Panasonic Lumix FZ72 offers 60x zoom lens

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ72 is a camera that aspires to be a telescope.

This compact, fixed-lens superzoom – which for no reason we can discern is called the FZ70 in the US – features a staggering 60X optical zoom, the widest and longest zoom for a consumer point-and-shoot. With it, Panasonic targets competitors such as Nikon's Coolpix P520 (42X zoom) and Canon's PowerShot SX50 (50X zoom).

Longest zoom camera: the Lumix FZ72

Its ultra-wide 20mm-1200mm (35mm equivalent) F2.8-F5.9-range lens facilitates a huge variety of shooting situations. At 20mm, the lens has a nearly 140 per cent wider angle of view as a 24mm lens. And if that's not enough, consider that the camera's Intelligent Resolution technology can extend the zoom ratio up to an equivalent of 120X, and that an optional optical lens adapter can stretch the range even further. An optional 1.7x tele conversion lens, for example, will boost magnification to 2040mm.

The camera measures 5.1 by 3.8 by 4.7 inches and weighs 1.3 pounds. A 16.1-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, coupled with Panasonic's advanced image processor, promise speedy response and high-quality images even in low light. High-speed burst shooting is 9fps in full resolution and is joined by Light Speed AF.

The lens unit is unique to this camera and manufactured in-house. It's made up of 14 elements in 12 groups, including 6 aspherical lenses with 9 aspherical surfaces and 3 Extra-Low Dispersion lenses that suppress distortion at the wide end and color bleeding at the telephoto end, Panasonic says.

Better audio from a Lumix camera

The FZ72 offers some added attractions for the burgeoning video recording set, especially in attempting to address longstanding audio annoyances. The recorded videos' sound quality is improved, says Panasonic, by a new Wind Shield Zoom Microphone that minimizes wind noise by about 70 per cent, compared to prior models. Because the mic's sealed structure prevents wind from hitting the microphone directly, and the draft-resistant construction suppress internal air retention, even sound recorded in windy conditions sounds clear and comfortable to the ear. This mic even zooms with the optical zoom to precisely target audio from the subject.

A hot shoe can be used with three Panasonic external flashes. For framing your shots there's a 0.2-inch 202K-dot electronic viewfinder and a fixed 3-inch 460K-dot LCD.

The FZ72 records full-HD 1920x1080 videos at 60i or 1280x720 video at 60p in both AVCHD and MP4 formats. A separate button on the top of the camera lets you record video while shooting stills. A Creative Video Mode lets you adjust the shutter speed and aperture while shooting videos. And, of course, the 60x optical zoom with Power Optical Image Stabilizer is available for video recording too.

Capture creative panoramas

The Creative Panorama function lets you shoot horizontal or vertical panoramic images and use filter effects such as Retro, Expressive, High Key, Low Key, Sepia, Dynamic Monochrome, Impressive Art, High Dynamic, Old Days, Cross Process, and One Point Color. There's no built-in GPS or Wi-Fi, however.

The new Panasonic Lumix FZ72 costs £304.00 plus VAT and will be available in August. In the US, it's $400 and available from September 1. You can also pre-order from Panasonic's website.

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