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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100 Review
Tuesday, March 15, 2011  

We have always been impressed with Panasonic compact digital cameras. In fact, so impressed that we purchased a DMC-ZS7 for our own use at CruiseReport.com! While compact digitals continue to grow in features and capabilities, there are situations where you might need a little more in terms of manual control, zoom range, etc. You may think your only choice is to move up to a full-blown DSLR. There is another option, the Panasonic DMC-FZ100. This super-zoom, high-speed camera offers a more capable lens combined with manual features. The 24X zoom starts life at a wide 25mm* and can take you all the way to 600mm*!

A 14.1-megapixel MOS sensor lets the FZ100 record high quality 1920x1080 full HD movie at a super-smooth at 60fps. The high-speed sensor blows the competition away with 14.1 megapixel burst shooting at 11 frames per second. Need more? Put the camera in 3.5 megapixel shooting mode and you can shoot at up to 60fps! You can also shoot high-speed video (QVGA) at 220 fps, a handy feature for those wanting to analyze a golf swing in slow motion.

Panasonic's Venus Engine FHD works to ensure picture quality in both photo and movie modes. It employs Intelligent Resolution technology to give the image clearness and fine details. The 24x optical zoom can be increased to an effective 32x with the Intelligent Zoom function.

The jog dial increases the manual control of the FZ100 along with a MF/AF switch located on the fixed lens barrel.

The 3.0-inch fully-articulated LCD with 460,000-dot resolution is a noticeable improvement over our ZS7 screen. The battery life promised up to 410 photo shooting capability between charges.

SETUP AND MENUS

Located on the back of the camera is Panasonic's standard multi-directional button and menu/set button. Pressing the Menu button displays user-friendly menus on the LCD screen that will look familiar to Panasonic faithful. The menu system is comprised of three "folders" which will vary depending on the shooting mode you have selected. The first menu is for shooting and playback options, which is very limited in scope if you have the Intelligent Auto mode selected. The second menu deals with Movie shooting options and the third is a general "Tools" setup menu. Menu choices are secured by pressing the center "set" button and you navigate through the menus using the directional button surrounding the Set button.

PERFORMANCE

The FZ100 "feels" good when you hold it. The build quality is up to par with other Panasonic cameras we have tested and, although larger and bulkier than the pocket digitals, the FZ100 is not uncomfortably heavy or bulky. You can easily manage one-handed snapshots with ease.

SHOOTING PHOTOS

First and foremost the FZ100 is a big, powerful "point-and-shoot" camera. Even though the camera offers a variety of manual capabilities, it is mostly in its comfort zone as an easy-to-use automatic camera with a kick-ass zoom lens. For most CruiseReport.com travel shooters, spin the dial to Intelligent Auto or Program Mode and start shooting great pictures! The camera is only slightly more intimidating than your average pocket digital camera.

On the other hand, there may be times when you want more manual control over your shots, and the FZ100 will not leave you in the dust. With multiple manual and semi-manual shooting modes you can control aperture, ISO, focus, etc. to get the exact shot you are looking for. There is even a scene selection mode with preset settings for virtually any photo situation you might find yourself in.


SHOOTING VIDEO

The Motion Picture button is located top of the FZ100. We found this to be a logical placement that can easily be engaged with a single forefinger push of the button to start movie recording. Recording can be stopped with a subsequent press of the button. This allows for instant movie recording regardless of the selected mode on the function dial. We found the Motion Picture button to be intuitive and one of the best convenience features of the FZ100.

The FZ100 can record full HD 1920 x 1280 60i (NTSC)  movies at 30 frames per second at either 17Mbps or 13Mbps in the AVCHD (MPEG-4/H.264) format, and also 1280 x 720 at 30fps. In addition it can also record Motion JPEG movies at 320 x 240 at 30fps, 640 x 480 at 30fps, 848 x 480 at 30fps and 1280 x 720 at 30fps. AVCHD features almost double the recording time in HD quality compared with Motion JPEG, but software support is currently limited. Panasonic describes AVCHD as the best mode for playing back on a HD TV direct from the camera, and Motion JPEG is best for email and editing/playing on a computer.

The Creative Movie (CA) shooting mode allows you to set the shutter speed, aperture or both settings manually during recording (a Program option is also available).

The Panasonic FZ100's Intelligent Auto (iA) mode is available for photos and video. Just select iA on the mode dial and press the MOVIE button. The  Intelligent Exposure  checks the ambient light level and adjusts the exposure setting, and the POWER O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer) and Motion Deblur mode help prevent blurring from hand-shake.

Very good quality stereo sound is recorded through microphones mounted on top of the camera, and a wind cut feature will help block out wind noise when shooting outdoors. An optional external microphone can be mounted to the camera's hot shoe and connected through the 2.5mm jack on the left side of the camera. However, as far as we can tell, the camera only works with Panasonic's DMW-MS1 microphone and does not support 3rd party microphones.

WHAT WE LIKE

  • Excellent build-quality, good, solid feel
  • Excellent video quality
  • Super-zoom capability and wide-angle 25mm lens
  • 3-inch, 460k pixel articulated LCD screen
  • Fast AF
  • Easy setup, logical interface
  • 11 fps burst shooting at 14 mp
  • Shoots in RAW format

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • Still photos look a little "soft"
  • Play and ISO buttons can easily be pressed inadvertently when shooting
  • Manual focus wheel is cumbersome when shooting video
  • 3rd party external microphones not supported

CONCLUSION

You can hardly go wrong with Panasonic. The FZ100 is another example of how they continue to dominate the low to mid-range digital camera market. OK, I know we are biased, but this is a great camera. Other than the somewhat "soft" looking photos (which may be corrected with some of the sharpness and contrast settings), most likely from the MOS sensor, the FZ100 is a solid upgrade from the pocket digital category in almost every sense. If the external mic jack would support 3rd party lavaliere microphones, I would order one tomorrow as our "go to" video camera. However, most buyers could not care less about that capability. If you are looking for a step up from a pocket digital without making the giant leap to a DSLR or micro four-thirds, the FZ100 is an excellent choice.

VIDEO REVIEW


Video Samples


SAMPLE PHOTOS
Click on the thumbnails below to see the full-size image.


 

 
Image below shot at 25mm
Image below shot at 24x hand-held (600mm)


Image below shot at 25mm
Image below shot at 24x hand-held (600mm)

 

 
   


Reviewed by Chris Dikmen
Managing Editor of CruiseReport.com
     
     
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