Panasonic Lumix ZS40 Pocket Camera Review – 2020 Deep Dive

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A Deep Dive Into The Panasonic Lumix ZS 40

This camera is one of a long line of small, personal digital cameras from Panasonic, aimed at allowing anyone to easily and quickly capture an important moment or exciting event. The main goal of this camera, like many similar ones, is to make photography easy. Although manual settings are available, the default is an autofocus package that automatically selects focal distance, flash, and shutter speed, meaning that the user has only to point and shoot.

Since it is made to replace all the functions of a professional photography kit with one compact device, this camera is packed to the brim with all manner of convenient features. Physically speaking, there is a rechargeable battery pack, integrated LED flash, and a 30x optical lens that truly earns the camera’s ‘superzoom’ title.

Digitally, the camera includes a surprising number of onboard photo editing options and such handy things as a GPS to save the picture’s location and a near-field communication (NFC) module to share pictures wirelessly with just a tap to another device.

The camera comes with a fine selection of preset modes already programmed in, but some of them deserve special mention. First among these is the sport mode, firing the shutter up to 10 times a second to capture all the action with only a single push of the shutter button. Others include the landmark mode that automatically tags famous places and a daylight mode that filters glare, shades the picture, and even brightens the screen so you can see your picture while the sun is out.

As mentioned, the battery pack is rechargeable and is powered by a specialized connector that comes with the camera. This could prove a weak spot for some as many photographers prefer having a number of charged batteries on hand, and this camera does not include an external charger, so charging any batteries will put the whole camera out of commission.

Who’s It For?

This is an ideal choice for the traveler, letting you grab high-quality mementos of your trip without weighing down your luggage or taking up too much space. The GPS will tell you where each picture was taken, and a WiFi connection in the camera lets you send the pictures to cloud storage in just a few clicks so they’ll be waiting for you when you get home.

Despite the considerable zoom, this camera is still no match for real photography equipment. While ideal for amateurs or casual photography enthusiasts, it should not be looked at as a substitute for a proper DSLR with a hand-focused lens.

It is likewise not a hiking camera and will not stand up to shock, wetting, or heat. Those planning on going anywhere particularly rugged should look for a camera rated for extreme conditions and treatment.

The Lumix is by no means energy-efficient, and the batteries need to be charged in the camera, so it is not suitable for those planning on being away from electricity for any length of time. The chargers are proprietary as well, making it a disappointing choice for fans of universal equipment or connections.

What We Like About The Panasonic Lumix ZS 40

There’s no denying that this camera has a lot more photo quality than you’d expect from a travel camera; the 30x optical zoom and 18-megapixel screen make for incredible detail for even distant shots and are backed up by a rapid autofocus and sharp color reproduction.

The digital features are a nice touch as well, giving a respectable amount of onboard image editing and sharing options to make your memories just right for the photo album. A healthy selection of shooting modes and full automation of many other settings make it simple and even fun to capture great images in a hurry.

Of particular note are the sharing options supported in this camera; an integrated WiFi module allows you to send pictures directly to a mobile device with Panasonic’s free mobile app for quick and easy sharing. If you happen to be without the internet, you can use the NFC sharing instead. Just hold the devices against one another and your pictures should share in a few seconds.

What We Don’t Like About The Panasonic Lumix ZS 40

This camera’s main shortcoming is the battery, which could use several kinds of improvement. As impressive as the rest of the camera might be, there is no point having it without a functional battery, making even the smallest details hard to overlook.

First and foremost, this camera is a battery hog. Daytime outings especially will drain the battery with added screen brightness, GPS, and WiFi, these features will all run it down at any time of the day.

Second, there is only one battery pack, meaning that you either need to get a second one or stay near an outlet. Many cameras come with at least two packs so you can swap out as needed. There is no external charger, either; the battery must be charged in the camera, making it all but impossible to charge the battery while still using the camera.

The charging cable uses a proprietary micro-USB connection that is not even transferable between all of their models, so losing or breaking it can put the owner in a serious bind. While some of these problems can be solved fairly easily by an expansion kit of extra batteries and external charger (readily available from either Panasonic or a number of third-party manufacturers) the fact that neither one is included with the camera is a serious let-down.

Aside from that, the main issue with the camera is its delicate construction. Most cameras have at least some degree of waterproofing, but this one lacks even basic water resistance. The sharing options are difficult to set up, especially in new places, and the WiFi and GPS do not disable themselves automatically and can take up a lot of battery life if you aren’t careful.

