If you want the most zoom range in a compact camera, it looks like you'll be buying a Panasonic.
The Lumix DMC-FZ70, announced Wednesday, is fitted with a 60x f2.8-5.9 20-1200mm lens, which tops the 50x zoom lenses found on models from Sony, Fujifilm, and Canon. Not bad for a camera that measures 5.1 inches wide by 3.8 inches high by 4.7 inches deep and weighs 1.3 pounds.
All of those 50x zoom cameras share the FZ70's maximum focal length of 1200mm, so you're not gaining anything at the telephoto end. (You can attach an optional 1.7x tele conversion lens to the FZ70, however, increasing magnification to 2040mm.) The Panasonic's extra zoom range comes at the wide end; the others all start at 24mm as opposed to 20mm. This gives the FZ70 a nearly 140 percent wider angle of view.
The FZ70 is brighter at 1200mm than the others, too, with a maximum aperture of f5.9, compared with f6.3 on the Sony and f6.5 on the Canon and Fujifilm.
Behind the lens is a 16-megapixel high-sensitivity MOS sensor, which Panasonic says cuts noise by 10 to 15 percent. Paired with one of Panasonic's latest Venus Engine processors, the camera is capable of full-resolution continuous shooting at up 9 frames per second or 5fps with autofocus. And, yes, it can capture JPEG, raw, and raw plus JPEG.
Of course, it does more than just photos. The FZ70 can capture video at 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution at 60i or 1,280x720 at 60p in AVCHD or MP4 formats. Also, Panasonic designed a new microphone structure that cuts wind noise by approximately 70 percent. The structure has openings that channel the wind so it can escape, keeping it from hitting the microphone directly, while an internal sponge suppresses any wind noise.
Behind the mic is a hot shoe that can be used with three different Panasonic external flashes. For framing your shots there's a 0.2-inch 202K-dot-resolution electronic viewfinder and a fixed 3-inch 460K-dot-resolution LCD.
Shooting modes include semimanual and manual modes including a Creative Video mode for control over aperture and shutter speed for movies. It is also loaded up with 15 filters and effects for photos and movies that can be applied while you're shooting or afterward in playback. You can also use 13 of them for panorama photos.
What you won't find are built-in GPS and Wi-Fi. Considering all that you do get, though, these probably won't be deal breakers for many, and using an Eye-Fi SD card gets you the latter if you really want it.
Look for the Panasonic Lumix FZ70 in August for $399.99.