Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 20.0 MP Compact Digital Camera – Black

Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 20.0 MP Compact Digital Camera – Black

The Lumix DMC-ZS100 is perfect for hobbyists or casual photographers. That's the feeling you get reading about this camera on the Panasonic website. We agree that it's an excellent camera for family vacations and general-purpose photography. However, its price and style tend to mislead buyers who think they are buying a regular point and shoot digital camera.

At nearly $700, this is not a cheap digital camera. Panasonic bills the camera as a traveler’s friend which is justified. It has a great zoom and good glass. It’s a little slower than competing brands at f5.9 at 250mm, but only by about one stop. It is small enough to fit in your pocket or bag, so it’s ready to travel with you at a moment’s notice.

What Makes the Lumix DMC-ZS100 Standout?

lumix standout img

The Lumix DMC-ZS100 lens is the best part of the camera. A good lens makes all the difference whether you are shooting with a $10,000 camera or a $100 one. We've seen some expensive cameras with poor performing lens, and we've seen cheaper cameras with excellent lenses.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 is a bit pricey, but it has a great lens and one of the most extended zooms of any camera in its class.

This camera is equipped with a 10x zoom and a one-inch sensor. That’s a long zoom when you consider most competing cameras sporting a one-inch zoom only offer 6x to 8x zoom. The Lumix DMC-ZS100 takes it a step further and adds 4K video to the mix. It’s easy to ignore the bland style of the camera’s body and the price when you consider the bonus zoom and 4K video capabilities.

PANASONIC LUMIX ZS100 4K Digital Camera, 20.1 Megapixel 1-Inch Sensor...
  • POINT-AND-SHOOT CAMERA: Large, 1-inch 20.1-megapixel MOS sensor plus 10X zoom LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT lens (25-250mm)...
  • EYE-LEVEL ELECTRONIC VIEWFINDER AND LCD DISPLAY: High-resolution 1,166k-dot viewfinder and rear touch-enabled 3-inch LCD...
  • 4K VIDEO CAPTURE: 4K QFHD video recording (3840 x 2160), plus exclusive LUMIX 4K PHOTO and 4K Post Focus with...

Our Favorite Feature

We are torn between the 10x zoom and the 4K video. A 10x zoom lens, that's fast at 25mm, in front of a one-inch sensor is indeed something to get excited about, and we are excited.

However, a compact camera that shoots 4K video and doesn't feel like a hot potato in your hand after two minutes of shooting is exciting as well. To compromise, let's say shooting 4K video while zoomed into 250mm is our favorite feature.

Features and Camera Body Design

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Sadly, many poor digital cameras get sold daily based on their looks alone. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 is a good-looking camera that performs above average in most areas, so it doesn’t fall into the pretty but lazy category. It's small and sleek all while packing a 10x zoom into the body. It's slightly larger than most compact digital cameras, but we like that because it makes handling the camera more comfortable. However, it fits comfortably in your pocket, purse, or in a jacket pocket.

The controls are placed well on the camera body which makes it easier to manipulate them on the fly. It’s packed with bonus features like time lapse, stop motion, customizable filters, and several shooting modes for video and still images. It also has an export feature that lets you export still images from 4K video without a computer.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 4K Wi-Fi Digital Camera (Black) with 64GB...
  • KIT INCLUDES 14 PRODUCTS -- All BRAND NEW Items with all Manufacturer-supplied Accessories + Full USA Warranties:
  • [1] Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 4K Wi-Fi Digital Camera (Black) + [2] Lowepro Newport 30 Camera Case + [3] Transcend 64GB...
  • [4] Spare DMW-BLG10E Battery + [5] Battery Charger + [6] PD LED Video Light w/ Bracket +

Photo and Video Quality

The quality of the images and video this camera captures do not suffer from its size. It's about one f-stop slower than similar cameras at full zoom, 250mm so that it won't take perfect action photos of sporting events at full zoom.

