Panasonic Lumix ZS100/TZ100 review: the premium compact with an unfeasibly large sensor

This may well be the perfect one-inch travel camera: pocket-sized with a 10x zoom

TODO alt text

T3 Verdict

A whopping 10x zoom, RAW mode and superb picture quality make this one of the very best travel cameras.

Reasons to buy

  • +

    1-inch sensor

  • +

    10x optical zoom

  • +

    4K video

Reasons to avoid

  • -

    Small viewfinder

The ZS (ZT outside America) range has been around for a decade, aimed squarely at travellers. This latest version is the most impressive yet, with a bigger sensor for even better images as well as a thoroughly useful 10x zoom. 

This may well be the best travel camera made so far.

Looking for alternatives? Check out T3's extensive camera buying guides:

Design

You know the Lumix design language by now: it’s iconic and the ZS100 doesn’t mix it up too much. 

It’s a solid metal body in black or silver and black, weighs 310g and feels superbly tough. There’s no texture for you to grip, but there is an indent to help you grip the camera comfortably. We’d still recommend using the wrist strap, though. This is easy to drop.

Buttons are grouped logically and towards the right hand edge, making it easy to use one-handed if you’re a right-hander, and there are two large dials: one for changing exposure modes (from a range of automatic and manual ones) and the other for context-specific changes such as altering the aperture or shutter speed. 

The electronic viewfinder is sharp, but it’s awfully small.

Features

There’s a lot here. 49-point AF with face and eye detection, shutter speeds of up to 1/16,000, 10fps burst shooting, ISO125 to ISO12,800 expandable to ISO80 - ISO25,600, RAW as well as JPEG… if you’re printing to A4 or smaller the level of detail is as good as that from cameras such as the GF7, which has a larger four-thirds sensor. 

There’s 4K video at 25 or 30fps, 5-axis image stabilisation for video, Panasonic’s Power OIS for stills, a new Venus Engine processor and a Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 25-250mm zoom lens, with an aperture of f/2.8-5.9. 

Panasonic claims that the 10x zoom means it’s invented a brand new segment, the premium superzoom.

The screen is touch sensitive, there’s built in Wi-Fi for easy image transfer and you even get some creative filters to mess around with.

Performance

The metering system provides generally accurate exposure and only gets it wrong in really high contrast areas, and white balance works well too. 

Detail is well preserved throughout the optical zoom range, and JPEGs are vibrant without wandering into overly processed territory. In lab tests the Lumix was a very strong competitor for the Sony RX100 IV and the Canon G5 X.

Dynamic range is more complex. It’s not as good the rivals in the ISO 200 to 800 range for JPEGs; it doesn’t really better them until ISO12,800. 

In RAW, however, it beats the rivals from ISO 400 onwards. The culprit is clearly noise reduction, so if you’re shooting detail it’s better to stick to raw.

The battery is good for 300 shots but that drops if you’re using the electronic viewfinder, which takes the number down to around 240. Pack a charger for long weekends.

Verdict

The 10x optical zoom is the USP here, but the whole package is utterly compelling: if you’re a traveller who wants convenience and quality, this Lumix should be at the top of your list.

 JPEGs are good, RAW better still for detail, and it’s a serious rival to the likes of Sony and Canon in the 1.0-inch sensor market. 

The electronic viewfinder is a little on the small side and a tilting screen would be nice, but neither is a deal breaker.