmitter to the right of the EVF can sense when your face is against the camera, passing the display feed between EVF and screen accordingly.
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It’s a useful little EVF, but actual image quality isn’t as good as the rear screen's, with raised blacks giving an impression of narrow dynamic range. It's small too. You can fit a fairly hi-res EVF into a small camera these days, but you can’t yet make it look massive.
I’ve mostly been using the rear display of the Panasonic TZ80 to compose shots. It’s a decent-quality display with natural-looking colour. A touch layer lets you tap on the screen to focus, but it's a shame there's no tilting this screen. It's fixed.
There’s a current trend for screens you can tilt by 180 degrees to let you see yourself as you take a selfie, but a tilt screen is also highly useful when using the camera above or below your head. It’s a feature I miss here.