At its regular focal length, 25mm, it will stop motion pretty well. That said, zoomed out to 25mm means you are taking a photo of the entire sporting event, and anyone in them is probably not recognizable.

The quality of the photos and video depends heavily on how far you have to zoom in or out to get the shot. At longer zooms, the lens tends to gain a little distortion around the edges. Images taken while zoomed beyond 80mm come out softer than expected which means the lens loses some sharpness as you zoom in on things.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 has a diffraction compensation setting that is supposed to help correct the sharpness as you zoom out. Unfortunately, it only has two settings, on or off.

photo quality img

It’s hard to tell if this setting actually does anything or not, but it’s also hard to see the sharpness loss and edge distortion unless you examine the images at maximum size. If you don’t plan to print the images at poster sizes, you’ll never see any of the small image errors.

If you plan to shoot mostly JPEGs and not do any post-processing, you won't like the results in low light situations. The camera, set to auto mode, tends to capture darker images that look almost out of focus in low light.

That's not something to fault the camera for since most cameras in its class perform poorly in low light. If you are comfortable shooting in RAW mode and processing the images later, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 captures more light and better pictures in low light shooting situations.

The 4K video is excellent in well-lit shooting areas. The camera gets a little warmer the longer you shoot video, but it never reaches the point that you worry about the heat damaging the camera like many cameras in the same class with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100.

In low light instances, the video suffers just like the still images. Any movement creates distortion and poor video. That said, this is typical for cameras like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100. You can’t pack every feature into a compact camera.

Panasonic LUMIX DC-ZS70K, 20.3 Megapixel, 4K Digital Camera, Touch...
  • 20. 3 Megapixel MOS sensor plus 30x Leica DC VARIO ELMAR lens (24 720mm), Plus 5 axis Hybrid O. I. S. (Optical image...
  • 0. 2 Inch 1, 166k dot EVF (electronic view finder) with eye sensor for easier viewing under sunny outdoor conditions
  • 4K QFHD video recording (3840x2160), Plus exclusive Lumix 4K PHOTO and 4K post focus with internal focus Stacking...

Is It Expensive?

B&H sells the camera for $697.99. You can find used versions for about half that price in various places, but buying a used camera online is risky business. In short, for a compact camera, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 is expensive. If you consider that is has a one-inch sensor, 10x zoom, plus 4K video capabilities, well, the expense seems much lower.

PANASONIC LUMIX ZS100 4K Point and Shoot Camera, 10X LEICA DC...
  • Large 1, 20 Megapixel sensor delivers brighter, more colorful photos with fewer image artifacts
  • 10x (25-250mm) LEICA DC Lens optical zoom performance with a wide F/2.8-5.9 aperture for impressive background defocus...
  • 4K Ultra HD video recording plus exclusive LUMIX 4K PHOTO and 4K Post Focus photo capture features

How Does the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 Perform?

Aside from the reduced image and video quality in low light shooting situations, the camera performs well overall. During regular use the autofocus is fast. You won't find yourself missing shots at the beach or birthday parties because the autofocus got confused or needed an extra second to get focused. When you are ready to shoot, this camera is available too.

We’re all guilty of chimping. Chimping is photography slang for checking each photo after you shoot it, or at least reviewing every few images in-camera. There's nothing wrong with chimping, but it tends to slow down shooting, and you run the risk of missing a shot because you were looking at the last shot instead of focusing on the subject or scene.

One of the best features the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 is the speed that it processes images, or video, and stores them. There is practically no lag time between shooting a being about to view the image or replay video.

panasonic lumix zs100 perform img

Switching from review mode back to shooting mode is equally fast. So, if you have a habit of chimping, this camera isn't frustratingly slow when swapping from shooting to review methods and back again.

It takes a little over two seconds to power on the camera. We suggest turning off the zoom resume feature if you have a habit of letting your camera go to sleep. It powers on pretty fast, but the slow lens motor makes zoom resume especially annoying.

