Andy Westlake tests Panasonic's pocket travel camera with a 1in sensor and 10x zoom lens

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ100

Features:
Build/Handling:
Metering:
Autofocus:
AWB Colour:
Dynamic Range:
LCD viewfinder:

Pros:

  • + Really useful zoom range covers most subjects
  • + Excellent image quality from 1in sensor
  • + Pocketable design
  • + Well-implemented in-camera raw conversion

Cons:

  • - Electronic viewfinder is rather small
  • - Enthusiast photographers may find the controls frustrating
  • - Fixed rear LCD limits compositional flexibility

Product:

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ100 review

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£529.00

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Build and handling

Panasonic TZ100 front

The TZ100 is available in either all-black or this unusual ‘red’ version

 

With a metal body shell, the TZ100 feels sturdy and well made, as befits a £560 camera. The top-plate dials click with a pleasing precision and the lens control ring rotates with silky smoothness. Combined with the modern-looking design and smooth surface finish it really feels like a premium product.

The camera comes in two colour schemes, either conventional all black or the distinctively styled ‘red’ version we used for this review. This has a mostly gunmetal body with a contrasting titanium finish to the right top-plate, separated by a sliver of red. I wasn’t convinced by this at first sight, but quickly grew to like it. If anything, I’d love to see Panasonic offering more colours for that extra element of personalisation.

When you come to start shooting with it, though, the TZ100 quickly shows some limitations. The handgrip is very small, and there’s only a small, ill-defined space to put your thumb. Many camera manufacturers have taken to designing sculpted, ergonomic thumb grips as they can work wonders on small cameras, and it’s a shame Panasonic hasn’t followed suit here.

Combined with the slippery smooth metal finish, it means that the camera doesn’t feel very secure when held one handed. I’d recommend using a wrist strap at the very least, and ideally a better one than Panasonic supplies in the box.

Panasonic TZ100 top

Top-plate and round-lens dials afford a reasonable degree of manual control

 

For a camera that’s aimed at enthusiast photographers, the control layout leaves a little to be desired. The front control dial feels rather under-used: when it’s not being used for manual focus it simply replicates the function of the top dial in changing shutter speed or aperture. However, it can’t be used to change other settings, such as ISO, when they’re activated by pressing a button; instead you have to use the d-pad or top dial, which ends up needing a lot of thumb movement.

Oddly, that top dial works in the opposite direction to normal when changing exposure settings: to select a smaller aperture or faster shutter speed, you have to rotate it clockwise by moving your thumb leftwards.

Pressing the ‘up’ arrow on the d-pad accesses exposure compensation. This is fairly standard for a compact camera, but still annoying for anyone who’s become used to a dedicated dial.

Strangely, ISO isn’t assigned a button by default, but I set it onto the 4K Post-Focus button (Fn2). The focus area can be set using the touchscreen, but I found I frequently set it accidentally with either my thumb brushing the top right corner of the screen or (being a left-eyed shooter) my nose. If you can’t get on with using the touchscreen, then you can assign one of the physical Fn buttons to access focus area selection instead.

Panasonic TZ100 back

Many functions can be accessed using the onscreen Q.Menu

 

Most secondary settings can be accessed either from the d-pad or the onscreen Q Menu. With Panasonic’s well-considered touch interface, this allows you to access and change a lot of options very quickly.

The touchscreen is also handy for browsing images during payback. However, if you don’t want to use it, you can turn it off completely and just use the buttons and dials instead, although this may slow some things right down.

All in all, I found the TZ100 perfectly useable, although not as nice to shoot with as the best enthusiast compacts around, particularly when using the viewfinder. However, you won’t find a travel-zoom type camera that handles much better.

Viewfinder and screen

Panasonic TZ100 menus

The TZ100’s screen is fixed rather than articulated and the electronic viewfinder is very small

 

The TZ100 offers two viewing choices while shooting, either the built-in 1.14-million-dot electronic viewfinder or the 3in 1.04-million-dot LCD.

At just 0.42x magnification, the EVF is really very small and it’s rather high in contrast, too, giving a distinctly different rendition of the scene compared to the LCD. Even so, it’s very useful when shooting in bright light, and a lot better than not having an EVF at all. But I’d have much preferred to see a larger viewfinder, even at the expense of camera size.

The rear screen is very good, giving a more accurate preview of the final image than the EVF, but its fixed design now feels like an anachronism. Clearly Panasonic is aiming to keep the camera’s size to a minimum, but I missed the additional compositional flexibility offered by a tilting or articulated screen.

