The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ100 (also known as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100) that was announced at the start of 2016 and features a 20.1 million pixel 1-inch MOS sensor. The Panasonic TZ100 could be a fairly small camera; you’ll be able to grasp it simply in one hand.
What is the Panasonic TZ100?
The Panasonic TZ100 is the very model of a contemporary advanced compact camera. It has a good-size 1-inch sensor, solid zoom range and enough manual controls to supply an entire photo experience. It may be a little camera, but it can outdo a smartphone unit by some distance.
But, if having a 10x zoom rather than a 3x one will mean that you use a camera more often, then the smaller, wider-aperture competition might prove more compelling. This includes models like the Sony RX100 III and Canon PowerShot G7 X iii. Now that it’s available for $400, the Panasonic Lumix LX100, too, will be a better match for image quality obsessives.
Nevertheless, for $397, the Panasonic TZ100 makes an excellent travel camera – one that’s capable of much better image quality than the zoom compacts of previous generations.
- Review Price: $397.00
- 20.1-megapixel 1-inch sensor
- 25-250mm f/2.8–5.9 lens
- 4K video
- 1,166k-dot EVF
- 3-inch LCD screen
- Good image quality
- Versatile zoom
- Fairly compact
- 3x zoom rivals are better in low light
- Non-tilt screen
Panasonic TZ100 – Design and Handling
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ100 also has a new Venus engine and the same 4K video and photo modes as found in some of Panasonic’s compact system cameras.
However, it can’t quite boast being pocketable. By including a reasonably chunky 10x zoom, the Panasonic TZ100 can work well only in your coat pocket; not in your jeans. I realize the lens housing protrudes just that little too much, more so than on Panasonic TZ80 I reviewed recently.
The TZ100 is a lot of visually appealing than that lower-end model, though. An all-black version of the camera is available, but the model I’m reviewing here sports a two-tone finish: a bit of silvery grey in the top-left corner, bordered by a red trim. It reminds me a little of the Sony RX100 range with its smooth anodized metal curves; the Panasonic TZ100 is a little larger, however.
The Panasonic TZ100’s head plate, top panel, and the control dials are all metal – these are the parts of the camera on which your fingers will rest most often. There’s no rubbery grip around the front, just a slight raised “bump”, so you’ll probably want to use the strap most of the time. There’s enough here to carry onto to avoid your grip feeling precarious, however.
The Panasonic TZ100 has pretty effective manual controls. There’s a sleek lens ring that juggles lead roles as a zoom control and an aperture ring, depending on the mode you’re using. Plus, there’s a chunky control dial-up on the highest plate, where your right thumb would naturally sit.
This is a neat upgrade over the D-pad wheel found on the armor plate of the smaller TZ80 and Sony RX100. In each camera, it sits right next to other interface controls and maybe a touch fiddly.
There’s an edge of seriousness to the TZ100. Even the chunky power flick-switch exudes it. This doesn’t impact on its ease of use, however. If you wish to treat this as a superior full-auto camera, then go ahead. It’s more than up to the task.
However, real enthusiasts could miss a dedicated exposure management dial. To alter exposure you have to hit the D-pad, then tap left and right. If you’re once a DSLR-like feel, then I’d recommend considering the Panasonic LX100 over this model.
Panasonic TZ100 – Screen and EVF
A consummate box-ticker, the Panasonic TZ100 has an Associate in Nursing. Its specs are just like those of the cheaper TZ80. It’s a fixed, 1.16 million dot display with the magnification of x0.46.
Sharp enough, however a little tiny, I’ve been victimization it as a backup for the rear display instead of a replacement.
It is handy, though. Unlike the Sony RX100 cameras, it simply sits there instead of starting off of the camera body, and the Panasonic TZ100 automatically switches to the EVF after you put your face up to the camera’s rear.
The Panasonic TZ100 screen is 3 inches across and has a one.04 million-dot resolution. It’s a clear, fairly color-accurate screen, but doesn’t tilt or flip out at all. Most other 1-inch sensor compacts offer some kind of tilt to the display, so the use of a fixed one here is disappointing.
It is a touchscreen, however, enabling you to pick your focus point with a prod of a finger. If you’re going to make good use of the manual controls, though, picking focus with the D-pad on the rear feels more natural.
Panasonic TZ100 – Features
The Panasonic TZ100 has a very little pop-up flash, however with no hot-shoe, you can’t add a more powerful unit. Opting to leave one out in a 1-inch sensor compact makes sense, but remember that this isn’t a super-small compact, only a “fairly” small one. GPS is missing too, so those wanting to geo-tag photos will have to use the Panasonic phone app.
At least Wi-Fi is included, enabling you to transfer images from the camera to a phone or tablet without too much fuss. The Panasonic TZ100 doesn’t have NFC, however, which is used to speed up the process of connecting the phone to the camera.
Battery life is rated at 300 shots, and this is largely consistent with my experience. You don’t need an awkward proprietary dock to charge the battery; simply plug in a micro-USB charger. It’s only a shame that even as cameras are setting out to give way to USB charging, phones are hopping onto USB Type-C connectors.
Panasonic TZ100 – Performance and AF
Over the past number of years, Panasonic has put plenty of effort into making its cameras fast in two areas: focusing and burst speed.
The Panasonic TZ100 uses the same DFD (Depth from Defocus) technology as a variety of mid-range Panasonic models. This is contrast detection at the bottom, but it uses special software smarts to speed it up, to bring it closer to the performance of a phase-detection hybrid system.
And it works. The Panasonic TZ100 feels pretty snappy to focus, although don’t read too much into the demand that it will focus in 0.1 seconds. That won’t pan out often in the real world.