Zoom resume remembers the cameras last zoom position. When the camera sleeps, the zoom returns to its default length which makes waking the camera up frustrating due to the slow lens motor.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 makes up for its slow zoom motor with blazing continuous shooting speeds. It shoots at a speedy 5.7 frames per second which puts it among the fastest cameras in its class. It captures about thirty JPEGs in six seconds but falls to less than twenty images if you are shooting in RAW mode. However, that's about the average for cameras like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100.

Sadly, cameras like this one perform poorly in the autofocus department. In essence, they try too hard to read your mind and focus on the right subject, and often get it wrong. You can set custom autofocus zones, sort of, but the camera still has issues focusing on the proper one. It gets it right about 80 percent of the time which is acceptable and not uncommon with similar cameras.

The battery life is slightly under what we expected from a compact digital camera. With the flash turned off, you get about 250 shots per battery charge. With the flash on, expect to get less than 200 shots from a fully charged battery. That’s roughly two-thirds the images we hoped to get on a single charge, but certainly not the lowest number in this camera’s class.

PANASONIC LUMIX 4K Point and Shoot Camera, 30X LEICA DC Vario-ELMAR...
  • 30x (24-720mm) LEICA DC Lens optical zoom performance is ideally suited for travel and everyday photography
  • 18 Megapixel sensor delivers high-resolution photos with fewer image artifacts
  • 4K Ultra HD video recording plus exclusive LUMIX 4K PHOTO and 4K Post Focus photo capture features

What do Customers Say

Customers have opinions of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100. Most praised its speed and enjoyed the extra 2x to 4x zoom it has compared to similar cameras. A few of the customer comments we found praised the camera’s features claiming they really enjoyed all the extra options the camera incorporated like customizable filters and video to JPEG exporting.

No product is perfect, but the negative comments we found don’t send up any red flags. The biggest complaint we found was that the diopter control on the viewfinder didn’t work very well. The diopter adjustment helps correct it for people that wear glasses or otherwise need to adjust the focal length of the viewfinder.

Some customers complained that the video record button was hard to press. However, this is often by design to prevent accidental recording and wasting battery life.

Some customers were unhappy with the zoom motor speeds, and we agree with them. The camera zooms in and out slowly. It’s not the slowest zoom, but it is noticeable. We recommend turning off the zoom resume feature specifically for this reason.

It’s annoying when the camera goes to sleep between uses then wakes up and makes you wait for the zoom to resume its last position. It’s not a deal breaker, but keep the slow zoom in mind if you’re impatient.

Is it Better than Its Competition?

lumix vs other brand img

Compared to similar cameras like the Sony RX100 line, the Nikon DL24-85, or the Sony CyberShot RX100, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 performs above average. It shoots faster in continuous shooting mode than its competition.

It falls short on image quality when you zoom past 80mm, but not enough to matter to the naked eye. It has the shortest battery life of any of the cameras we compared it to, but packs in more features that appeal to most customers.

Our Opinion

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 is an expensive upgrade from your phone or a cheap compact digital camera, but it's worth every penny. Photographs and video often end up being the only memories we have of significant milestones in life like a child's first steps or a perfect family vacation.

These moments should be captured in the best quality possible, and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 delivers on quality and speed. You get great images and video at speeds that help prevent missing a shot, or a moment.

Conclusion

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100 is one of the better compact digital cameras we've seen. It packs a long zoom and a ton of features into a slim body that fits almost anywhere. The slow zoom motor let us down a little, but all the bonus features made up for it. Don’t’ expect great low light still images or video, but don’t expect those from any compact camera.

If you are looking to upgrade your camera or want to move away from phone images, this camera is just what you need to get started. It’s not cheap, but it performs above its price range.

With the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS100, you don't have to give up zoom and speed for size. Even with the issues we found, which are common in many compact digital cameras, this camera is worth the price, and we're sure you'll love it.

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