  1. 1. Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ100 review: introduction
  2. 2. Features
  3. 3. Build and handling
  4. 4. Autofocus
  5. 5. Pocket camera lenses: range vs speed
  6. 6. Image quality
  7. 7. Dynamic range and noise
  8. 8. Conclusion
  9. 9. Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ100 review: First look
  10. 10. Page 10
Page 3 of 10 - Show Full List
  • noelshouse

    HI Chris, I checked your pics out and you have some nice ones in there. You can see in places where the limitations of the camera are hindering you but you clearly know how to get the best out of the camera regardless. And I’m like you, I like the quite life too so would never take my SLR to a venue; having said that I have had my compact questioned on a few occasions; one of which resulted in a written apology from the venue.

    Anyway, as far as the Panasonic tz100 is concerned I would say it would be a big upgrade to your 30x current camera. You are right that the bigger sensor will allow you to use the digital zoom or crop in post if you have to but also you will get better results at higher ISO which will be a big help.

    Stage lighting will always dictate how well you can shoot at a gig. I was at a concert just last night and even front row I was struggling slightly at f2.8 because the lighting was so bad.

    either way good luck in your decision and if you get the Panasonic or try it out, let me know what you think of it.
    regards, Noel

  • Chris Jack

    You can look up my efforts to date on Facebook: I’m chris.jack.52438 – I’m reasonably happy with them but I am looking for a new camera.

    I usually go to seated acts at places like the O2 or Hammersmith Apollo. When I do manage to get close to front of house seats, a 30 times zoom is still useful (look at how close I can get to Duran Duran, Two Cellos, and Neil Diamond). I shot with a Canon G10 for a long time but the 5 times zoom was a problem – especially when I was more than 20 rows from the stage.

    According to my maths, a 10x zoom with a one inch sensor probably gives you better resolution than a 30x zoom with a 1/2.3 inch sensor so, once the TZ100 is released and I have seen a few more reviews, I may well go with that (in the absence of any 30x zoom cameras with one inch sensors).

    And sure – a big zoom on a compact is a compromise.

    The problem is partly that venues can be slightly vague (and inconsistent) about what cameras are allowed in. I want a quiet life so am sticking with compacts with integrated lenses. But I am seeing more and more people sneaking DSLRs into venues like the O2.

    And I have got permission to take my Nikon D4 into a number of gigs (like Barry Humphries, Cirque Beserk) but I’ve either been forewarned it’s OK or have asked explicitly for permission.

  • noelshouse

    Forget big zoom compacts, too many limitations; as you said ISO plus slow lenses and tiny sensors are no good in low light. I use the Canon G7X at gigs, only a 4.2X zoom but I get there early and get as close to the front as possible. Check my Instagram: therealnoelmorgan and have a look at my results with the Canon. I do like the look of the Panasonic TZ100 but for me the weak spot will be the slow lens at the long end but it may depend how quickly it stops down to f5.9.

  • Chris Jack

    I’m looking into buying a new camera for shooting at gigs. Places like the O2 have strict rules about what sort of cameras you can bring in. The Sony Cybershot HX50 I currently use has a 30x times zoom but shows it limitations with a maximum ISO of 800. I have to throw a lot of photos away for technical reasons.

    30x time is very useful at getting reasonably close shots in large venues.

    So… I’m considering either the Panasonic TZ100 (with a 10x zoom but better sensor) or the TZ80 (with a 30x zoom but smaller sensor).

    Thoughts?

  • Andy Westlake

    The RX100 IV is a lot more pocketable; it measures 101.6×58.1×41.0mm compared to 110.5 x 64.5 x 44.3 mm for the TZ100. However the TZ100 has a much longer (but slower) zoom, 25-250mm equivalent f/2.8-5.9 compared to the RX100 IV’s relatively limited 24-70mm equivalent f/1.8-2.8. So they’re rather different cameras. You pay your money and take your choice.

  • Seven_Spades

    I would like to see a comparison with the Sony RX100, some how I suspect that the Sony will be more pocketable.

  • BonzoDog1

    For me, I can’t give up the manual shutter/aperture controls of the LX100.
    If I need more reach I’ll use a second camera.

  • Martin

    I was just about to pull the trigger on buying the LUMIX LX100 when I spotted this about the TZ100. Undecided now as this seems like the better / newer option?!?
    Seems to be like lx100 with bigger zoom?