Andy Westlake tests Panasonic's pocket travel camera with a 1in sensor and 10x zoom lens
It’s safe to say that the TZ100 offers one of the richest feature sets of any pocket camera to date. First of all there’s that hugely flexible lens range, which covers a very respectable 25mm equivalent wideangle to a decently long 250mm equivalent telephoto. This immediately places the TZ100 in a class of its own among 1in sensor compacts for compositional flexibility; its closest competitor, the Canon G5 X, tops-out at 100mm. To get any more range, you’ll need a considerably larger bridge-type model.
The price you pay is a pretty modest f/2.8-5.9 maximum aperture (via f/4.1 at 50mm, and f/5.2 at 100mm), which makes the TZ100 less suited to low-light shooting or experimenting with shallow depth-of-field effects compared to shorter zoom cameras such as the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 IV or the Canon PowerShot G5 X. The minimum aperture is f/8, which makes sense on a 1in sensor to avoid excessive diffraction blurring, but means that overall there’s only limited adjustment available, especially at the long end of the zoom.
Headline specs include a native sensitivity range of ISO 125-12,800, which is extendable to ISO 80-25,600. Continuous shooting is available at 10fps with focus and exposure fixed at the start of the burst, or 5fps with focus adjustment between frames. Hybrid 5-axis optical/electronic image stabilisation helps avoid image blur from camera shake.
As I mentioned at the start, Panasonic has included 4K video recording, at frame rates up to 30fps. This technology enables 4K Photo mode, which in effect allows users to shoot high speed bursts of images and easily extract single frames as 8MP stills. It’s well implemented and genuinely useful when shooting moving subjects.
The firm’s recent 4K Post Focus mode is also included. This takes a series of images at different focus distances and stores them together as a movie format file, which in playback mode effectively allows you to refocus the image by tapping on the screen. Panasonic considers this sufficiently clever to merit its own button on the camera’s back, but I’m really not convinced it’s much more than a gimmick. There just aren’t that many situations where it’s useful.
Naturally, Wi-fi is built in, allowing you to control the camera remotely using your smartphone or tablet, and copy images to the device for sharing with friends and family. Oddly for a travel camera, however, the TZ100 doesn’t have built-in GPS. Instead, the idea is that you use your smartphone to record a GPS log via the Panasonic Image App, then geo-tag your images by syncing the data with the camera over Wi-fi. In practice, this actually works just fine as long as you remember to enable it on your phone, but it’s an additional step and less convenient than having the process built-in.