The FZ70, with zoom lens extended.
Panasonic's latest super-zoom camera is a strange-looking beast, but if you need to get close to the action, it's certainly a good way to do it. The FZ70's massive lens provides a 60x optical zoom — the 35mm equivalent of a 1200mm lens.
There's a fairly large class of people who want the ease of use of a point-and-shoot combined with the zoom capability of a large-lensed DSLR. Shooting at the kid's soccer match, catching birds at the feeder in the backyard, and other common photographic tasks can always use that extra range provided by a zoom.
The 16-megapixel FZ70's lens has a 60x magnification factor, meaning you could probably read the date on a penny from across the room.
That is, if you can keep it steady. It has built-in optical image stabilization, but even so, at that level of zoom you'll want a tripod or at least something to steady the camera with if the image is to be sharp or the video smooth.
The cannon-sized lens is F/2.8-5.9; it could certainly be worse, but remember that it has a rather small point-and-shoot size sensor, so even decent lens numbers won't let you shoot in poor conditions. Nighttime game? Good luck.
Still, it's a notable accomplishment to provide such an insane zoom in a package that is, if not exactly pocketable, is certainly more so than a DSLR with a two-foot lens on the end.
The FZ70 should be available in September for about $400.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.
First published July 18 2013, 12:30 PM