In low light-weight, when shooting wide open, the Panasonic TZ100 is still fairly fast. However, if you’re shooting at night with zoom then you’ll start to feel the AF slow down. It’s AN unfortunate side-effect of a camera whose max aperture dives because the zoom is extended.
Speed shooting isn’t quite up to the level of the Sony RX100 II, but it’s still decent. It will hit 10fps with Live view off and can perform quicker still if you don’t mind a drop by output resolution.
Like other alternative Panasonic cameras, the TZ100 has a 4K mode that lets you perfectly shoot short video clips designed to let you pull out specific frames as stills. It’s a neat feature that’s great if you’re shooting in no time action. It’s only a pity that the regular – and already quite quick – 10fps standard burst mode is buried beneath all the faster modes. Anyway, the super-high-speed mode goes up to 50fps, but trades away all fine detail.
These ultra-fast modes are of less interest if image quality is your high concern. If you want a super-fast full-resolution burst mode then you’ll have to stretch to the Sony RX100 IV, which shoots at 16fps but currently costs $200-plus more.
Panasonic TZ100 – Lens
The top reason to decide on the Panasonic TZ100, but also the reason why you may opt for another model entirely, rests on the lens. This camera gets you a much better zoom range than other 1-inch sensor compacts, but as a result, its lens is slower. It’s a 10x lens with a range of 25-250mm in the 35mm standard.
The maximum aperture is f/2.8, and that drops down as you use the zoom. It’s f/3.4 at 35mm, f/4.1 at 50mm f/4.5 at 70mm, and hits the narrowest f/5.9 max aperture at around 150mm. All the 1-inch detector rivals around this value provide a higher max aperture. However, the Canon PowerShot G9 X goes to f/2.0, the Sony RX100 III and IV f/1.8.
This means their lenses can take in more light at the same focal length, letting them use lower sensitivities at the same shooting parameters. The result is less noisy photos. Of course, the reality depends on a camera’s handling of parameters and processing. We’ll look at that in the next section.
Panasonic TZ100 – Image Quality and performance
The Panasonic TZ100 is a camera of compromises, however, fortunately, they’re only slight. Where I notice the lower-end Panasonic TZ80 be a picture quality compromise too so much, this camera is smart for the typical camera customer. The key to this is that the good 20.1-megapixel sensor and also the long zoom.
A 10x lens allows you to capture many more shots than would be possible with a prime lens camera or a 3x one. I like to think of this camera as a great tool for when photography is an incidental extra, not the primary reason for doing whatever you’re doing.
If you want a camera to complement a two-week holiday in Tuscany, the TZ100 will be superb, but if you’re going on a “photography” holiday, then I’d advise that you opt for a model with a smaller zoom and a wider aperture – if you must have a small camera. It will provide more scope for handheld shooting at night, and isolate your subject using shallow depth-of-field shooting.
You can blur out the background with the Panasonic TZ100, however, you need to be fairly near to your subject for the effect to be significantly pronounced.
Even when shooting indoors at the max aperture at 25mm, you’ll find the TZ100 needs to use ISO sensitivity of 1600 – at which point noise will begin to creep in. It isn’t horribly obvious until you look at your pictures close-up, on a computer screen, but it means the Panasonic TZ100 doesn’t quite get you the “near-DSLR” quality images some 1-inch sensor cameras are capable. ISO goes up to 25600, but I’ve been avoiding anything over 1600 unless it’s absolutely necessary.
In addition, the lens is simply “fairly” sharp, not pin-sharp. Get down to pixel level in photos and you can see a little softness across the zoom range. It affects the character of fine detail rather than destroying it, however, so while this may sound like a major issue, it won’t matter if you’re shooting for fun. It would matter more if you were likely to need to crop into photos to get the framing you’re after, but the 10x zoom should make this a rarity.
One caveat is the keen wildlife shooter. While the Panasonic TZ100 can perform higher in such situations than a 3x optical zoom camera, check out Sony’s RX10 – or the more expensive RX 10 II. Although the RX10 is quite a lot bigger, it has a better zoom and a much better lens.
I’m setting out where the limits of your expectations need to lie. However, I’ve had lots of fun using the Panasonic TZ100. It feels super awesome to shoot with, offers dynamic range and image quality that matches the price in most conditions, and since it benefits from optical image stabilization, you don’t have to be too careful about how you hold the camera to avoid blurred shots.
Even by slowing down the shutter to 1/4 of a second, I’ve managed to achieve sharp shots handheld – although such a slow shutter speed does require still hands.
Panasonic TZ100 – Video
4K video is another super highlight of the Panasonic TZ100. Panasonic has been a bit of a trailblazer in this field, and the high resolution plus OIS makes this a good camera for holiday footage.
I have doubts over its appeal to the more serious video fan since it doesn’t have a mic input. You have to rely on the stereo mics on the Panasonic TZ100 itself. 4K capture is at twenty-four or twenty-five frames per second. Drop down to 1080p and the prime frame rate is 50fps.
Should you buy the Panasonic TZ100?
The Panasonic TZ100 is a smart camera for people who need a sizeable zoom however don’t want to trade away image quality an excessive amount of for the privilege. With a 1-inch device, you’ll achieve decent photos, but without the huge image-quality issues of superzooms.
Photo enthusiasts may be better opting for one of the other 1-inch sensor cameras at the price, however. Models such as the Panasonic LX100 and Sony RX100 III have much faster lenses, resulting in better low-light performance; the LX100, in particular, is a better fit for the more experienced shooter. If you actually want the zoom range then you’ll achieve better photos with the Sony RX10, particularly into the furthest reaches of the zoom. The TZ100 is much more compact than those 2 models, of course – just don’t expect the camera to fit in your trouser pocket.
A long zoom and decent-sized sensor during a little body could be a compelling combination, if not one that sets any new standards.