In 2001, Panasonic joined the digital camera industry and produced the first of its iconic ZS series (TZ outside the US) in 2006, a series of small-body cameras and a wide zoom range intended to attract travelers.
It is fair to assume that a lot of advances were made in the 10 years that followed, all of which were first implemented by Panasonic itself. Over the years, ZS / TZ cameras have proven a major success, and Panasonic has now raised its game with a new edition, the Lumix ZS100 / TZ100, with the move to more high-end features in compact cameras.
The transition from a 1/2.3-inch sensor like the unit used in the ZS60/TZ80 to a much larger 1-inch style system with 20.1 million effective pixels is the most noticeable improvement that the ZS100/TZ100 offers. In the past few years, one-inch sensors have become very popular, first with Sony’s RX100 line, and more recently with Canon’s new compact G series cameras.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100: Price
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Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100: Features
- 1.0-inch CMOS sensor, 20.1MP
- 25-250mm f/2.8-5.9 zoom lens
- 4K video capture
The ZS100 / TZ100 is automatically elevated by a 1.0-inch sensor above the standard of several other competing travel cameras. It is the same sensor as the very popular Lumix FZ1000 used in Panasonic’s top-end bridge frame. It is coupled with a new Venus Engine processor and a Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 25-250mm f/2.8-5.9 zoom lens in the ZS100 / TZ100. For still photography and 5-axis hybrid OIS stabilization for film, there is also Panasonic’s Power OIS stabilization system.
The fact that the sensor in the ZS100 is 4x bigger means that the pixels are 2.4x larger, despite the improvement in pixel count over that of last year’s ZS50 / TZ70, which can be very positive news for image quality and noise reduction in particular. This has given Panasonic the confidence to send a native ISO125-12,800 sensitivity range to the ZS100, and there are ISO80, 100 and 25,600 expansion settings as well.
The 10x optical zoom means that Panasonic defines the ZS100 as belonging to the luxury superzoom, an entirely new segment of the lightweight travel industry. In their zoom range, all the other compact (pocketable) one-inch sensor cameras are tiny, so it is very interesting to see the company come up with a camera that can cater much more to photographers who are touring.
Given the passion of Panasonic for all 4K things, it is no wonder that the ZS100 has 4K shooting capabilities (at 30 or 25 frames per second) and 4K camera modes are available to make it easy to capture 8MP still images at 30 frames per second (fps). There’s also the newest addition to the 4K fold, Post Focus mode, from Panasonic. The camera takes a series of shots with varying focus distances in this mode and you can select the shot in which your subject is caught sharply.
Furthermore, the ZS100 has 4K cropping that allows 4K video to be enhanced and down-sampled to Full HD in-camera composition.
Viewfinders offer compact cameras a welcome comeback and the ZS100/TZ100 has a built-in 0.2-inch, 1,160,000-dot optical viewfinder to make it easy to compose images in bright ambient light. This is naturally followed by a larger screen on the back of the camera, and it is a touch-sensitive 3-inch 1,040,000-dot unit in this case. An eye sensor is helpfully available to detect when the camera is held to the eye to turn off the main screen and activate the EVF.
The fact that the ZS100 can log raw files as well as JPEGs is another cherry on the specification cake. This suits well with the importance of aperture, shutter priority and modes of manual exposure that accompany the options for automatic shooting. In addition, when the mechanical shutter is in operation, the shutter speed can be set to 60-1/2000 secs, or 1-1/16000 secs for the electronic shutter. Therefore, it should be possible to freeze action very rapidly and use the largest aperture in bright light.
Interestingly, while there is Wi-Fi networking, NFC technology is not present. Panasonic claims this has not been used as commonly as anticipated. The ZS100 goes up against the new one-inch compact cameras from rivals Sony and Canon in terms of competition, including the RX100 IV and the G7 X Mark II, but none of them has such extensive zooms. Therefore, arguably, the ZS100 does not actually have any close rivals.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100: Conclusion
With the ZS100 / TZ100, Panasonic is specifically targeting the pocket-friendly 1.0-inch sensor compact camera market, raising the stakes with 10x optical zoom, something that other manufacturers have not yet made. While 1.0-inch sensors are no longer especially new or thrilling, the resulting camera becomes a much more portable choice when you pair one with a 10x optical zoom, which is bound to cater to traveling photographers looking for something high-quality, but handy.
The ZS100 / TZ100 creates gorgeous JPEG images, while if you need it, the raw format images give you decent scope to pull out extra detail. Sony and Canon, who have so far been the major players in the 1.0-inch sensor market, contend happily with the sensor. The large sensor makes it easy to film decently in low light, making it a good all-rounder camera.