Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100
Reviewed by Greg Scoblete, Dave Etchells, Shawn Barnett and Stephanie Boozer
Review Date: 12/06/2010
The specs of the Panasonic Lumix FZ100 are impressive, with a newly developed Leica DC Vario-Elmarit-branded 24x optical zoom lens that covers a generous 25mm wide-angle to a powerful 600mm telephoto. However, we’ll tell you right up front that despite great technological effort, the Panasonic FZ100 has a problem with sensor noise that muddies the picture, quite literally.
The Panasonic FZ100’s lens has a maximum aperture that varies from f/2.8 to f/5.2 across the zoom range. Minimum aperture is f/8 in still mode, f/11 in movie mode. Behind the lens sits the FZ100’s image sensor — also a new development. With a 14.1-megapixel resolution, this 1/2.33-inch RGB MOS image sensor is designed to reduce image noise when compared to other MOS sensors at this size, according to Panasonic.
The Lumix FZ100 also includes the latest generation of Venus image processing technology, incorporating three processing cores, and bearing the name “Venus Full HD,” a nod to its HDTV processing prowess.
The standout feature of the Lumix DMC-FZ100 is undoubtedly its speed. Full-resolution images can be captured at 11 frames per second in burst mode, using a mechanical shutter to prevent smearing of extreme highlights. Burst depth at this speed is some 15 images, for a little under 1.4 seconds per burst. Reducing the resolution to 3.5 megapixels allows the still image framerate to be boosted even further, to some 60 frames per second (for 16:9 aspect ratio — the file size varies to as little as two megapixels in 1:1 mode for this frame rate). Almost as impressive as the burst speed is the FZ100’s ability to shoot at five frames per second, while using continuous autofocus to track motion between frames.
As you’d expect for a long-zoom camera, the Panasonic FZ100 offers both an electronic viewfinder and an LCD display. The Panasonic FZ100’s EVF is a 0.20-inch LCD type with 201,600 dots of resolution, and yields a 100% field of view. The FZ100 also includes an articulated tilt / swivel 3.0-inch LCD display with 460,000 dot resolution and 100% coverage. The Panasonic DMC-FZ100 has a 23-point autofocus system which also includes a single-point “high speed” focusing mode. As with many digital cameras these days, there’s also a face-detection function, with Panasonic’s implementation using the information when determining both focus and exposure variables. In addition, the FZ100 can be programmed to recognize the faces of an unspecified number of specific individuals for labelling purposes. The Panasonic Lumix FZ100 also has an implementation of autofocus tracking, which can monitor a subject as it moves around the frame, continuing to update autofocus as required.
ISO sensitivity ordinarily ranges from 80 to 1,600, with the ability to extend this as far as ISO 6,400 equivalent in High Sensitivity Auto mode. Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to 60 seconds are possible, controlled automatically. The Panasonic DMC-FZ100 uses Intelligent Multiple metering, with Center-Weighted and Spot metering modes also on offer. There are nine white balance settings including Auto, two Manual modes, five fixed presets, and a color temperature option. A generous selection of 17 scene modes let users tailor the look of their images. For the creative types there are both manual and aperture- / shutter-priority modes on the Panasonic FZ100. A My Color mode allows the user to adjust color, brightness and saturation and preview the effect immediately on the camera’s display, and there are also new Pin Hole, Film Grain, High Dynamic and High Dynamic B&W options.
The FZ100 also includes Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto, Intelligent Exposure, Intelligent ISO, Intelligent Scene Selector, and Intelligent Resolution functions as seen on past models. As well as Raw and JPEG still images, the Panasonic FZ100 can capture movies with sound at up to high definition 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution. Movies at 720p or below can be recorded using either the older, less efficient QuickTime Motion JPEG compression. In addition, 720p mode allows AVCHD Lite compression for smaller file sizes. A high speed movie mode allows shooting at up to 220 frames per second in QVGA resolution.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100 stores its images and movies on Secure Digital cards, including the newer SDHC and SDXC types. There’s also 40MB of built-in memory. Connectivity options include USB 2.0 High-Speed, standard definition NTSC/PAL (NTSC only for North American models) video output, and high-def HDMI video output (although the cable for this is an optional extra). Power comes from a 7.2V, 895mAh proprietary lithium-ion battery, rated as good for 410 shots on a charge to CIPA testing standards. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100 began shipping in late-August 2010, priced at US$500.