PROS

  • Great optical zoom for a travel camera
  • The large screen is visible even in daylight
  • Rechargeable battery pack with included charger
  • Automated shooting modes make it easy for newcomers to use
  • Multiple sharing options to reduce the storage needed

CONS

  • The battery is clumsy to charge and does not last long
  • Proprietary charging cable makes it harder to replace if lost or damaged

What’s Included?

This box is actually fairly standard travel camera box, including the camera itself and a number of useful accessories, apart from the actual Lumix ZS40 and its battery pack, buyers can expect the A/C adapter and proprietary charging cable, a safety strap to hold the camera when their hands are busy, and an owner’s manual preloaded onto a CD.

Not included is an external charger nor spare battery packs, a significant omission even for the casual photographer. There is also no memory card or even an adapter from micro SD to SD. Buyers will also need to bring their own screen cleaning cloth or spray, any kind of physical stabilizer, and any carrying accessories besides the safety strap.

Overview Of Features

Purely as a means of photography, there’s a lot to like in this camera. The Leica lens gives you up to 30x optical zoom with a decent aperture for its size, appearing well even at 400 ISO and above. The electronic viewfinder is fairly accurate and can be manually adjusted for glasses or other visual problems with integrated diopter control.

At 18 megapixels, the screen comes out a bit fuzzy, but still perfectly acceptable for a camera of this size. A 16-megapixel screen might have given better quality, but the existing one is still quite serviceable. The electronic viewfinder can substitute the screen in particularly bright sunlight, but for most days the screen alone should be enough.

Zoom is controlled by a simple lever switch that rocks back and forth to move the lens. For other functions, there is a small wheel that allows the user to cycle between shooting modes with a flick of a finger. A single programmable hotkey is included for more advanced users, allowing you to program your own personalized settings into the camera and apply them in a single click.

The onboard photo studio is hardly a pocket Photoshop, but it still manages to handle the simple stuff; you can crop, filter, and finish photos all in the camera, sparing you the trouble of sitting down to your computer or ejecting the memory card. The camera even lets you do this in low-power mode without extending the lens or powering up the capture software, saving your battery for when you need it.

There are two sharing modes available: by WiFi to a device with the Panasonic app, and by NFC to any NFC enabled device you happen to have on hand. Either one allows you to send not only the pictures, but also the GPS data that this camera saves to tell you where and when they were taken.

Physically speaking, the camera is pretty compact, the face measuring only 4.37 by 2.52 inches and 1.34 inches thick – a comfortable size for carrying on your wrist or in your carry-on. The device weighs 8.5 ounces with the battery inserted, making it light enough to keep in your pocket or purse throughout the day without being too much of an inconvenience.

Keep in mind that by default, the battery for this camera will need to be charged while inside the camera, and there is only one battery included. This means that you’ll either need to be certain it is fully charged when you leave with it or leave your camera behind to charge it. While the charging connection is technically micro-USB, the port is molded in such a way that only the proprietary cable from Panasonic will fit.

Although this is a travel camera, it should not be mistaken for a hiking accessory. It is not designed to endure roughness and shock, even mildly rough treatment may damage the many delicate components of the lens. The casing is not moisture resistant by any means and will dent or scratch easily.

Review Summary

This camera is a great companion for a sightseeing expedition in an urban setting, where there’s relatively little risk to damage it and ready access to electricity and the internet. It takes high-quality pictures and the zoom will get you close-up even when the subject of your picture is behind a fence or crowd.

What you get is a great photographic capability for its cost, which is backed up by a respectable amount of digital editing and automatic photo assist. The added sharing options are a huge plus, saving you the space on your camera’s memory.

Any other outdoor setting may risk exceeding the physical limits of this camera, as it is not meant to spend any length of time out in the rough. Extra batteries and an external charging station are sorely needed and should be procured before relying on this camera for any long excursions.

Frequently Asked Question

Still, images are great, but I want to make a movie of my special moments. Does this camera shoot video as well?

Yes, as a matter of fact, it does. Unlike some travel cameras, this camera does more than stills, like shooting 1080p video with RAW format support. Keep in mind that video in any format will take up considerably more memory than still images, so get a better memory card if you’re planning on filming anything.

You can select the video option in the shooting wheel on the top of the camera, or program it into one of the hotkeys. Keep in mind that the camera will not auto stabilize videos as it does with still photos, so take the time to brace the camera against something before you start filming.

Video uses more battery as well, so make sure to plan for that if you are filming for long stretches throughout the day.

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