I ordinarily shoot with a professional digital SLR, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I agreed to test the ZS100 for Panasonic. Out of the box, the camera has a nice finish and a very substantial feel. It is well-built and heavier than your typical point and shoot but still very comfortable to carry around. Generally, the buttons and main dial all seem to be located in convenient places.
How does it perform? Well, that’s where the rubber meets the road. I have now shot approximately 1,500 images and am amazed at how well the camera performs. I typically shoot landscape and street photography. In my landscape work, I shoot in lighting conditions where the dynamic range is a challenge because of the extreme lighting conditions of sunrise and sunset. I put my ZS100 to the test and boy did it perform beyond my expectations. It handles the dynamic range extraordinarily well. The images are remarkably sharp with great contrast; I credit the Zeiss lens for the high quality of the images. I love the fact that the range of the zoom goes from 25-250mm. This covers 90% of what I photograph. I shoot primarily in raw format and the images hold the highlights very well; details are effectively brought out in post-processing. In low light, the images revealed a significant amount of digital noise but much of it is easily resolved in post-processing. I have shot in JPEG format enough to know that great results are produced straight out of the camera. I have shot in most modes: manual, shutter-priority, aperture-priority and program. The camera’s metering system performed well in each mode. The camera renders very accurate exposures, colors and skin tones in my street scenes. I attribute this to the quality of the sensor and lens. The battery life is impressive, even when shooting indoors and using the pop-up flash. The Wi-Fi connectivity works extremely well with my iPhone.
I find that the camera focuses quickly and accurately. There is a great focusing feature where you touch the back screen to indicate where the camera should focus. I didn’t think much of this feature until I started using it. I found it extremely useful and accurate.
Room for Improvement
There are a few negatives: The on/off button is a bit small and I don’t like the fact that it is wedged in between the two dials and the zoom control. I think Panasonic could have found a better place for the button. This is a minor negative and I have gotten used to its location. I found that the touch screen can be problematic specifically when using the built-in creative filters. These filters allow you to shoot with various effects such as sepia, black and white, etc. This is not an important feature to me but it may be to others. The problem is that a filter is engaged by touching an icon on the LCD. I found a few times that I had touched it without knowing and I ended up shooting with the special effect engaged, which was not what I wanted. I found it frustrating until I realized that you can disengage the special effects feature on the screen in the custom setup menu. I highly suggest turning it off in the menu unless you will be using the filters regularly. Although the lens does deliver impressive results, I wish that it stopped down below f8. Another few stops down would provide better depth of field for landscape shots but, as I said above, the camera produces very impressive images. The camera does have a viewfinder that can be used if you prefer not to use the LCD when shooting. I prefer a viewfinder but this one is a little small so I found myself using the screen for most of my shooting. That being said, there is a diopter adjustment for the viewfinder for those of us with other than 20-20 eyesight. This is a great feature and not one typically found on a point and shoot camera. Lastly, I found that the placement of the “QMENU” button (this is the often used quick menu button) is too close to the screen. When attempting to use the QMENU button, I would often times accidentally touch the LCD and engage a function I didn’t intend to engage. I have gotten use to the placement of the button and it no longer seems to be a problem.
Overall Review of the Panasonic Lumix ZS100
Overall, I think Panasonic has done an incredible job with the Lumix ZS100. Remember, this camera is in the point and shoot category but it exceeds the boundaries of what one would expect from a point and shoot camera. They have packed a lot of punch into this camera. The many features combined with the one inch 22 MP sensor and Zeiss lens make it a great choice for most kinds of photography, especially travel and landscape. I love the weight and functionality of the camera. As I have said above, the image quality is remarkable and has exceeded my expectations. This camera has become a regular part of my camera gear now when I go out shooting. In fact, a few times I have left my heavy professional gear at home and just taken my ZS100 to go shooting!
I participated in an Advocate Program on behalf of Panasonic USA. I received the Panasonic Lumix ZS100 digital camera as part of my participation. As always, all opinions are my own.